Austria : index

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updated : 2016-07-06
Österreichische Bundesbahn (ÖBB) is the national railway operator and still runs the vast majority of Austria's domestic and international passenger services. A wholly owned subsidiary, Rail Cargo Austria, was formed in 2005 to separate out ÖBB's freight services and is also included here.
Austria's Alpine scenery and eclectic variety of traction first attracted me to the country in the 1970s. There's less variety now but it's still an attractive country with a reasonable number of loco hauled passenger trains and heavy freight traffic on the major routes.
Austria's railways date back to the first half of the 19th Century and their history is far too long and interesting to go into all the details here. The country was an early adopter of railways, which spread rapidly throughout the Austro-Hungarian empire from the 1830s onwards. The line over the Semmering Pass, widely regarded as the world's first mountain main line, was opened in the 1850s and the country was also one of the first to pioneer main line electrification in the 1920s, using the 15kV, 16.67Hz AC system that's still in use today.

At the time of my first visit in 1975, steam traction was still in use on a handful of standard gauge lines, including the Erzbergbahn, an incredible mountain railway that used 80 year old 0-6-2 rack tanks to drag and shove iron ore trains over the Präbichl Pass. Steam also lasted into the 1980s on a couple of narrow gauge lines.

In those days the electric traction was almost as interesting as the steam with several classes of pre war locos still in widespread use into the 1990s. The introduction of standard classes gradually took its toll and by the early years of the 21st Century most of the variety had disappeared. EMUs have been used in Austria for many years but numbers have been limited until recently and they were largely confined to suburban services around the big cities.

Diesels have never occupied a particularly important place on Austrian railways, with most lines of any significance going straight from steam to electric traction. On less heavily trafficked lines diesel railcars were often used instead of locomotives.
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WK000 : 2024-04-29
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