A complete refurbishment of the south wing of Zurich main station.

Main station south wing 1800

A complete refurbishment of the south wing of Zurich main station.

The Wanner building, with its high ceilings and colonnades, was constructed in 1871 from sandstone. It is an architectural jewel and a focal point between Zurich main station and Bahnhofstrasse. SBB began a complete refurbishment of the south wing in June 2018 to preserve the historical structure of the building.

Historical background: From the Swiss Northern Railway (1847) to the cross-city line Zurich (2014).

On 7 August 1847, the Swiss Northern Railway, informally called the “Spanisch-Brötli-Bahn”, ran from Zurich to Baden for the first time. Two days later, the first Swiss rail operation was officially recorded on a route of around 23 kilometres. Zurich-based architect Gustav Albert Wegmann was entrusted with planning the station building, concourses and enclosure. Engineer Alois von Negrelli oversaw the project plans for the overall facility and operational processes while architect Meyer was responsible for subsidiary buildings, such as the boiler house and locomotive sheds. The Citizen’s Community of Zurich provided the site to the north of the old town on the left bank for the construction project. The station, which was far out and only accessible via a narrow bridge over the Schanzengraben moat, was characteristic of the early railway era.

The main station of 1871.

In accordance with concession agreements, the private railway companies of the time not only had to agree the routing with the authorities, but also the relevant station locations. The railway companies’ proposals for locations were debated in council chambers and expert opinions were sought from specialists. The general public played an active role in the discussions, individual citizens published writings arguing the pros and cons, newspapers commented on the proposals, and petitions for or against the station location were launched.

On 25 November 1854, the Board of Directors of the Swiss Northeastern Railway (NOB) decided to stick with the old station location. This decision gave rise to various urban development plans that would be significant for the city of Zurich and these were subsequently brought to fruition: the station bridge over the Limmat river (1861), Bahnhofstrasse (1864), the station forecourt (1865) and the station quarter (1864). In 1861, the NOB senior management invited four prominent Zurich-based architects (Johan Jakob Breitinger, Gottfried Semper, Ferdinand Stadler and Leonhard Zeugherr) to take part in a competition. Jakob Friedrich Wanner, Chief Architect at NOB, kept the competition plans as a basis for developing his own design. In 1863, the railway senior management recommended Wanner’s project for further editing.

Development of the main station from 1871.

From 1871, the south wing of Zurich main station served as a reception building for passengers, while the railway company used the upper floor for management purposes. Even at that time, the well-designed floor plan for the south wing enabled ideal customer guidance. From 1897 to 1902, the station underwent the first major renovations. This included constructing four new tracks to the north of the station concourse and shortening all tracks to the newly built front platform at the Bahnhofstrasse level. A new southern main exit was built where the old baggage handling facility used to be, leading to the station forecourt. In addition, both atriums in the south wing were redesigned and the waiting room and 3rd-class restaurant (known as “Chüechliwirtschaft”) were moved to the newly built northeast wing. The full range of postal services, complete with post office, was also placed there (at what used to be the express freight counter). A new luggage forwarding department was also built in the centre of the station concourse and new ticket counters were set up in the corners of the concourse, on both sides of the Limmat entrance.

Expansion of rail operations and creation of ShopVille-Zurich main station.

From 1929 to 1933, measures were taken to expand rail operations towards the west. This included increasing the number of tracks to 16, which now terminated at a front platform outside the station concourse. The seven-aisle platform canopy hall served as a bridge over the Sihl and the transverse hall over the front platform created a new south exit onto Löwenstrasse. On the first floor of the southeast wing, new restaurant spaces and conference rooms were created once the district management had moved to the then completed Sihl post office building on Kasernenstrasse.

From 1967 to 1981, ShopVille-Zurich main station was built underneath the station forecourt and the exterior facade, the facades in the station concourse, the Limmat entrance hall and the south side hall with the domed room were all renovated. The post office in the west of the south wing was also refurbished.

1990s to the present day: Cross-city line Zurich and the first stages of refurbishing the south wing.

From 1983 to 1996, the initial work was carried out, including the groundbreaking ceremony for the Zurich S-Bahn and the demolition of the north wing. Towards the end of the 1990s, work started on the construction of the new north wing and renovation of the southwest wing (Café Les Arcades and press centre). At the same time, the Au Premier restaurant on the first floor of the southeast wing was restored and the Museumsstrasse through station with tracks 21 to 24 (now 41 to 44) on the third lower level was put into operation. The pedestrian walkway and shopping arcade were also partially opened. In 1990, the terminus of the Sihltal Zurich Uetliberg Bahn was put into operation underneath ShopVille-Zurich main station. In 1996, the north wing was opened.

Cross-section of the Zurich main station

From 2006 to 2014, the new Löwenstrasse through station was built along with tracks 31 to 34 of the cross-city line Zurich, while the southwest wing was reconstructed together with the refurbishment of the west avant-corps of the south wing. From 2012 to 2014, the first stage of refurbishing the south wing began with the new glass cube and post office.

Please note: if you are interested in finding out more about the architecture and technical history of Swiss railways, Werner Huber’s book “Hauptbahnhof Zürich” offers an exciting insight.

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