Monday, April 26, 2010

Trip to Switzerland 2010 - Chur Glacier Express

Tuesday 20 April

10:15 Chur to Andermatt 12:49
13:28 Andermatt to Goshenen 13:43
14:08 Goschenen to Arth-Goldau 15:06
15:13 Arth-Goldau to Pfaffikon 15:52
16:41 Pfaffikon to Chur 17:43

Click above for a slide show of the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express
Today we took the Glacier Express from Chur to Andermatt. The train was very comfortable with tall windows that curved to follow the roof contour. There were two first class cars at the front and two second class cars at the back with a restaurant/kitchen car in the middle. We were served lunch at our seats. (salad, pork medallions in a mushroom gravy, cooked wheat and carrots, chocolate cake or cheese (three types)). A couple who had made this trip three years ago said that the meal was exactly the same then. It was sustenance but not particularly special. One good thing was that the meal was actually prepared on board in the Kitchen and the portions were served on to the plates at the tables out of a pot There was a recorded commentary which served to cut out the noise from the talkers but it wasn't particularly interesting because it concentrated on economic and political items and there was less about what we could see from the train. Other trains were given priority and we took the siding for most of the meets.

At Disentis the RhB locomotive was changed for a MGB locomotive #108. They had to wait for a train coming the other way to clear but this was done very quickly. Two men couple up by standing one either side. The engine squeezes up the single center buffer and each man screws up the link coupling on his side.

Thee MGB engineer was evidently trying to make up the time that was lost by the meets on the RhB and he took the curves at a speed higher than was comfortable although not unsafe.

In spite of having to wait for a number of opposing trains we were only a couple of minutes late at Andermatt. At Oberalppass we met the Glacier Express going in the opposite direction hauled by MGB #103. The grass that was clear of snow was covered with tiny crocus flowers, mostly white but some purple.
MGB locomotives seen 18, 21, 91, 96, 101, 104, 105, 107.

At the summit the white snow was glaring and took everyone by surprise as we came upon it out of a tunnel. There are many chair lifts but very few seem to be in operation this time of year. The route down into Andermatt uses many loops and doubles back on itself several times. We could see Andermatt from on high and from several different angles as the train descended.

Anermatt is nothing special. We raced up to the church to see the decorated font and admire the paintings and the decorated organ and then went back to the station to take the earlier train to Goshenen to get some pictures for Martin. The route between Andermatt and Goshenen is very steeply graded down hill and the rack is used extensively. Most of this section is protected from slides so the line is in a gallery, at one point there is a rack-equipped siding inside the gallery.

Goshenen is a miserable place which could do with a coat of paint. The MGB comes down steeply on one side and there is a succession of freight and passenger trains running on the SBB into the Gottard Tunnel. The freight trains were runnng at high speed, closely spaced and all under green signals.

The main party had a very short time to make the transfer from the MGB to the SBB platform and Glen was not going to make it. The station staff kept him by the plank crossing and instructed our train to pull up clear of the crossing. This must have been done by radio while the train was still in the tunnel. Glen could then cross in safety and we all made the train.

The journey back to Chur was made with transfers at Arth Goldau and Pfaffikon. The first part was heavily graded with several loops to lose height but the last part from Pfaffikon was through very flat country with steel valley sides. There were vineyards, fruit trees, spring flowers, meadows. All along the SBB line there were preserved electric locomotives, mostly on siding trackage. This included a crocodile at Ersfeldt. The weather became milder although it was beginning to cool off by the time we had reached Chur. Some of the SBB first class cars have tall observation windows that extend into the roof.

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