SEPTEMBER 22 - OCTOBER 7, 2000
Friday, September 22
As always in Europe, there were several new developments to examine and ride since my 1999 trip.
I wanted to make my third annual visit to Berlin and Leipzig, and, during my 1999 trip, my train from Leipzig to Berlin stopped at Berlin Schonefeld Flughafen (Airport). While planning this trip, I discovered that one of our own Canadian Charter Airlines, Air Transat, flies to Schonefeld Airport!
I therefore took off soon after 2100 on an L-1011 enroute to Berlin via Amsterdam.
Saturday, September 23
I landed in Berlin around 1230 and a free shuttle bus took me on a very short ride to the Schonefeld Station which can easily be seen from the airport building. With the new summer timetable effective May 28, new ICE-3 trains were placed in service Berlin to Munich via Leipzig and Schonefeld. As I discovered in 1999 between Zurich and Schaffhausen, these trains have passengers compartments at both ends right behind the driver's area providing full forward or backward views!
As I wanted to store my large suitcase in Berlin for my return there the next evening, I rode the 1317 ICE-3 for the 15-minute ride to Berlin Ostbahnhof, once the main station for East Berlin, and placed my luggage in a locker. The First Class portion was at the rear of the train and the line from Schonefeld into central Berlin joins the main line from Poland and Russia enroute to the Ostbahnhof.
I then awaited the 1419 ICE-3 to Leipzig. The First Class area was now at the front and I sat back to enjoy the driver's view of the line all the way into the huge Leipzig Hauptbahnhof where we arrived at 1602! The 3-level Promenaden Shopping area in the Hauptbahnhof was full of people on that Saturday afternoon.
I checked into the Novotel Hotel right across the street and had a good night's sleep after my overnight flight from Toronto. My front room faced the Hauptbahnhof!
Sunday, September 24
After a great hot all-you-can-eat breakfast, I checked out and headed for the Hauptbahnhof to catch the 0942 IC to Hannover. As I had until 2139 to get to Berlin Ostbahnhof to board the City Night Line train to Zurich, I was considering riding to Berlin in the morning, then to Hamburg, Hannover and back to Berlin. Then I realized that Expo 2000 was going on in Hannover! I therefore ordered a ticket for today on the Internet during the summer and it was promptly mailed to me.
After buying some recently published books on the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof, I boarded the 0942 Hannover IC and watched from it the 0923 departure of a new ICE-3 for Berlin. It was a perfect and bright sunny day. Just east of Lehrte, we crossed over and joined the line to Hannover from Berlin.
Hannover also recently acquired a direct rail link to its Airport which is northwest of the city. It is at the north end of Hannover S-Bahn Line 5. I planned to ride the 1237 train to the Airport before heading for Expo 2000 and thought I would need to look at the station departure board at the Hannover Hauptbahnhof to find out what platform my Airport train would be on. However, in typical European efficiency, I was able to find out its platform number before arriving in Hannover! How? A pamphlet called "1hr Reisenplan" is provided in IC, EC and ICE trains giving not only its complete schedule complete with platform numbers (!) at each stop, but also schedules of the first connecting trains as well. It therefore said that the 1237 train for the Airport will leave from platform 2 and that I would arrive on platform 12. My train did so 2 minutes ahead of the 1230 advertised and I easily caught the 1237 which was a brand new ultra modern emu.
There are small First Class sections at each end of the 3-car train sets and I could watch over the driver's shoulder! He is provided with a space-age video display showing the status of all functions on the train. The 12-minute run to the Airport follows the main line towards Hamburg and then branches off to the left on a single-track line leading to a tunnel into the Airport Station.
The south end of S-Bahn Line 5 happened to be the Messe/Laatzen Bahnhof built for Expo 2000, so I boarded the 1325 train to ride directly to its West Gate. The Station is situated right over the main line from Hannover to Munich and even ICE's enroute from Hamburg to Munich stopped there.
