The Centovalli Railway


The Domodossola–Locarno railway, also known as the Centovalli railway is a meter-gauge railway negotiating the dramatic, alpine terrain between Domodossola in Italy and Locarno in Switzerland.

During its journey it passes through the villages of Intragna and Santa Maria Maggiore. It is operated by the Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi in Switzerland. This, unfortunately yet hilariously, leaves us with the abbreviation FART. On the Italian side it is operated by the Società Subalpina di Imprese Ferroviarie S.p.A. (SSIF).

The initial push for this railway came from Francesco Balli towards the end of the 19th century. Balli was the Mayor of Locarno at the time and seems to have had a flair for trains. He also was responsible that the Maggia-Railway and the cablecar to Madonna del Sasso were built.

Sadly, the First World War delayed construction which started in 1912. The Railway was eventually finished on November 25 in 1923.

This international railway, operated by two different companies from two different countries with two different political systems, two different public transportation systems and two different forms of public funding over two world wars and various changes of international law stands today as a beautiful example of cooperation.

Although, two internationally operating companies intensely work together, small differences in financial strength lead to a different pace in using electrical light signals. The Swiss section of the railway was fully equipped with light signals by 1963, whereas the financially struggling SSIF took almost another 30 years to keep up on the Italian rails sections. By the end of 1990 they finally managed to adjust to the newer technological standard.

Our 12 days rail tour features this lovely railway including a crossing from the canton of Wallis into Italy and back into Switzerland.