Monday, April 26, 2010

Trip to Switzerland 2010 - Chur Bernina Express

Wednesday 21 April

08:58 Chur to Tirano 13:12
14:33 Tirano to Chur 19:03

Click above for a slide show of the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express
Today we rode the Bernina Express of the Rhaetian Railway from Chur to Tirano and back. We received pretty shabby treatment from the railway which insisted we ride in a second class car where we were very cramped instead of providing a first class car – we all had first class tickets. This “don't care” attitude is atypical of the Swiss railways and possibly because the Rhaetian Railway has a monopoly of this admittedly great trip.

We left four minutes late and there were traffic regulation problems at the beginning of the run. The bar/trolley has an ibex head, with horns and front feet attached to the front.  Many people offered to buy the Ibex but it wasn't for sale, the girl was offered $50 at one time.
 Gerald with the bar trolley
 Between Filisur and Preda there was an emergency brake application in a tunnel. We resumed after a wait of a minute or so while the air was recovered – then a sticking brake took a minute or so to come off.  Maybe it was caused by a circuit breaker tripping.  Our car was not coupled tightly enough and there was jerking when we started and stopped.

The Landwasser Viaduct is impressive although there are several other beautiful stone viaducts in addition to this. The piers were built from cut stone without any scaffolding.  After the Albula tunnel there are swiftly flowing mountain streams with rocky bottoms. The water is a milky color. There is still lots of snow. Great scenery for Mozart piano concertos which I was playing on my iPod. There are fields of small crocus as yesterday in the areas where the snow has only just melted as the grass is still brown.

At Samedan we were switched to another platform and at Pontresina our locomotive was exchanged for two 1000v DC motor cars which took the train right through to Tirano.

The descent into Tirano is breathtaking. There are many spirals which gave us a great number of different perspectives of Lake Poschiano and it took a long time before we eventually reached it. Many of the retaining structures are dry stone walls. There was some street running in both Brusio and Tirano. The Customs at Tirano were not interested in looking at our passports and we quickly walked into the old town. We found we had to be careful of the cars whose drivers took no notice of pedestrian crossings. Tirano is a typical Italian town and is dirty and unkempt compared to what we have experienced in Switzerland. We found a pleasant lady in one of the few shops that had not closed for lunch and bought two small bottles of Proseco. She even provided some paper cups. A revolting sweet red wine was quickly consigned to the waste bin in the train.

The trip back was also enjoyable as we knew what to expect. We saw some deer and a fox (not close to each other). Again, our train was switched at Pontresina and Samedan. The railway uses small four wheel loco tractors for this and although they would appear to be equipped with air brakes, the air did not seem to be cut in. This is not a good practice when the cars are occupied by passengers. At Pontresina we received a pretty heavy knock as they squeezed up the coupler to attach the links. I was horrified to see a switchman standing on a coupler at Pontresina to cross from one side to the other.

Lago di Poschiavo
Lago di Poschiavo

The weather was excellent, particularly on the Italian side and this made things very bright at the higher altitude where there was still a lot of snow. In places in the afternoon the snow was melting rapidly and running off into rivulets.

RhB Locomotives seen
Bernina Express 703
Thursis locotractor 117
Filisur 614
Preda 647
Samedan 702 on freight, Stadler railcar 3504, locotractor 89
Pontresina 617, 44 and 47 put on Bernina Express
Bernina Legalb 55
Poschiavo locotractor 151, 161, meet with 41 and 42, 48 in yard.
Campologno 118
Tirano 22, 53
Samerdan 703 on log train, 604, 89
Filisur 646, 88
Chur 611.

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