Zurich main station

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Zurich main station
Aerial view of the main train station and the Sihlpost
Aerial view of the main train station and the Sihlpost
Location in the network Junction station
Design Terminal station
through station
Platform tracks 26
above ground:
16 (station hall)
underground :
4 (Löwenstrasse)
4 (Museumstrasse)
2 (SZU train station)
abbreviation ZUE
IBNR 8503000
opening August 7, 1847
Architectural data
Architectural style Neo-renaissance
architect Jakob Friedrich Wanner (1871)
City / municipality Zurich
Canton Zurich
Country Switzerland
Coordinates 683 195  /  248 022 coordinates: 47 ° 22 '40 "  N , 8 ° 32' 25"  O ; CH1903:  683195  /  248,022
Height ( SO ) 408  m
Railway lines

SBB train station (tracks 3-18, 31-34, 41-44)

SZU station (tracks 21-22)

List of train stations in Switzerland

Zurich main station ( Zurich HB for short , until 1893 Zurich train station ; IATA train station code ZLP ) in Zurich is the largest train station in Switzerland . It is an important rail hub for trains coming from Germany , Germany , Italy , Austria and France . With an average of 461,000 passengers on working days (as of 2019) and almost 3,000 train journeys per day, it is the busiest station on the Swiss Federal Railways network , and it is also one of the busiest stations in Europe.

The Zurich main station is located in the circuit 1 immediately to the north of the Old Town , near the mouth of the Sihl in the Limmat and compared to the National Museum . It has 26 tracks for passenger traffic and is divided into four parts. The above-ground terminal station with 16 tracks is used primarily for long-distance traffic in Germany and abroad . As through stations are designed tunnel stations Museum Street on the north and Löwenstrasse on the south side with four tracks. While the former only accepts trains on the widely branched Zurich S-Bahn , the latter is also used for long-distance traffic. In addition, there is the double-track terminal station of the Sihl Valley-Zurich-Uetliberg Railway (SZU) under the Bahnhofplatz, which is adjacent to the south . The station parts are connected by the underground shopping center Shopville . To the west of the main train station, the tracks extend around four kilometers to Altstetten train station .

As the end point of the first Swiss railway line, the “ Spanish Brötli Railway ” to Baden , which opened in 1847, Zurich main station is one of the oldest train stations in Switzerland, although nothing has been preserved from the system from that time. It was replaced by the station concourse designed by Jakob Friedrich Wanner in neo-renaissance style and built between 1867 and 1871. This no longer serves its original purpose after the rail traffic was relocated to the adjacent track hall in 1930. As a cultural asset of national importance , the above-ground parts of the main station are largely under monument protection. The Museumstrasse tunnel station went into operation in 1989. A year later, the S-Bahn traffic and the SZU station opened. Finally, the Löwenstrasse tunnel station was added in 2014.


The main station is located directly north of Zurich's old town , on a tapering headland between the Limmat rivers in the east and the Sihl in the west. The Sihl flows between the ground-level and underground track systems in a tunnel that consists of five parallel passages and is around 150 m long. It flows into the Limmat about 400 m further north at Platzspitz . Administratively, the area belongs to the City district in District 1 .

In the east it is 408  m above sea level. M. located main train station is limited by Bahnhofquai on the Limmat, in the north by Museumstrasse (with the State Museum between the opposite side of the street), the Zollbrücke and Zollstrasse and in the south by Bahnhofplatz , Postbrücke, Europaplatz and Europaallee . The Bahnhofbrücke and the Walchebrücke lead from Bahnhofquai to the eastern bank of the Limmat. Bahnhofstrasse , Löwenstrasse and - parallel to the east bank of the Sihl - Gessnerallee extend south from Bahnhofplatz, on which a monument in honor of the influential railway entrepreneur Alfred Escher has stood since 1889 .

Overview plan of Zurich main station and the associated facilities


View from Bahnhofstrasse with the Alfred Escher monument in front of it
Figures above the main gate
View of the station concourse from the northeast, with a modern extension

Zurich's main train station is divided into several parts: the historic station hall from 1871 is on the ground floor, as well as the transverse hall at the level of Löwenstrasse and the rail hall designed as a terminal station , both from 1929/30. There are also three tunnel stations that are not operationally interconnected and , like the rail hall, face east to west. The Museumstrasse tunnel station, opened in 1989 on the north side, is used exclusively for the Zurich S-Bahn . In 2014 the tunnel station Löwenstrasse was added under the southern part of the track hall, which serves both long-distance and S-Bahn traffic. Both are through stations . The terminal station of the Sihl Valley-Zurich-Uetliberg Railway , which opened in 1990, is located under the Bahnhofplatz . The Shopville can be found on a mezzanine level . This underground shopping center creates connections between the aboveground and underground parts of the station, to the adjacent streets and squares as well as to the tram stops around the main station.

Station concourse


The station concourse contained six tracks until 1930, then temporary structures; it has been largely empty since 1988. From the south and east it presents itself as a magnificent neo-renaissance building with facades made of sandstone . The symmetrically structured south-facing main façade of the as Triumph portal trained Mittelrisalit dominated. This serves as an entrance and exit and is exactly in the axis of Bahnhofstrasse . It is flanked by two colossal pilasters with Corinthian capitals . The attic of the gate has rich figural decorations, designed by Ernst Rau . The middle of the three figures cast in zinc represents the Helvetia as a symbol of the transport system. Sitting next to her are two other female figures who represent railways and telegraphy on the one hand and shipping traffic on the other. Ludwig Keizer created the four standing figures below (trade, art, science, handicraft) and the lions as shield holders for the Zurich coat of arms . The middle sections of the side wings are also designed as gates. Above it are acroteries and each a group of figures with putti . The wings are completed by side elevations.

The eastern facade facing the Bahnhofquai and the Limmat is horizontally divided into three areas. The fully arcaded ground floor includes a vestibule with a terrace and parapet . Eight vases are lined up on the balustrade of the vestibule , with a golden kilometer column based on ancient models in the middle. The column marks the starting point of the rail network of the former Swiss Northeast Railway and is accompanied by a male and a female figure representing mechanical engineering and agriculture (created in 1907 by Cristoforo Vicari). Above two of the arcades are four sculpted heads as symbols for trade, rail traffic, telegraphy and the machine industry. Two large thermal bath windows above the terrace characterize the central area of ​​the facade. They are accompanied by four lion heads by the sculptor Ferdinand Barth , who represent the city and the canton. Right in the center is a narrow central window with a keystone in the shape of a rod of Mercury . Above this, a flat segment arch traces the curve of the hall ceiling. On the side of the roof gable are two geniuses in cast zinc, both of which hold a Zurich coat of arms. Two lateral tower structures and the central turret with two bells form the end.

The northeast wing on Museumstrasse, completed in 1996 according to plans by Ralph Baenziger and Rainer Weibel, creates a modern contrast . It contains the rail travel center and restaurants on the ground floor, training and rail operations rooms on the two upper floors and staff rooms and restaurant on the top floor. In terms of volume and architecture, it clearly stands out from the old building and is separated from it by a slit of light. The roof has the shape of a wave. The art object Pyramid Cut , created by Andreas Christen and depicting vertical tracks and trapezoids, is attached to the glass side walls of the train travel center. The former post gate on the east facade of the northeast wing was reconstructed, whereby two high rectangular reliefs have been preserved in the original. They show female figures with attributes of the post office and train (pigeon and wing wheel).

inner space

Inside the station concourse, seen to the east
View of the hall window from the roof of the main station.
View of the hall window from the roof of the main station.

Since the removal of various pavilions at the end of the 1980s, the 131 m long, 43 m wide and 26 m high station concourse has been the largest covered public square in Switzerland, with the emptiness reinforcing the monumental impression. The only permanent facilities are stairs , escalators and lifts that lead down through three large rectangular openings in the hall floor. The timber-clad roof spans seven transverse gables and has several openings that were once used to vent smoke from steam locomotives . The roof is supported by six iron double half-timbered arches and one arch each at the ends of the hall. On the ground floor, the wall has arcades in rhythm 1-3-1, and the area of ​​the upper floors with little ox eyes and the thermal bath windows is also rhythmically structured . In the intermediate wall zone 15 are medallions from terracotta attached. They depict agriculture, mining, horticulture, trade, industry, music, shipping and science in allegorical form. On the front facade there are also six lion heads as a symbol of Zurich, two heads above the central door represent trade and rail traffic.

