Driving a Train in Switzerland… Well, Almost!

swiss-train-stops

Imagine cutting through the Swiss landscape, winding through the valley, twirling down the Alps, chugging around bends and through tunnels where every corner and every turn is right in front of your eyes promising to be exceptional.

While visiting Switzerland over this past summer, with the family, I realized that it is a country for all seasons and is beautiful no matter where you are within its boundaries.

One of the best and most leisurely ways to see the natural beauty of Switzerland is through its extensive rail system. It’s easy because it unashamedly wanders through alluring valleys and mountains so you don’t miss out on anything or place. Moreover, the Swiss with their discounts and offers on train travel make it more attractive for travelers from outside the country.

oncoming-train

front-window

Even more enchanting is that Switzerland has gone out its way to make these train journeys all the more memorable; you can travel in a Belle Epoque cabin on the Chocolate Train or have almost 180 degrees of uninterrupted views via panoramic windows. If you travel by Second Class there is enough glass to capture the magic of Switzerland, but if you are willing to spend a little extra, the windows open up a great deal more and you can enjoy the splendor of Switzerland in all its majestic glory.

The Glacier and Bernina Express are two of the most popular train routes around the world and are often found in travel bucket-lists. They are the most photographed and written about and their claim to fame isn’t without reason. But, while these routes undoubtedly stand out for taking its passengers through some breathtakingly beautiful scenes, there is a little known option that is only available on some routes and on some trains that according to me trumps even the most panoramic of cabins in the above mentioned trains.

Limited seating makes the availability of these spaces, especially when not pre-booked, nothing short of pure luck. Furthermore, being a slightly more expensive option – a reservation charge on top of having a first class ticket, which can be upgraded from second class – makes this a one-of-a-kind experience that shouldn’t be missed out if within your budget.

front-view-seatsYour chance to almost drive a train in Switzerland comes courtesy of the Golden Pass trains that run the route between Zweisimmen and Montreux; 8 first class VIP seats, right in the front of the train, giving the traveler an exceptional view, one that only a driver is usually privy to, is what locomotive dreams are made of.

Having just managed to book seats on our journey back from Gstaad, while I spent most of the time standing, excitedly taking photos from each possible angle and side, I was filled to the brim with juvenile excitement, evident on the faces of my kids as well who couldn’t stop looking around and pointing at the passing scenery.

Crossing through small Swiss villages, at times houses on both sides, winding across hills with herds of cattle grazing, cutting through fields alive and green owing to the recent rains and intermittent sunshine, the train chugs along gently as views don’t just pass by anymore, instead, their arrival is greeted with OOHs and AAHs by those fortunate enough to see them in advance, much before anyone else on the train.

train-station

At one of the routine stops my son decides to make friends with a little girl, only slightly older than him, outside, on the platform, waiting possibly for a family member. A small village station, the train came to a standstill for a few extra minutes than usual. As the girl gets out of her car and practices cartwheels on the side, my son, fascinated by her actions and maybe her blonde hair, looks at her from behind the glass all smiles and giggles. She notices him too and smiles are exchanged. As the train whistles and readies to leave, he gains enough confidence to send a quick flying kiss through the panoramic window of the train which is received at the other end with a blush… and thus ends his first crush.

There are a lot of train journeys around the world that standout, some for their elegance and luxury while others for where they take us, but the front row VIP seats give another kind of “safe” thrill to its passengers, that of witnessing life in motion through an exclusive perspective – the sight of an oncoming train that makes your heart beat a little faster or the charm of waving to the locals waiting at train crossings are just some of the pleasures. It is an occurrence where the thrill factor isn’t high but it is very much real.

switzerland-nature

As we finally approach Montruex and catch the next train to Vevey, the change is so sudden that it takes a few minutes to resize that the experience is over. We still have breathtaking views of Lac Léman on one side and terraced vineyards on another, but it’s no longer as impacting as seeing the lake first appear almost magically around a bend in full grandeur from the front of the train.

While I recount this unforgettable train journey, I cannot help by wonder about the change in landscape once winter sets in and a blanket of white envelopes everything in Switzerland. More than that though, I cannot but feel envy towards the train drivers in Switzerland, who, now I know for a fact, have their ever changing “work windows” that give them the best front views in the entire world (well, except the one driving our train, because he/she was right at the back).

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47 thoughts on “Driving a Train in Switzerland… Well, Almost!

  1. A chocolate only cabin? Well I’ll be damned! That sounds like my kind of journey (as I write you from a chocolate cafe in Saigon.) Its on my bucket list to journey around Switzerland via train so I am bookmarking this and hopefully I can refer to this one day soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Swiss trains are really fantastic. We did a lot of traveling by train across Switzerland a couple of years ago and were really enthralled by the scenery all around. And Yes I too did get to ‘drive” a train and this was from on our way to Jungfraujoch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know much about Switzerland, and I live not far from it, but your article was such a great read! There were so much details, and it all seems so true, and mesmerezing! Such beautiful pictures and it seems your kids have really enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow what a fantastic experience!I can see why it felt like you were driving the train. Amazing photos too. Love the story about your sons crush. His first broken heart? Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was also planning a trip to Switzerland, as I backpack across Europe, earlier next year in February, but wasn’t sure should I take a bus to the country or a train. I think after reading your story, I’ve got the answer! Great post indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been to Switzerland a couple of times, took the train from Zurich central station to Choc but on a regular seat and still had a great view but i’m willing to spend more to get that seat upgraded and get the beautiful panoramic view, I think is fair enough!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful train ride! We always travel with the kids and love public transportation. It really gives them a different peek into the culture they came so far to see – the connection between your kiddo and the cartwheeler is a great example!! They’ll both remember that forever. Switzerland is beyond gorgeous and taking the train lets everyone enjoy the view – even the person who would ordinarily be the car driver!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You just won’t be able to get enough panoramic views in Switzerland! Everything is just so pretty any time of the year! I went on one of those Golden pass trains on my way to interlaken and to jungfraujoch. It was amazing! Great views left, right and center!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree Switzerland is a stunning place, its natural beauty is just wow. The Glacier and Bernina Express both sound like something I would love to do and I am definitely adding them to my bucket-list. However, I would love to do the Golden Pass trains even more especially because of the experience. How cool would it be sitting right up near the train driver? Thanks for the tips, I definitely taken note and btw great pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow those swiss train rides are stunning. The alps are so gorgeous. Thanks for the great tips on this distinctive Swiss experience. By the way – your website is snowing on my laptop. Just kidding. Love that effect, it really suits the post.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. to be honest, I don’t know that much about Switzerland; in Europe it’s always a bit off; they are having their special status as they aren’t in the European Union and everything is REALLY expensive there.. but I definitely would like to see more of it! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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