Anyhow, even though I am not going to Zermatt, (been-there, done-that) I'll describe it briefly. The narrow gauge leaves Brig and runs alongside the Geneva main for about 5 miles to Visp, then turns 90 degrees and climbs up a steep valley (narrow gauge is usually not run very fast, and although they depart Brig 5 minutes before I head down the valley on an express, we whistle past like they are standing still after a couple of miles and they are "on-their-own".
The line to Zermatt is on-again off-again rack assisted due to steep gradient, and climbs a long narrow valley (about an hour trip). The next-to-last stop is at Tasch, where there is a continuous rail shuttle from huge parking lots, as there is no further road, and no auto access at all to Zermatt. Yes, there actually IS a narrow road, but it is "service vehicle" only, and everybody else rides the rails thru a tunnel from Tasch and into the Zermatt station where you are greeted by a narrow main street with 3 story swiss buildings with flowered balconys overhanging on each side, electric or horse-drawn carts the only "motorized" transport, and throngs of people.
There are many-many hotels in the area (they crowd the hillsides all around), MUCHO shopping, ski-lifts, and a separate rack-railway that climbs out of town and snakes up a mountain to a viewpoint to give you a full open view of the Matterhorn (it is a "peekaboo" view from town proper). They also run a sheep/goat herd with attendant clanging neck-bells down the main street of town, but I suspect it's more for the "touristas" than the need of a farmer to move his flock.
Anyhow, the ladies are off to their fate, and I am running at express speed down the looong valley to Martigny where the valley makes a 90 degree turn to the north and continues down an ever-widening plain towards lake Geneva and the western cities. The Alps tower over both sides of the valley and there are branch lines up side valleys at Martigny and Bex, but there is limited time and I opt for a stop at Aigle, where there are multiple ride opportunitys.
Departing the train I am faced with a street just FULL of train opportunities. First are a couple of tracks for a line to Leysin, then another for a line to Les Diablerets, and finally another to Champery. All of the tracks are occupied, these are all 1 or 2 car locals, all of different manufacture, and all painted in bright (but totally different) paint schemes with the destination a part of the road identifications. I grab the closest car, which quickly departs (remember, these are all "connecting" services), and we run down the center of street thru downtown (4-5 blocks), then up a street for several blocks that barely has room for one lane of traffic between the buildings (and that lane for the moment firmly belongs to US), leave town and run a few blocks still in the street between grapevines and homes and swing left in a "U" into an off-street station. We pull the traditional "end-swap", take a switch, engage a rack, and begin a climb (estimated 30 degrees?) for about 5 miles up the side of a mountain thru more of the "terraced" grapevines and then trees and forest. At the end of the climb we make a stop in a small village, then enter a tunnel and stop at the end at a plaza of the "Grand Hotel". Again, lack of time precludes exploration, but this is not only a large resort but there are also numerous ski-lifts.
We reverse the journey, I reach bottom, determine that the "Champery" line looks to be mostly valley floor, and grab the remaining line. This also does some street running, then proceeds to use "S" turns and cuts to gain elevation and climbs up a long valley to the east (no rack on this line, but still some pretty steep running). I note the map shows a short spur to the north about halfway up, and cannot figure how they will service that when we round a bend and I see a high arched bridge crossing the valley. As we reach it we swing onto the bridge thru a switch, cross the bridge (autos must get out of the way), swing around a few curves and enter the station shown as the "stub". We quickly reverse ends, cross back over the bridge, take the other leg of the switch, and continue climbing up the valley. The switch is such that the only route is via the stub served with reversing, and that is in fact the route we take when coming back down. The line continues climbing into snow country and eventually ends at another ski resort area, with connecting bus schedules over the higher mountains to the MOB "panorama" line we traveled a few days ago.
I return to the mainline, having chewed up a couple of hours on this venture, and though there is another mountain line at Montreaux that was in my "intent", it is a long way back and it will be dark even if I just go straight back. I thus grab the next express to Lausanne, again bypass the little local that "cuts-off" from Vevey to Puidoux-Chexbres (again too much waiting time to make it worthwhile), swap trains in Lausanne for an express to Bern and trade there one more time for an express back into Thun.
Today, only 9 rides (61 so far), 273 more miles for 1535. Only 2 "new" rides for me, but hey, I had expected to have to escort the ladies.
THEY'RE NOT AT THE HOTEL AND IT'S AFTER DARK!
Nevertheless, they come bouncing in about an hour later about 6:30 (I had given them schedules that would put them back at 2:20, 3:20, 4:20, and 5:20 in Thun). Had they gotten lost? Missed connection? had train trouble?
Nope! "What NEAT shops!". We had SO much fun we didn't want to leave. Wanna see my new ring, new necklace, new coat, new... (- you get the picture).
Tomorrow - Christmas Day. Planned to be an "off" day, although I had held a loop ride thru Interlaken to Lucerne in reserve in case they were bored, but they tell me they have decided to do a BOAT ride tomorrow.
I should come from Pismo Beach on the Pacific Ocean to railfan's "nirvanna" and I should ride a crummy BOAT?
I think NOT!