|The Most Diverse Transport Museum In Europe|
The Verkehrshaus or the Swiss Museum of Transport and Communication is situated on the shores of Lake Luzern just half a mile from the centre of the busy central Swiss town of Luzern.
The museum first opened its doors in July 1959, and today claims to be the most diverse museum of its kind in Europe. It covers a breadth of areas covering the development of Swiss transport and communication over the last 150 years. There are five main exhibition halls including road, rail, water, mountain and air transport.
But added to the main exhibition halls are extra attractions such as an Imax Film Theatre and the High Flyer, a helium filled tethered balloon that gives passengers a breath taking view over Luzern, the lake and surrounding area from a height of 500 feet.
Fascinating as the trains, cars, cable cars and lake steamer exhibitions were, the main purpose of my visit was to see the Aviation Hall!
The first aviation exhibits to meet you as you enter the museum dominate the central plaza. The DC3 Dakota and the Convair Coranado are both decked out in the colours of the Swiss national airline - Swiss Air.
The four engined Coranado CV990 is not dissimilar to the Boeing 707, and was used for long haul fights to the Middle and Far East and to South America. Technical problems initially delayed the supply of the aircraft, that promised a top speed of nearly 1000km/h. Expensive modifications and poor advertising almost drove the manufacturing company to ruin, as only 37 aircraft were sold.
Today you can walk through the Coranado, viewing the cockpit and seating arrangements and, as you approach the rear of the passenger cabin, there is a short video presentation with archive footage of the aircraft. The large wings of the Coranado also make a good shelter from the rain as I found out during a downpour!
Number of Exhibits
The blue Fokker was used in service between 1927 and 1948, and is the oldest maintained passenger aircraft of Swiss airline. Having a range of 800km and at the time, unrivalled comfort, this commercial aircraft was way ahead of the competition. It wasn't until the introduction of American planes such as the Douglas DC-3, was the reign of the Fokker FV11a brought to and end in the 1940's.
But, in spite of speeds twice as fast, air traffic at the time could not seriously compete with the punctual schedules of the railway. Transfers from town centre to airfield, complex flight preparations and delays caused by bad weather largely eroded and time advantage gained by flying.
The Bucker Jungmeister 133C is the version featured at the museum. I have seen this aircraft modelled in this colour scheme several times, in particular, Robbe currently produce a small park flyer version of this very aircraft. From 1935 onwards Bucker produced the single seater Bucker 133 Jungmeister (Young Master). The German Air force was first to buy this aeroplane, placing large orders. This order was closely followed by the Swiss, who bought 52 machines of which 46 were built in Switzerland. These aircraft served as aerobatic training planes for military pilots from 1937 until 1968. In 1969 the Swiss Air Force presented the remaining aircraft to the Swiss Aero Club where many are still flying today.
When Swissair bought two Orion's in 1932, they pulled off a clever advertising coup: twice as fast as anything the competition could offer, and faster than a fighter plane, the striking 'Red Dog' became part of modern air traffic. The German airline, Lufthansa, didn't believe a flight plan which gave the journey time from Zurich to Munich as 50 minutes, and notified Switzerland that it should surely read '1 hour and 50 minutes!'
Although the Orion was always fully booked from then on, passenger transport remained insignificant as the Orion only had four seats! Just four years later the Orions were taken out of service, being superseded by the DC-2 in 1935 and later in 1937 by the DC-3, which offered the same speed with four times as much cargo and seating for 14 to 28 passengers.
Of the 35 planes built between 1931 and 1934, only one remains in the world today. This was acquired by the museum in 1976 from America. A team of Swissair volunteers put in thousands of hours of work to restore the plane to its original condition. All traces of two Swissair planes were lost in the Spanish Civil War.
Flying Exhibitions As Well
Trip Not To Be Missed
One highlight that mustn't be missed, so long as you have head for heights, is the HiFlyer. This is a tethered helium balloon that carries 30 passengers to a height of 500 feet above the museum. We went on the balloon at the end of the day, so there were only about a dozen of us on board. However, the views from the balloon, over Lake Luzern, the town and the surrounding Alps is breath taking. The ride and the views are well worth the extra 20 Swiss Francs and rounded of a great visit to a superbly appointed and interesting day at the Verkehrshaus.
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