The Bernina Express is an express train which connects Chur (or Davos) to Poschiavo and Tirano crossing the Swiss Alps from north to south. The train is operated by the Rhaetian Railway, it is not an "express" in the sense of being a high-speed train but rather in the sense that it provides a one-seat ride for a long duration travel.
The trip on the Bernina Express is a 4 hour railway journey across 196 bridges, through 55 tunnels and across the Bernina Pass on the highest point at 2,253 metres in altitude. The entire line is metre gauge
The Bernina Railway built the line from 1908-1910 and operated independently until the 1940s. The Bernina Express uses gradients of 7% to achieve a difference in height of about 1800 meters from the summit at Ospizio Bernina to Tirano.
The Albula line and Bernina line on the Bernina Express route were declared a World Heritage Site in 2008.
The train leave the city of Chur
(585 m) in Graubünden
and follow the course of the Rhine
(655 m). From there it enters the Domleschg Valley and follows the Posterior Rhine
(658 m) to Thusis
(697 m). The train continues toward Tiefencastel
(851 m) following the Albula river
and then crosses the Landwasser Viaduct
before arriving at Filisur
(1032 m). Shortly after Filisur the train passes its first spiral
tunnel then continues to Bergün
. Between Bergün (1373 m) and Preda
(1789 m), at the end of the valley, the train has to achieve a difference in height of about 400 meters with an horizontal distance of 5 km without using rack-and-pinion
, but with many spirals. Then the train enters the Albula Tunnel
at 1,815 m under the Albula Pass
. It emerges in the Val Bever
where it reaches Bever
(1,708 m) on the Engadin
plain. The train continues toward Samedan
(1,721 m) and arrives at the St. Moritz
station (1,775 m).
The train leaves St. Moritz
and takes the line to Pontresina
(1,774 m) in the Val Bernina
. It ascends progressively the valley to the Bernina Pass
passing the Morteratsch
station (1,896 m), where the traveler can see the glacier
of the same name and the highest summit of the Eastern Alps
, the Piz Bernina
. Before arriving at the pass the train stops at Bernina Diavolezza
(2,093 m) where an aerial tramway leads to Diavolezza
. The Bernina Express reaches the summit at the Ospizio Bernina
station at 2,253 meters above the Lago Bianco
Alp Grüm (2,091 m) is the first station south of the Alps, situated above the Lago Palü and right below the Piz Palü and its glacier. After many hairpin turns the train reaches Cavaglia (1,693 m) above the Val Poschiavo and finally, the Swiss Italian speaking town of Poschiavo at 1,014 meters. The train then follows the course of the Poschiavino and passes at Le Prese (964 m) and Miralago (965 m) both on the Lake Poschiavo's shore. After Miralago it continues its descent toward Brusio (780 m), where it passes the spiral of the Brusio Viaduct. Shortly after having passed the Italian border at Campocologno (553 m) the Bernina Express ends its journey at the Tirano station at 430 meters.