Sun Jul 15th, 2012 at 07:48:35 AM EST
I'm continuing my documentation of Austria's old Westbahn, based on photos I took this April, the last spring when all trains (including long-distance ones) were climbing the mountains.
To recap the context: the Westbahn, running west from Vienna to Salzburg, is Austria's busiest mainline. To increase capacity and speeds, the Vienna–Linz stretch is being quadruple-tracked. The project is broken into several sections, with work on-going since the nineties. The most challenging section is right at the start: between Vienna and St. Pölten, where the old line crosses a pass of the Wienerwald mountains at the end of the Alps, the extra two tracks get a more level alignment with a 26 km base tunnel. This section enters service at the end of this year, around the 154th anniversary of the classic line.
In part 1, I followed the climb from the outskirts of Vienna to the summit of the Wienerwald crossing; this part will cover the descent on the western side.
A triple-voltage "Taurus" of Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB (factory type Siemens EuroSprinter ES64U4) climbs towards Vienna near Unter Oberndorf. The livery is an advertisement; there was a second loco with a nicer advertisement livery (for Austria's federal police!) doing its rounds at the time but I didn't manage a good photo. In the distance on the right: the castle of Neulengbach
The western descent from Rekawinkel to Neulengbach follows a creek named Anzbach, high on the southern valley side, and ends with the crossing of the north–south valley of the Laaberbach. I reproduce the map I adapted from Thorsten Büker's rail map site:
The western side of the Wienerwald mountains is more agricultural in nature. After Rekawinkel, the descent starts with two tunnels and a few curves in a forest, then on the outskirts of Eichgraben, the first hillside field provides good sight on the line. The photo shows a westbound limited-stop REX train (the third level of local trains, running well beyond St. Pölten), formed of an old class 1142 loco and double-deck coaches.
The same spot is passed by a Hungarian State Railways (MÁV) class 470 (a dual-system Siemens ES64U2) with a westbound RoLa (piggyback train for lorries, international designation is short for "rolling country road" in German). These fast freight trains will most likely switch to the new line, too.
At Eichgraben, the line crosses the side valley of the Nagelbach creek in a large horseshoe curve, starting right after the above field. Looking west into the valley of the Anzbach, a Salzburg-bound two-trainset railjet (ÖBB's "flagship" long-distance passenger trains) passes in front:
The centrepiece of the horseshoe curve is a viaduct. The only good spot for photos is on a private path, on which I didn't go past a "sharp dog on the loose" warning sign... But, at the foot of the viaduct, there was this old tank engine:
Right after the viaduct, the horseshoe curve approaches the station of Eichgraben-Altlengbach in a cutting. Here one of ÖBB's dual-system "Taurus" (Siemens ES64U2) locos climbs the mountain towards Vienna with a freight train of coal or ore wagons.
Again above the Anzbach, the next gap in the forest on the valley side is right after Unter Oberndorf. An ICE‑T semi-high-speed electric multiple unit (EMU), this one owned by ÖBB, runs the bi-hourly ICE service to Frankfurt:
20 seconds and 400 metres later, the same train meets its Vienna-bound sister (an ICE‑T owned by German Railways DB):
The valley widens towards Maria Anzbach. Around here, on 31 December 1930 and again a month later, mysterious railway terrorist Sylvester (or Hungarian: Szilveszter) Matuska committed his first two attempts at derailing trains. While these two attempts were unsuccessful resp. caused only minor damage, the next at Jüterbog (south of Berlin, Germany) caused several injuries and the last one against the Orient Express at Biatorbágy (west of Budapest, Hungary) resulted in two dozen deaths and was used as excuse for a clampdown on communists. Below, a Stadler KISS double-deck EMU of open-access operator WESTbahn is about to pass the station of Maria Anzbach en route to Vienna.
Further downhill is the abandoned stop of Hofstatt, where another "Taurus" with an eastbound IC is running downhill. In the distance above the loco, the church of Maria Anzbach.
The Anzbach and Laaberbach creeks merge into the Große Tulln river. The valley sides meet in a last hill, with the castle of Neulengbach on top. A Salzburg-bound two-trainset railjet reaches the cutting across the saddle behind the castle hill – here it is well visible that railjet trainsets are merely fancy push-pull trains with repainted dual-voltage "Taurus" locos:
The other end of the cutting is the station of Neulengbach Stadt, a listed architectural heritage. Below, a view of the wooden platform building above the pedestrian underpass.
A class 1144 with standard coaches as an all-stopper R train (the second level of local trains, runs until St. Pölten) passes the old blockhouse [signalman's house] on the edge of Neulengbach Stadt station, starting the crossing of the valley of the Laaberbach, where the descent visibly ends. At the other side of the valley is Neulengbach station.
Another of WESTbahn's KISSes passes in front of the castle of Neulengbach on a photo from the valley of the Laaberbach:
The centrepiece of the valley crossing is a massive old stone viaduct with nine openings and a total length of 186 m. Unfortunately, city development didn't consider tourists with cameras: the best view (with the castle in the background of the viaduct, would be from the western valley side) is obstructed by trees, and even the southern views from the valley bottom are partially obstructed by an ugly modern school building. The photo below also indicates the challenges of photographing in April weather.
Below the view from the shore of the Laaberbach, with a mixed single/double-deck REX on top of the viaduct. There was no recognisable system in the use of rolling stock, BTW: both R and REX services could be anything between single-deck, double-deck and mixed trainsets and Talent EMUs, and the same service in the same hour could be done with different rolling stock types on different days.
The least obstructed view on the Laaberbach viaduct is from a multi-storey car park under the castle. However, even morning sunlight barely touches the north side as a "Taurus" hurries towards Vienna with an IC:
The third and last part will portray the hilly terrain towards St. Pölten.
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