Bernina Express - Day 21

by - 21:33

The beginning of a new month and the 21st day of our Europe 2011 adventure thus far. We had an early start this morning to catch a cross-border train from Milano Centrale station to the city of Lugano in Switzerland and bode a fond farewell to Italy. In addition, we would cross the border between Switzerland and Italy a total of three times at three different locations. The first crossing would be on the EuroCity train service at Chiasso, followed by a second crossing on the Bernina Express Bus back into Italy at Gandria and the final crossing on the Bernina Express back into Switzerland at Campocologno.

In contrast to travelling within the Trenitalia domestic network, hardcopy reservation tickets are available for cross-border trains to facilitate onboard ticket inspection. We made use of the self-service kiosk located in the basement level of the station to print the reservation ticket but only one copy was issued, although we had hoped that we would be able to obtain individual copies for keepsake.

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An electronic board lists the numerous departure and arrival at Milano Centrale during the morning rush hour.
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We proceeded to the station platform and were delighted to find that the EC 12 service would be operated by an ETR 470 “Pendolino” trainset. The ETR 470 is a class of the “Pendolino” tilting trainset which is specially developed for use on the high speed service between Italy and Switzerland and is equipped with a dual voltage system for cross-operability.
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Interior of a First Class carriage of the ETR 470 "Pendolino". Furnished in muted tones of blues and greys, the ETR 470 may not boast the ultra-modern designer cabin of the ETR 600 "New Pendolino" used on Trenitalia's Frecciargento services but still offered a comfortable and spacious cabin for a middle- to long-distance intercity train ride.
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Despite the Schengen agreement, Swiss border officials boarded the train at Chiasso where passengers had to present their travel documents for inspection. At the same time, the train crew was changed with SBB inspectors and catering staff coming onboard for the remaining sector to Zurich. We had a view of Lake Lugano and arrived at Lugano station shortly. However, the train was 10 minutes behind schedule, possibly due to delay at Chiasso.
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Lugano

The cool ambient temperature which greeted us when we stepped off the train was a much welcome reprieve from the warm Mediterranean climate. We joked that the “aircon” had been “switched off” for the past two weeks when we were in Malta and Italy! We found some pastries and drinks at the station convenience store (Toblerone chocolate puffs, CHF 2.40) and camped for photos of trains passing through the station while grabbing a quick bite.
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Lugano lies on the principal railway line which links Switzerland with Italy through the Gotthard tunnel and thus sees a fair amount of rail traffic throughout the day. In fact, there was an occasion when the gates at the nearby level crossing were closed for as long as 10 minutes due to the short intervals between trains passing by in both directions – much to the frustration of some pedestrians and drivers!
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TILO (Treni Regionali Ticino Lombardia / Regional Trains Ticino Lombardy) is a 50-50 joint venture between SBB-CFF-FFS and Trenitalia to develop regional cross-border traffic between the Canton of Ticino in Switzerland and region of Lombardy in Italy. The Stadler FLIRT (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train; below) trains have cross-operability features between the 2 systems, whereas the older NPZ trains are used only on peak hour trains within Switzerland.
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A freight service operated by Deutsche Bahn (DB) hauling a long rack of trailers laden with Ford automobiles bound for Italy. The BR 185 class freight locomotive is a product of Bombardier under the brand TRAXX and the acronym stands for Transnational Railway Applications with eXtreme fleXibility.
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The main train station sits atop a hill and the city is accessed through an underground funicular (Funicolare Lugano Città – Stazione) from the station.
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Apart from the funicular system, commuters can also rely on TPL bus services which make the steep climb from the city centre to call at the railway station. TPL is the municipal bus operator in Lugano and operates 11 urban routes. A Mercedes Benz Citaro G v2 was photographed working on Service 4 towards Lugano Centro (city centre).
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TPL Mercedes Benz Citaro v1 on Service 2, the only other urban bus service which passes by the train station.
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A Mercedes Benz Citaro v2 of the suburban operator ARL working on Service 458 to Tesserete.
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Bernina Express Bus

The Bernina Express Bus serves to connect passengers between Lugano and the starting point of the famed Bernina Express Railway in Tirano. The service runs once a day in each direction and is operated by PostAuto on behalf of the railway operator, Rhätische Bahn. Advance reservation is crucial for this popular service which takes 3 hours to wind through the Italian countryside and along the scenic banks of Lake Como.

