Posted by: travelrat | September 12, 2017



Jenbach, Austria 2001

I went to Jenbach, in the Austrian Tyrol because I’m an incurable railway freak. The bonus is  that there are other attractions, too, which neither run on rails nor are powered by steam, so non- rail-oriented visitors, especially partners, are catered for as well.

Jenbach’s station is really three stations. The main line carries local services to the nearby towns of Innsbruck and Kufstein, as well as the EuroCity trains. To the south, the narrow gauge Zillertalbahn serves the Ziller valley, and to the north, the steam-powered Achenseebahn is a rack-and-pinion line to the beautiful lake Achensee.

The Achenseebahn, is purely steam-driven. The locomotives and carriages are all nearly 120 years old, and it’s the oldest rack-and-pinion steam railway still in service anywhere. The Riggenbach rack is necessary to assist the train up the steep slope between Jenbach and Eben on its way to the Achensee, where passengers can transfer to a boat.


Most  passengers sail as far as the resort town of Pertisau, about midway along the western shore. But, I stayed on the boat as it continued to the head of the lake, from where I walked along the western bank back to Pertisau.

There’s no road along this part of the lake shore but, about half-way I found an excellent restaurant at Giesalm. This is only accessible on foot … or by boat. So, if I’d decided this wasn’t such a good idea after all, I could have taken the boat to Pertisau.

But, the highlight of the Achensee had to be the slightly eccentric train-ride up to the lake. The two carriages on the venerable train became extremely crowded, but the conductor ensured that no-one was left standing on the platform if there was only the smallest space into which another passenger might be fitted. I thought of the ‘shovers-in’ on Japanese commuter trains!


This would seem to make his task of inspecting and issuing tickets somewhat difficult, but it didn’t, because there’s no way to pass from one carriage to another, anyway. The conductor’s place is in his compartment n the uphill side of the train … the locomotive is always downhill from the carriages when using the rack … as it clatters fussily up the hill to Eben.

Some passengers boarded at an intermediate station, and a ticket needed to be sold. The conductor made his way to them, on the outside of the moving train, using the substantial running-board. As the undergrowth whipped within centimetres of him, I was horrified to see high value notes, worth about USD 75, being exchanged.

But, the conductor said they’ve been working this way since the days of the Emperor Franz-Josef, and don’t see any reason to change. They haven’t, he said, lost any substantial sums of money, or any conductors … yet!


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