Travel writer and photographer, Bruce Woelfel, specializes in the trains of Europe, particularly Switzerland. Here he discusses two routes from Zürich, one across Switzerland into Italy and the other to Hamburg via Basel and Frankfurt.
Zürich - Goschen - Bellinzona - Lugano - Chiasso
Recommended trains: Ticino and Gottardo:
Perhaps the most interesting "long" trip which can be taken on standard gauge rail within Switzerland: outstanding scenery throughout its 200-mile length.
Ticino, has Swiss-built "panorama" cars with raised floors and very large curved windows and narrow side support for first class passengers, greatly increasing the pleasures of traveling this beautiful route. The train also carries a diner, conventionally designed, without the large windows.
Gottardo, like the Lutetia, which runs between Geneva and Milan, is a former first class TEE (Trans Europe Express) of unified design, redesigned for Eurocity service with first and second-class seats and a dining car. Gottardo requires prior seat reservations.
Night train: New Euronight Roma ; Zürich - Florence - Rome, and #295 Basel - Bologna - Florence - Rome, with one and two-passenger sleeping compartments and six-passenger couchettes.
EC51 Ticino's Schedule
* Zürich to Milan: Leave Zürich 8:42 a.m., Arrive Milan 1:30 p.m.
* Milan to Zürich: Leave Milan 3:00 p.m., Arrive Zürich 7:28 p.m.
EC57 Gottardo's Schedule
* Zürich to Milan: Leave Zürich 1:26 p.m., Arrive Milan 5:35 p.m.
* Milan to Zürich: Leave Milan 7:25 p.m., Arrive Zürich 11:24 p.m.
Beginning at Zürich and traveling south, the tracks skirt the edge of Lake Zürichsee for six miles before entering a tunnel and emerging for a short distance for more lakeside views between Zug and Arth Goldau. Then in and out of tunnels past a third lake, the southern end of Verwald Statter See, between the towns of Brunner and Altdorf. An interesting sight occurs as the train climbs upward toward Gotthard Pass through spiral tunnels, passing the same church on three occasions from increasing heights, before continuing to Goschenen (3,336 ft).
From Goschenen a 10-15 minute connection is available to the Glacier Express route, St. Moritz to Brig. After Andermatt (4,744 ft) the train goes through the 7.5 mile long Gotthard Tunnel, coming out at Airolo (3,853 ft). In the next 29 miles are four more spiral tunnels and views down mountainsides as the tracks descend to Biasca (987 ft), and down the side of the valley 12 more miles to Bellinzona where a change of trains and 12 miles takes one to Locarno, and with another change and 34 miles of narrow gauge travel, to Domodossola on the Italian Swiss border.
After Bellinzona, passing lakes for 18 miles, the train stops at Lugano and 16 miles farther crosses into Italy at Chiasso, continuing past Lake Como, and 32 miles later, reaches Milan.
Other recommended trains to Italy from Zürich:
Zürich - Rome
• Day: Raffaello, with Swiss/Italian rest-stops at Milan, Bologna, Florence. Leave main station EC55 8:03 a.m., with restaurant. Arrive terminal station at 5:50 p.m.
• Night: Roma, with couchettes, compartments, stops Florence 6:31 a.m. Leave main station, EN303, 9:40 p.m., no food service, arrive terminal station at 9:23 a.m.
Zürich - Venice
• Day: Canaletto, with rest-stops. Lugano 10:06 a.m., Milan 11:35 a.m.
Leave main station IC351 7:03 a.m., with restaurant, arrive S. Lucia station, 3:32 p.m.
Zürich - Basel - Frankfurt - Hamburg
• Recommended trains: ICE's Panda, Helvetia and Joanna Spyri
Local trains between Zürich and Basel leave every 30 minutes. Among international trains, the ICEs are the newest and most interesting: capable of 155 m.p.h., large and luxurious with a smooth, stable and very quiet ride. Within Switzerland their speed is limited to about 90 m.p.h. by the curving right of way.
Coaches combine corridor 2-1 seating - large armchairs with head cushions in soft red and blue patterned fabric - with glassed-in compartments for five. A coat closet in the center divides compartments and aisle sections.
The dining end of the restaurant/bistro has modern decor: pale-tinted interior with an arched wood lattice ceiling, and wooden trellis with brass trim behind the 24 seats. A kitchen in the center serves both diner and bistro on opposite sides. The diner had white table linen and dishes already in place on Panda before our 6:45 a.m. departure from Zürich.
Breakfast (about $9) included orange juice, scrambled or boiled eggs, ham and cheese, and a basket of fresh croissants, coarse grained bread and pumpernickel roll, and American-style coffee, in a large mug.
The overnight connection is #472 Komet, Zürich-Basel-Hamburg, with six-passenger couchettes and one and two-passenger sleeping compartments: Leave main station #472 10:15 p.m., with buffet, arrive main station 8:31 a.m.
ICE76 Panda's Schedule
(Arrives/Departs Zürich Airport) Leave Zürich 6:45 a.m., Basel 7:51 a.m., Arrive Frankfurt 10:47 a.m., Hamburg 2:21 p.m.
Leave Hamburg 12:23 p.m., Arrive Frankfurt 4:10 p.m., Arrive Basel 7:11 p.m., Zürich 8:15 p.m.
ICE70 Helvetia's Schedule
(Arrives/Departs Zürich Apt) Leave Zürich 10:45 a.m., Basel 11:51 a.m., Arrive Frankfurt 2:47 p.m., Hamburg 6:21 p.m.
Leave Hamburg 10:37 a.m., Frankfurt 2:10 p.m., Arrive Basel 5:11 p.m., Zürich 6:15 p.m.
ICE270 Joanna Spyri's Schedule
Leave Zürich 7:17 p.m., Basel 8:20 p.m., Arrive Frankfurt 10:27 p.m., Hamburg 11:18 p.m.
Leave Frankfurt 5:42 a.m., Arrive Basel 8:41 a.m., Zürich 9:45 a.m.
(Ed. Note: To subscribe to Mr. Woelfel's quarterly train guides, write to him at P. O. Box 1846, Aptos CA 95001, or phone 408-662-1864.)