A comprehensive Guide to Swiss Mountain Railways

Taking a train ride on a spectacular Swiss Tourist/Mountain Railway is one of the more accessible of those '100 Things You Must Do...' experiences.
All of the railway lines and trains featured below offer journeys with a wow factor and this guide to Swiss Mountain Railways shows you how to take these incredible trips.

You'll see below that many different independent/private companies operate these lines, they're mainly not managed by the Swiss national rail operator, SBB, or the other main rail company in Switzerland, BLS.

Many of these lines were constructed in order to provide access to mountain resort towns, hence the guide to travelling to Swiss ski resorts by train includes many of these railways.

However, the fact that so many different companies operate the Swiss Mountain Railways and that there are so many routes to choose from, can seem bewildering - hence the info we have provided below!
Eight fabulous views from Swiss Mountain Railways

Where were these pictures were taken?

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Which line goes to?

Click on the name of the destinations:

Andermatt
   l   Arosa   l   Davos

Engelberg   l   Grindelwald   l   Gstaad

Klosters   l   Poschiavo   l   St Moritz

Verbier   l   Wengen   l   Zermatt

BOOKING AND USING TICKETS:

In summary:

(1) The companies which operate these railways don't offer discounted tickets.

(2) Seat reservations also aren't  typically available on the standard trains - though they can be booked when travelling on the Brienz-Rothurn-Bahn, on the MOB trains on its Montreux - Zwiesimmen route and on the Luzern-Interlaken Express.

Other notable notable exceptions, on which seat reservations are available include journeys by
The Bernina Express and The Glacier Express and The Gotthard Panorama Express

(3) As will be seen below not all of these railways offer online booking, but despite the lack of discounted tickets, there are two factors which make an online booking worthwhile when it is an option:

(i) You'll save the time of having to book tickets at the station - the timetables are usually arranged to allow less than 5 minutes between the arrival of a mainline train and the departure of the mountain train.

(ii) Many of the stations on this network of Swiss independent railways only have ticket machines - and in our experience these ticket machine can be particularly awkward to use.


(4) If you will be commencing a journey at station on the national rail network in Switzerland, the SBB online ticket booking service will usually sell tickets for end-to-end journeys which involve taking a mainline SBB or BLS train AND a train operated by an independent railway
More info is available HERE.

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USING RAIL PASSES:

A big plus for using a rail pass in Switzerland is the access they provide to the trains operated by these independent railway companies.

Whether you will be travelling with an InterRail, Eurail, Swiss Travel Pass or a Saver Day Pass you can hop on many of these independently managed trains - in addition to the national SBB and BLS trains.

On the list of these independent railway companies below, we summarise whether you can travel on them for free with a rail pass, or whether a rail pass enables you to travel at a discounted rate.

When the rail pass does enable travel at a discount, you will usually need to visit a ticket office at the station in order to obtain your discounted ticket, before you board the trains.

You will notice that the conditions of using each type of pass can vary - there are more routes/trains on which Swiss Travel Passes or Saver Day Pass users can travel for free, in comparison to using Eurail and InterRail passes within Switzerland.

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RAIL PASS ITINERARIES: 

These itnerary ideas have worked out the simplest routes which link these railways and connect them to Basel, Olten and Zurich, so that you can easily travel on multiple lines during a Swiss holiday.

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THE MOST SCENIC TRAINS AND LINES:

Click on the links within the info below to access practical travel information including- access to websites, ticket booking links and on the SMTJ guides there are tips for how to see the best of the views.

The Railways:

This is a list of the independent railways in Switzerland, which either serve a tourist resort or area, or are simply recommended because the routes they follow are fabulously beautiful.

1. AB - The Appenzeller Bahn

A network of lines, with services generally at 30 min intervals, centred on the resort of Appenzell, which  has connections to/from the SBB main lines at Gossau and St Gallen stations.

Both Gossau and St Gallen have regular direct trains from/to Zurich, Zurich Airport and Winterthur – though the trains from these destinations call at Gossau before St Gallen, so change at Gossau for the AB Trains.

Jakobsbad station on the AB network is adjacent to the Kronberg cable car also operated by AB.

Online ticket booking is not available for regular journeys solely by AB trains - Though special excursion journeys can be booked online.

Eurail & InterRail = 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Pass = free travel

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2. The BAM Railway (Chemin de fer Bière-Apples-Morges)

There is a branch line between the main line station at Morges (served by local trains between Geneva and Lausanne) and the village of Apples.
At Apples connections are available to another BAM line which operates to the village of L’isle-Mont-La-Ville


Tickets between SBB stations and BAM stations can be booked online on the SBB booking service - online ticket booking is not available for regular journeys solely by BAM trains.

