Gotthard Road and Railway Pictures


The Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, (also known as the St Gotthard Pass, in case you were thinking there were two), has been an important Alpine crossing at least since the early Middle Ages. It gets its name from a hospice or travellers’ refuge built at the 2,108 metre high summit (6,916 feet) in the 14th century by the Dukes of Bavaria and dedicated to St Gotthard (or Godehard).

So welcome to my page of copyright free pictures of the road and rail infrastructure of the St Gotthard area, with information for tourists and other travellers. (Look below the text to see the pictures. There are photos taken on the steep sections of the road over the pass, between Hospental and Airolo. As you will see the road over the summit is good and fairly quiet, with most of the traffic going through the tunnel.)

The Gotthard Pass, halfway between Lake Lucerne and Lake Maggiore, still is an important north-south rail and road link not just for Switzerland but for Europe, though road and rail tunnels these days take a lot of its traffic away from the pass itself. The route links the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino with the German-speaking canton of Uri, and in doing so connects Andermatt and Airolo and opens the way between the Rhône and Rhine valleys. In the early days of the pass, a crossing by ford of the dangerous River Reuss, as it passed through the narrow Schöllenen Gorge, was necessary, leading to great loss of life until the first Teufelsbrücke (Devil’s Bridge) was built. Today as well as the hospice, there is a museum and restaurant at the summit of the pass.
(See pictures of the pass below. The pictures were taken in summer and after the winter when the snow had started to melt; the pass is closed in winter. Among them are two photos of the monument to Adrien Guex, a Swiss pioneer aviator who crashed his plane at the top of the Gotthard Pass in 1921.)

The first tunnel to be built was the 15km (9.9 miles) Göschenen-Airolo Gotthard railway tunnel, opened in 1882.
The Gotthard Road Tunnel (17km) followed in 1980.
The Gotthard Base Tunnel has carried rail traffic since the summer of 2016.
All of these tunnels had the distinction of being the longest in the world at the time they were built.

The old 1882 rail tunnel required trains to climb to 1,100m (3,600 feet) so three or even four locomotives had to be used to pull the longer trains.
The current road tunnel is very problematic for a number of reasons: firstly, there is only one lane each way, which in summer, holiday times and at weekends, is not adequate; then there is the fact that the A2 motorway approaches the tunnel with four lanes, but has to be reduced to two to pass through the tunnel; finally, when an accident does occur in a two way tunnel, it inevitably leads to more congestion. With all these difficulties car drivers may have to wait as much as two hours to enter the tunnel in summer. There is a plan to build a second road tunnel, starting in 2020.
The new Gotthard Base Tunnel at 57km (35 miles) was the longest and at 2.3km (7,546 feet) the deepest train tunnel in the world when it opened in 2016.

The new route has meant fewer trains passing through the village of Göschenen, the junction at the northern mouth of the old rail tunnel which, however, still connects Zürich to the north and Milan in the south. A short, 1m-gauge branch line links Göschenen to Andermatt via the Schöllenen Gorge, the dramatic location of the Devil’s Bridge. The village itself grew up around a bridge over the River Reuss, and is at the northern end of the Gotthard Road Tunnel. You can walk from Göschenen (elevation 1,111m / 3,645 feet, population 438 in 2015) to the village of Wassen, which is 5.3km (3.3 miles) and should take about an hour, depending on how much you stop to admire the scenery. Near the latter village, the old Gotthard Line makes a double loop, put in to help the locomotives cope with the gradient. Wassen itself is a picturesque village of traditional Swiss architecture. Situated at 930m (3,050 feet) altitude, it had a permanent population at the last count of only 428 (2015). There are five hotels, though, and the village is connected to Innertkirchen via the Susten Pass. (See the pictures of the walk below under the title ‘From Goeschenen to Wassen’.)

The Gotthard Base Tunnel took 17 years and cost over 12bn Swiss Francs (£9.3bn) to build; more importantly nine workers died in accidents during the construction and are commemorated on a plaque at the northern entrance to the tunnel. This was in spite of the fact that new boring techniques, safer than the old drill-and-blast methods, were used. Some of the difficulties the engineers had to overcome were that the rock at this depth is at 46˚ Celsius; and that there were 73 different types of rock to drill through, some as soft as sugar and others as hard as granite. Unlike the old rail tunnel and the road tunnel that both wind up through the mountain, the Base Tunnel goes through straight and flat and trains can therefore run at high speed: it takes only 17 minutes for each of the 300-plus trains a day to pass through the tunnel. The Base Tunnel has reduced the journey time from Zürich to Milan by an hour; more significantly, it allows over 250 freight trains a day to move a lot of freight off the roads.

From Goeschenen to Wassen
Goeschenen, Railway Station Goeschenen, Tunnel 1882 Goeschenen, Gotthard Tunnel Railway Matterhorn - Gotthrad Railway in Göschenen
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south of Goeschenen Gotthard, Highway A2 Motorway A2, Switzerland Gotthard, Motorway A2, Switzerland
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Motorway A2, Houses Gotthard, Railway Gotthard, Highway, Switzerland Gotthard, Highway, Railway
Gotthard, Railway, Highway Railway Station Wassen Wassen Wassen
Hotel Alpenhof, Wassen Wassen, Switzerland Hotel Hirschen, Wassen School, Wassen
Gotthard Pass
Hospental, Switzerland Gotthard, Road Forest, Swiss Alps Gotthard Road, Switzerland
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Gotthard Pass, Souvenirs Gotthard Pass, Hospice Gotthard, Tremola Switzerland, Airolo
Gotthard Pass, Snowblower Gotthard Road, Switzerland Gotthard Road, Switzerland Gotthard Road, after Winter
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