Electric Transportation, Alps Style

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Electric Train Between Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, Jungfrau in Background

Electric Train Between Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, Jungfrau in Background

Does your image of electric transportation look like a tiny light weight car that can only drive around town?

Do you imagine it powering over mountain passes and up precipitous cliffs? In the Swiss Alps transportation is provided by a network of electric trains and cablecars. They serve mountain commuters, tourists gaping at the alpine scenery, and carry supplies to small car-free mountain villages.

When you get to Lauterbrunnen and want to go higher into to the Bernese Oberland it is time to find the car park and get on an electric train or a cablecar. The village of Wengen is served by the Wengernalpbahn which continues on through Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald. The train climbs the canyon wall via switchbacks to reach Wengen. Safety requires the electrified railcar to be at the bottom of the train. So when it reaches the pass at Kleine Scheidegg you have switch trains to one that is configured with the powered car at the other end (now the downhill end) for the descent into Grindelwald beside the wall of the towering Eiger. They do have the capability to turn the train around at Kleine Scheidegg also.

The Wengernalpbahn is the longest continuous cogwheel railway on Earth. As you can see in the upper photo the trains are equipped with photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate electricity while traveling.

If you want to ascend the other side of the valley you get on the cablecar up to Grütschalp then transfer to an electric train to reach Winteregg, Mürren, and Gimmelwald.

Wengernalpbahn Electric Cogwheel Train, Switzerland

Wengernalpbahn Electric Cogwheel Train, Switzerland

The trains and cablecars are also used to take supplies to the high mountain villages. Freight wagons are added to the trains when needed. The Grütschalp cablecar system has the capability to carry freight which is then transferred to the freight wagon.

For a roaming photographer these trains are a valuable asset. They not only provide transportation to striking scenery, but also they are absolutely punctual. Several times while walking near the railway I stopped and composed photographs knowing the train was about to arrive into the scene. I carried the schedule and estimated arrival times between stations and got into position in time for the train to make its reliable appearance around a bend or through a forest opening.

The entire area surrounding Lauterbrunnen is amazing and unique. There are more photos in Switzerland gallery. Please follow the Photography link above.

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