Rhaetian Railway

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Coordinates: 46°24′32″N 10°1′11″E / 46.40889°N 10.01972°E / 46.40889; 10.01972

Rhaetian Railway
Mappa ferrovie retiche.svg
RhB ABe 8-12 Allegra between Lagalb and Ospizio Bernina.jpg
RhB train approaching the Bernina Pass.
Locale Graubünden, Switzerland
Lombardy, Italy
Track gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
Electrification 11 kV 16⅔ Hz (322 km)
1000 V DC (62 km, Bernina line)
Length 384 km (238.6 mi)
Headquarters Bahnhofstrasse 25, Chur

The Rhaetian Railway (German: Rhätische Bahn, Italian: Ferrovia Retica, Romansh: Viafier Retica, abbreviated RhB) is a Swiss transport company, owning the largest network of all the private railways in Switzerland. The company operates most of the railways in the Swiss canton of Graubünden as the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB-CFF-FFS) extends only a few kilometres over the cantonal border to the capital at Chur. Almost the entire network is in Graubünden, with one station at Tirano in Italy.

The Rhaetian Railway serves a number of major tourist centres, including St Moritz and Davos. One of the lines, the Berninabahn, crosses the Bernina Pass to the Italian border and on to Tirano, Lombardy, where there is a link to the Italian railways.

In 2008 the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina area (the part from Thusis to Tirano, including St. Moritz) was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On October 20, 2011 Google announced that the Albula-Bernina line would be the first rail line in the world to be photographed and put on Google Street View.[1]


  • Travellers per year (2008): 10.7 million
  • Revenue (2008): 308,700,000 sFr.
  • Profit (2008): 1,700,000 sFr.
  • Employees (2008): 1,348
  • Total rolling stock (2008): 1,294

Network and services[edit]

Rhaetian Railway
Track gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
Electrification 11 kV 16⅔ Hz (322 km)
1000 V DC (62 km, Bernina line)
Maximum incline Bernina line: 7 %
Rack system None
Route map
To Zürich
To St. Margrethen
Landquart Ried
Schiers Nord
Trimmis(Closed 2006)|Trimmis
Chur Wiesental
Arosa Line
Chur West|Chur Stadt
Felsberg|Chur Sand depot
Domat/Ems|Sassal(Closed 2000)
Ems Werk|Untersax
Klosters Dorf|Ardez
St. Peter-Molinis
Klosters Selfranga|Sagliains
Cavadürli|Klosters Selfranga Süd
Davos Laret|Vereina Nord
Davos Wolfgang|Vereina Süd
Davos Dorf|Sagliains Nord
Davos Platz|Saslatsch Nord
Valendas-Sagogn|Sils im Domleschg
Davos Islen
Davos Frauenkirch
Davos Glaris|Susch
Davos Monstein|Zernez
To Brig
Spinas|La Punt-Chamues-ch
Celerina|Punt Muragl
St. Moritz
Celerina Staz
Punt Muragl Staz
Alp Nuova
Bernina Suot
Bernina Diavolezza
Bernina Lagalb
Ospizio Bernina
Alp Grüm
Li Curt
Le Prese
Brusio spiral viaduct
To Freight Depot
Swiss-Italian border


The RhB network was developed in various stages at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the result that several different electrification systems are in use, and one 12-kilometre section between Castione and Cama was completely separate from all other railways following a landslide in the mid-20th century, before later closure. All the RhB is of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge and is electrified:

  • 61 km (37.9 mi), the Bernina railway (St. Moritz - Tirano) is electrified at 1000 V DC.
  • 321 km (199.5 mi) is electrified at 11 kV 16⅔ Hz (including Chur-Arosa and the new Vereina tunnel route).

The network contains 84 tunnels (the longest being the 19.042-kilometre (11.832 mi) Vereina Tunnel, opened on 19 November 1999, and the 5.864-kilometre (3.644 mi) Albula Tunnel), plus 383 bridges. The maximum gradient is 7% on the Bernina railway,[2] 6% on the Chur–Arosa line and 4.5% on Landquart–Davos line.

