Sunday, 25 December 2011

Lucerne City - Day 4

Lucerne Bus Spotting

Unlike Zurich where (diesel) buses services are generally dispersed, Luzern Bahnhof serves as the major hub for urban and regional bus services in Lucerne. Furthermore, regional services are operated by PostAuto and two private companies, instead of (contractors for) the municipal operator. In addition, the municipal operator of Lucerne does not view the corporate livery as a strong identity for the city, and allows for all over advertisements. All these factors make bus spotting in Lucerne more attractive than in Zurich.

A VBL Mercedes Benz Citaro departing the terminal on service 21. The bus is adorned with special stickers by the operator to congratulate the 150th anniversary of Muzikschule Luzern (Lucerne Music School). The city hosts the Lucerne Festival during summer each year which features performances by the resident orchestra as well as other high profile guest orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra
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Fleet number 143 is a VBL Mercedes Benz Citaro G and sports a full body advertisement for Stalder Real Estate & Finance. Such full body advertisements are considered rare in Switzerland, with no mention of the operator on the ad at all!
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A VBL Hess BGT-N2C 'Swiss Trolley 3' trolleybus working route 7 to Biregghof via Luzern Bahnhof. The top fairing of the bodywork had also been creatively used for advertising purposes.
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We were pleasantly surprised to spot fleet number 190, as we had previously thought that the NAW articulated trolleybuses had been totally phased out from service. Apart from wearing the previous iteration of the VBL livery which featured a larger swath of blue on the body, this particular bus also has a sticker at the front of the bus which apparently recognised that the vehicle had accumulated a mileage of more than one million kilometres - certainly a reliable workhorse for the company!
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A VBL Setra S431DT 14m tri-axle double-deck coach laying over at Lucerne Bahnhof terminal. The coach was photographed operating a peak hour express service between Lucerne and Altdorf in the canton of Uri which is located at the far end of Lake Lucerne using the Seelisbergtunnel. The Tellbus Altdorf route is jointly operated by VBL and Auto AG Uri and is also reflected on the Lucerne S-bahn network plan.
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Auto AG is another major citybus operator that operates suburban routes from Lucerne Bahnhof. Service 51 to Rain is operated by the groups's Rothenburg division and one of the division's Irisbus Citelis articulated bus was photographed departing the bahnhof terminal.
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A Solaris Urbino 12 operated by Rottal Auto AG was photographed working service 61 to Buttisholz. Despite the relatively large volume of buses, it was a challenge as we had to contend with pedestrians and other road traffic that were preventing a clear shot of the buses.
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This Auto AG Rothenburg MAN articulated bus on service 53 has a special livery to promote the operator's night services.
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As one of the main arteries that link the heart of Lucerne's historic district to the north and the newer developments in the south, Schweizerhofquai proved to be a very productive camping location for photos of tourist coaches.

The driver taking the opportunity to show off for the camera. Albissler Volvo coach with the distinctive Drögmöller bodywork which features a sloping window line.
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Maaskant Reizen Scania with Irizar PB bodywork. This bodywork is also produced by MTrans (now Scomi) of Malaysia and is thus a very common sight in Malaysia and Singapore as well as to a lesser extent, in Hong Kong. However, MTrans was apparently only given the permission to produce the bodywork for the domestic market by Irizar after much negotiations and was later ordered to cease production of the bodywork. Mtrans subsequently launched a similar design but with slightly altered front and rear portions in 2008. In addition, the livery of one of the private operators in Singapore, Ming Yu Jiang, also looks uncannily similar to this operator from the Netherlands!
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A tri-axle Scania coach with Irizar Century bodywork operating for Helmut Schröder of Germany.
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An Italian registered coach fitted Iveco EuroClass HD body. This bodywork had won the Coach of the Year award in 1995 and bears a striking resemblance to a bodywork produced by Transcoach of Malaysia.
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A real classic! A Neoplan Cityliner hi-decker coach with an equally retro livery from the Baltic country of Lithuania.
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VanHool Astromega TD 927 double deck touring coach operated by Meyering Reisen of Germany.
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A 13m King Long XMQ6130Y operated by Italian tour company Viaggi Adriano. We had certainly not counted on seeing a Chinese tour coach in continental Europe and much less in Switzerland especially with such a good variety of quality coaches available in the market!
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Postauto Setra N319NF

When photo-taking became increasingly challenging, we gathered at the exit driveway of the bus terminal for some photos while waiting for a PostAuto tri-axle 15m Setra N319NF low floor bus to clear our joyride target. We did not have to wait too long as the frequency of PostAuto Services 72 and 73 had been increased for the evening peak hour.

