D A Y - N I N E
since the day will be spent to the east of Zurich, I'll start off describing a Swiss social problem - graffiti.
I observed it 10 years ago, and if anything it has gotten worse. Fortunately it seems to be confined pretty much to the cities, but is as bad (or worse) as any city I have ever seen or heard about. Most of it is the "mural" huge colored spreads that are the "in" thing, but scrawling on surfaces with a black or colored felt pen is also prevalent.
Most of it is contained on the typical blank building wall or concrete barriers and whatnot, but I also observed some railroad freight cars and most "stored" MOW equipment on sidings. Unfortunately I also noted a few operating passenger cars that had been hit, and when riding locals around the major citys I noted a great deal of the glass etching of the windows that is another "sport" of the downtrodden. There was also occasional felt markers on car seats and interior walls, but it was rare.
I talked with several teenagers while riding various lines, and they told me that none of it is "turf" tagging, and that for all practical purposes "hoods" and turf disputes did not exist, and that the tagging was just "disenfranchised youth" looking to express themselves. One teen had moved from the Bronx at 12 (he was now 17), and said it was safe to go anywhere in Zurich at night (unlike his "previous" home). They informed me that the Swiss welfare system made it unncessary to be without decent food and shelter, and that only the unconfined mentally ill and those that choose a homeless lifestyle were likely to ever be wandering the streets or "crashing" in hovels. I never noticed any derelict individuals in my travels, though they of course always exist somewhere.
Although the swiss spend a great deal of money combatting the graffiti, they apparently have a lax legal system, and teens told me of friends who had been caught tagging, and although there is a stiff fine, since the friend had no money he just walked away. (I keep thinking the penalty when caught should be a full swing with a 20 pound sledge on a finger spread upon a table, followed by "have a nice day - looks like you have 9 more chances before we need to figure out something else").
Routes today: 900 670 671 740 753 750 821 820 762 754 740 730 900
OK - out of Chur about 7am. Chur is the southern terminus of regular gauge trackage of the swiss system - beyond is the narrow gauge we arrived on. Heading eastward the narrow gauge parallels the standard gauge thru several small towns to the next major town of Landquart, where the narrow gauge cuts south into a valley and begins a climb. The narrow gauge makes all the local stops from Chur to Landquart, with the standard gauge running express to Landquart, then making 2 more stops before a junction at Sargans.
Here a line swings due east to a junction with a line to Austria or continuing around the southeastern tip of the country and then running up the eastern frontier with Germany. I take the other branch, which is the main line northward to Zurich, and proceed to Pfaffikon, where I debark and take a local across the low dam I rode previously on the "Voralpen Express" and this time I detrain in the busy station of Rapperswil.
I now have many choices on how to proceed northward, and take a branch that swings east, then north, and then splits into 3 different lines, one swinging northwest to Zurich proper, one swinging northeast and going to Winterthur, and one heading north to intersect the Zurich - Winterthur main at Effretikon. The train I am on is headed to Zurich, so I debark at the connecting town of Wetzikon to take the center branch.
And run into my first failure of the swiss railway system. Our local pulls out of the station on time, makes 20 feet and stops. After a few moments the precedure is repeated. And again - and again. Then we back up a hundred feet or so and repeat the process. There are scattered announcement in german (this is not a tourist line), and people are looking around but nothing is happening. After another attempt or two, another announcement is made and everyone leaves the train (you don't have to understand to know you've just been told "sorry - we ain't goin nowhere folks".
When empty, the train reverses out of the station and onto a siding at a rapid pace, so rather than engine problems, this must have been some other operating/safety difficulty.
Since the line is 30 minute service and we are already 15 minutes late, it is only a matter of a few more minutes before another local swings in from the north, unloads, we all board, and we are off (but 30 minutes behind my schedule). We reach the mainline junction at Effretikon, the line sees 6 to 8 trains per hour so there is only a brief wait, and I sail into the large Winterthur station. This town has 7 separate rail lines converging, with 3 having extremely heavy mainline traffic, and I have a lot of choices.
