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 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 31 Jan 2009, 21:16
This is the second part of my account of our RhB Alpenrundfahrt. You can read the first part here

As we crossed the platform at Andermatt, a train with a Goschenen destination board arrived in the station. We quickly climbed aboard the last coach and settled down for the short journey to Goschenen. The next thing we knew some staff were backing on the window, saying incomprehensible things in German and gesticulating towards the front of the train. We came to the conclusion that maybe we should move, so we grabbed our stuff and legged it forwards. As we had left our arrival rather late, there were no seats so we had to stand in the end corridor. The compensation for this was the ability to take photos out of an open window rather than through glass. The trip down to Goschenen is quite dramatic. We had driven it the year before but this time I could look at the scenery rather than keep my eyes on the road.

As we dropped out of Andermatt station, we travelled along side these old and new road bridges, known as Teufels Brucke



The tight twists and turns of the line can be guessed at from this photo. The bridge which is apparently at right angles to our direction of travel is one we will cross just before arriving at the terminus in Goschenen



This is what our train probably looked like as it arrived



We had now arrived on Goschenen the location for the northern portal of the famous Gotthard tunnel or as I found out tunnels



I'm guessing that all those sticks you can see in the photo are snow poles. The Gotthard tunnels are a major transit route for freight between northern and southern Europe. Whilst we waited for our train south to Bellinzona, a large number of freight trains passed through. These were invariably double headed and those which had arrived from the south often had a banking engine as well. Here are a few of them.
Southbound intermodal


Southbound with what looks like three part telescopic hood wagons


Northbound - hoppers?


Southbound - not a great shot but the loco's not a venerable red SBB BoBo!


I wasn't particularly impressed with the standard of the interior of our train. It felt like a throwback to the 1970s and was a lot less plush than UK trains I am used to. The tunnel is .... a tunnel and having travelled under the channel to get to the continent, I've been through longer ones. I was struck by the smell of "stale electricity" if you know what I mean as we entered the bore.

After some time rocking around in the gloom of the tunnel we emerged into the valley at the far side of the mountains and began the long gentle descent to Bellinzona. Some while after leaving the tunnel we passed the support works for the construction of the new Basis tunnel which is due to open in a little under 10 years time. Here's a photo of part of it with the motorway heading for the road Gotthard tunnel in the background.



For a long time the motorway was our constant companion and we had many views of its slender bridges as it criss crossed the valley in search for space for its four lanes.


We passed villages which seemed as old as the mountains themselves


At Bellinzona we alighted once again to wait for our connection to Lugano. Although we were a reasonable distance from the tunnels, it seems that Bellinzona has its part to play in providing locomotives for the route. Here's a mixed bag waiting for duty


The freight kept on coming. This one is northbound


Something a little shorter...


Soon our train arrived - a very modern looking multiple unit


As we left the station at Lugano there was just time to catch this shot of the end of a southbound "rolling road" train. These are our favourite type of freight train.


What we didn't know when we arrived at the station in Lugano was how high above the lake it was. We knew our hotel was on the lake front and that it was a little distance from the centre of the town. So we found our way down rather a lot of steps, through the main pedestrianised streets to the lake front and turned in what we thought was the right direction. Just as we started to wonder if we had made a mistake, we saw the hotel and checked in, not a little sticky from the heat and exercise. The brochure had promised a lake view, here's a couple smile.gif




After we had showered and changed we walked back into Lugano for some sight seeing. Don't forget, we're still in Switzerland!


We ate in town and returned to our hotel as dusk was turning to night. The earlier view from the balcony had become this


We closed the shutters and went to sleep in a bed for the first time in a week, all the time knowing that there was another full day's journey ahead of this the next day to complete our Alpenrundfahrt

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post 2 Feb 2009, 06:03
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Minister of Transport
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Looks stunning. Must have been a lovely holiday.


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dwb
post 2 Feb 2009, 17:25
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Station cat
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QUOTE
Must have been a lovely holiday


It was. I missed not seeing big mountains last year so we're going Innsbruck in July. The /Euro rate has not declined quite as steeply as tehe /Swiss Franc. It's not too far from Innsbruck to the Zillertal which is the home of the Zillertalbahn smile.gif

David


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post 2 Feb 2009, 22:01
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is asleep
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Hello David

It looks like you had a fantastic holiday, I must get round to visiting that corner of Switzerland/Italy! The bridges look as convoluted as the 'Mines of Moria'. What did you think of the Flirt trains, the Swiss seem to have bought loads and loads so they must be good.

If I'm on a train stopping at Jenbach and see the Zillertalbahn and Achenseebahn I think, next time, I must get off and give it a go - only to forget until the next time I stop in the station! I'm sure you'll have another super holiday...

The Swiss/Italian lakes are really fantastically beautiful places, and after several holidays to a villa there if you ever get the chance Lake Maggiore is definitely worth a visit. Locarno on the northern tip of the lake in Switzerland is a bus ride from the dam that James Bond jumped off at the start of one of the films (Goldeneye?), also from Locarno is the fantastic Centovalli mountain railway into Italy to Domodossola, travelling through the 'hundred valleys' (http://www.lagomaggioreexpress.com/ http://www.centovalli.ch/, in fact you can do a triangle by travelling on the lake with a hydrofoil and the Cisalpino). The lake also has some beautiful islands in the Italian half (or four fifths!) with palaces, gardens and museums/art galleries etc. (Borromean Islands).
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post 2 Feb 2009, 23:33
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Thanks for the tips Goedel.

David


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post 26 Feb 2009, 20:47
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Engine Driver
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Looks superb, thanks for the pics. The Swiss trains look so much better than our dirty dmus/emus - the livery design is really imaginative. We plan to see the German & Swiss Alps by train someday - somehow easier to use the Channel Tunnel link when you live closer to London, though. Is the rolling road used 24/7 or Sundays only?
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post 26 Feb 2009, 21:13
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QUOTE
Is the rolling road used 24/7 or Sundays only?


We've only seen the rolling road trains a couple times. That once in Lugano which was a Thursday/Friday afternoon and twice when we were in the Bernese Oberland - once while driving up the valley towards Kanderstag and the other time when we were waiting at Thun station for a train to take us back to Interlaken - we had come up by boat, but not on the paddle steamer. That was a weekday too. I'm not sure about Sundays. My experience of the Continent is that everything shuts. Sunday trading is banned in Switzerland with the exception of some tourist centres such as Interlaken and railway stations. You won't be surprised to learn that many railway stations have underground shopping malls - for example - Berne, Lucerne to name but two. My guess is that not only does road freight traffic stop but so does railway freight as well.

There was a recent news item on swissinfo.org on the volume of traffic which crosses Switzerland along the north / south axis - link to article. Whilst this doesn't tell you how much goes by rolling road, I guess there is quite a lot of it. It is interesting to note just how many more lorries use the Brenner pass in Austria. We're going to Innsbruck this summer and have decided to avoid the Brenner if there are that many trucks on it. Our MX-5 is a little too small to compete with them!

I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. I have printed a few and put them in a "shuffle" frame at work. Each time I look at them I can't wait to get back to the mountains.

David


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