If you’ve stayed in the mountains, you’ve probably swooped up to the highest peaks in a gondola or chairlift. These dot-to-dots of cables and pulleys string out across our mountain ranges, taking visitors up to the prettiest views and paths. But they’re a relatively recent sight. Europe’s mountain railways were clack-clacking us up to the rocky heights long before the first lift pylon was drilled. There’s a local railway in or close to most resorts in Austria and Switzerland and a railway trip is a must on any mountain holiday.
One of Europe’s most photographed mountain railways is also the steepest cogwheel in the world. When the original plans for the Pilatus Railway were deemed too expensive to build, engineer Eduard Locher designed a new system that halved the line’s length and doubled its steepness to a dizzying 48 per cent. It opened in 1889 and was shown at the Paris World’s Fair as a marvel of engineering.
The 30-minute journey takes you past Alpine meadows and striking rock faces to the top of the Pilatus Kulm, said to have been the roost of dragons and haunted for centuries by the ghost of Pontius Pilate.
Take a trip on the Pilatus Railway when you stay in Lucerne in Switzerland.
Mountain railways may have been built to take people up to the peaks, but the journeys themselves are often the main attraction. Never more so than on the Schafberg Railway. Starting beside the shores of Lake Wolfgang in Austria, its bright red cars are chugged up the mountainside by steam engines on some journeys and diesel railcars on others. You’re met at the top by still mountain air, spectacular 360-degree scenery and Austria’s oldest mountain inn, the Hotel Schafbergspitze – a typical Austrian chalet building teetering on a jutting peak. On the return journey, the engine car acts as a braking system, guiding the passenger cars back down.
The Schafberg Railway was designed for artists and wealthy Viennese tourists in the 1890s, who’d long been inspired by St Wolfgang and its captivating legend. It’s said that the site of the village was chosen by St Wolfgang himself. Tired of searching the slopes of the mountain for the right spot on which to build his church, he threw an axe down the mountainside and it landed on the edge of a lake. There he built his church and the village was born around it.
Stay in St Wolfgang, Fuschl or St Gilgen to ride the Schafberg Railway.
Switzerland is known for its clocks, its chocolate and its beautiful railways. They’re clean, they run precisely to schedule and they glide past some truly magical scenery. What’s more, our Swiss holidays include self-transfers by Swiss Rail, so your scenic holiday starts right from the airport.
The highest railway station in Europe sits at the summit of the Jungfrau, one of the main peaks of the Bernese Alps. Much of the route travels through a tunnel, but you stop at mid-station viewing points along the way, including one that looks out over the infamous North Face of the Eiger. And it’s more than worth the ride when you reach the summit. The Jungfraujoch is known as ‘the top of Europe’ and sits at the source of Europe’s largest glacier, the Aletsch. It’s home to the Sphinx Observatory, whose observation deck gets some truly staggering views across the crisp air to the surrounding peaks. Unexpectedly, it’s also got an Indian restaurant. The Jungfraujoch has become a popular filming location in Bollywood, so you can tuck in to your favourite rogan josh at 3,450m.
Stay in Wengen, Grindelwald or Interlaken to ride the Jungfrau Railway.
Lake Garda is overflowing with sights, walks, history and culture – and...
Traditional mountain villages, laid-back lakeside towns and musical cities – Austria has...
Beaches with a difference. Think you have to go somewhere tropical to...
Author: Clarice Hine
Published: November 3, 2017
Our top deals tailored to you, straight to your inbox Sign up for offers
Shop Finder Ask a question? Contact us
We're part of TUI Group - one of the world's leading travel companies. And all of our holidays are designed to help you Discover Your Smile.
Registered address: Wigmore House, Wigmore Lane, Luton, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom, LU2 9TN
More from TUI
Terms & conditions
Ways to Pay
Google Play Store
App Store for Ios
Holiday Budget Calculator
TUI Credit Card
Travel After Brexit
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and National Travel Health Network and Centre have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad.
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information check www.gov.uk/travelaware and follow @FCOtravel and Facebook.com/FCOtravel
More information is available by checking /destinations/info/travel-aware
Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting www.travelhealthpro.org.uk
The advice can change so check regularly for updates.
All the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Some of the flights on this website are also financially protected by the ATOL scheme, but ATOL protection does not apply to all flights. This website will provide you with information on the protection that applies in the case of each flight before you make your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.caa.co.uk. ATOL protection does not apply to the other holiday and travel services listed on this website.