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

(Though some routes taken by SBB and BLS trains, can be as scenic as those taken by the trains on these independently operated mountain railways).

Many of these lines were constructed in order to provide access to mountain resort towns, so if you'll be travelling to a Swiss ski resort by train - you'll find all the info you need HERE.

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?

BOOKING AND USING TICKETS:

In summary:

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

(2) Seat reservations also aren't available on the standard trains.

The notable exceptions are journeys by
The Bernina Express and The Glacier Express and The Gotthard Panorama Express

(3) To access the ticket info for each specific railway, click on the names of the companies on the list below.

(4) 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;

(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.


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

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 also hop on most of these 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.

On the routes taken by the trains operated by the companies, we have marked as 'free travel', you can just hop on the trains with your pass.

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 Passes can travel for free, in comparison to using Eurail and InterRail passes within Switzerland.

You can get an idea of which rail pass will suit you on our Using Rail Passes in Switzerland GUIDE.

RAIL PASS ITINERARIES: 

Click HERE to jump to our ideas for taking the simplest routes, for experiencing as many of these scenic journeys as possible on your trip.

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THE MOST SCENIC TRAINS AND LINES:

Click on the name of the operator below to access further information including - access to their various websites, including ticket booking links, how to use rail passes and 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 stunning.

Note that some companies operate branch lines between a Swiss mainline station and a resort, but others operate networks of multiple routes that enable travel through specific areas in Switzerland

1. AB  (Gossau - Appenzell and St Gallen - Appenzell)

Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with mainline trains at St Gallen

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2. BAM (Morges - Apples -  L’isle-Mont-La-Ville)

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with mainline trains at Morges

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3. BLM (Lauterbrunnen - Mürren) 

Eurail & InterRail - 25% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connects with BOB trains to/from Interlaken and Wilderswill.

Access to the Schilthorn winter sports area

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4. BOB (Interlaken Ost - Wilderswill - Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen)

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 25% discount

Connects with SPB trains at Wilderswill and with WAB trains at Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.

Connect with mainline trains at Interlaken Ost

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5. BRB (Breinz - Rothorn Kulm)

Eurail & InterRail -  no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 50% discount

Connects with ZB trains at Brienz

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6. CGB (Zermatt - Gornergrat)

Eurail & InterRail -  no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 50% discount

Connects with MGB trains at Zermatt

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7. FART (Locarno - Domodossola) Route of the 'Centovali Express'

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass//Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with mainline trains at Locarno

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8. JB (Kleine Scheidegg - Jungfraujoch)

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass - 25% discount

Connects with WAB trains at Kleine Scheidegg 

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9. MG (Capolago - Generoso Vetta)

Eurail & InterRail -  no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 50% discount

Connect with mainline trains at Capolago

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10. MGB (Zermatt - Täsch - Visp - Brig - Andermatt - Disentis/Muster and Göschenen) 

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with CGB trains at Zermatt and with RhB trains at Disentis/Muster 

Connect with mainline trains at Brig, Goschenen and Visp

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 (Montreux - Zweisimmen via Gstaad and Lenk - Zweisimmen) 

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass//Saver Day Pass - free travel on standard, panoramic and Belle-Epoque services

MOB operates numerous special train services including 'The Chocolate Train'

Connect with mainline trains at Montreux and Zweisimmen

Access to the Lenk-Simmental  winter sports area.

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12. MVR (Montreux - Rochers-De-Naye and Vevey -  Les Pleiades)

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

Connect with mainline trains at Montreux

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13. NTSCM  (Nyon - St-Cerque)

Eurail - free travel
InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with mainline trains at Nyon

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14. PB (Alpnachstad - Pilatus-Kulm)

Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with ZB trains at Alpnachstad

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15. RB (to Rigi-Kulm station on Mt. Rigi)

Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with mainline trains at Arth-Goldau

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16. RhB (multiple routes in south east Switzerland connecting Chur, Davos, Disentis/Muster, Arosa, Klosters, Landquart, St Moritz and Tirano)

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

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.

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17. SOB (from/to St Gallen)

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with mainline trains at St Gallen

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18. SPB  (Wilderswill - Schynige Platte)
Eurail - 25% discount
InterRail - no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 25% discount

Connect with BOB trains at Wilderswill

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19. TMR (routes of The Mont Blanc Express and The St Bernard Express) 

Eurail - free travel
InterRail -  free travel
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Connect with mainline trains at Martigny

Access to the Verbier/4 Vallées winter sports area.

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20. TPC (connections from Aigle and Bex stations)

Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Acess to the ski resorts at Champery, Les Diablerets and Leysin.

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21. WAB  (Lauterbrunnen - Kleine Scheidegg via Wengen and Grindelwald - Kleine Scheidegg)

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 25% discount

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

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22. ZB (route of the Luzern - Interlaken Express) 

Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Access to these winter sports areas -  Meiringen - Hasliberg and  Engelberg Titlis

Connect with BRB trains at Brienz and with PB trains at Alpnachstad.

Connect with mainline trains at Interlaken Ost and Luzern


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:

(i) They can have particularly large windows to maximise the views.

(ii) They can provide direct services on routes on which taking regular trains, would require multiple connections.

(iii) 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)


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.


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 10 tips, which will add to your enjoyment of exploring these incredible mountain railways.



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.

An InterRail or Eurail pass valid in Switzerland can be used on all of the suggested trains, so 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 we've put together these suggested itineraries below, so that you can stay in one place 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 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 Viznau 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 Viznau 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 Viznau 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.

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