You don't say whether you are UK or US based, or how long you want to
stay in Switzerland.
I have been a tourist traveller inn Switzerland for 45 years, so I just get on any train I fancy and wing it!
I don't like to tell people what to do too much as I think travelling
is all about doing your own thing ï¿½ so I would suggest that armed with a timetable (such as Thomas Cook) you can take almost any train in Switzerland and get a nice scenic ride (Switzerland being Switzerland even where there is industry and housing, just round the next bend or a few hundred metres further on there will be farmer's fields, mountains or lakesï¿½
You can buy the Official SBB timetable at any railroad station. Also the
schedules are on line.
Switzerland is a small country, so I would strongly recommend trying to stay at one or two base points so you can travel on day circuits with just your day sacks. You can tour south from a base of Luzern to
most of `top scenic Switzerland' - even Gornergrat can be reached in
a day, but also take the swift rides to Zurich or Bern for the `main
city' experience, even Geneve can be done in a day from Luzern. Another good accessible base is Interlaken or Brienz (see note 4 below)
Interlaken is very good base location for the Jungfau lines, the line to
Luzern, the MOB and lines along Lac Leman.. However we toured around
from Interlaken, to Locarno to Luzern to Chur
Firstly get an all-Switzerland map with the railways shown on it, eg Michelin red national map 729 Link to loads of other Swiss maps here:
Another good map is the Railroad map by Kï¿½mmeley and Frei.
If you are a first timer, you will get all the info you need from the
Bradt guidebook called Switzerland: Rail Road Lake (find it by google search if not in your local bookshop), eg <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1841621323/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top>
There is an American book The Railfan Guide to Switzerland by George
Drury. at about $18 US +shipping. I will post more info on it.
Despite what I said above, here are some of my key tips for Swiss rail tourism:
1) Mountain rack railways, funiculars etc are not usually free on the
Swiss Pass, but discounted to various levels (many 50%)
2) The two classic `high altitude' rides are the Jungfrau railway (JB) and the Zermatt - Gornergrat railway. I personally prefer the Gornergrat as it has such awesome open views of the Matterhorn (the classic Swiss mountain view) The JB is rather expensive and in tunnel
a lot, but do it for the experience of being inside a mountain right
up close to glaciers, and to say you've done the `highest railway station in Europe' or to throw snowballs in mid summerï¿½
3) an alternative to the Jungfrau railway is to go up other nearby mountains and get the view of the `big three' Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger mountains from further away ï¿½ eg go to Mï¿½rren (the `first' ski
resort developed by the British in the 19th century) , or up the Schynigge Platte railway. The latter is the last in Switzerland using
the little old electric box locos pushing separate coaches and is really a must.
4) Do plan circular routes from a base point (no need to carry heavy luggage) so you don't repeat a journey, and mix these up between `long' and `short' days. Eg from a Luzern base: Luzern ï¿½ Andermatt ï¿½ Brig ï¿½ Bern ï¿½ Luzern (long) , or Luzern ï¿½ Fluelen out by lake paddle steamer, back by train (shorter)
From a base at Interlaken or Brienz:Brienz ï¿½ Luzern ï¿½ Andermatt ï¿½ Brig ï¿½ Spiez ï¿½ Brienz (long), or Brienz
ï¿½ Luzern ï¿½ Emmenthal ï¿½ Bern ï¿½ Brienz (shorter)
In addition Interlaken to Montreux, the small lines out of Montreux and vicinity
Use SBB online timetable to work out circular routes ï¿½ just input Luzern ï¿½ Luzern and, using the advance search, add more than one `via' so that you get a true circular route ï¿½ eg Luzern ï¿½ Luzern via Andermatt and Brig <http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en>
5) on scenic lines at lower altitude (the sort that undulate through perfect `Swiss' green pastures ï¿½ such as the MOB or SOB routes), do use local services to get a `closer' feeling of being there as you stop more often, and allied that this, do get off the train at a wayside station, amble to the nearest classic `Swiss bench' (usually red), and catch the next train an hour later ï¿½ either back the way you came or continuing a circular journey.
6) use a Swiss Pass (Flexi pass version if you want rest days in between travel days)
7) make your own sandwiches by buying bread and something to put in it from the local supermarket (Migros or Co-op are the legendary ones), or buy tasty items from a local bakery
The Coops in Interlaken and Chur, have a nice cafeteria for both lunch and an early dinner (they close at 6 PM AIR... We usually picked up enough rolls and cold cuts at breakfast at the hotel for lunch.
We traveled in late April -early May so the only hotel reservations we made were in Interlaken for our arrival.
There was/is a nice Swiss hotel guide available back then in a book or on CD and now probably on line. The book would be handy to carry as you travel unless you take a portable PC with you.
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