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My Favourite Railway Journey

John Chandler

JOHN CHANDLER tells us about his favourite journey by train.

This is an interesting concept; how do you define your favourite railway journey? Is it comparable to the proverbial length of a piece of string? Certainly, extremly low on the list has to be the Southern failway's service arriving at Ford at 07:20 each weekday. However, is it a journey that is undertaken regularly or might it be a one-off?

I travel a lot by train, not only in the UK but also in mainland Europe, both by standard service trains and also on charter tours.

One thing about charter tours is that the train is yours and usually you are not confined to the coach; cab rides may be possible.


In April 2009, I was in the cab of BLS 843 503 heading to Kandersteg when she failed on the main line. She failed later that day near Spiez. The Buffer Kissers on this tour were happy; the 843 had eventually 'crashed' into the buffers at Kandersteg and again at the old tunnel into Spiez. After rescue by an Ae6/6, Robel 'Hedgecutter' 235 205, the other traction on our 3 car charter train, then took us to Thun and around the docks area; we were hitched to a brand new 486 (only a week old!) which then took us back to Interlaken Ost, me in the cab again! However, whilst a memory, was it my favourite?

However, in hindsight, probably my favourite is on the between Interlaken Ost and the Jungfraujoch, Europe's highest station at 3454 metres above sea level. Although having only been twice to the summit, I have travelled parts of the route many times

Swiss Railways

Google Map from showing the two branches splitting between Interlaken and Jungfraujoch.

Starting at Interlaken Ost, the metre gauge Berner Oberalp Bahn first transports you to Zweilütschinen where the train divides, before heading to both Grindlewald and Lauterbrunnen. At these two stations, passengers transfer to the 800mm gauge Wengernalpbahn to continue their journey to Kleine Scheidegg where the two branches meet up again. We are now at 2061 metres above sea level, some 1500 metres above our starting point! There is one final leg of the journey to the Jungfraujoch, taking us by the metre gauge Jungfraubahn, through the Eiger and the Monch.

Being a regular with the tourists can often be a handicap when undertaking this journey. However, I was lucky enough to meet up with a group of friends in November 2013 for a private trip.

Swiss Railways

Historic locomotive No. 11 (built 1912) was on hand to push up to the summit in two wooden-bodied coaches.

Swiss Railways

It soon became apparent as we set off that the coaches had a few unique features. Firstly, the tables were attached to a heavy pendulum so as to keep the surface level and not spill your coffee.

Swiss Railways

Similarly, the oil lamps were mounted on gimbals to keep them level.

Swiss Railways

At two locations inside the 7km tunnel are passing loops; it is scheduled into the journey for a short stop at one, if not both, for a view outside!

Swiss Railways

From the mountain to the valley floor with Interlaken in the distance.

Swiss Railways

Eventually, we reached the summit station.

Swiss Railways

Perched high on the mountain is an observatory, predominantly for monitoring the weather but, in conjunction with Bern University, has also conducted experiments of the effect of gravity on time.

Swiss Railways

From the observation lounge is this view down the valley towards Interlaken and the source of the beer!

Swiss Railways

After a few hours to make the most of the facilities at the top, it was time to descend back to 'normal' altitudes, taking one glance back to see the observatory perched on its precipice.

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