«Oh, what a wonderful work of the human spirit this great invention is! It makes one feel as powerful as some ancient magician!» wrote Hans Christian Andersen on the invention of the railway. The presence of a railway over the mountains is indeed a work of magic, It climbs several hundred metres, plunges into dark and sinuous tunnels, rattles over towering viaducts and runs through a fairytale landscape of wild romance.
Like the magic of times gone by. A wonder of technology. That’s the Albula Line. This is where primeval nature, centuries of civilised culture and the pinnacle of the engineer’s art all come together. And yet: what could be more magical than standing on the engine footplate as tons of engineered metal make light work of the mountain slopes? The tracks shine promisingly in the sun. They tempt you to venture onto the mountain. That’s railway fever for you! Childhood dreams come true as the urge to wander is fulfilled.
All this can be yours, with a footplate ride on the Albula Line. This book will give you a taster of what it’s really like. It tells you all about the towering height of the viaducts, the length of the tunnels and the uniqueness of the surrounding landscape. The book is also designed to act as a guide during your trip. A trip like no other, as it gives you a privileged view of where the train is going. The raw experience of the landscape, converted into high enjoyment. The Rhaetian Railway wishes you a pleasant and interesting trip.
This was the message issued to mark the arrival of the very first train in Chur on June 30th 1858. The train, which had left St. Gallen at seven o’clock that morning, rolled into Chur at noon to be received with great celebrations and a salute of roaring cannon, although the welcoming speech was actually delivered some distance away, at the town hall in the Old Town. The train had in fact not entered Chur, but had stopped in an open field just short of the town. It was not until the twentieth century, with the expansion of the town, that the railway station would become part of the urban landscape.
It was some time before rail journeys could continue southwards from Chur and over the Alps. The section of the Albula line that runs to St. Moritz was opened in 1904, and the year 1910 saw the completion of the Bernina line. One reason for this long wait was the inauguration in 1882 of the Gotthard Railway, which messed up somewhat the transport policies of the Grisons / Graubünden.
The history of railways in this Swiss canton therefore did not really begin in full until 1889, with the opening of the line from Landquart to Klosters. The next quarter-century was to see the completion of almost the entire 400-kilometer rail network of the Grisons / Graubünden, including – from 1896 onwards – the metre-gauge line that runs from Landquart to Thusis via Chur. The line that has run to Domat/Ems since 1959/1960 also includes a third rail for the use of the Eurobalise data-transfer system. The standard-gauge locomotives run on this section are operated by the Rhaetian Railway at 11 kV 16 2/3 Hz (SBB 15 kV 16 2/3 Hz). Another throwback to when the railway first arrived in Grisons / Graubünden is the double-winged station building dating from 1878, now joined to the station buffet, which was built in 1907. The interior is decorated with scenes of Switzerland painted in art nouveau style, reflecting the novel “travel fever” of the time. As a symbol of the urge to travel, the station was fitted with a sweeping glass roof in 1994 to allow covered access to the waiting post buses, further accenting its role as the Gateway to the Grisons / Graubünden.
Km 23.6 | 604 metres above sea level > Reichenau-Tamins railway station
10. April 1897: The Swiss canton of the Grisons / Graubünden buys 5000 shares in the Rhaetian Railway, making it the railway’s main shareholder. The government still has to obtain the people’s approval however, and asks them to vote on the matter. The canton then holds a referendum to decide on the construction of a proper railway network.
The station at Reichenau still marks an important moment in the history of railways in the Grisons / Graubünden. The expansion of the railway network initially involved the construction of the Albula Line from Thusis and into the Engadin region, along with the section through the Rheinschlucht Gorge to Ilanz (completed in 1903). Reichenau still marks the point where these two lines diverge,
and the station itself stands as a monument to these pioneering days of railway building. The stations along the way from Landquart to Thusis have been modernised and extended over the years, but they still preserve the atmosphere of the old stations of Prättigau, which date back to the 1890s and the first line in the interior of the canton, from Landquart to Davos.
But the Albula and Bernina Lines are the beating heart of the Rhaetian Railway. The northern-most point of departure, Thusis, was connected by rail to Landquart via Chur, Reichenau and the valleys of Domleschg/Heinzenberg. Once the line to Thusis was opened, the rails ran over the Rhine Bridge at Reichenau, the largest riveted-steel bridge in the Grisons / Graubünden, overlooked by the towering presence of Reichenau castle and with the confluence of the Upper and Lower Rhine far below.
