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The Slowest Fast Train in the World: Combining Modern with Traditional

The Slowest Fast Train in the World: Combining Modern with Traditional
photo: Glacier Express/The Slowest Fast Train in the World: Combining Modern with Traditional
15 / 01 / 2023

The Glacier Express is the world's slowest high-speed train running in the Swiss Alps. The fact that it is the slowest is not meant in any pejorative way. On the contrary, it is used for scenic adventure rides that give you an incredible insight into the Swiss countryside.

Glacier Express history

  • The Golden Twenties

When a wealthy company discovered the magic of the Swiss Alps, once-isolated mountain villages like Zermatt and St. Moritz were transformed into cosmopolitan resorts. 

The operators of the three railway companies Visp-Zermatt-Bahn (VZ), Rhaetian Railways (RhB) and Furka Oberalp Bahn (FOB) successfully exploited the tourist potential of the continuous Valais-Graubünden line, opened in 1926. 

  • First run in 1930

After the opening of the Visp - Brig line, the glacier expresses from Zermatt to St. Moritz ran for the first time on 25 June 1930. The trains were made up of elegant saloons and coaches with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class coaches, and on the St Moritz – Disentis route, with dining cars. On the Visp-Zermatt-Bahn (VZ) and RhB lines, the most modern electric locomotives of the time - the so-called crocodiles - were deployed. The not yet electrified FOB used HG 3/4 steam locomotives. 

In the 1990s, members of the Furka-Bergstrecke association managed to bring the steam locomotives shipped to Vietnam in 1947 back to Switzerland, where they caused a real boom.

  • The world's slowest express train

At the beginning of the 1940s, the electric operation was introduced on the Furka-Oberalp network, and on 1 September 1942, the official celebration of the continued electrification of the Brig - Disentis line took place. During the chaos of the Second World War, the high-speed train service was suspended in 1943 and resumed again in 1948 with minor modifications, for example, without the elegant saloon cars but with dining cars available up to the Oberalp Pass. The Glacier Express also benefited from the technological advances of the 1950s and 1960s. Faster railway motive power led to shorter journey times for the "world's slowest express train". Comfortable carriages and the addition of a dining car to Andermatt further increased the appeal of the Glacier Express.

  • Year-round operation of the Glacier Express

On 1 January 1961, the Furka Oberalp Bahn (FOB) dissolved its administrative partnership with the BVZ (formerly known as Visp-Zermatt-Bahn VZ) and was since then managed under its railway administration in Brig. Until 1982, the Glacier Express ran only in summer due to the Furka's mountain sections being dangerous in winter. After the construction of the Furka base tunnel between Oberalp and Realp began in 1973, it was finally possible to travel through the tunnel on 26 June 1982. Since then, the Glacier Express has been running all year round!

  • Premium tourism product

Thanks to state-of-the-art technology and targeted marketing measures, the Glacier Express was transformed into a distinctive premium Swiss tourism product in the 1980s and 1990s. Worldwide demand for this unique Swiss Alpine train continues unabated. Its success is due not only to extensive investments in infrastructure - such as modern materials in the carriages, like the climate-controlled panoramic carriages - but also to exclusive attractions, including impeccable food service, unique special excursions and a wide range of packages on the international tourism market.

  • Traditional yet modern

Glacier Express has remained true to its roots throughout the years, combining tradition with modern comfort. 

On 1 January 2003, Furka Oberalp Bahn (FOB) merged with Brig-Visp-Zermatt-Bahn (BVZ) to form what is now known as Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGBahn). Together with the Rhaetian Railway (RhB), it continues to cultivate and develop its tradition of offering top-class services and modern rolling stock.

Source: Glacier Express, iDNES.cz

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