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Switzerland’s Rigi Bahnen the nostalgia of steam
More than 18,000 trains run every day in Switzerland. Of all of these, my favorites are the antique steam-powered cog railways. One of the best runs on the Rigi, the “Queen of the Mountains,” near Lake Lucerne. A ride up either route to the mountaintop end station provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Europe’s oldest mountain railway has been carrying passengers up from Vitznau to Mt. Rigi since 1873. The Rigi Bahnen (Rigi Railways) has one of the world’s largest fleets of vintage rolling stock, and uses two styles of steam engines, dating from the 19th and early 20th century. The oldest engine of the fleet–and my favorite–is number 7. It was built in 1871 and began running up the Rigi in 1873. This unique engine with its vertical boiler is the oldest surviving Swiss locomotive. It is also the only remaining standard gauge, rack-fitted, vertical boiler locomotive in the world. When the Rigi’s system was electrified in 1937, number 7 was retired and placed in the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne. In 2009, I was fortunate to photograph the engine in action, when it spent a summer carrying passengers on the Rigi, in celebration of the museum’s 50-year anniversary.
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