Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Zürich Tram Musuem, Dolderbahn, Schlieren and Oerlikon - Day 1

Zürich

After photographing one trip each of the 3 suburban services operated by AZZK, we decided to hop on the next svc 33 trolleybus out of Tiefenbrunnen back to Hegibachplatz where we would be able to transfer to a service 11 tram to the Zürich Tram Museum at Burgweis.

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A total of 100 units of Mercedes Benz O405GTZ were produced by the Stuttgart-based manufacturer, of which 79 units were delivered to Zürich while the remaining units went to Winterthur. Today, there are only 43 units left in active service in Zürich and are in the process of being replaced with the more modern Swiss Trolley 3 articulated trolleybuses. Fleet number 122 was photographed working service 33 towards Morgental at Hegibachplatz.

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Zürich Tram Museum

The roots of the Zürich Tram Museum can be traced back to 1967 when the Verein Tram Museum Zürich (Zürich Tram Museum Society or TMZ) was founded by a group of 40 tram enthusiasts who have a passion in collecting and restoring historically valuable tramcars to document the history of public transport in Zürich. In 1989, the group finally established a tram museum at the historical tram depot at Wartau and operated the "Museum Line" on Open Days using the restored vintage trams which led to increased public awareness and appreciation for its efforts. However, the group faced severe space constraints as the Wartau site was only able to house 5 preserved trams.

TMZ was able to leverage on its popularity to convince the city council for the use of the former tram depot at Burgweis amongst competing bidders, in a city where prices and demand for real estate are high. The current tram museum at Burgweis was opened to the public in 2007 and occupied the larger of the 2 buildings at the site, with the smaller building occupied by Migros supermarket and a wine cellar. The former tram museum at Wartau is still being used by TMZ for storage and ongoing tramcar restoration works.
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The museum location, Tramdepot Burgweis, is also of historical significance and is part of the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National Significance.
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The entry into the museum costs CHF 10 but it is free for holders of the Swiss Card or Swiss Pass. The current premises at Burgweis houses 20 preserved tram cars from Zürich's city owned fleet as well as those from private railways which operated around the city. It is worthwhile to note that the majority of the tram cars are still in working condition and a number of them are deployed on the 'Museum-Line 21' which runs between Hauptbahnhof and the Tram Museum every last Saturday and Sunday during summer from April to October.
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Proudly taking its place as the centrepiece of the exhibits is this well preserved Ce 2/2 1 of Strassenbahn Zürich-Oerlikon-Seebach (ZOS) which dates back to 1897, making it the oldest tramcar in the collection. The tram took 10 painstaking years of restoration and was finally completed in 1985 to become the oldest operable streetcar in Switzerland.
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This Ce 2/2 2 belonging to Limmattal-Strassenbahn LSB "Lisbethli" is one of the newest additions to the museum's collection and dates back to 1900. In addition, it also has a postal wagon attached to it. More details about the restoration of this tramcar can be found at this link from the tram museum website (German) : LSB "Lisbethi history and restoration
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The beautifully restored wooden panelled interior of the Ce 2/2 2 LSB 'Lisbethli' tramcar.
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Tram operator's console of the same tram which features the old fashioned control lever that regulates the amount of current which is fed to the drive motors. An additional lever controls the air powered brakes.
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In an early form of marketing to increase ridership on its trams, some of the trams that served the town of Triemli located at the foot of Uetliberg mountain (an elevation of 849m or 450m above the city) carried a special sign at the front which proclaimed 'Uetliberg hell', or Uetliberg bright in English when it is bright and sunny at the top of the mountain. This had supposedly tempted Zürich residents who were tired of the depressing gloomy weather in the city (which is actually more common than sunny days) to take a short tram ride to Triemli where they could transfer to the Uetlibergbahn to reach the mountain summit to cheer themselves up!
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Xe 2/2 1935 is a works tram which is equipped with snow plough and brushes on both ends to clear the tracks of snow during the winter season and dates back to 1914. Placed to the right of the snowplough, C 455 is an oddity in the collection as it was formerly from Schaffhausen and has electric solenoid brakes instead of the usual air powered brakes. It is also the last streetcar to be operated in Schaffhausen before it was acquired by the Tram Museum.
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Apart from trams, the museum also showcases a range of other tram related items such as destination signs (left) and a fully functioning ticket machine housed in a transparent casing to allow users to observe its working mechanisms (bottom right). In addition, the young and young at heart are kept entertained with a “Baby Cobra” tram for them to “drive” back and forth along a short section of track.
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The museum shop also stocks an extensive variety of products and we showed our support to the museum by purchasing some of the postcards and collarpins that were on sale. Following which, we backtracked on tram service 11 back to Hegibachplatz where we hopped back on a service 33 Mercedes Benz O405GTZ trolleybus to our next destination.

