Institut für Verkehrsplanung und Transportsysteme, ETH Zürich
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Railway operations laboratory (EBL)

Track plan


Railway system levels


Leaflet (PDF 3.1MB)
Illustration (ZIP 7.9MB)


e-Mail: EBL-Inquiry


Laboratory manager:
Michael Schwertner

Martin Sojka



In the railway operations laboratory (EBL), the individual levels of railway operations (planning, management, safety and external operations) and their relationships are clarified. The person being instructed can take over different functions (e.g. dispatcher, service manager etc.) in order to be able to understand the operational relationships from different angles through personal intervention. Here, the different signal box technologies are of particular importance. One can most clearly understand the safety philosophy when one looks at the older designs (particularly the mechanical designs), however the trainees can familiarize themselves with the basis of the electronic signal box with the user interface of the future.

With the modernization of the plant in the years 2009/2010, the second highest level, the operational control can now be investigated in EBL: The installation of the control system ILTIS of Siemens Switzerland AG means that almost all operating locations can be controlled by signal boxes. The infrastructure has been extended to give an eight track station Testadt which has a passenger and a freight station part. The former terminal stations Pewald and Iggswil have now been complemented by another station head and are connected to an eight track staging station Utal. Further, vehicle control is implemented and this provides the features of realistic vehicle dynamics dependent on traction and train mass. Thus, for example, the incorrect operation of the signal box by the operator would be directly and vividly illustrated by the resulting delays.


  1. Railway operating staff – in the training of operating staff it is particularly important to look at the correct use of safety systems, the handling of rules, scheduling and fault management in railway operations.
  2. Students with appropriate subject choice in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at ETH Zurich – The focus of the students' education is on understanding the individual operating processes in the entire rail system. The student will thereby gain an understanding of the complexity of the system, together with its comprehensive safety philosophy.
  3. External trade visitors from companies which produce signaling and safety equipment.


The following three project partners are responsible for the modernization and operation oft he facility:

In addition, the support of the following partners was won for the renovation:


First facility in the attic of the main building of ETH Zurich
Commissioning in the new premises on the Hönggerberg in two stages
Modernization of model railway components due to heavy use and wear and tear
Comprehensive modernization of the entire system and expansion of the signal box and vehicle control technology to include modern components.

Technical implementation and model railroading

The entire facility has an area of approximately 50m2 and includes 600m track and 7 stations. The track topology is shown in the schematic. In practice, the trains always make at least one circuit of the entire track before they go to the next station. Thus, the travel times between individual stations are artificially extended to simulate realistic conditions when operating in timetable mode.

As part of the command and control technology, all major signal box designs can be mapped: From the mechanical signal box (Iggswil) from the early years of railway safety engineering through the so-called "switch works" (Zetthausen) that embodies the collection of electrical impulses from the early 20th century, to ILTIS remote control technology which is now widespread in Switzerland, the EBL offers authentic workstations. The common relay technology from many decades is based on the Domino signal box design represented by (Do 67 - Ypslikon and Do 69 - Pewald) . The relay station Ypsilkon is based on original technology, which is located in a separate room next door, while due to the new modifications and extensions to the station Pewald, this is now controlled on the basis of SPS.

Iggswil IGG

Station Zetthausen ZET

Station Pewald PEW

Station Ypslikon YPS

Station Wedorf WED

Station Testadt TES

Station Utal UTA



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© 2016 ETH Zurich | Imprint | Disclaimer | 6 February 2015