Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nice Things About Switzerland #6: They're a Lot Like Dwarves

Nice Things About Switzerland

If I asked you to describe the main characteristics of a dwarf - and I wouldn't, because I'm dating one so I'm a frikkin expert - I hope you'd say something like: "Dwarves like digging tunnels, they store gold in secret dens, make high-quality armaments, love mountains, are superior engineers, and even the women have beards."

All of which describes the Swiss, too. (Did Tolkein live here at one point? Sadly, there's no way to ever know.)

The main difference between dwarven engineers and Swiss ones is that dwarfs build traps and robots that try to kill me while the Swiss do things that make my life easier and better.

A mean robot that tries to kill you in Skyrim

The first piece of Swiss engineering that blew my mind was when I read that all bus stops in Switzerland cost a million pounds each, because they all used anti-puddle technology so that people waiting for the bus wouldn't get splashed.

Even more interesting has been watching a new train line being built from my local station to the city centre. There are already two lines but they're making it bigger regardless of the obstacles.

Obstacles such as the huge, historic building that was in the way.

Engineering Astonishment Case Study: They Slid a Building

They... what?

Instead of tearing down the building, or rebuilding it brick by brick, they just slid it down the road. It wasn't even snowing! 

The following pictures show the plan:

Those are kind of train tracks there, at the level of the building's foundation.
They had some pushy equipment to push it along. One millimetre per hour or something like that.

And that's where it is now.

I had no idea you could just slide buildings around, but apparently it's quite normal here. I'm told that Wollerau, a small town renowned for having the lowest taxes in Europe, was built on a giant hover-cushion and can be floated to another county within 48 hours of any change in the tax regime.

Also Impressive: How They Build Those Thingies

I nearly didn't write this bit because I don't know any of the words needed to describe any of the things and it was hard to find a good photo.

But look at this and I'll try to explain what's what.

That's a giant BUILDER THING and once it has been installed, you see it for a while and then suddenly there's all concrete inside! In the shape of a train line! Then they move the BUILDER THING to the front and repeat... 

...and thus it crawls across Zurich like a snail, but instead of leaving goo in its wake it leaves INFRASTRUCTURE.

Other Stuff

I should also write about the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the general build quality of flats and offices. And some other stuff. But I should be writing my book, so I'm going to go do that now. (Read about the Base Tunnel if you like that sort of thing - it's very impressive.)

More Nice Things About Switzerland here



  1. Anonymous1:42 PM

    will you please write something about the Swiss watch industry?

  2. Um... okay?

    Anything in particular?

  3. 'Hahahah i just figured they are like dwarves. Their love for cheese. Even though I was born there I hate cheese (except white ones).


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