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European Railroad Discussion > Railfanning in Austria

Date: 02/27/23 12:01
Railfanning in Austria
Author: OeBB

Hello. I’m visiting family in Austria this summer for a few weeks and I’m wondering if there are any special trains or tourist trains that I can visit. I like european steam locomotives but any trains will do.

I’m already planning to travel by train between Salzburg and Wien Hbf, so I’ll spend some time at the stations, but is there anything else I should see?

Thank you!

Posted from iPhone

Date: 02/27/23 16:17
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: gobbl3gook

A few overall pointers -- 

Most cities will have high speed trains, regional trains, and local trains.  You'll see a lot more scenery from the local trains, as they run on the original tracks from city to city, village to village.  In mountainous areas, as a lot of Austria is, they've built bypass tracks in many places that go in tunnels through the sides of the valleys, instead of village to village in the middle.  Faster trains are fine if you really want to get from A to B and not see what it in the middle, but the slower trains really let you see the scenery.  Local trains also are almost free.  Fare might be 1/2 or 1/4 the fare of faster trains.  Or maybe 1/10?  (Ticket agents will give you a funny look if you want to buy a ticket on a long local train.  So, if this is your thing, figure out a fixed reply for this, like "I like to see the scenery -- I want to go as slow as possible")

There's more trains that you can ever imagine seeing.  Trains running all directions, everywhere.  Local trains run on all routes every hour or two, maybe less in the really remote areas.  But the sky is the limit in terms of how many trains you can ride and places you can go by train.    

A couple things to do before you go -- 

1) Get a copy of the European Rail Timetable and save it to your phone/tablet.  It lists all the passenger trains that run anywhere in Europe, and has a good map of Austria.  (This used to be the Thomas Cook Timetable) 
Get it now, get to know it with some armchair tourism before you end up on some station platform in Austria trying to figure out your destination, with departure time just 10 minutes away...   For instance, look up city pairs -- Vienna to Salzburg -- what is the frequency of the fast trains?  How many different routes have local trains that can be slpiced together for a more scenic trip?  

If you peruse the Austria timetables and look at the map, you'll see that every line has trains running most of the day.  This means you don't need to plan so much -- just show up at the station, get a ticket for the next train, and if it's 30 or 55 minutes out, get a snack, sit down and watch the parade...  

2) If you have an iPhone/iPad you can get the "Pocket earth" app.  $6.  Download Austria, with topography, before you go.  Then it will be saved on your phone, and you can access it in airplane mode, and no data download fees/delays.  (Download your home state in the US first, and peruse it, so you know how to find your way around on it.).  If you click on a train station, or a tram stop, it will give you some or all of the train lines radiating out from it.  

Pocket Earth is a must-have, or a similar Android version of openstreetmap, where you can download the entire database before you travel.  I've used it in 20 countries in Europe, 5 in Asia, and have always found it to be 100% accurate in showing publicly accessible trails and paths along rail lines, and other places.  

3) Peruse Seat 61.  It's mostly about longer distance travel, but the Austria guide is probably useful. 


I have been to Austria twice on trains. 

The first time I went over Brenner Pass into Italy in 2015.  South from Innsbruck, in western Austria.  Also a fun, pretty mountain railroad.  Currently being bypassed by a base tunnel.  

The 2nd time I went from Vienna to the southwest, over Semmering Pass and back.  It is said to be the first modern mountain railroad, built in the 1860s.  Double track, wide open curves, lots of tunnels and bridges.  (At the time it was being bypassed by a long tunnel.  If the tunnel is complete you can still ride local trains over old summit route, but it won't be as busy as it was when I was there in 2019).  The train museum 100 km west of the summit in Knittlefeld had a nice exhibit on the pass, and the most amazing set of conductors caps I've ever seen.  Also lots of other things.  It seems to be a locally maintained museum, so a lot of oddball things in the collection you don't see at places like "national rail museum"s.  

If you're in Vienna, you're also very close to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.  It's only an hour or two on trains to get to cities in those countries, if you want to branch out a bit.  Passport control (I think) for Hungary, not for the others.  I found the trains overall to be more interesting in the Czech Republic than in Austria.  

A couple more things to entertain yourself with before you go -- 

* peruse Austria on openrailmap.org.  It uses openstreemap data (like pocket earth) but only highlights rail lines.  Classified by gauge, electrtification, mainline/branchline, etc.  The rail lines all jump out really clearly.  So do tram lines.  If you're in Vienna or Innsbruck or anywhere else, you can see the tram lines, and maybe consider some now for riding to an interesting endpoint destination.  

