It's the sort of thing that in many countries, you can only dream of. In Switzerland, if your train is running late, the trains at your connections wait for you! What's more, before you get off, they tell you on which platform you're going to find it. But Swiss trains are more than just transport. They are an important part of the country's tourist package, with many memorable experiences.
Jungfraujoch is Europe's highest railway station, at 3,454 metres. The journey starts at Interlaken-Ost and takes you through the solid rock of Mounts Eiger and Mönch, with two intermediate stations, the Eigerwand (Eiger Wall), and Eismeer (Sea of Ice). From the station, a ski-lift takes you up to the Sphinx observation hall, with spectacular views over the longest glacier in the Alps, and across to France, Germany and Italy. Explore the Ice Palace, a 1,000 square-metre cavern hewn by hand in the 1930s and carefully maintained ever since.
There is more ice all the year round in the Titlis Glacier Park, near Lucerne, where you travel up to 3,000 metres in the world's first revolving cable car. Apart from enjoying the views, you can see a glacier from inside in the Titlis Glacier Cave. There are all sorts of snow toys if you are making the trip with children. The park is open from May to October, weather permitting. The cablecar runs from Engelberg.
Also near Lucerne is Mount Pilatus, where the world's steepest cogwheel railway takes you up from Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm, running through lush meadows carpeted with Alpine flowers, past mountain streams and dramatic rock faces. Open from May to November, you can also take the aerial cableway to a viewpoint at 2,132 metres altitude.
One of Switzerland's most famous trains is the Glacier Express, often called the slowest express train in the world. It runs from Zermatt to Davos or St. Moritz, a trip that takes about seven hours and takes you through superb mountain landscapes, deep gorges, beautiful valleys, 91 tunnels and across 291 bridges.
The Bernina Express runs between Tirano in Italy and St. Moritz, continuing on to Coira, and the section between Thusis and Tirano is part of the Unesco World Heritage. The train climbs to Ospizio Bernina at 2,253 metres altitude, along a route that is a tribute to engineering.
Railway enthusiasts will love the Furka cogwheel steam railway, where a vintage steam train takes you from Realp station in Uri Canton to Gletsch, Valais. The train is over 80 years old, and it makes a quick stop at Tiefenbach to fill up with water. Operated mainly by volunteers, it runs along a route that was abandoned in 1982 after the construction of a new track. In one section, a sprinkler system had to be installed, in order to protect the forested nature reserve from the risk of fire caused by the steam engine. The Swiss dedication to perfection is perfectly encapsulated in these and many other railway travel experiences.
For further information and bookings, see:
Jungfrau: www.jungfrau.ch, tel. +41 (0)33 8287 233
Titlis Glacier Park: www.titlis.ch, +41 (0)41 6395 050
Mount Pilatus Lucerne: www.pilatus.ch, +41 (0)41 3291 111
Glacier Express: www.glacierexpress.ch, tel. +41 (0)848 642 442
Furka steam railways: www.dfb.ch, tel. +41 848 000 144
All courtesy of the railway companies above, and of swiss-image.ch
Swiss gold refinery Valcambi