Probably the best known mountains of the Bernese Oberland, or perhaps even Switzerland, are the Eiger (monster), Mönch (monk), and the Jungfrau (young girl). The Jungfrau was first climbed in 1811 followed by the Mönch in 1857 and the Eiger in 1858. Today you don't have to climb but you can ride in comfort to the top of the Jungfrau. With the Swiss love of tunnels and narrow gauge rack railways they have tunnelled their way to the Top of Europe, the Jungfraujoch. The three primary Jungfraubahnen are the Berner Oberland Bahn, the Wengernalpbahn, and the Jungfraubahn which connect Interlaken Ost (east) with the facilities at the Top of Europe. Examine the map below by clicking on it to see a larger version:
The Three Railways
The Berner Oberland Bahn (BOB) is a metre gauge rack railway in some locations where the grade is steepest but also operates without a rack section on many sections of the railway. Transition from conventional running onto a rack section is barely noticeable as the train does not appear to slow. I'm told some sort of clutch arrangement provides this smooth transition onto the rack. This photo shows an adhesion to rack transition mechanism at Lauterbrunnen at the summit of the grade leading to Lauterbrunnen station. The BOB connects Interlaken Ost with both Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald by a junction located at Zweilütschinen (pronounced z-vy-LOOT-shee-nen).
At Lauterbrunnen the BOB shares a platform with the Wengernalpbahn (WAB), an 800 millimetre gauge rack railway. It appears all of the WAB contains rack rail and there are no transitions to conventional trackage. From Lauterbrunnen the WAB climbs up to Kleine Scheidegg (Kline-a Shy-dig) at an altitude of 2,061 metres (6,762 feet) then descends to Grund and back up again slightly to reach Grindelwald.
This brings us to the Jungfraubahn which operates only from Kleine Scheidegg to an altitude of 3,454 metres (11,333 feet) near the summit of the Jungfrau known as the Jungfraujoch or the Top of Europe. Strictly a rack railway the Jungfrau does most of it ascent tunnelling inside the Eiger and Mönch to reach the Jungfraujoch bahnhof (station) complex located inside the Jungfrau mountain.
The Jungfrau Railway was built by Adolf Guyer-Zeller, a colourful and charismatic figure in the history of Swiss transport. A contemporary described him as "a man of bold daring who always had ambitious plans. His strangely complex nature combined cold ruthlessness, aimed at getting his own way, with a childish soft-heartedness and deep religious persuasion". He was both an adventurer and an artist.
Adolf Guyer-Zeller was a textile magnate, who had already travelled the world and successfully expanded his father's spinning mill. He served twice as a liberal member of the Zurich Cantonal Parliament. A financial speculator, he invested successfully in both the Gotthard Railway and North-Eastern Railway and joined the latter's board of directors in 1892. Two years later, the Swiss Parliament granted him a concession to construct the Jungfrau Railway. The spectacular project was to prove the crowning achievement in the career of Adolf Guyer-Zeller, a pioneer committed to technological progress. The Jungfrau Railway has since opened up the high-Alpine landscape to thousands of travellers.
Construction of the Jungfrau Railway was estimated to take seven years at a cost of 10 million Swiss Francs. But due to technical difficulties, supply problems, extreme environmental and climatic conditions, both forecasts were wide of the mark. Construction instead took 16 years and cost 15 million Swiss Francs.
The base camp for the workforce was located at the northern edge of the Eiger Glacier. Up to 300 persons were accommodated in houses and barracks, and received regular deliveries of supplies. In winter the workforce in the "Sea of Ice" area was cut off from the outside world, necessitating advance delivery of the following provisions in the autumn:
The looping tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch mountains combined a number of major advantages:
When the Jungfrau Railway was being planned, electrically-operated trains were still in their infancy. The first experiments were carried out on streets, and 1888 saw the first tram enter into service. The builders who pioneered the Jungfrau Railway opted for electricity from the beginning, citing four main reasons:
On peak days more than 4,000 passengers travel up to the Jungfraujoch. To meet demand, Jungfrau Railway capacity has been increased over the years as follows:
* The railway extended only to Eigergletscher in 1898.
Jungfraubahn locomotive He 2/2 built in 1912 currently stored at Kleine Scheidegg.
Rack Rail and Braking
The Jungfrau Railway was the first cogwheel railway to use the "Strub" system. Today the 100-year-old racks are gradually being replaced by Lamella racks made by Von Roll.
All rail cars have four brakes:
Associated Web Sites
Wikipedia - Berner Oberland Bahn
Wikipedia - Wengernalpbahn
Wikipedia - Jungfraubahn
Railfan Europe Picture Gallery - BOB
Railfan Europe Picture Gallery - WAB
Railfan Europe Picture Gallery - JB
Gear and Rack Meshing Mechanism Patent (.pdf)
(Although the rack is off to one side of the track this invention seems
somewhat similar to the photo of the transition mechanism located at Lauterbrunnen.)
Gesellschaft Brown Boveri Patent
Rack, Pinion, and Adhesion Drive Patent
Driving Device for Rail Vehicles having Friction and Cog Drives Patent
Kotarski Gear Engagement Device Patent
FAG Gearbox Bearings in a Zermatt Rack Railway Train (.pdf)
Rail Info Switzerland