Watch two-kilometer-long passenger train snake through viaducts and tunnels in Switzerland

It took about an hour to cover a distance of 15 miles.
Ameya Paleja
Switzerland transport rail train record
Switzerland transport rail train record

Fabrice Coffrini/Getty 

Last Saturday, 25 electric trains were connected to make a 100-car, 1.18-mile (1.9 km) long passenger train that snaked through the tunnels and viaducts in the scenic Swiss Alps to mark the 175th anniversary of the first railway in the country, CNN reported.

The location for this historic feat was the world-renowned 38-mile Albula line between Thusis and St Moritz, comprising 55 bridges and 39 tunnels. Before constructing this line, travelers faced a risky 14-hour journey across these mountains. But a railway line below Danube and Rhine rivers makes today's trip much easier.

The record-breaking feat

The feat was organized by Rhaetische Bahn (Rhaetian Railway or RhB), the largest network of private railway providers in Switzerland. It took place in the Landwasser Viaduct, a globally known heritage line that uses narrow gauge rails. Unlike most rail tracks set at a standard gauge of four feet and 8.5 inches (1.435 meters apart), the RhB rails are narrower and placed only a meter apart.

Seven drivers and 21 technicians were involved in the short journey that saw the nearly two-kilometer-long train climb down from an altitude of 5,866 feet (1,788 m) to 3,277 feet (999 m) using spirals, viaducts, and tunnels, CNN said in its report.

Test runs before the attempt of this feat revealed several shortcomings, such as a lack of radio or cellphone service for the drivers to communicate inside tunnels. This was resolved by using a temporary field telephone service set up, especially for the event. The train drivers could now communicate without any hiccups and work in a synchronized fashion.

As modern trains are equipped with regenerative braking, the steep descent would send huge amounts of electric current back to the overhead power supply lines, risking the trains and the local power grid. To avoid this, the software on the electric train was modified to restrict the power sent back, and the trains moved at speeds mo more than 21 miles (35 km) an hour.

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Nineteen cameras on drones, helicopters, and the train itself captured this historic moment, as did some 3,000 lucky ticket holders.

Rail as the future

Despite its challenging geography, rail networks in Switzerland are one of the world's finest and the Swiss public rail enthusiasts. IN 2019, the Swiss clocked 19.7 billion passenger kilometers of rail travel, while in 2021, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) operated 11,260 trains carrying 880,000 passengers and 185,000 tonnes of freight per day, the CNN report said.

The country's 2,208-mile (3,265 km) long rail network has 804 stations, yet the Swiss Federal Council is considering rail investments for the future to shift short and medium travel away from cars.

Switzerland has ambitious plans to increase annual public transport usage from 26 billion passenger kilometers to 38 billion passenger kilometers by 2050, and integrating railway transport with other modes is a critical part of the plan.

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