The Rhaetian Railway established a record for the world’s longest narrow gauge passenger train and exploited the scenic abilities of one of its best lines through the Alps for that attempt. The company ran the 1.9-kilometre-long train composed of 100 coaches on its UNESCO heritage world famous Albula line between Preda and Alvaneu. Three thousand guests celebrated the attempt on large screens in marquees at Bergün, and a horde of well wishers lined the railway route at every conceivable location.
The attempt was partnered with Stadler, who built the new trains, and a whole host of other companies sponsored or commemorated the event. Märklin chipped in with its own record attempt which involved 25 model Capricorns totalling a length of 80m and exhibited at Bergün where a festival was held throughout the station environs and in the village itself.
Detail on the world record attempt. Source: Rhätische Bahn.
The Capricorn units have already established one world record and that was for the fastest narrow gauge speed ever achieved. The attempt took place in June 2022 and a speed of 163km/h was attained in the RhB’s Vereina tunnel. Not since the sixties and early seventies have such speeds been attained on the narrow gauge!
This latest world record attempt had been planned well beforehand, starting with initial thoughts during COVID and then progressing towards getting things together and actual testing of the concept which involved a maximum of sixteen Capricorn units (64 coaches in all) totalling 1222 metres. Amazingly the company had to use a specially installed communications cable along the entire length of the train because that was the only way continuous communication could be established throughout as opposed to radio communications which was unreliable because of the line’s tunnels.
One of the trial runs which was conducted at night time earlier in the year. Source: Swiss Info.
Most of the route (Preda-Bergün) can be seen (traced in red) in this image! Source: Reddit.
The company’s director, Renato Fasciati, launches the event at Chur by overseeing the despatch of the RhB’s specials to the Albula line – including here Ge 4/4 III 644 with its Weltrekordversuch livery at the head of a special train to Preda. Source: Twitter.
The rear of the train passes as the remainder traverses the viaduct further down the spirals between Preda and Muot. The rest of the line at this point is higher up by where these people were stood. Source: France 24.
In the next picture those observers watching the train would have been stood in the large gap in the trees right at the top of the picture – a distance of almost a kilometre!
The near 2km long train train as it descended the spirals between Preda and Muot. Source: Berner Zeitung.
The actual world record started late because there were technical problems in the Albula tunnel where the 25 units were coupled up prior to the attempt. A substantial delay was due to one particular CCTV camera which was focussed on the couplings and interface between two of the units. All of these vital connections had to be monitored because each of the units had to be in exact synch in terms of speed, braking and the rest of it. This is because of the huge amount of potential lateral force the entire train (nearly three thousand tons in total) carried and any slippage in the synchronisation between the various units could have caused considerable damage to the rolling stock.
That one delay alone cost the RhB 20 minutes. In the event the train was around an hour and ten minutes late at its destination. Extra delays were incurred along the route including the alighting of its special compliment of 150 invited passengers and media personnel at Bergün, where the train was seen departing around 34 minutes late. These personnel had occupied just the one unit out of the entire consist of 25 units.
One of those unusual shots from the world record attempt! This scene is south of Bergün where the leading car is descending the steep gradient to the town’s railway station whilst the rest of its train is yet to traverse the spiral tunnels leading to this very point! Source: Oman Observer.
News media at the trackside! A scene that could never happen in the UK! Source: Aargauer Zeitung.
The train as it leads its way down the valley towards Alvaneu from the Landwasser viaduct. Part of the train can be seen at right before it enters the Landwasser tunnel. The rear of the train was within the environs of Filisur station! Source: Twitter.
The 2 kilometre long train at Alvaneu station where the units would be progressively disconnected and each unit sent back to their depots. The rear of the 2km train almost reached the Zalaint tunnel immediately this side of the famous Landwasser viaduct in the distance! Source: Tagblatt.
Special brochure and ticket for the Weltrekordversuch. Source: Twitter.
RhB’s Renato Fasciati receives the Guinness World of Records certificate at a ceremony following the record run. Source: Twitter.
View of the World of Records certificate. Source: Twitter.
Immediately the record attempt had been achieved, the task to uncouple the 25 Capricorn units began followed by the huge task for RhB staff in driving each of these to their respective depots or stations across the RhB system where most would begin public work again the very next day. Including the 25 individual units which needed dispatching from Alvaneu after the record run, a total of sixty five extra trains were run on the RhB that day! It is said that entailed pressing every possible stock into service including the RhB’s remaining Ge 4/4 1 Locomotives (built 1947/1953). Quite a number of workings were for the transport of visitors, sightseers, VIIPs, media, to various points along the route as well as several that brought in people from further afield.
The system’s control centre at Landquart had a very busy weekend!
There was even a model of the Ge 4/4 no 644! The scene is Landquart depot on 29th June 2022 (exact four months before the record attempt) when both this Märklin model and the specially decorated Ge 4/4 locomotive ‘Savognin’ were launched simultaneously. Source: Kinder Spiel Magazin.