Since the introduction of railways, many breathtaking landscapes have been unlocked for global captivation. From plains to canyons, what the world has to offer has been made ever-closer as technology advanced. One such example of stunning scenery is of course Switzerland, crisp blue skies contrasting against the towering peaks of the Alps would not be the tourist attraction they are today without the railways. The Albula Line sought to better connect the South East of this picturesque country, and by doing so traversed unbelievable scenery that today is enjoyed around the world.
In the early 1890s, many towns and villages throughout Graubünden were not fairly served by railways. After the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) was formed out of the successful Landquart-Davos-Bahn, and voted into state ownership, discussions were soon taking place for a new railway line to serve the somewhat isolated communities.
Multiple plans were drawn up for a railway through Graubünden, but eventually a deal was settled in 1898 for a railway that would traverse the Albula Valley via Thusis and St. Moritz. While originally planned as a standard gauge railway, the higher popularity of the narrower metre gauge within the state saw that the latter would be chosen in the end.
After the railway reached Thusis, it was time to traverse the Albula Valley. Construction began in October of 1898 and much of the new line was laid within 5 years. Despite the rapid construction, the new Albula Line was in no shortages of logistical challenges along keys sections of the pass. Steam locomotives of the day were not excessively powerful, yet the line was meant for both passenger and freight traffic. To overcome this, the line was restricted to both a 3.5% gradient and fairly generous turning radius; this solved any potential power struggle and avoided a rack-and-pinion railway, but ushered in the problem that the line couldn’t reach its destination.
The altitude difference throughout the Albula Valley meant that a 3.5% gradient was not enough to connect the towns throughout the pass. The answer would be to artificially extend the railway. Using a combination of curved tunnels, spiral tunnels and viaducts, the builders carefully brought the railway to the right altitude while staying within the parameters. One other vital structure to the railway is the Albula Tunnel. Stretching across 5866 metres, this tunnel is among one of the highest alpine tunnels in Switzerland and passes under almost a kilometre of mountain above, avoiding the Rhine/Danube watershed.
Services began to operate across a majority of the line with its opening in July 1903, these services were not complete though. The debate between RhB and the St. Moritz municipality on where the town’s station should be based was still ongoing, and as result the full line did not open until one year later.
Even though the line was built as a steam railway and was projected to be so for some time, the coal shortage during the First World War pressed RhB into the realm of electrification. By 1919 the whole line was now seeing wired traction.
In 1930, the Ablula Line became home to one of the slowest, yet most beautiful railway expresses in the world, the Glacier Express. This service was born from the idea to connect two of the main mountain resorts in the Swiss Alps by rail, St. Moritz and Zermatt. The full run takes upwards of 7.5 hours to complete, during which time the rolling stock passes over 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, including those on the iconic Albula Railway. After over 80 years of operation, the Glacier Express is considered as one of the principle passenger services to operate across the Albula Line, and it does so on a regular, daily basis.
In modern times of course, the classic Glacier Express has seen some changes to its rolling stock. Perhaps the most revolutionary was the introduction of brand new panorama cars between 1986 and 1993, these new passenger cars featured windows that stretched beyond the sides of the car and upwards over the roof. This open-plan design gives passengers a completely unobstructed view of the snow-capped Alps, featuring both 1st and 2nd Class accommodation.
The route has been served by a variety of locomotives, and today sees the powerful RhB Ge 4/4 III take the Glacier Express across its unforgettable journey. The RhB Ge 4/4 III entered service in 1993 as a new generation of electric locomotives, developed from the previous Ge 4/4 II. With a top speed of 100 km/h, the Ge 4/4 III is perfect for Glacier Express, and Albula freight haulage. A total of 12 locomotives were built between 1993 and 1999, with each featuring a unique Coat of Arms.
With stunning scenery from the outset, impressive structures throughout and an iconic rail service which has been operating for the last 8 decades, the line between Thusis and St. Moritz has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. Welcome to the Albula Line, now available for Train Simulator courtesy of Partner Programme developer, Thomson Interactive.
- Stunning 65km route through the Swiss Alps
- Unique Dynamic Pantograph height system
- GE 4/4 III Electric Locomotive and Glacier Express tourist vehicle consist
- Lb-v container flat wagons
- Dynamic seasonal rolling stock textures
- Over 130 custom bridge and tunnel portal models
- 16 Highly detailed station models
- New animated ski lift models in Bergün and Celerina.
- Over 100 overhead line equipment and catenary models designed specifically for this route.
- Completely new RhB signalling system with custom designed signal models and advanced features
- Accurate driving characteristics
- Seven challenging career scenarios for the route
- Three Railfan Mode Scenarios
- One Unique Passenger Mode scenario
- One Free Roam scenario
- Quick Drive compatible