The Brienzer Rothornbahn Steam engine train is a fabulous trip, starting from Brienz, a lakeside village between Meiringen and Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland. The train steeply rises through a landscape of pastures, mixed forests, rocky ridges and flowering alpine meadows. As the train ascends, you’re treated to wonderful views of Lake Brienz with its aquamarine waters shimmering and dancing in the sunlight. You can see the Grandhotel Glessbach with its huge waterfall crashing down as boats disembark on the dock far below.
The Rothorn peak above tops out at 7709 ft with unobstructed 360° views that unfold before you, and includ Pilatus and Rigi to the north, Titlis to the east, and the iconic peaks of the Bernese Oberland south. You can often spot Steinbock, also known as Alpine Ibex, wild goats of which the males have magnificently huge curving horns.
The best seats on the way up for photos are on the left side as you go uphill. In the warm months of the summer, they open the windows and the fresh air mixed with the moist smell of the team add a piece of character to the ride. Pay attention to the downhill as they often refill the water at Planalp. Keep an eye out though; the conductor might splash you with some!
The steam train is open from early June to late October. Check the schedule ahead of time if you are planning to come. You can also access the peak by the cable car in winter. In fact, during the summer, you can make a multi-transit round trip using the train, cable car, steam train, bus, and boat! There are about a half of a dozen hiking trails from the valley and all the way to the top.
The first train during the main season is 8:30 am and the last one coming down from the top is at 5:40 pm. Fares are CHF 60 one-way, CHF 92 round trip with discounts for various Swiss Passes. Special trains occur throughout the season such as Senior Citizen Tuesdays, Sunday Autumn trains, Salon Rouge Dining (a nostalgic open-air wooden car), and the Steam Sausage Cruise.
The Steam Sausage Cruise is perhaps our favorite. On Wednesdays at 10:00, you can take this special excursion, called the Dampfwürstlibummler, which makes a stop mid-way at Planalp. The conductor cooks sausages in a kettle on the steam engine which is then served with rack-and-pinion-shaped bread and a drink. If you love steam trains and sausages, you’ll wonder why this has not been thought of before!
See the Rothorn website for more info. Individual reservations possible, so you should arrive 30 minutes before you plan to ride, just in case. During busy times they may use a diesel engine so make sure to clarify if you want the steam engine.