Km 41.3 | 697 metres above sea level > Thusis railway station
Terminal of the section of line, opened in 1896, that runs from Landquart via Chur. Point of departure for the section of the Albula Line that has run from Thusis to St. Moritz since 1904. This is Thusis station.
The building is now thoroughly modern in appearance, and not at all like a structure from the early days of Swiss railways. This is because the station was completely rebuilt between 1990 and 1993.
The current site of the station was subject to much discussion in its day, as were many other items concerning the town of Thusis and the chosen route of the railway. Given the route followed by the line, the railway company wanted to site the station at the foot of the Alps, while the local council preferred to have a railway station nearer town, i.e. on the actual mountainside. The current location of the station resulted from a compromise reached in 1896. The station began life as a half-timbered building, but was replaced in 1924 with a more imposing hip-roofed structure. The geographical feature that has always characterised the site of the station remains unchanged however, in the shape of the Viamala Gorge that provides its backdrop. A concrete bridge just before the gorge carries the Rhaetian Railway across the Hinterrhein, a tributary of the Rhine. The only steel bridge across the river, which had come to be the last of its type, had to be removed to make way for an autobahn, and the pre-stressed concrete bridge built in its place now carries a double stretch of line.
Km 44.1 | 737 metres above sea level > Sils power plant in Domleschg
The Albula railway was once home to puffing steam locomotives, but positive experiences on other stretches of line and the shortage of coal brought on by the First World War led, in 1919, to the Albula Line being electrified – thus giving rise to the expansion of the Thusis power plant at the entrance to Viamala.
Sils i.D., the district neighbouring on to Thusis, was already being supplied with power by the municipal electricity works of the city of the Zurich. The years 1907 to 1910 saw the damming of the River Albula below Tiefencastel, to take the water via conduits to the great machine hall of the power station at Sils i.D. The power station was built to a design created by the renowned Zurich architect Gustav Gull, and was soon to be the neighbour of a residential zone designed by Nicolaus Hartmann. Sils i.D. thus managed to attract two important architects at the same time: Gustav Gull, responsible for building the Zurich regional Landesmuseum, and Nicolaus Hartmann, who came to be known, thanks to such structures as the main administration building of the Rhaetian Railway, as an important representative of the architectural style, peculiar to the Grisons / Graubünden region, that is known as Bündner Heimatstil.
And there is more to the story of electrical power in Sils i.D. In 1986, the Zurich utility company completed the task of building the 61-metre-high curved dam at Solis, as part of an effort to use more efficiently the waters of the Albula in the Schinschlucht Gorge downstream of Sils i.D. All Grisons/Graubünden power plants belonging to the Zurich utility company were meanwhile now being run by remote control from Sils i.D.
Sils is also served by the Hinterrhein power plants, which no longer make direct use, in the old Thusis plant, of the power generated by the river, but instead transfer it on to Sils i.D. The giant generating plants at Sils i.D., which are operated by various companies, have come to form a key part of Switzerland’s power grid. The Rhaetian Railway is supplied from a separate generating turbine however, as it requires power at a different frequency to that of the main grid (16 2/3 Hz, instead of the more normal 50 Hz).
The Rhaetian Railway has thus been able to run without having to build its own power plants, unlike such operations as the Swiss Federal Railways. In fact, the connection between hydroelectric power and railway electrification existed in the Grisons / Graubünden from a very early stage.
Km 44.1 | 737 metres above sea level > Schinschlucht Gorge
The original passes over the Alps started off, at the northern end, from two mountain gorges: the Viamala Gorge, which leads off towards the Splügen Pass and San Bernardino; and the Schin Gorge, which provides access to the Julier and Septimer passes.
The course followed by the path in both gorges has changed over the years, starting in both Schin and Viamala from a precipitous north-eastern route. The road built in 1823 lies in lower Viamala, but on the opposite side of the gorge, and its counterpart in Schin, built in 1869, likewise changed sides. These paths may have been called roads, but they were not what we nowadays understand by the term – indeed motor traffic was largely prohibited in the Grisons / Graubünden until 1925. The Rhaetian Railway has however been running through Schin ever since 1903.