Subway lines are pale blue, trams are pale purple.  

You can see two mountain rail lines SE and SW in Innsbruck.  One is purple for a tram, one is green for light rail.  Both look extremely interesting, as they seem to climb up the face of the valley wall, with lots of horseshoe curves!  

Semmering Pass 
The multiple horseshoe curves as it winds its way up to to summit from the east really jump out... 

If you like topo maps, you can see what the topography is like on another set of maps based on openstreetmap data -- opentopomap.  

For instance -- 




Semmering Pass 

The value of the openrailwaymap + opentopomap combo is really useful for things like looking at that tram line SE out of Innsbruck into the mountains.  
It hardly shows up on opentopomap 
But it's pretty clear on openrailway map 
So, if you're a map nerd, you can do some sleuthing before you go.  

I also rode the MurauBahn, a 100 km narrow gauge line.  Very fun.  Like a tram through the mountain valleys at 60 kmh.  I think there are probably a lot of mountain railroads like this through the Austrian Alps, though I haven't really looked around on openrailmap to see all the narrow gauge lines... 

Google maps aren't so useful.  Hard to see the mountains.  Almost impossible to get an overview of rail lines.  But StreetView is good if you want to get a flavor of the neighborhood.  (Also, I hadn't discovered openrailwaymap or opentopomap the last time I was in Europe, so I didn't have the info for sleuthing.  But the murahbahn popped up clearly as a narrow gauge railway on PocketEarth, so I checked it out and took a ride.)  

For instance, the MurauBahn 
And, on Googlemaps you vertainly can't tell that there's a narrow gauge rail line here... 
But, google streetview comes in handy after you have identified an area of interest on the other maps
https://goo.gl/maps/nvk4xs9rVeAgvEMr7 --over-under spot 
https://goo.gl/maps/tBfnfKAkxPPuSWxm9 -- interchange location, standard gauge - narrow gauge
https://goo.gl/maps/hFE7ZEhMsXexHBEGA -- central yards in Murau

As for me, I prefer to do minimal research ahead of time, I just have open ended travel plans and I wander through places and see what is there.  But most peopl prefer to do more research and see highlights, rather than a representative sample... 

Let me know if you want clarification or more info on this, I'm tossing it out stream-of-consciousness style... 

Ted in OR

Sample pics -- 

1) Conductors cap collection, museum in Knittlefeld 
2) Semmering Pass 
3) Murau Bahn

These are just a sampling -- make sure you don't come and go from Austria *without* a bunch of experiences like this.  

Some of my Austria photos (I haven't posted any from the mountains) 

You can see my photos from other European countries if you scroll down through my photo posts on TO. 


Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 02/28/23 00:14 by gobbl3gook.

Date: 02/28/23 07:44
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: Lackawanna484

Very impressive thread, thank you.

I believe some of the Frank Sinatra movie Von Ryan's Express was filmed on the Austrian Italian border railroad lines. Extremely scenic.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/28/23 11:26 by Lackawanna484.

Date: 02/28/23 09:09
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: DWDebs/2472

Special standard-gauge (normalspur) and narrow-gauge (schmalspur) excursions etc by the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Eisenbahngeschichte (ÖGEG) (literal translation: Austrian Society for Railway History):
PROGRAMM 2023 - Österreichische Gesellschaft für Eisenbahngeschichte (oegeg.at)

- Doug Debs

Date: 02/28/23 09:12
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: bobwilcox

I highly recommend Pocket Earth for the United States.

Bob Wilcox
Charlottesville, VA
My Flickr Shots

Date: 02/28/23 11:45
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: 86235

The 760mm gauge Zillertalbahn in Tyrol is well worth seeking out, especially as they've just restarted hauling timber from the Binderholz sawmill at Fugen and the mainline connection at Jenbach.

They also run a daily steam train along with their normal passenger services.


Date: 03/06/23 13:17
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: Corpach

I believe that the Austrain railway museum just a short walk from the station at Wein Westbanhof. You should see some of the outdoor exhibits on the LHS as you approach the station on the train.

Date: 03/07/23 09:03
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: steve4031

Take a circle trip from Vienna to Villach to Salzburg and back to Vienna.  Or start in Salzburg.  This includes the most scenic rides IMHO.  

Date: 03/09/23 10:55
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: symph1

Take this train to Hallstatt. Incredible scenery, a funicular, and you have to take this boat from the train to the town.

Date: 04/30/23 22:13
Re: Railfanning in Austria
Author: OeBB

I apologize as I’ve only just seen this, but thank you for all the great information! I’m downloading openstreetmap now.

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