UNESCO World Heritage RhB

Honour and commitment combined

The Albula and Bernina railway lines form the core element of the RhB UNESCO World Heritage site. The Albula Line was completed in 1903, and its Bernina counterpart in 1910. On 7th July 2018, it will be ten years since «The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes» joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is for this reason that the whole of 2018 will be dedicated to railway culture. You must therefore not miss the absolute highlight of this anniversary year: the RhB Railway Festival.

Our programme of anniversary events at a glance

The Grand Railway Festival

Our first Railway Festival will be taking place in Samedan and Pontresina over the weekend of 9th-10th June 2018. Two whole days of railway-related fun and festivities await for visitors to the event. A static exhibition and record-breaking moving convoy of historical RhB rolling stock are set to delight young and old alike.
Those with a taste for more playful fun can try their skills at our first TrainGames event. True to the RhB motto «A fascinatingly different way to travel», teams of four players will compete for fame and glory. The Railway Festival will be complemented by a World Heritage street market and catering facilities. Our very own conductor for children Clà Ferrovia and popular entertainer Linard Bardill will be on hand to delight our younger guests with their exciting stories.   

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Special exhibition at the Albula Railway Museum

What is the significance of UNESCO World Heritage? Why do we even need World Heritage sites, and how do we go about managing them? Answers to these questions and others will be given until the second week of November 2018 at the Albula Railway Museum in Bergün. The other eleven World Heritage sites in Switzerland will be showcased in a guest exhibition that changes every month.

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UNESCO World Heritage event

The UNESCO World Heritage RhB will be hosting an annual UNESCO World Heritage event on 6th-7th June 2018. Experts from the sector will use a series of lectures, presentations, workshops and examples of best practice to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by cultural tourism.

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Offer for schools

We are offering exciting excursions for schools under the motto «Active Heritage». School classes participating in excursions to the UNESCO World Heritage RhB will have an opportunity to engage actively with issues relating to the railway’s historic infrastructure and its significance.

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World Heritage background information

The railway line over the Albula and Bernina passes is a masterpiece of design and civil engineering that includes exquisite works of architecture, tight turns and twisting tunnels. The UNESCO World Heritage RhB railway also merges harmoniously with the surrounding landscape and wildlife. The RhB is, like other World Heritage sites, a cultural landmark of outstanding universal value.

The infrastructure of the Albula and the Bernina lines bears witness to the engineering skill, great courage and far-sightedness of the early railway pioneers. The hundred-year-old masterpiece that they created that still counts as an authentic original. The UNESCO World Heritage RhB now constitutes a significant part of the railway culture of the Swiss Canton of Graubünden. The World Heritage element is complemented by a fleet of historic rolling stock that likewise attracts railway enthusiasts and other visitors to the area. The tenth anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage RhB will therefore be used to highlight our cultural commitment to this architectural and railway heritage and attempt to bring them alive.

Two unique railway lines

Two unique railway lines

Renowned specialists were called in to help construct the Albula railway from Thusis to St. Moritz. The lines and surrounding infrastructure were all built to standards that represented the best practice of the day in the construction of mountain railways. The Albula Line began its life as a conventional, steam-powered mountain railway. The route that it takes, along with its structures made of local stone, belong to the classic golden age of railway construction.

The Bernina Line from Thusis to St. Moritz meanwhile adopted what was then cutting-edge electric power technology, coupled with an overland high-altitude mountain route. It created an Alpine model for many other projects involving overland railways. The Bernina Line is now the only railway of its type in the world. Its Alpine crossing is the highest in the region and also the steepest wheel-adhesion (as opposed to rack-system) railway in the world.

Why did «The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina landscapes» become a UNESCO World Heritage site?

So why did «The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina landscapes» become a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Both railway lines and their corresponding infrastructure were deliberately designed to blend in with the surrounding landscape. Tourism and the scenic attractions of the area were already important factors to be taken into account by the time building work began. The harmonious integration of a high mountain landscape into the infrastructure of both railway lines, which include remarkable works of architecture such as bridges and tunnels, was to a great extent made possible by forward-looking planning and the latest technical innovations of the day.

Another important element is the fact that the World Heritage line, which runs from Thusis to the Italian town of Tirano, put the Upper Engadin region on the international tourist map, and then became an attraction in its own right.



What went into the evaluation of the UNESCO World Heritage RhB?

What went into the evaluation of the UNESCO World Heritage RhB?

The UNESCO World Heritage RhB does not just consist of the two railway lines; it also covers the so-called «buffer zones». These buffer zones are organised into three categories. The «qualified» buffer zone is the area immediately adjacent to the core element, i.e. the railway line. This includes valuable cultural assets. The «nearby» buffer zone also borders onto the core zone. This consists, in contrast to the qualified buffer zone, of new residential areas and industrial buildings. Finally, the «remote» buffer zone includes the rest of the landscape visible from the railway line.