After our magnificent first big rail trip around Scandinavia the year before, my best friend suggested we went to discover Switzerland by rail in 2013. He was inspired by his aunt’s trips to Switzerland and always wanted to go there himself, of course I couldn’t say no as the country spoke to me too. So off we went on a second rail adventure together.
After arriving from Zermatt the day before and settled into our Royal Suite we started a few days in and around Interlaken. On the first day we tackled the most famous mountain in the region, the Jungfrau. The location of the world´s highest railway station on the Jungfraujoch can be reached by train from Interlaken Ost. There are 2 routes taking you towards the top, either from Interlaken via Lauterbrunnen or via Grindelwald to get to Kleine Scheidegg where both routes once again join to climb to Jungfraujoch.
We started our Trip on the Berner Oberland Bahn towards Lauterbrunnen. We travelled one of their yellow and blue trains composed of a variety of coaches and motorcars from different time periods, but at least always 1 with a low floor entrance for accessibility. They operate on a metre gauge rail with a 1500v DC overhead wire. In Zweilutschinen the trains split into 2 parts, one half for Lauterbrunnen and the other for Grindelwald.
We travelled in the Lauterbrunnen part, after Zweilutschinen the gorge got narrower and provided with some spectacular scenery. In Lauterbrunnen we changed onto the Yellow and Green coaches of the Wengeralpbahn, an 800mm gauge rack railway also fed by a 1500v DC overhead wire. Because of the narrower gauge the trains are also noticeably narrower.
To provide for enough capacity a number of different trains was run one after the other as one big one is not considered suited for rack railway operations. The route took us past the famous car-free alpine village of Wengen before dropping us off at Kleine Scheidegg, the highest station of the Wengeralpbahn. As we climbed higher we could see the alpine scenery change as we crossed the different types of vegetation.
At Kleine Scheidegg we started the final climb up to the Jungfraujoch, stopping at 2 intermediate stations on the way to provide some panoramic views. Getting this high into the mountain also required most of the line to be built as a tunnel inside the mountain, hence only the 2 intermediate stops with the windows carved out into the mountainside provided with some views. The red trains Jungfraubahn use a 1 metre gauge rack rail powered by a rare tri-phase 1125v 50Hz overhead wire, this peculiarity being visible by the 2 separate overhead wires and pantographs. The only other railway I have travelled on using a similar system was the Gornergratbahn.
On the top of the Jungfrau you can get some spectacular views on the outside terraces, while inside the buildings and the mountain they dug out a whole attraction park with souvenirs shops, restaurants, an ice sculpture grotto and some kitschy alp inspired art in the corridors.
Going back down we chose to travel on the alternative route from Kleine Scheidegg down to Grindelwald along the other side of the mountain. On this part of the route the Wengeralpbahn used some more modern panoramic EMU’s, perfectly suited for the panoramic views around.
When we arrived in Grindelwald we did some more exploring before turning back to Interlaken, but more on that in the next chapter of my first Swiss rail adventure.
Have you been up to the Jungfrau? Where you struck by awe or did you think it was over-touristy? Let us know in the comments below!