The Swiss Alps: right at the top
Reliable assistant at an altitude of 3,454 m
It is impossible to think of Switzerland without marvelling at the countless attractions the country has to offer: Lake Lucerne, the Matterhorn and the Rhine Falls are just a few of the tourist attractions in the Alpine state. An absolute must-see is the Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Oberland, which sits at an altitude of 3,454 m. To stand just once at the "Top of Europe", Europe's highest train station, and admire the unique panorama of the Aletsch Glacier and surrounding ice giants – up to 5,000 tourists come here daily to do just this, but they also leave behind a lot of dirt. The workers on the Jungfraubahn railway use Kärcher cleaning appliances to clean the trains and buildings daily for their guests.
The way up to the "Top of Europe" begins at the world-renowned winter ski resort Grindelwald – or at the opposite end of the valley starting at Lauterbrunnen. The means of transport is just as unusual as the journey itself: a picturesque rack railway built over 100 years ago, winding up the mountain to the summit station at an altitude of 2,500 m, moving at a snail's pace on some sections. Several impressive waypoints and the incomparable experience at the summit guarantee an entry in every diary.
And the journey begins!
One of the tour guides at the Joch is Sandro Saurer, train driver for Jungfraubahn AG. Several times a day, he and his colleagues drive trains from the waypoint station "Kleine Scheidegg" at 2,061 m right up to the Jungfraujoch. In traditional fashion with a shriek of the whistle, Saurer signals the train's imminent departure and begins the journey, which lasts over 50 minutes. At "cruising speed", as he calls it, the train ascends into the icy world of the four-thousanders – mountains topping 4,000 m. The train slowly plods up the mountain at a maximum speed of 35 kilometres per hour. Later on when travelling downhill, it goes at half this speed – a maximum of 17 km/h. Faster than this would be too dangerous due to the gradient of up to 25%. This is why the padded benches on the train are not aligned parallel to the ground, but are angled slightly upwards. This prevents people from slipping off their seats. The train, which is painted red, measures in at over 60 metres. This allows up to 200 passengers to be carried at a time. Additional carriages can be attached as necessary to deal with the rush of tourists during peak season.
Eigergletscher – Eigerwand – Eismeer
Just after the first station "Eigergletscher" (Eiger Glacier), the railway enters the massif between the Eiger and Mönch mountains for 7 km. "Eigerwand" (Eiger Wall) is the name of the next stop. Three panoramic windows installed in the notorious north face of the Eiger offer a breathtaking view down into the valley towards Grindelwald. Some visitors are so amazed that they literally press their noses against the windows. It is therefore no surprise that the Kärcher Window Vac quickly became train driver Manuela Feierabend's favourite device: "Finger and nose prints are removed in a flash," she says, happy to have a device that makes her work easier. And thanks to the replacement battery with 35 minutes' run time, she can quickly clean a few train windows when she has a spare moment, since countless marks on the windows begin spoiling the view shortly after the train has set off.
After another waypoint stop at the "Eismeer" station, and after almost an hour of travel, the train reaches its destination: the Top of Europe! Breathing is difficult at 3,454 metres above sea level, since the air is so thin. But you hardly notice it. The overwhelming view of the Aletsch glacier, the longest in the Alps at 24 kilometres, as well as all of the four-thousander mountains of the Bernese Alps take your breath away as it is.
For when it has to be clean
5,000 tourists per day do not just bring the money needed to operate and maintain the Jungfraubahn – they also bring a lot of dirt with them. But since cleanliness in the trains and in the stations was identified as an important factor in determining visitors' wellbeing, those responsible for the Jungfraubahn AG rely on effective and reliable cleaning machines. This is how train driver Saurer sees it: "Last year we had a million visitors for the first time ever. This means we need a good team to keep things clean. This is only possible with machines you can rely on 100%, since they are very difficult to replace up here. Everything has to be brought up by rail." On the Jungfraujoch alone, eight Kärcher machines are in use, including sweepers and scrubber driers for floor care. Additional machines such as Window Vacs and several wet and dry vacuum cleaners are among the equipment used in the stations and train carriages.
The train conductors who check passengers' tickets, answer questions and accompany the passengers up to the summit station are also responsible for quick cleaning while the train is in motion. They have to cope with a wide array of dirt and stains, from sticky cola, chocolate and ice cream marks to trodden-in chewing gum, dirty snow and gravel which gets stuck in visitors' shoes. "Our working day begins with us cleaning, setting up and getting everything ready to start so that we can take our guests safely up to the Jungfraujoch at 3,500 m," says Saurer.
At the waypoint stations as well, everything must be spic and span for the next day. And when at 4:40 pm the familiar whistle signals the last train into the valley, work up at the Jungfraujoch really gets going. "There are people who stay up there overnight in order to keep everything maintained and cleaned ready for the following morning," explains Saurer. "We all have nature and the mountains in our blood. That's practically a requirement if you want to work here." But working here has its own reward: "There's a special feeling up there," says Saurer. The air is different, and being so far away from the world and the rest of civilisation is an adventure in itself."
The "Kleine Scheidegg" station with the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes, one of the few 19th century grand hotels still in existence.
One of the typical red Jungfraubahn trains which takes tourists right up to an altitude of 3,454 metres.
The "Kleine Scheidegg" in the evening: station, Hotel Bellevue des Alpes and the Sphinx Observatory with viewing platform (top right).
Kärcher Window Vacs are among the appliances used to clean the carriages, both in the train depot and during operation before the next tourists get on the train.
The Jungfraubahnen AG train drivers take several thousand people up to the Jungfraujoch every day.
The floor coverings in the Jungfraujoch observation hall at an altitude of 3,571 metres are cleaned using scrubber driers.