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass =  free travel

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3. The BLM Railway 
Lauterbrunnen <> 
Mürren


The BLM line links Lauterbrunnen station (on the BOB lines) with the popular village of Mürren which is inaccessible by road.
Adjacent to Lauterbrunnen station is a cable car operated by BLM that takes passengers up to the BLM station at Grutschalp from where BLM trains operate to Mürren.
Tickets between Lauterbrunnen and Mürren are valid on both the cable car and the train.

To travel between Interlaken Ost station and Mürren, the route is:

(1) travel by B.O.B. train from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen station
(2) travel from Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp by cable car
(3) travel from Grutschalp to Mürren by BLM train.

At the opposite end of Mürren village to the BLM station, is the cable car which gives access to the Schilthorn winter sports area.

Tickets for the complete journey from Interlaken to Mürren can be booked here.
Tickets between SBB stations and Mürren can be booked on the SBB booking service - though take care not to search for journeys to Murren (with an ordinary ‘u’).

Eurail = 25% discount
InterRail = no discount
Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Passesfree travel

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4. BOB (The Bernese Oberland Railway)
Interlaken Ost - Wilderswill - Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on BOB trains


Connect with SPB trains at Wilderswill and with WAB trains at Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.
Connect with mainline trains at Interlaken Ost

Tickets can be booked online - click on the 'Plan & Book' link on the menu

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = 25% discount

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5. BRB (The Brienz Rothorn Bahn)  


A 7.5km long rack railway operated solely by steam engines in the summer months only, from early June to mid-October.

Brienz BRB station is adjacent to Brienz station on the ZB line between Lucerne and Interlaken.
The station at the summit is named Rothorn Kulm.

Tickets including seat reservations can be booked online.
Journeys between SBB stations and Rothorn Kulm CANNOT be booked on the SBB booking service.

Eurail and InterRail = no discount
Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = 50% discount
 

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6. GGB Gornergrat-Bahn 
Zermatt <> 
Gornergrat

A spectacular railway between Zermatt (see MGB lines) and the highest open air station in Europe at Gornergrat.
The GGB station in Zermatt is across the street from the MGB station.

As its colloquial name implies the line offers spectacular views of the Matterhorn mountain, the mountain railway scenes in the TV series 'The Night Manager' were filmed on the GGB.

Tickets can be booked online
GGB tickets are fairly expensive but a 30% discount can be obtained when booking through tickets to Gornergrat at SBB stations.

Eurail & InterRail = no discount
Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass =50% discount

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7. F.A.R.T (Ferrovie Autollinee Regionali Ticines) Also known as the Centovali Railway
Locarno <> Domodossola

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on F.A.R.T. trains

Connect with mainline trains at Locarno and at Domodossola, the latter station is in Italy, but Swiss Travel Passes and Saver Day Passes are valid on Swiss Regional and IC trains between the Swiss border (at Brig) and Domodossola.

Tickets can be booked online

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass =  free travel

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8. JB (The Jungfrau Railway
Kleine Scheidegg <> Jungfraujoch

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on the JB trains

Connect with WAB trains at Kleine Scheidegg 

Tickets can be booked online - click on the 'Plan & Book' link on the menu

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = 25% discount

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9. MG (The Monte Generoso Railway) 
Capolago <> Generoso Vetta

Connect with mainline trains at Capolago served by local trains travelling between Lugano and Chiasso

Eurail & InterRail =  no discount
Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = 50% discount

Online ticket booking is not available for journeys solely by MG trains.

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10. MGB (The Matterhorn-Gotthard Railway) Summer Service and Winter Service
Zermatt - 
Täsch - Visp - Brig - Andermatt - Disentis/Muster and Göschenen

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on the MGB trains

Connect with GGB trains at Zermatt and with RhB trains at Disentis/Muster 
Connect with mainline trains at Brig, Goschenen and Visp

Tickets can be booked online

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass= free travel

MGB trains give access to the following skiing/winter sports areas - Aletsch Arena and Andermatt - Gemsstock - Nätschen and  Disentis  and Saas Fee  and Saas Grund.