Several contemporary art installations are permanently on display in the hall . Since November 1997, the eleven-meter-high and 1.2-tonne figure L'ange protecteur by Niki de Saint Phalle has been hanging from the roof on steel cables . The present from Securitas AG for the 150th anniversary of the main train station is a « Nana », a voluminous woman in the form of a guardian angel . The figure, which consists of an aluminum frame and plastic, is painted with Pop Art motifs. The philosophical egg of Mario Merz extends from 1991 to the glass wall of the western hall statements m² an area of 330th The sculpture consists of spiral-shaped red neon tubes , freely hanging animal figures and glowing blue numbers. The latter represent the first numbers in the Fibonacci sequence . On May 9, 2008, Dieter Meier sank a gold-plated ball into an illuminated shaft covered with a glass plate as part of the Le rien en or (“nothing made of gold”) art project . The Boule d'or centenaire (“golden ball of the century”) is to be lifted out of the shaft seven times over a period of exactly one hundred years, moved twelve meters on a wooden track and sunk into a new shaft. In September 2006, ETH Zurich installed the NOVA for its 150th birthday . The world's first three-dimensional bivalent display consisted of 25,000 individually addressable spheres of light on a base area of ​​5 × 5 m. It created a play of light from 16 million possible colors and could also show cinematic image sequences. In 2012 the 3.3 ton installation was removed.

Brasserie Federal is located in the northeast wing, next to the rail travel center . It was built in 1902 as a restaurant for third-class passengers and demolished in 1991. When it was reconstructed in 1996, the late historical wall design was reproduced. The figurative decoration includes four medallions with heads on the long sides and eight further heads in the fields above the wall templates. They symbolize the continents and the muses . Only the Art Nouveau glass window with colored ornaments set into the center of the ceiling , the central motif of which is a vane, has been preserved. The vestibule from 1871 extends between the station concourse and the station quay. Its coffered, flat ceiling is divided into 13 decorated fields with beams . Half-round columns with carved capitals stand between the arched openings with glazed wooden doors .

South wing

Dome hall in the south wing

From the Bahnhofplatz, the Triumphpforte leads to the domed hall, an almost square room as the center of the south wing, which was completed in 1871. The vault with attached lantern shows a wheel with 16 rosettes . Two atlases created by Ernst Rau support the entablature on both sides of the domed hall . Ludwig Keizer designed the four medallions in the spandrels , with allegorical depictions of music, agriculture, horticulture and rail transport. The elongated foyer extends to the left and right. It has round arch arcades with half-columns, pillars with elaborately designed capitals and ceiling fields with rich profiles. On the wall templates in the western and eastern parts there are two statues of boys with purses, created by Keizer, representing Mercury and wealth. The south side hall is located between the domed hall and the station hall, a three-part sequence of rooms with a representative coffered ceiling. The arcade arch in the middle area has gussets on both sides from which two heads protrude; they represent trade and rail traffic on the one hand, and industry and agriculture on the other.

The so-called hunting room, the easternmost room on the first floor, has retained its representative historicist furnishings. It consists of a coffered ceiling with a central ceiling plan . Remnants of the original ceiling and wall design can also be found in the neighboring staircase. The Imagine restaurant , formerly a waiting room and 2nd class restaurant, has an elegantly designed sequence of rooms. This includes Corinthian columns, pilasters, coffered stucco ceilings with and without vaults as well as stuccoed walls with fruit hangings, medallions and ornamental ribbons. The passage to the foyer is shaped as a round arched gate, which is decorated with handcraft and agricultural figures. Dancing female figures swing a thyrsos stick in the lunettes of the southeastern area . The Café Les Arcades (formerly a waiting room and 3rd class restaurant) also has a historical interior . Its rooms have ceiling panels with profiles, ornamental stucco and stencil paintings. There are also wall panels , beams, consoles , round arches and columns with capitals.

Track hall (tracks 3-18)

Track hall

At the beginning, the above-ground tracks extended to the eastern end of the station concourse, from 1902 to the middle of the station at the level of Bahnhofstrasse. As a terminus , Zurich's main station always had to struggle with a lack of space. For this reason, the railway hall, a 294 m long and 108 m wide steel hall construction, was built to the west of it in 1929/30. It consists of six roofs lined up next to one another, each 17.8 m wide, each spanning two tracks. All have continuous skylights , one in the ridge and two on the sides. Riveted multi - joint girder structures with steel frames support the roofs at a distance of 14 m. The track hall was originally 128 m wide and had seven roofs. With the intention of opening the station to the city, the two outermost ones were removed. Since 1997, there have been two identical, wide, projecting roof structures of 240 m length with outwardly rising and unfolded roof soffits , which emphasize the longitudinal orientation of the station. Their span is 15 m, the cantilever around four meters. They consist of double trusses covered with wooden grating and trapezoidal sheet metal . They are supported every 40 m by eight-meter-long, slightly inclined concrete supports. The new roofs are blurring the boundaries between the platform and the pavement next to it, especially since the track hall has no external walls.

The 16 above-ground tracks are located on 14 central and two side barriers, each 420 m long. Near the outer end of the Gleishalle, immediately west of the Sihl, there are striking concrete housings on every platform, in which stairs and escalators lead down to the Sihlquai passage. At the same time, the housings support the hall roofs and, in the event of a fire, serve as aprons that prevent smoke from rising upwards. Since the above-ground platforms and those in the Löwenstrasse through station are not exactly one above the other, inclined lifts with an incline of 73 degrees connect the two levels with each other and with the pedestrian floor in between. The transverse hall, also built in 1929/30, which forms a functional unit with the track hall, extends over the entire length of the head lock and forms a kind of hinge to the station hall. The 108 m long and 24 m wide glass-steel construction is supported on the one hand by the wall of the station hall and on the other by seven supports. The latter also form the beginning of the track hall. The roof, which rises slightly towards the ridge, rests on 17 riveted frame trusses, which are reinforced with tension and compression rods .

In the track hall, the tracks were originally numbered from 1 to 16. As part of the partial opening of the through station Museumstrasse on May 28, 1989, they were given the numbers 3 to 18. From the Gleishalle Intercity and InterRegio trains run to most regions of Switzerland as well as international trains such as EuroCity , TGV , ICE , Railjet and ÖBB Nightjet ; There are also four S-Bahn lines (two regular lines on the left bank of the Zürichseebahn and two relief lines during rush hour ).

SZU station (tracks 21-22)

SZU train station
Löwenstrasse station
Museumstrasse station

Track 21 and 22 for trains of the Sihl Valley-Zurich-Uetliberg-Bahn (SZU) are located 11.60 m below the station square, i.e. south of the station hall . The double-track tunnel station opened in 1990 has a central platform of 125 m length, which can be reached via two entrances and is slightly curved at the western end. Two S-Bahn lines operate from here: the Sihl Valley Railway, known as the S4, via Adliswil to Langnau am Albis (with occasional trips to Sihlwald ) and the Uetliberg Railway (S10) to the Uetliberg , Zurich's local mountain. Both drive from the main train station in a 1592 m long tunnel that runs mostly under the Sihl before they part at Giesshübel. The side walls and central pillars of the tunnel station were built in the second half of the 1960s as a preliminary construction work for the Zurich subway, which was never built .

At the beginning, the tracks were numbered 1 and 2, due to the imminent commissioning of the diameter line, they were given today's numbers when the timetable changed in December 2013. In order to increase the capacity of the tunnel station, a third access is to be created by 2023. In January 2019, the idea of ​​extending the SZU tunnel from the main train station to the University of Zurich was presented for the first time .

Löwenstrasse station (tracks 31-34)

The underground through station Löwenstrasse, which opened in June 2014, extends 15.40 m below the southern part of the track hall. It comprises four tracks on two central barriers 420 m long and 13.5 m wide. The tunnel station is part of the Altstetten – Zurich HB – Oerlikon cross-city line , the heart of which is the 4.8 km long Weinberg tunnel to the Zurich Oerlikon station in the north of the city. In addition to several lines of the Zurich S-Bahn , numerous long-distance trains have been stopping on the west-east axis since October 2015. This largely eliminated the turning maneuvers that the trains had to carry out in the above-ground terminus, which noticeably helped to relieve the load. The through station created enough spare capacity to cope with the forecast increase in traffic over the next few decades.

Compared to Museumstrasse station, which is 25 years older, Löwenstrasse station has wider platforms and more stairs. Instead of gravel, the rails are laid on rubber-like, concreted sleeper blocks the size of a shoebox. This system, called Low Vibration Track, protects the environment from shocks and noise. The platforms were given a light stone floor, the ceiling a gold-colored paint. On the other hand, the tunnel walls are painted black so that the platforms look like they are long islands in a dark tube. The ceiling and floor panels are laid diagonally. This avoids cuts that would have resulted from the irregular geometry of tracks, platforms and supports. The joint grid is less noticeable, which makes the ceiling and floor appear more flat.

