Brienz–Rothorn railway

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Brienz–Rothorn railway
5928 - Brienz - Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB) 12.JPG
Opening 17 June 1892,
reopened 13 June 1931
Closed 1 August 1914
Line length 7.6 kilometres (4.7 mi)
No. of tracks single track with passing loops
Track gauge 800 mm (2 ft 7 12 in)
Electrification None
Highest elevation 2,244 m (7,362 ft)
Maximum incline 25 %
Rack system Abt[1][2][3]
Route diagram
0,0 Brienz BRB 566 m above the sea
Zentralbahn from Interlaken and Meiringen
Wellenberg bridge
Schwarzfluh tunnel (18 m)
2,1 Geldried 1,019 m above the  sea
Erd tunnel (119 m)
Fluh tunnel(3 Fenster); (290 m)
3,6 Planalp 1,341 m above the  sea
Chüemaad tunnel (133 m)
5,7 Oberstaffel 1,819 m above the  sea
Schonegg I tunnel (37 m)
Schonegg II tunnel (133 m)
7,6 Rothorn Kulm 2,244 m above the  sea
Diesel train in the summit station
Along the route
Schwarzfluh tunnel
Wellenberg bridge

The Brienz–Rothorn railway (German: Brienz Rothorn Bahn, BRB) is a tourist rack railway in Switzerland, which climbs from Brienz, at the eastern end of Lake Brienz, to the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn mountain. The railway is 7.6 kilometres (4.7 mi) long, is built to 800 mm gauge (2 ft 7 12 in gauge), and uses the Abt double lamella rack system. Unusually for Switzerland, the line is not electrified, and most trains are operated by steam locomotives.[1][2][3][4]

The Brienz–Rothorn railway reaches a height of 2,244 metres above sea level and is the fourth highest railway in Switzerland.[5]


The railway was opened on 17 June 1892, after a two years construction period. The two designers, engineer Alexander Lindner and contractor Theo Bertschinger were supported by the mountain railway pioneer Roman Abt, who had responsibility for equipping the line with his newly developed Abt double lamella rack system.

The line connected at Brienz with the Brünig railway, which had been opened in 1888 from Brienz eastwards towards Lucerne. However the Brünig railway was not extended westward to Interlaken until 1916, so many early travelers to the Rothorn had to arrive by boat service on Lake Brienz.[6]

The line was quickly in financial difficulties. The line was designed to carry 25,000 passengers per year but only managed 5,000 passengers in the first year. Tourist traffic was further affected by the opening of Schynige Platte Railway in 1895 and the Jungfraubahn in 1898. The train service was suspended on 1 August 1914 as a result of the First World War, but did not re-open when the war ended.

Essential maintenance was carried out and a small amount of timber traffic was carried from Planalp in 1918. Carriages were hired to the Schynige Platte Railway in 1924 and 1925, providing money for the maintenance work. The line was finally re-opened on 13 June 1931, the first train to reach the summit in 17 years having run 4 days earlier. The railway was in good condition because of the continuing maintenance.

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 which offers a full steam service, the diesel locomotive only being used for additional trains and for light traffic periods.


The BRB is 7.6 kilometres (4.7 mi) long with a maximum gradient of 1 in 4 (25%) and includes 5 tunnels. It begins in Brienz at 566 m (1,857 ft) above sea level, from a terminus opposite the Brienz station of the Zentralbahn railway company's Brünig line. Also nearby is the quay used by the BLS AG shipping services on Lake Brienz.[4]

The railway is single track with three passing loops. The first passing loop is at Geldried, 1,019 m (3,343 ft) above sea level. The halfway passing loop of the line is at Planalp station at 1,341 m (4,400 ft) above sea level. The older steam locomotives stop to take water. The third passing loop is at Oberstafel, 1,819 m (5,968 ft) above sea level.[4]

The upper terminus of the line is at Rothorn Kulm station at 2,244 m (7,362 ft) above sea level, a little below the summit of the mountain.[4]

A popular hiking trail runs between the summit station, and the Brünig-Hasliberg station at the point where the Brünig line crosses the Brünig Pass.[7]

Locomotives and Rolling Stock[edit]

All steam locomotives are Class H2/3, indicating that 2 axles of the 3 are driven, giving a wheel arrangement (Whyte System) of 0-4-2. The older locomotives are a side tank, "kneeling cow" design of a standard SLM product. The modern steam locomotives use an efficient "light oil" fired steam technology and were built by SLM (former Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works) of Winterthur.