Km 44.2 | 739 metres above sea level > Burgruine Campi
Castle and railway as a single entity: Ever since the thirteenth century, the northern entrance to the Schinschlucht Gorge has been guarded by the castle of Burg Campi. The building, which started out as a single tower, grew over time until, early in the twentieth century, the railway was laid just below the castle walls.
Just as the ruins of Campi are an example of a castle that once served more than just a military purpose, their combination with the Albula railway has helped create a cultural symbol of the region’s historic continuity; a history brought closer to us by the structures from the various centuries that correspond to it.
Km 47.8 | 747 metres above sea level > Lochtobel Viaduct
Geologically problematic: Such is Schin, the gorge which, at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the railway was to built, required structures that could withstand landslides. This is why the central pillars of the Lochtobel Viaduct were driven in to a depth of 16 metres below ground. And why they are still standing now. In the middle lies the slate gorge, through which the Albula river flows.
Km 48.2 | 750 metres above sea level > Muttnertobel Viaduct
Twelve tunnels run through the Schinschlucht Gorge, with more than four kilometres under this mountain. Elsewhere, the railway appears to float above the abyss, as in places such as the Muttnertobel Viaduct which, after the Solis Viaduct with its 30-metre-wide single arch, is bigger than all the other bridges on the Albula Line.
Km 49.8 | 863 metres above sea level > Solis Viaduct
Saint George is supposed to have escaped from his pursuers with a single, mighty horseback leap over a gorge, and mediaeval portrayals of this legendary feat can be found in places such as the Sogn Gieri church near Rhäzüns.
But more modern ways of crossing gorges can be just as impressive. From the shadowy side of the wild Schinschlucht Gorge to the sunny slopes of the Albulatal Valley, the Solis Viaduct is an impressive way to cross the river Albula, which flows along 89 metres below in the depths of the gorge. The deep abyss is bridged by its 42-metre-wide arch. This makes the Solis Viaduct not only the highest crossing on the Rhaetian Railway, but also the longest-spanning bridge on any part of the Albula Line.
The viaduct garnered even more superlatives at the time of its construction, as a bridge structure with a span of such proportions was totally unheard of in early twentieth-century Switzerland. It therefore comes as no surprise that the viaduct also required substantially more resources than other railway bridges, as testified to by the massive and still-impressive stone pillar bases and the brickwork on the structure’s parapets. It is a far more elegant-looking structure than the road bridge that runs in parallel beside it, helping express with even more intensity the history of past attempts to bridge the gorge.
The central Albulatal Valley
Although the Albulatal Valley is, overall, the most thinly-populated part of the Grisons / Graubünden region, it more than makes up for this with the richness of its cultural heritage. The central Albulatal valley, which runs eastwards from the Schinschlucht Gorge, is especially rich in attractions in the places that mark the beginning and end of this long Alpine valley. Tiefencastel, the town where the paths to the Julier and Septimer passes and the way to the Albula Pass all branch off, is dominated by its sumptuous baroque parish church dating from 1697. Filisur is characterised by its grand town houses, its richly-decorated building façades and its wide gateways, which are a typical feature of the Engadin region and no surprise, considering the amount of passing trade that the town once received.
The region’s cultural richness is however also apparent in places other than these two towns. The high mountain village of Stierva, for example, is home to a church built in 1520 with a fascinating Gothic ceiling based on rhomboids, making it the most complex roof structure of its type in all of the Grisons / Graubünden. And there are other, mainly baroque, churches to be found throughout the central Albulatal Valley. Just before Tiefencastel, at the exit to the gorge of Schinschlucht, a large rock high above the Mistail Viaduct is the site of the old Church of St. Peter at Mistail, an eighth-century Carolingian three-apse structure (a term used to refer to a church building with three choirs).
But the central Albulatal Valley is a home not only to churches; just after Tiefencastel and high above Surava, we find the castle of Burg Belfort, which was built in 1200, rearing up imposingly out of the forest. No less impressive is the Landwasser Viaduct upstream of Filisur.
