Bernina Express crossing the Swiss Alps

Bernina Express – Little red train
 Crossing the Swiss Alps by railway 

Tirano/Italy, St. Moritz/Switzerland (2017) – Since August of this year I have something in common with one of the greatest generals and military strategists in history, Hannibal, we both crossed the Alps. Of course each one of us did it with style, Hannibal on a war elephant and I on the coolest train in the Alps, the Bernina Express. The little red train, how the Bernina Express is also called, is part of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and links the famous St. Moritz in Switzerland with the town of Tirana/Sondrio in Italy via the Bernina Pass. Crossing the Swiss Engadine Alps on railroad tracks is nothing short of an mind-boggling adventure. The Bernina Express masters inclines up to 7 percent to reach the Bernina Pass at a height of 2.253 meters (7,392 feet) above sea level almost effortless and made the record books with this highest railway crossing in Europe. The Bernina Railway is further more the highest public railway line in the Alps.
  
Inside the Bernina Express
The Bernina Express – Slow sightseeing train with large windows and audio guide
Even though the train is called Express, there is absolutely nothing high-speed about it. The train does not race over the Alps, quite the contrary which makes this incredible journey even more enjoyable. It's a sightseeing train with enlarged windows and an audio guide which gives tourists insight about the railroad line and the sights, so everyone can enjoy the amazing beauty of the Bernina Landscape, which is by the way listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.  

Tirano to St. Moritz – A two hour record book journey in the most beautiful landscape
A trip from Italy's Tirano at 429 meter sea level (1,407 ft) to St. Moritz at 1.775 meter above sea level (5,824 ft) and passing the Bernina Pass in 2.253 meters (7,392ft) takes about 2 hours, including the many stops on the way. The "Trenino Rosso" (the little red train/die kleine Rote) crosses the border from Italy into Switzerland in Campocologno/ Brusio, shortly past Tirano. It truly is a spectacular beginning of the journey with the passing of the "Brusio Circular Viaduct", not only for train enthusiasts a great moment. The spiral viaduct is an impressive construct of railroad engineering built with the purpose to adjust the altitude of the railroad line. The wide turn of the long red train is something you don't see every day and is for sure a "Kodak" moment. Passing the Lago di Poschiavo, the Bernina Express starts its real first incline up to the Val Poschiavo, reaching almost without noticeable effort 1.014 meters (3327 ft) above sea level. Many hairpin turns, bridges and tunnels later the Bernina Express arrives at "Alp Grüm" a railroad station situated above the Lago Palü and below the mountain Piz Palü (3.900 m/12,795ft). Time to get out for a few minutes, even have your first Italian espresso in Switzerland, snap a few photos and let the blood flow back into your legs.  

The high point: Bernina Pass at 2.253 m (7,392ft)
The amazing journey with the Bernina Express continues with more turns and tunnels, winding up the mountain and a bit later along the Lago Bianco and its surrounding very beautiful landscape. Finally the "Trenino Rosso" reaches its high point when the train arrives at the summit at Ospizio Bernina, the Bernina Pass at 2.253 meter (7,392ft) above sea level. Not only is this the moment when you stop questioning how you got up so high by train but starting to enjoy the truly amazing landscape. Right in front of you is now the highest summit of the Eastern Alps, the Piz Bernina (4.093m/ 13,428ft). The train stops at Bernina Diavolezza, where the station for the cable car is located, which offers people the easy way up to the mountain peak and to the amazingly beautiful glacier. One of the last halts of the train, after passing the incredible gigantic Morteratsch Glacier and before reaching St. Moritz is Pontresina, a beautiful mountain village, known not only for the gorgeous mountain view but also for its Belle Époque hotels and traditional Engadine stone houses. Definitely worth seeing!  

Riding open-roof on the way back
For the return trip I highly suggest to take one of the regular trains of the Rhaetian Railway, especially in the summer month since the railroad offers rides in open scenic carriages. On days with great weather the railroad attaches two open-roof carriages to the regular "Trainino Rosso" between St. Moritz and Tirano. Keep in mind though there is literally no roof over your head therefore bring some warm clothes (yes, also in summer) if you plan on following my footsteps. Be assured that you will re-live your previous experience in the Bernina Express but this time much more in touch with nature, there will be a lot of fresh air, constant wind in your face and hair and – especially for photographers – no bothering or reflecting objects in your way when capturing the most beautiful landscape all around you. Riding on one of those open carriages is not only cheaper than the ticket for the Bernina Express there are no reservations necessary also since this is part of the regular train service of the Rhaetian Railway. Seats are limited though so it is always suggested to be rather early than late at the train station. Note: The seats for the Bernina Express you absolutely have to reserve way in advance, best online, they sell out quickly. And be aware that you will have to pay a reservation fee also.
Bernina Express at the Brusio spiral viaduct

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