Visitor information

General information Opening hours reading room Location and contact

General information

This is the online database of SBB Historic’s archives and collections. For further information about the foundation and its holdings and activities please visit
Tips for research within the database may be found at Search and order. If you wish to order documents for consultation in the reading room or if you wish to order a reproduction of a photograph, please use the shopping cart. Please allow at least one working day to prepare your request. We will confirm the disposability and the provision date of the documents via e-mail. If you have ordered a reproduction you will receive a quote.

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Opening hours reading room

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00 – 17:00
Late opening on Thursday (on request only) 17:00 – 20:00
Alternative opening on request

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Location and contact

Stiftung Historisches Erbe der SBB (SBB Historic)
CH-5210 Windisch

Phone: +41 (0)56 566 52 22

Site plan

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Search and order

Full text search Field search Archive plan search Descriptor search Order of documents and photographs How to use workbooks Consultation of film and video Costs Tips and tricks

Full text search

Full text search is the default search in Query. This type of search has two views. By default, only an individual search field is displayed. A search in this field is the same as the search described below With all words. Via the hyperlink Show further search options, the user can display additional options which enable a differentiated full text search. The search fields can be used in combination in a search.

Please note: Entries in the database are in the original language of the documents, for the most part German, occasionally French or Italian. Please try all three languages to get more results.


«Gare» or «Bahnhof»
«Biel» or «Bienne»
«Mailand» or «Milano»
«Gotthard», «Gothard» or «Gottardo»

With all words Searches for units of description which contain all the search terms entered irrespective of their position in the text.
With the exact combination of words Searches for units of description which contain the exact search term entered. The word sequence is of significance.
With one of the words Searches for units of description which contain at least one of the search terms entered.
without the words Searches for units of description which contain none of the search terms entered.
words that sound similar (soundex)

Should your search also include terms which sound like the search terms you specified?


A search for «Wassen» also finds «Wasen».

Include word variations (root)

Should your search also take into consideration variants of the search terms entered?


A search for «Lokomotive» also finds «Lokomotiven».

Full text search in linked files Should the search also be performed in files which are linked to units of description?
Highlight hits

Should the hits of a search be highlighted in color?

Search range

The search range enables you to restrict your search to a subset of the archive. The following search ranges are possible:

  • Entire archive (default)
    The search relates to the entire archive.
  • Part of archive plan
    The search only relates to the units of description below a particular entry in the archive plan. In order that this option is available for selection, an appropriate restriction must have been performed beforehand in the archive plan. Use the “Archive Plan Search”, select the appropriate section, and use the button «Reduce view to selected unit of description».
  • Workbook
    The search only relates to the units of description which are grouped together in a workbook. In order that this option is available, you must have logged in to the system and have created at least one workbook. Every workbook you created is displayed in the selection list. Further information how to use workbooks.
  • Last result
    The search is performed within the results of the last search. This option is only possible if you have carried out a search previously.
Timeframe Enables you to search by the time period of creation of the units of description. You can either specify only the «from date» or also the «to date». There are different ways to enter the date. These are described in more detail under Time Period Syntax. We recommend the use of this search only if you are searching a specified year.
Type of archival material

Allows you to restrict the search to a specific type of archival material.

Please note that plans and drawings are often part of a dossier, therefore please use «Akte/Dokument» as well as «Plan» to get full results.

Images available online Allows you to restrict the search to units of description which contain preview images which can be displayed via the Internet.
Levels of description

Allows you to restrict your search to specific levels of description. To select levels of description, click the button to the right of the entry field. A dialog will be displayed in which you can select one or more levels of description. Files are commonly listed on level «Dossier», pictures for the most par on level «Document».

Display options

Choose the number of results to be displayed per page. We recommend changing the number to 100 to avoid repeated loading of pages.

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Field search

The field search can be used to find a word or an expression in a particular selected database field such as title or reference code. Use the field search if you want to perform a targeted search and already know the meaning or use of the individual fields. Please note that the search in «Archive Material Type» is limited as not all entries have been appropriately coded yet.

In the field search you can search in three database fields simultaneously. First select the field you wish to find. Then select whether the search term must match the field exactly or only the beginning of the field. For the most successful search we recommend the selection «contains» as it generates more results. Next, enter the actual search term. Optionally, you can define how the individual search fields are to be logically linked.

