When I boarded the train in Chur, an end station of the narrow track Rhetic Railway, I did not know I was about to take place in a Unesco World heritage object! Well, not the train itself but “the Raethian Railway in the landscapes of Albula and Bernina, 122 km, the 144 bridges and 42 tunnels”; all landscapes visible from the train on this section are included! I learned it soon when passing by stations where it was publicised!
To reach Pontresina from Zürich you have choice between car or train; by train you take the regular Federal Swiss Train system (SBB, CFF, FFS acronyms in the different Swiss languages) until Chur, then you change to the Viafier Retica trains which service the mountains of Eastern Switzerland.
The best thing with the train is of course that you can enjoy mountain landscapes, sitting in the coach, make pictures, meet other travellers. . . . and the train takes its time to climb high on the passes.
You can enjoy the landscapes and curves on the train, and even the fresh air, as you can open the windows of the coaches for taking pictures (picture 1).
The train stops in many small stations and it is a pleasure to see the people heading for a hike or a trek, when leaving the train; here in Bergün (picture 2), are big signs indicating you are in a world heritage place. . . .
The scenery is just beautiful and the small villages with their churches and onion shaped cupolas (picture 3, picture 4) fit so well in the mountains; travel by train is very relaxing.
In just less than two hours the train takes you from 584 m elevation to 1772 m elevation, and getting there, the train travels through tunnels and viaducts (picture 5), climbs on mountain slopes; you will notice that the railway is constantly under maintenance, and that may explain the ride is not exactly cheap!
38 CHF one way Chur-Pontresina
I find rather funny, it is a Dutch who promoted the construction of the Rhaetian Railway, a guy from the polders who made the first steps to build this railway. The first line linked Landquart to Davos in 1890; note that the first lines, in many places in old Europe, serviced places for the rich tourists (Bordeaux-Arcachon, Paris-Deauville. . . .). So, here, the rich resort of Davos had a line first.
The Albula line had been completed in 1903 and the Bernina line in 1910. As Switzerland is mountainous, electricity was produced soon at industrial scale and electrification of the lines began in 1913.
The nowadays Raethian Railway is the product of the merge of several companies which each owned a line in the beginning of the 20th century, and in 1950, all railways of the area have been merged.
The Viafier Retica trains are red, with some white (picture 1) and service many stations between Chur and Pontresina or St Moritz, but they do not anymore stop at very small stations like the one on picture 2.
When you travel on the Raethic Railway lines, you can cross in some stations famous trains like the Glacier Express (picture 3) which runs across south Switzerland from Zermatt to St Moritz, passing the Oberalp (2033m). Other trains like the Bernina Express also use the Raethic network, crossing the Bernina Pass at 2253m. These trains are air conditioned, more or less luxury trains, but there are also (at least in summer) open sight seeing trains like the one on picture 4, here in St Moritz.
There are lots of pictures opportunities, when travelling by train in mountains, but the stations are also interesting and even display some “railway art” (picture 5), which, if not of great artistic taste, at least can be used to drip your umbrella. . . . :)
38 CHF one way Chur-Pontresina
Pontresina is a crossroad for trains. There are trains to St. Moritz, to Samaden and from there to Chur or Scuol-Tarasp or across the Bernina to Tirano in Italy.
If you want to visit Morteratsch glacier take the Bernina train towards Tirano.