Marzili-Bahn in Bern

This short funicular connects the center of Bern (Bundesterrasse, near the Federal Parliament Building) with the Marzili district 32 meters lower, by the banks of the Aare River. In the summer, lots of local people use this funicular to get to and from the Marzili outdoor swimming pool by the river. The length of the track is 105 meters, and the trip takes about one minute.

From 1885 to 1973 this funicular was run by a “water-counterbalancing” system, in which the cars had water tanks that were filled with water at the top station and emptied at the bottom, making the downward-moving car heavier. This low-tech system was widely used in the 19th century and worked perfectly well, but caused delays while the tanks were being filled or emptied between trips. (And probably also wasted water, but that doesn’t seem to have been a big issue in those days.)

In Bern, the water-tank system continued to be used for nearly ¾ of the 20th century, until it was replaced in 1974 by an automatic electric system which is still in use today.

The Marzili-Bahn in Bern

As in most funiculars, there are two cars which take turns going from top to bottom and bottom to top, and pass each other in the middle. The building in the background is the Swiss Federal Parliament Building.

Looking down at the Marzili district

Here we are looking down at the Marzili district of Bern, with the Aare River and the outdoor swimming pool.

My photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2022.

See more posts on Bern, Switzerland.
See also: Swimmers in the Aare.

5 thoughts on “Marzili-Bahn in Bern”

  1. There is a Funicular in Lynton and Lynmouth on the coast of the west of England that still uses the water power system. As it’s by the sea, any waste flows into it and new water sourced from it, so I don’t think it’s a problem.

    1. Using sea water to power the funicular sounds like a good solution. Of course the salt water might cause corrosion, but I’m sure there are ways of preventing that.

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