Rhaetian Railway, Switzerland


The Rhaetian Railway is the private train company that owns and operates more of the rail routes in Switzerland than any other operator. Some of the tourist routes are over stunning mountain passes and through tunnels, and a number have UNESCO World Heritage status involving amazing feats of engineering.
The line from Thusis to Samedan, presented here in pictures, is one such route, taking 75 minutes each way to cover the 32 miles (52 km), and calling at Tiefencastel, Filisur, Bergün and Preda.

Thusis, in the Hinterhein Valley, is a town of about 3,000 people (2015). It is at the end of the Viamala Canyon and by the confluence of the Hinterhein and Nolla rivers. The majority language here is the German-based Swiss dialect.

Tiefencastel has one main sight, the Church of St Stefan, designated a ‘Swiss heritage site of national significance’. Otherwise the main attraction is scenery, most of the valley being either forest or agricultural fields. In 2014 there was a minor natural disaster at Tiefencastel when 11 people on a train were injured when it was struck by a landslip and derailed. It may not be a coincidence that August, the month it happened, is the wettest month in Tiefencastel.

Filisur seems to prove that small is beautiful, since it has only 500 inhabitants and just one street. Even better, it is car-free. For Nordic skiers, a 3km (nearly 2 miles) night time cross country loop is an attraction. The other outdoor night time activity is skating at the natural ice rink.

Filisur is considered by many to be the best of all the Engadine villages and, if you have the time to spare, it is well worth taking a 30 minute walk to the northwest of the village to a viewpoint that occupies a marvellous position looking down on the famous Landwasser Viaduct. This stunning 65m (213ft) high piece of civil engineering dating from 1902 has to be seen to be believed, and if you wait for a train to pass over it you will be able to take a memorable photo. The single track comes straight out of the Landwasser Tunnel high above the river of the same name, and is built on six enormously tall limestone arches. This is the Abula section of the Rhaetian Railway, a part of the line that demonstrates amazing Swiss engineering skills, especially when you remember that it was constructed over a century ago.

Bergün is a pretty alpine village in the same section at the foot of the Albula Pass leading to the Engadine. There are three spiral tunnels and many other tunnels, bridges and viaducts on this part of the route. Bergün is also the home of the Albula Railway Museum, a must for anyone interested in railways. This is a popular sledging area, with a 5km run down from the pass, and cross country and downhill skiing is well catered for too.

Preda station, at an elevation of 1,789 metres (5,869 ft), is on the Albula line of the Rhaetian Railway. Trains pass through once an hour, and being Switzerland they are on time. But apart from hiking, there’s little enough to do here other than look at the spectacular scenery. Much better to stay on the train to Samedan!

Samedan is the charming capital of Upper Engadine, and is the gateway to the Upper Engadin countryside for outdoor sports. Not surprisingly it is beloved of hang gliders, but less expected is the highest golf course in Europe! In summer the rail trip is a good way to get to great alpine hiking country.

Thusis - Tiefencastel
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Rhaetian Railway, bridge Rhaetian Railway, green light Rhaetian Railway, geology Rhaetian Railway, near Tiefencastel
Tiefencastel - Filisur
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Switzerland, Rhaetian Railway Landwaser Viaduct, viewpoint Landwaser Viaduct Switzerland, Rhaetian Railway
Filisur - Bergün
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Bergün - Preda
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Preda - Samaden
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Bever, Engandin  Engandin, Railway  Samaden, Railway  Railway Station, Samedan