The narrow-gauge Bernina Express connects northern and southern Europe and offers a spectacular means of crossing the Alps, with a route running through Switzerland’s Grisons/ Graubünden region.
There are many scenic rail journeys in the world, and the Bernina Express numbers amongst the very best. Connecting the Swiss town of Chur with the Italian village of Tirano, it crosses over the Alps, taking in some spectacular views along the way. The line was completed in 1910, a golden era in Europe for engineering construction works, and crosses 196 bridges and goes through 55 tunnels. Its highest point is the Bernina pass at 2253 metres, and in July 2008 the route was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Bernina Express – The Journey
The journey starts in Chur on the Albula line, and here, passengers board the red panoramic cars which are far better suited to view the surrounding area of outstanding natural beauty than a regular train car would be. In addition to this, they also provide a commentary in different languages, explaining the history of the area and what is being seen. The route is 76 miles long, and the first section heads towards Filisur. Along the way, there is the opportunity to see many castles, some of which date from the 13th century. There is also an impressive viaduct and one of the many tunnels to be passed through en-route.
The next little section that the Bernina Express takes is from Filisur to Preda. This is considered to be one of the most amazing sections of railway line ever conceived, passing as it does through spiral tunnels and crossing viaducts. The panoramic cars on the train really come into their own here, and there are many photo opportunities on all sides. The Bernina Express then enters the Albula Tunnel which is set at 1815 metres in height before arriving at the St. Moritz station. Some people choose to break their journey here and explore what the town has to offer, although most make the trip through to Tirano in one go.
From St. Moritz, the Bernina Express continues along what is now known as the Bernina line. It heads gradually upwards to the Bernina Pass, with views of the Bernina Glacier and also the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps, the Piz Bernina. After peaking at 2253 metres at the Ospizio Bernina station, the descent downhill begins, again passing through tunnels and viaducts before terminating at the station in Tirano. Those people who are interested in continuing their journey onwards may wish to find out more about the Bernina Express bus which travels from Tirano through to Lugano.
This UNESCO World Heritage route takes in some of the most amazing scenery that this part of the Alps has to offer, and truly shows that man and nature can work in harmony, with the line adding to an already beautiful landscape. The Bernina Express can be taken throughout the year, with each season offering a different perspective to the changing landscape. The timetable will vary depending on the season, and those people interested in taking the Bernina Express Bus afterwards should keep in mind that this service only runs during the summer months.