It’s his time and his shift. Daniel Schwery likes to keep driving on into the evening. Two wheels took him to Lucerne station, breathing in the fresh air of this cool summer day as he went. The job now is to prepare the train.  

“I get ready in the driver’s cab within 10 minutes, for example entering train radio data, doing a simplified brake test and checking the customer information system.” No sooner said than done, the next thing is his mental preparation for the route. “I focus on the process and go through the details again.” He draws a comparison with a skier: “These are athletes who keep their route in mind, can’t allow themselves to get nervous and have to get the best out of the stretch. That’s also what I aspire to in my daily working life.”

Granny’s hot tip

Daniel Schwery is an experienced traveller who always has a smile on his face. He’s the communicative type, who at first glance you might think would have chosen a different occupation. And he did. As a trained chemist, he used to run the “Wäsmeli Drogerie” chemist’s shop in the neighbourhood of the same name in Lucerne. Like so many things in his life that happened by chance, taking over that business came down to a hot tip from his grandmother. “It was only in passing that she told me that the long-standing owner was retiring. For me, taking on the responsibility of running a business was a huge adventure.  

It was certainly a risk, but I believed in its success.” The different stages of his career then took him to various places, before landing up in the driver’s cab and his dream job. In his childhood imagination he saw himself as a stationmaster with the Rhaetian Railway, while his youthful ambitions leaned towards becoming a pilot. To get closer to the feeling of freedom that comes with flying, he went into ground handling at Zurich airport, before then going on to the cockpit of another vehicle – this time with four wheels and people on board. He signed on with a Swiss coach owner, driving all over Europe, taking day trippers to their destination and back. “I found the job very rewarding. I got to book local excursions, spruce up the coach, make my guests happy, simply making sure that everything ran smoothly.  

But I realised that the job was very difficult to reconcile with my growing family. You’re on the road a lot and sometimes you’re only home for 24 hours to do the laundry.”

“Wrong movie”

Driving a big vehicle, taking responsibility for passengers, and the mix of technology and people continued to interest him. He made the leap from road to rail through the Zentralbahn website, where he saw that the railway was taking on  newcomers from a different background. He describes the start of his eleven months of training as challenging. “For the first three weeks I thought I was in the wrong movie.  

For instance, we tried to get to grips with the Rail Service Regulations. It’s as if you were reading a book in a foreign language, so not exactly bedtime reading. You read a passage for the third time and think quietly to yourself, now what on earth does that mean?”

Tricks from a magic box

The locomotive crews start their day from the four locations of Giswil, Lucerne, Meiringen and Stansstad. Although the word “day” isn’t quite right because the people in the driver’s cab ferry their passengers back and forth from early in the morning until late in the evening. “Shift work is the biggest challenge for the body. As train drivers, the zero-error principle is always at the back of our minds, you always have to be 100% there”. The knowledge he took from his original occupation helps him here. Daniel Schwery reaches into his pocket and shows two, three of his “magic cures”. “Guayusa tea, the national drink of Ecuador, gets you going and keeps you going. Or Guaranà – a potent thing for me, because the caffeine is introduced slowly into the body and it lasts longer than, say, an espresso. And it’s important that you avoid heavy food while you’re on duty.”  

His “magic box” from his previous working life is full of other helpful tricks. He points to his hands and talks about he learned to adopt a painstaking approach, and how he has brought that to the driver’s cab. “I get the dexterity and sensitivity I have in my hands from my old job, where we often had to do our filling without a funnel. That helps me now. I want my driving to be as smooth and clean as it can be.”  

The train crew’s departure signal sounds, Daniel Schwery gets the wheels moving under his feet and leaves Lucerne station with “his” passengers. The trip to Interlaken Ost with the Luzern–Interlaken Express is announced, a group of hikers heading to Brünig-Hasliberg have ensconced themselves in the seats directly behind the driver’s cab. As he exits the Lopper Tunnel, he suddenly catches a glimpse of something that makes his eyes light up. A herd of goats gambolling in the fields, showing just how easy life can be. These curious, headstrong animals have captured his heart. “At the moment, I’m still making my own yoghurt, curd, cream and cheese from cow's milk.” As he talks about his self-sufficient lifestyle, the train pulls past the herd of goats, the stop in Sarnen is coming up soon. “Another project I’m currently dabbling in is working with goat’s milk.” You can see that he’s as curious in his “hobby workshop” as the goats in their meadows.

Paper edition of the magazine “hin und weg” – also available as a subscription.

This is an article from the magazine “hin und weg”. You can find the printed version at the train stations in Engelberg, Sarnen, Stans and Meiringen, in all Travel Centres, as well as on trains. We will also be happy to send the magazine to your home address. Send an e-mail to with the subject “Subscribe to hin und weg magazine” and include your postal address in the body text of the message.