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D A Y - S E V E N

Meant to include this yesterday but forgot. Another VAST difference between the US and switzerland is grade crossings, train horns, and peoples "attitude".

Although the Swiss have eliminated grade crossings to the extent possible on their main lines, there are thousands of them on secondary mains, regional service, and local lines.

The rule apparently is NO HORN from the train unless the crossing has NO protection (just crossbuck or unmarked). If there are gates OR lights, it is considered adequate and there is no horn warning.

The law in switzerland says "STOP" at red lights, and that's JUST what it means.
Also, the "horns" are just the little single "wheet" of a whistle, I never heard a typical multiple "BLAAAAATT" of a US horn.
And thirdly, the attitiude of the Swiss apparently is either "law abiding" or it's just the realization that there ARE trains on the lines at VERY high frequencys, and you'ld BETTER dam stop if you want to remain in the gene pool.

The thing that impressed me with attitude more that anything else was PEDESTRIAN traffic. Several times I was at locations where a pedestrian-only crossing had warning lights or warning-lights AND gates. In these occasions there were either trains visible a good ways off, or trains not visible at all but around a curve with the area of the crossing almost at a station stop where the train would stop (this was not a main line with "thru" expresses). NEVER did I see a pedestrian even LOOK impatient (in the US 50 people would have flocked across ahead of the train) - nobody ever did anything but stand placidly by until the train was past.

Also, trains in stations often came thru right at the platforms at speed without stopping. Never did I hear a warning whistle (typical US "lots of bells and whistles - people around"), and the platforms did NOT have the "3 foot back yellow line - do not stand closer" lines, nor were there "watch out" announcements.

Another interesting item was that although remote single line service with passing sidings in stations had allowable pedestrian track crossing to board trains, most stations had multiple platforms with underpasses for pedestrian traffic to the other platform(s). Many of these were low-level, and all stations had walkways across the tracks for service purposes. There was always a sign (in 4 different languages) saying "do not cross the tracks", and even when short trains were stopped on both tracks or there was no train in but there was one approaching and there was plenty of time to safely cross to get to the other platform, I never saw anyone do it, even if they had to run for the tunnel area to cross to catch the train. (Maybe the ones that did are all dead and the rest know better?)

Routes today: 280 291 290 410 450 650 651 510 450 280

The girls are going boating, and I will take the opportunity to ride a few more lines in the area before we move our hotel base to the east. The Swiss timetables have a couple of lines that have a separate summer & winter shedule, and many local lines to the major citys have notations of monday-friday only trains in addition to the 7-day a week schedule. Even though today is Christmas, everything but commuter rush-hour service will still be operating, so off I go. Grab the first train to Bern, then revisit the "U" underground and pick up a local to the north to Solothurn.

Here is the "toonerville trolley" I had noted earlier in the street, and we swing west thru a couple of blocks downtown, then reverse direction and begin roadside country cruising to the east alongside a highway (very reminiscent of the US "interurban" era).   The line swings south after awhile and crosses the mainline where the ICE-N trains run, but the stop is a pure local with a train not due for almost 30 minutes, so I stay aboard as we proceed to Langenthal, a regional stop on the Bern-Olten line. The line I am riding reverses direction here and then takes a switch to another stub-end line before returning, but I opt to catch the next train to Olten, which turns out to be destined for Basel. Since I am not going north today, I drop off at Olten and take the next train east to Aarau. This train follows the orginal main to Zurich (heavily used) that splits east of Aarau, but my destination is on the tunneled main between the same 2 points, so I switch to a local at Aarau (all of these connections are 5 minutes or less) and make a short jaunt to Lenzburg.

Here is a local line that runs down a long valley to the south that will end in Lucerne. It is a little different from most locals I have ridden in its' relation with the highway. Most lines criss-cross countryside, occasionally paralleling roads, and make appropriate swings and curves to maintain gradient that usually do not parallel the roads. In this case, the rail line obviously was laid out many years ago on a very favorable tangent, and a dirt road was obviously then (or later) constructed alongside. For the entire length of the trip (about an hour), the (now paved) roadway is immediately adjacent to the rail line, separated only by a curb at the highway shoulder, and we don't ever exceed 30 mph due to the constant street and driveway crossings. The road makes all the same twists and turns to match the rail line, and obviously the road does not have the traffic necessary to warrant reconstruction and straightening.

Anyhow, we eventually pull into Lucerne, and for comparison I grab the next train out that will return the same way I came, but up the next valley to the west. This line serves the same type of surroundings, but goes thru Olten and is thus the main line service between Lucerne and Basel and other northwest cities. Now we are back to high speed double track main, and even though I am on a local with stops, we reach Olten on the northern main in roughly half the time it took me to travel south in the parallel valley.

Since it's Christmas and I may have to do a little "kissing up" for being off on my own, I catch the next thru Olten-Thun express and return to the hotel in early afternoon.

The ladies inform me that they rode the boat trip on the lake from Thun to Interlaken (about 2 hours), then took a train home (about 30 minutes). I ask how they knew to locate a train, and they say they opted for a one-way boat trip with the "intent" of trying to locate the train back, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the boat docked next to the Interlaken station when they arrived (the Swiss DO know how to arange things). They also mention they did not eat lunch on the boat, which starts me wondering about all this. They had mentioned taking the boat trip the day before when they had seen posters, and had told me the hotel where we were staying was catering the lunch, so I had "ass-u-me-d" that this was some sort of holiday special. The one-way trip and skipping lunch made me question it further, and they showed me their 25 franc one-way tickets which were issued by the SBB (rail system).

It turned out that the regular lake boat service is only run in the summer due to ice and weather, but that the regular boats were running now during the Christmas holidays also. The "catered" lunch was just another service available. It had not occured to me that this was "regular" service, and they had not asked, or even really realized, that our rail passes gave us unlimited travel on Trains, Buses, and BOATS of the swiss system.

Too late?

I gathered up their 3 cancelled tickets, their 3 rail passes, and walked down the street to the train station ticket window to inquire if in fact they should have paid for "special" tickets (they had been paid for with different credit cards). The clerk looked at the tickets, looked at the passes, checked a schedule, and said "no charge" and passed 75 francs (about $50) back thru the window to me. Try THAT trick at an Amtrak ticket window!

Well, today got me 9 more trains (70 so far) and another 214 miles (now 1749).

Tomorrow, we move to eastern Switzerland on a long round-about trip thru Italy and the Alps.

(and if you've actually read this junk this far - hang in there - you're halfway home{g}

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