In 1871 the first European cogwheel mountain railway was opened, going from the village of Vitznau by the banks of Lake Lucerne up towards the top of mount Rigi. More than 150 years later the railway is still the main gateway to the mountain for tens of thousands of tourists – and for permanent residents like ourselves.
A cogwheel railway has a toothed rack rail between the running rails, and the trains are fitted with cog wheels that mesh with this rack rail. This enables the train to climb steep grades, in our case a hight difference of 1400 metres over a stretch of around 10 kilometres.
In addition to the stunning views from the train the most impressive thing for us is that so much of the rolling stock dates back to the early days of the line itself. The Swiss are not only traditionalists, they are world champions in maintenance and upkeep. Our regular trips to town are made in a live railway museum where cars from the 1930ties are still in regular use. In peak holyday periods and every Wednesday even older hardware is out and about, steam locomotives from the 1920ties and passenger cars as old as the railway itself are still being used. The first stretch was electrified in 1906, and one of the electrical cars from that time can still be seen climbing the hills. Built in 1911 the Rigi car no 6 is the oldest of its kind in the world.
The biggest attraction however is Lok 7 – dating from 1873, only two years after the railway opened. It is a rather small machine by todays standards, characterized by a standing water tank that makes it look like a champagne bottle on wheels. After originally being decommissioned it has spent most of its time at the Swiss Museum of Transport, but it was in good enough shape to be overhauled and put back in traffic in 2021 when the line celebrated 150 years.