This page presents news and other items of interest concerning the Zürich tram system and connected topics.
This is not the official information page of any organisation. All opinions expressed here are my own or belong to those to whom they are attributed. Whereas care is taken to ensure the correctness of news, no claim is made to total accuracy.
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From 1982 to 2005, Seattle ran a historic streetcar line along its waterfront. The suspension was temporary at first, but present plans to redevelop the waterfront no longer include the streetcar. To learn more about this tragic development, and sign a petition to bring the streetcar back, please click on the screenshot below. Every signature counts.
The publisher, Atlas Verlag, is offering this HO scale model of Bern's steam tram for the suspiciosly low price of 6.90 CHF. A careful reading of the small print is recommended before signing up for more than you were expecting, as it appears to be an introductory offer for a bigger selling scheme. However, in the modelling forums, the model has received surprisingly positive echoes. The offer can be found on this page of Atlas' website.
I am not in any way connected to Atlas Verlag or anybody else involved in this offer. As indicated, I recommend a careful reading of the small print.
There is certainly no shortage of ideas to extend Glattalbahn. Besides Ringbahn Hardwald (which will probably be realised in phases) and the rather more speculative proposal to take it to Bülach, there is now a proposal to extend it from Dübendorf to Uster. With 89 votes to 74, the cantonal parliament has agreed to reserve an alignment. In real terms this decision means very little though, and the project is to be seen in terms of a long-term horizon. A possible development of Dübendorf's airfield may change this, but the future of this is still open.
One rather significant item which I regret to have missed is the return of Kurbeli tram 1379. Discounting the works cars and those sold to North Korea, only three trams of this type (the Zürich heavyweight version of the Swiss Standard Tram) survive. In the mid 1990s, 1379 was saved together with trailer 737 by the French preservation group AMTUIR. Ths association is regretably in the process of reducing its collection due to lack of space. 1379 and 737 arrived in Zürich on 15th February. A small group of individuals is behind their return, with some non-financial support from Tram Museum Züich, but not officially as one of their projects. The cars are said to be in good condition, no doubt due to their indoor storage. They will be stored in a safe location. Their future use is undecided.
Work on Basel's cross-border line to Weil (Germany) is making good progress. Plans to extend lines to Saint Louis (France) are in the meantime also gathering momentum. The French authorities would like to begin work on extending route 3 this year (or at the lastest next year) in order to be able to make use of money from the French state. The project will cost 98 million Francs and could be completed in 2018.
Delivery of Swisstrolley4 trolleybuses is progressing rapidly, with number 170 being reported in service.
Found on Youtube: this short clip dating to 1984 of two FBW GTr51 trolleybuses at Schlyfi (on the Witikon line). Valparaíso fans may appreciate that the first of the two, 132 later saw service in that city (as number 504), but was sadly lost to an arson attack last year
Modernisation plans for Hard (Escher-Wyss) tram depot include new appartments being built above the tracks. Part of the depot is a listed building (and already has integrated appartements), but the rear part will be demolished and replaced by a new structure. The tram depot occupies a prime piece of real estate, facing the Limmat river and in an up-and-coming highly sough after area in Zürich. However its strategic location means VBZ cannot relocate it. As long ago 1989 the city already proposed a similar redevelopment, but this (and subsequent attempts) never came to fruition.
TMZ organised a farewell tour for the ABB / Mercedes O405 GTZ trolleybus on Sunday (21st). This is not actually the final end of operation of the type (they are expected to last until Autumn), but with their numbers rapidly thinning, it may have been the last opportunity to see large numbers in service. The tour was worked by 123 and 140, with several chance meetings occurring with sister units covering normal service. As an ominous sign of the approaching end, 123 failed with a pneumatic problem at Witikon, and 140 had to proceed alone – but the failed bus could be repaired and rejoined the group later.
My photographs of the tour can be seen
here. I have also added a YouTube movie below.
Google today has another rail-related doodle. This time Google (in India) marks the 160th anniversary of that country's first passenger train.
A correspondent has suggested that the fifth manufacturer submitting a tender for Zürich's new trams may be Skoda with its 15T.
The first Swisstrolley4s are now in service, with 164 and 165 being reported. 168 has been seen on test.
Five suppliers have submitted bids to supply Züich's new trams (the deadline passed at the end of last week). Although the hopefuls are not named officially, the list must definitely include Siemens, Bombardier and Stadler. Alstom says it has not made an offer. My own guess is that the other two suppliers are CAF and one eastern European supplier (maybe PESA?).
