Pilatus Photo Tour
From: Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland
This map, which was supplied by Pilatus-Bahnen, gives an overview of the "Golden Round Trip." During your tour, you'll take a boat or train from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, ascend the mountain by cogwheel railroad, descend the northern side by aerial cablecar, transfer to a gondola lift to Kriens at Fräkmüntegg, then catch a local bus in Kriens for the final (and short) trip to Lucerne.
Both vintage and modern steamers travel from Lucerne to Alpnachstad. The SGV ship above (with Pilatus as a backdrop) is a steam-operated paddlewheeler from the early 1900s.
Travel time is about 70 to 85 minutes, depending on the sailing. See the SGV's English-language Web site to plan your trip.
Both first- and second-class tickets are available. First class gives you access to the upper deck and may be less crowded than second class, especially on days when school groups are traveling. However, second class is perfectly comfortable, and there's plenty of deck space on the boats.
The "Golden Round Trip" to Mt. Pilatus normally begins at the Lucerne railroad station, where you can catch a train to Alpnachstad or--better yet--go outside the station to the landing stage of the Schifffahrtsgesellschaft Vierwaldstättersee or SGV, a.k.a. the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company.
This photo shows the paddlewheeler Unterwalden, which is one of five antique steamers in the SGV fleet. The city of Lucerne is in the background.
The trip to Alpnachstadt begins on the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forest Cantons, a.k.a. Lake Lucerne) and continues on the Alpnachersee.
During the boat journey from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, you'll see more than a few mountains--among them, , or .
The steamer will make quick stops in several towns and villages along the way, such as (top), which sits at the foot of Pilatus Kulm; and , near the meeting point of the Vierwaldstättersee and the Alpnachersee.
At Alpnachstad, you'll walk from the steamer landing to the Pilatus cogwheel railway station. The rack-and-pinion line from Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm is the steepest in the world, with a maximum gradient of 48 degrees. That's why the trains look more like funiculars than ordinary locomotives or railcars, with offset compartments instead of flat floors.
In the photo above, one of the self-propelled Pilatus-Bahnen trains has just entered the station at Alpnachstad. In a moment, a mechanism beneath the tracks will shift the car to the right, against the platform, so that it can discharge and collect passengers before departing on the right-hand track.
A section of the Pilatus-Bahnen's unique cogwheel-and-rack mechanism is on display in the Alpnachstad station. It was invented by Eduard Locher (1840-1910), a Swiss railroad engineer who developed the double-rack system in response to government concerns about the safety of existing cogwheel systems on a mountain that was known for its high winds.
In the Locher System, a flange or disc below each cogwheel keeps the wheel from lifting off the rack when the train is buffeted by winds. This system has been used on the Pilatus railway since it opened for business on June 4, 1889. (The original wooden cars were powered by steam; the railroad was electrified in 1937 .)
Map copyright © Pilatus-Bahnen.
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