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11. MOB (The Montreux Oberland Bernois Railway) 
Montreux <> 
Zweisimmen via Gstaad
Lenk <> Zweisimmen

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on the MOB trains

Connect with mainline trains at Montreux and Zweisimmen - take trains to Interlaken via Spiez, in order to travel the full length of the classic 'Golden Pass' route on to Luzern.
MOB operates numerous special train services including 'The Chocolate Train' and offers ccess to the Lenk-Simmental  winter sports area.

Tickets can be booked online

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = free travel on standard, panoramic and Belle-Epoque services

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12. MVR (The Montreux Vevey Riviera Railway) 
Montreux <> 
Rochers-De-Naye
Vevey <>  Les Pleiades

Connect with mainline trains at Montreux.

Eurail = no discount
InterRail = 25-50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Pass = free travel

Online ticket booking is not available for journeys solely by MVR trains.

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13. NStCM (The Nyon St Cerque Morez Railway  
Nyon <> to the popular winter sports resort at St-Cerque

Connect with mainline trains at Nyon, served by trains travelling between Geneve and Lausanne.

Tickets between SBB stations and NStCM stations can be booked on the SBB booking service.
Using SBB’s booking service is recommended, as tickets can’t be purchased on the NStCM website, and its ticket machines aren’t the easiest to understand.

Eurail = free travel
InterRail = 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Pass = free travel

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14. PB (The Pilatus Bahn) 
Alpnachstad <> Pilatus-Kulm
Connects with ZB trains at Alpnachstad

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on the Pilatus Bahn

Eurail & InterRail = 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Pass = free travel

Online ticket booking is not available for journeys solely by the Pilatus Bahn.

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15. RB (The Rigi Bahn) 
Vitznau <> Rigi-Kulm
Arth-Goldau <> Rigi-Kulm (Connect with mainline trains at Arth-Goldau)

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on the Rigi Bahn

Tickets can be booked online 

Eurail & InterRail = 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Pass = free travel

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16. RhB (The Rhaetian Railway) 

Multiple routes in south east Switzerland connecting Chur, Davos, Disentis/Muster, Arosa, Klosters, Landquart, St Moritz and Tirano.

Tickets for regular and special trains can be booked online

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on the Rhaetian Railway

Connect with MGB trains at Disentis/Muster
Connect with mainline trains at Chur and Landquart

Access to the following winter sports areas - Corviglia and Disentis and Flims Laax Falera and Obersaxen-Mundau and Parsenn and 
Scuol Motta Naluns.

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass= free travel

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17. SOB (The SudOstBahn) 

A network of lines that comprises routes mainly used by commuters in the St Gallen area, but the route between St Gallen and Watwill also includes Switzerland’s highest railway bridge – the Sitter viaduct.
The Voralpen Express operates over SOB lines between St Gallen and Watwill.

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = free travel

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18. SPB (The Schynige Platte Railway) 
Wilderswill <> 
Schynige Platte

Connect with BOB trains at Wilderswill

Tickets can be booked online - click on the 'Plan & Book' link on the menu

The SMTJ guide to travelling to travelling on the Schynige Platte Railway

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = 25% discount

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19. TMR (Transports de Martigny et Regions Railway) 
The routes of The Mont Blanc Express and The St Bernard Express

The SMTJ guide to travelling on The Mont Blanc Express route


Connect with mainline trains at Martigny.

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = free travel

Access to the Verbier/4 Vallées winter sports area.

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20. TPC (The Transport Publics du Chablais Railway)

The SMTJ guide to travelling on the TPC trains

Connections from Aigle and Bex station with ac
cess to the ski resorts at Champery, Les Diablerets and Leysin.

Tickets between SBB stations and stations served by the TPC trains  can be booked on the SBB booking service.
Online ticket booking is not available for journeys solely by TPC trains.

Eurail & InterRail = 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass and  Saver Day Pass = free travel

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21. WAB (The Wengeralpbahn) 
Lauterbrunnen <> Kleine Scheidegg via Wengen
Grindelwald <> Kleine Scheidegg

The SMTJ guide to travelling on the Wengeralpbahn

Connect with BOB trains at Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen and with JB trains at Kleine Scheidegg

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = 25% discount

Tickets can be booked online - click on the 'Plan & Book' link on the menu

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22. ZB (The Zentralbahn) 
Luzern <> Interlaken
Luzern <> Engelberg

The SMTJ guide to travelling on the Zentralbahn and the Luzern - Interlaken Express

Connect with mainline trains at Interlaken Ost and Luzern
Connect with BRB trains at Brienz and with PB trains at Alpnachstad (the Luzern - Interlaken Express trains do not call at Alpnachstad.

