July 10, 1904
The final section of the Albula Railway in Switzerland’s easternmost and largest canton (member state) of Graubünden made its formal debut. This 1.9-mile (3-kilometer)-long segment links the municipality of Celerina with the village and internationally renowned spa resort of St. Moritz, and it began operations a year after the opening of the railway’s first section between the municipality of Thusis and Celerina. Since its inception, this railway has been part of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB).
The origins of this railway can be traced to the early 1890s when there were ever-increasing demands for expanded rail service throughout Graubünden and in particular the vicinity of the Albula Alps. (This mountain range owes its name to the river Albula in the region.) Construction on the Albula Railway as part of RhB’s’s extensive network of railroad lines in eastern Switzerland began in 1898. At the time, there was another RhB railway line already in place that connected Thusis with the Graubünden town of Coire.
The building of the Albula Railway through various mountain passes and other natural obstacles in the high-altitude area proved to be a formidable project overall; an especially challenging and dangerous task involved the construction of the Albula Tunnel between Thusis and Celerina. It took a total of 1,316 people – several of whom lost their lives in the process – to create the 3.7-mile (5.8-kilometer)-long tunnel, which is located near the Albula Pass. The Albula Tunnel courses beneath the watershed between the rivers Rhine and Danube, and it is second only to the Furka Summit Tunnel as the highest alpine tunnel in Switzerland.
The month after the final section of the Albula Railway opened, both the scenic ride and relatively easy means of getting to St. Moritz that this transit route made possible were highlighted by the Rev. Dr. E.P. Parker of Connecticut. In an interview with the Harford Daily Courant, Parker discussed a trip to Europe that he and his wife had recently taken. “We went abroad for rest and recreation, and we were not disappointed,” he said. Parker cited the “beauties and grandeurs,” as well as the “pure and bracing atmosphere,” that they experienced during their time in Switzerland. He further noted, “The newly-opened Albula railway, which traverses the Schyn and Albula Passes, takes one in a few hours from [the railway line linking Coire with Thusis] to St. Moritz and is a marvelous work of engineering.”
The following year, the Albula Railway received a similarly positive mention in the updated edition of the widely read British travel guide Cook’s Tourist’s Handbook to Switzerland. This guide stated, “As a health resort, for various classes of invalids, the winter season at St. Moritz is always increasing in popularity, the climate enabling patients to sit out longer in the open air and sunshine in winter than in the summer, and the opening of the Albula Railway from Thusis in 1904 greatly facilitated the access to St. Moritz.”
The Albula Railway, covering 38.3 miles (61.7 kilometers) altogether and encompassing a total of 55 bridges and 39 tunnels, remains in service today. This railway and the Bernina Railway, which began operations in 1908 and links St. Moritz with the Italian town of Torino via the Bernina Pass, were jointly recorded in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008.
For more information on the Albula Railway, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albula_Railway.