Swiss narrow-gauge railway sets record for world’s longest passenger train

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Yes, it’s quite a train. A record-breaking 100-meter passenger train winds its way through the Swiss Alps on Saturday, October 29. Courtesy of Rhaetian Railway/Philipp Schmidli

After months of preparation, the Swiss meter-gauge railway company Rhätische Bahn/Rhaetian Railway (RhB) set a new world record for the longest passenger train on Saturday October 29, with a special 100-car train, consisting of 25 identical electric multiple units trainsets.

The train took the famous UNESCO-listed ‘Albula/Bernina’ route from Preda to Bergün via its spiral tunnels, later crossing the famous Landwasser Viaduct before ending at Alvaneu. The record run was part of the celebrations of the 175th anniversary of the Swiss railway network and the 100th anniversary of the electrification of the Rhaetian railway network.

The equipment involved in the record was all built by Stadler in Switzerland and delivered within the past two years. They are known as “Capricorns” after the native mountain goats of the same name (also known in English as Ibex). The RhB Capricorn fleet replaces all of the company’s older EMUs and most of its large fleet of locomotive-hauled wagons. The last Capricorn trains are expected to be in service by 2024.

The record 100-car train was 1,910 meters (2,089 yards). He left Preda at 2:20 p.m. and shortly after 3:30 p.m. crossed the Landwasser viaduct. The 15.6 mile (24.93 kilometer) trip from Preda to Alvaneu, was downhill starting over a mile above sea level (Preda is 1,788 meters or 5,866 feet) and descending for nearly half a mile to 1,000 meters or 3,281 feet. During the descent, the train – which weighed 3,300 tons (or 2,900 metric tons) – used electric regenerative braking and produced 4,000 kilowatt hours of energy. It traveled mostly at around 20 mph.

Between the 25 EMU units involved, the train had seven engineers on board (not all in the lead EMU) and 21 other technical personnel. over hundreds of passengers.

Thousands of locals and visiting railroad enthusiasts lined the track to photograph the special train, although the best views were available from the air for official photographers.

The previous world record for the longest passenger train – which remains the record for the longest train pulled by a single locomotive – was set in Belgium on April 27, 1991, when an electric locomotive pulled 70 cars from Ghent to Ostend. It was also a specially organized event, although unlike the 2022 record, it took place almost at sea level.

Video of the train (with very enthusiastic Swiss commentary) is available here.

Long red train on several levels of track, with the front coming out of the tunnel
Another view of the Rhätische Bahn record passenger train on Saturday. Notice the crowd of spectators near the tunnel portal. Courtesy of Rhaetian Railway/Philipp Schmidli
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