A landmark tunnel
This landmark project will be of interest to more than just railway fans: the Rhaetian Railway is teaming up with the Albula Railway Museum in Bergün to offer guided tours of the new Albula Tunnel construction site. At Preda, experienced site managers will explain this pioneering RhB project to visitors while work is ongoing.
"I particularly enjoy seeing the children's eyes sparkle as they admire the site, kitted out in their bright yellow safety vests and orange helmets," says Werner Haas, one of the 15 or so construction site guides. But this offer holds a wider appeal: "Participants come from every age group and social strata: from young railway enthusiasts accompanied by their parents to media people to train spotters and pensioners." Werner Haas is more than satisfied with the great interest this monumental project has sparked; he guides visitors safely through the site with obvious enthusiasm. "Every tour is different, and we enjoy getting to know each new set of visitors."
Join "Kobali the Mole" on a fun expedition
The Albula Tunnel Infoarena at the north portal of the Rhaetian Railway's Albula Tunnel first opened on 20 June 2015. From 1 June to 30 September each year, visitors of all ages will be given a glimpse into the world of tunnel building: a 165-meter interactive wall transforms what is currently the RhB's largest building site into an exciting experience and explains how construction work is progressing. There are information boards and hands-on exhibits geared to adults, plus an information room providing further insights and showing films. And RhB has come up with something very special for its younger visitors – among other fun activities, they can join the Albula Tunnel mascot "Kobali the Mole" at blasting stations, discover the crawling tunnel or drive a locomotive. The personal "blast hole messages" that visitors can leave for the tunnel project team are a further highlight. Andreas, for example, "Wishes the whole crew successful and accident-free years!" These messages and greetings are scanned each day and posted on the RhB's Facebook page.
A new take on the construction site tour
Since tours began in July 2015, more than 600 visitors have already been conducted safely along the special viewing route set up by RhB. Being given a glimpse into a world that is normally reserved for the construction workers over 350 metres of this dynamic major construction site is an extraordinary experience. "With our own gravel and cement works plus a spectacular conveyor system, we'll have the best possible transport logistics in place when we start working at full capacity from 2016," says site manager Haas. "With the aid of the railway and conveyor system, the excavated material from the two construction sites at Preda and Spinas will be brought to the 'Las Piazzettas' landfill site," he continues. "Thanks to a controllable circulation system of conveyors, rubble can be treated at the gravel works and processed at the cement works. This not only makes environmental sense, it also simplifies the workflows considerably as the finished concrete can then be transported to wherever it is needed in the tunnel. It's easier for us to explain the complexity and challenges of this project to visitors on site."
90 versus 1,300
So the course has been set for this landmark building site. Nevertheless, and in spite of all the team's hard work, there is still much to be done by the 90 or so construction workers and machine operators. They can relax and recharge their batteries in the 90 single rooms specially created for them in a two-storey wooden building in Preda. A sewage treatment plant has also been set up in Preda. What comfort compared to 1901, when a total of 1,316 labourers worked on and in the tunnel and at the two building sites in Preda and Spinas. The new Albula Tunnel is scheduled to open to regular traffic in 2021. Building work stops temporarily from November to March as the low temperatures at 1,800 metres above sea level make a structured workflow impossible. Tours of the site are not possible during this period either.
Information on construction site tours
Tours take place between 1 July and 30 September each year, at 10:45 am on Wednesdays and 1:45 pm on Sundays. They last for around 90 minutes, are held in German and cost 5 francs per person. Registration is required as the number of participants is limited: Phone: +41 81 420 00 06 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. They are open to everyone over the age of six (children between 6 and 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult). Tours will take place regardless of the weather. Sturdy footwear is obligatory and waterproof clothing is also recommended. Group tours are possible each day from the beginning of May to the end of October during Infoarena opening times, i.e. from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. They also last 90 minutes, are limited to a maximum of 20 people and cost 85 francs per group. Group tours are available in English, German, Italian, Romansh and French and can be booked as described above.