Full trip guide of Brünig railway line, Lucerne – Interlaken, Switzerland

The Brünig railway line is a Swiss narrow gauge railway line that links Lucerne, in central Switzerland, with Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland. The line is 74 kilometres long, as the only metre gauge line of the Swiss Federal Railways, which runs from Interlaken to Luzern. The line runs via Alpnachstad, Giswil, Meiringen and Brienz, and passes over the Brünig Pass, using sections of rack railway to overcome the gradients, but with most of the line operated by normal adhesion methods.

The line opened in stages between 1888 and 1916, and was, between 1903 and 2004, the only narrow gauge line of the Swiss Federal Railways. Today the line forms part, along with the Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line, of the Zentralbahn company. The line is served by InterRegio trains that operate the full length of the line, with regular (non-rack) Regio trains between Interlaken and Meiringen, and Lucerne S-Bahn trains between Lucerne and Giswil. The section between Hergiswil and Lucerne is shared with the Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line.

The Brünig railway begins at the famous resort of Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland, and takes us on the journey along Lake Brienz from interlaken to Meiringen. look around this lovely town before travelling along the northern shoreline of Lake Brienz. Along the way we pause to look at the fleet of boats which operate along the lake, one of which, the Lötschberg, is an historic paddle steamer.

The Brünig railway pause at the charming village of Brienz to look at examples of the local wood-carving industry, and make a diversion into the mountains along the winding route of the Brienz-Rothorn Railway, which is mainly steam operated. The views along the journey are spectacular, while the locomotives are a piece of living history. The journey continues take us over the Brünig pass to the lakes of Lungern and Sarnen before arriving at the popular destination of Luzern, with its magnificent architecture and painted bridges.

The next stops at Meiringen, famous in literature as a holiday destination for the detective Sherlock Holmes, who plunged to his death in the waters of the Reichenbach falls nearby. Rejoin the ride at Meiringen, famous for its Sherlock Holmes connection, and the location of the Brünig line depot. The tracks now leave the plain and begin the steep climb up to Hasliberg, with rack assistance being utilised.

Once over the pass we descend into the lake-land country of central Switzerland. We skirt Lakes Lungern and Sarnen, pausing to visit the home of Switzerland’s own Saint, Bruder Klaus. We also look at the magnificent baroque church at Sarnen and see archive film of the open air parliament held here. This is the heart of the original Swiss Confederation founded over 700 years ago.

The end of journey is at Luzern, a popular holiday destination, whose lovely streets and painted bridges are the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. We look at the famous carving of the “dying lion”, before paying a visit to the railway section of the Swiss Transport Museum, located on the shores of the Vierwaldstättersee.

The line begins at Lucerne station, one of Switzerland’s principal railway stations and which is shared with the standard gauge lines of the Swiss Federal Railways. The metre gauge terminal platforms, and the first section of the line, are shared with trains of the Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line. Shortly after leaving the station, the line enters a tunnel under Lucerne’s southern suburbs as far as Kriens Mattenhof station. From here the line runs on the surface to Hergiswil, where the Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line diverges.

From Hergiswil station the Brünig line runs through the Lopper I tunnel, under a shoulder of Mount Pilatus, to Alpnachstad, which is the starting point of the Pilatus Railway. The two lines are of different gauges, and there is no track connection. From Alpnachstad station, the Brünig line follows the Sarner Aa and Lake Sarnen to Giswil. Beyond Giswil station, the line’s first rack section then allows the line to climb to Kaiserstuhl station. From here, the runs through the upper basin of the Sarner Aa and alongside Lake Lungern as far as Lungern. This is the steepest adhesion worked section of the line.

After Lungern station, a second rack section lifts the line to its summit at Brünig-Hasliberg station in the Brünig Pass. Beyond the pass, the line descends its third and final rack section, down the steep side of the valley of the Aare, to Meiringen. This is the steepest rack worked section of the line. At Meiringen station, the Brünig line reverses direction with trains both entering and leaving the station from the west end. The Meiringen–Innertkirchen Railway (MIB) connects here, leaving the station from its eastern end. Although there is a track connection between the two lines, they are electrically incompatible, and no through trains operate.

