Glacier Express: The Slowest Fast Train

Laura Maudlin - Feb 22, 2010
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Sit back and enjoy what is sure to be an unforgettable journey on the Glacier Express from St.Moritz/Davos right across the Swiss Alps to Zermatt.

Large Format Swiss Panorama

With 291 bridges and viaducts, 91 tunnels and seven valleys, this is an experience of the very first order! It takes the world’s slowest express train 7.5 hours to meander from the Piz Bernina and the Albula Line (now a UNESCO World Heritage site) through rugged mountain terrain and lush alpine valleys, past snowy peaks, thundering waterfalls, precipitous cliffs, dreamy villages and upstart castles all the way to the Matterhorn. The views from the huge panorama windows are superb, and the information provided en route will soon have you dreaming of your next holiday!

Pleasures of the Palate

The scenery will not be the only highlight of your trip, however; besides feasting your eyes, you can feast your palate, too – on a wide range of freshly prepared specialties served either at your seat (Zermatt – St. Moritz) or in the vintage dining car (Zermatt – Davos). On board the Express, meals are prepared specially for you by the chef in the dining car. Coffee, drinks and snacks are brought to your seat by our Railbar staff.

Historical Milestones

In the roaring 1920s, and because of adventurous reports from alpine enthusiasts, the travel-keen upper-class from all four corners of the world at long last discovered the rustic charms of the Swiss Alps; previously remote mountain villages such as Zermatt and St. Moritz were transformed into chic health resorts. The three railway companies of that period respectively successfully took advantage of the tourism potential at hand with the opening of the route between the Valais and Graubünden in 1926: the introduction of the through coaches Brig – Chur and Brig – St. Moritz exclusively in summer was met with a lot of interest amongst the travelling public. By the way, it was to take more than 50 years before the trains were able to also cross the impassable Furka alpine route in winter.

June 25, 1930 – an historical date after the opening of the connection Visp – Brig, the Glacier Express ran for the very first time from Zermatt to St.Moritz. With the turmoil of the Second World War, express traffic was withdrawn from 1943 onwards to be reintroduced with slight changes in 1948. The Glacier Express also benefited from technological advancement during the 1950s and 1960s: faster engines produced shorter travelling times even for the "world’s slowest fast train", and comfortable coaches as well as the reintroduction of the dining cars to Andermatt inexorably increased the attraction of the Glacier Express.

Growing Popularity

Thanks to modern technology and focused marketing efforts the Glacier Express blossomed into an unmistakable top-notch Swiss tourism product in the 1980s and 1990s: there has been continual growing worldwide demand on the unique Swiss Alpine train. Throughout the years the Glacier Express has remained true to itself: traditionally on the ball – only the best is good enough for the passengers. In 2005, the Glacier Express celebrated its 75th birthday – and is even younger, more dynamic and popular than ever.

Photos: Glacier Express

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