Museumstrasse station (tracks 41-44)

The second tunnel station is 13.60 m below Museumstrasse, between the north side of the main station and the State Museum . In the hall there are four tracks on two 360 m long and ten meter wide central barriers. This station is served exclusively by S-Bahn lines and is the most important hub for local rail transport in the Zurich Transport Association . The railway runs in a south-easterly direction in the Hirschengraben tunnel under the Limmat and through the old town to Stadelhofen station , where there are links to the right bank of the Zürichseebahn and through the Zürichberg tunnel to the Zürich Oberland and towards Winterthur . The tunnel station was first opened in May 1989 for regional trains to Rapperswil and Bülach , before the Zurich S-Bahn went into operation twelve months later. In addition to the S-Bahn (S-Bahn), the Intercity Express on the Gäubahn to Stuttgart also ran from 1999 to 2002 at Museumstrasse station . These did not run via Bülach, as usual, but via Winterthur, as such a short turn could be avoided.

The floor of the platforms is covered with light and dark gray panels aligned horizontally, while the walls of the elevator housing are decorated with horizontal stripes in black and white. The same patterns are repeated in the part of the pedestrian level above. Architecture, fittings and surfaces form a unit that is seldom so consistent in Swiss train station construction. From the opening until May 2012, the tracks were numbered 21 to 24, and since then have been numbered 41 to 44.By renaming, the track numbers are now logically from south to north after the Löwenstrasse station, which was added later, with tracks 31 to 34. The change was controversial because of the high cost (including replacement of all notice boards).


Light architecture in Shopville

The Shopville , located between the station concourse and the tunnel stations, is an extensive underground shopping center that also includes the area under the station square. There are more than 180 shops, restaurants and service providers. Since the shops are not bound by the cantonal shop opening regulations, they are open 365 days a year (and therefore also on Sundays). The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) market the Shopville with an ironic undertone under the motto “the only shopping center with its own main station”.

The oldest part of Shopville includes the “Halle Bahnhofplatz”, which is 4.70 m below the surface. It has existed since 1970 and belongs to the City of Zurich. Originally the floor consisted of red colored artificial stone slabs and was popularly nicknamed «Schwartenmagen». From 2001 to 2003 a comprehensive redesign followed, following the principle of the light architecture : black granite floor and black sprayed ceiling form the background for blue, yellow, green and red glowing cubes, supports and ribbons. The focus is the Züri-Brunnen, a light curtain with 740 nozzles. In 1990, SBB expanded the Shopville to include the “Halle Landesmuseum”, the “Plaza”, and the Bahnhofstrasse and Löwenstrasse passages. Its design is the same as in the Museumstrasse through station of the S-Bahn and is dominated by black and white striped marble panels. The conclusion in 2014 was the “Halle Sihlpost” and the Gessnerallee passage, also on behalf of SBB and as a supplement to the Sihlquai passage. There is light granite on the floor, the partially sloping ceiling is made of white sheet metal and the walls are covered with white enamel panels. On a small mezzanine between the station concourse and Shopville is the Zurich station church , which opened in June 2001 and is an interfaith offer for travelers and passers-by.


Depot F
View of the station

The area to the west of the main train station, which extends from the track hall over a distance of around four kilometers to Altstetten train station , is known as the "Vorbahnhof". It encompasses an extensive, complex track field with the confluence of several lines, sidings , maintenance facilities, parking facilities , main workshops and locomotive depots (including the listed depot F from 1899). As its width is up to 400 m, the forecourt forms a distinctive bar that motorized traffic can only cross in four places (underpass Langstrasse , Hardbrücke , Duttweilerbrücke and Europabrücke ). The S-Bahn station of the same name is located under the Hardbrücke .

Most of the track field between Hafnerstrasse and Europabrücke is a municipal nature reserve. In addition, the Nature & Economy Foundation has certified the area as a natural area. It is home to one of the largest populations of wall lizards north of the Alps. The first wall lizards probably came here through freight traffic. Other animal species that are promoted on the site are the blue-winged sand insect , the yellow-bellied toad and wild bees . There are also numerous bird and insect species as well as foxes. Regular measures support native plants and stop the spread of alien plants. So gravel and sand strips were created for the wall lizard, over which they can network. In addition, the SBB set up gabions with stones along the tracks , where the wall lizards can sunbathe or hide to winter. The SBB created small spawning grounds for the yellow-bellied toads.

Several overpasses allow trains to enter and exit the roads without crossing . Four bridges protrude from it. From the south side, the Aussersihl Viaduct (834 m) , built in 1894, crosses the track field in a wide curve and leads north towards Wipkingen . It is part of the shortest connection between the main train station and Oerlikon train station in the north of the city. In 1969 it was extended to include the Hardturm Viaduct (1134 m) further to the west, which begins on the north side and also enables direct journeys between Altstetten and Oerlikon. The Kohlendreieck Bridge (394 m) and the Letzigraben Bridge (1156 m), both of which are part of the Altstetten – Zurich HB – Oerlikon diameter line, have been in operation since 2015 . The latter is the longest railway bridge in Switzerland.

The Negrellisteg is currently under construction , a 160 m long bridge for pedestrians and cyclists that will cross the track at the central signal box from the end of 2020. A special feature is a non-public level crossing with a barrier that crosses twelve tracks. It is located directly to the east of the Duttweiler Bridge and leads from Hohlstrasse to the maintenance and washing facility in the middle of the track field. Depot F, located by the Aussersihl Viaduct and surrounded by tracks, can be reached via Remisenstrasse, which leads through a narrow and around 200 m long non-public tunnel.

The forecourt once also served as a marshalling yard until the Zurich-Limmattal marshalling yard between Dietikon and Spreitenbach was completed in 1978. As the additional overpass structures required more and more space, the sidings gradually fell away. For this reason, the SBB built the new Herdern parking and maintenance system between the Hardbrücke and Altstetten stations and put it into operation in November 2000. The facility consists of a double-track maintenance hall for passenger trains, a single-track hall for thorough cleaning of the trains and a continuous washing system for cleaning the exterior. There is also a storage area with 24 tracks, which together are 15 km long. The Zurich freight yard , which was in operation from 1897 to 2009 , once stood southwest of the Kohlendreieck Bridge . Most of it was demolished in 2013, giving way to the police and justice center of the canton of Zurich. The remaining parts of the building of the freight yard are also to be demolished in 2021.

Rail mail cars were initially loaded and unloaded in the northeast wing of the station concourse, which increasingly disrupted other rail operations. In 1930 the PTT and the District Directorate III of the SBB moved to the Sihlpost , which was built on Kasernenstrasse immediately southwest of the main station. In its rear area, the facility had seven (from 1988 four) its own tracks, which were combined to form a covered terminal station. From 1938 a driverless post underground train with a length of 340 m was available, which established a connection to the post office in the south wing of the station hall and was in operation until October 11, 1980. Their tunnel ran parallel to track 1 under the sidewalk of the post bridge to the basement of the Sihlpost. The Postbahnhof was demolished in 2009 and today there are buildings in the Europaallee area .


Zurich's first train station

View of the first train station from 1847, painted by Johann Ba ptist Isenring

In May 1836, the Zurich Chamber of Commerce applied for a loan from the Government Council of the Canton of Zurich to measure a railway line from Basel to Zurich . At a conference convened by the Chamber of Commerce, the Basel-Zurich Railway Company was founded in October 1837 . This commissioned the Austrian engineer Alois Negrelli to draw up detailed route studies and examine possible links to existing railways abroad. The narrow strip of land between the Sihl and the Schanzengraben in the area of ​​the Löwen- and Seidenhof bulwarks was planned as the location of Zurich train station . Due to the uncertain political situation ( Züriputsch in 1839 and Aargauer Klosterstreit 1841) Negrelli's plans could not be carried out and the society dissolved in December 1841. Under the leadership of the silk manufacturer Martin Escher , a committee was formed in May 1845 that resumed planning and in March 1846 founded the Swiss Northern Railway . The first railway company in Switzerland succeeded in building at least the 23 km long section through the Limmat Valley to Baden , the " Spanish Brötli Railway " , which opened on August 7, 1847 .

