D A Y - T W O
An item I had intended to include but missed in the general explanation was low-level/high level platforms. Unlike most US equipment, the swiss cars generally do NOT have stairs inside the vestibules that cause platform incompatability. Instead, all doors open at high platform height, and built-in steps extend out from under the car if the platform is not high level. These usually comprise 2 steps, but sometimes 3 if the platform is very low with newer equipment. I also saw platforms on older stations being "overlaid" with a slope raising them on one end or the other to a higher level, and others using a steel "bench" (looked like the ramps you drive a car up onto) running along the edge of the platform effectively creating a "step" up along that area of the platform.
Routes today: 201 310 311 313 312
Anyhow, off on 2nd day with the ladies. We catch an express running along the shore of the "Thunersee" to Interlaken, and the announcement says a "panorama" car is in sector "D", so we head there. The car is quite new, is higher than normal, and has glass windows that run up the side and curve in overhead giving an almost dome-like view. The slope at the top (common on all bi-level equipment) proves necessary as we run thru some trackage cut into a cliff-face with overhanging rock, and it looks to me like the upper glass is only clearing the rockface by an inch or two.
Standard gauge rails end at Interlaken, with a narrow-gauge main line running eastward thru the mountains to Lucerne, and the branch we are taking up into the Alps. Our new train is 2 sets of equipment coupled together, and pasengers are directed to one end or the other depending on destination as the train will split at the second stop. We reach the end of our branch at Lauterbrunnen and see the next train segment, but first we go downstairs and under the street to our first funicular ride of the trip. This proves to be a "stepped" car going up the side of the mountain at about 60 degrees (VERY steep), with a freight box on the front holding baggage and other materials. At the top about a half-mile up (scroll down), we debark and find a one-car train coming in on a ledge and ending within the funicular station. It also has a little hopper-car attached, and all the baggage and other materials are transferred and we are off running along the side of the mountain.
We wind along for a couple of miles and reach the end of the line at the town of Murren, which has no other "reasonable" access except how we got there (there is a winding narrow single lane road up for 4-wheel drive small vehicles, but it would be a much longer trip than the method we used, and almost everything comes the way we did). Across the valley several thousand feet below we can see the tracks of our next trip winding up the cliff-face, but can't see how they can get to the top, let alone higher (the mountain across from us is several thousand feet higher).
Anyhow, we lunch, then reverse the trip back to Lauterbrunnen and go to the ticket window, as we are now at one of the (very few) private railroads that do not allow free passage with a swiss railpass.
These lines give a 25% discount with a pass, while the rest of the country is unlimited travel on all rail, bus, and ships (there are many large lakes with boat service). My first class pass for 15 days cost just under $400 US. The private railfare for the next jaunt is 48 swiss, discounted to 36 swiss (about $25). We pile into the cars and begin a long twisting rack-assisted journey up the mountain, again with steep ascents and marvelous views, passing thru and occasionally stopping at little towns. We eventually reach and pass the treeline and have entered snow areas. Further ascent finds ski-tows and ski runs, and we find skiers and sledders boarding at stops and riding up further and then debarking and sliding down the mountain again.
We eventually reach the crest at Kleine Scheidegg (do NOT hold me responsible for spelling these swiss names) and our railline ends with 2 choices - one down the other side of the mountain to Grindelwald (also private, but included in the tickets we already have), and the other ascending another mile or so up the snow, then tunneling into the rockface and traveling up inside the Jungfrau to a subterannean station in the rock with ice-tunnels leading out onto the surface at the highest rail-station in Europe (maybe anywhere?) at around 12,000 feet. This has a hefty (around $60 fare), but they inform us that the next train is a "cleanup" and leaves the top right after arrival and there will be no more that day so it is not worth the price and we depart instead back down the other side.
At the bottom of this (again) steep rack descent, we reach a narrow defile with no room to turn around, and as will be common, we reach end of track, reverse ends, have a switch thrown, and continue the journey now back uphill on the other side of this little valley to Grindelwald. Here we do another across-platform transfer to the regular narrow-gauge line and proceed back down a long valley to Interlaken.
There the next express will be about 45 minutes, but we board a local and travel back to Spiez on the mainline, where we make another 3 minute transfer to another local and arrive back in Thun in about 10 more minutes.
Today - 11 rides - 19 so far. Also, I do not know how far I traveled on the trip, but they show kilometers in the timetable so as I do each day's travelog I will add them up and convert to miles and report them here - today's trip was short due to the region being close to the hotel and being mostly twisting mountains - 113 miles - 339 so far - tomorrow is a long trip across to the eastern part with an "escort", a swiss dispatcher who answered querys on the internet and offered me a "cook's tour" if I cared to meet him while in Switzerland.