The final order should be placed before Christmas, with the first of the new trams being in service befor the end of 2016.
Genève is to host this year's UIP conference (26th-30th May), and so there will no doubt be a lot of positive talk about how to get more people onto public transport and how to make it cleaner and more effective. Operating during the event and for some time beyond is a battery-powered electric bus, which will operate between the airport and Palexpo. The bus is being presented by TOSA, a joint venture of Genève's public transport operator TPG (T), Office de Promotion des Industries et des Technologies (O), Services Industriels de Genève (S) and ABB Sécheron (A).
More details can be read here:
The vehicle will be will be a 19m Hess-built articulated bus with two powered axles and 40kWh of energy storage. Fast charging stations will be located at both end points, with a charging power of 400kW supplied for 15s. The distance covered will be 1824m in 3 minutes and 20 seconds. It is interesting to bounce some orders of magnitude around and recall that back in 1950, the Gyrobus could cover 5 to 6km for 2 to 5 minutes of charging. A longer demonstration route will be operated in 2014 (route 5 extending from here into central Genève), with recharging at numerous intermediate points (see this TOSA presentation).
Unfortunately the above document also contains a certain level of anti trolleybus rumblings. Here is a quote:
Reducing polluting emissions by using renewable energy as much as possible (the electric power purchased by tpg is certified 100% hydro) and putting an end to the visual pollution of overhead trolleybus wires are also priorities. Boosting commercial speed by improving reliability is another. At present, the complexity of the network of overhead wires -serving both trams and trolleybuses - is a source of technical hitches and serious breakdowns.
There is nothing to be said against seeking and implementing new propulsion modes for buses, but seeking to set these against trolleybuses and trams rather than the main source of pollution and ugliness in cities – cars, is a worrying development. Only yesterday this newslog praised VBZ's baby trolleybus ad. Dismantling a perfectly good system for a possibly slightly better (or not) one while diverting attention from the real challenge cannot be the solution here. Let us remember that one of the often praised advantages of trams and trolleybuses are the fixed infrastructure. This 'visual pollution' is a sign of permanence and urban civility that inspires confidence and hence encourages people and businesses to plan around its usage.
Making predictions of the future is a risky business, which it is why so easy to laugh at predictions of decades past. But neither must we allow misguided nostalgia to stand in the way of the necessary. For the system of the future to establish itself, it needs to be tested and demonstrated somewhere. But why, of all applications, must the demonstration be at the cost of a trolleybus route?
Visit this website's trolleybus pages.
The first of Frauenfeld - Wil's new Diamant trains has been delivered.
With the days of the Mercedes/ABB O405 GTZ trolleybuses now clearly numbered, Tram Museum Zürich is organisiing a farewell tour on Sunday 21st April. Two GTZs will participate in this event. Departure is at 10:00 from in front of Hotel Schweizerhof (opposite main entrance of Hauptbahnhof) and the tour will finish at 17:00. Registration is not required. Costs are 20 Francs (children under 16, 10 Francs).
The appearance of Zürich's trams and trolleybuses in adverts for all sorts of products and services happens so frequently that it isn't usually worthy of much mention. But I recently observed two that maybe merited a bit more.
Allow me to start with this sympathetic trolley-minibus, which is of course a nudge to VBZ's pride about its super-length double-articulated trolleybus, but also a retort to automobile makers latest craze about electric mobility – something that public transport does much better and has been doing for far longer (but would automobile makers ever acknowledge that?).
Yet somehow I wouldn't mind having this toy-like almost cuddly vehicle for real. Maybe not on the 31 to Schlieren Zentrum but on one of VBZ's minibus routes maybe?
Another advert that made me smile is this charming view of a Cobra tram in a cardboard cut-out world crossing Münsterbrücke (which appears to have lakewards to become Quaibrücke). The scene is from a video advertising Zürichcard, an offer for tourists (and residents) combining free travel in the city with free entrance to musea and various other interesting offers. The movie was made by Ultra, and can be viewed on their website here. Stills from the movie are also used as posters. For more information on Zürichcard, visit the Zürichcard website.
Incidentally, the Münsterbrücke did carry trams for a while, first horse trams and later an electric line, but the link was dismantled in the 1920s. The movie also has other scenes with trams in similarly composite locations, where you think you know the precise spot until you take a closer look.
