Rigi Bahnen and the weirdest ever turntable

I’ve seen a lot of railway turntables over the years, but this one at Vitznau station in Switzerland is next level – two tracks crossing at right angles, one straight and one curved, both with toothed rack rails, and wired for electric traction. Nothing normal here!

Welcome to Vitznau

Located on the shores of Lake Lucerne in the Swiss canton of Lucerne, Vitznau station is the terminus of the Vitznau–Rigi line of the Rigi Bahnen, and has two tracks with an island platform.

Next door is the main depot for the railway.


Google Street View

With eight roads, located at a 90 degree angle to the mainline.


Diagram via Schweizer Ingenieur und Architekt

But thanks to the constrained site, there was no way to connect the two – hence a convoluted two road turntable, which serves three purposes.

To release trains from the double track terminus.

To allow complete trains to run direct into the main stabling road.

And to allow individual carriages access to the other depot roads.

Shunted in one by one.

And that’s not all!

The current depot was completed in 1988, replacing a previous depot on the same site when the Vitznau–Rigi line was rebuilt for modern trains.


Photo via Schweizer Ingenieur und Architekt

And in 2022 the railway was again refreshed, when the first of six new Stadler Bhe 4/6 EMUs entered service. These new trains are made up of two carriages connected by a Jakobs bogie.

But the extra length presented one problem – they wouldn’t fit onto the existing turntable at Vitznau! The solution – a third track was added to the turntable.

Running at a 45° angle and on a different angle to the two existing tracks, the new track allows the longer Bhe 4/6 trains to run directly into a depot road that was previously only accessible via a shunt move on the turntable.

More photos

Further reading

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3 Responses to Rigi Bahnen and the weirdest ever turntable

  1. Andrew says:

    It would not matter how this was explained to me, like golf, I will never understand how it works. While the system offers a lot of flexibility, it seems so inefficient and manual for one of the best railway systems in the world.

    • On the upside it seems that they only need the turntable to get trains into and out of the depot – once they’re out the multiple unit trains can just shuttle back and forth all day without it.

  2. Pingback: A trolleybus turntable in Germany - Euro Gunzel

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