Rhaetian Railways — getting lost in the mountains by train

(June 2018)

The meter-gauge tracks of the Rhaetian Railways is one of three railway lines in the world on the UNESCO list. Ok, maybe I like watching the mountains from the walking trail even more, but views from a train window are on the solid second place. All the more if this train breaks this basic rule – that the railroads are built on a flat surface.

It is not flat here, you have to go uphill or downhill. In many places in Switzerland, railways “cheat” on the most steep fragments by using cograil. But not here – the only solution here is clever and spectacularly built tunnels and viaducts. Built at the beginning of the twentieth century so that heavy freight trains could also run on this line. Probably the most amazing are on the line in the Albula Valley, where they had to overcome 400m of elevation over a 4 km section. So the tracks in this 4 km valley are 12 km long. After passing the tunnel under the pass between the Rhine and Danube watershed, the train descends downwards through three totally spiral tunnels, leaving them perpendicular to the bottom of the valley and crossing the gorge on spectacular viaducts just to get to Bergün with zig-zags whose ends are also hidden in tunnels .

I rarely lose the sense of direction in the mountains. But on this train I had – I could not follow which way I was going, which side of the valley I was looking at, and even whether I was going in downward or upward direction.