The Branch Line Society Carinthia Explorer Full Tour Route
The Branch Line Society Carinthia Explorer - Enlargements
A hot and steamy (excuse the pun) morning saw 107 explorers (a new record for a BLS foreign trip) assemble at Klagenfurt Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station in Klagenfurt, capital of the Austrian state of Carinthia and an important railway junction in southern Austria. 93.1332, a 2-8-2 tank engine built in 1927 built by Lokomotivfabrik Wien-Floridsdorf stood ready with its train of four four-wheeled carriages of a similar vintage, pouring clag from its chimney over the station environs. Once the smart diesel service from Weizelsdorf had arrived we were off, heading out through the suburbs of the city and climbing sharply over a shoulder of the hills south of the city, before descending to cross the river Drau, one of the longest tributaries of the Danube on an impressive truss bridge.
Arriving in Weizelsdorf we passed the passenger station to continue on the disused line towards Rosenbach to the current extent of operations, marked by a stop board and track machine parked on the line. A swift reversal then saw us propelled back onto a loop south of the platform line, where our steam loco was detached and 383.10, an 0-6-0 diesel built in 1957 for the VOEST steel mill in Krems an der Donau, attached. [This had not been part of the original plan, but was offered for free as it made the shunting at Weizelsdorf much simpler!] This took us down the branch to Ferlach, with a couple of run-pasts part way along the way, the first of which was adjacent to a field full of crickets ('owzat? - you don't often see this in England these days). At Ferlach we transferred to two historic trams (Duwag 437 and ET 22104), volunteers having electrified the 1.6 km branch from Ferlach to the former KESTAG steelworks. Part of the former steelworks site is now occupied by Historama Ferlach, which is the second largest transport museum in Austria with 2,200m2 of exhibition space, including an interesting mix of trams, motor vehicles, motorbikes, bicycles and boats. While our visit gave the opportunity to be out of the baking sunshine, the interior of the metal-roofed building did resemble a sauna!
The trams arrived at Historama on the platform nearer the museum, but there was another platform which offered the possibility of continuing another 400m to the tram shed on the other side of the complex. So while participants had a look around Historama the trams were moved to the other platform, and when (almost) everybody was back duly griced the additional track. Celebrations were somewhat muted for the BLS team as it transpired someone had been left behind, but luckily a kind person from the museum took him by car to Weizelsdorf to rejoin the tour.
Our Historama visit over, the trams returned us to Ferlach where 383.10 took us back to Weizelsdorf and 93.1332 was attached to the rear of our train. Once the passenger service had departed for Klagenfurt we once again propelled towards Rosenbach before returning into the platform road. Once the road was clear 93.1332 was given its head, demonstrating some brisk acceleration as it crossed the Drau and climbed back over the shoulder of the hills to Klagenfurt. Here there was a brief pause before we headed north out of the city towards St Veit and a water stop. The run to St Veit gave the opportunity to observe the flexibility of Austrian signalling in action, as between Klagenfurt Annabichl and Maria Saal we were overtaken by a freight train running 'wrong line'! The water stop in St Veit gave travellers the opportunity to purchase refreshments, there being only a limited selection on the train, before we restarted, heading east past the hugely impressive medieval Hochosterwitz castle, perched on a hill to the south, and through Launsdorf station. Beyond the station we lurched right onto the Görtschitztalbahn, curving right through fields of maize and past one of the largest and neatest piles of logs one could imagine! Following the river Gurk, on the way to Brückl the main road was crossed for the first time, the level crossing barriers being hand-worked by a crossing keeper.
Beyond Brückl the private line to Donau Chemie, refused for the tour, follows the Gurk valley, while we headed north along the Görtschitz valley, crossing the road a number of times more before reaching Klein Sankt Paul, where our train paused to collect two who had experienced an horrendous journey to Carinthia with cancelled flights due to bad weather and technical issues on their plane. [All the texts between them and the organiser are in the e-BLN report, and shows how close it was!] Re-starting we continued along the final 2km of a private line to the cement works of Wietersdorfer & Peggauer Zementwerke GmbH, finishing well inside the works site, which includes a museum building.
Passengers were not allowed off the train at Wietersdorf, but it was raining heavily anyway. On our way back to St Veit for a further water stop, we were raced by a small group of motorcyclists over the three level crossings between Klein Sankt Paul and Eberstein (we lost), before the smart station buildings at Eberstein and Brückl were noted for a second time. On the way back to Klagenfurt and for the first time in the day, the clag from 93.1332's chimney was replaced by white smoke, a fitting ending to a splendid day out.