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Being a comparitively small city with the suburban development concentrated to the west in Kriens, we left the built-up area after 5mins in the journey and passed through the towns of Ebikon and Adlingeswil as well as a number of small isolated communities during the trip. The two small hopper windows on each side of the 15m bus were clearly inadequate to provide sufficient ventilation and led to a stuffy cabin. The uncomfortable ride distracted us from paying closer attention to the engine sound and gear changes, and we ended up not particularly impressed with the bus.



Our bus was a shortworking trip of route 73 and terminated at UdligenswilI. It only seemed natural that a PostAuto service would terminate and layover in front of the town's post office!
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Interior of the PostAuto Setra tri-axle N319NF. The low floor bus has three doors, but there is a single step at the rear most door. The design of the grey based seat fabric also incorporates the signature PostAuto horn logo.
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Dashboard of the Setra N319NF. Upon noticing our interest in his bus and that we are bus enthusiasts, the driver commented that the bus is “already” 3 years old and a new and more comfortable Mercedes bus would arrive one minute later in the opposite direction to bring us back to Luzern Bahnhof.
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We were skeptical that he could provide us with such detailed information about the next trip in the opposite direction, and indeed his information was only slightly off - a Mercedes Benz Citaro L dutifully turned up in two minutes instead of one minute as claimed!
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It was our first ride on an air-conditioned bus in Switzerland, but the air-con was just sufficient to keep fresh air circulating in the cabin. Aside from the novelty of a 15m Citaro, the ride quality was similar to the other Citaros which we had taken before elsewhere. Our bus was caught up in heavy traffic as we were entering the city centre along Dreilindenstrasse which only had one lane in each direction.

While it was surprising to encounter congestion in Switzerland, we were particularly impressed by Swiss driver who patiently queued up in their designated lane while leaving the bus lane empty for its rightful uses along Stadthofstrasse. Our bus eventually returned to Luzern Bahnhof 10 minutes behind schedule and departed immediately without laying over to maintain the schedule.

Fleet number 22, Mercedes Benz Citaro L, at Lucerne Bahnhof terminal. The Postauto services are contracted out to the different operators and as such, the fleet numbers are often only unique to the respective operators. In addition, many operators also reuse the fleet numbers when the fleet is renewed.
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Lucerne Old Town

After returning to the city centre, we proceeded with a walking tour of Chapel Bridge and the old town. We were also kept amused and entertained by the flocks of swans in the lake and the Reuss River while admiring the oversized Swiss flags that were hung along the sides of Schweizerhofquai.

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View of Lake Lucerne towards the north from the SGV pier located besides the Lucerne Bahnhof bus terminal.
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It is certainly not easy being a duck in this part of the city where swans are the overwhelming majority of the feathered kind.
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It seemed that the swans are organised in a manner akin to a 'mafia', and two of the swans were immediately despatched to tail us while we were walking along the river towards the Chapel Bridge. It was intriguing to note that the swans seemed to mimic our every move and paused whenever we paused, or sped up as we quickened our pace. Most unfortunately, the swans had to be disappointed despite their concerted effort as we had nothing to feed them with unlike many visitors.
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The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) spans diagonally across the Reuss River (photographed with Mt Pilatus in the background) and is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe.The bridge itself was built in 1333 to link the old town on the north bank and new town on the south bank as part of the fortification, and had since evolved into an icon of Lucerne. The octagonal 140m tall Water Tower is one of the defining features of the structure and had predated the bridge by about 30 years. Throughout the centuries, the tower had been used as a prison, torture chamber, and later a municipal archive. Today, a gift shop occupies the lowest level of the tower, while the rest of the tower is used by a local association and not accessible to the general public.
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The name of the bridge is derived from St Peter’s Chapel, for which it once led directly into, but is now separated by the riverside promenade.
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A unique feature of the bridge is the paintings from the 17th century under the roof that depicts the events from the city's history, but a fire on 18 August 1993 (allegedly due to a stray cigarette butt) burnt 85 of the 110 paintings, of which only 25 could be saved and restored. Paintings from another section of the bridge, which was demolished in 1834 and has been safely stored away, were put to good use as replacements.
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The bridge was reconstructed and opened again on 14 April 1994, but some burnt paintings and beams have been retained to serve as reminder of the fire.
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The Rathaussteg (City Hall Bridge) and the Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church) in the background with its distinctive onion domed spires lit in the warm glow of the evening sun.
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At the other bank of the river, we continued strolling along the waterfront, while also looking out for potential restaurants for dinner as we did not want to have fast food again.