Other search options of the field search allow you to further reduce the search result. The meaning is the same as described in the fulltext search.

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Archive plan search

The archive plan shows the archive tectonics in tree view. The structure represents the levels of the archive from top (holdings) to the bottom (the individual dossier or document). The branches can be opened or closed by clicking plus or minus. This allows you to view either the main archives and collections, or descending to specific divisions, series or dossiers and documents.

On the top levels («Abteilung», «Bestand» or «Teilbestand») you often find a short introduction to the history of the records contained and the administration that produced the records. Clicking on the Display selected units of description in the Detail View displays this introduction and other information.

Selecting the command Reduce view to selected unit of description restricts the view of the tree to the selected branch. The search then takes place only within the reduced area. If a reduction is active, the command Cancel reduction is displayed, which can be used to display the entire archive plan. The selected reduction is also available if you continue your search using “Full text search” or «Field search».

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Descriptor Search

With the descriptor search you first search for index terms and then find the associated archived material. This enables you to selectively search for terms relating to people, places, and objects, provided that they had been assigned by the archive. If the descriptor to be found does not exist, this does not mean that there are no associated archived items.

The descriptor search is an optional search and may be used primarily for research our collections of posters, art, and objects. Within the archive descriptor have only be assigned to very few entries.

The descriptor search is usually performed in two steps.

  1. Searching for index terms
  2. Using one or more of the terms found to search for units of description.

A search for descriptors (index terms) can be performed in the first step. Enter a «%» sign in front of the search term to search for a term which somewhere contains the search text specified. A list containing the terms found is returned as the search result. Now click on a term to add it to the search list. You can repeat this step as often as you wish. Alternatively, you can click on the icon to the left of the term. This immediately initiates a search for archived items which are linked to this term.

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Order of documents and photographs

If you wish to order documents for consultation in our readingroom or reproductions of pictures, please use the shopping cart. You may also send us a pdf-copy of your workbook (see below) by e-mail to the following address: Please indicate the date you wish to visit us. We will confirm your request via e-mail. If you order reproductions or photographs you will receive a quote. Please consult the usage guidelines and fee regulations on our website: ""

How to use workbooks

With Query you can create socalled workbooks to store search results and sort them according to different criteria (reference number, year, or alphabetical by title). There is also a function to create and print PDF-documents. To use the workbooks-function, you need to sign up with your e-mail-address and a password (free of charge).

Consultation of film and video

The consultation of film, video and audio documents is by appointment only. The documents may be viewed independently or under the supervision of archive employees during the opening hours of the reading room. Loans are only permitted in justified exceptional cases - such as the creation of a publication in the interests of SBB - and in the presence of written consent. Such exceptions are approved by archive management.


The basic service offered by the archive and the consultation of files in the reading room is free of charge. Please note that a fee is charged for reproductions or digitization of files, photographs, plan, posters etc. as well as for more complex research lasting longer than half an hour. Please consult the usage guidelines and fee regulations for the archives and collections of SBB Historic on our website: "".

Tips and tricks


Our specialized Library is open to the public und part of «Swiss Library Platform» (SLSP). The library comprises more than 30’000 books and about 200 recent and historic magazines on railways, public transport, and traffic engineering. Holdings include all Swiss timetables and railway guides since 1856. Holdings may be searched online at "swisscovery".

Switch to image list

If your search result comprises picture which are available online you may switch to an image list or an image overview. A click on the individual picture will produce a larger image.

Sort according to time period

To get a more structured view of your search result you may sort them according to time period. Please click on the corresponding row in the list of results.

Spelling of locomotives

«Re 4/4 II» (for locomotive types it is important to enter quotation marks to search for exactly this combination).

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The structure of the database on archives and collections

Introduction The structure of the archives The historical archive The archive of the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Factory (SLM) The photo-archive The archive of audiovisual documents The poster-collection The art-collection The collection of objects The collection of rolling stock


The following text explains some specific archival terms and concepts and should allow you to successfully conduct research in the archives of the SBB Heritage Foundation, the archives of the Swiss Federal Railways. You will find more information on the archives, collections, and the foundation as a whole on our website

The structure of the archives

The archives of SBB Historic are arranged according to provenance, i.e., according to where the funds came from. A system of order according to themes would be almost impossible to achieve in such a large archive. This structuring principle means, however, that you will have to search in several locations to cover a certain subject. Typical offices of origin are e.g., the General Secretariat of SBB, the marketing department of SBB or the former Gotthard Railroad Company.

