Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region, Switzerland

From nycsubway.org


Jungfraubahn train running downhill approaching Kleine Scheidegg. Photo by David Pirmann, July 2012.


The Berner-Oberland-Bahn, or "BOB", provides service from Interlaken Ost station to Lauterbrunnen (12km from Interlaken) and Grindelwald (19km from Interlaken). Mostly a meter-gauge, standard traction railway there are portions of rack operations nearing Lauterbrunnen. The line opened with steam powered trains in 1890, and was converted to electric operation in 1914. Trains are typically made of up of one electric motor car and some number of trailers. There are both high floor and new low floor cars, and trains typically have some cars of each type. Trains depart Interlaken in a long consist and are split at Zweilütschinen into sections for Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald. On trips towards Interlaken the separate trains are joined at Zweilütschinen. Transfers are made at Interlaken Ost to SBB and other main line rail services (e.g. the Golden Pass and Zentralbahn); at Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald to the Wengernalpbahn to Kleine Scheidegg; and at Wilderswil to the Schynige Platte Bahn.


The Wengernalpbahn rack railway provides service to Kleine Scheidegg, at the base of the Jungfrau. Two lines are operated: Lauterbrunnen to Kl. Scheidegg and Grindelwald to Kl. Scheidegg. At Kl. Scheidegg, passengers can transfer to the Jungfraubahn to ride up the Jungfrau. Construction on the line began in 1891 and it opened in the summer of 1892. Originally operated with steam locomotives, electrification was completed in 1910 and the steam engines retired in 1912. The power car of the train is typically located in the downhill position so trains do not operate through Kl. Scheidegg down the other side, although a wye track is provided to turn trains there if required. The total length of track is approximately 19km, making it the longest rack railway in the world. Maximum speed of the trains is around 28km/h, and the trip takes longer going down than up owing to the braking required to safely maneouver the steep gradients. Yards and shops are located at Lauterbrunnen and Grund (near Grindelwald). In addition to passengers the railway also handles a freight service, bringing goods up the mountain to car-free Kl. Scheidegg and Wengen.


The Jungfraubahn rack railway runs 9km from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. The station is located inside the mountain! There are two stations inside the tunnel where passengers can look out windows onto the mountain scenery. Construction began in 1896 and the line was completed to the Jungfraujoch station in 1912. The Jungfraubahn is meter-gauge, like the "BOB", whereas the Wengernalpbahn, and Schynige Platte Bahn are both 800mm. A nonstop trip from Interlaken Ost to the Jungfraujoch takes 2 hours, 17 minutes, thus a round trip stopping off in Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, and Lauterbrunnen is easily a day's worth of time.

Schynige Platte Bahn

The Schynige Platte Bahn is also a rack railway, running from Wilderswil (where passengers arrive on the "BOB") up the Schynige Platte mountain, a distance of 7.6km and a running time of approximately 45 minutes. Trains are operated with an electric rack locomotive on the downhill side and one or two unmotored coaches being pushed up the hill. Construction started in 1891 and opened in 1893, originally with steam powered locomotives, but electrified in 1914. Occasionally on weekends in the summer a steam locomotive is still used for special fan trips. Electric locomotives 11-14 all date from 1914, the others (15-21) from the 1960s-1970s, and the 61-63 range of locomotives from 1989-1996.

Lauterbrunnen-Mürren Bergbahn

Another mountain railway in the region is the Lauterbrunnen-Mürren Bergbahn, which consists of a cablecar (formerly a funicular) from the Lauterbrunnen valley, and a electric narrow gauge railway from Grütschalp to Mürren. The railway opened in 1891.


The Zentralbahn railway runs from Interlaken Ost to Luzern via Brienz and Meiringen over the Brünig Pass. The portion from Interlaken Ost to Meiringen is a standard traction railway like any other, but over the pass is operated as a rack railway. Special locomotives are used for this service. If one was traveling from Interlaken to Zürich, using the Brünig Pass railway takes about an hour longer than the usual trip via Bern, but is much more scenic. Departing Interlaken Ost, the line hugs the shoreline of the Brienzersee to Brienz, then along the valley floor to Meiringen. Changing direction at Meiringen, the train heads up the pass stopping at Brünig-Hasliberg at the top and then descending into Lungern. The rest of the ride parallels several lakes and rivers and ends in Luzern. The Golden Pass Railway, with large-windowed observation cars, also operates from Interlaken (starting in Montreux) to Luzern via Interlaken over these same tracks. The town of Meirigen is the gateway to the Gotthard Pass region, where there are several Post Bus tour routes up through the passes.

Funiculars and Cablecars

Several other funiculars and cablecars can be found in the region, for instance the funicular located at the Harder Kulm in Interlaken, and from Mülenen (near Spiez) to the peak at Niesen; and the cablecars at Mürren-Schilthorn, Gimmelwald-Mürren, Gimmelwald-Stechelberg, Wengen-Mannlichen, Grund-Mannlichen, Grindelwald-Pfingstegg, Grindelwald-First, Brienz-Rothorn, and probably a dozen others in the mountains around Interlaken, Brienz, Spiez, Kandersteg, and Gstaad.


Map of the Jungfrau Region (PDF)

Berner Oberland Map

Photo Gallery

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Interlaken Ost

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Location: Lauterbrunnen

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Location: Lauterbrunnen

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Location: Wengernalp

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Wengernalp

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Location: Wengernalp

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Location: Kleine Scheidegg

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Location: Grindelwald

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Between Grindelwald and Zweilütschinen

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Wilderswil

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Location: Wilderswil

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Location: Wilderswil

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Location: Wilderswil

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Location: Rotenegg

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