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Klusplatz

Trams provide the backbone of public transport in downtown Zürich, while trolleybuses shoulder the responsibility of operating the bulk of the major corridors. Thus, the diesel buses are relegated to short feeder routes that support these 2 dominant form of public transport and are scattered all over the city or operate on suburban routes. Strategically located in southeastern Zürich, Klusplatz is an important transfer node between the urban and suburban networks and proved to be an ideal location for us to obtain photos of the diesel buses.

A MAN Lion City 12m working route 753 to Schwerzenbach Bahnhof laying over at the bus stop besides the terminal. Only the tram services and service 34 operate from the actual terminal itself, while the other services call at bus stops near the terminal. Upon noticing a group of us keenly photographing his bus, he gestured for us to come over to his bus but we pretended to ignore him due to rather negative experiences with such similar encounters back in Singapore where bus enthusiasts are generally met with a fair amount of suspicion. However, one of us decided to walk over eventually and it was to our surprise that all the driver wanted was to pass us a pack of ZVV playing cards instead of questioning our intent!
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Kienastenwies

Service 34 holds the distinction as the shortest trolleybus route in Zürich with a run time of just 10mins per direction, and is also one of the original 3 trolleybus routes that were introduced in the 1940s. However, it is also one of the most interesting as the route encounters a fair amount of hilly terrain and isolated from the rest of the network until the completion of a non-revenue connection between Klusplatz and Hegibachplatz in 1956. Today, service 34 terminates at Klusplatz and passengers heading to Hegibachplatz have an option of transferring to trolleybus 33 that calls outside the terminal.

It is perhaps an indication of the speed at which the venerable Mercedes Benz O405GTZs were being replaced that we noted that every alternate trip on service 34 was operated by a new Swiss Trolley 3 although the VBZ website had indicated that this route is a fully non-WAB route (and hence implying a full O405GTZ fleet) at the time of research. Nonetheless, we decided to take the Swiss Trolley 3 for one way to Kienastenwies for variety and get the next O405GTZ back to Klusplatz later.

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The ride quality and interior fittings of the Swiss Trolley 3 is very similar to the HESS bi-articulated lighTram3 which we had ridden earlier in the day, except that the electric motor is located at the rear instead of in the middle section on the lighTram3.

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A video of the smooth, quiet ride through the hilly terrain is shown below.


Swiss Trolley 3 fleet no. 0145 laying over at the predominantly residential district of Kienastenwies.
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A video of the ride on the Mercedes Benz O405GTZ trolleybus between Kienastenwies and Zweiackerstrasse on this trip is shown below.


Mercedes Benz O405GTZ fleet no. 0116 laying over at Klusplatz terminal before working another trip to Kienastenwies.
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Following which, we grabbed the next tram on service 15 from the terminal to Römerhof for a ride on the Dolderbahn cogwheel railway.
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We were also able to photography a 'clean' photo of the interior of the Be 4/6 Tram 2000 Series 1 trailer car due to the combination of decent frequency and exceptionally low loading when we had boarded the tram. With such excellent maintenance, it is hard to believe that this tram was delivered more than 30 years ago!

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Dolderbahn

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The Dolderbahn is a manually operated cogwheel railway linking Römerhof tram stop in urban Zurich and the recreational area of Dolder on Adlisberg hill in the municipality of Hottingen. The railway line has a total length of 1328m and overcomes a height difference of 162m with a maximum gradient of 19.6%.