Floor plan of the first station

The architect Gustav Albert Wegmann had received the order from Nordbahn to plan the station building, station halls and fencing, while Negrelli was responsible for the planning of the entire system and the operational processes. An architect by the name of Meyer designed ancillary buildings such as the boiler house and locomotive shed. The Bürgergemeinde Zurich presented in 1846 a portion of between Limmat located and Sihl municipal shooting range as a free plot available. In keeping with the Swiss architectural zeitgeist of the time, which aimed at the greatest economy and the avoidance of any luxury, Wegmann created a complex that was as symmetrical as possible in a simple late classicist style that was modeled on a post office . In order to clearly separate arriving and departing travelers, he designed a northern arrival hall with baggage claim and a southern departure hall with a reception building. Both parts of the station together formed a “fake” terminal station and each had two tracks; there was also an uncovered siding in the middle. The five tracks continued a few meters further to the vicinity of the banks of the Limmat, where they joined together in a turntable .

The only decoration of the reception building were four medallions on the facade on the Limmat side. In contrast to other railway companies, the Nordbahn tolerated the accentuation of the system by towers, which were common in Germany and France, but were considered unnecessary ornament in Switzerland. Multi-storey corner projections flanked the arcaded facades. The accent in the middle sat a slender, all outstanding roof skylights with widely visible station clock . Inside, a spacious, broad front and entrance hall dominated the ground floor. On the west side there were the 3rd class waiting room , the baggage office and service rooms, on the east side the 1st and 2nd class waiting rooms with restaurant and kitchen.

Planning a new building

At the initiative of the entrepreneur Alfred Escher , the Nordbahn merged with the Zurich-Bodenseebahn on July 1, 1853 to form the Swiss Northeast Railway (NOB). Since the completion of the line to Romanshorn on Lake Constance was foreseeable, the new railway company considered building a larger station at another location. In 1854, the Technical Bureau of the NOB, under the direction of the engineer August von Beckh, presented three proposals that would all place the station as close as possible to existing traffic and business centers (shipping area, post office and department store ). The first proposal envisaged a branch line from the existing train station along the Fröschengraben (today's Bahnhofstrasse ) to a freight station on the shores of Lake Zurich . With the second suggestion, the main train station should be located directly on the lakeshore, roughly in the area of ​​today's Bürkliplatz . The third proposal included a passenger station at Neumarkt (today Paradeplatz ) and a freight station at the lake. The second proposal was most popular with the city population, especially since they were convinced of the economic importance of shipping on Lake Zurich .

In a report commissioned by the NOB, engineers Robert Wilke and Friedrich Busse advised against relocating the station near the lake. They were of the opinion that the traffic in the direction of Bern and western Switzerland would be much more important in the future than that upstream. On this basis, the NOB board of directors decided on November 25, 1854 to keep the old location. From 1856 to 1858 the existing station was provisionally expanded to accommodate the additional trains of the now completed Bodenseebahn and the Baden line extended to Aarau and Waldshut . Among other things, further facilities for rail operations such as the main workshop, freight station, remise, warehouses and customs office were built west of the Sihl. In 1860 the NOB management announced a public competition. The competition program required a terminal station with a pillar-free, 105 × 39 m station hall. It made precise specifications for the arrangement of the rooms for passenger traffic and railway administration. The management then invited four renowned architects: Johann Jakob Breitinger , Gottfried Semper , Ferdinand Stadler and Leonhard Zeugheer . With the exception of the Zurich State Building Inspector Johann Caspar Wolff , the names of the judges are not known.

In May 1861 the project drafts were available. Breitinger, who had already designed several train stations for the NOB and the United Swiss Railways, was inspired by the Gare de l'Est in Paris : large station hall with round arches and open iron construction of the elongated hall roof. Semper oriented himself towards classical Roman utility buildings with a monumental effect, whereby he wanted to shape the front side against the Limmat with a mighty triumphal gate and cover the iron girders of the roof with wooden cladding. He was referring to the old Braunschweig train station built by Carl Theodor Ottmer . Stadler wanted to encase the station concourse with a multi-tower building complex based on the model of English station hotels of the time, while the roof structure should be French. Zeugheer's design was reserved, sober and strictly symmetrical, hiding the hall behind stone buildings. NOB chief architect Jakob Friedrich Wanner received the competition plans and used them as the basis for his own project, to which he made numerous detailed changes from 1863 onwards on the recommendation of the management. After a further assessment of all drafts in January 1865, the board of directors unanimously agreed with Alfred Escher and decided in favor of Wanner. On August 24, 1865, the Zurich city council issued the building permit .

The train station from 1871

Construction work on the new train station in 1870
Bahnhofplatz with Escher memorial and horse tram (approx. 1890)

Wanner's first draft from 1862 was still based on that of Zeugheer, after which he was more inspired by Semper. He also drew from numerous other sources, especially during a study trip to France and Belgium in 1863 and 1864, which he undertook on behalf of the NOB. In this way, he created an architecturally independent building that was convincing in terms of overall disposition, organization and design. In fact, in 1869 in the Deutsche Bauzeitung , Semper explicitly emphasized that it had nothing to do with the final design of the station. Wanner developed his design from the track hall, but, in contrast to Semper, moved the center of gravity of the system from the front to the long side at the station square . Similar to the Gare du Nord in Paris , he placed a broad, symmetrical building complex in front of the hall for the reception and handling of passengers and for the railway administration. As with the Gare du Midi in Brussels , he designed the main entrance as a triumphal gate. It marks the end of Bahnhofstrasse and forms a kind of city gate into the world.

Construction work began in October 1865. While the builders Jakob Diener and Christoph Hetzler carried out the masonry and stone-cutting work, Friedrich Ulrich was responsible for the carpentry work. The hall wall and wing structures on Bahnhofplatz were completed at the end of 1866. After a temporary station building was put into operation in 1867, the demolition of the old station began because it stood in the way of the south wing. After the completion of the Limmat facade, Klett & Comp. from Nuremberg the hall construction. In 1868 the station hall was covered and the shell was completed at the end of 1869 . The interior work was delayed due to a cholera epidemic and an accident involving Wanner, who broke his leg falling into the basement, as well as the Franco-German War . The new six-track building was finally put into operation on October 15, 1871. Like its predecessor, it was a fake terminal station with the reception building parallel to the tracks. Wanner had organized the floor plan in such a way that the streams of travelers were clearly directed. From the entrance, the first and second class passengers went to the right to the ticket counters, the third class passengers to the left. They reached the restaurant or glazed atriums via corridors . This was followed by the waiting rooms , which were separated according to car classes , near the platforms. The main exit was at the front of the Limmat.

The old train station was relatively poorly connected to the city, either by a narrow bridge over the Schanzengraben or by the wooden long bridge over the Limmat, which had existed since 1662 . City engineer Arnold Bürkli replaced the Langen Steg in 1863 with the station bridge , and in 1864/65 the Bahnhofstrasse leading to the lake was built . Thus, the new station had modern access roads from the start. Bürkli was also responsible for the overall planning of the representative station district on the former Schützenwiese immediately south of the station. While the houses built there according to uniform design regulations were initially primarily used for residential purposes, the station district developed into a posh business district around 1880. Seen from the city center, the train station looked very cosmopolitan, but the suburban community of Aussersihl, located immediately to the west, became a place of residence for the lower classes of the population. Along the railway lines and around the operating facilities, extensive industrial plants and poor residential areas were built, in which the residents lived in a confined space. The strong social contrast between the neighboring districts persisted in part until the early 21st century.

Further new building plans

Soon after the opening of the new station, the NOB planned to expand it, as several additional rail lines to Zurich had been built or would soon be added. The system received a lot of recognition, but also had shortcomings. The earth dam on the Winterthur line , which began near the hall, prevented the track system from being expanded. The dam was so steep that long trains to Oerlikon a second locomotive biased be had. In addition, the freight transport facilities were inefficiently distributed over several locations. The NOB senior engineers Robert Moser and Theodor Weiss worked with external experts (including Robert Gerwig and Emil Hartwich ) on a project that existed in 1874 and provided for the complete separation of passenger and freight traffic. Because of the Great Depression, there was not enough money for the implementation, and after the bankruptcy of the national railway , the Federal Council imposed a ten-year rail construction moratorium. Finally, after a two-year construction period, the Aussersihl Viaduct was opened in 1894 , which enabled the Winterthur line to be routed significantly better in operational terms and the connection of the Zurichseebahn on the right bank with the Lettentunnel .

