Switzerland July 2014
This is an extract from a multi-country report to read the full report use the following link:
The trip was in two parts, the first bit being solid trains and the second bit being a relaxing week, with a bit of trains, drifting from Zurich to Budapest via Prague & Bratislava with my girlfriend and a cracking week it was too; with weather that couldn’t have been better but was verging on too hot.
Booked direct through Norwegian Airlines
DY2497 1535 Budapest 2B – Gatwick – £78.80 each
Chur – Hotel Chur, Am Obertor, Chur, 7000 – CHF174 for single room for 2 nights – a 10 minute walk from Chur station following the Chur – Arosa railway line through the street. Strangely the Hotel Chur was closed at 2100 when I arrived; it seemed for renovations as the restaurant wasn’t open. Access was granted via a phone call and an entry code to a safety key store, which then got me inside and my room key was on the reception desk. Quite why the details of this couldn’t have been forwarded before I got there I don’t know. The Chur doesn’t have AC and it was a bit warm in the room initially. Of my stays here this room was the smallest and probably worst arranged of them all. Continental style breakfast was included in my room rate.
Luzern – Erlebnis Jailhotel, Lowengraben 18, Luzern, 6004 – CHF76 for single room for 1 night – My hotel for the night had been booked in walking distance from the station as I was arriving late and departing early. I’d chosen the Erlebnis Jailhotel, through Booking.com, for both its proximity to Luzern station and the cost for a single night. By the time I arrived at the place, I’d actually been moved about to different hotels no less than 4 times! Firstly I’d had an e-mail the previous week from the hotel telling me they’d moved me to their sister hotel, which was about 3km out of town, due to an incident at the hotel resulting in not all rooms being available. My response to them told them exactly why I’d chosen their hotel and that their alternative wasn’t acceptable at all; sure enough I was moved back to the Elebnis Jailhotel and all was well. Then while in Amsterdam, two days prior to arriving, I had a call from the hotel telling me that they had to move me to their sister hotel due to there being a broken bed in one of the single rooms they had; of course I was soon explaining to the guy at the end of the phone that they’d already tried to do this to me and it wasn’t acceptable then; and still wasn’t. He then told me we had a problem, to which I told him that I didn’t have one at all, he did and he needed to sort me out a bed near to Luzern station. 20 minutes later I had an e-mail from the Erlebnis Jailhotel confirming that they’d booked me a room at the Falken Hotel, which I found on Google Maps and it actually looked better than the Jailhotel itself, and was nearer to Luzern station. Imagine the mouthful the person ringing got when they rang while I was at Molsheim on the day of my arrival into Luzern, to tell me that I wasn’t staying at the Falken anymore and was actually back at the Jailhotel; my reservation having been cancelled at the Falken!
Despite all the messing about the room was ok and the place was just like a real jail, with proper jailhouse doors and the rooms were cell sized. There was no AC but the opening window sufficed, thanks to the rain cooling the temperature outside quite considerably. The main issue I had was the fact that the plug sockets were all the diamond shape ones, which sunk into the wall so I had to use my portable charger to charge everything that night.
Chur – Zunfthaus ruz Rebleuten, Pfisterplatz 1, Chur, 7000 – CFH148 for a double room for 1 night – situated on the pedestrian area which leads through Chur town, about 5 minutes from Chur station. The staff at the reception were waiting for us and no sooner had we arrived did the woman at reception disappear home. The room was clean and spacious, there wasn’t any air-con but it wasn’t needed, and if anything the rooms didn’t seem as drab as those at the Hotel Chur. Breakfast was included in the room rate and served just across the hall from reception in a rather small room.
Eurostar 9022 1131 St Pancras – Paris £73 booked online at Eurostar
Thello Train 221 1959 Paris – Milan (4 berth couchette) €77 booked online at Thello
Inter Rail Global Pass 15 Days – £369 booked through EU Rail
Reservations booked through Deutsche Bahn UK (all reservation only with Inter Rail Pass)
CNL40478 Basel – Koln €42.50 (4 berth couchette)
CNL40478 Basel – Arnhem €65 (3 berth sleeper)
CNL40419 Amsterdam – Basel €65 (3 berth sleeper)
CNL459 Zurich – Prague €180 (for two) (2 berth sleeper)
Switzerland BLS Car Train
0919 Iselle di Trasquera – Kandersteg CHF91 – booked through BLS online
Having travelled through France two days earlier and via Milan to Switzerland I had a pleasant day in Chur:
Thursday 17th July 2014 (Any 100 year old engines out today?)
