50 francs: Gotthard Mail Coach
Series: Switzerland: Gold franc coins
For many years, the Schöllenen gorge formed an insurmountable barrier on the route over the Gotthard Pass. The opening-up of the Schöllenen gorge by means of the Twärrenbrücke bridge – a walkway alongside the vertical cliff face – as well as the construction of the first wooden bridge over the River Reuss (The Devil’s Bridge) and the two to three metre wide mule track surfaced with gravel and granite slabs helped the Gotthard Pass enjoy a rapid boom in the 13th century. Since its creation, the old mule track dating from the Middle Ages had been gradually improved so that by the end of the 18th century, sections were also passable by the Gotthard mail coaches. In 1830, the new Gotthard road was opened and by 1831 as many as 900 mail coaches rolled over the pass. A regular service operated three times a week in each direction between Flüelen and Chiasso using small one-horse carriages with two or three seats. The heyday of the Gotthard mail coaches only began in 1842 however with the introduction of a daily five horse, ten-seat coach in each direction. The journey from Como to Flüelen took almost 23 hours. Whereas there were still only two mail coach connections a week in 1835, from 1849 a twice daily service was already in operation. With the opening of the Gotthard railway in 1882, the Gotthard mail coaches lost importance overnight. From then on, travellers and goods were conveyed by rail through the newly constructed Gotthard tunnel, dispensing with the need for the arduous and hazardous journeys over the pass.