D A Y - T W E L V E
Before today's journey, a brief on tickets and fare collection.
Although we were frequently (but not always) checked for passes (other passengers often had different kinds of passes and/or tickets that were punched), a substantial portion of the Swiss system is on the "honor" system as far as ticketing. I saw a diagram showing which lines were not checked, and it encompassed the majority of the branchline and suburban services throughout the country, even some private lines. These trains just had warning posters with some kind of an "eye" symbol indicating a 60 franc fine if passengers are checked and they do not possess a valid ticket. I also noted (only once) a similar sign that (more or less - it was in Swiss-german) indicated a 40 franc penalty if you were found in first class with a second class ticket. And as many trains as I rode, I never saw anyone checking tickets under the "honor" system.
Routes today: 880 845 820 830 853 870 820 762 750 900
OK - for today I recommended to the ladies that they take a trip up to Arosa, and I grabbed the "Rheintall Express", the hourly service between Chur and St Gallen in the east. We rode the same old route thru Sargans and past Lichtenstien and around the eastern tip of the country and then back up along the Bodensee. The IT STILL HASN'T STOPPED snowfall of the day before had stopped, and the countryside was blanketed in fresh snowfall. Since this area was relatively low in elevation, there apparently had also been some mixed warmer air too, and miles of trees were also ice encrusted, and catenary on side freight branches that was not in use was strung with icicles.
The mainline leaves the Bodensee at Rorschach and cuts inland to St Gallen, so I switched there to a local that continued along the shoreline to the next major city, Romanshorn, and there again transferred to another "Regio-Sprinter" 2-car train and continued northward along the lake. At Kreuzlingen, at the north end of the Swiss border with the Bodensee, the German city of Konstanz is adjacent, and you can enter on the swiss railway as well as take direct mainline trains into Germany proper. You can also continue travel on the line I was on (will be back later today), but I switched to a diverging local that wound back inland.
This line indicated a "thru" service on the timetable, but actually ended service at Weinfelden on the Winterthur-Romanshorn main line and required a transfer and a 25 minute wait to continue further inland to the next connection at Wil on the Winterthur-St Gallen main.
At Wil I had now ridden 4 of the 5 diverging lines, so next grabbed a local to the south to connect to the Lucerne-St Gallen line. This ride climbed gradually upward to a juction at Lichtensteig, but this was a local only stop, so I continued to the next stop at Wattwil where I would reverse direction back to St Gallen. The train I now caught was a "Voralpen Express" (train I explored on the 3rd day of the trip) and this time, instead of detraining in St Gallen, I rode a previously missed segment of the sytem back down to the coast to the express termination at Romanshorn.
Here I again boarded a 'regio-sprinter' northward up the lake, repeating the ride of earlier in the day. I had noted this particular schedule was an "express", skipping most stops and had expected a larger train, but apparently there is limited express demand, and a standard 2-car trainset handled the traffic just fine.
This time I continued thru Kreuzlingen, and now ran along the next lake to the north of the Bodensee on trackage new to me until we reached the end of the lake at Stein am Rhein, where I now repeated an earlier ride along the river and into Schaffhausen.
After a short wait, a German ICE-T(tilt) trainset rolled in. This "premium - reserved - Sundays only" service from Stuttgart makes the stop here and for some reason allows passengers to board without reservations (if room), then makes stops at Winterthur and Zurich (departures only - no boardings allowed) and runs non-stop to Chur, where it lays over for an hour and then reverses back to Germany. I "hope" there is room, but have lots of alternatives to get back if the train is full.
The lead power car stops where I am standing in sector "AH", and I board the car.
W _ O _ W ! ! !
To the rear of the front doorway is plush seating leading back to the next car, but forward is another whole matter! There is a forward facing section with 2 rows of seats (fronts taken, but a vacancy in the second row gets my IMMEDIATE occupancy). In front of that is a floor to ceiling - side to side glass wall, and in front of that is "beam me up Scotty" - the bridge of the Starship "Enterprise".
The front of the train has the sloped full-width glass windshield that by now most people have seen on the modern "bullet" style trains, and provides an unobstructed track view. The control console is high-tech full wrap-around keyboard stuff, and the sole operator sits in a central high-backed "winged" chair with attachments curving up and out of the chair itself (lights, microphones, etc). All I can say is you need to see this stuff to appreciate it!
Anyhow, after a short stop we pull out, and I notice we cut off the main just out of the station and into a tunnel.
Yep, we come out and we're on that low bridge over the Rhine with the waterfall just downstream.
We're on a "podunk" 2-car remote local line, and I'm riding in a multi-million dollar "Inter-City-Express" tilt trainset? Yep!
Apparently they determined this was the most expedient method to serve Winterthur, and as I had mentioned previously that the track conditions even on remote branches was top-notch, people on this remote little line with it's tiny stations get ICE trains blowing thru every Sunday (maybe we could talk Amtrak into running an Acela set off the San Diego main to Escondido on Sundays?).
Anyhow, we make stop in Winterthur, then swing into Zurich on one of the underground tracks for a brief stop (no boardings) and pull out, run above ground, and stop at the next station to the west. Apparently there is no "direct" connection from the underground we came in on to the south to Chur, so the engineer flips switches, gets out (nodding polititely to us), and walks down the platform to the far end and we are now running the opposite direction and our "head-end" view is now "tailgating".
We take a switch to the south, merge to the mainline, and make a nonstop run to Chur (and I gain a front-row seat to the "tailgate party").
Today's tally - 9 trains (119 down), 320 miles (3122 to date).
The ladies DID make the Arosa trip and enjoyed it very much. Tomorrow, a move back to Zurich and some more Zurich suburban riding.