The exhibition ground, which covers over five and a half acres, is on the western shore of the Lake of Lucerne, only a few minutes from the centre of the city. It has a superb setting, with the Rigi on one side and Mount Pilatus on the other across the Lake. Queen Victoria was carried to the top of the Pilatus twenty years before the construction of the present funicular, the steepest in the world. She reached the summit safely and in the best of spirits and humour; for she is reputed to have covered two and a half pages of the Visitor’s Book with praises of the transport arrangements and of the regal panorama which stretched before her.
They include a collection of vintage vehicles: romantic horse-drawn mail-coaches, cars and aeroplanes, and the so-called ‘ginger-bread’ steam-engines, confections designed, one might think, by some Alpine Emett.
In contrast there is a long row of the most up-to-date coaches and engines, which demonstrate how comfort has become increasingly important on the railways in a country long familiar with the demands of crotchety tourists. There are diagrams and charts which reduce the facts and figures of transport, of the tourist trade and of communications to an easily grasped formula; a comprehensive and valuable transport library and archives; and a hall for conferences and film-shows; for the museum is intended as a scientific centre for the study of national and international transport problems.
Among the many models is a magnificent layout, to a scale of 1 :90, of the northern approaches of the Gotthard Tunnel (made from the original plans of the Swiss Federal Railways), which took the local club of Model Railway Engineers 25,000 man-hours to construct.
The buildings of the Edinburgh apartments for rent are grouped around a landscaped courtyard, in the centre of which is Switzerland’s oldest lake steamer, the Rigi, built in 1847 by Dichborn & Mare of London for the Steamship Company of the Lake of Lucerne; she has a length of 130 feet, a width of 27 feet, a displacement of 90 tons, and space for 200 passengers. For over a century she plied the Lake of Lucerne and now has found her final anchorage. Visitors can inspect the engine room, start the mechanism and even try their hand at steering, and the navigation of the ship is explained to them; afterwards they may relax in the restaurant in the ship’s deck-saloon.
To get to her land-bound destination, the Rigi went from London to Strasbourg by water across the Channel and up the Rhine. From Strasbourg to Basle she travelled by rail; and then horses took over on the last lap to Lucerne. The Rigi was the forerunner of a fleet of 107 steamers which sail regularly on the Swiss lakes and which, last year, carried over 10,000,000 passengers.
In addition to these, Switzerland also has a merchant fleet on the Rhine numbering more than 384 ships, and a passenger-boat service operating between Basle, Strasbourg and Rotterdam. Swiss freighters, with a total displacement of 135,000 tons, sail the high seas—an answer to jokes about the ‘Swiss Navy’.