History

Die Brienz Rothorn Bahn - ein Unternehmen mit Tradition. Bereits 1891 erreichte die erste Dampflokomotive den Gipfel vom Brienzer Rothorn.

Before the railway

The Brienz Rothorn was widely known to the Swiss before the Rothorn railway ever existed. In 1829 the exact point at the very summit where the three cantons of Bern, Lucerne and Obwalden meet, was marked by means of a granite stone. Following the Faulhorn, the Rothorn was regarded as the most important observation point of the Bernese Oberland. How and when the Rothorn got its name (which in English means «red horn or red bugle») is uncertain. Legend has it that in 1380 alpine herdsmen from Obwalden who owned Alps in Lucerne territory, boiled an inhabitant of Entlebuch in a pot filled with whey. On the occasion of a second such incident, a guard is said to have blown his bugle so strongly that he died of the effort and his bugle turned red with his blood. In Switzerland there are literally  dozens of mountains by the name of «Rothorn», 17 in the Valais region and a further 11 in the Bernese Oberland.

Builder of the railway

The completion of the Rigi mountain railway in 1871, proved that even the Alps could be conquered by the might of steam power. The Bernese Oberland wanting to be part of this touristic phenomenon formed a committee in 1889 of likeminded, tourism oriented people. The leader was a German engineer from Lucerne by the name of A. Lindner. He was fascinated by the idea of building a Rothorn railway, the world’s highest mountain railway! Mr Lindner was a highly qualified railway expert experienced from working on the construction of the Gotthard railway. In 1890 he wrote a «Memorandum concerning the project of a railway to the Rothorn». Following the accumulation of finances, T. Bertschinger, a master builder from Lenzburg, was put in charge of the construction work. He had experience having built the Seetal railway and was therefore qualified to accept the risk of undertaking the contract. The contract included: supply of the rolling stock, railway, training staff and the first year operation. The price: 2 million Swiss Francs.

 

Railway construction

In 1889 the Swiss Federal Assembly granted a license for the construction of the railway and in the summer of the same year the work commenced. A report from that year describes the railway construction in the following words: «Now there was a great hustle and bustle on the mountain and everywhere, above and below, on the rocks and along the gravel slopes, men started to work. Feeding the workers alone was no easy task. There was a shortage of hospital beds for the injured. The largest number of workers employed at one time was 640, mostly Italians who were accommodated in new barracks and old alpine herdsmen's cabins to suit their simple yet practical way of life».
As early as 31st October 1891, a works locomotive reached ‘Kulm’, the summit station. The 4.7 mile route climbing over 5500 feet with 6 tunnels was built in a 16 month period including a winter.