The first time I experienced the Glacier Express was in the 1990’s when I traveled with tour operator Presidents from the United States Tour Operator Association, on an Out- of- Country Switzerland meeting as the USA Graubünden Tourist Office representative. It was Winter with the surroundings covered in white snow and everyone experiencing a “magical” kind of trip then.
In 2012 when I started freelancing Swiss Rail trips, I would do 4 to 9 Glacier Express trips a summer. This past year, I completed my 50th Glacier Express trip that coincidentally occured on my birthday. To top my day I lunched with the newly appointed President of the Glacier Express LLC, Annemarie Meyer, a tourism colleague, to hear first-hand upcoming Glacier Express new features.
It’s taken me a few years to actually understand & appreciate the engineering wonders the Glacier Express offers passengers. Here are some the Glacier Express highlights worth mentioning.
The Glacier Express began it’s journey as a 1930 train “brand” that connects St. Moritz in the canton of Graubünden, to Zermatt in the canton of Valais and vice versa traveling through the most scenic parts of Switzerland. The name honored the Rhone Glacier as it gave passengers the ability to see the Rhone Glacier as it traveled over the Furka pass.
The Glacier Express traverses the 181 mi / 291-kilometre-long journey through the center of the Swiss Alps, over 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels. The panorama windows that run from your elbow to the top of the roof, make for excellent viewing of the moving countryside.
Because the entire line is meter gauge (narrow gauge railway) this engineering allows the train to make the various grades; the lowest in Chur at 1,919 ft / 585m, to the highest Oberalp Pass , 6,670 ft. 2.033m.
To make the Glacier Express express more efficient and memorable, our trip starts in St. Moritz and departs in Andermatt around 2:00p.m. This allows people to experience the main highlights such as the Landwasser Viaduct, Albula tunnel, the ascent from Chur at 1,919 ft to the Oberalp pass summit 6,670 ft. while lunch is served.
By overnighting in Andermatt, people get to experience the Gotthard pass region, a 1940’s Swiss military bunker, ride a 2-hour Furka Steam Train and see the Rhone Glacier the next day. We end up in Zermatt but travel via Lugano and then the Centovalli railway train later to finally make our way to Zermatt.