The elaborate artwork on the facade of Restaurant Fritschi which is famous for its specialty cheese fondues. We initially wanted to have our dinner and try out the fondues but it was apparently so popular that it only entertains patrons with advance reservation.
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We chanced upon a lively event hosted by the Switzerland’s inter-professional trade union, Unia at Kapellplatz behind St Peter’s Chapel.
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Our hunt for dinner brought us through the high-end shopping area of Schwanenplatz (Swan’s Place). One watch and jewellery shop is apparently frequented by so many Chinese tour groups that it had put up a banner with Chinese translation of all the renowned brands sold in the shop!
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We eventually decided to have Italian cuisine again at Restaurant Einhorn-Pizzeria da Tommaso, with the majority of us choosing to have risotto.
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The sticky appearance did not look particularly appetizing on first glance, but the taste was actually quite good, especially with ground black pepper as garnishing. Risotto mit fungi (mushrooms) = CHF 22. Sparkling Apple Juice: CHF4.50.
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After dinner, we hopped on a bus for a short ride to the main station instead of walking back from Schwanenplatz. Passepartout is the equivalent of ZVV in Zurich and serves as a coordinating agency for fare collection and integrated transport information. In addition, the elaborate bus shelter also serves as a betting outlet for the Swiss Lottery which has a decidedly inauspicious name, Lotto Lose as one of its products.
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Scania N94UB (Midi)

Lucerne does not seem to have much luck with avoiding fires, and the former railway station was almost completely razed to the ground on 5 February 1971 although it was fortunate that nobody was killed in the unfortunate event. This impressive entrance gateway at the front of the current bahnhof was from the structure of the former railway station, and had been preserved as link to the past.
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A criss-cross jumble of overhead trolleybus lines at dusk. Although trolleybuses and trams offer an environmentally friendly option as compared to diesel buses, there are no doubt drawbacks as such supporting infrastructure can mar the beauty of the cityscape.
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After a few photos at the terminal, we decided to embark on our final joyride target for the day - a Scania midibus. We had observed from our photo camping that the Scanias are deployed on Services 9, 10 and 11. After studying the schematic diagram carefully, we decided on Service 10 as the top choice as it serves an area which we had not been to.

A Scania N94UB midibus departing from the adjacent berth at Lucerne Bahnhof terminal.
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We were delighted that the Scania was an older 4 series from the dashboard and therefore would not sound similar to its 1100 Scania 5 series cousins that were flooding the streets back home in Singapore.
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Interior of a Scania N94UB midibus. Even with the shortened length, three doors are provided to speed up the flow of passengers at bus stops although the rearmost door only has one leaf instead of two.
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The bus began an effortless climb into a residential neighbourhood after a few stops in the downtown area and the driver maneuvered the numerous turns skillfully. It was certainly the most satisfying bus ride thus far, especially when the bus cruised smoothly downhill. A check with Google Earth revealed that the bus scaled a height difference of around 130m along 1.9km of road in the hilly sector, or an average gradient of 7.9% which is overall steeper than the Uetliberg Railway.


