The first paved road through the mountains

1805
The eve of a transport revolution
The eve of a transport revolution

Opened in 1805, the route over the Simplon Pass is the first paved road in the mountains. It is used by mail coaches until they are supplanted by the railways. Seen under construction prior to its completion in 1905, the portal of the Simplon Tunnel heralds the arrival of a revolutionary new competitor. (around 1903, SBB Historic)

Discussions of the NRLA frequently invoke the long tradition of transport routes through Switzerland's Alpine landscape. In the Middle Ages, vital mule tracks lead over the Gotthard and the passes of Bern and Valais. The first paved road in the mountains, over the Simplon Pass, is completed in 1805, followed in the 1820s by a further road over the Gotthard. The hairpin bends of the Tremola road become an icon of mountain road construction. They are joined in the 1860s by the Axen road, the first continuous route to the pass from the north. With the opening of rail lines at the Gotthard (1882), Simplon (1905) and Lötschberg (1913), these roads lose their importance to through traffic. They experience a revival in the inter-war years, however, thanks to tourism and the rise of the motor car.

« One does not travel in order to arrive, but for its own sake. »

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Letter to Caroline Herder, 05/09/1788

Sprengung an der Axenstrasse und andere

1933-1934, SBB Historic

Sprengung an der Axenstrasse und andere

Blasting on the Axen road and elsewhere, 1933-1934 (SBB Historic)

50 Jahre Simplon-Fahrt

1948, Swiss Federal Archives

50 Jahre Simplon-Fahrt

50 years of travelling through the Simplon, 1948 (Swiss Federal Archives)

The NRLA and the historic traffic routes in Switzerland up to the 19th century

Source: Inventory of historical traffic routes of Switzerland (ITS) Map: Swiss federal archives

The NRLA and the historic traffic routes in Switzerland up to the 19th century

Source: Inventory of historical traffic routes of Switzerland (ITS) Map: Swiss federal archives

The NRLA and the historic traffic routes in Switzerland up to the 19th century

Source: Inventory of historical traffic routes of Switzerland (ITS) Map: Swiss federal archives

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