When I arrived in Bergün after the hike down from Preda along the Erlebnisweg [Historic Railway Trail] I was delighted to find such a lovely old traditional village with so many houses typical of the region. These picturesque Engadine houses are lavishly decorated with sgraffito, frescoes and oriel windows and there’s an 800 year old Romanesque church and a Roman tower all amazingly unchanged.
An example of the sgrafitto or trompe l’oeil window
According to the Information Board just outside the village the railway has been a curse and a blessing for Bergün. Back in the nineteenth century the village did a brisk trade in accommodating overnight guests/tourists who were in transit by coach but after the opening of the railway in 1903 it was no longer necessary for horses to be rested and watered here.
Preda and Bergün are both popular for sledging in winter although quite where this is carried out is a mystery to me.
Finally, I arrived at the station where the Railway Museum is located in a converted station building. Despite all the ads for it that seemed to be appealing to children I found it a very adult museum but maybe I wasn’t viewing it from low enough down. For all that, this probably made it more interesting to me. Or would have, had I not been reading all the information boards along the footpath. A lot of the stuff was a bit repeated from them.
After the obligatory shop and cafe you enter the museum itself. The first room is filled with screens showing film of the Simla Railway. Like the Albula Line it is also protected by UNESCO World Heritage status. Built at the end of the 19th century it improved access from New Delhi to the cool summer British residence of Simla. Two Swiss artists made the films travelling on the railway itself. There is no hectic rush as the train and its passengers chug their way up from Kalka to Simla. There is no apparent Health and Safety Advice either by the looks of it. The films are actually very therapeutic and show a relaxed mode of travelling.
The next room is filled with Mr Bernhard Tarnutzer’s train set. Mr T is passionate about the Albula railway to such an extent that he is building his own miniature version (0m guage/Scale 1:45). He began building it at home but is so large now that it has been transferred to the Museum and has a ‘hall’ of its own. He was there on Friday demonstrating its operation to a few of us. The buildings, viaducts and tunnels have been recreated as they were in the 1950s and 1960s with every detail as near as dammit to real life. I’m not so sure however that it’s so interesting to children as it’s mounted at about a metre from the floor. There is still quite a bit of work outstanding until it’s finished.
Mr Tarnutzer explains some technical points
Upstairs there’s lots of interesting stuff and artefacts connected with the building of the line, its history and operation and the resorts that it serves. There were a few hats for children (and me) to try on but otherwise a rather dark area and somewhat adult commentaries when you press the buttons for explanation.
A fascinating day in spectacular surroundings. Most enjoyable.