My original intent had been to head on a local line to the northwest, but it has just departed, so I grab a local on a northeasterly line and travel across country to Stein am Rhein. Yep, on the Rhine river. The river, having come down out of the Alps and forming the very large Bodensee lake on the german border, has progressed thru another lake and is now back as a river channel separating the 2 countries. There is local (and an occasional express) service, and I grab the next 2-car "regio" sprinter that comes along and venture along the river to Shaffhausen, the main entry city of the north with Germany. As we near the city I see some boats, but note that the bridges in the city are all very low and do not raise, so boats are confined the the channel I have followed and the lakes beyond.
At Shaffhausen, I now can connect on the other line I had intended to take and depart back to Winterthur on a different line. We separate from the main line to Zurich, plunge into a tunnel, and come out on a low bridge over the river, with a waterfall just downriver from our crossing. NOW I know why there was no provision for boats to come south!
The line again wanders across country, strictly local sercvice (or so I think until a few days later), and we again reach Winterthur. Here time fits for me to take a local on the northesterly line from Rapperswill, effectively making my travels from Rapperswill to Winterthur to Shaffhausen a figure-8, and I head south. Trip is again just hilly regions with farms and villages, and I note a connecting line ahead that swings west over to another main with service only shown partway from that main, then a separate schedule that indicates only sporadic service. We reach the station and the tracks are full of very old passenger wagons, as the line has been abandoned for service and taken over as a museum line (the catenary is still in place). Apparently ridership from the midpoint city is better served to the west towards Zurich, and the eastern segment had become surplus. We continue south, then west and north back into Wetzikon (where my train had failed), and I switch to another local back to my starting point of Rapperswil.
Here I see another hour or so of light exists, and decide to take the local up the eastern shore of the lake to Zurich. This proves (as I had noted in the 3rd day trip) to be pretty much solid suburbia all the way to Zurich with no scenery to speak of, and we swing thru various connectors and come into the station on track 9, an above ground stub.
While we were approaching, I have been studying my schedule and see that I will have about a 40 minute wait for the next (hourly) service as far as Chur. I also note that we arrive 3 minutes before the departure of the "Kaiserin Elisabeth", an express train from Zurich to Salzburg Austria. It makes one stop at Sargans, and sure enough, there is a local connecting train from there to Chur that will get me home about 35 minutes faster than if I wait for the direct train. Will I make such a connection? Hard to tell. I move to the front car of our train as we pull in so I am close to the end of the platforms, get off and go to the headend and see on the flipping board that my train in over on track 4 about 5 lines over behind other equipment. I hurry (can't run - too many people going every which way, swing around the corner and there is my train, with the clock just hitting the departure minute. I swing up the door of the last car and the train pulls out (I don't think THIS one is a "guaranteed connection". It turns out the car I am in is first class, and it has compartments, not 1-2 seating. Unlike the ICE-T train with 4 seats and separating tables, this has 6 seats facing each other.
At this point a word about swiss seating. Most of their cars travel both directions without turning the cars, but unlike Amtrak which likes to put the seats in 1/2 the car facing one direction and the remaining half the other, the swiss place most seats as 4 (or 2) facing each other. This means the seats are back-to-back with the next row, and seat backs cannot be leaned back. The swiss compensate for this with a very comfortable angled back to begin with (you do not sit up at a sharp angle), and then most seats have an adjustment that lets the seat portion slide forward a few inches to allow an even more reclined position. The seats are VERY comfortable. This particular train is Austrian, not Swiss, and is destined for a late night arrival. Possibly specially built due to the night travel, I am surprised when I adjust the seat and it slides completely out, making almost a full bed easily used if no one is in the seat opposite (there are only 2 of us in the compartment). I'm not tired, and don't use the feature. Also, the only other cars I have ridden with the "compartment" feature mentioned were the business segment of the ICE-N train, and a similar coach on a swiss train when we were in the Italian section around Bellinzonna. I do not know if compartment cars are widespread, but I doubt it.
Anyhow, we reach Sargans, I grab a local, and return to my Chur hotel. Today - 14 trains (I don't count the "breakdown', even if it did move 20 feet) - 92 total now, 264 more miles, 2338 to date.