The boarding stop for the bus is rather obscure and is located at the northern end of the station building together with other regional bus services. Soon after, we spotted a bright red coach pulling into the station. Registered with a GR prefix for Graubünden where the fleet is based at, GR 162994 is a MAN Lion's Regio integral suburban coach with an automatic ZF gearbox. The bus wears a special red livery instead of the yellow based livery of PostAuto. The '1' displayed on the side of the bus indicates that it is a premium First Class service although the seating is in a standard 2-2 second class configuration. The front of the bus may look familiar to many Singaporeans as the design is licensed to Gemilang of Malaysia which assembled and built the body for the MAN coaches used on the Marina Bay Sands airport shuttle service.
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Interior of the MAN Lion's Regio coach with full back leather/fabric seats in a 2-2 layout.
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Prior to the start of the journey, the bus driver verifies the reservations and travel documents of passengers against a clipboard and assisted passengers to load the baggage into the lower baggage compartment of the coach. It is noteworthy that as with a train reservation, there is assigned seating onboard the bus on this service. This is slightly different from the modus operandi of PostAuto services where there is no assigned seating.
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The bus driver made a short welcome speech in Italian, German and with significant difficulty, in English in view of the number of passengers who do not understand either Italian or German. The bus departed on time and slowly made its way downhill to the city of Lugano before swinging east to reach the banks of Lake Lugano.
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Lake Lugano is a glacial lake in the southeast of Switzerland, at the border between Switzerland and Italy. The lake is 48.7 sq km in size, 63% of which is in Switzerland and 37% in Italy.
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The superior build quality of the integral bus was immediately apparent in comparison to the Gemilang product as the bus effortlessly handled tight curves and gradients with minimal rattling of the body (except an incessant squeaking of the overhead panels which was quickly solved by a strategically wedged paper fold). We soon passed the Swiss/Italian border crossing at Gandria along the SS340 route. The Schengen arrangement between Switzerland and the EU countries means that there are no immigration formalities to be taken care of.

Swiss border crossing
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Italian border crossing
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There were a number of instances where the narrow streets could only allow one vehicle to pass and we had the opportunity to hear the famed PostAuto horn where other road users are obliged to give way to the PostAuto bus, even if it means having to reverse uphill and around a corner (see video below).


A narrow section of SS340 route after Albogasio town.
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San Mamete town
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The commune of Valsolda consists of 5 towns on the shores of Lake Lugano and 5 towns on the mountains above. In this view towards the southwest from San Mamete, Albogasio could be seen in the foreground.
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After leaving Lake Lugano, the road broadened and led to the picturesque Lake Como, a major holiday destination in Italy. Val Menaggio (Menaggio Valley) links Lake Lugano and Lake Como and provided passengers with a view of small charming towns nestled within the confines of the valley.
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We caught the first glimpse of Lake Como while descending towards Menaggio town but the view of the lake was soon disrupted by tunnels.
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Uninterrupted view of Lake Como after emerging from one of the long tunnels near Dongo.
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Dongo town is located at the mouth of Albano River which feeds into Lake Como.
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Later in the journey, we passed through a number of delightful lakeside towns, such as Gravedona, where the streets were narrow enough to allow the bus get through a tight squeeze.
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Domasa lies close to the northern end of Lake Como and is blessed with the ‘La Breva’ breeze which constantly blows across the lake, making it a perfect location for a wide range of water sports.
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Lake Como has an area of 146 sq km, making it the third largest lake in Italy. At a depth of 400m, it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, and the bottom of the lake is more than 200m above sea level.
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We stopped for a brief 15-minute break at the halfway point of the route at Sorico located at the northern tip of Lake Como, before resuming our journey through the rest of Lombardy region.
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Leaving the lake district, the terrain encountered in the second portion of the journey was significantly flatter and less varied as compared to the earlier portion. The iconic Ponte del Passo (Pass Bridge) crosses the Mera River at the northern end of Lake Como. The Mera originates near the Majola Pass in Graubünden, Switzerland, and ends at Lake Como after flowing through Lake Mezzola.
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Mera River demarcates the boundary between the provinces of Como and Sondrio.
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The final segment of the Bernina Express route took us along the SS338 route which parallels the standard gauge single-track regional railway track from Milan.
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The sight of La Basilica della Madonna di Tirano greeted us as our bus arrived at our destination, Tirano. This church is dedicated to the appearance of the Blessed Mother to Mario Degli Omodei on September 29. 1504. This event is also widely credited by pilgrims as the end of a major epidemic.
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The Bernina Express Bus dropped us at the bus station outside the southern entrance of the Trenitalia station and we had to lug our luggage across the underpass to the main station piazza. An Iveco EuroClass coach of the regional bus operator Perego laying over at Tirano bus station.
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The inconvenient location of the bus station was not without its perks. We managed to photograph a Breda diesel shunter FS 245.2124 at Tirano Trenitalia station.
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The yellow livery of the sightseeing road-train in Tirano is reminiscent of the Bernina Railway before it was taken over by Rhaetian Railway in 1943.
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We had a quick lunch at the station café where we ordered a bacon and cheese sandwich with Sprite (€5.50). There is a buffer time of 1hr between the arrival of the Bernina Express Bus and the connecting departure of the Bernina Express.
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After our meal, we headed across the piazza to a second railway station used by Rhaetian Railways (RhB) to embark on one of the main highlights of our trip, the Bernina Express railway.

