Riffelalp TramThe Riffelalp Tram
The Riffelalp tram (German: Riffelalptram, RiT) is a high altitude tramway line located in the Swiss canton of Valais near the resort of Zermatt. The line links the Riffelalp Resort to Riffelalp station, on the Gornergrat railway, and via that line to Zermatt and beyond.
The Riffelalp tram is the highest tram line in Europe.
Riffelalp Tram History
The Riffelalp Grand Hotel, the predecessor of today's Riffelalp Resort, was opened by Alexander Seiler in 1884. In 1898, the Gornergrat railway was opened, linking Zermatt to the summit of the Gornergrat. The line included a station called Riffelalp, but this was situated some distance from the resort.
In order to provide better access to the station, the hotel built the Riffelalp tram. The line opened on 13 July 1899, one year after the opening of the Gornergrat railway. The original track was 480 metres (1,570 ft) long and electrified, using a twin overhead line carrying a three-phase ac supply at 550 volts. The tram operated in the summer months only.
During the night of 14 February 1961, the Riffelalp Grand Hotel was destroyed in a fire. The original tram vehicles survived the fire, but without traffic from the hotel, tram service was suspended, it had last run on September 30, 1960 The vehicles were taken to Zermatt for storage, and the line remained closed for the next 40 years.
In 1998, work started on the construction of the new Riffelalp Resort on the site of the old grand hotel. As part of this reconstruction, the tram line was relayed on its original route. The wooden bodies of the original cars had deteriorated in storage, whilst modern safety standards precluded the reintroduction of the original three-phase supply. The original cars were therefore rebuilt with replacement bodies and using battery power. The new line was opened on 15 June 2001.
Riffelalp Tram Operation
The tram line follows the footpath that links the Riffelalp station, at 2,210 m (7,250 ft) above sea level, with the Riffelalp Resort, at 2,222 m (7,290 ft) above sea level. The line has a length of 675 metres (2,215 ft) and comprises a single track of 800 mm gauge (2 ft 7 1⁄2 in gauge).
At the station end of the line, the tram shares the building of the station and is linked to its cargo ramp. There is no direct connection to the Gornergrat railway, which is of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) gauge. At the resort end of the line, there is a terminal loop and a depot for the trams, with a battery station.
There are two trams in use, along with a goods trailer. Both trams are driven by a battery (80 V, 400 Ah) and two d.c. motors each delivering 10 kW, and a maximum speed of 10 km/h (6.2 mph). The battery is partially recharged during the electric braking operation.
The service operates during the resort's summer season, which runs from June to September. It is the access route recommended for its guests by the Riffelalp Resort, who provide porter assistance at both Zermatt and Riffelalp stations. During the resort's winter season, from December to April, a snowmobile service is provided in place of the tram.
Riffelalp Tram Overview
Riffelalp Tram Type: Tramway, Mountain railway
Riffelalp Tram Locale: Zermatt, Switzerland
Riffelalp Tram Terminal Stations: Riffelalp, Riffelalp Resort
Riffelalp Tram Stations: 2
Riffelalp Tram Operational Details
Riffelalp Tram Opened: 13 July 1899
Riffelalp Tram Closed: 30 September 1960
Riffelalp Tram Re-opened: 15 June 2001
Riffelalp Tram Owner: Riffelalptram (RiT)
Riffelalp Tram Technical Details
Riffelalp Tram Line length: 675.31 m (0.420 mi)
Riffelalp Tram Number of Tracks: Single track
Riffelalp Tram Track Gauge: 800 mm (2 ft 7 1⁄2 in)
Riffelalp Tram Electrification: 550 V / 40 Hz, 3-phase (until 1961)
80 V / 400 Ah (since 2001)
Riffelalp Tram Elevation and Incline Details
Riffelalp Tram Highest Elevation: 2,222 m (7,290.0 ft)
Riffelalp Tram Maximum Incline: 5%