Narrow gauge line in Oerlikon

Andrew Moglestue

Yesterday morning I walked along Elias Canetti Strasse in Zürich Oerlikon and there were some men digging a hole in the road. Some narrow gauge track had been uncovered. I estimate the gauge to jhave been 30 or 40cm. The rail was very light. Interestingly the rails were cable bonded at the joints, possibly reflecting some electrification. On the other hand I doubt this track was ever electrified. The rail looks so light it was probably used only for hand trolleys.

I came back later on the same day to take some photographs but the hole had already been filled in and asphalted over.

I observed something similar some years ago further along on the same road.

Here are the pictures I took back then

This earlier hole uncovered only a single rail so you couldn't see the gauge. Also the rails don't appear to be cable bonded.

If you look carefully at the last of these pictures you can see a crack in the asphalt to the right of the hole, possibly caused by a rail underneath.

I guess this track had some connection to MFO, on whose former land this once was.

Does anybody know anything else about this track?

It is independent from the standrad gauge track that is clearly visible on the other side of the road.


Chris Wood

I did wonder if it might be horse tram track. But Zürich's horse trams were (rather surprisingly) standard gauge, and I'm pretty sure they never reached as far out as Oerlikon. In any case, it isn't grooved rail.

So I'd guess some internal industrial system.

Andrew Moglestue

It's not grooved rail but running rail plus a guard rail laid in parallel, presumably to permit the track to be embedded in the road surface.

This road was until about 15 years ago not a public road but internal to the MFO factory site, so the tracks most probably served an MFO internal purpose.

It would be intersting to know what this purpose was and how far the tracks extended.

Making sense of anything on this site is compunded by the fact that many buildings have been torn down and the new ones not necessarily built in the same locations so some of the roads are in different places to where they would have been in MFO days.

Chris Wood

On further reflection:

I estimate the gauge to have been 30 or 40cm
That is very narrow. I cannot find any examples of industrial railways as narrow as 300mm gauge; gauges that small seem only to have been used for miniature railways (park railways and such like). Is there any possibility that one of the Oerlikon companies got into building miniature steam locomotives (as Krupp in Germany certainly did) and needed a test track?.

Decauville did originally make portable 400mm gauge railways, but most of their systems seem to have been to 500mm or 600mm gauge. The adoption of 600mm gauge for the battlefield railways of the First World War, and the resulting supply of cheap war-surplus equipment, meant that the vast majority of minimum gauge industrial railways post-1918 were to 600mm gauge.

None of which, I'm afraid, answers your question. But it does make it more interesting.

Bill Bolton

On 17 Jun 2015 02:51:11 -0700, Chris wrote:

Decauville did originally make portable 400mm gauge
The extensive Woolwich Arsenal industrial light railway in the UK was
457mm gauge, and used mechanical power (steam locos).



Bill Bolton
Sydney, Australia


MFO manufactured both normal gauge but also narrow gauges. There would have been some trackage so that they could get narrow gauge material from the factory to wherever it was loaded on normal gauge rolling stock to get it to the point of delivery.


MIke C