Km 63.1 | 1048 metres above sea level > Landwasser Viaduct
While the Solis Viaduct is the highest bridge on the Rhaetian Railway, the Landwasser Viaduct stands out as a masterpiece of the builder’s art: with a volume of more than nine thousand cubic metres, it weighs in with three times the bulk of its counterpart in Solis. The reason for this is the 65-metre-high pillars, erected without the use of scaffolding, which are relatively high in number due to the arches being only 20 metres wide. This reduction in span width is in turn due to the viaduct having to follow a curve with a radius of just a hundred metres.
So how come the viaduct was built without the use of scaffolding? The possibility of flooding meant that scaffolding could not be erected. Instead the builders used two bridge cranes, whose iron towers were bricked directly into the pillars.
But the sheer breathtaking appearance of the viaduct puts the technical details of its construction into the shade: The 136-metre-long bridge does not just run, with its sweeping arches, into the wild valley of Landwassertal; it is also the gateway to the south-west – via a massive vertical wall of rock – to the more than 200-metre length of the Landwasser Tunnel.
Km 64.4 | 1080 metres above sea level > Filisur railway station
Filisur. The village stretches out along the Albula Road, with its houses in a style typical of the Engadin region. The village is not just characterised by passing traffic however; it is also marked by presence of hydroelectric power. Just below Filisur lies the overflow reservoir, dating from 1988, from where the pressurised conduits run on to Tiefencastel. The area above Filisur is characterised by the castle-like structure of pipes and artificial lakes of Bergün, linking it to the Davos-Glaris region.
The railway keeps a lower profile here. Indeed the railway station lies downhill of it, on a high plateau. The location was chosen because of the need to avoid standing starts on such a steep section of line. The station at Filisur was important right from the beginning of railway operations, as the village was once a staging post, where the locomotives were checked, and a second engine was sometimes attached to give trains the extra steam power required to help them up the long climb to the Albula Tunnel. Auxiliary locomotives (now powered by electricity) were still being attached to trains well into the nineteen-fifties and sixties.
A station buffet awaited pioneering passengers from the early days of rail travel, and the terrace next to the row of trees abutting the village gave these travellers a welcome chance to stretch their legs. These times are still recalled by the actual station building, which dates from 1903 and still retains its character despite being modernised in 2004; by a depot complete with turntable, by an old engine-shed and also by a water crane once used to fill the boilers of steam locomotives. From 1909 onwards, Filisur was also connected by rail to Davos, thus creating a circuit that allowed travel to Chur via Landquart, Davos and Filisur, and then back to Chur again: the so-called “carousel”.
Km 65.4 | 1115 metres above sea level > Greifenstein Tunnel
Some railways connect places in a simple, straight line. The Rhaetian Railway, on the other hand, needs to tackle a series of mountains, along with various sudden changes of altitude – all of which turns the railway into something of a work of art. Switchback sections of line are used to deal with these changes of altitude in places where space is limited. They also provide carousel-like revolving views, from the train, of the surrounding landscape.
In the Greifenstein Tunnel, passengers are barely aware that the train describes a loop. This 689-metre-long structure, known as a helical tunnel, joins two straight sections of track that lie at an angle to each other. The name comes from the Greifenstein and Schlossberg tunnels, and also from another notable structure: the castle of Burg Greifenstein, which towers over the railway line.
Km 70.2 | 1277 metres above sea level > Stugl/Stuls station
Referring to the station at Stugl/Stuls as a mere crossing totally fails to do it justice. The fact that the station is a listed building gives some hint as to the special status of the place, and the station at Stugl/Stuls is indeed a unique piece of railway history. Standing on a plateau that is half natural, half created by blasting, this station - located deep in the forest between Filisur and Bergün – still includes century-old buildings that date from the earliest days of railway operations on the Albula Line. The law of the day decreed that crossing-keeper’s houses, some of which amounted to little more than a sentry box, were to be placed every three kilometres along the line; and one of them still survives here. Behind the old station building, which was also the home of the station master and his family, we can still find the regulation outdoor privy and wash house, and – slightly further away – the barracks once used to house the workers employed to build the Albula Tunnel. Once they had moved on to Stugl, the building was used as a schoolhouse for the children of railway workers posted to Stuls, but not before it had done its time as accommodation run on the “hot-bed” system, whereby workers from different shifts shared the same bed.
