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The Branch Line Society Carinthia Explorer; Day 3
Sunday 28th July 2019

Report by David Palmer & Paul Griffin


Our explorers joined modern coaches for a ride north, first to Pöckstein-Zwischenwässern to visit the 760mm narrow gauge Gurkthalbahn, following the route of the Klagenfurt tram to Annabichl on the way out of the city (once, that was, after the side door on one of the coaches could be made to close!). Our arrival at Pöckstein- Zwischenwässern coincided with the start of the rain which was to stay with us for most of the day, resulting in a damp dash to the train of five coaches hauled by 898.01, an 0-6-0 tank engine.

Starting in the shadow of the standard gauge line (at a considerably higher level), our special train trundled through the fields to Hohenholz, where a very damp photo stop was made, before continuing to Treibach-Althofen, the original railway terminus, adjacent to the main line station. The last section includes dual gauge track and overhead electric wires, the standard gauge line being a headshunt into a chemical works. Returning to our starting station we rejoined the coaches, which followed the route of the Gurkthalbahn towards Klein Glödnitz, stopping off to inspect the remains of the stations at Straßburg, Gurk (with a preserved steam engine outside) and Klein Glödnitz - all in light to heavy rain.

A fairly hair raising run through the mountains on a minor road then took us past Tamsweg to Maunterndorf, the end of the 760mm gauge Taurachbahn heritage railway, based at the western end of the 76km Murtalbahn from Unzmarkt to Mauterndorf.

The rain finally lessened as our busy train was assembled; 0-6-0 tank engine No6 'Thörl' in charge of eight carriages, after requiring some attention to its motion while in the shed. [Which our organiser failed to see as he was busy paying for 83 train fares plus €400 for the Steiermärkische Landesbahnen person required for weekend access to Tamsweg. The Gurkthalbahn and coach driver also wanted paying in cash…] We followed the river Taurach (hence the heritage railway is named Taurachbahn) through the fields before briefly stopping for a manual level crossing on the way to Maria Pfarr, for a short break. This station features, for Herren (men), a rather basic pissoir (translation unnecessary). The explorers were then offered the chance to buy sausages cooked on the footplate for a late lunch!

From there a second manually worked level crossing took us to St Andrä Andlwirt, the extent of normal passenger running for the Taurachbahn, a station without a passing loop so that normal operation includes gravity shunting (Manx Electric Railway style) in a siding beyond the station of the coaches to 'run round'! Leaving the station we then joined the section of railway not regularly used connecting the heritage railway with the Steiermärkische Landesbahnen railway. This operates between Unzmarkt and Tamsweg. Our special then steamed into their Tamsweg station, coincident with a passenger service at the station (and not long after another steam hauled train had departed).

After running round Thörl prepared to return to Mauterndorf, while your correspondents and a good number of other explorers left the train to experience the passenger service down the Mur valley to Unzmarkt (and back to Klagenfurt for some). With its cigar smoking driver at the helm the train left to travel again over the rare track to St Andrä, while those left experienced the sounds of steam disappearing into the distance. This was a suitable end to a very enjoyable three day exploration of Carinthia (107 participants - a BLS foreign tour record) with thanks to our organiser, Paul Griffin.

[It wasn't really the end as the group had to return to Mauterndorf and the coaches for the last leg. The scenic high level road was clearly not a good idea (to think the railway authorities had been talking about a steam ban a few days earlier!), so the coaches proceeded directly to Villach for set down, then Klagenfurt, arriving within a few minutes of the organiser's estimate, which he found very satisfying.]

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