Switzerland, because of its mountainous landscape and magnificent lakes, is renowned for its attractive railway lines, some of which are so steep they seem to defy gravity. One line that has a reputation greater than all others is the Albula Railway which is part of the Rhaetian Railway in the Canton of Graubunden.
This line, which runs between Thusis and St Moritz is a one-metre narrow gauge railway that is over a century old. It was originally built to exist in harmony with the surrounding countryside, a decision which meant that some very intricate engineering decisions had to be mastered in order to complete the line.
Many of the principles which were incorporated in the line served as the template for other complicated railways in Switzerland and elsewhere. In the Bernina area, which extends beyond St Moritz, the railway is quite unique, being the highest altitude transalpine railway and one of the steepest adhesion railways in the world.
The railway gets its name because it passes through the Albula Valley. An amazing journey, it passes across many viaducts and through lots of tunnels. Some of these are utterly spectacular, such as the Solis Viaduct, which is made from limestone and has eleven arches. Built in 1902 it is 89 metres (292ft) high, 164 metres (538ft) long, and has a main span of 42 metres (138ft).
A viaduct with a very tight turn is the Landwasser Viaduct, which can be seen long before you actually cross it. This viaduct has six arch spans 20 metres (66ft) in width which rest on five high pillars. You approach via a steep gradient and once on the viaduct traverse a circular arc with a radius of just 100 metres (330ft). The south eastern abutment of the viaduct is located on a high cliff, and at that point, the tracks lead directly into the 216 metres (709ft) long Landwasser Tunnel.
The most audacious engineering is on the section between Bergün and Preda. In order to overcome the height difference of 417m (1,368ft) between the towns, in a distance of only 6.5 km (4 miles) the route is extended by 12km (7.5 miles) by a series of stunning engineering structures which includes a series of spiral tunnels and a couple of curved tunnels and viaducts to provide one of the most fascinating rail journeys in the world.
The scenery, in any season, is glorious, and the Albula Railway is considered to be so unique that, and the surrounding countryside, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site so that it can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.