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Tracks Above the Clouds—The Brienz Rothorn Railway

| November 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Steam trains have chugged along this picturesque route since 1892.

By Don Heimburger

Taking a train trip into the clouds won’t be so bad I thought, as I looked around the brightly-colored brown and yellow wooden rail station in Brienz, Switzerland, where patches of morning mist were starting to disappear.

I rationalized by the time we were lifted 7,709 feet by our steam train to the top of the Brienz Rothorn, the fog and mist would surely burn off so that some of the 693 mountain peaks visible from the top would be viewable. Three of those peaks include the famous and picturesque Jungfrau at 13,638 feet, and the two nearby striking Mönch and Eiger peaks, both also above 13,000 feet.

The bright green-boilered oil-fired 20th century steam locomotive, an 0-6-0 built in 1992, accompanied by two candy-apple red coaches, was hissing and steaming contently on the station track as I handed my ticket to the conductor, who motioned me to grab a seat in either coach. Thomas Trachsel, a resident of nearby Interlaken, a veteran engineer and an employee of the line for four years, would have his hand at the throttle for the early morning trip. He is one of 14 members of the company’s locomotive crew.

At the Brienz Rothorn Bahn, situated on the shores of the Lake of Brienz in the heart of the Bernese Alps, a similar sequence plays out many times each week during the summer season. The company operates the oldest steam cogwheel railway in Switzerland that has not been electrified, having begun running trains in 1892. In 2014, more than 123,000 passengers took the trip between May and October.

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