The International Steam Pages


The Achensee Bahn, 2012

Filippo Ricci reports on his visit to a steam railway which is arguably 'real' as although it serves tourists, this is precisely why it was built in the first place. See also his report of the adjacent Zillertal Bahn


This metre gauge cog railway has an excellent site at http://www.achenseebahn.at. So I will not discuss here the history of the railway or its rolling stock but I will focus on locations, photographic opportunities and some curious operating practices.

For a recent video see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkB8JUqVfgE (added 17th December 2012)..  

Jenbach

The Achensee station is located on the north-east side of the main Jenbach station: itís accessible from the station forecourt or from platform 1; due to its position itís free from counterlight all day.
The busiest moment is between 10.10 (arrival of the 9.30 from Achensee) and the 10.15 departure:

As you can see from the picture in these few minutes no less than three locos are in the station and donít forget that at the same moment a Zillertal Bahn steam loco is backing on its consist to form the 10.30 departure to Mayerhofen.

The preparation for a new service is very swift: the loco propels its consist to a loop within the station yard, uncouples and goes to the track flanking the sheds.

Here it stops along the coaling plant (above), is coaled then moves on a couple of yards to sit above the ash pit and, once serviced, rejoins its coaches, normally in as little as half an hour.

You can follow the whole procedure from the east end of platform 3 where you can enjoy an unobstructed view of all the three railways serving Jenbach. While there I was asked some questions by three railwaymen cleaning the station but they proved to be friendly and welcoming.

Above: a view of Jenbach Acheensee coaling plant, shed and works from main station platform 3.

From Jenbach to Eben

As soon as a train leaves Jenbach station it is confronted by a fearsome gradient and the whole consist shakes while the cog wheels engage their special rail; as soon as the loco has entered the rack section its sedate voice becomes a thunderous bark and for the next half hour the engine is driven all out at walking pace.

At the start of the journey there are two level crossings but the presence of buildings around them prevents a clear view of the train. Once the train leaves the outskirts of Jenbach it enters a thick wood where there are some paths but all are flanked by "for private use only" signs. The only photographic opportunity is a short section flanking the main road to the Achensee: the road is east of the railway so I advise to go there during the morning.

Obviously the descent from the Achensee plateau to Jenbach is far less exciting with the loco hardly producing any noise but I recommend the eerie sight of the forest undergrowth enveloped in steam clouds while coming down in the chilly morning air with the first train of the day:.

Eben

This cosy station with flower pots, a beautiful church just across the road and a big lawn across the tracks is in my opinion the best spot on the line. There the rack section terminates immediately followed by a passing loop in front of the station and at least two crossings are scheduled to take place here at 14.20 and 15.30 but that's not all because the locos hauling ascending trains have to run round their train there. On the rack section the loco has always to be at the valley (Jenbach) end of the consist and so ascending trains are pushed by their engine.

If the Achensee bound train arrives first then the other train will stop at some distance from the points giving access to the loop and stays there until the run round procedure has been completed. If, as usually happens, the Jenbach bound train comes in first the ascending train is admitted into the loop and stops, then as soon as the descending train departs the engine follows it and does the run round.

These quick manoeuvres with trains coming within a few feet of each other are made possible by the slow speed and complete lack of signaling or track circuits. There is also an excellent and inexpensive restaurant, the Kirchenwirt, a few steps down the road from the station.

Eben to Seespitz

The next stretch from Eben station to Maurach halt is hidden by houses and difficult to follow, however from Maurach all the way to Seespitz a foot and cycle path runs along to the railway.
As you can see from the picture below you can obtain good pictures from Maurach Mitte halt looking towards the lake while standing on the footpath.

As you probably have already noticed this railway, despite transporting tourists, is by no means a preserved railway. The emphasis is on efficiency and keeping the tight schedule, the engines are clean but not glittering and above all else the railway has stubbornly refused to introduce any modern feature unnecessary for its peculiar characteristics and environment. The lack of signaling and circuiting is one example but here are two more.

As you can see from the picture the rails are old, in the case shown forged as long ago as 1936, and jointed.

On the Eben-Seespitz stretch you can observe the guard checking tickets in time honoured fashion; standing on the coach sideboard and popping his head and arm into each compartment to collect money and give tickets:

Seespitz

I didn't survey the Maurach Mitte-Seespitz stretch for photogenic spots; the immediate environs of Seespitz station are tricky because the road, the railway, the footpath and the ship pier are all squeezed in the small space between the mountain cliff and the lake so you have no room to move around.

Seespitz has a loop just before the platform; the locomotive runs round its train before pushing it to the platform and discharge the passengers.

The loco is oiled and watered while passengers board for the return journey to Jenbach.

To conclude a picture of yours truly at Achensee Spitz:


Rob Dickinson

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