With a population barely exceeding 1,000, Brusio can be safely described as a tiny village that would probably go unnoticed, weren’t it for the Bernina Railway. The Bernina Railway is a track of the Rhaetian Railway that connects Tirano (Italy) to Saint Moritz (Switzerland). The track is just over 37 miles (60 kilometers), but it packs some impressive numbers and scenery. The train goes from 429 Meters Above Sea Level (MASL) in Tirano to 1,822 MASL in Saint Moritz, reaching an impressive 2,253 MASL at Ospizio Bernina. Along the way, passengers are treated to breathtaking views of the mighty Alps, valleys, lakes, and glaciers.
The part of the Bernina Railway that goes through Brusio has a unique feature: the spiral viaduct. It consists of a 360-degree spiral that enables the train to gain 32 feet (10 meters) in elevation. Over 360 feet (110 meters), the train is presented with an impressive seven percent incline. However, the viaduct is not a feat of engineering only, but an object of beauty. Nine elegant arches with a span of 10 meters made using local stones blend in seamlessly with the surroundings.
As a matter of fact, this remarkable structure was not even part of the initial plan. At its inception, the Bernina Railway was supposed to follow the ups and downs of the landscape, so that passengers would experience the unmitigated force of the Alpine slopes, but ambition and reality do not always agree. As the inclines would have proven to be beyond the capability of the trains of the time, engineers had to come up with a compromise, and so the Brusio Spiral Viaduct was born in 1908.