Two reasons to celebrate on the Zugspitze

08/07/2020

90 years of the cogwheel train and 200 years since the first ascent

Germany’s highest peak will be marked by two very special anniversaries in 2020. 27th August 1820 saw the first person reach the Westgipfel of the Zugspitze, while the maiden trip of the newly built cogwheel train to the Schneeferner wowed the public on 8th July 1930. Two historic milestones in the development of the iconic mountain that demand to be celebrated.  

Until the 19th century, locals insisted it would never be conquered due to the almost vertical, seemingly impregnable 2,962-m-high rocky peak. Shepherds and hunters may well have scaled the summit earlier on their wanderings, but the honour of the official first ascent goes to Lieutenant Joseph Naus. The surveyor heralded a new era on the Zugspitze with this feat. Other summit expeditions soon followed in his footsteps, driven by curiosity about the Alps and sporting enthusiasm, and the golden summit cross erected in 1851 shone bright over the emerging tourism industry in Werdenfelser Land. The newly founded Alpine associations advanced the development of the Alps from the second half of the 19 century. New ascent routes on the Zugspitze, and the Münchner Haus at the summit opened with much festivity in 1897, allowed even less experienced climbers to scale Germany’s highest mountain. 

Vision and mission: mountain adventure for everyone

The cable cars were established in parallel to this at the end of the 19th century, making the fascinating Alpine landscapes effortlessly accessible to as many people as possible. This was the guiding principle of Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, which was founded in 1928. With the construction of the world’s last large cogwheel train, it realised one of the boldest projects in the Alps and marked another turning point in the history of regional tourism. The technical masterpiece on the cogwheel train line from Grainau to Zugspitzplatt came in the construction of the 4,453-m-long tunnel through the mountains from Riffelriss to the Schneefernerhaus with an altitude difference of 1,010 m. The inaugural ride to the Schneeferner station took place on 8th July 1930, along with the official opening by the then Archbishop in front of invited guests, who had travelled from Munich on a special train put on by the Reichsbahn. 

The successful pioneering act was to be followed by many more bold development projects throughout the company history of Bayerische Zugspitzbahn. As a result, mountain lovers from all over the world can experience a unique combination of technology and nature all around the Zugspitze. The cogwheel train is still holding its ground to this day – thanks to continual modernisation of the cars and a new tunnel route right to the ski resort built in 1985. As a nostalgic transport alongside the cutting-edge Zugspitze cable car and a reliable method of travel on one of Germany’s most thrilling railway lines. 

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