<<"1) First question is about trains. I have looked at the sbb.ch timetables. How do I know which train to get on? For example, Zurich toLucerne. I see options for IR or S1. What do these mean? I would liketo take the Golden Pass route (don't care if were in a panoramic coach).How do I know which to take? What platform does this leave from? Can Ionly check at the station?">>
The time table is your friend.
Look further and deeper. You have barely scratched the surface.
Pick a train/time at random andclick on the "+".
It will give new menus. You can see all stops if you wish (open "intermediate stops") and a map. The abbreviations are meant to guide, not confuse. Somewhere the meanings are all listed. This is, after all, Switzerland.. ;-). Keep looking. Then, look again.
<<"I have looked at the sbb.ch timetables. How do I know which train to get on? For example, Zurich toLucerne. I see options for IR or S1. What do these mean? I would liketo take the Golden Pass route (don't care if were in a panoramic coach).How do I know which to take? What platform does this leave from?">>
The different trains have different levels of on-board service (look at the icons.) However, they differ mostly in the number of stops and/or changes. Some have restaurant cars- especially the Intercity trains. It is a network.. Compare durations, look at intermediate stops and changes. Some require change of trains, clearly visible in the time tables. Some make more stops.
"IR" is "Interregio." Loosely, it does a bunch of local stops at each end, and skips all but the main stops in between.
S1 is "S-Bahn" #1. S-Bahnen are commuter trains, and make most local stops.. They are based ina particular city -
"Bern S-1" or
They run on regular tracks.
A few stops are "halt on Verlangen" - stop upon request. If you are on the platform out in the woods, press the button or the train will go past you. If you are on the train, press the green button before you come to the station or it won't stop.
Arrival and departure tracks are clearly listed in the timetable. If you can't see them, try again with the full SBB site.
For the Golden Pass Route, enter start and finish stations, then, if that does not work, fill in an intermediate stop like Zweisimmen into the "via" box.
You can check all this stuff on the internet. If there is a change, it may be displayed on a chalkboard at the station, as well as on the overhead screens. You generally don't have to wait till you get to the station; you just have to dig more deepy into the tools you have already skimmed over.
Train staff are required to work in German, French, Italian, usually Romansch, and English. When in doubt, ask nicely if you can use English, please.