The International Steam Pages

Switzerland's Pilatusbahn, 2009

This report is just one of a number from James Waite about the narrow gauge railways of Switzerland with a strong emphasis on steam operation. See also:

The railway's official website is and is covered in Wikipedia on

James Waite reports:

The Pilatusbahn is a 800 mm (2' 7½") gauge rack railway running just under 5km from Alpnachstad on Lake Lucerne to near the summit of Mount Pilatus. It is the steepest rack railway anywhere with a maximum gradient of 48% and stepped cars more like a funicular. Normal rack systems such as Abt and Riggenbach could not be used as the vertical cogwheels might readily jump out of the rack. This remains the only public railway in the world to use the Locher system which has two horizontal cogs which engage with a double horizontal rack. This necessitates rotary bridges or traversers instead of points.

Although the line was electrified as long ago as 1937, two of the old steam railcars survive - they were used on works trains until about 25 years ago. The one shown is in the Lucerne transport museum, the other is in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. It is not impossible that one, at least, of the railcars will return to the railway for special operation, they are currently only on loan to the museums...

These days the railway uses a rather strange looking diesel when the power is off.

Rob Dickinson