Construction of the railway between Vitznau and the Rigi began in mid-September 1869. Riggenbach's birthday on 21 May 1870 saw the first test run on the initial 300 m stretch of track in Vitznau carried out to his satisfaction; the locomotive in question was No. 1, "Stadt Luzern". Europe's first cogwheel railway was inaugurated to great fanfare on 21 May 1871. Riggenbach himself commanded the inaugural train to Rigi Staffelhöhe, the terminus at that time.
The commissioning of Europe's first cogwheel railway saw the Rigi Railway point the way to the future. It promptly set about adding more track to its network. The first half of the 20th century witnessed the gradual electrification of cogwheel railways.
The Rigi Railway still runs on the rack-and-pinion system installed in 1871. The system and its technical facilities are maintained and restored on a daily basis with touching attention to detail. Regular inspections of the track and quality checks ensure safe operation and the same enjoyable ride as in 1871.