Current services operated by the RhB (2008):

  • Basic hourly service:
    • Regio Express RE1: Chur – St. Moritz
    • Regio Express RE2: LandquartDavos
    • Regio Express RE3: Disentis/Muster - Chur – Landquart - Scuol-Tarasp
    • Regio R4: Chur – Arosa (the "Arosabahn")
    • Regio R5: St. Moritz - Tirano (Italy)
    • Regio R6: Davos Platz - Filisur
    • Regio R7: Pontresina - Sagliains - Scuol-Tarasp
    • S-Bahn S8: Schiers - Landquart - Chur - Rhäzüns
    • S-Bahn S9: Chur - Thusis
  • Off-peak hours:
    • Regio R11: Chur - St. Moritz
    • Regio R21: Landquart - Davos
    • Regio R31: Disentis - Landquart
  • Vehicle transporter services:
    • Through the Vereina Tunnel: Klosters - Sagliains.

The annual traffic carried by the RhB (2002) is 300,000,000 passenger-kilometres, and 54,000,000 tonne-kilometres of freight. 80% of passenger income comes from tourists, although 40% of passengers are local people.

Landquart–Davos line[edit]

Ge 4/4 I with push–pull train and two extra coaches shortly before arriving in Saas. Küblis is visible in the valley at left.

Landquart railway station in Graubünden is the starting point of the Rhaetian Railway, historically as part of the Landquart-Davos line, operationally as the company's main workshop, and topologically as the 0 kilometre point of the company's core network. The Landquart-Davos line is the oldest in the Rhaetian Railway network.

After leaving Landquart, the line to Davos crosses the river Landquart, and then generally follows the river upstream as far as Klosters, crossing the river several times along the way.

Just beyond Klosters, there are two tunnels. One of these is for the Vereina line (see below). The other, the Klosters loop tunnel, takes the Davos line at a 45 degree angle towards the west. The line to Davos then loops back towards the east, inside the Cavadürli loop tunnel, and continues through dense larch and other coniferous forests to the Davos Laret.

Highest point on the line is the next stop, Davos Wolfgang. Then the line leads back down and along Lake Davos to Davos Dorf, and the terminus at Davos Platz.

Davos–Filisur line[edit]

The connecting line from Davos Platz to the Albula Railway at Filisur passes through wild gorges, and is technically very interesting, not only due to its famous Wiesen Viaduct.

The Davos–Filisur line is 19 km (12 mi) long, runs through 14 tunnels extending a total of 4,200 m (13,780 ft) in length, and crosses 28 bridges. It was electrified in 1919.

Landquart–Thusis line[edit]

Glacier Express between Reichenau-Tamins und Bonaduz.

Starting in the Rhine valley, the Landquart-Thusis line runs more or less parallel with the Swiss Federal Railways' Sargans-Landquart-Chur standard gauge line as far as Chur (585 m or 1,919 ft). The line to Thusis then simply follows the course of the Rhine to Bonaduz (655 m or 2,149 ft). From there, it enters the Domleschg Valley and follows the Posterior Rhine from Rhäzüns (658 m or 2,159 ft) to Thusis (697 m or 2,287 ft).

Albula line (Thusis–St. Moritz)[edit]

Main article: Albula Railway

This line begins in Thusis (697 m). It continues toward Tiefencastel (851 m) following the Albula river and then crosses the Landwasser Viaduct before arriving at Filisur (1032 m). Shortly after Filisur the line passes its first spiral tunnel then continues to Bergün/Bravuogn (1373 m).

Between Bergün/Bravuogn and Preda (1789 m), at the end of the valley, the line has to achieve a difference in height of about 400 metres inside a horizontal distance of 5 kilometres, without using rack-and-pinion, but with many spirals. Then the line enters the Albula Tunnel at 1,815 metres under the Albula Pass. It emerges in the Val Bever, where it reaches Bever (1,708 m) on the Engadin plain. The line continues toward Samedan (1,721 m) and arrives at St.Moritz (1,775 m).

Albula tunnel[edit]

Main article: Albula Tunnel

In 2009 it was announced that an examination of the Albula Tunnel conducted in 2006 had found major degradation of the tunnel, with over 60% of the lining in need of replacement. Furthermore, the bores are small by modern standards, and cabling, signalling and drainage all need replacement. As a result, it was announced that an inquiry would decide from two options a course action; either comprehensive renewal of the existing tunnel or the construction of a new bore to modern standards.[3] On the result of this inquiry RhB has decided to build a new tunnel. Construction should begin in 2014.

Reichenau–Disentis/Mustér line[edit]

Two Glacier Expresses coupled together run through the Rhine gorge.

