Jungfrau Railway

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Jungfrau Railway
Jungfraubahnen Logo.svg
Jungfraubahn with Eiger.jpg
Native nameJungfraubahn JB
Statusoperating daily
OwnerJungfraubahn AG
LocaleBern and Valais, Switzerland
TerminiKleine Scheidegg
Jungfraujoch railway station
TypeMountain rack railway
Depot(s)Kleine Scheidegg railway station
Daily ridershipmax. 1 Million p.a.
Line length9.34 km (5.80 mi)
CharacterTouristic, mainly underground rack railway
Rack systemStrub
Track gauge1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in) metre gauge
Minimum radius100 m (328.08 ft)
Electrification3-phase, 1,125 V, 50 Hz, overhead wire
Highest elevation3,454 m (11,332 ft)
Maximum incline25%
Route diagram

in M
Kleine Scheidegg

The Jungfrau Railway (German: Jungfraubahn, JB) is a mountain railway in the Bernese Alps, connecting Kleine Scheidegg in the Bernese Oberland to the Jungfraujoch, across the Valais border. The railway, which uses a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in) metre gauge and racks, runs 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) from the station of Kleine Scheidegg (2,061 m (6,762 ft)) to the Jungfraujoch (3,454 m (11,332 ft)). It is the highest railway in Switzerland and Europe, the Jungfraujoch being the highest railway station on the continent and well above the perennial snow line. As a consequence, the railway runs essentially within the Jungfrau Tunnel, built into the neighbouring Eiger and Mönch, to protect the line from snow and extreme weather. Another particularity of the Jungfrau Railway is the high elevation of its starting point, at the hub of Kleine Scheidegg, also the highest in Europe.

The Jungfrau Railway got its name from the highest of the three high peaks above it: the Jungfrau (English: maiden, virgin; 4,158 metres (13,642 ft)), the latter mountain being the initial goal of the project. A lift connecting the summit of the Jungfrau with an underground railway was planned.[1] In 1912, the project finally ended at the Jungfraujoch, the saddle between the Mönch and Jungfrau. It was nevertheless one of the highest railways in the world at the time of inauguration.

The Jungfrau Railway includes three additional stations. The initial open-air section culminates just after Eigergletscher (2,320 m), at around 2,350 metres, which makes it the second highest open-air railway in Switzerland.[2] The two other stations are located in the Jungfrau Tunnel, where passengers can disembark for a short time to observe the neighbouring mountains through windows built into the mountainside. The lower one, Eigerwand, gives access to windows in the north face of the Eiger. The upper one, Eismeer, gives access to windows in the east face of the Eiger, overlooking the Eismeer (the "sea of ice").[3] The line is electrified at 3-phase 1,125 volts 50 Hertz, and is one of four lines in the world using three-phase electric power.[4]

At Kleine Scheidegg the JB connects with the Wengernalpbahn (WAB), which has two routes down the mountain, running respectively to the villages of Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald. From both villages, branches of the Berner Oberland-Bahn (BOB) connect to the Swiss Federal Railways at Interlaken.[5]

The line is owned by the Jungfraubahn AG, a subsidiary of the Jungfraubahn Holding AG, a holding company that also owns the Wengernalpbahn, Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen–Mürren, Harderbahn, and Firstbahn. Through that holding company it is part of the Allianz - Jungfrau Top of Europe marketing alliance, which also includes the separately owned Berner Oberland-Bahn and Schynige Platte-Bahn.[6]


Construction of the Jungfrau Railway
Map of the Jungfrau Railway project in 1903
  • 1896 construction began. The construction work proceeded briskly.
  • 1898 the Jungfrau Railway opened as far as the Eigergletscher railway station, at the foot of the Eiger.
  • 1899 Six workers are killed in an explosion. There is a four-month strike by workers. Adolf Guyer-Zeller dies in Zürich on 3 April. The section from Eigergletscher station to Rotstock station opens on 2 August
  • 1903 The section from Rotstock station to Eigerwand station opens on 28 June.
  • 1905 The section from Eigerwand station to Eismeer station opens on 25 July
  • 1908 There is an explosion at Eigerwand station.
  • 1912 21 February, sixteen years after work commenced, the tunneling crew finally breaks through the glacier in Jungfraujoch. Jungfraujoch station was inaugurated on 1 August.
  • 1924 "The house above the clouds" at Jungfraujoch is opened on 14 September.
  • 1931 The research station at the Jungfraujoch is opened.
  • 1937 The Sphinx Observatory is opened. A snowblower is purchased and this results in year-round operation.
  • 1942 Relocation of the company offices from Zürich to Interlaken.
  • 1950 The dome is installed on the Sphinx Observatory.
  • 1951 The adhesion section between Eismeer station and Jungfraujoch station is converted to rack operation.
  • 1955 A second depot at Kleine Scheidegg is constructed. The post office inaugurates its relay station on the Jungfraujoch.
  • 1972 The panoramic windows are installed at Eigerwand and Eismeer. The Jungfraujoch mountain house and tourist house are destroyed by fire on 21 October.
  • 1975 A new tourist house is opened.
  • 1987 A new mountain house is opened on 1 August.
  • 1991 A new station hall is opened at the Jungfraujoch.
  • 1993 The small Kleine Scheidegg depot is extended.
  • 1996 The covered observation deck at the Sphinx Observatory is opened.
  • 1997 For the first time the annual visitor numbers exceed 500,000.
  • 2000 On 1 June a daily record number of 8,148 visitors is achieved.