Tickets can be booked online for jouneys on the Luzern - Interlaken Express.

Eurail; InterRail; Swiss Travel Pass; Saver Day Pass = free travel

Has access to these winter sports areas - Meiringen - Hasliberg and  Engelberg Titlis.

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Special Trains:

We have singled out these trains because the Swiss tourist information services also highlights these services.

You don't have to travel by these trains to explore these routes, some of which are taken by mainline trains, but they offer either convenience, or a special on-board experience, or both.

What can make these trains special is:

- They can have particularly large windows to maximise the views.
- They can provide direct services on routes on which taking regular trains, would require multiple connections.
- They can still provide a local service on spectacular routes which have now been abandoned by express trains.
Special trains of Switzerland
1
. The Bernina Express (large windows and a direct service)

2. The Glacier Express (large windows and a direct service)

3. The Gotthard Panorama Express (large windows in 1st class and a direct service)

4. The Lötschberger (local service)
Has access to the Adelboden, Saas Fee and Saas Grund skiing areas.

5. The Voralpen Express (direct service)

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The 'Golden Pass' Route:

If you will be travelling with a rail pass, this route between Montreux and Luzern, is a fabulously scenic and useful connection between Lake Geneva and central Switzerland - a great alternative to the direct IR trains between Geneva and Luzern.

You can't take direct trains on this 'Golden Pass' route, but the required connections in Zweissimen and Interlaken Ost stations couldn't be more straightforward and the trains are timed to minimize the transfer time.

West to east the route is:

(1) MOB trains from Montreux to Zweissimen
(2) BLS (standard gauge trains) from Zweissimen to Interlaken Ost*
(3) The Luzern - Interlaken Express between Interlaken Ost and Luzern.

So reverse the combination when travelling east to west.

*In some hours an additional change of train is required in Spiez, but this can be avoided if you depart from:

Montreux at 09:44; 11:44; 13: and 15:44

Luzern at 07:05; 11:05; 13:05 and 15:05

What can be confusing is that MOB applies 'Golden Pass' branding to its trains, which only travel on the part of the route between Montreux to Zweissimen.


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ADDITIONAL USEFUL INFO:
 

So you want to travel on more than one of these railways = a great idea, but some more insider knowledge, than we could fit on this already epic page, would probably be useful.

Hence we've come up with these 10 tips, which will add to your enjoyment of exploring these incredible mountain railways.

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RAIL PASS ITINERARIES:

Look at the Swiss Rail map, and the ‘Grand Tour of Switzerland' railway routes are marked.
However, our suggested itineraries includes the 'Grand Tour' rail routes, PLUS a few extra lines, which we think should also be on the 'must-do' list.

The itineraries are all for eight days as there is a Swiss Travel Pass valid for 8 Days, which can be made the most of, if you follow the suggested routes - or you can use 3 or 4 Day Passes to travel on your pick of the suggestions.
Or use Saver Day Passes to travel on one or two routes.

An InterRail or Eurail pass valid in Switzerland, can be also be used on all of these suggested itineraries, you don't have to use a Swiss Travel Pass.

A big plus of exploring Switzerland with a rail pass (Eurail, InterRail, Swiss Travel Pass or Saver Day Pass) is the easy connections between trains - all of the suggested routes can be completed in a day.
You shouldn't ever have to wait more than 30 mins for the next train to depart from any of the stations.

To make your explorations as simple as possible, it can make sense to base yourself in one location, so that you can loop back to your accommodation at the end of each day.
Do that and you also won't have to cart your luggage around Switzerland.

Hence the itineraries have been designed so that you can spend each night of your holiday in the same location, while exploring Switzerland.

Journeys with red arrows are those when Eurail and InterRail pass users have to pay a reduced fee.
Journeys with green arrows are those on which ALL rail passes including Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Pass. users have to pay a reduced fee.