At Expo I patriotically visited the Canada Pavilion and then rode the 2 high gondola lines over the Expo Site. Then a large and high ferris wheel also gave me a great view of the park.
My next train was the 1812 ICE-3 direct to Berlin. However, instead of leaving from the main Messe/Laatzen Bahnhof, it left from a Terminal B platform 500 metres north of it on the east side of the main line. This was because it turned east towards Berlin soon after its departure without stopping in the Hannover Hauptbahnhof. Indeed, had it done so, it would have had to reverse there.
My reserved seat was in the front car and I watched over the driver's shoulder along the high-speed Neubaustrecken which had opened about 2 years earlier! This was my third ride along it.
After arriving at Berlin Ostbahnhof, I obtained my large suitcase and eagerly awaited the 2139 City Night Line train to Zurich on which I had reserved a large Deluxe Cabin with my own washroom and shower!
On the south wall on platform 1 of the Berlin Ostbahnhof is a plaque showing the history of the station. It reads as follows:
1842-1881 Frankfurter Bahnhof
1881-1950 Schlesischer Bahnhof
1998 - Ostbahnhof
Two major events took place in 1998 when the Station was given its present name:
The 2-year re-building of the elevated 4-track Stadtbahn through Berlin was completed.
The Neubaustrecken was opened on September 27 between Berlin and Hannover-yours truly rode it the very next day!
Monday, September 25
My room had windows not only on the side but also in the ceiling! I therefore closed the blinds on the side windows and left the ceiling ones open. Although I slept well, I woke up a few times. Once, I felt the train stop under a huge train shed. I knew we would arrived at Frankfurt (Main) Hautpbahnhof at 0401 and I looked at my watch. It was 0401!
After crossing the Rhine River into Basel SBB in Switzerland, we arrived at 0938 in the Zurich Hauptbahnhof. There I sent my luggage via the always dependable SBB and RhB to Filisur where I would arrive the following day.
Previously, the SBB ran some McDonalds dining cars which I have seen but have never been on. However, with the May 28 timetable change, they were converted to Coop Railshop cars. Coop is a major grocery store chain in Switzerland. These are rolling grocery stores with over 900 items for sale from floor to ceiling from milk to mustard! The SBB Web Site shows their schedules on certain non-IC trains between Zurich and Berlin, so I rode the 1030 train via Baden and Brugg to Olten at 1119. Then the 1138 took me to Luzern and then I returned to Zurich on the 1310 double-deck IC 2000 train.
In Zurich I checked into the Glarnischhof Hotel for 1 night in the heart of downtown near the famous Bahnhofstrasse.
At 4 minutes past each even hour a train leaves the Zurich Airport for Basel SBB. These trains are unusual in that they do not stop at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof, but instead turn west to stop at Z. Altstetten. I rode to the Airport and then rode the 1804 train to Altstetten and an S-Bahn double-decker back to the HB.
Tuesday, September 26
I woke early and rode the tram to the HB for the 0704 Cisalpino to Milan which I rode to Arth-Goldau on the Gotthard Line. Then the 0812 overnight train from Rome brought me back to Zurich in one of the handsome panoramic cars with large curved windows. I could see Lake Zug on the left side and, later on, Lake Zurich on the right side.
After breakfast in my hotel, I checked out and took an unusual route to reach Winterthur. Tram 7 took me to Stettbach on the northern outskirts of Zurich. Enroute, the tram went into a tunnel for 3 stops and did left-hand running in the tunnel!
The Stettbach tram terminal sits right on top of the SBB station of the same name at the north end of a tunnel built for the Zurich S-Bahn a decade ago. While awaiting the 1055 non-stop S-Bahn double-decker to Winterthur, an inbound tilting ICE roared past into Zurich from Stuttgart.
I went to Winterthur to ride on of the new ICN Swiss tilting trains being tested on existing schedules from St. Gallen to Lausanne via Biel/Bienne and Neuchatel. These are 7-car trains with power cars at each end. My 1127 train had 2 sets running together and I rode it to Solothurn west of Olten. Then the 1347 conventional train returned me to Zurich.
Then it was on to Filisur for the next 4 days. The fast 1633 train brought me to Chur where the 1755 RhB train was waiting right across the platform to bring me to Filisur. As was the case last year, the RhB's classic and handsome twin-unit dining car was at the rear of the 1755. This time, I boarded it and had a superb dinner! It made me think back to the great days of the New York Central and Pennsylvania railroads which ran twin-unit diners on some of their famous varnish!
Upon arrival at 1858, I picked up my suitcase and checked into the Grischuna Hotel right at the south end of the station platform! Its Room # 2 was very cosy and gave a great view of the village below and of trains climbing towards and descending from Bergun. This is especially spectacular after dark when all you see are the train lights high above the village!
Wednesday, September 27
On Friday, November 19, 1999, a major railroading event happened in Switzerland! The 19.047 km. Vereina Tunnel opened on the RhB connecting Klosters to the Engadine Line to Scuol-Tarasp. This is the longest metre-gauge tunnel in the world. There is a longer narrow-gauge tunnel in Japan, but it is not metre-gauge. During the opening festivities, 222 alphorn players were assembled to play a specially composed piece. They could be heard 8 km. or 5 miles away!
As a result of this opening, travel from Zurich to Scuol-Tarasp takes only 2 hours 40 minutes with only one change at Landquart instead of 4 hours and 50 minutes with 2 changes at Chur and Samedan.
Today was my eagerly-awaited day to see this Tunnel for myself, so I left Filisur at 0758 for Chur and then the SBB 0916 to Landquart. There I awaited the 0945 Engadin Star, a new summer-only train (late May to mid-October) running from Landquart through the new tunnel to St. Moritz and then on to Chur about 4 hours later via the Abula Line. It also does the reverse run.
Soon a double train came in to Landquart-a Ge 4/4 III with coaches for Davos Platz and a Ge 4/4 I with former Bernina Express cars forming the Engadin Star. This is a very unusual train formation for the RhB! This train ran together to Klosters and then separated. Right after the Klosters station is a curving concrete bridge built in 1993 to replace the previous bridge built in 1930. This double-track bridge has a scissors-crossover leading to the Klosters Tunnel on the right for Davos Platz and the new Zugwald Tunnel on the left which is the beginning of the Vereina Line.
The Zugwald Tunnel is 2.17 km. long and runs entirely on a curve to the left (southbound) to Selfranga which is the northern terminal of the new auto-tranporter trains through the Vereina Tunnel which itself begins right after the terminal. No passenger trains stop at Selfranga.
The Tunnel begins with 3 tracks for about 500 metres, then 2 tracks to Kilometre Marker 2, one track to Marker 8, 2 tracks to Marker 10, 1 to Marker 17, 2 for about 1.75 km. and three to the south portal at Sagliains. These Markers are illuminated along the east wall of the Tunnel and are very helpful in showing the train's progress. Just before the main south portal, the single track Verbindungs Tunnel curves sharply to the west to provide a direct link to the Engadine Line towards Samedan, Pontresina and St. Moritz. The Engadin Star is the only passenger train to use this link.
I rode the Engadin Star to St. Moritz at 1145 and it would leave at 1600 for Chur. The reverse Star would leave St. Moritz for Landquart via the Tunnel at 1555, so I took the 1200 train to Filisur and then the 1359 back to St. Moritz.
I rode the Engadin Star back through the Vereina Tunnel to Klosters, the 1733 to Davos Platz and the 1831 to Filisur. This was so I could enjoy another great dinner in the twin- unit diner on the 1859 to St. Moritz which I rode to Celerina between Samedan and St. Moritz. Then the 2004 train (the last of the day) returned me to Filisur.