(clicking on the movie stills take you to the movie on the Ultra website)
On 20th March, the city council gave its final approval to the Hardbrücke tram project (extending route 8 from its present terminus at Hardplatz using the road overpass to re-join existing tram tracks at Schiffbau, from where route 8 will continue to Werdhölzli. The new tram infrastructure will cost 100 million CHF, of which the city will pay 11.4. At the same time the Hardbrücke S-Bahn station will be remodelled to improve passenger circulation and integrate the new tram service. This will cost 30 million CHF. The station is currently used by 44,000 people per day, and this is expected to increase to 80,000 to 90,000 as the area develops further.
Further news on the December 2013 timetable switch suggests route 17 will be extended to Albisgütli (via Paradeplatz) at peak times.
According to bahnhofplatz.net, VBZ is considering exchanging the south-western arms of trolleybus routes 33 and 72. The 33 would thus run Triemli - Tiefenbrunnen and the 72 Morgental - Milchbuck. The change, which could come into effect with the timetable switch of December 2013, is motivated by capacity and timekeeping issues due to the great length of the present route 33. Furthermore a short relief route 71 would be added, paralleling the 33 and 72 between Albisriederplatz and Rosengartenstrasse.
Swisstrolley4 trolleybuses 162, 163 and 164 are reported in Zürich, with 162 having been sighted on test runs.
Time is clearly running running out for Switzerland's Mercedes O405 trolleybuses: Bahnhofplatz reports that the last two Winterthur vehicles, 147 and 149, have been passed to Retrobus, although the Retrobus website does not as yet refer to the acquisition. Trolleymotion reports that Zürich's fleet has now also dwindled to 24 units (102, 106, 110-111, 113, 115, 118, 119, 122-125, 127-133, 136-137, 140, 142-143). With the end of these units only months away, we may soon have to look across the Atlantic (and half way around the globe) to see the star of the O405 continue to shine. Quito (Ecuador) has a fleet of O405 trolleybuses by Mercedes-Benz / Adtranz / Hispano. These are equipped to serve high platforms on dedicated busways, but also share with general traffic in the city centre.
According to an article on Trolleymotion, the earlier batch (1-54) have reached the end of their economic lifespan. No decision has yet been made about whether they will be replaced by new trolleybuses or by diesels. Delivered in 1995, they are of similar age to Zürich's present O405s (also being withdrawn). Quito also has newer units (55-113) of 1999. The possibility of refurbishing these is presently being evaluated, with 102 being treated as a pilot.
This webiste has already pointed out that once the new Swisstrolley4s and Lighttrams are all available, that they will notz be sufficient numerically to replace the O405s 1 to 1. In an earlier posting on this matter, based on discussions on the bahnhofplatz.net forum, the difference was on the one hand explained by stretching of headways due to larger buses on route 32, and on the other by the increased use of diesels as spares vehicles for trolleybus routes, justified by the universal deployment of said spare vehicles.
An article on trolleymotion has a slightly different interpretation of this, with expansion of the tram system partially replacing trolleybuses. The article mentions Limmattalbahn, which would see route 31 truncated at Bahnhof Altstetten, and also the tram on Hardbrücke. In the case of Hardbrücke, it is difficult to follow this as although the new tram will parallel the present trolleybus routes 33 and 72 for a distance of four stops, are more long-distance orbital routes and would be likely to survive the opening of this tram. The Rosengarten tram project, which could indeed replace much of route 72, seems to be slipping to a more distant future, maybe beyond the lifespan of much of the present trolleybus fleet, making a proactive fleet reduction an unlikely explanation. For Limmatalbahn, the explanation is indeed credible.
The article also says the electrification of routes 69 and 80 is still a possibility.
The delivery of the new Bombardier trams will radically change the face of Basel's tram fleet, so friends of the classic trams, enjoy them while you can.
Besides the elimination of the Swiss Standard Trams (457-476) of 1968-1968, the articulated units 659-686 will also go (these were fitted with rather unsuccessful and unaestheitical low-floor middle sections in 1997-1999). Apparently Sofia is interested in acquiring these. The Cornichons 477-502 will probably be retained as reserve units, as will some trailers.
462 has become the first of its batch to be withdrawn, following a fire. Furthermore, it appears that a pair of Duewags can be retained as museum set.
During the debate preceding the 2008 closure of Basel's trolleybus, it was argued that the new gas buses were just as clean and quiet as the trolleybuses they were prematurely replacing. Making a quiet U-turn on its earlier intentions of having an all gas-bus fleet, it appears BVB is once again seeking to acquire diesel buses. So much for election promises.