The Bernina Express

The Bernina Express operates along the Bernina and Albula Railways, which are jointly recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its engineering feat with the resulting infrastructure seamlessly blending in with the surrounding landscape. During summer, direct tourist trains link Tirano in Italy with either Chur or Davos in eastern Switzerland. Passing through 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and viaducts over 122 kilometres of metre-gauge track over the Bernina Pass at an altitude of 2,200m, this unique route had long been recognised as one of Europe's most spectacular railway journeys. Hence, we simply had to experience it for ourselves instead of just continuing on the EC service back into Zurich from Lugano through the Gotthard tunnel.

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Tirano Rhaetian Railway station is the southern terminal of the metre gauge Bernina Railway.
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Bernina Express trains to Chur and Davos depart in short succession from Tirano due to the single track layout of the railway line
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At the time of our research, we found that the second class carriages on the line were still operated by the old rolling stock with
drop-down windows. Thus, we proceeded to reserve our seats in the second class carriage although we were holding a first class Eurail Pass, as we wanted to be able to photograph the scenery freely. Unfortunately, two months had since elapsed between the time we had made our booking and our actual journey and it would be hard to describe the disappointment when we saw that second class had been upgraded to the spanking new panorama cars as well! While other passengers were experimenting with the electronically operated window shades and admiring the bright and modern carriage, we were busy devising ways to obtain photographs while minimising the reflection from the windows.

Shortly after pulling out of Tirano station, the train ran through the streets of the town and passed by the iconic church. Unfortunately, we had yet to overcome the problem with reflection from the windows and were unable to get good photos of the street running. After crossing the border at Campocologno, the train quickly approached the Brusio circular viaduct which the line is famous for.

In fact, it was photos of this viaduct which I had come across in travel guides and brochures that sparked the interest to ride this unique railway. The iconic Brusio Viaduct was draped in red at the time of our visit as it was undergoing a CHF2.75 million renovation after more than a century in active service.
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By allowing trains to corkscrew up a 360 degrees curve, the viaduct is an ingenious engineering solution for the railway to gain altitude quickly in a very short space. It is 110 metres long, has a horizontal curvature radius of 70 metres, a longitudinal slope of 7%, and is made up of nine spans, each 10 metres in length and certainly captivated the attention of everyone onboard the train as we ascended up the incline. There is a certain degree of thrill and sense of accomplishment to see and experience this landmark despite the countless number of photos and videos that were available both in print and on the Internet.
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Following the elevation gain from the viaduct, the Poschiavo Valley and Poschiavino River unfolded to the west of the railway line.
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Shortly after crossing the Poschiavino River, the railway line followed the western bank of the picturesque Lago di Poschiavo. Along with the neighbouring town of Poschiavo, this area was quoted by a historian in 1740 to be “surely one of the best places in the Canton of Grisons”.
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We discovered the drop-down window located at each end of the carriage in good time for the street running through Le Prese town. Situated at the northern end of Lago di Poschiavo, the Bernina Railway runs through the main street of Le Prese town and the railway station is simply part of the sidewalk.
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Beyond Le Prese, the railway line regains its dedicated right-of-way along tracks which run beside the road.
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The Poschiavino is a 30km long tributary of the Adda, with the majority in Switzerland and only 3km in Italy
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At the request of the community, Poschiavo station was built just outside the village boundaries as it was the norm for railways to run through the centre of the town instead. The Tirano – Poschiavo section was one of the first two sections which opened on 1 July 1908. The Bernina Railway was fully operational on 5 July 1910, upon the completion of the most challenging section between Poschiavo and Bernina Suot over the Bernina Pass.
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After calling at Poschiavo, the railway line was separated from the Bernina Pass road. The Bernina Express uses a gradient of up to 7% in the ascent from Tirano to the highest point of the line at Ospizio Bernina. The town of Poschiavo which sits at an altitude of 1,014m above sea level and the adjacent lake could be seen from both sides of the train as it commenced a series of hairpin turns to gain altitude. Earplugs are strongly recommended for this sector if one decides to camp at the drop-down windows for photos as the screeching from the wheels can be quite unbearable!

