Isnt this blog getting a bit weird? A post about a mountain named Pilatus – wherever that might be! Okay, hold onto your hats! This blog has gone abroad before – Austria, France, the USA. Just getting around a bit 🙂 Pilatus is actually a mountain in Central Switzerland (Zentral Schweiz.) Its not massively high compared to other Swiss mountains (like Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, or the more familiar, accessible, Jungfrau or Schilthorn) though Pilatus does make our own British mountains look tiny! Compare Ben Nevis and you’ll see what I mean!
The leaflet features on its cover the original 1956 cable car which was then still in service. Despite this leaflet being first printed in the mid-sixties, it still shows the old summit building! The cover pics remained the same for years though images within were updated as time went on. I think the last distribution of this leaflet was the early 1970s.
Like a lot of these tourist leaflets, the view (left hand panel) looking down past the cable car to the centre of Luzern (Lucerne) and its famous Kapellbrücke are purely artistic licence, its not possible to see this perspective because the city of Lucerne is just too far away. I mean, the city’s railway station isn’t even at the angle depicted here!
How did Pilatus get its name? There are various claims, the biggest of all is that its named after the Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. His cursed body simply refused to stay buried so the Romans brought it here around AD/CE 37-39. In those days the Alps were cold and inhospitable, a place where Pontius would have to die properly. Its a nice story if a bit grim – and its the one that’s most frequently disputed.
It seems more likely it comes from pileatus (or the latin pileus) meaning cloud-topped, scientifically too, its the most plausible explanation for the mountain’s name.
Nowadays Pilatus is far more known for being the mountain of dragons, indeed the new hi-tech cableway (built 2015) from Fräkmüntegg to Pilatus Kulm is known as The Dragon Ride.
The Pilatus rundfahrt, or roundtrip – originally SBB/CFF/FFS boat/train (now Zentralbahn) from Lucerne to Alpnachstad. Then Pilatus Bahn to the summit and cable car/gondola return to Kriens/Lucerne.
The above map is historic because it shows the local railway system before the LSE (Luzern-Stans-Engelberg) was opened. Crucially this indicates the particular batch of leaflets I have as being printed around that time – 1964 – or perhaps even early 1965.
The first ever recorded ascent of the mountain was made in 1518 by Swiss philosopher and humanist Joachim Vadian of St Gallen, not too far from Luzern. Other noted climbers include our very own Queen Victoria, who made a trip to the summit on the back of a mule on 27 August 1868 and said of her experience, “the view is most extensive & magnificent, & the air was fine & pure”. There are no pictures showing Victoria at Lucerne or anywhere in the country. There was a ban on taking photographs of her and the trip was exercised with privacy imposed even though the event itself was somewhat common knowledge.
Pilatus was so popular following our monarch’s visit both the Hotel Pilatus Kulm and a rack railway were built by 1889 – the trains manage gradients as severe as 1 in 2 – no mean feat thanks to the ingenuity of Swiss engineer Dr. E. H. Locher-Freuler.
Black and white pictures featured on the leaflet’s centre pages. One pre-Bellevue picture is used – carefully cropped of course!
The cable car from Fräkmüntegg arrived in 1956, serving the old summit arrangement for just four years before it was all swept away for the new Hotel Bellevue development. This incorporates the cable car and rail terminals, with new mountain side terraces giving all weather access to the Hotel Pilatus-Kulm and other areas of the summit.
The old summit complex in its last years before the 1960s Hotel (also called Bellevue) was built.
The English section within the Pilatus leaflet.
The older Pilatus railway terminus can be seen to one side of the hotel and is still used on very busy occasions. (I remember using this station in 1962 – what impressed me was the platforms had a footbridge that was slung across the tracks after trains had arrived to facilitate quicker alighting.)
This set of pictures shows a train arriving at the old station where a newer version of the portable bridge I just described is used.
The Pilatus leaflets pictured together – a few got damaged – these are the remaining ones all in good condition! Can anyone see a bit of dragon – with some steamy breath above it perhaps?
I was still part way through secondary school when I grabbed a bunch of these leaflets. That was in the summer of 1967 – fifty years ago of course. Why did I grab so many? Well I suppose me being some schoolboy enthusiast all messed up in the head about mountains and railways, one leaflet just wasn’t ever going to be enough! As a matter of fact I was trying to take a bit of Pilatus home with me! And it was the last time I ever set foot on the mountain.