In the meantime, with sufficient Tango trams available, BLT is proceeding with reverting some of its Be4/8 (of the 201 to 266 series) to Be4/6 by removing the low-floor sections so they can take on the duties of the older Be4/6 units. BLT is also apparently now considering acquiring Bombardier Flexities rather than further tangos.
Tram magazine (issue 113, 02-04.2013)
The availability of the new double-articulated trolleybuses 78-89 has been somewhat problematic during their first months. The reason for this was that, in contrast to the earlier batch (61-77) which has auxiliary diesel motors for moving away from the wires, the new units had lithium batteries, the charging cuits of which have not always behaved as expected. Consequently, the subsequent delivery of Swisstrolley4 single-articulated buses has been delayed. The first unit should have been delivered at the end of last year but so far none have yet been seen in Zürich.
Investigation of the damage to Cobra 3043 shows that a repair is viable, but the tram will not return to service before the Summer at the earliest. Forensic investigations indicated that the fire was arson.
Part of the storyline of the 2002 movie, The Bourne Identity, plays in Zürich, only the Zürich of the movie wasn't Zürich but Prague (apparently Hollywood decided that Zürich didn't look enough like Zürich – or maybe it was just too expensive). Tram enthusiasts who watched the movie will not have missed the cameo appearance by some Zürich trams. These were actually Tatra T3s repainted into VBZ livery. Some rare (non movie) footage of these units has appeared on YouTube. Note the mis-spalling of O[e]rlikon. I guess these Tatras were supposed to resemble Karpfen units, with both fleet numbers and routes being correct for the period.
Basel is consulting its citizens over the shade of green in which its trams should be painted. The consultation is taking place as part of the acquisition of 60 new Flexity trams, the first of which will arrive next year. A Combino tram has been painted into four different variants, with the public being asked to select their favourite.
Basel's trams have been green since the very beginning in 1895, but the precise shade has developed over the years. The latest incarnation of this, as applied to the Combino trams, was not broadly appreciated, and at times described as "poison green" (Giftgrün).
For those who haven't visited google.co.uk today, the welcome screen marks the 150th anniversary of London Underground.
Cobra 3043, which was damaged by fire last Wednesday, is currently being assessed in the VBZ workshops at Altstetten. Whether or not the aluminium structure can be salavaged depends on the temperatures to which it was exposed during the fire. It has already been revealed that segments 2 and 3 are beyond repair, and that VBZ does not have the parts in its own inventory to build replacements. It thus remains to be seen whether these parts can be sourced at an acceptable cost. As an alternative the approaching new tram order could be increased by one unit. VBZ has rejected speculations that the Cobra could be rebuilt as a three-section mini tram.
Tram 3043, which was damaged by fire at Escher-Wyss depot on Wednesday was moved to VBZ's Altsetten works by low loader lorry this morning.
Following up on the recent item on the 1953 visit of two RT buses to Zürich, I have discovered this fascinating Flickr page collecting pictures of this and other worldwide goodwill visits by London buses. The RTs almost literally went to the four corners of the Earth, including a phenomenal 12,000 mile tour of the USA and Canada by three of them in 1952 (without any failures) making the road trip to and through Switzerland seem a home game in comparison. The picture above, taken from that photo stream, shows the two Zürich-bound buses (RTL1459 and RT3710) crossing Putney Bridge at the start of their minor odyssey. The stream includes several other shots taken during this tour.
In later years, the RMs were to continue the tradition of goodwill tours for a while, but closer to date similar activities by Fleetlines, Metrobuses and Citaros were to become far scarcer (to put it mildly). Maybe it was because goodwill (or even buses) fell out of fashion in a globalised and rationalised world. Or maybe it was because a mass-produced and interchangeable bus can hardly be an ambassador of any city. Let us see whether Boris Johnson's revival of the true London bus will help reverse that trend.
The visitor counter on the newslog page has just passed the 100,000 mark. Thank you to all loyal (and occasional) readers who continue to make this site popular.
Yesterday night a fire broke out in the yard behind Escher-Wyss-Platz depot. Cobra tram 3043 suffered damage along with two automobiles that were parked adjacently. The fire was discovered at 3am and extinguished by the fire brigade. The extent of the damage and the cause are not presently clear, with a scrapping of the 3.5 million Franc tram being a possible consequence.
A Happy New Year to all readers.
All 2012 news items can now be found on www.proaktiva.ch/tram/zurich/newslog/2012.html.