International passenger

trains in 20th Century Europe

International passenger trains in 20th Century Europe

Much has been written about Swiss railways which will not be repeated here. Suffice to add that the main concern is to examine the through transit routes and the traffic they carried and its origin and destination.

Routes from Channel Ports & Paris

The major Swiss destinations were, Basel, Berne, Geneva and Zürich as well as the mountain resort areas. Basel was served from Paris via Chaumont. For Berne, two routes prevailed – Chaumont-Delle and Dijon-Pontarlier. Geneva was served via Dijon-Culoz.  There were through trains from Paris and the Channel Ports directly to resorts such as Luzern, Interlaken and Chur via Basel

Calais or Boulogne sent coaches which were joined with their main trains in Paris for onward despatch. Similarly, traffic from these ports to Swiss and Italian destinations was often directed to Switzerland avoiding Paris by taking the route through Laon and Mulhouse.

Swiss transit routes to Italy

Modane-Torino via the Mont Cenis tunnel opened in 1871.  Roma trains were  sent via Mont Cenis to Torino then followed the Italian west coast through Pisa.

Frasne-Vallorbe through the Mont d'Or tunnel opened in May 1915 which led to the Simplon tunnel via Lausanne.

Gotthard route from Zurich to Chiasso thence Milano

Routes from Germany

The Swiss boundary with Germany did not change in the 20th century. Most German traffic headed for Basel and Zurich. Prior to 1939, Berlin was linked with Zurich via München and Basel via Karlsruhe. These routes saw through traffic from Germany to Italy, notably Milano and Roma.

The position of Berlin in a divided Germany drastically reduced connections between that city and other western capitals. Berlin was no longer linked directly with Basel or Zurich and this remained the case until 1975 when a service was started in Moscow with western Switzerland as its target routed via Berlin. At varying times until its demise in 1994 this service also acted as a once-weekly through sleeping car service from Moscow to Barcelona and Madrid. In 1993 the Basel-Berlin service was extended via Darmstadt. Zürich suffered a similar fate having no through service to Berlin until the late 1980s

Routes from Benelux  

In a southerly direction, Brussels was well connected with various Swiss and Italian locations. The route taken was Namur. Luxembourg and Mulhouse to Basel.  The Roma service used the St Gotthard route to Milano, thence via Bologna and Firenze to Roma.

Amsterdam generated much traffic to these countries and as the Hoek declined in importance for through trains, Amsterdam developed its own connections. This traffic used mainly the route via Köln.  The Swiss resorts, Milano, Roma and the Côte d’Azur were the main beneficiaries of Dutch passengers. As a snapshot of this connection in 1967, four named trains (see below) passed this way from Hoek/Amsterdam to Milano and Roma.

D2: Switzerland - a rail


Main Swiss passes The lure of Italy Cote d'Azur International passenger trains in 20th Century Europe

Welcome to