The Pilatusbahn is the world’s steepest cogwheel railway and it operates from the end of May to mid-November only, between Alpnachstad and the spectacular summit station, Pilatus-Kulm, on Mount Pilatus.
When ascending the mountain the journey takes 30 minutes and for pretty much every second of the trip, the views are spectacular, though as the little red train, which resembles a mobile staircase, nears the summit, the views back down the mountain can be enjoyed from the left.
Mount Pilatus is by the shore of the Luzernsee, Lake Lucerne, so it's the views down on to this body of water, which dominates the view.
Though what makes the journey on the Pilatusbahn special is that when the train ascends above the tree line, it threads a path between the jagged peaks of the mountain.
Therefore, more than any other Swiss railway, it lives up to expectations of the experience of travelling up a mountain side by train.
Alpnachstad station is served by ZB (Zentralbahn) trains.
However, the ‘Luzern – Interlaken Express’ trains operated by ZB do NOT call at Alpnachstad, the only trains that do are the local trains between Luzern and Giswil.
So when travelling from by train from Interlaken, to access the Pilatusbahn, you need to change trains at Giswil.
Though the most popular option for making the transfer from Luzern to Alpnachstad is to take one of the Luzernsee cruise boats, as this boat ride is the first stage of the Golden Round Trip (see below).
The pier in Alpnachstad is a 5 minute walk from the station, though you need to take a subway under the busy road which separates them; and this subway can only be accessed by stairs.
This is the boat timetable.
The Golden Round Trip tickets include:
It's easiest to travel in this direction as the bus stop in Kriens is just to the right of the gondola base station, though if you take route/line 15, which stops by the base station, you'll then need to connect into line/route 1 at the bus station in Kriens.
However, if the weather is fine, this bus stop in Kriens town centre, used by route 1, is a 10 min walk from the cable car.
This trolleybus route/line 1, which will be heading to Ebikon, Fildern, makes several stops in Luzern city centre, including at the railway station.
Note that the prices shown below are at the full rate and not the Swiss Half-Card rate.
The Pilatusbahn website does not sell tickets for journeys involving the train ride by the Pilatusbahn between Alpnachstad and the summit station at Pilatus-Kulm online.
Return tickets can be booked at Alpnachstad station for journeys to Kriens via Pilatus-Kulm and Fränkmüntegg; the prices can be looked up here; these tickets are also know as 'Pilatus Excursion' tickets.
Though as far as SMTJ can tell, a return trip from Alpnachstad to Kriens and a return trip on the boat between Luzern and Alpnachstad has a combined cost of CHF120.
This compares with a Golden Round trip (including Luzern > boat to Alpnachstad > Krienz > trolleybus to Luzern) price of CHF103
Tickets for the return journey to Kriens, the 'Pilatus Excursion' tickets and the Golden Round trip tickets can also be booked at the Pilatus Bahn shop in Luzern, it is located here; but it closed on Monday.
Golden Round trip tickets can also be booked at the Tourist Information office in Luzern station.
The tickets for the boat to Alpnachstad can be purchased from the ticket office on the boat pier; and it also sells the the Golden Round Trip tickets.
Note that the round trip is only available from the end of May to mid November, because the Pilatus Railway is closed between these times.
Tickets between SBB stations and Pilatus-Kulm station, for journeys via Alpnachstad, can be booked on the SBB booking service.
Though if you book on SBB you will have to exchange the ticket to ride on the Pilatusbahn at Alpnachstad station.
Eurail and InterRail
50% discount on the Pilatusbahn and on the gondola to Kreins.
Discounts are also available on the complete Golden Round Trip, that also includes the buses between Kriens and Luzern and the boat between Luzern and Alpnachstad.
Swiss Travel Pass
Free travel on the boat or train between Luzern and Alpnachstad + free travel on the bus/buses between Krienz and Luzern
Discounted rate on the train between Alpnachstad and Pilatus-Bahn + a discounted rate on the cable car between Pilatus-Bahn and Kriens.
Note that Saver Day Passes are not a good option for the PlitausBahn, they do not include either the train between Alpnachstad and Pilatus-Bahn, or the cable car between Pilatus-Bahn and Kriens.
I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.
This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.