Former freight yard in 2016, before demolition

After the railway crisis of the 1870s, train frequencies gradually increased again. The volume of passenger and freight traffic also increased, so that Wanner's train station reached its capacity limits. Various architects and engineers made suggestions for expansion, none of which were implemented. Emil Hartwich had already suggested in 1874 that the right bank of the Zürichseebahn should run on a viaduct north of the station hall. In 1888 Alfred Chiodera propagated a riding station further west at the height of Löwenstrasse . In 1894 Jacques Gros wanted to build a new terminal station west of the Sihl, while Heinrich Ernst wanted to build a through station on Langstrasse in 1896 .

As a result of the incorporation of several suburbs, Zurich received additional train stations in 1893. The existing Zurich train station, the only one in the original urban area, was henceforth called the main train station. In the same year, the NOB presented a revised expansion project, which was essentially limited to track shifts and met resistance from shareholders. A finance group led by Adolf Guyer-Zeller secured a majority of votes at the General Assembly in 1894 and replaced the NOB management, which then put the previous project on file. A new project from 1895 brought operational advantages, but neglected essential urban planning requirements. The NOB wanted to move the passenger station to the left bank of the Sihl and speculatively sell the vacated area. However, the donation agreement of 1846 stipulated that the site would revert to the city as soon as it was no longer used for rail operations. As a result, the NOB was no longer interested in a move. In 1897 she opened the Zurich freight yard on Hohlstrasse, and two years later the locomotive depot F in the “coal triangle”.

Above-ground extensions

Aerial photo of balloon pioneer Eduard Spelterini (1907)
Soldiers in World War I, one of the corner towers that was demolished in 1930 can be seen

On February 20, 1898, in an optional referendum , the Swiss electorate passed the “Federal Act on Swiss Federal Railways”, which provided for the nationalization of the five largest private railways, including the NOB. The law led to the establishment of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), which were responsible for the main train station from January 1, 1902. Although the end of the NOB was in sight, they rebuilt the passenger station from 1897 to 1902 in two stages according to plans by Theodor Weiss. The six existing tracks in the station hall were on the one hand shortened to the level of Bahnhofstrasse and terminated with a wide head platform , on the other hand the central barrier was extended over the Sihl. To the north of this, outside the hall, there were two additional roofed central blocks with two tracks each. A new main exit to the station square was built in place of the previous baggage handling . The third-class waiting room and restaurant were moved from the south to the new north-east wing, where the rail post office was also located. Baggage handling, in turn, occupied the space that had become free between the head platform and the exit to the Bahnhofquai. As a result of the redesign, the previous clear control of travelers was no longer applicable. In 1904, the SBB added an eleventh track on the north side.

The converted station was already full again after only a decade and a half, which is why the SBB presented a “General Project for the Zurich Station Extension” in 1916. It was never realized, but individual elements were incorporated into later projects, for example the relocation of the entire postal service to the neighboring Sihlpost in 1930. A group of experts set up by the city and canton of Zurich under the direction of Karl Moser was critical of the “general project” . She recommended the demolition of Wanner's reception building and, without being asked, presented two new construction variants: a through station in an elevated position at the previous location and a monumental terminus on Löwenstrasse with a significantly expanded station square. She also suggested that the Sihl Valley-Zurich-Uetliberg Railway be brought up to the main train station - a project that would not be implemented until seven decades later.

In 1915, the Zurich city council announced the ideas competition "Gross-Zurich", the aim of which was to put urban planning on a sound basis. Due to the First World War and the Spanish flu , the submission date was delayed until 1919. Some of the questions examined by the participants also concerned the reorganization of rail traffic. For example, the competition winners Konrad Hippenmeier and Albert Bodmer planned a new U-shaped terminus at Löwenstrasse. In addition to his earlier proposal, Karl Moser also brought a north-south through station west of Langstrasse into play, whereby the railway area that was freed up was to be expanded into a splendid avenue. None of the ideas were followed up, not least because of the lack of interest from SBB.

Instead, the SBB developed the existing location under the direction of its chief engineer Alexander Acatos . Between 1923 and 1927, they electrified all routes leading to the main station. In 1924 there was another expansion project that was to be implemented over a period of 15 to 20 years. It was staged in such a way that the final decision between a terminus or a through station only had to be made at a relatively late point in time. The first project was the locomotive depot G, which went into operation in 1927. In 1929/30 the platforms were extended by 125 m to the west, which necessitated the construction of several new bridges over the Sihl. The Theodor Bell & Cie. a multi-aisle track hall with space for 16 instead of the previous eleven tracks. This increased the width of the passenger station from 68 to 122 m. Conrad Zschokke designed the transverse hall between the platform and the station hall with the new head platform, accessed through an entrance from Löwenstrasse. The architecture of the new buildings was deliberately kept simple, as they were supposed to be replaced after two decades at the latest. During the renovation, the station concourse had to be shortened somewhat, which is why it lost the two western corner towers.

Permanent provisional

Cross and Gleishalle (1939)

The track hall and the transverse hall were only intended as a temporary measure until the final renovation of the main station, but still exist today. When the city authorities received the final project from SBB District Directorate III in March 1931, they reacted very critically, as none of their previously expressed wishes regarding the placement of individual business units had been taken into account. In the meantime, various architects insisted on presenting further high-flying plans to the public. Ultimately, the SBB decided to drop all planning and keep the renovation to a minimum. This included new restaurants and service rooms as well as a one-story pavilion in the vacated part of the station concourse, which offered space for various services. This work was completed in 1933. Two years later, a parking garage for cars was added on the unused area between the station hall and Museumstrasse.

The 1924 project got stuck halfway. In 1934, the SBB definitely decided not to build a through station and closed their “study office for the expansion of Zurich station”. However, several problems remained. The largest was the luggage transport, which took place at ground level and crossed the flow of passengers. The ticket and information counters, waiting rooms and toilets were too small or poorly located. After the passenger frequencies fell during the Great Depression, they rose again quickly and the hall tracks were already overloaded again in the mid-1940s. The platforms have been 350 m long since the expansion, but only 280 m were effectively usable. Due to the short train length, more trains had to run, which further restricted capacity. The parking and shunting systems were too small, poorly located or too far apart. Likewise, the approach tracks were not arranged according to traffic relations and freight trains to and from Oerlikon or Meilen even had to make a hairpin on track 9.

In 1943, the SBB set up a new study office. After examining and discarding two variants of a through station, it presented a new terminus station project in 1946 - with 21 tracks, a station building shifted to the west, platforms up to 420 m in length and an enlarged station square. It was also planned to introduce the right-bank Zurichseebahn directly underground into the main station ( realized 43 years later in the form of the Hirschengraben tunnel). A new, angular, commercially usable reception building was to be created - with a 30 m high main wing along the Sihl and a side wing between Museumstrasse and the widened Bahnhofplatz. The SBB anticipated a construction time of up to 40 years. As this seemed to the city and cantonal government to be far too long, the SBB commissioned transport scientist Edmund Frohne to provide an expert opinion, which was available in September 1951. Frohne was of the opinion that a further expansion of the passenger station was not necessary. Instead, the traffic flows should be unbundled, in particular through a marshalling yard in the Limmat Valley , the reorganization of the forecourt, a modern signal box and the construction of a second double lane to Oerlikon. The SBB framework project from 1954 largely took his suggestions into account and formed the basis for all expansions over the next three decades.

First underground expansion

Development of the Shopville
yellow: first stage from 1970
green: expansion through new building at Museumstrasse station (1990)
red: expansion through new building at Löwenstrasse station (2014)

As a result of the mass motorization that began in the 1950s, the traffic situation in the vicinity of the station began to worsen massively, which is why the city planners strove to make the streets suitable for cars. The station bridge was widened between 1950 and 1952, and the station quay was moved into a tunnel in 1952/53 under the axis station bridge / station square. For this purpose, a narrow branch of the Limmat was drained, thereby connecting the island of Papierwerd with the mainland. The Zürcher Expressstrassen-Y project, presented in 1955, called for a system of motorways in the city center. Nationalstrasse 3 would have been led with a viaduct over the rail hall of the main station. A later variant of the project envisaged a tunnel, but the Y ultimately failed due to strong political resistance.

The municipal civil engineering department also planned to lay all tram lines around the main train station in tunnels and to build a stop seven meters below the station square. This four-track tunnel station was a central part of the underground railway project , which envisaged tunnel sections totaling 21.15 km in length. However, the Tiefbahn failed quite clearly in the municipal referendum of April 1, 1962 with 63.0% no votes. Only a few months later, a motion in the local council called for the construction of a pedestrian level under the station square. A corresponding project was already in place at the end of the year; on February 2, 1964, it was clearly adopted in a local referendum. In 1967 construction began on Shopville . The primary goal of this shopping arcade was to ban pedestrians under the station square and to leave them exclusively to road traffic. When it opened on October 1, 1970, the square had become “free for pedestrians”, and the train station and tram stops were only accessible via stairs and escalators.