Two prominent landmarks in Poschiavo town are the bell towers of Santa Maria Assunta Catholic Church and Collegiate Church San Vittore Mauro, which can be seen to the left and in the middle of this picture respectively.
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The impressive sight of the 9-metre Lehnen Viaduct leading to the 36-metre Cavagliasco Sotto Viaduct through the 20-metre Cavagliasco Tunnel is a result of the challenging terrain encountered by the railway along the ascent to the Bernina Pass.
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Bird’s eye view of Poschiavo town and Lago di Poschiavo during the ascent.
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At an altitude of 1703 metres, Cavaglia is the highest village in Val Poschiavo (Poschiavo Valley). A handful of homes, a guesthouse, a hydro-electric power plant and a railway station (pictured) make up this rustic old village. Once a hamlet for workers at the power plant, Cavaglia is now a holiday village and the attractions include a hiking trail and various glacial formations.
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A spectacular view of the Palü Glacier and Lake Palü with the Italian Alps in the background soon unfolded before us after putting up with 30 minutes of ear-piercing screeches from the wheels. The Palü Glacier is nestled in between Piz Varuna and Piz Palü peaks, and feeds into Lake Palü which lies at an elevation of 1923m. It was definitely worth it!
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A brief 5-minute photo stop was made at Alp Grüm for passengers to enjoy the cool mountain air and to obtain photos of the Alps. The Alp Grüm station building and restaurant date back to 1923 and was designed by Nicolaus Hartmann. The station building retained the same distinctive style as other structures in the region.
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The station sign written in Japanese script was a gift from Hakone Tozan Railway (箱根登山鉄道 Hakone Tozan Tetsudō) in June 1984 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the establishment of sister railway relationship with Rhätische Bahn. The mountain railway serves the resort in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, and the technology was inspired by the Bernina Railway.
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The approach to Alp Grüm from Poschiavo is characterized by a series of hairpin loops and S-bends. Lago di Poschiavo could also be seen in the view of the valley from Alp Grüm station.
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The train continued its ascent after leaving Alp Grüm and it was hard to contain our excitement when we came close to snow drift again since our ride on the Gornergrat Bahn on Day 6!
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The train soon met up with the Bernina Pass road near Ospizio Bernina at an elevation of 2,253m and ran alongside the alpine lakes of Lago Bianco, Lej Nair and Lej Pitschen. The Bernina Pass demarcates the border between the southern Italian-speaking Poschiavo Valley and the northern Romansh- and German-speaking Engadine region. In addition, the mountain pass separates the European drainage basins – the waters to the north flows into the Danube and the Black Sea while the waters to the south flow into the River Po and the Adriatic Sea. Lago Bianco means “White Lake” in Italian and the name comes from the fine rock fragments ground by a glacier, otherwise known as “glacier milk”, which gives the lake its characteristic colour.
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Lago Bianco has a surface area of 1.5 sq km and maximum depth of 53m. It is a reservoir formed by two dams across two small natural lakes, Lago della Scala and the original Lago Bianco.
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B40 UM-2 works locomotive “Albula” at Ospizio Bernina station used for the maintenance of track ballast.
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The train continued alongside the mountain road during the descent after passing Ospizio Bernina. In contrast to Lago Bianco, Lej Nair means “Black Lake” in Romansh and is part of the basin of the Inn River draining into the Black Sea.
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At some portions of the journey, we were able to indulge in another quintessential Swiss railway experience - the distinctive sound of cowbells echoing off the valley and the sight of cows grazing on meadows near the railway tracks.
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The Berninabach (Bernina Creek / Romansh: Ova da Bernina) is a 15km mountain stream which originates mainly from the meltwater of Morteratsch-, Pers- and Tschiervagletscher.
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The Diavolezza aerial tramway brings visitors from the Bernina-Diavolezza station to the mountain peak at 2978m above sea level. The name means “the beautiful she-devil” in the local Italian dialect and legend has it that a mountain fairy queen would lure young handsome hunters to their death with her beauty.
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ABe 4/4 III electric railcar #51 “Poschiavo” adorns a special livery to commemorate the successful candidature of the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Built by SLM and ABB in 1988-1990, the ABe 4/4 III was the third class of RhB railcars designated as ABe 4/4 under the Swiss Locomotive and Railcar Classification. ABe 4/4 denotes an electric railcar with first and second compartments and a total of four axles, all of which are drive axles.
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A wider section of the Berninabach near Las Plattas before the Bernina Cascade offered passengers a more inclusive view of the surrounding valley.
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The famed Montebello Curve crossed the Bernina Pass road in a hairpin loop and offers a good view of the Morteratsch Glacier with the impressive peaks in the background.
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Rapids along Ova da Morteratsch near Morteratsch station, above the confluence with the Berninabach.
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Above the confluence with Ova da Morteratsch, the Berninabach plunges down the Bernina Cascade (Cascata da Bernina) into the deep valley.