The Reichenau to Disentis/Mustér line links the rest of the Rhaetian Railway network with the Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn. It branches from the line to Thusis behind the shared Rhine bridge.

The line was opened progressively between 1903 and 1912, and has been electrified since 1922.

In contrast with the accompanying road, which rises about 500 meters towards Flims and Laax, the railway to Disentis/Mustér runs slowly up the narrow "Ruinaulta gorge". On this part of the line, its associated engineering structures dominate the otherwise pristine natural landscape.

At Ilanz, the railway line and road merge paths once again. Their combined pathways then rise slowly and evenly to Disentis/Mustér.

The main traffic on the Reichenau–Disentis/Mustér line is Regio Express passenger trains operating at hourly intervals. Several times a day, there are Glacier Express trains in each direction.

Timetabled goods trains also operate on the line to serve industry in the Vorderrhein area and supply cement for the construction of the normal gauge Gotthard Base Tunnel with train IDs starting with 5. Usually three pairs of trains serve Disentis/Mustér with a Ge 6/6 II and a few additional trains go only to Ilanz with a Ge 4/4 II.

Engadin line (Pontresina–Scuol-Tarasp)[edit]

A push-pull train typical of the Engadin line, at Zuoz.

This line, which runs up the Engadin valley, was constructed in two stages. The SamedanPontresina section was opened on by the Rhaetian Railway on 1 July 1908, simultaneously with the Pontresina–Morteratsch section, which formed part of the then-independent Bernina Railway. The actual Engadin line, between Bever and Scuol-Tarasp, was opened on 1 July 1913, and was the first Rhaetian Railway line to be electrified from the start at 11 kV 16⅔ Hz AC.

Since the opening of the Engadin line, Pontresina has been a dual system station, as the Bernina Railway operates on 1,000 V DC. Track 3 at Pontresina station has a switchable catenary, and is used for trains, such as the Heidi Express, operating through the station and needing to change from one of the two electification systems to the other.

Between Samedan and Bever, the Engadin line shares its track with the Albula Railway. With the opening of the Vereina Tunnel and line in November 1999, the Engadin line, at both Lavin (Sagliains car shuttle train station) and Susch (Sasslatsch II car shuttle train station), acquired a direct connection to the Prättigau at Klosters, on the Landquart–Davos line.

Bernina line (St. Moritz–Tirano)[edit]

Main article: Bernina railway

This line leaves St.Moritz and heads towards Pontresina (1,774 m) in the Val Bernina. It ascends progressively the valley to the Bernina Pass passing the Morteratsch station (1,896 m), where the traveler can see the glacier of the same name and the highest summit of the Eastern Alps, the Piz Bernina. Before arriving at the pass the line runs through Bernina Diavolezza (2,093 m) where an aerial tramway leads to Diavolezza. The line reaches its highest point - at 2,253 metres ASL - near to the Ospizio Bernina station above the Lago Bianco; this is also the highest point on the entire RhB network.

Alp Grüm (2,091 m) is the first station south of the Alps, situated above the Lago Palü and right below the Piz Palü and its glacier. After many hairpin turns the line reaches Cavaglia (1,693 m) above the Val Poschiavo, then the Swiss Italian-speaking town of Poschiavo at 1,014 meters.

The line then follows the course of the Poschiavino and stops at Le Prese (964 m) and Miralago (965 m) both on Lake Poschiavo's shore. After Miralago it continues its descent toward Brusio (780 m), where it passes the spiral of the Brusio Viaduct. Shortly after having passed the Italian border at Campocologno (553 m) the line reaches Tirano RhB station at 430 meters.

Arosa line (originally Chur-Arosa (ChA))[edit]