As a precautionary measure, the central pillars and side walls of a planned subway station had been built in Shopville as a preliminary construction work . Shortly after the rejection of the underground railway project, the planning for the Zurich subway began, which was marked by the seemingly limitless growth euphoria of the 1960s. In the first phase, a line was planned from Dietikon via the main train station to Kloten , with branch lines to Zurich Airport and Schwamendingen . After initial optimism, the subway project (which was linked to the construction of an S-Bahn that was also planned ) also failed significantly on May 20, 1973 in referendums at cantonal and communal level. This rejection was not an isolated event, because in the course of the oil crisis of 1973 all major projects at the time failed. The no to the subway marked a turning point in Zurich's traffic planning and gradually led to a departure from the principle of the car-friendly city.

The station concourse escapes demolition

Pavilions in the hall (1959)
Locomotive of the SBB Re 4/4 I series (1975)
The Hardturm Viaduct to the Käferberg Tunnel

In the meantime, the SBB implemented the framework project from 1954, with practically all of the work being carried out in the front station or further away. Numerous sub-projects were implemented under the direction of the SBB in-house architect Max Vogt . Although the demolition of the station concourse was planned in the long term, it had to be continuously adapted to the changing requirements. However, the hall offered enough space for new services. In 1958, two functional pavilion buildings, each with two floors, were built there. The eastern one, designed by Max Vogt, comprised a luggage customs office, lost property office and bicycle storage hall. In the western one, a work by Fedor Altherr , there was the information desk and a cinema in which short films and newsreels were shown in constant repetitions. From 1959 the airline Swissair rented the car park on Museumstrasse and set up a travel agency and a waiting room in it; Until 1980 buses ran from the Swissair Terminus to Zurich Airport . The collection, housed in a single-storey wooden extension since 1930, required more space. For this reason, a two-storey new building was built behind the north wall of the station hall in 1967, but it was only intended as a temporary measure, as a new construction of the now derelict station was expected.

For this purpose, SBB, the canton and the city formed a working committee in 1965. Four years later, the resulting authority delegation for Regional Transport Zurich (RVZ) announced a public ideas competition. Required were platforms extended by 45 m, a bus station, 4,000 parking spaces and a consistent focus on commercial needs. The competition participants were free to decide whether or not the station concourse should be preserved. The top-class jury comprised 18 judges, five deputies and six experts, including the architects Alberto Camenzind , Werner Stücheli and Karl Schwanzer . 57 received drafts were publicly exhibited in January 1971. Max Ziegler's winning project “Bagage” was consistently based on a grid of hexagons and comprised two towers for hotel and office use. Only a few projects wanted to leave the station concourse. The jury wrote: "It has been shown that it is hardly possible to incorporate the old building in its entirety into the redesign without impairing the requirements." At most, the inclusion of fragments can be justified.

A project competition was to follow on this basis, but beforehand the RVZ had obtained expertise from Suter + Suter and Elektrowatt . The working group modified Ziegler's design in various places according to technocratic points of view and expected a construction time of 20 years. As soon as she had finished her work in April 1973, the rejection of the subway project and the oil crisis followed, which put an abrupt end to all discussions about new construction. In the meantime, the SBB had started to deal more intensively with questions of monument preservation . The European Monument Protection Year proclaimed by the Council of Europe in 1975 , the growth-critical zeitgeist and a new appreciation of historic buildings also contributed to a change of heart. Finally, in 1978 the station concourse was placed under protection as a cultural asset of national importance . Extensive restoration work had already begun in autumn 1976 and lasted until spring 1980. They largely affected the facades, while inside they were limited to the first-class restaurant in the south wing. In 1982, the eastern pavilion in the station concourse was demolished so that this part could be built with a basement. The storage rooms and kitchens of the catering establishments were combined in the new cellar. In place of the pavilion, new temporary buildings soon occupied the area.

From June 1, 1980, the airport line enabled direct rail connections to the airport via Oerlikon. At first it could only be used to a limited extent, as all trains had to run from the main train station via the Aussersihl Viaduct and through the Wipkingertunnel , both of which were reaching their capacity limits. The Käferberg tunnel further to the west had been available since June 1, 1969, but at that time it was used exclusively for goods traffic and could only be approached from Altstetten station . This changed two years later when the SBB opened a short connection to the Hardturm Viaduct on May 23, 1982, which connects to the Käferberg tunnel to the south. On the same day, the Hardbrücke station on the north side of the track apron was opened and the cycle timetable was introduced on all lines leading to the main station (it had existed in isolation on the right bank of the Zürichseebahn since 1968).

S-Bahn and SZU station

The debates before the underground referendums of 1973 had shown that an S-Bahn would have been largely undisputed if it had been possible to vote on it separately. The cantonal civil engineering office therefore immediately resumed the detailed planning. On November 29, 1981, three years after approval by the Zurich Cantonal Council , the voters of the Canton of Zurich approved the construction of the Zurich S-Bahn with a yes share of 73.8%. The project comprised the Hirschengraben tunnel from the main train station to Stadelhofen and the subsequent Zürichberg tunnel to Stettbach , with a connection to the existing routes in Dietlikon and Dübendorf . The groundbreaking ceremony for the main S-Bahn line took place on March 17, 1983 on Zollstrasse. There, the express goods building built in 1863 had to give way to the later tunnel portal.

Construction site of the Museumstrasse tunnel station (1987)

The S-Bahn station was built under Museumstrasse, and the architects Robert Haussmann and Trix Haussmann-Högl and Hansruedi Stierli were responsible for planning . Using the cover construction method, the workers first created the diaphragm walls and then concreted the supporting ceiling directly on the ground. This work was initially concentrated on the Landemuseum side, then in the middle of the street. For the third phase, the two northernmost tracks and part of the roof had to be temporarily removed. The trains stopping there used two temporary tracks on the Eilgut area from June 3, 1984. The remote temporary facility was nicknamed “Bahnhof Nebenwil” and remained in operation until September 29, 1985. Excavation began under the completed cover in July 1985. From November 1985 a 600 m long conveyor belt was available to remove the soil and load it onto freight trains in the temporary station. The top-down construction was also used to cross under the Sihl. For the duration of the work, the five passage openings were closed with sheet pile walls in three stages . Immediately to the west of it, parallel to the river, walls and covers of a road tunnel to be built later were erected as preliminary construction work. The covered ramp to the tunnel portal was created in an open construction pit . On May 28, 1989, the Museumstrasse tunnel station was partially opened for regional trains to Rapperswil and Bülach .

The SBB expected a marked increase in passenger numbers. In order to be able to cope with future passenger flows, the platforms in the track hall were widened from 7.5 to 9.9 m. Space for this could be gained by lifting the narrow luggage locks between the tracks. As a replacement, glass superstructures with baggage lifts were built at the platform ends, with which the carts get to a new sorting center in the basement. At the same time, the platforms were raised from 25 to 55 cm. Entrances down to the underpass between Kasernenstrasse and Sihlquai were also created. It had already been built by the city in 1930, but has not yet been connected to the train station. An extensive distribution level with an H-shaped network of paths, also designed by the architects Haussmann, was created under the station hall as an extension of the Shopville . In May 1988, all the buildings in the hall were torn down, including the cinema, which had been closed since 1985. For the first time ever, the historic station concourse was completely empty.

An SZU train is waiting in the new terminus (1990)

Another important project was the connection of the Sihltal-Zürich-Uetliberg-Bahn to the main station. Since 1875 and 1892, the lines from Uetliberg and Sihltal have ended in the peripheral Selnau terminus . After the planners had initially considered a short variant with a terminus under the river in front of the Sihlpost, they decided in favor of the subway station under the Shopville, which had been partially built, was much better placed and was never used. On February 27, 1983, the voters of the Canton of Zurich approved the project with a yes share of 67.5%. Most of the new line runs directly under the Sihl. During the construction work, sheet piling was used to dry out the river bed so that the tunnel could be dug and concreted in an open construction pit. At the terminus, an additional two and a half meters had to be dug to accommodate the SZU trains. Two and a half years after the groundbreaking on March 4, 1986, the shell was completed in autumn 1988. The interior architects Keller, Bachmann and Partner were responsible for the design of the terminus . The SZU extension was opened on May 5, 1990, three weeks later the Museumstrasse S-Bahn station and the Zurich S-Bahn were fully operational on May 27.

