Rhaetian Railway - Bernina line - Description

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Other lines: Main Network | Bernina | Bellinzona-Mesocco | Chur-Arosa | Vereina

The Bernina Railway was built and brought into operation as a tourist railway in an era of rapidly increasing tourism. At the beginning, its service was limited to the sommer season. It was in the interest of the outlying valley of the Puschlav, that the service was extended to the whole year in 1910. For several decades, the Bernina Railway represented the only winter connection between the Puschlav and the rest of of Switzerland. Correspondingly great efforts were - and still are - made to keep the line open even under the most adverse conditions; this is only possible due to the use of all technical means avialable an to the high devotion shown by the staff. The Bernina line is the only railway cross the Alps from the north to the south without a tunnel, reaching heights of more than 2000 meters. Even its maximum gradient of 1 in 14 is outstanding. There was never any question of using rack-and-pinion sections.
For this reason it is quite astonishing that, in the last few decades, transit goods traffic across the Bernina has become very important both for the railway and the Canton. Today, there are not only tourists who follow the inviting sign "Bernina- Tirano- Milan- Venice etc.", but also numerous goods trains carrying fuel oil and petrol, fodder and grain and many other goods from the border station of Tirano inland. In addition, the passenger trains carry tourists to the various cable cars in the Bernina massif, which especially in winter attract huge crowds of sport addicts.
The railway has constantly been improved and modernized since it was taken over by the RhB in 1943. Back in the thirties, the track on the plateau of he Bernina Pass was relaid in several places in order to give a better protection from snow-drifts and avalanches. In the last few years, the electric installations and the rolling stock have been completely replaced. But, with a little bit of luck, you can see some of the old railcars from 1908 still working. Famous is the Bernina-Express which is a link between Chur (capitol of Grison) and Tirano in Italia.
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Copyright © 1996 Stefan Dringenberg, last change on 2001-03-01