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Next Post: Brünig Bahn & Harder Bahn - Day 5

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Mt Pilatus - Day 4

Friday, 23 December 2011

Mt Pilatus - Day 4

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The burst of sunlight the previous afternoon left us in doubt if we had made the right choice to swap our plans to visit the Verkehrshaus instead of Mount Pilatus. However, any lingering doubts were immediately cast away when we woke up in the morning. Hastily grabbing our cameras, we were treated to a breath-taking view of Pilatus Kulm being bathed in the soft glow of the morning sun against crisp blue skies from our balcony.

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After exploring the limited number of eateries that were opened in the early hour at the bahnhof, we settled on the Bodega snack and takeaway café located at the basement. The quality of the freshly made tarts and beverages from the self-service counter was very decent and resolved to patronising the café before boarding our early morning train to Interlaken on the next day. Apple Tart and small orange juice: CHF 7.40
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Mt Pilatus Golden Round Trip

The Golden Round Trip is a very popular package amongst visitors to Mount Pilatus. The tour begins with a cruise on Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad, followed by a ride up to Mount Pilatus by cogwheel railway, and the descent is by 2 seperate cable car systems to Kriens to connect a trolleybus back to the city centre. The tour can also be done in the other direction but we felt that the cogwheel railway is best ridden uphill. For visitors who are on a tighter schedule, a Silver Round Trip option is available to experience both forms of mountain transport in a shorter time by taking an S-bahn train between Lucerne and Alpnachstad instead of a lake cruise.

The Swiss Pass entitled us to a free ride on the boat and 50% discount on the Mount Pilatus cogwheel railway and cable cars and we only had to fork out CHF33 (1 CHF = S$1.4) per person for the golden round trip. Thanks to the integration and partnership between various operators for the convenience of commuters, we were able to pay the fare for the entire Golden Round Trip to the boat operator, SGV. However, it will be certainly be hard to imagine the administrative work required by SBB (issuer of Swiss Pass)and the participating operators to share the revenue!

Ferry to Alpnachstad

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The 80min cruise from Lucerne SGV to Alpnachstad SGV encompasses a total distance of approximately 22.1km and is operated by SGV, or Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstättersees (Lake Lucerne Navigation Company). The company takes its name from German name of Lake Lucerne, Vierwaldstättersee. This name can be literally translated as the Lake of the Four Forested Cantons which refers to Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden (albeit now divided into the Cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden). In addition to its Lucerne-Alpnachstad route as being part of the Mount Pilatus Golden Round Trip, SGV also operates a beautifully restored paddle steamer during summer for the cruise portion of the famed William Tell Express.

As we boarded only a few minutes before departure, all the available second class seats within the cabin had been taken up. The bow was also filled by a group of school children on an excursion and there was just enough space left on the benches for us to put our belongings.

View of Lucerne old town bathed in the early morning sunlight as our ferry departed from Lucerne SGV pier which is conveniently located outside the Lucerne Hauptbahnhof.
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As the ferry transversed across the irregularly shaped Lake Lucerne, the undulating mountainous landscape and the picturesque headlands provided ample photographic opportunities for the passengers.
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Kastanienbaum is one of the several charming lakeside communities that are served by the SGV ferry service.
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The station-master of the Bürgenstock funicular railway came out to receive the large group of school children as our ferry docked at Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock SGV. We certainly heaved a huge sigh of relief that the raucous group would not be following us for the entire ascent to Mt Pilatus! Surrounded by the lake on its three sides,Bürgenstock had gained popularity in recent years for its spectacular views of Lake Lucerne from the resorts at the top of the plateau. In addition, visitors can also access the summit by using the Hammetschwand Elevator which also lays claim to being the highest exterior elevator in Europe.
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Idyllic lakefront residences and lush green slopes of the countryside beckon to weary city dwellers. Lake Lucerne has a total area of 114 square kilometres and is the fifth largest lake in Switzerland.
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Kehrsiten-Dorf SGV. The distinctive dome of the community church's spire indicates that it is a Jesuit church. The prehistoric lakeside stilt-house settlement at Kehrsiten is also considered as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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Our ferry pulled into the village of Stansstad located in the canton of Nidwalden after an hour into the cruise.
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The final part of the cruise brought us into a branch of Lake Lucerne known as Alpnachersee after the ferry passed under the 190m-wide Acheregg Bridge shortly after leaving Stansstad.
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MV Titlis berthed at Alpnachstad SGV. Built by SGV's own shipyard in Lucerne, she first entered service in 1951 and underwent a rebuilt fifty years later in 2001 which saw the reconstruction of her superstructure and installation of new systems. Straddling a length of 43.51m with a beam of 8.25m, she could carry 96 passengers on her twin decks at a stately cruising speed of 29km/h with her twin MAN four stroke diesel engines.
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Pilatus Bahn