  • Rotstock Station (closed in 1903) 2,520 m (8,268 ft)
  • Stollenloch [8][9]

2008 proposals[edit]

In early 2008, Jungfraubahn Holding AG announced it is exploring the futuristic idea of an efficient fast form of access to the Jungfraujoch as an addition to the rack railway. A feasibility study has been commissioned. The additional access would be the world's longest tunnel-lift system. The study is to show if and how such a tunnel-lift system - for example as a fast lift or funicular - from the Lauterbrunnen Valley to the Jungfraujoch could be realised without disturbing the unique landscape of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The attractiveness of the cogwheel railway should thus be enhanced, as guests could use the fast lift for the uphill or downhill journey. Through a marked reduction in travelling time, the trip to the Jungfraujoch could also become a half-day excursion.

These plans have later been abandoned and the company is currently (2017) planning to build an aerial cableway between Grindelwald Grund and Eigergletscher.[10]

Rolling stock[edit]

Since most of the railway is inside a tunnel, it was designed to run with electricity from conception. The latest rolling stock consists of twin-unit motorcoaches carrying up to 230 people per train which operate at 12.5 km/h on the steepest parts of the ascent. The motors function at two speeds which allows the units to operate at double this speed on the less steep part of the ascent (above Eismeer station).

The motors will operate in a regenerative mode which allows the trains to generate electricity during the descent, which is fed back into the power distribution system. Approximately 50% of the energy required for an ascent is recovered during the descent. It is this generation that regulates the descent speed.

Motive power delivered since 1992 (numbers 211...224) no longer has directly fed three phase motors but is equipped similarly to a normal single phase locomotive. This rolling stock can travel at variable speed which allowed to cut journey time from 52 to 35 min with the timetable starting 11 December 2016.[11] Pre-1992 rolling stock can no longer be used in regular traffic and most of the earlier trains have been scrapped.

Snow clearing equipment is essential on the open section of line between Kleine Scheidegg railway station and Eigergletscher railway station. Originally snow ploughs were used but more recently snow blowing equipment has been brought into service.

The railway also operates some dedicated freight vehicles to supply the visitor facilities at Jungfraujoch, including a tank to transport additional water.

Main characteristics[edit]

Altitude of top station above Sea Level 3454 m
Difference in height 1393 m
Operational length 9.3 km
Gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+38 in)
Rack rail type Strub
Operational Speed 12.5 km/h (25 km/h on shallower gradients such as above Eismeer)
Steepest gradient 25%
Smallest curve radius 100 m
Tunnels 3: longest 7122 m, shortest 110 m. 80% of length of the entire railway.
Power system 3-phase 50 Hz 1125Volt


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jungfrau Railway: Rocky road to the project of the century
  2. ^ After the Gornergrat railway (3,090 m)
  3. ^ Note that since 2016 trains no longer make a viewing stop at the Eigerwand station, only at the Eismeer station. The change along with new rolling stock allowed the journey time to be reduced by 17 minutes.
  4. ^ "The Jungfrau Railway - A Pioneering Work". Interlaken, Switzerland: Jungfraubahnen Management AG. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  5. ^ Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz. Verlag Schweers + Wall GmbH. 2012. p. 82. ISBN 978-3-89494-130-7.
  6. ^ "Companies". Interlaken, Switzerland: Jungfraubahnen Management AG. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  7. ^ Between Heaven and Earth. History and technology - science and research on the Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe, Jungfraubahnen.
  8. ^ "The Eiger the Hard Way: Britain's Boldest Take on the North Face". Rock and Ice. 8 January 2014.
  9. ^ Daniel Anker and Rainer Rettner. "Chronology of the Eiger from 1252 to 2013". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  10. ^ Project description on the site of the company, retrieved on 22 Feb 2017
  11. ^ Official Swiss timetable publication

External links[edit]