Rock meets concrete

30 October 2014
Through the mountain on their knees
Through the mountain on their knees

Passenger trains hurtle through the Gotthard tunnel at around 200 km/h. The workers laying the line sleeper by sleeper moved more slowly, advancing on their knees. (2012, Uri State Archives)

Without engineers there would be no Gotthard Base Tunnel. No less important are the workers who hew out the rock and convey it out of the tunnel, the stonemasons and the concrete layers. They build the 115 kilometres of trackway and install the almost 200,000 concrete sleepers that hold the track in place. The work is physically demanding and requires great precision. In the stuffy depths of the tunnel a machine regularly arrives bearing new supplies of concrete that the men distribute between the rails and sleepers before smoothing it while kneeling on foam pads. The rails must not deviate from the prescribed line by more than half a millimetre, both vertically and horizontally. The last, "golden" sleeper is laid on 31 October 2014.

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