Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Day 4: The Pilatus and Luzerne
Today’s adventure took us up to the top of The Pilatus. We took the Lotschberg High Line from Brig to Bern, and through the shorter Lotschberg Summit Tunnel. We left this morning on train RE3258, a BLS local using somewhat strange low floor EMU equipment with 1st class in the middle of the train set. At Bern we changed for another BLS train to go to Lucerne via the Emmental. This equipment was a former SBB tilt train that had been rebuilt and placed into service after being in the SBB reserve fleet. At Lucerne we changed to a DieZellerbahn train to go to Alpnachstad, where we got on the Pilatus Cog Railway. This railway is totally built on a grade, with the cars being built at an angle so the passenger compartment is somewhat level. It also has a unique cog system with not only a cog in the middle of the track, but cogs on the outside of the track as well. It takes about 40 minutes to get to the top of Pilatus Kulm, which is at 6981 feet.
After having lunch at Pilatus Klum, Jim and I boarded the cable cars for the decent back down to Lucerne. At the 2/3rds way point where you switch from cable car to gondola, there is a small amusement area with what’s billed as “Switzerland’s Longest summer toboggan run”. And it is long too. You go from the top of the hill down to the bottom, probably a good half mile or so winding down this hill side with the famous swiss cows on to the side of you. The run is so long that they have a cable to tow you and your toboggan back up to the top. Quite a fun ride, and only 8 francs to do so. Jim and I both went twice, the first time I was getting used to the track, the second time I was flying down the thing only to get stuck behind some slow traffic ahead of me.
After that adventure we got on the gondola, which is so long its actually in two sections, although you don’t have to get off in-between. It’s quite a bit different from the one at the Puyallup fair since its quite a bit higher, and probably ten times longer. At the bottom we saw a #15 bus arriving so we got on it thinking that I might be the one to take us back to the Lucerne Hbf, however it was only the local circulator. It did however take us to where we could catch the #1 trolleybus. We caught an outbound #1 to Obernau, this was a HESS trolley coach with a trailer. Lucerne is unique for running Trolleybuses with trailers, much like a passenger version of a U haul trailer. They are fitted out nicely, and they add capacity to the coach, plus add wheelchair accessibility to the otherwise non W/C Accessible coaches.
At Obernau there’s a nice loop and we waiting for one interval of service before heading back into town. Because I wanted to go to the Swiss transport museum to see if they had a book in stock, we boarded a #6 Trolley coach, again with trailer and went to the museum. Unfortunately they didn’t have the book, but 70 francs later my souvenir craving was satisfied with a magazine and a couple of DVDs. We boarded a #6 back into town, this time with a articulated HESS trolley coach (only saw a couple of the double articulated ones this time around) On the #6 for a portion of the line inbound there is a bus lane in the right hand lane to bypass traffic, and I can see why they need it. The street was at a total standstill from where we got on for about a quarter mile until the next big intersection. The rest of the way to Lucerne Hbf was in traffic and the line was stopped repeatedly with traffic. The coach did fill up fast though, and was pretty much maxed out by the time it got to the Hbf. We missed our train at 1700, so we had to wait until the next train at 1800. We stood on the end of the platform taking pictures of the passing trains, which were running constantly until our train arrived at 1730. The ride back to Brig was largely uneventful, however when we made our connection in Bern we got in the first 1st class cars we saw, which turned out to be additional co-rail type cars added to the front of the train. These were empty for most of the trip save for one other couple and the conductor. We didn’t even realize we were in the additional co-rail cars ahead of the typical bi-level equipment until we got into brig.
After that we had a fine dinner at Pizza Mueller to finish the night.