The world record attempt took place to highlight Switzerland’s engineering achievements, as well as to mark the 175th anniversary of Swiss railways. The country’s rail industry came together to run the world’s longest-ever passenger train. 100 cars, 2,990 tons, and almost two kilometers long.
Formed of 25 “Capricorn” electric trains, the 1906-meter train took almost an hour to cover around 25km over the UNESCO World Heritage Albula Line from Preda to Alvaneu in eastern Switzerland. Like the legendary Cresta Run toboggan track, the Albula Line is famous for its endless swooping curves and steep descents. A world-renowned masterpiece of civil engineering, the 62-kilometer line between Thusis and St. Moritz took just five years to build, despite requiring 55 bridges and 39 tunnels.
The record attempt was organized by the Rhaetische Bahn (Rhaetian Railway, or RhB), supported by Swiss train builder Stadler, and is perhaps even more astonishing for taking place on a narrow-gauge railway. Unlike most Swiss and European railways, which use the “standard” gauge between the rails of 1.435 meters (4 feet 8.5 inches), RhB rails are just one meter apart. Combine this with a route with notoriously tight curves, steep gradients, 22 tunnels, and 48 bridges over deep valleys, and the challenges become obvious.
2021, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) operated 11,260 trains carrying 880,000 passengers and 185,000 tons of freight per day.
Previous holders of the world’s longest passenger train record—Belgium and, before that, the Netherlands—used standard-gauge railways through flat landscapes to their advantage.