Most of the time, your search will return the description of an archival item (document, photo, etc.) - also called metadata -, and not the archival item itself. File may be examined in the reading room. In the photo archive as well as in the art and poster collections however, you will often find a digitized version of the original online.

The documents from 1999 on, governing the foundation of the SBB AG, i.e. today's SBB, are partly also available on the Internet, but due to the period of disclosure (mainly 30 years) are not available for consultation without a request for inspection / authorisation.

The historical archive

In the historical archive (Historisches Archiv), you will find the documents of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) from their foundation in 1902 up to 1998 as well as the documents of the railroad companies bought by the Swiss federal government in order to establish the SBB (i.e., the Jura-Simplon and the Gotthard railways). You will also find some non-SBB funds (Fremdbestände) such as the technical archives of the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Factory (SLM) in Winterthur (see below).

Important Note: Documents that are less than 30 years old (50 years in the case of sensitive personnel files) are protected by an access restriction. You will see the meta data for such documents; they can only be consulted by special permission, however. Photos are usually excluded from this rule.

The archive of the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Factory (SLM)

The technical archive of the former Swiss Locomotive and Machine Factory (SLM) is part of our holdings. It comprises more than 100’000 technical drawings of engines plus orderfiles, sales contracts, and technical documentation. Part of the archive are about 20’000 photographs. Most of them are digitized and form a section of the photo-archive.

The photo-archive

In the photo archive (Fotoarchiv), you will find a continually about half a million picture of Swiss railway history. The main source of the archive’s holdings is the former “Fotodienst” (photo service) of the SBB Directorate General. As of 2019, about 250'000 descriptions of images are included in the data base, about 120'000 images are already available to view online. We publish an increasing number of high-resolution photographs on Wikimedia Commons for public use according to our OpenData-Policy. A further source for early railroad photography is the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne.

The archive of audiovisual documents

The audiovisual archive (Film-, Video- und Tonarchiv) comprises more than 3’500 historical films, videos, and audio-files. The number of actual documents is even larger, as many titles appear in different media. Films date back to the early 20th century. The contents of the archive reflect various aspects of railway history such as historic events, documentation of technical change, instructional films, tourism, and advertising. Viewing of audiovisual documents is by appointment only (e-mail: The copying and screening of films and videos may be subject to usage fees and copyright restrictions.

The poster-collection

The large collection of posters comprises about 4’000 posters dating back to the 1880’s. The earliest examples come from the former private Railway Companies of Switzerland like the Gotthard-Railway or the Jura-Simplon-Line. On the other end the collection encloses posters of SBB up to the present. A large number of posters may be view online on the data base. For conservational reasons viewing of posters is restricted to scientific research.

The art-collection

The works of the art collection reveal the cooperation of SBB with Swiss artists and designers of the 20th century. They also throw light on the changing trends of advertising art from ca. 1890 to the present day. Designs and drafts for posters and covers of railroad timetables and company publications form a large part of the collection. Viewing of items is restricted to scientific research. Individual parts of the poster and art collection are occasionally on show in company buildings or on loan in various exhibitions.

The collection of objects

With more than 1’000 objects of workaday life relating to railways or the railway workers the collections document the history of Swiss railways. The scope is wideranging: from measuring devices of tunnel-building to station clocks, from destination boards to nickelodeons that featured the stations waiting rooms in the late 19th century. Large sections are dedicated to railway lanterns and the development of rail tracks and switches.

The collection of rolling stock

The rolling stock of SBB Historic is located at different depots throughout Switzerland. It comprises more than 220 engines and carriages, a lot of them still operational. Data of rolling stock is not yet included in the data base. Please find details and pictures of engines, railcars, and carriages on our website


For more information on the collections as well as information on poster reproductions, please visit

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You can help us improve!

The archival data base of SBB Historic contains over 500'000 records that have been entered by diverse persons over the time of 20 years. Please write to us about mistakes or additions - i.e., if you know where exactly a certain photo was taken. You can contact us at : Please mention the reference number (Signatur) of the document or the ID-number found at the bottom of the detail view, so we know which record to change. The corrections are added regularly and uploaded to the Internet regularly.


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Archives and collections of SBB Historic