Zigzagging trams for Zürich’s underground tunnel

I’ve been looking at the “left-hand to right-hand running railways” theme for some months now, and I’m still finding more examples – this time it’s the tramway network of Zürich, Switzerland.

Zürich VBZ Tram 7 (Be 4/6) Schwamendingen, Saatlenstrasse / Blauäcker im August 1986
Photo by Kurt Rasmussen, via Wikimedia Commons

The switacharoo is required for trams using the Milchbuck–Schwamendingen tram tunnel on routes 7 and 9.

The 2.5 km long tunnel with three stations was built in the 1970s for a U-Bahn system that was abandoned in 1973, leaving an empty concrete shell. It was later decided to turn over the unused tunnel to trams, which first used the route in 1986. Each station was equipped with a island platform 138 meters long and 6 meters wide.

However there was one problem – Zürich uses unidirectional trams, with doors only on the right side of the vehicle, so trams had to run on the left track to utilise the platforms – the opposite to normal.

So two crossovers were required where the tunnel tied into the rest of the VBZ tram network – the crossover at Schwamendingerplatz is a conventional at-grade diamond crossing once the tracks leave the tunnel.

But a more complicated arrangement exists at the Milchbuck portal – the two tracks cross over using a underground flying junction leading to two single track ramps.

Which merge into a complicated web of surface tracks beside a reversing loop.


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Further reading

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2 Responses to Zigzagging trams for Zürich’s underground tunnel

  1. This is an amazing series of cross-over trams you’ve got going – I’d had no idea that such things existed. I’d known of a few bus systems that did this for similar reasons. There’s even an underground bus terminal at a Toronto subway station (Lawrence) whereby the buses descend via left hand tunnel, to properly serve the underground island platform.

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