Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday: Zurich to Erstfeld

It's 7:43 on a Sunday morning. Today I'm planning to take a loop through Switzerland by train. I got a Day Pass ("Tageskarte"), also known as GA ("General Abonnement"), which lets you travel on most rail routes in Switzerland until 5am the next morning. I have plenty of time. To make the most of it, and it's winter after all, I got up early to travel the first couple legs in the dark.

The plan is to take S24 from Zurich Enge to Zug. In my excitement I promptly forgot to take a photo of my train, so here's the station announcement, and you can believe me, the train looked exactly like S8 to Pfaeffikon above.

8:25. Zug has a Keilbahnhof, literally "wedge station", where the tracks split before the station and don't reunite behind the station. The station building sits like on an island between the tracks.

I'm waiting for the Intercity to Lugano, scheduled departure 8:31am. The opposing train composed of two RABe 503 train sets just pulled in from Chiasso.

As that train continues its trip to Zurich HB, my Intercity pulls in, made up from two RABDe 500 trainsets.

The journey continues along Lake Zug to Aarth-Goldau. The clouds are still hanging quite low and there's no sign of sun. As I'm gliding through Canton Zug, I wonder if this was such a great idea after all. The fog in the trees looks very nice, though, but I fail at taking good photos of it. Here's the view of Lake Zug from the train. On a clear day you would see the Rigi in the top left corner.

8:46. Arrival in Aarth-Goldau, the connecting InterRegio to Goeschenen is waiting on the other side of the same platform. Hey, look, Aarth-Goldau is also a Keilbahnhof. Here the line from Luzern merges with the line from Zug to continue to the Gotthardpass.

Aarth-Goldau is the starting point of one of the two cog railways to the top of Rigi. I don't have enough time to walk over and take a photo of it, so the sign needs to suffice.

Low clouds continue to accompany us as we make our way towards the Gotthard.

As we make our way along Lake Lucerne I notice how well-built out and smooth the tracks are, in very good shape, but with lots of curves and tight tunnels. At Flueelen the tracks straighten out and I see low-angle high-speed turnouts in the neighboring tracks. How far are we from Erstfeld? Next I barely have enough time to pull up the camera and take a photo of the approach tracks into the Gotthard Base Tunnel before a sound wall blocks the view. As we cross over the tracks, there's a ventilation shaft visibile on the other side of the train and that's it. I just passed by the north portal of a 45 km long tunnel without actually seeing it.

9:23. Arrival in Erstfeld. The famous north ramp to the old Gotthard tunnel starts just south from here, and just like I hoped, there's finally some decent daylight.

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