This mountaintop observatory looks like a supervillain's lair

Originally published at: This mountaintop observatory looks like a supervillain's lair | Boing Boing


Typo: The station opened in 1912, not 1812. Considering that even mountain climbers didn’t reach the spot until the 1860s.


I once passed out in the Jungfraujoch train station. Or maybe it was the Zugspitze train station? Either way, high altitude is no joke. (To me, anyway).


Wow, that is incredible. How did they build it, I wonder? Were materials hauled up the mountain, or was the elevator built first somehow, then the structure built around it? Are there utilities up there? Water, power, sewer?

Edit: okay, I watched the video in the attached article and there’s way more infrastructure up there than it appears. It’s a big tourist spot. There’s a bar and three restaurants, as well as stores, a museum, and all sort of other things. The research station (the visible part that looks like a lair) is the tip of the iceberg (pardon the odd metaphor) that sticks out the top of an elaborate cavern system.

I was picturing (from the text summary) a very long elevator that went up to a peak where the research station is, but it’s not like that. The whole train station is right below that structure that you see in the photo, and there’s a large cavern system blasted out of the inside of that mountain peak.

Very cool and very impressive. Would love to see it someday.


My son visited the research centre as part of a school trip to CERN a few years back (just realised that ‘a few’ equals 8 in this instance - darn pandemic messing wiv me 'ead)

As part of their instructions, they were asked not to wear certain types of old sports shoes - in particular Nike trainers, as the soles were made in a process that used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that could interfere with their experiments:



That’s so much fancier than the observatories I work at! (Well, the South Pole is pretty fancy, I guess, but the view really sucks.) There are a few elevators on Mt. Graham telescopes, but they only connect the ground floor to the upstairs where all the goodies are located. And no train service. That would be a luxury.


And here is a Tim Traveller video about getting there.


You can visit, but a train trip to the top costs approximately $245.

Who on Earth do they think they are - Avanti West Coast?


I wonder if that place was the real-life inspiration for the fictional observatory in the 1950s B-movie The Trollenberg Terror (released in the United States as The Crawling Eye).




Ah, it doesn’t look so super-villainy in this image:


at times i would have aimed to be a super villain just to live there.


Looks a lot like Blofeld’s lair in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” But that was filmed in the Piz Gloria, Switzerland.


Piz Gloria is only 11.5 kilometers away from this (as the crow or the Blofeld helicopter flies). Supervillains can do lunch!


I hadn’t heard of the Mt Graham telescopes, and this led me down a delightful rabbit hole. Along the way [1], I learned that Gaia and JWST are both orbiting the Earth / Sun L2, which is a) old news, I’m sure, to many of the readers here, and b) very, very cool.

[1] it was a particularly twisty rabbit hole today.


I keep looking at that photo and wondering how the hell they poured that concrete in the lower left.

I can’t turn off the engineer gene in me. :smile:


Well of course it wouldn’t, that’s the beauty of it!
But underneath that placid, innocent surface, HA HA HA, everything is going exactly according to my exacting nefarious plan!!


We were there in February (2023). As I recall, the guy who organized the construction originally planned to go to the peak but ran out of money. The wind up there can be wicked and part of the outdoor observatory deck was closed because of high winds and falling ice (from the roof). In addition to the deck around the building, there is a level are below the building where you can go outdoors. It is more popular for summer hiking.


There is a museum below the building, built into the rock. In the museum is a display in memory of the workers who lost their lives in the construction. I believe the star (asterisk) marks their birth year and the plus (cross) their death year in the construction. In addition to the organizer of the project, let us remember the workers.


I went there in 2012. We bought one of the premium Switzerland rail passes, and it included the trip up to this place. I think the 4 week long rail pass was less than $250 USD, so if you’re going for a shorter trip, you can probably get up there for much cheaper. Ask some locals once you’re in the area.

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Just to confirm, you are right, the asterisk marking the birth year and the cross marking the death year is a convention in the German-speaking world. I was actually surprised this is not universally understood, so I looked it up and realised that this convention is specific to my local culture. TIL!