We arose early. Emily, Maja, and Alfred Ritter and I took a train for Winterthur, where we arrived at 9 o’clock and changed cars for Chur. We passed through St. Gallen, one of the highest (2195’) of the larger towns of Europe. At Rorschbach, we came to our old friend, the Bodensee, and we skirted along its banks. The mist was still hanging over the lake and the fields.
At St. Margre, we had to change cars, and we dug into our lunch, which was fine, and we topped it off at the R. R. Restaurant with something wet. I felt a sort of good to see our old friend, the Rhein, again, and, once more, we rode along hills covered with vineyards and orchards.
At Meldegg, we had our first glimpse of a snow clad mountain and not very far from it, we stopped at Altstatten, the ancestral home of the Ritter family. It is a prosperous little town and through a gorge on the right of it, we saw the Sentis. The atmosphere had cleared and, from now until sundown, we had a fine clear sky.
We were kept busy jumping from one side of the car to the other to see all the beautiful scenery which came into view all along the road. We also saw many old chateaus and ruins of castles. Among the former, I must mention the white chateaus of Liechtenstein which is situated on a lofty rock near Vadux, the capital of the great principality of Liechtenstein.
Above it towers the “Drei Schwestern,” three fine looking mountains. Near Sargans, the scenery became grander. In one direction, we saw the long serrated chain of the Kurfirsten, in another, the gray pyramid of the Falkins, 8420 feet high. At Mayenfield, we saw an old tower which is said to have been erected in the 4th century by the Roman Emperor Constantius. And the old fellow looks good for another century or two.
We arrived in Chur at 2:15. As we had to wait for our train for half an hour, we took a walk into town, but did not reach the old part of it.
We now took the Albula Railway, a narrow gauge road built in 1898 to 1903 at a cost of 5 million dollars, and it is only 51 1/2 miles long. It is one of the most interesting mountain railways. In addition to the great Albula tunnel, which is 3 1/2 miles long, it traverses 39 smaller tunnels (with an aggregate length of 6 1/2 miles) and numerous viaducts.
We had a fine view of the meeting of the Vorder and Hinter Rhein at Reichenan and, as we kept climbing higher and higher, we could see the pretty hamlets with their churches and the old chateaus and many ruins of castles.
Just above Thusis, a transition station from and to Davos and the Engadine, the turbid river Nolla falls into the Rhein, the valley of which seems as if terminated here by lofty mountains. A rock on the opposite side of the Rhein is crowned with the ruined castle of Hoch Realta mentioned in the 11th century. On one side of it is a dilapidated church which is said to be the oldest Christian Church in the valley.
When we had reached a height of 2420 feet at Sils (an old Roman town), we entered the “Schyn Pass,” the deep and rugged ravine of the Albula and, now, tunnels and viaducts followed each other in rapid succession until we reached at the Solis Railway Bridge, which has 11 arches and is 275 feet above the torrent.
We passed a pretty waterfall in a very picturesque setting of rocks and trees and crossed the rivers Schmittentobel and Landwasser by means of bridges respectively 100 feet above the torrents. Another tunnel and two short cuttings, and we came to Filisur station situated 140 feet above the picturesque valley of that name.
We had now reached a height of 3550 feet, and here begins the mountain section proper of the railway. A spiral tunnel takes us, ascending, up to the Berguner Stein. Again and again, as we climbed upwards, we could see below us the bed of the railroad over which we had passed, and we could see the smoke coming out of the mouth of the tunnels which we had left behind us.
Upon the mountains along which we passed, we could see the walls and fences which have been erected to prevent the snow from forming into lawines [avalanches], and often we passed under so called snowsheds.
We were wishing for genuine rubber necks for, aside of looking to the right and the left, we kept looking down and up, for near us, almost within touch as it seemed to us, we could see the grand snow clad mountains with their glaciers.
Whenever we reached another station, we were astonished to see the grand hotels made necessary by the great numbers of tourists who come to this part of the country to seek rest, health and recreation.
Between Bergun and Preda, a distance of 3 1/2 miles, the railway made an ascent of 1330 feet. This seemed to me to be the most interesting part of the line for here it first ascends in a vast double loop with a lower curved tunnel of some 1500 feet and an upper tunnel about 1/2 this length. It then crosses a river by means of a viaduct of four spans, 165 feet in height. Following the mountain slope, with the sun throwing its rays, we suddenly were in darkness again, as we had entered another spiral tunnel at least 2200’ in length.
Traversing a cutting, the line recrossed the Albula and ascended in a wide loop, again crossing and recrossing the river and ascended about 260 feet by means of two spiral tunnels, one above the other and reached Preda, 5880 feet above the sea level and situated in a pretty valley all surrounded by snow mountains.
I tell you, Boy, this is a wonderful piece of engineering, and the man who worked it out must have had many a sleepless night and many a headache and here we go, “Scooting over it at a mere song.”
We now entered that 3 1/2 mile long Albula Tunnel and gave our eyes a rest. It took us ten minutes to pass through it and, shortly afterwards, we reached the open valley of the Engadine. A short run and here we are at St. Moritz.
I cannot now tell you what an impression it made upon me. It is a wonderful place, a regular surprise for me. I was cold, and we had to climb up to our hotel, where we were very kindly received and shown three good rooms, as we had a recommendation to the landlord.
A fine supper, this letter, and now to bed.