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Station at Kleine Scheidegg
|Native name||Wengernalpbahn WAB|
|Type||Mountain rack railway|
|Character||Commuter (between Wengen and Lauterbrunnen), but mainly touristic railway|
|Line length||19.11 km (11.87 mi)|
|Number of tracks||Single track with passing loops|
|Track gauge||800 mm (2 ft 7 1⁄2 in)|
|Electrification||100%, 1500 V DC, overhead wire|
|Highest elevation||2,061 m (6,762 ft)|
The Wengernalp Railway (German: Wengernalpbahn, WAB; lit.: the railway of the Alpine meadows above Wengen) is a 19.11 kilometres (11.87 mi) long rack railway line in Switzerland. It runs from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald via Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg, making it the world's longest continuous rack and pinion railway.
The line is normally operated in two sections, with trains from either direction terminating at Kleine Scheidegg. At the latter station, most passengers transfer to the Jungfrau Railway for the continuation of the journey to the highest railway station in Europe at Jungfraujoch.
The line is owned by the Wengernalpbahn AG, a subsidiary of the Jungfraubahn Holding AG, a holding company that also owns the Jungfraubahn and 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.
In 1875, the first plans for a railway on the route later taken by the Wengernalp line were drawn up, but the high projected costs meant that the concession expired. Fifteen years later, in 1890, Leo Heer-Bétrix gained a new 80 year concession to build and operate the railway. The Wengernalpbahn was founded.
Construction work commenced in 1891, and the following year the first steam locomotive reaches Wengen on 18 April and Kleine Scheidegg on 10 August. The full length of the line, from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald, opened on 20 June 1893 as a summer only service.
The electrification of the line between Lauterbrunnen and Kleine Scheidegg was completed on 3 June 1909 using 1500 V DC, with electric locomotives positioned, for safety reasons, at the lower end of the trains. The section between Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg followed on 24 June 1910. Steam operation ceased in 1912.
On the 7 July 1910, a new route, longer but less steep, was opened between Lauterbrunnen to Wengen. The older route was retained for nearly a hundred further years, being finally decommissioned and dismantled in 2009 because of the steep gradient of 25% and the geological security risks.
In 1913, winter operations commenced between Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg, followed by year round operations over the same section in 1925. Winter operations between Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg started in 1934, followed by year round operations in 1960.
In 1942, the headquarters of the railway moved from Zurich to Interlaken. In 1947, the first motorcoaches are purchased. The following year the partly underground turning triangle at Kleine Scheidegg was constructed.
In 1990, an avalanche shelter is built on the Lauterbrunnen side of the operation, whilst in 1995 Wengen station was rebuilt to include a freight delivery terminal. In 2005, Wengernalp station platforms were extended from 127 m to 181 m usable length. In 2011, new double track loop was opened between Wengen and Allmend, allowing the introduction of a clock-face timetable between Lauterbrunnen and Kleine Scheidegg.
Nowadays, most passenger trains are made up of railcars, the powered car still being positioned at the lower end of the train, and so train compositions do not usually cross Kleine Scheidegg to travel directly from Lauterbrunnen over to Grindelwald. However, a triangular junction specially built into the mountainside at Kleine Scheidegg allows the train to be turned if necessary so that it can also be used on the other side of the col. The newest of these trains reach 28 km/h on the steepest stretch.
At peak periods, additional trains can be put into operation at short intervals ahead of the scheduled train, allowing capacity to be optimised according to demand. This demands an extremely flexible organization procedure and enormous care and attention with regard to dispatching trains. Since most of the line is single track, the extra trains display a green disk with a diagonal white line on the front to indicate to station staff and signal operators that there is a train following in the same direction
The line serves the following stations:
- Kleine Scheidegg
- Grindelwald Grund
A regular interval timetable is operated between Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg with trains running every half-hour morning and afternoon, except between late October and mid December when the service is hourly. Journey time is 33 minutes up and 39 minutes down.
Between Lauterbrunnen and Wengen, trains run all year every half-hour until early evening, followed by an hourly service. During mornings and afternoons they continue to Kleine Scheidegg, again half-hourly except between late October and mid December when the service is hourly. Journey time is 43 minutes up and 50 minutes down.
Before December 2011, the Lauterbrunnen - Wengen - Kleine Scheidegg service was formed of 5 trains running at irregular intervals in every 2 hour period. Journey times varied between 44 and 51 minutes up and 54 and 60 minutes down. Following the construction of the new loop between Wengen and Allmend, the number of trains in each direction has been reduced from 5 to 4 in each 2-hour period, but departure and journey times have been standardised.
Between December and March, extra trains are run on some evenings between Grindelwald and Alpiglen to carry passengers to the floodlit Eiger Run sledging course.
The earliest railcars still in service, numbers 101 and 102 ( BDhe4/4, built by SLM/BBC ) date from 1947, No.102 being refurbished 1985. Of the other 14 cars of this class, No's. 104 and 106 - 118, built between 1954 and 1964, which still survive, ten have been refurbished (all except 104 / 7 / 9 / 10) since 2000. No.114 was refurbished along with 102 in 1985 but was returned to works in 2002 to be brought up to the newer specifications.
In 1970 a new class of railcar ( BDhe4/4 ) was introduced, numbered 119 to 124, built by a consortium of SIG, SLM, SAAS and BBC. These were refurbished in 1998. Four further cars, class BDhe4/8, numbered 131 to 134, and built by SLM ( Works Nos. 5363 - 66 inclusive ) with electrical equipment by BBC, arrived in 1988 with the latest additions, a series of four "Panorama" cars of Class Bhe4/8, built by Stadler arriving in 2004.
Driving trailer cars
The earliest coaches still listed to the company are three dating from 1893 and a single example from 1901. These have all been rebuilt twice, the final one in 1995 by the von Roll company. Later examples date from the period 1959 to 2003, some of the earlier of these have rebuilt. Building of the stock has been carried out by SIG, with electrical equipment by Brown Boveri / Asea Brown Boveri and later by Stadler with electrical equipment by Steck, (except No. 231 which was built by SLM with electrical equipment by ABB).
Media related to Wengernalp Railway at Wikimedia Commons