The International Steam Pages

The Achenseebahn, Austria 2019

James Waite reports on the well known metre gauge Riggenbach rack line, he was there from 24th to 26th July 2019. Basically the line climbs some 440m from Jenbach where it makes a connection with the main line and also the narrow gauge Zillertalbahn to Seespitz 7km away on the Achensee. As is conventional on most rack railways, the locomotive propels the train to the highest point at Eben where it runs around and proceeds smokebox first down the gentle (adhesion only) descent to the terminus where it again runs around. The return journey is made with the locomotive running at the front of the train throughout.

The AB originally had four 0-4-0RT's, all built by Floridsdorf in Wien in 1889 when the line opened. No's 1-3 have been running ever since. No 4 was withdrawn in about 1930 and subsequently scrapped. A replacement no 4, using mostly cast-off spare parts plus a boiler built in Poland, was completed in 2008, though it carries the plates of the original. There are six coaches, all built by the Graz wagon company. Four are opens which also date from 1889. Two are closed ones built by Graz over the next ten years or so. 

The pictures are presented in chronological order for the convenience of your editor who has been to the railway, but not for nearly 50 years...

I arrived in the district mid-afternoon. Only one loco was running and altogether there were three return trains hauled by no 1, and these photos show it as follows:-

Arriving at Eben en route for Jenbach

Setting off from Eben on the rack for the descent to Jenbach.

The third train setting off from Eben for Seespitz, the pier at the south end of the Achensee.

Between Maurach Mittel and Speespitz.

The train on arrival at Seespitz with one of the lake boats approaching from Bucau on the other side of the lake.

Running round at Seespitz.

The return train to Jenbach setting off from Maurach station for Jenbach. The building in the left background houses the Apartements Christian. Back in the early 1990's we rented the top floor of this building for a week's family holiday and it had an excellent view of the trains!

As I was in the yard at Jenbach an elderly gentleman came out from the carriage shed and asked if I would like to look round. He was really hospitable! This closed coach is being restored in the workshops to what is believed to be its original livery and condition.

This small workshop, at the back of the engine shed, was where all machining was done until the new carriage shed and workshop building was completed in 1993. The machines were belt-driven from a small stationary steam engine in the shed.

No 1 returning to the shed at the end of its run. No 4 on the right.

This was my seventh visit to the railway since first going there in 1971 and the first when I've enjoyed consistently good sunny weather. It was, however, very hot!!

The second day of my trip, No's 1 and 4 were both in use, possibly for the first time this season as the guard of one of the trains made great play of ceremoniously removing the rather grubby stickers over the second train's departure times from the timetable board at Eben.

No 4 on the traverser at Jenbach shed. It still has the old hand-turned wheel to drive the traverser which was very much in use when I first visited, but nowadays the traverser is pushed and pulled by a tractor which is out of sight behind the engine in this photo.

Taking water at Jenbach. The water column with its curious stays is of some age and predates the new workshop building behind it. Note the mechanical coaling mechanism built onto the new building.

No 4 running round at Seespitz.

No 4 and its train waiting to leave Seespitz.

No 1 approaching the top of the climb from Jenbach at Eben.

No 4 sets off from Eben about to engage the rack. No 1 waits to run round its train before proceeding.

No 1 leaving Maurach Mitte, marked by the replica shelter to the left.

No 4 between Maurach Mitte and Seespitz. The viewpoint here is at the back of what used to be a delightful hotel where Margaret and I stayed for a night back in 1979 but sadly it's no longer a hotel. Instead it's a holiday home for staff members of the Tirolean water company.

No 4 about midway down the rack section and about to cross the upper Jenbach-Wiesing lane. The stone arch to the right carries the lane under the main road to the Achensee from the Inn valley motorway at Wiesing which bypasses both Jenbach and Maurach.

No 4 climbing past the same spot running very late with the last train of the day. I had expected no 1 but it turned out that it had failed at Jenbach.

I tried a few alternative views on Friday, some of which were more successful than others! These are:-

No 3, which is being overhauled, was moved out of the workshop to enable no 1 to be taken in. Here it is on the left with no 4 coming off shed to the right. One of the electric railcar sets which the railway has bought from the Appenzellerbahnen in Switzerland is on the far left - there are others parked in the station and in the carriage shed. So far as I know there's no funding or any definitive plan for carrying out an electrification.

No 4 climbing past the Wiesing lane level crossing at km post 0.8.

Passing the old Seespitz hotel, on the left of this photo. Originally the railway terminated here, the extension alongside the lake to the pier being built in 1912.

Approaching Eben.

A descending train approaching Burgeck station, about two thirds of the way down the rack section.

A midday view at km post 0.8.

A final view at the old Seespitz hotel.

I left soon after midday, intending to spend the afternoon at the Chiemseebahn on my way back to Munchen airport. This turned out to be a disappointing move as the CB's steam tram loco was away for a protracted overhaul. The engineer, a delightful person, entertained me by showing me a live steam model loco, probably 3 1/2 inch gauge, which he had built from scratch and also taking me around the railway's old machinery so it wasn't a totally wasted visit!

Rob Dickinson