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Travel Info & Tips How to travel on the ZB (Zentralbahn) Railway

How to travel on the ZB (Zentralbahn) Railway

The ZB (Zentralbahn) independent railway is the route of the Luzern To Engelberg and Interlaken express trains.

| Last Updated: 3 months ago

How to travel on the Zentralbahn (ZB Railway)

ZB Zentralbahn operates the spectacular and useful link between Luzern/Lucerne and Interlaken, which allows for the quickest journeys from eastern Switzerland to the Bernese-Oberland area.

The route

The direct train service between Luzern and Interlaken is provided by the Luzern - Interlaken Express trains (what can cause confusion, is that the direct trains from Interlaken TO Luzern are also branded ‘Luzern – Interlaken Express).
The journey time in both directions between Luzern and Interlaken Ost is around two hours and trains depart hourly.
All Luzern - Interlaken Express trains also call at Meiringen.

The Luzern – Interlaken Express trains have exceptionally large windows which give great views over four beautiful lakes!
When travelling from Luzern to Interlaken, three of these lakes, the Sarnersee, the Lungenensee...

...and the Brienzersee can be seen from the right of the train; trains reverse direction at Meiringen.

The Luzern <> Interlaken route is so fabulous that it merited inclusion on a list of the 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys.
Because the trains reverse direction at Meiringen, the best of the views are also available if you sit on the right when travelling east from Interlaken Ost.

The Luzern - Engelberg Express:

In addition to the local trains, the other main ZB service is the Luzern – Engelberg Express.
These trains also have large panoramic windows.


Unsually for a Swiss Mountain Railway, food and drink is available on the Luzern – Interlaken Express and Luzern – Engelberg Express trains.
Travel in 1st class and catering staff will provide an at-seat service.

Taking the local trains:

In addition to the Luzern - Interlaken and Luzern -Engelberg express trains, ZB also operates local services on these routes

  • Luzern - Meiringen
  • Interlaken - Meiringen
  • Luzern - Stans (operated as part of the Luzern S-Bahn network)
  • Luzern - Giswil (operated as part of the Luzern S-Bahn network)

Rail connections with the Zentralbahn

With SBB (mainline) trains:
The Zentralbahn (ZB) trains share the stations in Luzern and Interlaken Ost with SBB trains.
Luzern has direct trains from many destinations including Basel, Bellinzona, Bern, Geneve, Lugano, Olten, St Gallen and Zurich.
Interlaken Ost is connected by direct trains from/to Basel, Berlin, Bern, Frankfurt (Main), Olten, Thun and Spiez; connect at Spiez for Visp and Brig.

With the Pilatusbahn (part of the The Golden Round Trip):
The Luzern – Interlaken Express trains live up to their name by skipping some stations, one of the stations they do NOT call at is Alpnachstad, where connections are available to the Pilatusbahn PB cog railway.
Only local trains to/from Luzern call at Alpnachstad, so when travelling from Interlaken to Alpnachstad, you need to make a simple connection at Giswil.

An alternative to taking the train from Luzern to Alpnachstad is to take a lake cruise boat from the piers outside Luzern station to Alpnachstad
The train or boat from Luzern plus the PB train are the first two stages of the Golden Round Trip route from Luzern.

With the BRB steam railway:
The Luzern – Interlaken Express trains do call at Brienz, where connections are available to the Brienz-Rothorn BRB steam railway.

With the BOB trains:
At Interlaken Ost station, connections are also available to the Bernese-Oberland Railway BOB trains to Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald.
(The first of the three train services that need to be taken in order to ascend to Jungfraujoch).

With the MIB trains:
This railway links Meiringen with Innertkirchen, with two stations on the line serving the spectacular Aare Gorge.
Meiringen Alpbach station is a 10 min walk from the base station of the Reichanbachfall Funicular, which lives up to its name by providing easy access to the Reichanbach waterfall.

Resort and cable car access:

Engelberg station is a 10 min walk from the base station of the Titlis cable car that gives access to the Engelberg-Titlis winter sports area.
Meiringen station is a 10 min walk from lift access to the Meiringen - Hasliberg winter sports area.

The Golden Pass Route:

If you will be travelling with a rail pass, the 'Golden Pass route' between Luzern and Montreux via Interlaken, is a fabulously scenic and useful connection between central Switzerland and Lake Geneva; a great alternative to the direct IR trains between Luzern and Geneva.
And rail pass users don't have to pay any additional fees to travel on any of the required trains.

You can't take direct trains on this 'Golden Pass' route yet (through services should begin in December 2023), but the currently required connections in Interlaken Ost, Spiez and Zweissimen stations couldn't be more straightforward.
East to west the route is:
(1) The Luzern - Interlaken Express from Luzern to Interlaken Ost (sit on the right)
(2) Any train on from Interlaken Ost on the short but lovely journey from Interlaken Ost to Spiez (sit on the right)
(3) A BLS local train from Spiez to Zweissimen (sit on the left)
(4) MOB trains from Zweissimen to Montreux; board any train, the departures at 12:02 and 17:02 will be 'Belle-Epoque' trains.

So reverse the combination when travelling west to east.

When travelling from Luzern to Montreux the end-to-end journey will typically take around 6hr 5mins.
In the other direction when travelling from Montreux to Luzern the end-to-end journey will typically take around 7hr 5mins; because the waiting times between trains are longer.

Using tickets and rail passes:

Eurail, InterRail Swiss Travel Passes and Saver Day Passes are valid on all ZB Trains.
They are also valid on the other Golden Pass route trains:

  • (1) the MOB trains between Montreux and Zweisimmen and
  • (2) the trains between Zweisimmen and Interlaken Ost, which are operated by BLS.

Tickets between SBB stations and ZB stations can be booked on the SBB booking service.

If you will be travelling in either direction on the Luzern - Interlaken Express, tickets can be booked online, you won't save money, but you can choose specific seats.
Though Zentralbahn does not sell ordinary journey tickets independently online; users of its website are directed to SBB’s booking service.


Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.


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