The century-old station at Stugl/Stuls still has something of a fairytale-like air about it, perhaps because it is well away from any built-up area. The picturesque village of Stugl/Stuls itself, which lies some way further up the mountain slope, is home to a small church that sits, crown-like, on a small hill and which houses frescoes dating from around 1350. The work was done by a pupil of Giotto, the Florentine old master and forefather of the Renaissance. The site, despite its isolated seclusion, provides yet another example of the beautiful side of the culture of the Albulatal Valley.
The line from Bergün to Preda has to deal with a difference in altitude of 416 metres along the way, which is why the line had to be artificially extended to include various helical and normal tunnels, viaducts and cuttings.
In 1906, shortly after the line was completed, its was found, in the words of those responsible for official protection of the landscape, that “the pleasing layout of the line and its beautiful stone-built bridges and viaducts” did not in any way degrade the landscape. On the contrary, the line was actually found to “enliven and enrich” the surrounding landscape. Indeed the line between Bergün and Preda nowadays helps to ensure the worldwide fame of the Albula Railway.
The complex, high-altitude construction work likewise resulted in the addition of buildings other than tunnels and bridges, including no fewer than four permanently-occupied maintenance buildings and five workers’ barracks dotted along the line between Bergün and Preda, some of which still stand today.
Km 74.7 | 1425 metres above sea level > Bergün switchback loops
Two switchback loops on the incline near Bergün artificially extend the line and reduce the amount of slope that it has to tackle in any one go. The two switchback loops also provide panoramic views of the landscape, allowing a sweeping vision of the mountains that includes several views of the village of Bergün, with it church and courthouse tower.
Km 76.2 | 1476 metres above sea level > Val Tuors bend
One of the most impressive earthworks on the whole Albula Line is the bend at Val Tuors, which curves around the mountainside on an embankment and vertical shafts erected in the so-called “English” manner.
Km 77.9 | 1532 metres above sea level > Val Tisch Viaduct
A viaduct built of different types of stone. As there was barely sufficient material above Bergün for the construction of the Val Tisch Viaduct, it became necessary to obtain stone from elsewhere.
Km 79.0 | 1572 metres above sea level > Chanaletta Cutting
The valleys once thundered to the sound of avalanches. In order to protect the line from falling rocks, uphill reinforcement was added at heights of up to 2300 metres above sea level, and the line runs through cuttings in places where the risk of avalanches is high. So why not just build tunnels, which would have been far cheaper to construct? This would have reduced the interest of the lines as tourist attraction, making them less viable financially. Indeed, a chief characteristic of these lines has always been the synthesis between aesthetic considerations and economic expediency.
Km 79.2 | 1575 metres above sea level > Muot station
The station was not designed to receive passenger traffic, being conceived more as a shunting yard with various levels. Despite being intended for operational rather than public use, no one saw the need to deprive this shady location of the garden that was normal for stations elsewhere in the Grisons / Graubünden.
Km 79.8 | 1596 metres above sea level > Albula Viaduct I
Four bridges, all of them named after the river, take the line over the Albula on the section between Bergün and Preda. The 500-metre-long Albula Viaduct I performs the first part of the task, by taking the line over the mountain brook and onward towards Muot. Length of viaduct: 59 metres Height: 11 metres
Km 79.9 | 1597 metres above sea level > Rugnux Tunnel
After Muot station, the line towards Preda is characterised by a brusque alternation between dark tunnels and expansive mountain views. Given the narrowness of the valley, spiral tunnels were required in order to let the railway cope with the steep inclines. The first of these high-altitude underground switchbacks takes place in the Rugnux Tunnel. The tunnel is equipped, despite it age, with the latest technology, including doors designed to seal it off in winter and prevent the track icing-up. The doors are opened by trains passing the section block.
Km 81.2 | 1636 metres above sea level > Albula Viaduct II
In order to avoid the slope at Val Rots, which is liable to suffer avalanches, the track is diverted, as is so often the case along this section of line, over the mountain stream – in this case on the 95-metre-long and 29-metre-high Albula Viaduct II.
Km 81.6 | 1650 metres above sea level > Toua Tunnel
The middle of the three helical tunnels between Bergün and Preda is 677 metres long. It almost touches the adjacent Zuondra Tunnel, which lies just 50 metres vertically above it, burrowed into the same mountain.