The Pilatus Bahn is arguably the most exciting portion of the Mt Pilatus Golden Round Trip as passengers would be able to experience a ride on the steepest cogwheel railway in the world with a maximum gradient of 48% (or a rise of 48m over a horizontal distance of 100m). The line was the brainchild of Eduard Locher who proposed a radical idea to build a track with a gradient of 48% that would cut the distance required by half and hence providing a decent opportunity to turn a profit on the operation of the railway. The line was opened on 4 June 1889 using steam traction before the line was electrified in 1937. It is also noteworthy that the line was built entirely with private capital and had remained financially viable since its inception.
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We were directed to a queue and were issued the actual barcoded ticket by Pilatus Bahnen upon showing the ticket that was issued by SGV. It is interesting to note that the price printed on the ticket was listed as CHF0.0! Due to single tracking limitations, the Pilatus Bahn operates at an interval of 40-50mins with a few railcars deployed together in a convoy.
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One of the most unique and defining features of the Pilatus Bahn is the usage of a Locher rack system. In a typical cogwheel railway, the cogwheels of the trains are meshed with the vertical toothed rack to allow operation on steep gradients. However, the gradient of the Pilatus Railway is much steeper, which increases the risk of the cogwheel “climbing out” of the rack. To overcome the problem, Eduard Locher designed two horizontal cogwheels revolving in opposite directions on the horizontal toothed rack, which firmly locks the train onto the tracks even in the presence of severe crosswinds. For the engineering marvel, the railway was named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 2002. Unfortunately, the complexity of the system meant that conventional switches cannot be used and a transfer table is used to slide the entire railcar across to the adjacent track at the base station.
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We managed to secure ourselves seats at the front of the railcar for the best views as most passengers seem reluctant to climb the additional steps and generally filled the seats from the back. Even with prior expectations, we were still very impressed by the actual steepness of the railway as the railcar started to ascend the track.

The first portion of the journey passed through lush forests at lower altitudes. The 800mm narrow gauge rail is directly secured onto the hewn rock ledge without the need for any ballast using high strength iron ties.
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The PB Bhe 1/2 electric railcars were purpose built by SLM and MFO for Pilatus Bahn and run on 1500V DC drawn from the overhead cables. The electric motors connect to the gears driving the rack while the wheels only act as a support. Moreover, the sides of the railcar are only tapered at each end on the mountain facing side, while the other side has no taper. The railcar has a maximum speed of 12km/h during ascent and 9km/h downhill.
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The thick forests soon gave way to wide open plains as the railcar continued to climb above 1000m. The steep turns along the line and the drop down windows provided opportunities for passengers to lean out and photograph the surrounding scenery.
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Crossover siding at Aemsigen station located at an altitude of 1355m and approximately halfway along the line. A transfer table allows railcars to cross to the adjacent track and descending railcars are held in the siding while the ascending cars clear the bottom half of the line.
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A small cow farm near Aemsigen station and we were able to hear the distinctive cow bells up close for the first time during our trip.
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Passing through one of the seven tunnels along the line. The tunnels were chiselled out manually in the 19th century and the rough masonry was a stark difference from the smooth concrete walled tunnels that we were used to. (ISO 12800, 1/20s, f/5.6)
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The final portion of the ascent saw the grasslands gradually giving way to the bleak tundra landscape that is characteristic of higher altitudes above 2000m. The crosswinds also noticeably picked up during this sector.
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In around 30 minutes, the train climbed a vertical distance of 1629m over a distance of 4.8km and after negotiating a final turnout, the train pulled into the Pilatus Kulm station which is located at the lower levels of Hotel Bellevue at an altitude of 2073m. Upon stepping out of the railcar, visitors are welcomed by a large dragon motif on the ceiling of the station. According to legends in medieval times, dragons were said to live in the mysterious, rugged clefts and crevices above Lucerne; today the dragon has evolved into the symbol of Mount Pilatus and is widely used in promotional materials.
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Pilatus Kulm

