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Hunting Lions in Zürich

Image of JOHN CHANDLER.JOHN CHANDLER tells us about his recent trip to Switzerland.



Okay, so it sounds ludicrous, but there are actually lions in Zürich which roam freely (well, relatively) around the city and its suburbs and outside of Zürich Zoo! I say relatively because they are somewhat constrained to roaming solely on the rail network around the city.

In short, the Lion is a new kind of commuter train with locomotive-hauled stock. Each set comprises an Re420 locomotive and a minimum of three double-deck coaches including one partial first class. It is intended that two sets run coupled back-to-back with up to 4 additional coaches added as required.

Given that I would be in Switzerland over Christmas and New Year, I decided to spend some time hunting these trains and finding out more about them.


CLICK HERE for The Lion Pogramme in Summary PDF.

In short, rather than invest in new stock to increase capacity on the Zürich commuter routes, SBB decided to refit some 30 Re420 locomotives, built between 1964 and 1985 along with several of the current class 450 stock coaches which are being replaced with new low-floor stock.

Currently, I am aware of 8 diagrams worked by these sets but more will follow as the programme progresses.

CLICK HERE for Lion Diagrams PDF.

Prior Research

Before arriving in Switzerland, I researched into the routes and timings of the Lions and decided that Winterthur and Zürich would be good vantage points.

Lion is an appropriate name for this series of trains; as you can see from the diagrams, they exhibit the feline quality of sleeping for most of the day and coming out to play in early morning or evening! In between times, they curl up at the yard nearest the end of their diagram for preening and any maintenance work.

Given the nature of my visit to Switzerland, I determined to catch some sets at rest before Christmas before riding some afterwards.

The Hunt is on!

First day of my hunt: off early to Winterthur. From the platform, it was possible to see most of the yard and, off to one side, a sleeping Lion, unfortunately so far out of my camera's range to not get its identity.

Lions in Zurich image 01.

Distant sleeping Lion

However, a quick assessment of the layout of the depot suggested I could get closer, and after a few minute's walk, I found myself face-to-face with the tail set, fronted by 420 220

Lions in Zurich image 02.

Dormant Lion

Lions in Zurich image 03.

Identity (the UIC code used to identify this loco will be subject of a future article, "European Stock Numbering"!)

Lions in Zurich image 04.

The Cubs

More careful photography on the return to the station shows its mate to be.

Lions in Zurich image 05.

420 226

Lions in Zurich image 06.

Staring the Lion in the face

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Having now bagged two Lions, I head back to Zürich where just after Hardbrüke station, I see another in hibernation. En route back to base at Wilderswil, I spy another four Lions resting for their evening's outing. Bagged seven Lions in one day; not a bad haul!

A few days later, and having relocated to Luzern, I am now in a position to see the Lions at their most active!

Lion 19167 entering Platform 44 at Zürich station en route to Schauffhausen

I decide to take this train to Stadlehofen as a first experience in a Lion's stomach. Returning to Zürich Hauptbahnhof, I await the next Lion to Schaffhausen, number 19173 and determine to ride it the full route. Accommodation is not too different between First and Second class, both being 4 seats across.

Lions in Zurich image 07.

Upper Deck, First Class

Lions in Zurich image 08.

Upper Deck, Second Class

Lions in Zurich image 09.

Lower Deck, Second Class

Lions in Zurich image 10.

Lower Deck, First Class

Lions in Zurich image 11.

The information displays in each coach give clear detail of the train's schedule

Lions in Zurich image 12.

At each station, the displays give details of all connecting services

My Lions from Zürich to Schaffhausen comprised the following stock:

  • 91 85 4 420 223-0 CH-SBB (loco)
  • 50 85 26-33 083-4 CH-SBB (2nd coach)
  • 50 85 36-33 164-0 CH-SBB (1st / 2nd coach)
  • 50 85 26-33 069-3 CH-SBB (2nd coach)
  • 50 85 26-33 045-3 CH-SBB (2nd coach)
  • 50 85 36-33 163-2 CH-SBB (1st / 2nd coach)
  • 50 85 26-33 080-0 CH-SBB (2nd coach)
  • 91 85 4 420 230-5 CH-SBB (loco)

Finally, it was time to bid my Lions Good Night and let them return to their den in readiness for tomorrow's arduous schedule, a hard day shuttling between Schaffhausen and Winterthur on Diagram 2.

Seeing the Lions to bed at Schaffhausen

Model Lions

Okay, so how can I have my own tame Lions at home?

Fleischmann (in N Scale) produce various variants of the Lions; DCC and analogue versions are available, as are two additional coaches to allow an 8 car pride to be formed.

We like it when John goes over to Switzerland, because he always brings back lots of chocolate....

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