Chur–Arosa line details
Distances & lengths are in kilometres and metres.
only tunnels over 100 metres long are specified
RhB line from Landquart
Chur-Zürich line (SBB standard gauge)
0.00 Chur (ChA platforms: 1 & 2) 584 m ASL
RhB line towards Thusis
Chur Stadtbahn (in blue) Malteser/Aldstadt
0.76 Chur Stadt 595 m ASL
1.42 Chur Sand depot 601 m ASL
2.24 Sassal 620 m ASL
Äusserer Eichwald45 m
Dorfrüfe63 m
Spundätscha283 m
5.83 Untersax 782 m ASL
Calfreiser Tobel85 m
Steinboden187 m
Castielertobel Viaduct115 m 830 m ASL
Bärenfalle249 m
Cuorra124 m
8.73 Lüen-Castiel 938 m ASL
Lüener Rüfe399 m
Clasaurer Tobel64 m
Sandgrind380 m
Grosstobel64 m
Löchbächli66 m
12.72 Sankt Peter-Molinis 1157 m ASL
14.35 Peist 1244 m ASL
Frauentobel82 m
Matten114 m
Gründjitobel Viaduct145 m 1270 m ASL
17.90 Langwies GR 1317 m ASL
Langwieser Viaduct284 m 1317 m ASL
20.69 Litzirüti 1452 m ASL
22.92 Haspelgrube 1582 m ASL
(Cement plant siding)
Arosa299 m
25.68 Arosa 1739 m ASL
Arosa yard

An Arosa line train on Engadinstrasse (part of the Stadtbahn) in Chur.

The 25.68-kilometre (15.96 mi) railway line from Chur to Arosa is known as the Arosabahn (or Arosa-Bahn), and is often abbreviated as "ChA" (Chur-Arosa). Work began in 1912 on the route and the line opened on 12 December 1914. The railway leads up from Chur to Arosa (a total climb of 1,155 m or 3,789 ft) via a number of tunnels, bridges and other structures, including the Langwieser Viaduct - a structure of national importance. In 1942 the line became part of the RhB company and network; however the line ran on a separate electric system to the remainder of the network until 1997. Before then it was 2400 V DC - now it is 11 kV 16.7 Hz AC. The gauge has always been 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) as per the rest of the RhB network.

It is a single track railway, with the exception of a short double track section along Engadinstrasse in Chur, with a number of passing loops along the route: at all stations with the exception of Chur Stadt (and formerly Sassal), as well as at Chur Sand depot and at Haspelgrube near Arosa. The maximum incline is 6% but there is no rack-and-pinion used.

A short section of the line runs along the streets of Chur and is known as the Chur stadtbahn ("town railway"). In Chur, the line starts on Bahnhofplatz, in front of the main railway station, where that station's platforms for the Arosabahn are, though there is a second stop in Chur only 760 metres from the main station.

A 5-kilometre tunnel through the Mittenberg had been planned as an alternative route for the lower section of the line, avoiding running through the centre of Chur. This plan was finally dropped in 1996 as the considerable expense could not be justified.

Currently the train service (Regio) R4 provides the passenger service on the line and is shown as timetable 930[4] in the Swiss national timetables. It is well used by tourists coming to and from the resort at Arosa. The line also carries a substantial amount of freight.

Bellinzona–Mesocco line[edit]

This line is not connected to the others. It opened in 1907 and was owned by the Rhaetian Railway between 1942 and 2003. Passenger services ceased in 1972, but a limited freight traffic continued until 2003. It is now owned by a private association (SEFT, Società Esercizio Ferroviario Turistico) and operated as a heritage railway for tourists over 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) of the original 31 kilometres (19 mi) of line.

Vereina line[edit]

Main article: Vereina Tunnel

Corporate overview[edit]

The RhB's headquarters, 2011.


The RhB is 51.3% owned by the Cantonal government of Graubünden, 43.1% by the Swiss Confederation, 4.6% is held privately and 1% is held by local communities.


The RhB has its impressive headquarters in Chur, at Bahnhofstrasse 25.46°51′06″N 9°31′57″E / 46.8517°N 9.5325°E / 46.8517; 9.5325 (RhB HQ)

Accidents and incidents[edit]

In film[edit]

In 1997, the railway was used as the prototype for the route of the Nord Express in the 20th Century Fox animated motion picture, "Anastasia (1997 film)". Not only the railway was featured the movie, but also the Landwasser Viaduct and a 1912 Mittelthurgau-Bahn EC 3/5 Class 2-6-2 tank locomotive number 3 with a tender added. The locomotive was portrayed as a Russian continental steam locomotive which never existed. It was modified with the smoke deflectors and the smoke box door from a Danish State Railways Class R number 963. The locomotive's fictitious number used in the movie was 2747, because it was a reference to the address of the Fox Animation Studios on East Camelback Road in Phoenix, Arizona. The Landwasser Viaduct was portrayed as a tall 4-story viaduct in Poland to look similar to a Roman aqueduct.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


External links[edit]