Gornergrat Railway

The Gornergrat Railway

The Gornergrat railway (German: Gornergratbahn or Gornergrat-Bahn; GGB) is a mountain rack railway, located in the Swiss canton of Valais. It links the resort village of Zermatt, situated at 1,604 m (5,262 ft) above mean sea level, to the summit of the Gornergrat. The Gornergrat railway station is situated at an altitude of 3,089 m (10,135 ft), which makes the Gornergrat railway the second highest railway in Europe after the Jungfrau, and the highest open-air railway of the continent. The line opened in 1898, and was the first electric rack railway to be built in Switzerland.

The Gornergrat is a starting point for many hikes, as it lies surrounded by 29 peaks rising above 4,000 m (13,123 ft) in the Alps and several glaciers, including the Gorner Glacier (which is billed as the second longest glacier in the Alps). At the end of the line on Gornergrat, the Matterhorn is visible on a clear day. It is also a popular skiing area.

The Gornergrat railway company (Gornergrat Bahn AG) is a wholly owned subsidiary of BVZ Holdings AG, who are also the majority owners of the Matterhorn Gotthard Verkehrs AG, the company that operates the Matterhorn-Gotthard railway (MGB), with which the GGB connects in Zermatt.

Gornergrat Railway History

Work on the railway started in 1896, five years after the Visp-Zermatt-Bahn had linked Zermatt to Visp and the Rhone Valley. The line opened on August 20, 1898, and was electrified from the start. Initially it only operated in summer, but year-round operation was extended to the lower section of the line in 1929, and to the summit in 1941.

The upper terminal was remodelled in 2004

Gornergrat Railway Route

There are several passenger stops on the line:

Station Distance Height (AMSL)
Zermatt 0.00 1,605 m (5,266 ft)

Note: Link to Matterhorn-Gotthard railway and the Zermatt-Sunnegga funicular
  • Findelbach 1.75 km (1.09 mi)  1,770 m (5,810 ft)
  • Riffelalp 4.03 km (2.50 mi)  2,211 m (7,254 ft)
Note: Link to the Riffelalp tram, providing connection to Riffelalp Resort
  • Riffelberg 6.47 km (4.02 mi)  2,582 m (8,471 ft)
Note: With a three-star hotel
  • Rotenboden 7.91 km (4.92 mi)  2,815 m (9,236 ft)
  • Gornergrat 9.34 km (5.80 mi)  3,089 m (10,135 ft)
Note: With a three-star hotel and observatory

The are also freight only stations at Ladegleis Findelbach, which is on a short branch from the passenger station at Findelbach, and at Riffelboden, which is situated between Riffelalp and Riffelberg passenger stations.

Gornergrat Railway Infrastructure

The line is 9,339 m (30,640 ft) in length, including 3,790 m (12,434 ft) of double track, and traverses an altitude difference of 1,469 m (4,820 ft). It is built to metre gauge (3 ft 3 3/8 in) and uses the Abt rack system throughout. It is one of four lines in the world using three-phase electric power, requiring two overhead conductors, with the track forming the third conductor.

Gornergrat Railway Rolling Stock

The Gornergrat railway line uses the following rolling stock:

Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3001/3003
Notation: He 2/2
Year of Manufacture: 1898
Train details: Locomotives. Unit 3002 survives, and is displayed on a roundabout at Stalden.

Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3015
Notation: Dhe 2/4
Train details: Baggage car, rebuilt from sister car to 3019-3022
Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3017
Notation: Xhe 2/4
Train details: Works car, rebuilt from sister car to 3019-3022. Carries re-railing equipment and equipment to apply anti-freeze to the overhead wires.

Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3019-3022
Notation: Bhe 2/4
Year of Manufacture: 1947-61
Train details: Single unit railcars, remaining four cars of a once much larger class (3011-3022). Two other members of this class have been rebuilt (3015/3017), the remainder have been scrapped.

Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3041-3044
Notation: Bhe 4/8
Year of Manufacture: 1965-75
Train details: Twin unit railcars

Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3051-3054
Notation: Bhe 4/8
Year of Manufacture: 1993
Train details: Twin unit railcars

Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3061-3062
Notation: Bhe 4/4
Year of Manufacture: 1981
Train details: Multi-purpose railcars, which can operate in passenger service with matching driving trailers Bt 3071-3072, or in freight/works service.    

Gornergrat Railway Train Numbers: 3081-3084
Notation: Bhe 4/6
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Train details: Low floor two-section articulated railcars, built by Stadler Rail.

The railway typically operates two-railcar trains, and can carry approximately 2,500 people per hour from Zermatt to the mountain summit

Gornergrat Railway Operation

Gornergrat Railway Owner:                      BVZ Holding
Gornergrat Railway Line Length:             9.339 km (5.803 mi)
Gornergrat Railway Number of Tracks:   Single track
Gornergrat Railway Length of Track:      3.79 km (2.355 mi)
Gornergrat Railway Type of Track:         Double track
Gornergrat Railway Track Gauge:           1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3/8 in)
Gornergrat Railway Electrification:         725 V, 50 Hz, 3-phase, 2 Overhead lines

Gornergrat Railway Elevation and Incline

Gornergrat Railway Highest Elevation:   3,089 m (10,135 ft)
Gornergrat Railway Rack System:           Abt
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