Km 82.5 | 1677 metres above sea level > Albula Viaduct III
The Albula Viaduct III consists of more than 4000 cubic metres of brickwork. This bridge, which is also known locally as Punt’ota (“high bridge”), is the second-bulkiest item of its type (after the Landwasser Viaduct) on the Albula Line. It is not just the sheer volume of the structure that impresses, but also the strict regularity of its sweeping 20-metre central arches. This volume corresponds approximately to that of the Albula Viaduct II. Between Albula Viaducts III and IV, the railway also runs through the brick-built Maliera Cutting, which was extended in the nineteen-eighties to protect the line from avalanches.
Km 83.0 | 1695 metres above sea level > Albula Viaduct IV
This viaduct is the counterpart of a similar structure located deep down in the Schinschlucht Gorge of the Albulatal Valley. The lower-altitude Lochtobel Viaduct was built using the same 16-metre arches as the Albula Viaduct IV. The fact that this measurement is also shared by the span widths of Albula Tunnels II and III is no coincidence: when the railway was being built, the construction of certain viaduct arches was standardised, so that exact dimensions could be calculated merely by consulting a table.
Km 83.2 | 1702 metres above sea level > Zuondra Tunnel
Almost vertically above the Toua Tunnel, the railway switches back for a third time through the helical Zuondra Tunnel, before negotiating the smaller Preda Valley and taking a straight run through the Albula Tunnel. The train runs through the solid rock of the mountain and over an embankment made of the rubble that was excavated when the Albula Tunnel was being built.
Km 85.7 | 1789 metres above sea level > Preda
Before the builders arrived at the turn of the twentieth century to lay the railway, the only large building in the village was the Hotel Kulm. Preda then began to grow between 1899 and 1903, while the tunnel was being built, including a shanty-town that was dismantled once the tunnel was complete. One of the workers’ barracks was moved downhill to the station at Stugl/Stuls, where it still stands today.
Km 85.8 | 1823 metres above sea level > Albula Tunnel
July 1902: 1316 men worked on the Albula Tunnel, 984 of them underground and 332 in the open air, where a small hospital was also built near the sleeping barracks. And it was needed, as countless men were injured during the construction of the tunnel. A total of 21 workers also lost their lives to explosions, rock-falls and accidents involving rolling stock.
The Albula Tunnel was built between 1899 and 1903. The resulting piece of civil engineering is now, at over 1,800 metres above sea level, the highest standard-gauge railway tunnel in the Alps. The rock towers over the tunnel once more at a height of 950 metres.
What is “rock” in this case? The inside of the mountain consists of solid Albula granite with, towards the north, a good kilometre-thick course of wet argillaceous and calcareous slate. Just to bore through a geologically tricky layer of cellular dolomite, the workers had to drill for eleven months – even though the course in question was only 110 metres thick.
The workers tunnelling into the mountain from the south also had challenges to meet: the need to pass through an area subject to rock-falls meant that supports had to be carefully inserted in order to prop up the unstable interior of the tunnel.
Nowadays, it seems as if these difficulties never existed, as we travel in four minutes through a tunnel that took four years to build. The line climbs southwards to its high-point at 1,823 metres above sea level, after which it drops slightly before leaving this 5,864.5-metre-long mountain section.
The western summit of Dschimel is actually lower than the railway as it passes through the Albula Tunnel, as is also the case with the watershed of the rivers Rhine and Inn. There is also a sharp contrast between the landscapes at either end of the tunnel, with the wild-looking Albulatal Valley to the north and the verdant Alpine highlands of Engadin to the south.
Km 91.8 | 1815 metres above sea level > Spinas station
Val Bever. Alpine meadows are interspersed with forests of stone pine and larch, all intertwined with the river Beverin as it flows down the valley towards Engadin. The Albula Railway has run beside the river since 1903. Given the danger of avalanches at this point, the tracks were built on an embankment made, as in Preda, of rubble excavated during the construction of the tunnel.
Another gem of early railway history is the station of Spinas in Val Bever. Its interest lies in the fact that it has barely changed since it was built. While the passenger buildings at the north end of the Albula Line were built of wood, their southern counterparts tended to be of plastered stone. The station building at Spinas is an exception to this rule however, being constructed with wood cladding reminiscent of the north side of the Alps.
