It chugs, steams, screeches and smokes: Switzerland’s only daily steam rack railway has thrilled passengers since 1892.
The Brienz Rothorn Railway (German: Brienz Rothorn Bahn, BRB) is a tourist railway in Switzerland, which climbs from Brienz, at the eastern end of Lake Brienz, to the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn. The railway is 7.6 kilometres (4.7 mi) long and has an altitude difference of 1678 metres (5505 ft.) in a bit over an hour, is the fourth-highest railway in Switzerland.
The leisurely ride up to the mountain ridge of the Brienzer Rothorn is an experience for the senses; fresh mountain air mixed here and there with a whiff of oil and smoke, the hissing and puffing sound has a calming effect and the scenery is just stunning.
Unlike other Swiss mountain lines, the BRB was not electrified and this made the railway a special attraction as from 1953 to 1990 it was the only steam-operated line in Switzerland. Although other Swiss mountain railways offer special “steam” trips, this is the only line to offer a full steam service, the Diesel locomotive only being used for additional trains and for light traffic periods.
The historic locomotives push the carriages wheezing up to Rothorn Kulm in the same way as they did in 1892. Shortly after the conductor whistles us off, the train drives through front- and backyards, in the town off Brienz passing flower adorned wooden chalets.
It drives true six tunnels cut through soil and rock, and if you pay attention, two large panorama windows appear in the two lower tunnels and reveal surprising views. For much of the route, the waters of Lake Brienz glitter in the distance. The view along the way is magnificent, and the higher the better.
The sweeping panorama views from the top are breath-taking – Lake Brienz and the eastern edge of Lake Thun as well as more than 690 peaks can be seen; the partly snow covered Bernese and central Swiss Alps, the Grimsel- and Brünig regions and the Jurassic mountains are inspiring sights.