A stuffed Alpine Ibex was the centrepiece at the lobby of the Hotel Bellevue. The driver of the Pilatus Bahn had pointed out a brief sighting of this magnificent creature during the final part of the ascent but we were unfortunately unable to catch a glimpse of it.
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Excited about our first visit to a high-altitude Swiss mountain, we headed straight to the vantage point at Hotel Pilatus Kulm. This is one of the two hotels at Pilatus Kulm and visitors can expect to pay a hefty premium for the privilege of spending a night at this historic hotel. The outdoor seating area provides and excellent vantage point for visitors as well.
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The vantage point also provided a good location to obtain decent photos of the Pilatus Bahn railcars together with the distinctive rotunda of the Hotel Bellevue. It is also noteworthy that the pantographs are folded down during descent as power is not drawn from the overhead cables and the onboard electric engine is used instead for dynamic braking.
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Although it was significantly cloudier at the higher altitudes, the slightly misty condition contributed to the overall atmosphere and it was a most enjoyable experience to stare at the mountainous landscape while soaking in the ambience.
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A helpful plaque is also mounted on the railings to aid visitors in identifying the different mountain peaks, but it was hopelessly shrouded in clouds during our visit.
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A busker dressed in traditional Swiss costume entertained visitors with his Swiss Alphorn and yodelling. Sporting visitors are also invited to have a go at blowing the traditional woodwind instrument.
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Such was the unpredictability and volatility of high altitude weather that a huge bank of clouds moved in quickly and completely obscured the view at the vantage point. We decided to retreat back into the comfort of the heated hotel complex and spent some time browsing through the souvenirs at the shop. Trinkets featuring the Mount Pilatus mascot, PILU®, proved to be very popular among visitors. PILU® is described as the “friendly fire-red Pilatus-Bahnen dragon”, which is “just as red as his great-great-great-great-great grandfather featured on the Pilatus trademark”, but “not too big and frightening like [his] forefathers in the Pilatus myths” on Pilatus Kulm's website. There were also other souvenirs based on the Swiss cowbell and the indigenous St Bernard dog. Prices start from a rather hefty CHF 9.90.
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We decided to have different main courses at the restaurant but unanimously opted for Rösti instead of the all-too-common fries. This Swiss dish is made of rough grated potato which is pan-fried and shaped into a patty. The surface was crispier than normal fries while the interior retained the succulence of potato. Bratwurst + Rösti : CHF18.50
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The clouds cleared significantly after we had lunch, and we were greeted with a panoramic view of Lake Lucerne from the viewing platform outside the restaurant.
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A sign at the viewing platform shows the elevation of the highest point of Mt Pilatus - Tomlishorn at 7000ft or 2132m above sea level.
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After a fruitless 15 minutes wait for the skies to clear up over Lucerne city, we decided to climb up the Esel peak for a better view. Esel peak is the most prominent peak on Mount Pilatus although it is not the highest at only 2118m. Our efforts were rewarded with spectacular panaromic view at the summit and we were treated to a more expansive view of Lake Lucerne and the environs.

Hotel Pilatus Kulm and another popular vantage point, Oberhaupt at 2106m / 6913ft.
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The urban sprawl of Lucerne City located to the east of Mt Pilatus.
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An overview of Alpnach airstrip from Esel peak with a height difference of approximately 1,600m.
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The summit of Esel peak is marked with a simple metal hut which is rather curiously ringed with Tibetan prayer flags. With the surrounding snow capped mountains, one could well be forgiven if one thought that he is in Tibet instead! The sporadic chime of the cowbells from the valleys below further contributed to the surreal ambience.
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The summit of Esel peak afforded a clear view of the six lakes which includes Lake Lucerne, Rot, Hallwil, Baldegg and Sempach.
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The improved visibility compared to the morning allowed us to catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Mount Titlis.
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Aerial tramway between Pilatus Kulm and Fräkmüntegg.
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Before long, the peak was again shrouded in thick clouds and we decided to make our way down to catch the aerial tramway and head down the mountain. The trail between Pilatus Kulm and Esel peak overcomes a height difference of 50m and has a difficulty rating of medium which really only means that one has to exercise caution especially in low visibility conditions!
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Aerial Tramway to Fräkmüntegg