In the course of the construction of the S-Bahn, the northeast wing of the station hall was demolished in 1983/84, whereby the stones were stored for the planned reconstruction true to the original. However, the SBB management changed their mind and in August 1986 General Director Hans Eisenring presented plans for a completely new wing with a rail travel center. He was of the opinion that contemporary architects should be given a chance and that maintaining “mediocre architecture” was a masquerade. With this statement, he triggered a storm of indignation among monument conservationists and politicians. The Federal Office of Transport took the side of the SBB and approved the project by architect Ralph Baenziger in October 1987 . The Swiss Homeland Security filed a complaint with the Federal Council . She turned it down in the summer of 1990. At least the complainants were able to achieve partial success. the reconstruction of the restaurant for third-class passengers and the former post gate. The SBB as well as the city and canton authorities had also agreed to lower the ridge and move the attic floor back so that the building appears less bulky. After five years of construction, the new northeast wing was ceremoniously opened in October 1996. The old stones were disposed of in 1994.

Second diameter line

Pitched roof on the north side of the track hall (2005)

In the years 1988 to 1992 the south wing of the station concourse was restored. In 1992, after almost a quarter of a century, Bahnhofplatz was given pedestrian crossings again , so that passers-by can walk from Bahnhofstrasse through the Triumphpforte without having to go down to Shopville. In 1995/95 further restorations followed in the south wing. On August 8, 1997, the SBB celebrated the 150th anniversary of the main station. For this purpose, workers laid a provisional track in the station hall for the duration of the festival weekend, from which historical special trains ran to Baden and back. A replica of the SNB D 1/3 , the first locomotive in Switzerland, constructed fifty years earlier was used . Another construction project was completed in time for the anniversary. Between 1995 and 1997, the track hall received sloping roofs on both sides on inclined concrete supports, designed by the architects Meili, Peter & Partner (supported by Kaschka Knapkiewicz and Axel Fickert). They replaced unsightly temporary arrangements made of red steel and green sheet metal. The architects emphasized that with this conspicuous intervention they wanted to open up the train station to the city and make both long sides appear equal.

In 1997, the SBB tendered the four-track expansion of the access from Wipkingen station . For those S-Bahn lines that do not run through the tunnel station, a wing station should be built at Sihlpost. These plans met with criticism from city and cantonal authorities. They were particularly bothered by the fact that the wing station and Museumstrasse station would be up to 850 m apart. In 1998, the population of city districts 5 and 10 organized themselves in the “Crazy the Viaduct” committee to defend themselves against the expansion of the Aussersihl Viaduct. After around 220 objections were received, the SBB promised to examine alternatives. On its own initiative, the Steiger und Partner office presented a project study for a second through station in October 1998. A cantonal popular initiative submitted by the Swiss Transport Club (VCS) in May 1999 , which received support from all political camps, gave the idea additional impetus. In November 2000, the SBB presented a counter-proposal that went far beyond the demands of the initiative: the Altstetten – Zurich HB – Oerlikon cross-city line should not only serve S-Bahn traffic, but also create additional capacity for long-distance traffic. The cantonal council approved the project without opposition with 142: 0 votes, the cantonal referendum on September 23, 2001 resulted in an approval of 81.9%. The politically undesirable wing station was built anyway, but as a temporary measure for the duration of the construction work on the diameter line. It was located between the Gleishalle and Sihlpost at the level of Kasernenstrasse. From June 12, 2002, the Sihlpost station comprised initially two and from December 12, 2004 four tracks with the numbers 51 to 54. They were located on two covered central blocks of 340 m length on which pavilions stood. S-Bahn and long-distance trains departed here on the left bank of the Lake Zurich Railway.

Construction work on the diameter line (2009)

Also in 2002, an architectural competition for the through station Löwenstrasse was held, which Jean-Pierre Dürig won. The actual work on the cross-city link did not begin until September 2007, but construction machinery had already arrived at the main station five years earlier. By the end of 2004, the platforms of the above-ground terminus station were extended; At the same time, the ceilings, outer walls and pillars of the western part of the through station were also concreted. From 2005 to 2008 the Sihlquai passage was widened from 10 to 35 m and significantly increased. The shell of the road tunnel next to the Sihl, which had been partially built two decades earlier, was also completed. The entire excavation material could then be transported through this to the loading facility on Zollstrasse. As with the Museumstrasse station, the construction of the Löwenstrasse through station had to drain the Sihl in three stages by closing the passage openings so that a cavity could be excavated underneath. The system not only had to support the river bed, but also the track and platform bridges above it. The conditions under the track hall were simpler. By shortening three tracks by 100 m each, a ground-level construction site could be created, from which the excavation was carried out in four stages using the cover construction method. A temporary foundation was pushed under the south wing and hydraulic presses were installed so that the structure could be adjusted if necessary.

The 4.8 km long Weinberg tunnel connects directly to the underpass of the south wing . It was driven from Oerlikon in the direction of the main train station from October 2008, and the breakthrough was celebrated on November 22, 2010. On June 15, 2014, the cross-city line was initially commissioned for three S-Bahn lines, with the inauguration as part of a large station festival and the maiden voyage with Federal Councilor Doris Leuthard and invited guests three days earlier. The SBB no longer needed the wing station and dismantled it by the end of 2014. With the completion of the Letzigraben Bridge and the Kohlendreieck Bridge , the diameter line was also opened for long-distance traffic on October 26, 2015.

From HB Südwest to Europaallee

For more than five decades there have been several attempts to commercially use the area south-west of the main train station occupied by the Sihlpost tracks . In 1969, the SBB announced the HB Südwest ideas competition . Max Ziegler's winning project failed due to political resistance and the oil crisis; Likewise, the protection of the station prevented overly radical interventions. The second competition in 1978 took the changed framework conditions into account, so the project by Ralph Baenziger, Claudia Bersin and Jakob Schilling was significantly smaller. On September 22, 1985, those eligible to vote had to decide on a local people's initiative , which demanded a design plan with a further significantly reduced floor space, and they rejected it with 70.7%. The private promoters tried to capitalize on the favorable outcome of the vote and enlarged the project by half. Since the changes required a new building permit, a referendum was held against it . On September 25, 1988, a narrow majority of 50.7% voted in favor of the design plan. Disputes among the project partners and the bursting of the real estate bubble caused the project to fail in 1992.

In 1996, a group of investors relaunched the project under the name Eurogate . In March 1997, it received planning permission, which was subject to numerous conditions. As a result, there were legal disputes with the city and the VCS. In 1999 investors no longer considered the project profitable enough and dropped it. In the same year a new group of investors took over the project and developed it further. In the meantime, the SBB had started planning the Löwenstrasse station, the supporting pillars of which stood in the way of the planned development . All those involved insisted on their point of view and were not prepared to compromise, which is why Eurogate also failed in April 2001. The work on the diameter line made it impossible to reuse the area for more than a decade.

In 2003, the SBB, the City of Zurich and the Post formed a planning partnership to bring their opposing ideas under one roof. They initiated a joint project called Stadtraum HB . In December 2004, the SBB submitted a design plan, which the local council approved in January 2006. A committee held a referendum against this decision. It criticized the fact that the public was largely excluded from the planning process and feared gentrification of the neighborhood. On September 24, 2006, the design plan received an approval of 65.5% in the local referendum. Construction work began three years later under the changed name Europaallee . From 2012 the buildings on the eight construction sites could be occupied. This includes a shopping arcade, the Zurich University of Education , several office complexes, 400 apartments, a hotel and a cinema. Completion is scheduled for the course of 2020.

Current development

The 191 m long and 25 m wide section of the road tunnel next to the Sihl, which began in the late 1980s and the shell was completed two decades later, still has no access to the rest of the road network and is occasionally used as an exhibition space. Since a link with the motorway network is now unlikely for ecological reasons, the civil engineering department suggested in 2012 that the tunnel be used as a cycle path and bicycle parking facility. In the municipal “Masterplan and Construction Program Velo” it is noted as part of the “Veloroute Sihl – Limmat” and should lead from Sihlquai on the northwest to Sihlpost on the southwest side of the main station. The civil engineering department expected it to go into operation at the end of 2014. However, massive cost increases of almost 20 times as well as legal disputes between the city, canton and federal government make implementation before 2024 appear questionable.

The south wing of the station concourse is currently being completely renovated. By removing built-in and superstructures, the original structures should be made visible again. The first phase lasted from June 2018 to early 2020 and concerned the basement of the arcade. A kitchen system was built there to supply the catering establishments. The actual renovation of the south wing will take place from the second quarter of 2020 to the end of 2023, and will include work on the roof and the facade.