The stately Römerhof building.
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The Dolderbahn has a siding in the lower half of the track to facilitate 2 railcars to pass each other.
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The line was opened in 1895 as a funicular and rebuilt into a cogwheel railway in 1973 with a further uphill extension to the Dolder Grand Hotel. Car No. 1 was photographed approaching the upper hill station at the Dolder Grand Hotel.
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The Dolder Grand Hotel underwent an extensive four year long renovation from 2004 and the Dolderbahn was also shut down for 3 months in this period for a complete overhaul which included new tracks and refurbished cars. Following the renovation, the hotel was renamed as The Dolder Grand and the existing hill station was also integrated into the hotel complex.
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Apart from serving the luxury five-star hotel, the Dolderbahn also provides a useful connection to the network of hiking trails on Adilsberg.
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As part of its marketing strategy, the hotel takes particular pride in advertising the spectacular view to be had from its property. However, after a brief exploration of the surroundings outside the hotel premises, it turned out that the promised view of the lake below was largely obscured by trees.
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The Dolderbahn was our final sightseeing item for our first day and we planned to spend the rest of the evening on joyrides around the city. Thus, we decided to head straight back to Central for a long haul ride on a service 31 bi-articulated lighTram 3 to its western terminus at Schlieren Zentrum.
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The evening sun peeked out for a short while upon our return to Central, but the low angle of the sun and the long shadows from the surrounding buildings conspired to frustrate our attempts in getting a sunlit shot of the 24.97m long bi-articulated trolleybus.

Fleet No. 2011 approaching Central with the River Limmat in the background.
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Trolleybus Service 31

Trolleybus service 31 is the only bus route in Zurich which spans across the city through the heart of the city centre at the hauptbahnhof. This unique feature can be traced back to an interesting development of the transport system. In the 1950s, the rise in motor traffic increased the incidences of trams being caught up in congestion. The decision taken by transport planners was to convert secondary tram routes to trolleybus operation for greater manoeuvrability, while main tram routes were to be placed in subways for dedicated right-of-way.

Route 1 (Burgwies – Hardplatz) was chosen for pilot trial and converted to trolleybus service 31 in 1956 and progressively extended westward over the next two years to its current terminal in Schlieren. Contrary to expectations, punctuality did not improve, and furthermore, trolleybuses struggled to cope with peak hour loadings. This mistake was very much regretted and further trolleybus conversion did not take place. In 1979, the eastern section of the route was cut back by a few stops to form the present route of service 31 (Hegibachplatz – Schlieren). Presumably, service 31 remained as the heaviest utilized trolleybus service and the availability of the bi-articulated trolleybus provided an opportunity to increase capacity.

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Video of a ride on the HESS bi-articulated lighTram3 on Svc 31 between Gasometerbrücke and Wagonsfabrik


Schlieren

The ride brought us out of the official political boundary of Zurich city into Dietikon district, but Schlieren is still essentially part of the Zurich metropolitan area. The area had a decidedly industrial feel to it as compared to the other residential towns that we had visited earlier in the day.

Limmat Bus operates svc 303 on behalf of VBZ and provides an essential link between Dietikon Bahnhof and Schlieren Zentrum. A Neoplan N4416 rigid with fleet no. 23 was photographed laying over at Schlieren Zentrum.
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We decided to head out to the main road and only managed to notice a Renault Agora laying over at where we had snapped the Neoplan earlier at the last minute. This sparked a sprint back to the bus stop but we could only look on in helplessness as the bus started to move and a car that was travelling alongside the bus prevented us from obtaining an unobstructed photo of the bus.

Limmat Bus also operates a sizeable number of Citaro G with the older V1 bodywork on svc 303. Fleet no. 27 was photographed departing Schlieren Zentrum to loop at the Bahnhof.
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One major advantage of travelling in Europe during summer is the long daylight hours where the late sunset timing of 9.30pm meant that we could fit in more bus spotting and joyrides within a day to maximise our trip. Unfortunately, this also meant that it was easy to lose track of time as our body clock had not fully adjusted to the European time zone. Anticipating that it would not be easy to find a place to settle our dinner, we decided to order takeaway at Kebab Haus Limmat Point. The friendly elderly Turkish propertier and his wife prepared our orders of freshly grilled Kebab burger and wraps which were of very generous portions and most definitely value for money at about CHF 8 per order. In fact, some of us continued eating our kebab takeaways on the bus as we were simply still rather full from our late lunch earlier on!
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Noting that it was getting rather late, we decided to hop on the next service 31 towards our next destination.
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Farbhof