The upper section of the Mount Pilatus cable car is an aerial tramway, which most of us had not ridden before. Unlike the gondola lift which we are more familiar with, aerial trams shuttle back and forth on cables instead of having cabins suspended from a continuously circulating cable. The grip of the aerial tram is permanently fixed onto a propulsion rope, while one or two stationary ropes (“track cables”) are used for support. Therefore, the system is similar that of a funicular, with the weight of the descending cabin helping to pull the other cabin up.
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Upper station of the aerial tramway at Pilatus Kulm. Due to the non-continuous operation, the cabins usually have high capacity and the larger ones can even carry over 100 people.
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The five minute long descent to Fräkmüntegg took us down an altitude of 650m and below the heavy cloud layer. Once clear of the clouds, we were able to spot the herds of cows that were the source of the cowbells that we had heard at Pilatus Kulm and Esel peak!
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The aerial tramcars are built by Garaventa Systems, Switzerland. It is also noteworthy that the bright red paint of the tramcars are sponsored by a prominent Swiss light aircraft manufacturer, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. The Stans based group produces a series of single engine acrobatic and trainer aircraft such as the PC-21 and had also derived its identity from the mountain.
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Fräkmüntegg Restaurant.
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Switzerland is also well known for its excellent hiking trails and they offer an alternative to the cable cars for the more adventurous visitors. It takes 2hr 10mins to reach Pilatus Kulm by foot and a warning advisory is bolted onto the sign that states visitors are advised to use the hiking trail at their own risk due to falling rocks.
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Fräkmüntegg had been marketed as a destination for adventure sports and visitors can have a go at an obstacle course or flying fox at the Pilatus Rope Park which is the largest of its kind in central Switzerland. We had contemplated riding on a toboggan (the longest of its kind in Switzerland), but eventually backed out as it seemed that we had to walk quite a fair distance uphill.
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Cable Car to Kriens

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We continued our journey on the gondola lift on the lower half of the cable car ride down to Kriens. Due to the light loadings, we decided to spread ourselves into two cabins for a more comfortable ride.
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Coniferous forest dominated the scenery along the cable car line, particular between Fräkmüntegg and the intermediate Krienseregg station. At Krienseregg station, service personnel and signage reminded passengers heading for Kriens / Lucerne to remain onboard the cable car.

For the final portion of the 4.9km cable car ride, passengers had a view of Lucerne city and the northern suburbs as the cable car approached Kriens station.
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A stone castle set amidst lush green meadows against a mountainous backdrop and the enthralling sounds of the cowbell - Indeed it is my kind of Switzerland!
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A neat row of spare cable cars at Kriens station.
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Visitors are bade goodbye as they exit the cable car at Kriens station with 6 different languages.
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Kriens station sits at an elevation of 1694ft or 516m above sea level.
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A double deck Setra S431DT coach belonging to Walliser-Reisen AG at Kriens station waiting to pick up tour group passengers returning from a trip to Pilatus Kulm.
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Trolleybus back to Lucerne City Centre

Clear directional signs are placed in Kriens cable car terminal building and at every single intersection along the way to guide passengers to complete the final part of the Golden Round Trip with a ride on a service 1 trolleybus back to Lucerne city centre. Even though there was a bus stop just outside the cable car terminal, we noted that the next bus would arrive 40 minutes later and the Service 15 only operates within Kriens. As such, we followed the signs to the main road served by trolleybus Service 1 and had little difficulties finding the bus stop. As the bus stop is frequented by tourists, there is a prominent sign in English which informs commuters the estimated journey time and frequency of Service 1. It is virtually impossible to get lost and take a wrong turn during the 10 minute long downhill stroll!
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While specially waiting for a NAW, we kept ourselves occupied by taking photos of a few passing buses which included fleet number 278 that looped back and brought us back to Lucern Hauptbahnhof.

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Lucerne - Swiss Transport Museum (Verkehrshaus) - Day 3