Swiss Holiday:
Mt. Pilatus rack railway

Dewi Williams

Comments/corrections to: Dewi Williams

The Pilatusbahn climbs to the top of Mt. Pilatus from Alpnachstad, near Lucerne. The most unusual feature of the line (apart from its extreme steepness) is the rack rail, which has the teeth set horizontally rather than in the more usual vertical orientation.

We took the metre-gauge train from Hergiswil to Alpnachstad to get to the lower terminus. This shows a passenger train passing a freight at Alpnachstad. (Wednesday, 7 August 1947)

[Alpnachstad SBB station] os_021

On the Pilatus line, there was a stretch of double track just above the lower terminus. The individual electric railcars travelled separately, and this stretch of track allowed a "convoy" of cars to be assembled for the ascent. Another convoy could be held after its descent on the second track, and then each car was brought to the platform separately.

The horizontal rack shows up in these two photos. Conventional switch points would have been almost impossible for changing from one track to another. At the junction from single to double track, there was a moving table with two pieces of track on it: one curved left, one curved right. The table could be moved so that one curve or the other curve slid into a gap in the main track.

At the bottom of the line, there was a traverser, which would slide across carrying one car, moving it from the down track to the up track.

[Car leaving lower terminus] os_010

[Close-up of car front] os_011

Once on the single track section, the cars climbed steadily. Here are two "driver's eye" photos of the line ahead.

[Driver's view] os_012

[Emerging from tunnel] os_013

At the top, the "main line" was single track, but there were two sidings which could hold cars after they had unloaded. Here, the running line is in the middle, with a siding either side (photo by my cousin Lena).

[Sidings at top station] os_202

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This page last updated 2002-06-06