BVZ Zermatt Railway - Description

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The BVZ, formerly know as Brig-Visp-Zermatt Railway, originally started from Visp in the Rhone Valley and, from 1890 was gradually opened up to traffic. Initially steam operated, it ran only in the summer months until about 1930. In 1929 it was electrified with 11 kV 16 2/3 Hz alternating current (same system as the Rhaetian Railway). At the same time the Visp-Brigue line was built parallel to the SBB as a connection with the Furka-Oberalp Railway. Thus, a large continous BVZ/FO/RhB network came into being, and the famous St.Moritz-Zermatt Glacier Express was introduced. With the replacement of the steam locos, six electric locomotives came on the line and they are still in use for goods traffic. In 1960, the first ABDeh 6/6 railcars were introduced, followed, in 1965, by eight-axle railcars. The 44 km long line leads from Visp (also called Vigue) through a narrow and steep mountain valley (maximum gradient of 12.5 ) which required the use of six rack and pinion sections, built according to the Abt system.

Even today, the BVZ continues to be the only means of access to the automobile-free health resort of Zermatt located at the foot of the Matterhorn. The road ends in Täsch, the last village before Zermatt. Here large parking lots have been built and all drivers have to switch over to the BVZ. The railway has introduced a special local service between Täsch and Zermatt with some 50 connections a day in the high season! The single-track Täsch-Zermatt line (which only has one turn-out and a long rack and pinion section) is therefore being used to its utmost capacity. In 1985/86 a signalling system was installed, allowing trains to follow each other at intervals of 80 seconds! The main depot and the workshops of the BVZ are in Visp; a new depot for modern rolling stock, such as the famous panoramic coaches , has been built in Glisergrund in the vicinity of the Brigue terminal station. In Zermatt the BVZ connects to the Gornergrat Railway which is under the same management.

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Copyright © 1998 Stefan Dringenberg, 05-01-98