Sat Jul 28th, 2012 at 07:14:35 AM EST
I'm completing 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.
The first two parts showed the crossing of the Wienerwald mountains, this part will cover the agriculture-dominated hilly terrain until St. Pölten.
The setting Sun shines on a Salzburg-bound two-trainset railjet (the "flagship" long-distance passenger trains of Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB) as it crosses a dam across a small side valley just before the abandoned stop of Schildberg, overlooking the valley of the Persching river
In the previous part, I got until Neulengbach, the end of the continuous descent from the summit of the Wienerwald crossing, where the line crosses a north–south valley on a viaduct. I reproduce the map I adapted from Thorsten Büker's rail map site:
Right after Neulengbach station, the line turns left into a wide and shallow side valley. Here an R train from St. Pölten (an all-stopper; second of three levels of local trains here), which took the "false" tracks to let some fast freight trains overtake it, returns to the Vienna-bound tracks. The word Wiesel (= weasel) and the drawing of a weasel on the sides of the double-deck coaches is a symbol of speed first introduced on buses run by Lower Austria state, a co-financier of these coaches.
Looking along that side valley from a point further west, a Stadler KISS double-deck electric multiple unit (EMU) of open-access operator WESTbahn (competitor to the railjets) is receding towards Vienna while the shadows of clouds move over the terrain.
Looking towards the east, with tractors tilling the fields in the distance. The train of mixed single- and double-deck coaches pulled by a class 1144 loco (built in the 1980s) is a westbound limited-stop REX (the third level of local trains, running well beyond St. Pölten).
A bit further west, just outside Ollersbach, the line crosses the creek and a country road on a three-arch stone bridge. One of ÖBB's dual-system "Taurus" locos (factory type Siemens ES64U2) crosses it with a westbound normal IC.
Another "Taurus" with a freight train consisting of modern sliding-wall wagons reaches the road crossing at the eastern end of Ollersbach station. Safety must be. (I saw plenty of people who ignored the warning signs, however.)
The line runs further west in another wide flat east–west side valley until Böheimkirchen. On the edge of Lanzendorf, the village before Böheimkirchen, is the Filial Church of St. Martin, which is 800 years old (first mentioned in 1248) and survived in its original Romanesque form, without Baroque additions, and with a leaning tower. (Photographed across the rear door window of the last car of a Vienna-bound R train which was a rare non-push-pull train.)
At Böheimkirchen, the Persching river turns north where it meets the Michelbach from the south. The Westbahn crosses both. Under a menacing sky, an ICE‑T semi-high-speed EMU of German Railways DB, running the bi-hourly ICE service from Frankfurt to Vienna, runs on a dam crossing the valley bottom of the Michelbach. (I made the photo from under an umbrella in a drizzle.)
A Bombardier Talent as westbound R train crosses the bridge of the Michelbach.
After crossing the Persching on a curved dam, the line again arrives on the valley side west of Böheimkirchen. Here it is only the background of a broken and leaning Catholic road sanctuary in the middle of an avenue of trees:
Despite the rain and the grey sky, spring colours come across on the road to the station of Böheimkirchen:
For the short distance from Böheimkirchen until the abandoned stop of Schildberg, the Westbahn turns north to follow the valley of the Persching. A different look at the dam next to Schildberg (already shown above the fold), with Böheimkirchen in the background, as another of WESTbahn's KISSes recedes towards Vienna:
Right after Schildberg, the line turns west, into a nice small side valley with an avenue of blooming trees at the bottom and a line of wind turbines at the other side. (Another photo from that non-push-pull train.)
Looking east at the other end of this small valley, just before the heavily modernised station of Pottenbrunn, as a westbound freight train passes. ÖBB leased this dual-system "Taurus" loco to its own subsidiary Rail Cargo Hungaria (the former freight branch of the Hungarian State Railways), hence the blue vinyl stickers.
The old and the new line meet again east of St. Pölten, in the Wagram Junction. Rails run on three levels while a country road on a bridge forms a fourth level.
From Wagram Junction, the extra two tracks of the quadruple-tracking project will bypass St. Pölten to the south (see map again), and, unlike elsewhere, will be meant for freight trains only. This bypass, where the main construction works began recently, will be the last part of the Vienna–Linz quadruple-tracking to be completed, in 2017. (There is another gap further west which will be closed in two stages in the meantime.)
The upgrade of the old line across St. Pölten, which will continue to carry express passenger traffic, was completed recently, along with the renewal of the main station. On the morning photo below, a ten-minute delayed night train is about to depart for Vienna:
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