Graubünden album: 125 years of railway history
In 2014, the RhB is celebrating its 125th anniversary. What started in 1889 with the opening of the track between Landquart and Klosters, has become a 384-kilometre network. A look back into the past shows some moving moments.
1889: First train to Klosters
Surprisingly it was someone from the lowlands, a ship builder no less, that got the railway going in Graubünden. Dutchman Willem Jan Holsboer founded the narrow-gauge railway company Schmalspurbahn Landquart – Davos AG in 1887 and the rest is history. Thanks to the dynamic hotelier, the line between Landquart and Klosters came into operation in 1889. Just a few days late, the inaugural train carrying invited passengers arrived in Klosters on 29 September 1889, ten days before the scheduled public opening.
1896: Carriages for carrying the sick
It was one of a kind: the Ass 5 sleeper and 'luxury' car. This unique coach was developed in 1896 in the main RhB workshop in Landquart and was mainly used for carrying the sick. It already bore the RhB lettering: the narrow-gauge railway company Landquart – Davos AG became the Rhaetian Railway in 1895. At that time the carriages were divided into three classes but in 1956, the number was reduced from three to two: the first and second class merged to become the new first class.
1898: Connection to Val Mesolcina?
It was supposed to be a major coup: the Ferrovia Elettrica Bellinzona – Mesocco. In 1898, residents of southern Graubünden were determined to connect Val Mesolcina with Ticino. Construction started in January 1905. On 6 May 1907, the first train travelled from Bellinzona to Lostallo; three months later, the line went all the way to Mesocco. In the middle of the war, on 1 January 1942, the private railway – also a metre-gauge railway – became part of the RhB. But it was to remain a vision: on 13 December 2003, the 13-kilometre line was closed.
1917: The white force of nature
It was the worst moment in the history of the RhB: late in the evening of 29 April 1917 the dreaded Drusatscha avalanche crashed down near Davos Wolfgang Station as the late train from Landquart to Davos was going through. The end carriages were swept away by the avalanche. Although the first helpers arrived on the scene almost immediately, there was nothing anybody could do for ten of the passengers. Luckily, the RhB has otherwise been largely spared any major accidents in the rest of its 125-year history.
1920: Cut from good cloth
The uniforms of the RhB station masters and train guards were a cut above. They were made of top-quality fabric from Trun in the Surselva, home to the Truns textile mill, which was to make the uniforms for many decades. Initially, they were made of dark cloth and featured metal buttons. The red hat with gold stripes was to come later although since 2002, hats no longer have to be worn. The current uniform was introduced in 2008. Black and red have always been the company colours; the style now has a sporty Alpine look
1950: Vehicle for the Emperor of Japan
Only the best was good enough for RhB on the occasion of a royal visit. So when Emperor Hirohito was travelling through Switzerland in 1950, accompanied by the Japanese royal household, the RhB used its most attractive Pullman car: the 'Bener coach'. RhB Director Gustav Bener – head of the company from 1918 to 1936 – had bought it for CHF 95,000 for the inauguration of the Glacier Express in 1930.
1996: Royal visit from the North
In 1996, RhB was visited by Queen Silvia of Sweden. Company inspector Josef Giger had the honour of accompanying Her Highness on the trip in the 'royal coach'. The RhB host offered the queen water. But: access to the adjoining carriages had been prevented for security reasons, and the royal carriage did not have access to the Railbar either. The bodyguards only let them in after lengthy discussions, only to find that the minibar did not have the still water the queen wanted. Her Highness ordered chamomile tea instead. But embarrassingly there was no chamomile tea either. So her escort radioed Thusis Station and ordered still mountain spring water. Now that was service: the queen was impressed.
1999: Inauguration of the Vereina line
To date, this has been the last major change to the RhB network: the Vereina Tunnel. Since 1999 it has connected Prättigau with Lower Engadin. The first study for the epoch-making car tunnel was presented to the government of Graubünden by the Board of Directors in 1975. 24 years later, on 19 November 1999, the inauguration of the Vereina Tunnel was celebrated in the presence of the then Traffic Minister Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger. Construction was completed in just eight and a half years instead of the planned nine. And the costs were also nine million below budget at 561 million Swiss francs.
2009: Pullman instead of helicopter
The great and famous meet every year in Davos at the World Economic Forum WEF. And top politicians then travel by RhB in the first-class luxury coaches – just as Hillary Clinton did in 1999. Ten years later, the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao travelled to the WEF by RhB.
Principal Sponsor 'Gold': Graubündner Kantonalbank
Premium Co-Sponsors 'Silver': Andrea Pitsch AG, St. Moritz . C. Vanoli Bauunternehmung AG, Immensee . Citrix Systems International GmbH, Schaffhausen . Donatsch Söhne AG, Landquart . Furrer + Frey AG, Bern . Heineken Switzerland AG, Lucerne . Infosystem AG, Wil . PSI AG, Wil . Ritter Schumacher Architekten AG, Chur . Siemens Schweiz AG, Wallisellen
Co-Sponsors 'Bronze': A. Käppeli's Söhne AG, Chur . ABB Schweiz AG, Baden . Abraxas Informatik AG,St. Gallen . Amberg Engineering AG, Chur . BÄR Bahnsicherung AG, Fehraltorf . Berther Bau und Industrie AG, Disentis / Mustér . Bezzola Denoth AG, Scuol . cablex AG, Zurich . Curea Elektro AG, Landquart . Debrunner Acifer AG, Landquart . EDY TOSCANO AG, Chur . ENOTRAC AG, Thun . Foffa + Conrad SA, Zernez . Fuchs Engineering GmbH, Landquart . GEVAG, Untervaz . Implenia Schweiz AG, Chur . Kälte 3000 AG, Landquart . Kummler + Matter AG, Zurich . Lazzarini AG, Chur . login Berufsausbildung, Olten . MSD Stahlbau Dresden, Dresden . Oscar Prevost AG, Thusis . panta rhei pr GmbH, Chur . PostAuto Schweiz AG, Chur . Prader AG, Chur . René Fischer GmbH, Wildhaus . Sersa Group, Zurich . Stadler Bussnang AG, Bussnang . Süsskind SGD, Chur
Event Partners / Media Partnerships
Hockey Club Davos, DavosRTR Radiotelevisiun Svizra Rumantscha, Cuera
Origen Festival of Culture, RiomSüdostschweiz Medien, Chur