Authors of many rankings and tourist guides unanimously agree that the Glacier Express is a line that will take you on the most beautiful train journey on Earth. Although the speed of the narrow-gauge line (1,000 mm gauge) oscillates around 40 km/h, it is its greatest advantage. It is a line for people longing for unique views.
Along 275 kilometres the route leads from Zermatt topped by the majestic Matterhorn, to St. Moritz. The train travels through mountain passes and meadows, 291 bridges and 91 tunnels. Having passed the town of Visp, Glacier Express reaches Brig. Next, along the banks of the Rhône it passes through the Furka tunnel and arrives in Andermatt.
Here, passengers can admire the extraordinary charm of an alpine valley to reach the Ruinaulta gorge. Afterwards, the train climbs Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the journey - 2,044 m above sea level - and passes through the Landwasser viaduct built over a valley sharing its name. The route of the Glacier Express leads further to the oldest Swiss town of Chur, and seven hours later arrives in St. Moritz - the cradle of Alpine tourism.
During the journey travellers can see, among other sites, the Goms - bucolic villages on turquoise streams - the 23-kilometre Aletsch glacier (on the UNESCO World Heritage List), fairy-tale castles and luxury resorts. When crossing the Andermatt the train reaches an altitude of 400 metres, which is a breathtaking experience to those looking through the wraparound windows. All the while, tourists wear earphones through which they can listen to a guide talking about noteworthy sights outside. Lunch and desserts are supplied to passengers from the restaurant carriage; the regional specialty - a “rural plate” with specially prepared dried beef can be ordered. In addition, Glacier EXpress line offers one-day excursions involving local sightseeing.
The origins of the line date back to 1930. Initially, trains were pulled by steam engines. However, the vital sections were electrified quite soon after and the characteristic “crocodile” locomotives were put into service. In 1943-1946 war interrupted the train service.
From 1968 the carriages were painted red in full. Some sections of the route were closed in winter, which was quite inconvenient. Only the Furka tunnel, opened in 1982, enabled the line to travel the whole length of the route. However, the chance of seeing the giant glacier of the Rhône was lost. In 1986 and 1993 eighteen new carriages (with huge wraparound windows) were bought for 40 million Swiss francs to carry 250,000 passengers a year.