Basel ferries

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Basel ferry

Four ferries for pedestrians connect Grossbasel with Kleinbasel . They are roller ferries (a special form of the yaw ferry ); the current of the Rhine is used as a drive. Today they are an integral part of the Basel cityscape.


Birsfeld ferry

As early as 1853, a year before the first ferry began operating in Basel, there was a ferry connection across the Rhine at the level of the Birskopf . At that time the Birskopf was still outside the city, so that this ferry was only later one of the Basel ferries. In 1873 operations were stopped due to insufficient demand. At the urging of the Birsfeld population, the connection was resumed in 1906 a little above the original location. In 1944, the Birsfeld ferry, along with the three other Basel ferries at the time, was given the name "Ueli" as part of a ferry festival. After the corresponding bridge was built with the Birsfeld power station in 1954 , the ferry finally disappeared.

Basel ferries

Until 1879 the Mittlere Brücke was the only Basel bridge over the Rhine. As early as 1843, a bridge project was developed for the first time to connect the Grossbasler Harzgraben with the Kleinbasler Baarmatte, i.e. the connection that was later realized with the Wettstein Bridge. The project was not pursued further for the time being.

The need for such a connection was obvious, however, and so Johann Jakob Im Hof- Forcart took the initiative and submitted the application in the spring of 1854, one year after the ferry at Birskopf, on behalf of the Basel Artists' Society, between the Harzgrabenschanze and to build a "flying bridge" on the Baarmatte - that's what the ferries were called back then. The plan was to make enough profit with the ferry to build a house for meetings and exhibitions of the artist society. The request was granted and at the end of November of the same year the Harzgraben ferry, as the connection was now officially called, was able to start operating. The ferry was christened "Rheinmücke".

In 1862 the artist society opened a second ferry connection, which connected the Grossbasler Totentanz with the Kleinbasler Kaserne, so today's Klingental Ferry. As hoped, the ferries paid off, and after the artist society merged with the art association , the art gallery was built on the Steinenberg with the profit. This was opened in 1872.

When work on the Wettstein Bridge (which was still called the Harzgraben Bridge at that time) began in 1877, the Harzgraben ferry was moved down the Rhine, making it the Münster ferry. In 1894 the St. Alban ferry was added between the Dalbeloch and the Schaffhauserrheinweg and in 1895 the last one was the slaughterhouse ferry, which connected the St. Johann and Klybeck quarters.

The construction of more bridges, the expansion of the tram network and, last but not least, the rapid increase in private transport meant that the ferries were less and less profitable and ultimately no longer profitable. The operation was maintained by the Society for the Good and Charitable , which leased the ferries to the ferrymen. Nationalization was discussed, but in the end the ferries became the property of the ferrymen, who from then on drove for their own account: in 1936 the Klingental ferry and in 1942 the Münster ferry were given to their ferrymen Fritz Bürgin and Karl Städeli, the St. Alban ferry was given to him in 1954 Ferry man Gustav Buchsinger sold for 12,000.00.

In June 1944, a "Fähritaufe" took place as part of a folk festival, at which the ferries were officially named: The top ferry, which connected Birsfelden with the outer Grenzacherstrasse and existed until 1954, was named "Ueli", the St. Alban The ferry was now called “Wild Ma”, the Münster ferry “Leu” and the Klingental ferry was christened “Vogel Gryff”. The slaughterhouse ferry did not survive the opening of the Dreirosenbrücke in 1934.

The number of passengers continued to decline, so that the ferrymen increasingly had to fight for their existence. When at the beginning of the 1970s the ferryman of the Klingental ferry offered his ferry for sale due to reasons of age, an international drinks company wanted to buy it. In order to save the ferry from the threat of commercialization and to preserve it for the general public, the Kleinbasel doctor and long-time master of the honorary society for the Rebhaus Hans Nidecker, together with like-minded people, founded the "Klingental Ferry Vogel Gryff Foundation", which bought the Klingental ferry. At the same time, the foundation was able to secure the right from the canton that if further ferries were sold, their driving license would be transferred to the foundation. In the spring of 1976, the foundation also bought the St. Alban ferry, whereupon it changed its name to “Basler Ferry Foundation”. Finally, the Münster ferry finally became the property of the Foundation, so that all ferries are now owned by the Foundation, which also has the associated driving concessions.

The foundation leases the ferries to the ferrymen. The ferry operation is in deficit, however, and so in 1974 the "Friends of Basler Ferries Association" was founded, which was later renamed the "Fähri-Verein Basel" and whose purpose is to raise the financial resources to finance the deficit of the ferry operations .

After building over the St. Johannpark, the slaughterhouse ferry, which was abandoned in 1934, was re-established in 1989. It connects the St. Johannpark with the Untere Rheinweg. It is now officially called the St. Johanns-Fähre and was christened “Ueli”. The name Ueli was available again after the Birsfeld “Ueli” ferry had ceased operations in 1954.


With the exception of the newer St. Alban ferry, the ferries are flat boats made of wood, similar to the Weidling (the Klingental ferry has been made of GRP since 2012 ). The bow is pulled up slightly, and in the front third there is a platform over which the ship can be boarded and left at the landing points. The middle third has two longitudinal benches, followed by a semicircular roofed house. In this, the Fäärimaa (ferryman) operates the rudder, and passengers can find space in it in bad weather.

The ferries are baptized after the coat of arms holders of the three honorary societies of Kleinbasel , the main characters of Vogel Gryff's traditional parade .

The following ferries run regularly (order: down the Rhine):

  • St. Alban Ferry - «Wild Maa»
  • Munster ferry - «Leu»
  • Klingental ferry - "Vogel Gryff"
  • St. Johann ferry - «Ueli»


The ferries are so-called roller ferries . A swivel lever is attached to the ferry, which hangs from a rider's pulley via a long wire rope, the yaw rope. This rider's role can move freely on a steel cable stretched across the Rhine .

After pushing off the landing stage, the ferryman puts the swivel lever on the side facing the land and, with the help of the rudder, brings the ferry into the current of the Rhine at an angle of about 45 °. The current pushes the ship to one side and pushes it across the river. Shortly before berthing, the Fäärimaa straightened the boat again to gently guide it to the landing stage.

In low or low water, the Fäärimaa can use the swell board (side board in the front third of the ferry) to enlarge the lateral surface (water attack surface ) of the ferry and thus accelerate the journey. Some ferrymen sometimes help a little with an oar so that the ferry hangs faster on the rope and gathers speed.


The ferries have timetables that depend on the season and operate in all weathers, except during floods and fog. Little water with simultaneous wind against the direction of the river can also lead to the ferry service being stopped. The ferries do not belong to the Northwestern Switzerland tariff association.


The Fääri men (today also Fääri women) see different passengers every day, and in the process they learn a lot about their concerns and opinions. There is sure to be one or the other story of lies; that's why they say in Basel, if you don't want to fully believe a story:

Do you mess the Fäärimaa! (Tell that to the ferryman!)

See also

Web links

Commons : Basel ferries  - collection of images, videos and audio files


Coordinates: 47 ° 33 '29.3 "  N , 7 ° 35' 39.2"  E ; CH1903:  six hundred and eleven thousand seven hundred and eleven  /  267 502

Individual evidence

  1. The Harzgraben was the continuation of the former St. Albangraben towards the Rhine. It no longer exists today.
  2. Baarmatte was the name of the area near Theodorsgraben next to the orphanage.
  3. ^ The ferrymen of the three Basler Rhein ferries In: Zürcher Illustrierte, Vol. 14, Issue 5, 1938, p. 118