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The Most Famous Swiss Mountain Cogwheel Trains

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The Most Famous Swiss Mountain Cogwheel Trains

One of the hallmarks of Switzerland, land where mountains meet lakes, and green pastures spread far and wide, is its railway system. In this post, we will take a closer look at Swiss railway marvels with a focus on cogwheel railways.

Here are five examples of Swiss mountain cogwheel trains that changed the world of railway engineering for good.

scenic trains in Switzerland

5 Most Famous Swiss Mountain Cogwheel Trains

Here are the five cogwheel trains we will talk about today:

  • Mount Rigi Cogwheel Railway
  • Mount Pilatus Cogwheel Railway
  • Jungfrau Railway
  • Gornergrat Railway
  • Albula Line 


Since the first internal line from Zurich to Baden ran in 1847, the train business started to boom, and Switzerland became a pioneer in railway engineering. 

Although the first cogwheel train ran in the USA, not in Switzerland, in 1861, Swiss engineers became worldwide experts in this technology and patented several solutions that are used to this day.

Swiss cogwheel trains, renowned for their ability to climb steep inclines, offer passengers a front-row seat to Switzerland’s breathtaking scenery. 

swiss mountains cogwheel trains

Mout Rigi Cogwheel Railway - the oldest cogwheel train in Switzerland

The Rigi Railway is the oldest cogwheel train in Switzerland, opened in 1871 and preserved in its original state. The station in Vitznau offers a nostalgic ride with the original 1860s steam locomotive pushing a small, open-air red wagon.

Often referred to as the “Queen of the Mountains,” Rigi is one of the most beloved mountains in Switzerland. As the train ascends, passengers are treated to breathtaking views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding Alpine panoramas. 

how pilatus cogwheel train works

The Pilatus Railway: Ascending to Majestic Heights

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the Pilatus Railway stands as a testament to daring engineering. Built in 1889, it ascends the steepest gradient of any cogwheel railway in the world, granting passengers awe-inspiring views it climbs to the summit of Mount Pilatus.

Edouard Locher, a Swiss engineer, invented a new type of rack-and-pinion technology, allowing the train to ascent steeper than 25% gradient. It was an improvement from Abe rack-and-pinion technology used in Mount Rigi Railway line.

Locher patented his invention and the system is used to this day to carry the passengers to the top of Mount Pilatus.

brief history of jungfrau bahn

The Jungfrau Railway: A Journey to the Top of Europe

Opened in 1912, the Jungfrau Railway is an iconic cogwheel railway line, ferrying passengers through tunnels carved into the Eiger and Mönch mountains, finally arriving at the Jungfraujoch, a station at the Jochpass, dubbed the “Top of Europe.” From the top, one can admire the vast areas of the largest glacier in the Alps, the Aletsch glacier.

It’s a “dream-come-true” project of Swiss industrialist Adolf Guyer-Zeller, who envisioned a train that climbs from Kleine Scheidegg to the top of Jungfrau at 4,158 meters (13,642 ft).

His original plans were altered due to lack of funds, and the terminus station of Jungfrau Railway was changed to Jungfraujoch. Still, it’s the highest station in Europe, at 3,463 meters  (11,360 ft). En route, travelers are treated to unparalleled views of legendary peaks such as Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger, creating unforgettable memories. 

gornergrat cogwheel train

The Gornergrat Railway: A Panoramic Spectacle

The oldest electric cogwheel train in the world opened in 1898 after just two years of construction, Gornergrat Railway takes passengers from the center of Zermatt to the top of Gornergrat. The station, located at 3,086 meters (10124.67 ft) above sea level, provides an unparalleled view of the iconic Matterhorn.

As the Gornergrat Railway ascends to the Gornergrat summit, passengers are greeted with a panoramic spectacle of the Matterhorn and 29 other surrounding peaks, glaciers and valleys: the whole Alpine spectacle.

This route showcases the quintessential Swiss Alps, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in the natural grandeur of the region.

is bernina express worth it

The Albula Line: A UNESCO World Heritage Route

The Albula Line belongs to the Glacier Express and Bernina Express routes. It’s located in eastern Switzerland, in canton Grisons, and is serviced by Rhaetian Railways.

Starting in Thusis, the 62-kilometre-long Albula Line is an example of how perfectly a railway line can adapt and blend into the natural landscape. Multiple bridges, viaducts, helical tunnels, and ramps allow the train to climb 1000 meters up the Albula Valley.

Although we promised to focus on the cogwheel trains, we had to mention Albula Line, which, thanks to clever engineering solutions, allows the train to climb the necessary heights without the use of rack-and-pinion technology.

The route’s historical significance and engineering prowess make it a must-visit for any rail enthusiast.

a day on a glacier express

A Railway Thrill

Swiss cogwheel trains aren’t just about reaching a destination; they’re about experiencing the journey itself.

Each of these top five routes offers a unique perspective on Switzerland’s beauty, history, and engineering achievements. We invite you to embark on an adventure through these remarkable railways, where every turn unveils a new chapter in Switzerland’s story.

Our 12-day Grand Train Tour Of Switzerland  embraces the variety of Swiss mountain cogwheel trains and offer incomparable adventures on 11 Swiss most scenic railways. 

This unforgettable journey will take you around Switzerland showcasing the most stunning Swiss scening rides such as:

  • Glacier Express
  • Bernina Express
  • Gornergrat Train
  • Jungfrau Railways
  • Rigi Cogwheel Train
  • Furka Steam Train

Climb up Gornergrat and Jungfraujoch and experience the best of Switzerland in one seamless adventure.

We prioritize your comfort – you will travel 1st class with convenient connecting times. We also organize dedicated luggage transfer so that you can travel light and simply enjoy the ride. 

Check for details below.

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