Westbound ICN on new flyover
Killwangen-Altstetten: SBB's funnel in Zurich

An animation
The rail line
Main tasks
Zurich dispatch
Altstetten control
Staying on time
About this site
List of illustrations
Site map
Alphabetic index

Home > Introduction


This site presents the operations of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), and specifically traffic control on its heavily-used line between Killwangen-Spreitenbach and Zurich-Altstetten.

At Killwangen-Spreitenbach, lines bearing trains from the Swiss cities of Bern, Basel and Geneva come together for the final sprint into Zurich main station. Zurich-Altstetten sees nearly 1000 trains a day.

Even among Europe's most heavily-used routes, few sections of railway line offer many chances to see four trains passing each other at speed - at the same place and time - on parallel tracks.

But I've seen such a four-way meet in Switzerland, on the main line west of Zurich. This stretch of track and the operations of the railway that runs it are the subject of this site.

An overview

Here is a quick overview of the site to get oriented. (All these links also appear on the left side of each page, so you can't get lost.) The site map provides the equivalent of a book's table of contents. If you're looking for something specific, check the alphabetic index - including many German terms - or the list of illustrations.

We start with the physical infrastructure, or "fixed plant" of the rail line between Killwangen and Altstetten. An animation presents operations on the new track layout between Killwangen and Dietikon.

Then we look at the main tasks of those who plan and manage SBB operations. This begins with scheduling, including the detailed routing of each train. The schedule is the basis for the daily operational work of both the regional dispatching center in Zurich and the traffic control center in Altstetten, which has a more-detailed view of a smaller territory.

At both levels, a central preoccupation is resolution of conflicts and more generally seeing that the rail system stays on time. In this effort, like so many others, communication is vital - which is why I very much hope you will give me feedback.

Other sections offer a transatlantic perspective on the railways, and more information about this site.

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The author of this site gratefully acknowledges the help of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) in providing the information to create and maintain this site, and more generally extends his deepest thanks to those at SBB and elsewhere who are providing help and encouragement.

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This site was originally assembled in March 2001. Comments are welcome.

Copyright © 2001-2005 George B. Raymond, Jr.    Disclaimer