Rashmi Gopal Rao
Voted several times as one of the most liveable cities in the world, Zurich is a bustling metropolis and the largest city of Switzerland. One of the reasons the city earns this title is its efficient transport system. Commuting within the city is a breeze with its wide network of buses, trains and, of course, trams.
Trams are indeed the backbone of Zurich’s transport system and have been operational since the 1880s. Right from the days they were horse-drawn to these being electrified, trams have been an integral part of the city’s streetscapes. Ubiquitous and always on time, trams are intrinsic to the “Zurichian” way of life. And when in the city, do not miss visiting the unique Tram museum. It is a wonderful place to get insights into history, evolution and development of trams in Zurich.
Located currently at the tram depot at Burgwies, the Zurich Tram museum was founded way back in 1967. With close to 20 preserved tram cars dating between 1897 and 1960, the museum is a treasure house of not only original vehicles but also equipment like ticket-punching machines and memorabilia like tickets, driver uniforms, ticket pouches, tools, sign boards, timetables, etc.
All vehicles in the museum are not only impeccably maintained but in perfect running condition. These demonstrate how the design and material used in trams has changed and evolved over the decades. The all-wooden interiors of the yesteryear cars are truly an amazing sight. From two-axle motor trams to four-axle centre-entrance motor trams to light rail trailers, the museum has got it all.
Do not miss the bright canary yellow hued 1900 tram originally built for the Limmattalline as well as the tram dating to 1897 making it the oldest electric tram car operating in the country. A surprising fact is that, the Tram Museum actually runs these historic trams on the last weekend of most months between Burgwies and the city centre on a route that is called tram route 21. A trip aboard these heritage vehicles with volunteers dressed in vintage uniforms is a treat for visitors and locals alike.
When in the museum, one can actually touch and feel the ‘nuts and bolts’ of trams and largely experience how the car actually operates. One of the trams is placed at an elevated level and it is possible for visitors to get down and actually study the components of the vehicle underneath. Each part is neatly labelled with a number and a detailed explanation of the same is provided. There are several hands-on activities for children as well which includes the actual operation of a toy tram car.
The museum also has series of photographs that trace the growth of Zurich from an ancient Roman settlement to an industrial hub and how the need for urban mobility led to the tram revolution. Apart from this there are a number of tram models including a detailed interactive one that shows the city’s landscape and where one can actually operate multiple trams on the toy lines. There is detailed literature against each of the models and photographs that is truly engaging. There are wooden toys as well as craft activities for small children.
The museum also has a shop attached where one can pick up souvenirs in the form of tram models, postcards, T-shirts and other toys. There are several books too and ones that detail tram operations from around the world, including Japan, Melbourne, the Netherlands and the USA are noteworthy. The museum is a great family outing with something to offer for all generations.