Vitznau–Rigi Railway

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OwnerRigi Railways
Line number603
Line length6.975 km (4.334 mi)
Number of tracks1 or 2
Rack systemRiggenbach
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Minimum radius60 m (200 ft)
Electrification1500 V DC
Maximum incline25.0%
Route map

435 m
685 m
Schwanden tunnel
67 m
Schnurtobel bridge
80 m
910 m
start of double track
1026 m
Romiti Felsentor
1195 m
Rigi Kaltbad-First
end of double track
1453 m
Rigi Staffelhöhe
1550 m
Rigi Staffel
1603 m
Rigi Kulm
1752 m
Source: Swiss railway atlas[1]

The Vitznau–Rigi Railway (Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn, VRB), called the Rigibahn (Rigi Railway) until 1969, is a Swiss standard gauge rack railway that runs from Vitznau on the shore of Lake Lucerne to Rigi. Together with the Arth–Rigi Railway (Arth-Rigi-Bahn, ARB), which runs on the other side of the mountain, and the Weggis–Rigi Kaltbad cable car (Luftseilbahn Weggis–Rigi Kaltbad, LWRK), it has formed the Rigi Railways (Rigi-Bahnen Aktiengesellschaft, RB) since 1992.


Share worth 500 francs in the Rigibahn-Gesellschaft of 31 December 1889

The Vitznau–Rigi railway (VRB) was opened on 21 May 1871 as the Rigibahn and the first mountain railway in Europe. The first rack railway of Europe had already been opened in the quarry of Ostermundigen in 1870. The quarry was officially opened for marketing reasons only in October 1871.[2] The Vitznau–Rigi Railway was built by the engineers Niklaus Riggenbach, Ferdinand Adolf Naeff and Olivier Zschokke. At first it ran only from Vitznau (439 metres above sea level) via Kaltbad (1453 m.a.s.l.) to Rigi Staffelhöhe (1550 m.a.s.l.). On 27 June 1873,[3][Note 1] the railway was extended to Rigi Kulm (1752 m.a.s.l.). This section is located in the canton of Schwyz, for which the VRB had no concession. The track belonged to the ARB and was leased by the VRB. The line is mostly single track, but the line has been double-track since 1874 from the request stop of Freibergen to Rigi Kaltbad-First.

The Rigibahn was only open in the summer in the early years. Winter sports gradually developed and operations in the winter commenced.

The narrow-gauge Rigi–Scheidegg railway (Rigi-Kaltbad-Scheidegg-Bahn, RSB) to Rigi Scheidegg, which was completed in 1875, began in Kaltbad. This railway was closed in 1931 and finally abandoned in 1942. The Weggis–Rigi Kaltbad cable car (Luftseilbahn Weggis–Rigi Kaltbad, LWRK) from Weggis, also operated by the Rigi Railways, has ended in Kaltbad since 1968.

The Vitznau–Rigi Railway (officially called the Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn since 1 January 1970) connects in Rigi Staffel with the tracks of the Arth–Rigi Railway, which has operated from Arth-Goldau since 1875. The VRB used a track that ran parallel with the track of the ARB to the common terminus in Rigi Kulm. Both railways were once strictly separated and competitors. The only connection was a transfer table in front of the joint depot building on Rigi Kulm. It was not until 1990 that a connecting track was built between the ARB and the VRB in Rigi Staffel. This was the beginning of the merger, which was completed in 1992.

The VRB switched to electric traction in 1937 and an overhead line was erected on the Vitznau–Rigi Kulm line. The traverser in Freibergen was replaced by a rack railway set of points in 1959; the same occurred in Kaltbad in 1961. These sets of points were replaced by new systems in 2000 and 2012. In 2012, the station complex in Kaltbad was completely renewed and a second platform track was installed. The station building in Kaltbad was demolished; construction of the new building started in May 2014 and was finished in September 2014. The new Kaltbad station building was inaugurated on 1 March 2015.

Technical data[edit]

The railway has the following technical data:[4]

Steam locomotive in Rigi-Kaltbad
VRB train shortly after Vitznau
Vitznau–Rigi railway points in Kaltbad, state as of before 2012
Vitznau Rigi Bahn steam locomotive of the Riggenbach rack system

Electrical system[edit]

Introduction of electrical operation 3 October 1937
Equipment for electrical operation: 3 rectifier plants
Supply of three-phase current: 15 kV/50 Hz
DC voltage: 1,500 V
Power of the rectifier stations: 4,000 kW


Steam locomotives 9 km/h
Ascent: 18/23 km/h
Descent: 12/14 km/h
Vitznau–Rigi Kulm travel time: 30 minutes
Capacity: about 850 people/

Rolling stock[edit]

  • 1 electric locomotive of 331 kW (no. 18)
  • 4 electric motor cars of 330 kW (no. 1–4)
  • 1 electric motor cars of 752 kW (no. 5)
  • 2 electric push-pull sets of 824 kW (no. 21–22)
  • 1 snow plough of 309 kW (not self-propelled)
  • 2 steam locomotives of 340 kW (no. 16–17)
  • 9 passenger cars
  • 13 freight wagons, official vehicles, snow ploughs etc.


  1. ^ The date 23 June 1873 frequently quoted contradicts the fact that the Federal Council did not authorise the railway company's board of directors to hand over the section of track for public operations until its meeting of 25 June 1873. – see: "Tages-Courrier. (…) Zur Lage. (…) Eidgenossenschaft. Bundesrathsverhandlungen". Intelligenzblatt für die Stadt Bern (in German). 26 June 1873. p. supplement, 5, middle.



  1. ^ Eisenbahnatlas Schweiz [Swiss railway atlas]. Schweers + Wall. 2012. p. 22. ISBN 978-3-89494-130-7.
  2. ^ Elsasser, Kilian T. (October 2000). Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Technikgeschichte und Industriekultur (ed.). "Restaurierung der Zahnrad-Dampflok Gnom im Verkehrshaus der Schweiz, Januar 2000 bis März 2002" (PDF). IN.KU (in German). Winterthur (32): 1–4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  3. ^ Jegher, C(arl), ed. (5 June 1937). "Mitteilungen. (…) Elektrifikation der Vitznau–Rigi-Bahn". Schweizerische Bauzeitung (in German). 109 (23). p. 279. ISSN 0036-7524.
  4. ^ "Erste Bergbahn Europas. Technische Daten Zahnradbahn ab Vitznau" (in German). Rigi-Bahnen AG. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 11 July 2019.


  • Kronauer, J(ohann) H(einrich) (1871). "Bücherschau. Die Rigi-Eisenbahn mit Zahnradbetrieb". Allgemeine Bauzeitung (in German). XXXVI. pp. 423–426.
  • Theiler, J. (3 January 1872). "Einige Bemerkungen über das Riggenbach'sche Eisenbahnsystem in seiner Anwendung". Allgemeine Bauzeitung (in German). XXXVII. pp. 386 ff.
  • Inäbnit, Florian (2002). Rigi-Bahnen. Zahnradbahn Vitznau–Rigi (in German). Leissigen: Prellbock Druck & Verlag. ISBN 3-907579-19-4.