From Meiringen to Brienz the line runs close to the Aare, in that river’s valley. At Brienz station, the starting point of the Brienz Rothorn Railway is beside the Brünig railway station. The two lines are of different gauges, and there is no track connection. Beyond Brienz, the Brünig line runs along the northern shore of Lake Brienz, in a section often affected by landslides. Finally the line crosses the Aare on a high bridge, so built in order to allow lake shipping to reach Interlaken. It then passes over the standard gauge access to the BLS AG works at Bönigen, before descending into its terminus at Interlaken Ost station, which is shared with the BLS AG and Berner Oberland Railway (BOB). There is a physical connection with the BOB, which is also metre gauge, but again the lines are electrically incompatible and no through trains operate.

Brünig Pass
The narrow-gauge Brünig Railway runs from Interlaken via Brienz to the Brünig Pass, continuing to Lucerne and Engelberg. The Brünig Pass, at an altitude of 1,008 m, connects the Bernese Oberland and central Switzerland, linking Meiringen in the canton of Bern and Lungern in the canton of Obwalden. It is on the watershed between the upper reaches of the Aare, which flows through Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, and the Sarner Aa, which flows into Lake Lucerne.

Ballenberg, Swiss Open-Air Museum
Ballenberg is an open-air museum in Switzerland that displays traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country. Located near Brienz in the municipality of Hofstetten bei Brienz, Canton of Bern, Ballenberg has over 100 original buildings that have been transported from their original sites. It is a Swiss heritage site of national significance.

Alte Kirche, Aussichtsturm
The old church Lungern is located in the municipality of Lungern in the canton of Obwalden in Switzerland. Only the tower remains of the former church. During the renovation in 1989, a staircase with 78 steps was built in, and the tower has served as an observation tower ever since. The viewing platform provides a view of the Lungerersee and the surrounding mountains Turren, Sädel, Güpfi and Gibel.

Höch Gumme
The Höch Gumme is a mountain of the Emmental Alps in Switzerland. One of the beautiful places in this area and also tourist-friendly. the summit is shared between the municipalities of Giswil, to the north-west, Lungern to the east, and Hofstetten bei Brienz, to the south. Hofstetten bei Brienz is in the canton of Bern, whilst Giswil and Lungern are in the canton of Obwalden.

Lake Lungern
Lake Lungern is a natural lake in Obwalden, Switzerland. It is nestled between impressive mountains and beautiful scenery. The lake is named after the town Lungern on its shore. Our accommodation was really close to it, so we spent several days exploring this area. There are so many things to do at Lake Lungern. It is a paradise for outdoor lovers.

Brienzer Rothorn
Brienzer Rothorn offers breathtaking views of the Alps and features one of the more remarkable ways to go up or down a mountain – a steam-driven rack and pinion train that is still much as it was in 1891 when the railroad was built. Brienzer Rothorn is actually accessible from two sides, so you can easily make it roundtrip from Lucerne.

Glaubenbielen Pass
Glaubenbielen Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.611m above the sea level, located in the Emmental Alps, in Switzerland. The pass is traversed by a road known as Panoramastrasse. The pass itself is located within Obwalden, and connects Giswil in Obwalden and Sörenberg in the Entlebuch region. It divides the basins of the Kleine Emme and the Sarner Aa, both within the Reuss basin.

The route is consists mostly of single track with passing loops at most stations, although the section between Lucerne and Hergiswil, which is shared with the Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line, is mostly double track. For much of the distance between Lucerne and Horw, one of these two tracks is dual gauge, allowing standard gauge freight trains to reach the industrial areas along the line, and the Eichhof brewery.

The line is served by hourly InterRegio trains that operate the full length of the line, taking just under two hours for the journey. These through trains stop at all stations between Meiringen and Giswil, where they provide the only service, but only at a selected stations between Interlaken and Meiringen, and between Lucerne and Giswil.

The through trains are supplemented by local trains at each end of the route. An hourly Regio train operates between Interlaken and Meiringen, stopping at all stations. Between Lucerne and Giswil, twice-hourly trains of the Lucerne S-Bahn line S5 provide a stopping service. The section of line between Hergiswil and Lucerne is shared with trains on the Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line, including a further InterRegio train per hour, and the twice-hourly Lucerne S-Bahn line S4.