With most of the day pretty much mapped out, thankful of the fact I could leave my big bag behind in the hotel, I headed down for breakfast at 0700 and was on the station by 0740 confirming in the SBB office that the RhB run special train would depart from platform 14 at 0903. That would be my day, and what better way to spend the day than pottering around the RhB network behind a pair of Crocodile locomotives?
What actually arrived with the 0825 Landquart – Scuol-Tarasp round trip excursion was Ge6/6 I “Crocodile” #415 and Ge4/6 #353. This was actually the booked combination for the same trip the following Thursday; which I was planning to do for that reason. It turned out that crocodile #414 was out of service and wouldn’t be fit for traffic until September so all the Thursday run specials in July would be the same combination and the Friday ones would be guaranteed to be crocodile #415; September would be a different story of course.
The train was formed of load 4 Pullman coaches, which were pristine inside and had very nice furnishings indeed. The cost for the whole day’s tour was only CHF12.50 on top of normal ticket prices and while the train had a few on board it was by no means full and very comfortable indeed in the armchair seating provided. Hayfever tablets taken, Beckonase sprayed up the nose and sunglasses on we set off with all the windows open in the coach as it was already warming up; thankfully my preventative measures halted constant bombardment of pollen resulting in me spending the day scratching my eyes out and sneezing!
The on-train manager was a pleasant chap and took the time to explain to me in English what he was telling the rest in German. It was he who told me, when asked, about the fact that #414 was out of service. The CHF12.50 supplement was paid to him when asked and a ticket was issued; I don’t know if you can actually pay this supplement before boarding.
The train runs out via Filisur to Samedan, where the locos run round before heading across to Sagliains and into Scuol-Tarasp. On the return the train heads directly back to Landquart via Klosters. I was furnished with all the require train number gen by the train manager just after we set off from Chur and from that point on spent the day taking in the scenery and mostly spotting every loco-hauled train I saw to add the loco number to the diagram sheet that I’d printed from the RhB Lokdienste; which was invaluable when it came to working a move out later that afternoon, on arrival back into Landquart.
The 1929 (#415) & 1914 (#353) built locos performed faultlessly the whole day. The crew were out at every opportunity to check the axles and oil them when necessary and as the weather was so perfect the train was followed the whole day by a good number of photographers. The only proper photo-stop of the day was at Ardez on the return, where the train was posed with the monument on the hill in the background. Even though there were trains running we were allowed to wonder freely on the tracks with the train manager alerting people when trains were coming. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day out, for a bargain price, and where else in the world, other than on the Mariazellerbahn in Austria, can you turn up and get on a train with a 100 year old engine at its helm on a main line railway these days!?
Having then spent a couple more days in Switzerland I popped into Luxembourg for the morning and then having done my mad dash round Luxembourg I was into Holland, where I nearly got fined by the police for ducking underneath a level crossing barrier; while it was going up. The law in Holland apparently not allowing anyone to cross before the red lights are out and the barriers are vertical. From there I headed back into Switzerland to meet my girlfriend and relax for a while; maybe:
Wednesday 23rd July 2014 (The Zurich Frenzy)
Having had a decent night’s sleep I was up at 0630 for a complete derance before heading back out for the day. When I got downstairs in the Erlebnis Jailhotel I noticed straight away that breakfast was laid out ready for start-up at 0700. It was the same guy on reception that had checked me in the previous night and it took no persuading at all to get myself a free breakfast. The guy was even willing to open up the breakfast room and let me sit down but all I was interested in was packing some sarnies for the day and having a quick bite and drink before I set sail; I certainly got my monies worth after the messing about the hotel had caused me.
The walk to Luzern station was a lot nicer than it had been in the opposite direction the previous night, no rain, hardly any people and a very atmospheric morning over the lake, affording some nice early morning shots of the Kapelbrucke in the process, with more being taken later in the morning in my downtime.
Having spent the day, without any real plans I ended up in Zurich with enough time to meet my girlfriend at Zurich Aiport. I only ended up waiting 8 minutes at the arrivals gate, her plane having already landed when I got there!
Things then became simple for the evening; get to Chur as quickly as possible and we did so via IC738 1811 St Gallen – Geneva to Zurich HB for the small plus onto IC587 1833 Basel – Chur. We were in Chur for 2052 and at the Hotel Zunfthaus zur Rebleuthen 10 minutes later.
All our other stays in Chur had been at the Hotel Chur but for some reason it seemed a better idea to stay at the Zunfthaus zur Rebleuthen, it being cheaper being a good enough reason. It’s situated on the pedestrian area which leads through Chur town and the staff at the reception were waiting for us. No sooner had we arrived did the woman at reception disappear home; we actually saw her walk past just after we’d sat down for food nearby. The room was clean and spacious, there wasn’t any air-con but it wasn’t needed, and if anything the rooms didn’t seem as drab as those at the Hotel Chur. Breakfast was included in the room rate and served just across the hall from reception in a rather small room.
