A day trip to the little red train

The Brusio Circular Viaduct is a true masterpiece of bridge engineering on the Bernina Line. It was built to limit the gradient of the line to just 7 per mille.
The Brusio Circular Viaduct is a true masterpiece of bridge engineering on the Bernina Line. It was built to limit the gradient of the line to just 7 per mille.

One of the most spectacular ways to cross the Alps: the Bernina Express from Chur / Davos / St. Moritz – Valposchiavo – Tirano links up regions with different languages and cultures. This is not a rack railway and the train winds its way gently through splendid scenery.

On the highest railway across the Alps, the Bernina Express climbs up to the glistening glaciers before descending to the palms of Italy far below. This rail link between Northern and Southern Europe builds bridges between regions with different languages and cultures.

The Montebello Curve is one of the most widely photographed subjects on the Bernina Line.
The Montebello Curve is one of the most widely photographed subjects on the Bernina Line.

The railway is unique, blending ideally with the alpine landscapes around the Albula and Bernina Passes. The train negotiates the 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and inclines of up to 70 per mille with ease. At the highest point on the RhB, 2,253 metres above sea level, you will find the Ospizio Bernina. Here, visitors can delight in the cultural and natural surroundings and enjoy the Alps at their most impressive. The railway line from Thusis – Valposchiavo – Tirano has UNESCO World Heritage status. A brand name.

Lago Bianco is a watershed. To the south, the waters flow into the Adriatic and to the east, into the Black Sea.
Lago Bianco is a watershed. To the south, the waters flow into the Adriatic and to the east, into the Black Sea.

Don’t forget to take your passport with you!

This trip I entering into Switzerland, and you will need to have your passport to do so.

The 136-metre-long Landwasser Viaduct is the signature structure of the Rhaetian Railway.
The 136-metre-long Landwasser Viaduct is the signature structure of the Rhaetian Railway.

How to get to the “Little Red Train” in one day trip.

From Milan take the Trenord train that leaves from Milano Centrale station with destination Tirano. The train takes 2:30 hours, you can take the 7:20 train that arrives in Tirano at 9:52, before crossing into Switzerland and boarding the Rhaetian Railway “Little Red Train”. In summer (May through October) there are Bernina Express trains that skip many of the local stations on the way, it leaves Tirano at 10:03 and arrives at St Moritz at 12:36.

Bernina local train
Bernina local train

During all year around there is an equally confortable and panormic train that stops in all stations that leaves Tirano at 11:00 and arrives in St Moritz at 13:11.

For a complete timetable see the page of the Raethian Railays.

For the return in summer (May through October) you have an Express train in St Moritz at 15:12, it arrives in Tirano at 17:32, where you can board the train back to Milan at 19:08 or 20:08, with time to have an Italian dinner with Italian quality and price.

Bernina Express in Tirano
Bernina Express in Tirano

During all year around there is a train that stops in all stations that leaves St Moritz every hour from 12:48 to 16:48 and arrives in Tirano in time for a connection with the Trenitalia train.

For a complete timetable see the page of the Raethian Railways..

From Varenna-Esino you can board the Trenitalia train to Tirano at 8:24, it takes 1:28 hours to get to Tirano.

The line is harmoniously embedded in the surrounding landscape. Railway and nature blend into one.
The line is harmoniously embedded in the surrounding landscape. Railway and nature blend into one.

How to extend your stay in Switzerland.

If you want you can stay overnight in St Moritz, or Pontresina, and extend yor visit for one or more days. Be careful though, the price of the hotels and retaurants in this area of Switzerland are much higher than the prices of equivalent accommodations in Italy.

Trenord train from Milan to Tirano
Trenord train from Milan to Tirano

How to use the Bernina Express as part of a long haul trip

The Bernina Express is an excellent way to travel between London, Paris or Zurich and Milan, Florence, Rome or Venice, but its Tirano-Milan connection is very poorly advertised by the Rhätische Bahn, and many travel agents seem ignorant of its existence.  In fact, excellent modern Trenord trains link Milan Centrale with Tirano every one or two hours, no reservation necessary, just buy a ticket and hop on.  First class is virtually identical to the 2nd class seats shown here, but with grey seats not blue.

bernina-milan1

Trenord introduced its new air-conditioned Milan-Tirano trains in 2015, very smooth-riding with clean toilets, video information screens & power sockets at all seats.  A pleasure to travel on, and it’s a nice ride as the train speeds along Lake Como and heads towards the mountains…

The Bernina Express continues after St Moritz and terminates in Chur.

bernina-express-chur

From Chur to Zurich by SBB InterCity or InterRegional train…

Swiss Federal Railways IC or IR trains run from Chur to Zurich HB every 30 minutes, taking you alongside the shores of the Walensee and then the Zürichsee…  No reservation required, just hop on and sit where you like.  Some of the IC trains are ICN tilting trains, like that in the photo of Chur platform above.