True 10 Things Re Swiss Mountain Railways

10 Things Re Swiss Mountain Railways

We're big fans of exploring Switzerland by train, particularly with a rail pass, so these tips on on our guide to travelling Swiss mountain railways should help you make the most of your rail adventure.


The info below should help make sense of the Swiss Railway network and hopefully enhance the incredible rail travel experiences that await you!

1: These mountain railways are operated independently of each other AND the Swiss national rail operator SBB.

Therefore each of these companies sets its own timetables and ticket prices.

2 Tickets:

Most of the Swiss independent railways don't sell tickets online, but as discounted tickets for standard point-2-point journeys are never available - you won't lose out if you book last minute at the station.

If you will be travelling to/from the independent railway by SBB or BLS train, a good option can be booking a through journey on the SBB website - which includes the mainline train AND the mountain railway train.

This can give peace of mind for two reasons; 

(i) the connections at stations can be tightly timed, so you can avoid having to book tickets for the mountain railway against the clock,

(ii) also at some mountain railway stations you can only purchase tickets from the ticket machines, and the machines don't always have English language options.

Or if you want to wait until arriving in Switzerland before booking a ticket, go to a SBB ticket desk and book a ticket for the end-2-end journey which includes the SBB train + the journey on the independent railway.

Before booking journey tickets which solely involve travelling on the mountaon railway, it can be worth seeing what package deals are available on the railway's website.

You can often save if you combine a train journey with a journey on a cable car etc.

3: The Special Trains:

The Trains we've highlighted on the guide are special because they either: 

- travel over multiple routes (often including those operated by different railway companies),

- travel comparatively long distances,

- save the need to change trains.

and some are operated by Swiss national operator SBB.

4: The Lines/Routes - Branch Lines:

Some of these independent railway lines are in effect branch lines - they travel between a junction station with another railway and a mountain summit and/or ski resort.

Companies operating this type of line include – AB, BAM, CGB, MVR, NStCM, PB, RB, SOB and TPC.

Note the abbreviations that have been used to designate each line/company.

5: The Lines/Routes - Networks:

Other independent railways connect multiple towns/cities and provide useful (but spectacular) networks and links between different regions of Switzerland.

Companies operating these lines/networks include:

6: The Bernese-Oberland Network:

There is also a network of connected independent railways accessible from Interlakenthey are the BOB, BLM, JB, SPB and WAB.

To Jungfraujoch by train from Interlaken

You need to use this network of lines to travel between Interlaken and Europe's highest station at Jungfraujoch.

7: Itineraries - locations in which to be based:

If you want to tick as many of these independent mountain railways off as possible, on a fabulous rail pass itinerary, then basing yourself in Basel, Bern or Zurich can be a good idea.

Fast trains connect these cities to all of these mountain railways in under two hours, except for the Centovali/FART line - but a day trip to travel on the Centovali is also highly feasible from these cities.

8: Using Rail Passes:

Ticket prices on some of these independent railways can seem comparatively expensive, but Swiss Travel Pass, Saver Day Pass, Eurail and InterRail holders can often travel for free or at a discount - details are included within each line's summary.

9: Factoring in the weather:

Check the weather forecast in depth before heading off to explore the mountain railways.
At the risk of stating the obvious, there’s not much point in heading off to appreciate the scenery if the visibility is poor.

In particular don’t assume that because visibility is poor in your location, that it will also be inclement in the area that you want to explore.

In Switzerland the weather tends to vary between valleys, it’s possible to enter a train tunnel in pouring rain and then emerge a few minutes later, on the other side of a mountain, into a sunny day.

These views below were captured within 5 mins of each other!

Also don’t dismiss making journeys because the weather isn't perfect.

If you want to take photos, then sunny days are best avoided - because usually you’ll only be able to capture great images from one side of the train.
Cloudy days can also make many landscapes more atmospheric.

On days when clouds are obscuring the tops of mountains, explore the lower altitude lines such as the Centovalli (FART) or the ZB.

10: Alternatives to the independent railways:

You don't have to travel on one of the independent railways to experience stunning Alpine landscapes by train.

The images below have been taken from regular main line trains.

Regular SBB trains take these highly scenic routes through the mountains:

(i) Zurich and Luzern - Erstfeld

(ii) Erstfeld - Bellinzona - Lugano

(iii) Belllinzona - Chiasso

(iv) Thun - Interlaken Ost

(v) Thun - Visp** - Brig via Kandersteg (the route of The Lotschberger trains)

(vi) Lausanne - Montreux - Aigle - Bex - Martigny - Sion - Sierre* - Visp** - Brig

(vii) Zurich - Sargans - Chur/Buchs (connect at Sargans for local trains to Unterterzen station - located 5 mins from the cable car station that gives access to the Flumserberg winter sports area)

*Sierre station has bus links to the Crans Montana and val d'Anniviers winter sports areas.

**Visp station has bus links to the  Saas Fee  and Saas Grund  winter sports areas.

Swiss Mountain Railways Guide:

General Swiss Train Travel Guide: