Best cogwheel trains in Switzerland and across the world!

Switzerland is the Alpine capital of the world and thanks to the numerous cogwheel trains, reaching many of the highest and most beautiful mountain peaks is not very difficult. During my Swiss Made Grand Tour of Switzerland, I went on some of these trains and read about the others, and each story impressed me deeply.

Jungfraubahn cogwheel switzerland with Eiger
Jungfraujoch cogwheel in Switzerland (source: Wikipedia)

Switzerland at night (source: Pixabay)

But what exactly is a cogwheel?

This is a story about cogwheel, but what exactly is a cog wheel? Well it’s defined as a toothed wheel that engages another toothed mechanism in order to change the speed or direction of transmitted motion. (Ref)

Cogwheels in Switzerland

Though cogwheels exist in many countries of the world, they are special in Switzerland, especially because of the high Alps with some of the most stunning views possible in the world. I actually started my cogwheels exploration during my road-trip in Switzerland, so the ones there will also be special for me.

Here are some of the more famous cog wheels from Switzerland and a few from across the world. Have you also traveled on these? Do share your story :)

1. Pilatus cogwheel

The cog wheel train at Pilatus takes the credit of being the steepest ride across the world. The ride starts from Alpnachstad and finishes on top at Pilatus Kulm. The ride takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine and is truly a dream come true.

In fact, the ride was so fulfilling that even views from top were faded in front of it.

The train ride started in 1889 as a steam line and moved to an electric line in 1937. It took 600 men 400 days to achieve this task. The train line operates between May and November and takes about 30m to ascend and 40m to descend. The maximum gradient is 48% which is what it makes it so unique.

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2. Jungfraujoch cogwheel

Jungfraujoch started the cog wheel line in 1912 and has been an extremely popular travel destination ever since.

The train ride takes you from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch, which is at 3,454m. Jungfraujoch is also famously known as the Top of Europe as it's the highest mountain peak you can reach on a train in the whole of Europe.

Seven out of nine km are located in the tunnel which is what makes the trip so interesting. It stops at two different stations on the way and you can get down and take a peek to the outside world from the windows in the mountain.

I sat with the train driver in the engine so I loved it even more. He was generally very focused but often told us a few tales as well. It's certainly a great view from top of Europe as well, but to me the highlight was the train ride.

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Other famous cog wheel trains

1. Mount Washington Railway, United States

The title for the first cog wheel train actually goes to the one which took visitors on top of Mount Washington. Mr Syvlester Marsh almost got lost when going up and decide to find a better way to reach the summit. He designed the first cog wheel in 1896 with his dedication and passion, more than 40 years after he first got the idea.

After an accident in 1929, the line was discontinued. The cog wheel is now open again to public from late April to November.

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2. Pikes Peak Cog Railway, United States

Located in the state of Colorado in United States, the railway line started in the year 1891 and has been taking passengers on top of 14,115 ft high Pikes Peak.

The ride of 9 miles takes about 3 hrs and you get great views of the Rockies all through the way.

Like most cog wheel trains, this one is also without toilets but is wheelchair accessible as long as you inform in advance.

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3. Bavarian Zugspitze Railway, Germany

The railway line takes visitors to Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.

The railway line was built between 1928-1930 and opened in three stages. In 1987, the last section to the summit was changed and a new tunnel, Rosi tunnel, was added.

The entire ride is now 19 km long.

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4. Montserrat cogwheel train, Spain

Montserrat monastery is one of the most popular and one of its kind in Spain. Built almost a thousand years back, it’s thronged by tourists in large number every year. You can take a train up to the monastery, but if you want to go all the way up to the highest mountain you need to take a cog wheel train and then hike.

Of course, I did this on my visit there and loved it! It’s a fairly short trip but the views are worth the money. The hike afterwards was way more fun :)

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5. Victoria Peak cogwheel train, Hong Kong

Victoria Peak is the highest peak in Hong Kong, and if you want to have the best view to the city, you need to visit the peak. There are two ways of going up - you can hike or you can take the cog wheel!

There is even a station mid-way and you can choose to get down and climb the rest of the journey.

Here’s how the city looks from top!

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