The industrialisation of that era was an inspiration for Francesco Balli, the mayor of Locarno. His conviction that progress should be extended to transport and connection routes gave rise to the idea of creating a new railway line to link Locarno with Domodossola via the Centovalli and the Valle Vigezzo. The long-term objective was to create connections with the existing epoch-making railway projects, namely with the Gotthard and Simplon lines. The notion caught on and also met with the enthusiasm of the mayors of the Valle Vigezzo, with general acceptance soon increasing too. An Italian-Swiss executive committee was founded and a joint project was agreed upon. Driven by the objective of putting an end to geographical isolation as well as promoting the economy of the region, they saw a way of achieving their vision via this far-sighted project. Their tenacity and the combined energies and support of the municipalities from the Locarno and Vigezzina regions ultimately led to its success.
The great pioneers, who made a significant contribution to realising this dream, were called Balli, Falcioni and Sutter. Thanks to their unfailing efforts, they were able to surmount all political, technical and financial obstacles to make the vision a reality. The railway was inaugurated on 25 November 1923. Examples of wording to be found in the newspapers of the time included “the boldest bridge constructions”, “trains like gigantic trapeze artists”, “idyllic meadows” and “green plateaus”.
The narrow-gauge railway is truly a masterpiece of engineering, which merges harmoniously with the unique countryside of both valleys to this day.
The railway has been continuously updated from 1923 to the present. New trains are to be put into operation by the end of 2024 to replace the existing rolling stock. The new train compositions offer a higher design standard and greater travel comfort.