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The Bernina and Albula Railways meet at Pontresina station, which lies at an elevation of 1,774m. Due to different electrification (1,000V DC for Bernina Railway and 11 kV AC for Albula Railway), Bernina Express trains traditionally had to change locomotives at Pontresina station. However, this was not necessary for our train as it was hauled by the dual-voltage “Allegra” stock EMU. RhB ordered 15 ABe 8/12 Stadler Allegra trains for use on routes with steep incline and the trains were delivered between October 2009 and March 2011. The passenger compartment of the Allegra railcar of our train was locked, presumably to reduce loads hauling a rack of panoramic carriages.
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After a 17-minute scheduled break, the train continued its journey to Samedan station where it joined the mainline of the Albula Railway. The Muottas Muragl funicular brings visitors from Punt Muragl station of the Albula Railway to the vantage point which offers a good view of the valleys which converge in Samedan.
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Samedan is the heart of the Upper Engadine and the prominent landmark of the town is the Romanesque tower of the Old St. Peter Parish Church built in around 1200.
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After Samedan, in Bever, the train left the valley and embarked on the climb to another spectacular leg of the journey. The major highlight was the sector between Preda and Bergün, where the railway line has to overcome a height difference of 416m over a crow-fly distance of only 6.5km. This was achieved by extending the route by 12km through an elaborate series of five spiral tunnels and two straight tunnels, nine viaducts and two galleries – considered the most ingenious railway line ever built. It is truly a tribute to the engineers in the past who had made such a feat possible while causing the least amount of damage and disruption to the fragile ecosystem.
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Preda station is located at the northern end of the 5865-metre long Albula Tunnel, the highest subterranean alpine crossing in Europe.
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As the train wound its way down towards Bergün, there were a few occasions where another section of the track could be seen.
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The municipality of Bergün lies in the Albula Valley and is officially known by its German/Romansh double-name Bergün/Bravuogn since 1943. Until the 19th century, the common tongue of most of the population in the linear village was Romansh (80.4% in 1880), but the number of Romansh speakers declined steeply over the years (10.6% in 2000). At this station, our train also crossed another train which was operating the famed Glacier Express service that connects the two main mountain resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz in the Swiss Alps.
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Exiting the Landwasser Tunnel through a massive vertical rock face, the Bernina Express crosses over a dramatic 450 ft long Landwasser Viaduct into the Landwassertal Valley. The Landwasser Viaduct was designed by Alexander Acatos and built between 1901 and 1902 by Müller & Zeerleder. Widely used to symbolise the Albula Railway, and often the Rhaetian Railway in general, the stonework on the six sweeping 300 ft arches were put in place without the use of scaffolding despite being at a height of 164 ft.
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Tiefencastel lies at the crossroads of the historic paths that lead to the Julier, Septimer and Albula Passes over the Alps. The main citadel at the top of Kirchhugel hill is a prominent feature of this town.
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The bulk of the passengers on the train alighted at Tiefencastel to embark on excursions and tours to further explore the Engadine region. We photographed a PostAuto MAN Lion’s City laying over at Tiefencastel station while working on Service 14 to Stierva via Mon.
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With entire carriages being empty, it became much easier to obtain a photo of the Panorama carriages used on the Bernina Express. Primarily manufactured by Stadler, Switzerland’s unique panoramic train cars feature large curved windows which sweep halfway across the ceiling to allow passengers to take in views of the beautiful scenery during the journey.
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(From left) Passengers on the Bernina Express soon got used to the bizarre sight of a stuffed alpine ibex parading down the aisle of the carriage as the catering cart made its rounds. A clean and well-appointed toilet is located at the end of each carriage, with natural ventilation provided by the hopper windows. A neat sliding sign indicate the seat number of each seat and if it is free or reserved. Passengers are provided with a detailed brochure about the railway at their seat. In addition, a map of the Rhaetian Railway network is also imprinted on the folding side table for easy reference.
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Thusis station is decorated with three bronze statues by Robert Indermaur, one of Graubünden’s favourite artists. Two of the statues can be seen in this photo – a man waving goodbye to a departing passenger and a man running furiously to board the train. The third statue features a lady seated on her suitcase at the platform, waiting for her train with a furled umbrella.
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As the train proceeded on to the final leg of the journey, we passed through Domleschg which proudly holds the claim as the region with the most number of castles in Europe. The town of Reichenau marks the confluence of two arms of the Upper Rhine (the Vorderrhein and the Hinterrhein — "Back-Rhine").
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The train finally pulled into the medieval town of Chur at the end of a 4.5hour long journey from Tirano. Thus, the Bernina Express is not exactly an express train with regards to its speed, but rather for providing a single seat for a long distance journey. After disembarking from the train at Chur, we turned our attention to a RhB Ge 4/4 II locomotive #627 at the adjacent platform with a rack of old carriages attached to it.
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Overnight in Chur

