Taking the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn … after missing the Glacier Express …

This post on the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn is a little overdue. I had hoped to post it before we went on holiday last week…but with one thing after another…I just could not find time to finish uploading the photos before we left. But…better late than never lah. And to those who have been waiting to see the photos of the last part of our Glacier Express misadventure … I am sure you will find it worth the wait!

So…even though we failed to get on board the Glacier Express train at St. Moritz … we did manage to do the Glacier Express route. All the way to Brig…as was the intended plan … but … by skipping Chur and by having to change trains 3 times. Basically we did the route … the old way … before the Glacier Express train service was introduced in 1930 to save train passengers the hassles of having to change trains when travelling from the Engandine mountain valleys to the Valais mountain valleys. All thanks to the kind help and suggestion from the conductor on the Rhätische Bahn (RhB) train that we took from St. Moritz (when we thought we had to go back to Chur to take the connecting train back to Lausanne).

To do this route, we had to change track at Reichenau-Tamins and later changed to the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGBahn) trains at Disentis and again at Andermatt. Although the MGBahn train might not be as famous as the Glacier Express train, this red and white train actually passes through some of the most scenic landscapes in Switzerland … in particular through the historical St. Gotthard Pass before arriving at the world-famous resort of Zermatt, the mountain valley from where one can admire the famous Matterhorn. These two famous Swiss landmarks thus gave the railway its name.

Unfortunately, the seat reservation surcharge that we paid for the Glacier Express was not valid on the MGBahn Panoramic carriage … so we had to sit in the normal carriage. But … the plus point of having to sit in the normal carriage was that the windows could be opened. This allowed us to take unobstructed shots of the landscapes that we went through without having to deal with the sun reflection on the glass windows. And since the normal carriage was not as full as the panoramic one … we could also move freely in between empty seats to take our photos. Wasn’t that a silver lining? 🙂

Ok dokie … enjoy the photos … of the magnificent and famous Swiss alpine landscapes along the route …

Waiting for our RhB connecting train at Reichenau-Tamins … that will take us to Disentis.

The red and white MGBahn, making its way from Disentis … towards Andermatt.

For those who do not know, the MGBahn is claimed to be “the Alpine adventure railway par excellence”.  Hmmm … if not for the fact that we had taken the train and had seen for ourselves the landscapes that we went through … I would not have believed this claim.  But it was truly a magnificent and fantabulous experience taking the MGBahn through the snow-covered Swiss alpine landscapes between Disentis and Brig!

Passing through valleys …

… as the train made its way towards the mountains …

… climbing higher and higher…

… towards snow-covered mountains …

Can’t help but noticed a structure perched high across two mountains … as the train wound its way up the mountains.

It looked very impressive … and indeed it is. It is the dam of Lai da Curnera. With a height of 153 m, the dam stands at about 2,000 m above sea level.

Going through one of the many tunnels, en route.

And then coming out … to see this view unfold.

The thin stretch of horizontal line in the centre … is actually another one of those long tunnels that took us through the mountains.

And the grey lines seen here on the slopes … are rows of steel structures to prevent avalanche. By the way … can you spot the wind turbines on the ridge?

One of the three wind turbines that we saw just before entering the tunnel, on the Gütsch  Some 2,332 m above sea level, this small wind turbine park is Europe’s highest. It generates enough energy to meet the needs of 900 households.

About to enter the tunnel that we had seen in the earlier picture above. And a structure (not sure if it’s a cabin or chalet) almost totally submerged in snow on the left.

The same cabin … as we got nearer. And at the back (on the left of the picture) was another tunnel (only the opening could be seen) which we had just passed through.

After coming out of the tunnel … the view taken from the left …

… and later from the right … sides of the train.

Quite a landscape … huh?

This stretch of the journey … as we passed through the snow-covered mountains in the Swiss Alps …

… was one of the most memorable that I ever had.

No words to describe how I felt then. Was just so thankful to the Almighty (and especially to the hubby, of course!) that I got to see and experience it.

A frozen water dam … high on the mountains, near the hamlet of Schöni, capturing the waters of the Oberalpreuss.

Approaching a ski resort area called Nätschen.

… with a restaurant at the edge. Just look at the valleys below … (way yonder). I supposed at 1,842 m high … it must feel like ‘almost in heaven’ to have a meal at this restaurant! 🙂

Although still high on the mountains …

… by this time the train was already starting to make its descend.

Approaching Andermatt (located in Canton of Uri and in the heart of the Gotthard holiday region) … the station where we had to change to another MGBahn train to get to Brig. Passengers would also have to change here to go to Göschenen, the Northern end of the Gotthard rail tunnel.

The followings are the train journey between Andermatt and Brig.

The landscape here was a little flatter than the previous part of the train journey.

But equally beautiful … if not as majestic.

All along this stretch of the journey … we saw many people doing ski de fond (cross-country skiing) … taking advantage of the looooong stretches of flat ground in the valley of Goms, which, with over 100km of courses, is often described as a paradise for cross-country skiers.

Near a village called Oberwald, situated at 1,377 m.

The view after leaving Oberwald.

At a village called Fiesch … a place to visit if you want to see the Aletsch glacier. You will need to take a cable car from this village to see the glacier. And the Aletsch glacier is just as impressive as the one at Mont-Blanc!!

Approaching the last leg of the journey before it ended in Brig … at least for us!

According to their website…the MGBahn railway covers a difference in altitude of 3,300 m. The lowest point of the journey is Visp (the stop just after Brig, where we had changed train to go back to Lausanne) at 625 m above sea level … and the highest is the Oberalppass (which we went through during the first part of the MGBahn train journey) at 2,033 m above sea level. Quite a feat, no?

And do you know what made it possible for these trains to climb so high up the mountains?

It is these tooth rack rails. The MGBahn trains are fitted with cog wheels or pinions that mesh with these rack rails … thus enabling it to climb steep mountain slopes on the rack between the rails.

So … since we had done most of the Glacier Express route (even though we had to take 3 different trains to do so) … do you wonder if we are going to try to do the Glacier Express, again? Well, the answer is of course … YES! After all … we still have not done the full stretch of the Glacier Express route … from end to end. So … we are going to try to do that next time. And … hopefully will not miss it for the third time!!

But … the next time we do it,  maybe we might change the itinerary a little. And … maybe possibly throw in 1 or 2 other side trips as well. From what I read … it seems that the Bernina Express, which starts from the same area in Canton Graubünden, is another special journey through the Swiss Alps … hmmmmm 🙂


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