The Harderbahn is one of two funiculars that operate from the town of Interlaken to the mountain of Harder Kulm, in Switzerland. This funicular, the longer of the two, runs from a base station (altitude 567 metres or 1,860 feet above sea level) to a station near the summit of the Harder Kulm (altitude 1,321.31 metres or 4,335.0 feet), Interlaken’s own mountain. From the Harder Kulm station, a five-minute walk takes one to the Harder Restaurant, a distinctive pagoda structure with spectacular views from its terrace, over the town, the Lakes of Thun and Brienz, the Lütschine valleys and the summits of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Clear weather is critical to get a good view.
In 1890 Dr. Fritz Michel gained a concession to build an "electrical cable railway" on the Harder mountain, to the north of the city of Interlaken, however financial backing for such a project was difficult to obtain and it was not until November 1905 that construction started and was to last for three years. In order not to disfigure the landscape the track was laid in a quadrant rather than a straight line, the usual format for such railways
With the aid of Lausanne banker Ernest Chavannes and engineers Gaston Boiceau and Henri Muret the funicular opened on 15 May 1908. It has a length of 1,435 metres (4,708 ft) and climbs 755 metres (2,477 ft) from the lower station, situated near to Interlaken Ost train station (a five-minute walk), to the upper station (Harder Kulm) near the summit. The journey takes eight minutes. A tourist attraction, an alpine wildlife park was opened in 1913 above the lower station.
Modernisation of the funicular took place during the 1960s with new carriages coming to the line to commence operation on 14 May 1966. Until 1990 this had always been a summer only operation but instead of closing at the end of September the funicular continued through the winter. Since that time it has reverted to a summer timetable.
In 1997 the wire rope was replaced.
The line, with a gauge of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in), is single track with a single passing point and is operated by two coaches. Power supply is by a 400 V three-phase system and the line uses the Stromsystem Drehstrom which controls the passing of the cars safely.
Two new passenger cars, numbered 1 and 2, were delivered in 1966. these were constructed by specialist builders Carrossiere Gangloff AG of Bern with under frames, brakes etc., by the von Roll company. Each carry 62 passengers in four compartments. After over 40 years service it was decided that these would be in need of replacement prior to the centenary of the railway in 2008 and the order was placed. The need became essential following the accident of 9-8-2007 .
The new "centenery" coaches, in the line's usual red livery, were delivered on 13 March 2008. These were lifted onto the line from the alpine wildlife park in readiness for the commencement of the season. The new coaches were built by Gongloff Cabins AG of Bern and hold 65 persons in three sections. The doors are power operated and the downhill-facing section has an area of staged seating which is accessed through the compartment above, where the driver controls are located. The vehicles, numbered as with the previous set, now also carry names and crests; No.1 is named Interlaken, No.2 Unterseen. They have glass roof panels which allow uninterrupted views over the valley below.
During the night of 9 August 2007 a mudslide badly damaged No.1 passenger carriage which was in the base station. The cost of the damage was CHF 750,000, just over half of the amount being covered by insurance, which also covered loss of traffic revenue.
Services were suspended until Saturday, 22 September 2007, when repairs and replacement to the track, cable rollers and cable were completed and inspection carried out. The damaged carriage was repaired so that it could be used as a counterweight to the second carriage, the severely damaged end being sheeted over.
The line operates daily from the last weekend in April to the end of October with a regular service of trains from 09:10 (08:10 Sundays Only) until 18:25 (19:55 between 1 July and 12 August) from Interlaken and from 09:10 (08:10 Sundays Only) until 18:40 (22:00 between July and 12 August, when a Swiss Folklore Evening takes place). Time table is on the 24-hour clock.
Due to the above incident the railway operated a special timetable from 22 September to the end of October with only one car in passenger service. A full timetable resumed, following that used in 2007, when the line reopened on 26 April 2008.
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