Km 95.6 | 1710 metres above sea level > Bever
The railway runs right through the valley of Val Bever. When it reaches Bever however, a gentle curve gives away the intention of its original builders to include a branch line to Unterengadin. In 1913, the intended stretch from Bever to Scuol was actually opened – as the first electrically-powered section of the Rhaetian Railway. The single transformer building, which also supplied the Albula Line, is now a substation. The station building itself stands, albeit with some of the ornamental detail removed, as it did in 1903 – with the large roofed platform to show for the fact that large numbers of passengers were expected even then.
Km 97.7 | 1705 metres above sea level > Samedan
Trains arrive here from Unterengadin and the Albula Tunnel, and depart towards St. Moritz or to Pontresina and onwards to Bernina: Samedan is the quintessential Engadin railway town, with 180 of its inhabitants employed by the company. Samedan has, since 1999, also been the site of a goods handling yard with mobile container-lifting cranes. The crossing-keeper’s cottage and locomotive turntable from the old building were preserved when the station, which was similar to the one in Bever, was rebuilt in 1983.
Km 102.9 | 1775 metres above sea level > St. Moritz station
The Albula Railway reached St. Moritz, which was by then a former farming village with a fifty-year history as a world-famous spa town, in 1904, somewhat later than planned. As the municipality did not want a railway station that was likely to obstruct the views of the lake and mountains, going so far as to ask for the train to run in a tunnel below the town, the railway builders decided, for reasons of cost, to choose a site that would allow the line to continue on to Chiavenna, via the Maloja Pass, without any further complications. The present site of the station was the result of the dispute being resolved by the Swiss regional government department. The Bernina Railway, which was built in stages between 1906 and 1910, was then made to run into the existing railway station.
After two extensions, the station building was beginning to look a bit of a mess, so – with the impending 1928 Winter Olympic Games in mind – the decision was taken to carry out a complete rebuild. The railway company called in Nicolaus Hartmann, the architect just previously responsible for designing the stations at Alp Grüm and Bernina-Hospiz on the Bernina Line. Before his work on railway stations, Nicolaus Hartmann had also designed the giant Hotel Margna, the showy façade of which was echoed in the new station. His take on the railway building consisted of putting the various facilities into a single cube with a hipped roof, out of which the clock tower still protrudes today. One special feature stood out right from the beginning: the electrically-illuminated hands of the clock.
Facts of the Albula Line Chur–St. Moritz (incl. Samedan – Pontresina)
Building work to begin: in October 1898
> Chur – Thusis: 1st July 1896
> Thusis – Celerina: 1st July 1903
> Celerina – St. Moritz: 1st July 1904
> Samedan – Pontresina: 1st July 1908
Initial construction costs: CHF 28,112,000
Construction costs per kilometre
> CHF 153,200 Chur – Thusis
> CHF 388,450 Thusis – St. Moritz
> CHF 218,210 Samedan – Pontresina
> St. Moritz – Bever: 1st July 1913
> Samedan – Pontresina: 1st July 1913
> Bever – Filisur: 20th April 1919
> Filisur – Thusis: 15th October 1919
> Chur – Thusis: 1st April 1921
Power system: Single-phase alternating current 16.7 Hz, 11 kV
Line length: 66,967 m (61,674 m + 5,293 m)
Min. height above sea level: 584.3 metres above sea level (Chur)
Max. altitude: 1,823 metres above sea level (Albula Tunnel)
Maximum incline: 35 ‰
Minimum curve radius: 120 m, Landwasser Viaduct 100 m
Tunnels and cuttings: 42
Total length: 16,545 m
Longest tunnel: 5,865 m
Proportion of overall length of line: 15.2 %
Bridges: 144 (span width ≥ 2 m)
Total length: 2,901 m
Longest bridge: 215.50 m
Original rail type
> 25 kg/m (Filisur – St. Moritz)
> 27 kg/m (Samedan – Pontresina)
Current rail type: 54 kg/m
Original length of rail: 12 m
Current length of rail: 30 m
The Rail Service of the Rhaetian Railway can be reached daily from 7 am to 7 pm 7 days a week. Whatever you want to know about, be it flat-rate fare offers or special trains, prices of season or standard tickets, we are glad to helb you.