Food that night was at the pizza place just across the road from the Hotel Chur, the karma unfortunately spoilt by a large group of Swiss Army guys that were thankfully just finishing up when we started; although they did put at least two other couples off eating there due to the noise they were making. It didn’t stop the food being as good as always though.
Having had a busy few days and an early start that morning, bed was a welcome sight that night and I was looking forward to a leisurely start the following morning.
Thursday 24th July 2014 (The promise of Pullman stock to Samedan……)
The whole idea of being in Chur on this particular day had been to do a second trip on the RhB run special; which was being run every Thursday & Friday with a combination of Ge6/6 Crocodiles #’s 414/415 and Ge4/6 #353. This particular date was advertised to be #353 plus a crocodile but as I’d found out the previous week, when the train arrived with #353 & #415, crocodile #414 was out of service at the current time so every date advertised as 2 x crocodile would in fact be 353/415. As I’d already had both locos, vice 2 x crocodile the previous week, I’d decided against doing the trip the whole way round anyway and once breakfast was over the day started rather well.
Unfortunately there was a mild turn for the worse when we came across the RhB Pullman stock sat round the back of Chur shed; while waiting for what I thought was it to arrive from Landquart! I’d promised my girlfriend a nice trip out on pristine Pullman stock in nice comfortable surroundings with clean toilets and a buffet car; what she actually got when #353 led the train into Chur was “nostalgia” coaches with wooden bench seats. Still, the toilets were clean, the train wasn’t wedged and there was still a buffet coach and the bonus of it all was that we didn’t get chung the CHF12.50 extra for the journey. This being even more of a bonus as we were only going to Samedan, not even half the day out, anyway.
The weather was nowhere near as good as it had been the previous week and the amount of photographers around was next to nothing compared to the previous Thursday. Due to a couple of late northbound St Moritz – Chur trains we were allowed off a couple of times for photos while we waited; the crew on board being very sociable in that respect and the whole crew throughout, drivers and all, were completely different from my last outing.
We were on time into Samedan and the locos were detached quickly. Photos taken we waited patiently for the next train to Pontresina just so I could do the track and then we headed straight back to Landquart on a very empty RE1342 1237 St Moritz – Landquart, which couldn’t have had more than half a dozen folk in the front coach and made for a very pleasant journey back to Landquart via Sagliains avoider.
Being in two minds what to do back at Landquart my mind was soon made up when SBB Re 4/4 11149 arrived with IC10778 1438 Chur – Zurich HB vice Re 460. Having spotted everything the whole morning on RhB there was nothing I could really do in regards to getting new stuff in any way as we needed to be in Zurich for our overnight to Dresden that night so this was quite a bonus really and it put us into some early rush-hour running about downstairs at Zurich HB; much to my girlfriends amusement.
Moves done for the evening we opted to get food at a Chinese place, which we’d passed a couple of times when walking from the S-bahn platforms to the new platforms 31-34 in the shopping area below Zurich HB. The food was fresh and tasty and it wasn’t wedged; take-away is also available.
Having been in and out of Switzerland so much during the trip thus far it was finally time to say goodbye for good; on this trip anyway. The solid cranking would then give way to a semi-normal trip with my girlfriend as we headed for Prague.
What was slightly confusing was the fact that our CNL459 1942 ex Zurich was being advertised to Praha Hlavni Nadrazi; not so strange under normal circumstances but……. When trying to book the sleeper berths through DB from the UK I’d been told they couldn’t book anything as the system wouldn’t let them so they gave me the contact e-mail for City Night Line themselves who subsequently told me that on the date we wanted to travel the train was terminating at Dresden and we’d have to make our own way from there to Prague by alternative trains. When I rang DB in the UK back and told them this they then had no issue issuing sleeper berth reservations to Dresden and we were all set. Once on board the first thing I did was confirm where the train was going with the sleeper berth attendant; of course I was surprised to be told Praha! It seems not even the train operator can be sure of where their trains are running and our reservation was soon changed to Praha vice Dresden and everyone was happy; including my girlfriend, who’s first trip on an overnight train anywhere in the world was about to commence.
SBB’s 460108 handed over to DB’s 101026 at Basel, which I’d already had across Germany and back during my trip, and once through Basel Bad we settled down to bed to relax for the night; although I had to set my alarm for 0615 to make sure I checked the loco that would work the train from Erfurt to Leipzig; having consulted all the diagrams I had on my tablet to figure out what worked where!