A prototype diesel locomotive, class Hm2/2, number 8, was delivered in 1973 but sold to the Chemin de fer Montreux-Glion-Rochers-de-Naye in 1995 as their number 4. New diesel locomotives were constructed by Ferdinand Steck Maschinenfabrik and are of (Whyte System) 0-4-0 wheel arrangement to a "kneeling cow" design.

Brienz Rothorn Bahn Locomotives
BRB No. Builder(s) Works No. Year Built Type Notes
1 (I) SLM 688 1891 Steam Scrapped 1961
1 (II) SLM 693 1892 Steam Ex-MGR, 1962 1892-1941 was Monte Generoso 7
2 SLM 689 1891 Steam
3 SLM 719 1892 Steam Out of service since 1993. Withdrawn 2005 and displayed at the Steck premises at Bowil. Now returned to the depot in Brienz.
4 SLM 720 1892 Steam Out of service since 1993
5 SLM 690 1891 Steam Ex WAB1 1912
6 SLM 3567 1933 Steam - Geared
7 SLM 3611 1936 Steam - Geared
8 Reggazoni-Buhler-Caterpillar 1973 Diesel-hydraulic Prototype Class Hm2/2. Sold to MGR, 1995
9 Steck - 1976 Diesel-hydraulic Class Hm2/2
10 Steck - 1976 Diesel-hydraulic Class Hm2/2
11 Steck - 1986 Diesel-hydraulic Class Hm2/2
12 SLM 5456 1992 Steam
14 SLM 5689 1996 Steam
15 SLM 5690 1996 Steam
16 SLM 5457 1992 Steam Ex-MGR 1, 2005
Coaching Stock of the Brienz Rothorn Bahn.
BRB No. Builder Date Built No. of Wheels (Bogies) Seats Notes
B1 1892 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 40
B3 1972 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 56 Arched Roof
B4 1972 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 56 Arched Roof
B5 1972 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 56 Arched Roof
B6 1972 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 56 Arched Roof
B7 1972 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 56 Arched Roof
B8 1972 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 56 Arched Roof
B9 1972 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 56 Arched Roof
B11 1892 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 48
B12 1892 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 48
B14 1987 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 60 Lightweight
B15 1987 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 60 Lightweight
B16 1933 8 (2 x 2 axle bogies) 48
B21 1892 4 28 Semi-open
B26 1933 4 32
B27 1933 6 40 "Bistrowagen"


Trains depart Brienz at 06h00(a), 07h33(b), 08h33, 09h33, 10h05, 10h40 and every hour until 15h40, 16h20(c), 17h50(d) and 18h30(e).

Trains depart Rothorn at 08h30(b), 09h33, 10h35, 11h10 and every hour until 16h10, 16h45, 17h20(c), 21h40(d)and 22h00(e).

(a) Sunrise Trip, Operates October 1, 2006 only.

(b) Diesel operated train, operates Sundays, 13 August to 24th Sept. 2006

(c) Operates between 17 June and 3 September 2006.

(d) Operates on Swiss National Day, 1 August 2006, only. Fare includes Swiss Buffet and Folk music.

(e) Special service operates on Thursdays Only, 29 June to 5 October 2006. Fare includes dinner at the summit restaurant.

Except where shown all trains are steam operated. Additional trains may be run in between those shown and these may be steam or diesel-operated. Journey time apprx. 55 minutes uphill, 60 minutes downhill.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Technical details of the Brienz Rothorn Bahn". Brienz Rothorn Bahn AG. Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  2. ^ a b "BRB - Facts". Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  3. ^ a b "Zahnstangensysteme" [Rack systems] (PDF). (in German). Railway - Media - Group. Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  4. ^ a b c d Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz. Verlag Schweers + Wall GmbH. 2012. p. 33. ISBN 978-3-89494-130-7. 
  5. ^ After the Jungfrau, Gornergrat, and Bernina railway
  6. ^ "History of navigation on Lakes Thun and Brienz". BLS AG. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  7. ^ "Brünigpass". Hiking in Switzerland. SwitzerlandMobility. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 

External links[edit]