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100 years Surbtal route

If it were not for the First World War, there would be no Postbuses in Surbtal today. The plan had originally been to build a railway line from Niederweningen to Döttingen, but because SBB ran out of money for the project, an automobile service was set up instead. What began as a temporary solution ended up as a permanent fixture.

The first Postbuses in front of Oberendigen post office on 15 August 1921

The first Postbuses in front of Oberendigen post office on 15 August 1921

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How it all started

The Swiss rail network had a gaping hole between Niederweningen and Döttingen. Thanks to the efforts of the Surbtal committee, a concession was secured for the construction of a railway line in 1892. However, the corresponding federal act was not passed until 1915, by which time the First World War was well under way. SBB had no money, the Federal Council had other priorities and so the railway project was shelved.

The Surbtalers never forget

Yet the Surbtal railway committee proved persistent, and reminded SBB of their obligation once the war had ended. With all of the delays, however, the construction costs had increased massively. Still in the grips of financial difficulties, SBB wanted to put off construction of the Surbtal railway until better times arrived. The people of Surbtal were not at all happy. To appease the locals, SBB contracted Swiss Post to establish an automobile service in Surbtal. On 15 August 1921, the first Postbuses ran from Oberendigen to Baden, Döttingen and Siggenthal.

Why SBB covered Swiss Post’s costs

The municipalities in the Surbtal continued to insist on the construction of the railway line they had been promised and vented their vehement indignation during a protest in 1926. But it was in vain. The automobile had shown its worth and was set to triumph. The railway project was pushed back and ultimately abandoned altogether in 1937. Nevertheless, the Confederation required SBB to continue operating the PostBus route in Surbtal at the railway’s expense and to build a new road to be used for this purpose. It was not until 1971, a whole 50 years later, that PTT took over operation of the Surbtal route from SBB. Up until then, PostBus passengers in Surbtal had travelled according to rail tariffs.

The story of SBB contracting Swiss Post to provide a bus service to an area over a period of many years is a unique chapter in the history of our country.

Last horse coach service in front of Lengnau post office on 14 August 1921
© Museum of Communication | Last horse coach service in front of Lengnau post office on 14 August 1921 (left to right: Wilhelm Bucher, mail coach driver; Johan Angst, sub-postmaster).
The first Postbuses in front of Oberendigen post office on 15 August 1921
© Museum of Communication | The first Postbuses in front of Oberendigen post office on 15 August 1921 (left to right: Josef Weibel, sub-postmaster, (1858-1938); Mr Meier, garage owner; Mr Graber, driver; Marta Weibel, daughter of the sub-postmaster; Mr Neuner, driver; Ms Tschabold, daughter of apprentice; Heinrich Wächter, mail carrier).

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