World’s steepest funicular railway opens in Switzerland

A funicular is a train attached to a cable that moves up and down a hill or mountain slope
schwyz-stoos funicular All aboard the Schwyz-Stoos train, it's going to be a steep trip! (Urs Flueeler/Keystone via AP)

Going uuuuuuuuup?

A brand new train in Switzerland is, and it's setting a world record along the way.

The Schwyz-Stoos (say sheets-schtoos) funicular has just opened and it boasts the steepest incline, or climb angle, of any train in the world. Even better, an innovative design means that the passengers inside stay level for the entire journey.

What's a Schwyz-Stoos? What's a funicular?

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An aerial view of the Swiss town of Stoos. (Getty Embed)

Okay, we get it. You have steep-Swiss-train questions, we have steep-Swiss-train answers.

First, the name of the train simply comes from the route it takes. It connects the valley station of Schwyz with a tiny alpine village called, you guessed it, Stoos. Stoos is car-free and is 110m (328ft) higher than Schwyz. So this new funicular saves a lot of climbing!

And yes, about that word... A funicular is a term for a train with cars that run up and down a steep slope. A funicular moves along rails like a normal train, but is connected to a cable that controls how the train moves up and down the track. In fact, funiculars are a type of cable car, along with chairlifts, gondolas, and tramways.

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Cable cars like this are very common in mountainous Switzerland. Some students even use them to get to school! (Getty Embed)

Steep climb, flat trip

Back to this particular train, the Schwyz-Stoos trip may be a quick one (only four minutes long), but, oh, that climb... The train moves up a slope angle, of 110%. On this scale 180% would be flat, and 90% would be straight up. In other words, this is one steep climb.

The Schwyz-Stoos makes this a pleasant trip for passengers, however, thanks to its rotating carriages. As the angle changes, the carriages rotate and stay perfectly level. In the past, funiculars got around this problem by being permanently built on a particular angle. Like so.

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A funicular train built in the 1890s. (Getty Embed)

But the Schwyz-Stoos' design means that it can travel equally well over flat land and a steep well as everything in between! Watch this train put the "fun" back in "funicular" in the video below.

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