FROM BASEL:

1: The Golden Pass route: Basel – Visp – Montreux – Zweisimmen – Spiez – Interlaken Ost – Luzern – Basel

2: The Glacier/Bernina Express  route #1: Basel – Chur – Samedan – Pontresina – Tirano – Pontresina – Samedan – Chur – Zurich – Basel

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Basel – Visp – Zermatt – Visp – Andermatt – Disentis/Muster – Chur – Zurich – Basel

4: The Centovali and The Gotthard Express route: Basel – Brig – Domodossola – Locarno – Bellinzona – Erstfeld – Basel

5: Mount Rigi and Wilhelm Tell Express route: Basel –  Luzern → boat to Vitznau Rigi-Kulm Arth-Goldau – Fluelen boat to Luzern – Basel

6: The Bernese-Oberland: Basel – Interlaken Ost Grindelwald  Kleine Scheidegg Jungfaujoch Kleine Scheidegg Lauterbrunnen  Interlaken Ost – Basel

7: The Voralpen Express and Schaffhausen Falls: Basel – Zurich – Schaffhausen – St Galllen - Luzern - Basel

8: Mont Blanc  and The Lotschberger: Basel – Biel – Lausanne – Martigny – Vallorcine – Chamonix-Mont Blanc – Vallorcine – Martigny – Brig – Thun/Bern via Kandersteg - Basel


FROM ZURICH:

1: The Golden Pass route: Zurich – Visp – Montreux – Zweisimmen – Spiez – Interlaken Ost – Luzern – Zurich

2: The Glacier/Bernina Express  route #1: Zurich – Chur – Samedan – Pontresina – Tirano – Pontresina – Samedan – Chur – Zurich

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Zurich – Visp – Zermatt – Visp – Andermatt – Disentis/Muster – Chur – Zurich

4: The Centovali and The Gotthard Express route: Zurich – Brig – Domodossola – Locarno – Bellinzona – Erstfeld – Zurich

5: Mount Rigi and Wilhelm Tell Express route: Zurich – Luzern boat to Vitznau Rigi-Kulm Arth-Goldau – Fluelen boat to Luzern – Zurich

6: The Bernese-Oberland: Zurich - Spiez – Interlaken Ost Lauterbrunnen Kleine Scheidegg Jungfaujoch Kleine Scheidegg Grindelwald Interlaken Ost – Bern - Zurich

7: The Voralpen Express and Schaffhausen Falls: Zurich – Schaffhausen – St Galllen - Luzern - Zurich

8: Mont Blanc  and The Lotschberger: Zurich – Lausanne – Martigny – Vallorcine – Chamonix-Mont Blanc – Vallorcine – Martigny – Brig – Thun/Bern via Kandersteg - Zurich

FROM OLTEN*:

1: The Golden Pass route: Olten – Visp – Montreux – Zweisimmen – Spiez – Interlaken Ost – Luzern – Olten

2: The Glacier/Bernina Express  route #1: Olten - Zurich – Chur – Samedan – Pontresina – Tirano – Pontresina – Samedan – Chur – Zurich – Olten

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Olten – Visp – Zermatt – Visp – Andermatt – Disentis/Muster – Chur – Zurich – Olten

4: The Centovali and The Gotthard Express route: Olten – Brig – Domodossola – Locarno – Bellinzona – Erstfeld – Olten

5: Mount Rigi and Wilhelm Tell Express route: Olten – Luzern boat to Vitznau Rigi-Kulm Arth-Goldau – Fluelen boat to Luzern – Olten

6: The Bernese-Oberland: Olten – Interlaken Ost Lauterbrunnen  Kleine Scheidegg  Jungfaujoch Kleine Scheidegg Grindelwald Interlaken Ost – Olten

7: The Voralpen Express and Schaffhausen Falls: Olten – Zurich – Schaffhausen – St Galllen - Luzern - Olten

8: Mont Blanc  and The Lotschberger: Olten - Visp – Martigny – Vallorcine – Chamonix-Mont Blanc – Vallorcine – Martigny – Brig – Thun/Bern via Kandersteg - Olten

*Olten is the central hub of the Swiss rail system so it makes a great base for exploring Switzerland by train and its room rates tend to much lower than staying in Basel or Zurich
It also has a charming old town in which to have a meal/drink after your day of travels.

Or if you don't want to stay in the same location every night, National Geographic has published this great guide to following the 'Grand Tour of Switzerland' route

The Concierge Service can help with planning a tailor made itinerary for exploring these mountain railways with a Swiss Travel Pass or an InterRail pass.

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WHERE WERE THE PICTURES TAKEN?

Clockwise from top left:
1 - From an MGB train between Andermatt and Disentis
2 - On the RhB line between St Moritz and Chur
3 - From an RB train between Rigi-Kulm at Vitznau
4 - On the Luzern-Interlaken Express between Meiringen and Luzern
5 - From a MOB train ascending from Montreux
6 -
On an MGB train between Andermatt and Disentis
7 - From a WAB train between Wengen and Lauterbrunnen
8 - On the RhB line Tirano and St Moritz