A modern PostAuto bus station above the Chur Railway station provides a convenient connection for passengers heading for the rural regions. A centralised LED information display board informs passengers of upcoming departures of PostAuto rural services from Chur, who would then walk to the corresponding boarding location. We spotted a MAN Lion’s Regio coach similar to the one we took on the Bernina Express Bus, but adorned with the standard yellow based PostAuto livery instead.
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Apart from being equipped with bike racks at the rear of the bus, a hook is also located at the bumper to tow mail trailers to rural post offices along its route – the reason why these distinctive buses are known as PostAuto buses.
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GR 160326, a PostAuto Setra S315 GT HD awaits its next trip at the bus station.
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GR 159347 is a PostAuto Neoplan Transliner and wore a special livery to promote a local radio channel.
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As it started to drizzle, we initially wanted to have dinner in the vicinity of the station, but were unable to find any restaurant which suited our budget and decided to wait for the rain to stop. This was unsurprising as Chur is known to be an expensive city, even by Swiss standard. With the help of the GPS on one of our mobile phones, we were able to locate our hotel, Zunfthaus zur Rebleuten, which is set in a charming old building in the old quarter of the city.
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A small plaque outside the hotel gives a brief history of the hotel and the plaza, Pfisterplatz which is situated in front of the property. (top right)
Dating back to 1483, age of the building however meant that we had to manually lug our luggage up to the hotel reception and our rooms. Various curios and decorative items line the stairwell up to the reception and lent a cosy feel to the inn (left & bottom right).
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We decided to book a quad-sharing room without bathroom instead of two twin-sharing rooms with ensuite bathrooms to save on accommodation for the one-night stay. To our delight, the shower room was located just beside our room.
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We headed out for dinner and after wandering through the cobbled streets, we were drawn by the cheap prices at Bistro Café Kapadokya.
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The serving turned out to be rather small but an array of different sauces was available as condiment. The café was staffed by some very friendly and sociable Turk waitresses, to the extent that we got carried away chatting with them and almost forgot to settle our bill!
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Some of us went to COOP to buy water and chocolates, and had the distinction of being the last customers in the store as we arrived just before closing time. In a stark comparison to the warm weather when we had left Milan earlier in the day, the heavy drizzle, stiff wind and temperature of 8°C meant that one of us quickly regretted wearing shorts instead of trousers!

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