Zurich main station is the most important hub for Swiss rail traffic. Currently (2020) the following connections are offered:

International long-distance transport

TGV Lyria in Zurich (2014)

Night trains

ÖBB-NightJet in Zurich (2017)

National long-distance transport



The main station is the central hub of the Zurich S-Bahn and is served by 21 lines. Of these, eleven stop at Museumstrasse station (S3, S5, S6, S7, S9, S11, S12, S15, S16, S20, S23) and four at Löwenstrasse station (S2, S8, S14, S19). Four lines depart from the above-ground track hall (S21, S24, S25, S42) and two from the SZU train station (S4, S10).

Night S-Bahn

Seven night S-Bahn lines run through the main station on weekends and during major events in the Zurich area:

Bahnhofplatz / HB stop
Airport bus (around 1971)

Transport links

The main train station is one of the most important hubs of the Zurich tram network and is served by lines 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13 and 14. They stop at one or more stops that are distributed around the building complex: Sihlquai / HB on the north-west side, Bahnhofquai / HB on the east side, Bahnhofplatz / HB and Bahnhofstrasse / HB on the south side and Sihlpost / HB in the south-west. Lines 31 and 46 of the Zurich trolleybus network also connect to the main station. The Zurich Transport Authority is responsible for running all lines . In the immediate vicinity of the main train station is also the landing stage for the National Museum of the Lake Zurich Shipping Company . There are also seven lines of the night bus network .

The Zurich bus station is located northwest of the main train station on Sihlquai and is the central stop for international long-distance bus services . From 1959 to 1980 the airline Swissair operated an express bus line that connected the Swissair terminus on Museumstrasse with Zurich Airport in Kloten , 13 km away . At the beginning, Saurer buses were in use, from 1971 onwards Büssing double-deckers with Hess luggage tags were painted gray and red . The buses covered the distance without stopping in around 35 minutes; they only carried passengers from Swissair and partner airlines with code sharing . With the opening of the SBB airport line , operations ceased.

There are taxi stands at Bahnhofplatz, on Museumstrasse and at the southern exit of the Sihlquai Passage. The number of parking spaces in the immediate vicinity of the main train station is limited, as the city specifically encourages people to use public transport. Parking garages can be found some distance away on Uraniastrasse , Gessnerallee and Sihlquai. The Gessnerallee parking deck existed from 1972 to 2004, a bridge-like construction over the junction of the Schanzengraben into the Sihl. In September 2017, the city administration opened the Zurich Velostation . It is located on Europaplatz at the southern exit of the Sihlquai Passage and offers 1,600 monitored parking spaces for bicycles. The facility, which also includes a repair workshop, is operated by a work integration program run by the non-profit asylum organization in Zurich . It came under fire two years later because it is used significantly less than forecast due to high fees.

Operational aspects

Passenger numbers and train operations

An average of 461,000 passengers use Zurich's main train station every working day, which is only closed for a few hours at night. The closing of the total of 93 lattice gates, swing gates, rolling grilles, lifting gates and sliding gates takes about an hour and is completed - shortly after the arrival of the last train - at half past one. Maintenance and cleaning work is then carried out. From 3:30 p.m. the entrances will gradually be reopened. The first trains leave shortly before 5 a.m., the last after 1 a.m. On Friday and Saturday nights there is also a growing number of night train connections for the Zurich S-Bahn, so that individual access points remain open.

There are almost 3,000 train journeys every day at Zurich main station. This means that a train comes in or out about every 25 seconds. The entire track system is four kilometers long, with a total of around 100 kilometers of track. There are 791 turnouts, 177 main and 799 dwarf signals installed.

Due to its central location in Switzerland and Europe, the main train station quickly established itself as an important transfer hub. Most connections through several European countries go through Switzerland. In addition, most Swiss long-distance trains run to and from Zurich. With the interval timetable introduced in Switzerland in 1982 , Zurich took on a pioneering role and formed the first systematic network node at which long-distance trains arrive every full and half hour and connect to each other according to plan. Zurich was thus the “pacemaker” for other network nodes that were added two decades later with the implementation of Bahn 2000 . Delays and other disruptions at Zurich main train station affect the whole of Switzerland in some cases. In the event of delays, connecting trains wait a maximum of three minutes beyond the scheduled departure time, with the exception of some international trains and late evening trains.

Signal boxes and remote control

For decades, points and signals had to be changed by hand. On the night of September 29th to 30th, 1936, a new electromechanical signal box went into operation. The command signal box was on a bridge across the tracks of the forecourt, roughly at the current ends of the above-ground platforms. On the upper floor of the narrow two-story building was the control room with control levers arranged in four rows one behind the other and the locking register; on the lower floor there were 224 relays and auxiliary devices. Four mechanical and electromechanical substations were distributed decentrally, from where the switches in the outer part of the station, the parking groups and the express goods system could be controlled. Since there were numerous train delays in the first few days of operation due to teething problems, the command signal box was given the nickname “Bridge of Sighs”.

Central signal box (2012)

After three decades, the technology was out of date, especially because of the inability to expand capacity. From 1960 onwards, a 1.7 km long network of cable ducts built by miners and the new central signal box based on plans by Max Vogt were built on the southern edge of the track field. The striking six-storey exposed concrete building has a floor area of ​​40 × 7 m and is 29 m high. Four floors and the basement contained the relays for the security and communication technology, on the ground floor there was a workshop, and at the top there were training rooms and common rooms. On the fifth floor, the command room cantilevered five meters with a view over the entire track field. A switchboard was installed here . Starting in 1963, the commissioning took place step by step, the first train controlled from the central signal box left the main station in the early morning of May 15, 1966. Shortly before the S-Bahn opened in 1990, the SBB grouped the old control desks in the central signal box in a single panorama wall - turned away from the window front, as the view over the track field was no longer necessary for operational reasons.

Although the central signal box was renovated in 2012, it has not been in use since September 2014, as the SBB brought together the control of all trains in Eastern Switzerland in the fully digitized Operations Center East in one building on the grounds of Zurich Airport. Since then, operations have been handled by four train traffic controllers , each responsible for a specific area.


La traviata in the station concourse

According to an agreement between SBB and the Monument Preservation of the Canton of Zurich, the station concourse can be rented for events for up to 225 days a year and provided with temporary structures. According to the 2018 price list, the hall rent for commercial events costs up to CHF 44,000 per day. Up to 39,000 francs are charged for trade fairs and congresses, organizers with sponsorship pay a maximum of 30,000 francs (14,000 francs without sponsorship) and 11,000 francs for markets. This means that SBB earns several million francs in rental income every year. Religious and political events as well as events that are in strong competition with SBB or its tenants in the main station are excluded.

The “ Zurich Christkindlimarkt im Hauptbahnhof ” has been taking place during Advent since 1994. According to Zurich Tourism, it is one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe with 140 stalls . The main focus is on a ten-meter high Christmas tree decorated with thousands of Swarovski crystals. The Züri-Wiesn has been taking place every year since 2007 on 18 days in September and October; Switzerland's largest Oktoberfest based on the Munich model is attended by around 35,000 people. On 30 September 2008 which led Swiss television in collaboration with Arte , the SBB and the Zurich Opera , the opera La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi at the heart of the current station operation. This required a great deal of technical effort. In the main station itself there were neither grandstands nor other spectator seats, the performance was conceived as a pure live broadcast and attracted a lot of media attention.

From 1992 to 2018, a beach volleyball tournament was held in the station hall in April as part of the professional Coop Beach Tour series of events . Since 2010, individual competitions of the World Class Zurich athletics meeting have not been held in the Letzigrund Stadium as usual , but in the station hall. For this purpose, a small temporary system will be set up. The shot put was on the program until 2013 , after a one-year break, pole vault competitions have been held since 2015 .


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  • Werner Huber: Zurich main station . Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich 2015, ISBN 978-3-85881-490-6 .
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  • Christine Loriol, Nelda Keller, Pierre Kinzel (photos): Zurich main station - more than a train station . Kuk-Bild - & - Wort, Zurich 2005, ISBN 978-3-03300611-9 .
  • Richard Wolff : The Five Lives of HB Südwest: Zurich's Main Station Development from 1969 to 2019 . In: Built Environment . tape 38 , no. 1 . Alexandrine Press, Abingdon March 2012 (English, richard-wolff.ch [PDF; 497 kB ]).

Web links

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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on August 15, 2020 in this version .