Upon sighting a Mercedes Benz Sprinter 616 CDi laying over at Farbhof, we immediately alighted from the trolleybus to get a record photo of the midibus. VBZ operates two Mercedes Benz Sprinters on low demand feeder routes which demand the agility of such midibuses.
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Farbhof is a rather unusual terminal as service 31 calls at the terminal in both directions. We also could not resist another opportunity to photograph the HESS bi-articulated trolleybus 'bending' into the bus terminal before catching the next trip to continue on our original journey towards Bahnhof Alsetten.
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Our initial plan was to transfer to a service 80 Neoplan to Oerlikon but we decided to wait for the next 2 buses as the first bus was a Citaro G articulated bus. We also kept ourselves busy attempting to photograph the number of bus movements which passed by in front of the station which turned out to be a mostly futile effort as a result of the rapidly deteriorating lighting conditions. After a 17 minute long wait, we decided that luck was not on our side and boarded the next svc 80 that was also operated by a Citaro G.

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Oerlikon

Oerlikon is an important transport node located to the north of the city centre and serves as an interchange station for seven of the city's S-bahn services with the numerous tram and diesel buses that call at or near the Bahnhof. In addition, several prominent Swiss industrial giants such as OC Oerlikon, Oerlikon Contraves (now merged into Rheinmetall Air Defense AG) and ABB also have their worldwide headquarters in Oerlikon.

Upon alighting, we immediately spotted our first joyride target at Oerlikon - A MAN Lion City M (A35) which is a shortened wheelbase version of the popular MAN Lion City Integral citybus.
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The ride quality was decent and the driver quickly demonstrated the requirement for a short wheelbase vehicle by executing a tight U-turn at the end of this very short feeder service to head back towards Oerlikon Bahnhof. We felt slightly underwhelmed as we had high expectations of a MAN Lion City integral and the acceleration pickup of the bus was sluggish while the ZF gearbox ensured that there were no enthusing retarder whistles to liven up the joyride. Moreover, the idling sound of the engine was also noticeably rough.


However, our moods immediately lifted as we caught sight of a Neoplan N4522 articulated bus laying over at the terminal. Anxious to make up for our disappointment earlier on when we failed to ride on a Neoplan on service 80 despite our best efforts, we quickly looked up the run time of service 75 in our info kit and were pleased to discover that the run time was only 16 mins one way. Moreover, we also could make out the high pitch idling sound of the engine that is typically associated with a Voith gearbox and this only added to the excitement of riding the Neoplan. Regrettably, one of us decided not to partake in the short joyride and elected to photograph the trains calling at the Bahnhof instead as he decided that he could not bear himself to ride a bus equipped with a Voith gearbox.

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Interior of the trailer of the Neoplan N4522 articulated bus. The interior is very similar to the MAN Lion City G and features a full low floor interior to the last door which is situated just in front of the rear engine compartment. The ride did not disappoint our expectations with the low passenger loads and the distinctive retarder whisle from the automatic Voith gearbox contributing to our enjoyment.
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The video below shows an excerpt of the ride on the Neoplan N4522 articulated bus between Bollingerweg and Neunbrunnen.


Meeting up with our friend again who seemed to be very pleased to be able to narrowly avoid another 'torturous' ride on a bus equipped with a Voith gearbox, we decided to head back to the city centre and retire for the night to prepare for the long day ahead on Day 2. Thus, we decided to take the S-bahn instead of a tram as there was a train departing soon from the station which offered a quick ride back to the Hauptbahnhof. Given that it was a Saturday evening, there were also several bands of raucous and rowdy youths at the Bahnhof who were heading to the numerous clubs and bars in the city centre for a night out with their companions. This served as a subtle reminder that beneath the veneer of an outwardly perfect and orderly society that the city aims to present to visitors, Zürich is still first and foremost a city where more than 320,000 inhabitants call home and just another very well-run and maintained European city.

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The extra-wide sliding doors on the Zürich S-bahn double deck carriages aid in the rapid boarding and alighting of passengers at major stops. The older carriages used on the locomotive hauled Re450 'DPZ' stock as shown below have 2 steps that passengers have to negotiate when boarding the train. The newer RABe 514 'DTZ' stock however, is fully low floor which greatly faciliates wheelchair bound passengers and passengers who are bringing larger pieces of luggage onboard the train.
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Next Post: Zürich Seilbahn Rigiblick, Oerlikon and Winterthur - Day 2

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