The SMR versus other rack railways

The Snowdon Mountain Railway has top rankings in at least two categories:

1) TOP RANK amongst the world’s ‘non-Alpine’ pure rack railways (that is excluding Swiss/Austrian lines)
2) TOP RANK in the world for its percentage of climb – thats a massive 88% of the mountain’s total height. See note##)

Ranking for 1000m/800m lines with 100% rack operation

Ground rules for these rankings; the lines must be the rack gauges of 1000m or 800m, and be 100% in rack operation. Ranking is according to the line’s total ascent in meters.

———(alpine lines)———
Brienz Rothorn Bahn 1678m
Pilatusbahn 1629m
Rochers-de-Naye 1578m
Gornergratbahn 1469m
Schynige Platte Bahn 1403m
Jungfraubahn 1393m
Monte Generoso 1332m
Wengernalpbahn 1264m
Schneeberg Railway 1215m
Schafberg Railway 1200m
——-(non alpine lines)——-
Snowdon Mountain Railway 957m (see Note **)
Montenvers Railway 871m
Petit train de la Rhune 736m
Corcovados 585m
Štrbské Pleso – Štrba railway 444m
Achensee Railway 440m
Superga Rack Railway 419m
Drachenfels Railway 220m

1) With the Swiss lines at top of the world rankings, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is in eleventh position.

2) Discounting the Swiss narrow gauge rack lines, the Snowdon Mountain Railway takes third place behind the top two Austrian rack lines.

3) Discounting the Alpine lines (Switzerland & Austria) the Snowdon Mountain Railway becomes the TOP RANK of the world listings for non-Alpine 1000m/800m rack lines.

**SMR is 11th place in full ranking, at 3rd with Swiss lines excluded & at top rank with ALL alpine lines excluded. However it sits behind the American lines at Mount Washington (ascent 1097m) and Pike’s Peak (ascent 2297m) but thats nothing to worry about because none of the world’s rack railways can beat Pike’s Peak which attains a height of 4302m! Further none of the world’s rack railways can beat the highest elevation attained by adhesion – the Qingzang railway which manages a maximum elevation of 5072 m (or 16,640 feet) between China and Tibet!

Ranking as percentage of total mountain climbed

Many of the world’s rack lines start their journeys some considerable distance above sea level before even starting up the mountain. The Snowdon Mountain Railway, the Petit de la Rhune & Corcovados are just a handful of lines that begin their journey quite near to sea level. This is a considerable step-up over and above other the rack giants – including Swiss, Austrian, American, and this factor leaves many of the world’s mountain railways shuffling well behind these three dimunitive lines.

Let’s take a look at the ranks for 12 of the world’s rack railways in terms of percentage of mountain climbed:

1) Snowdon Mountain Railway 88.20%; 2) Petit de la Rhune 81.32%; 3) Corcovados 79%; 4) Rochers de Naye 77.27%; 5) Pilatusbahn 76.40%; 6) Drachenfelsbahn 76.12%; 7) Rothornbahn 71.40%; 8) Schneeberg 58.52% 9) Mount Washington 57.22%; 10) Pikes Peak 54.94%; 11) Gornergratbahn 47.55%; 12) Jungfraubahn 33.5%.

## How can the Snowdon Mountain Railway be No.1 rank worldwide in terms of percentage of mountain climbed? Example: the Rothornbahn manages 71.40%, calculating a 1678m climb up the 2350m high Rothorn. The Snowdon Mountain Railway’s incredible 88.20% is because it climbs 957m out of a possible total of 1085m. In other words it climbs up most of Snowdon’s height. Even with the exclusions below included, the SMR is miles ahead. Example: Zugspitbahn (rack/adhesion) is 63.57%.

It is clear from the above stats that just three of the world’s lesser rack railways (Snowdon Railway, Petit de la Rhune & Corcovados) dominate the list in terms of percent of mountain that is cimbed, and these three pretty well reach the mountain’s summit itself, whilst all the others terminate some considerable distance below their actual summits.

Old postcard showing the ridge to the summit of Snowdon

The Swiss and Austrian rack lines are spectacular but unlike the SMR none have the distinction of traversing a ridge towards their respective summits. It’s clear in many ways the SMR beats the world’s giants hands down when we take a different look at how the stats mount up. However such facts are very much unappreciated by both SMR and enthusiasts alike.

Notes on Ranking for 1000m/800m lines with 100% rack operation: If a line is not included in this list it is is because they are neither 1000m nor 800mm (the world’s most common rack railway gauges) or are both rack and adhesion (that is, sections that do not require rack operation.) This ensures fairness in comparing an 800m, 100% rack line, with others:

Exclusions: Bavarian Zugspitze Railway (rack/adhesion); Berner Oberland Bahn (rack/adhesion); Brig-Visp-Zermatt-Bahn (rack/adhesion); Cog railway Tanvald-Harrachov (standard gauge); Diakofto Kalavryta Railway (rack/adhesion); Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway (standard gauge); Martigny–Châtelard (rack/adhesion); Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn/former Furka – Oberalp (rack/adhesion); Mont Blanc Tramway – 1792m (rack/adhesion); Montserrat Rack Railway 2003 (rack/adhesion); Mount Washington Cog Railway (4′ 8″ gauge); Nilgiri Mountain Railway (rack/adhesion); Rigi-Bahnen (standard gauge); Rorschach-Heiden-Bahn/Appenzeller Bahnen (standard gauge); Skitube Alpine Railway (standard gauge); Transandine Railway (rack/adhesion); Transports Publics du Chablais (3 rack/adhesion lines); Vall de Núria Rack Railway (rack/adhesion); Wendelstein Rack Railway (rack/adhesion); Zentralbahn (Luzern-Stans-Engelberg/Brünigbahn – rack/adhesion); Zugspitbahn (rack/adhesion)

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