Rail Tour Review – Echo Rails & Trails 12 Day Rail Tour

This is a fabulous tour! We got to see all of the major sights in Switzerland. We traveled via public transportation which was a delight. The train and bus schedules sync together like clockwork. Our luggage was transferred from hotel to hotel so we did not have to deal with getting it on and off of the trains. The hotels and food were exceptional. They choose hotels that are centrally located making it easy to walk around the towns and get to the train station. They also work very hard to ensure that we eat in authentic Swiss restaurants and get to experience the region’s food. They also go out of their way to see that we are where we need to be to get the best views and/or experiences. For example, when in Zermatt they work with the hotel owner to ensure that we get rooms that will allow us to see the Matterhorn from our room (weather permitting).

They know from experience when we should travel to the viewing platforms to have the best views of the alps. For example, also when we were in Zermatt it was rainy and cloudy. They encouraged us to go to Gornergrat early in the morning so that we would have the best chance of seeing the Mattherhorn and the other surrounding mountains. We did, and even though we only saw the base of the Mattherhorn, we would not have seen anything if we had waited until later in the day. By the time we left the mountain, the clouds were rising and obscuring our “window view.” Because it is a small group tour and the guides are the owners of the company, there is quite a bit of flexibility. If the schedule needs to be modified to enhance the guests experience, they can do it. This rail tour requires a lot of walking and sometimes in order to make the train or bus connections you have to walk very fast. No one should do this tour if you cannot walk quickly and you need to be able to walk several miles a day. Some days we were mostly on trains, but when walking is required there is quite a bit of it! Switzerland cannot be beat for spectacular natural beauty, and Echo Rails and Trails is definitely the tour company to use! George M. from Trip Advisor 2021

SEE TRAVELER PHOTOS FROM OUR 2021 12 DAY SWISS ALPS RAIL TOUR

volrapen-express

Retired Railroad Conductor Review of Echo Rails & Trails Grand Rail Tour

After working on a mountain railroad for some 21 years, I thought I knew about trains. The trains on this trip were such an unexpected treat. In over 15 days we rode 54 trains! Electric, luxury, steam, cable cars, funiculars, cog wheels both vertical and horizontal, almost every train on time! All of this with the grandeur and beauty of the Swiss country side all around us. Rene and Suzanne have crafted an exceptional tour through the Swiss Alps. With our “Swiss Pass” we rode trains, buses, and boats, First Class all the way. Our accommodations were exceptional also as we stayed in beautiful hotels often with exceptional views of mountains and the surrounding country side – our meals were delicious and carefully prepared and selected. We (Rebecca and Richard) highly recommend this trip!

Date of experience: September 2021
Mt Washington Cogwheel Train

What do Mount Washington in New Hamphsire and Mount Rigi in Switzerland have in common?

Both were the first mountain cogwheel railways in their respective continents.

Mount Washington Cog Railway in 1868, first in the USA.
Mount Rigi Cogwheel Railway in Switzerland, in 1871 the first in continental Europe.
Both lines are still running today.
Mt Washington Cogwheel Train

The first mountain cog railway was the Mount Washington Cog Railway in the U.S. state of New Hampshire, which carried its first fare-paying passengers in 1868. The track was completed to reach the summit of Mount Washington in 1869.

The first mountain rack railway in continental Europe was the Vitznau-Rigi-Bahn on Mount Rigi in Switzerland, which opened in 1871.

The definition of a rack railway (also rack-and-pinion railway, cog railway, or cogwheel railway) is a steep grade railway with a toothed rack rail, usually between the running rails.

Trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels or pinions that mesh with this rack rail. This allows the trains to operate on steep grades above around 7 to 10%, which is the maximum for friction-based rail.

If you looked underneath the train, this is what a rack and pinion looks like.

The rack lies between the rails. The pinion gear is connected to actual train car.

As of 2009, the Mt. Rigi locomotive is still used in historic rides. Built in 1858 (the plate on the loco and other sources show the later date, 1873), it is the oldest Swiss loco surviving and also the only remaining standard gauge rack fitted vertical boilered loco in the world.

The two cylinder steam engine provides 196 PS power under 7.5 km/h speed. The loco was removed from service in 1937, when the railway was electrified, but has been returned in 2009.

The Mount Rigi cogwheel is used during many of the ECHO Rails & Trails tours. There is a Day Mount Rigi tour that includes some hiking and Swiss sausage grilled lunch outside and also a Day tour that includes both Mt. Rigi & Mt. Pilatus. Both mountains are included in our 12 Day Grand Swiss Rail tour.