Austria 22.8.08-29.8.08 <  >

Having made a hesitant start on Austria two weeks before, due to ÖBB deciding at short notice to prevent access to quite a lot of Desperate Railtours’ route, this was to be the first big bash on (more or less) regular track. The main target was to clear the ÖBB lines in the west of the country and link up with some cross border lines already done – quite late in the planning process the moles struck, but I managed to retrieve a reasonable agenda, helped by the fact that I needed virtually all ÖBB track!

Friday 22.8.08

Off by taxi for LM’s 07:57 to New Street – once again a spotless and (almost) punctual 4-car 170. LM’s transformation of the former CT services continues it seems, while ATW goes from worse to even worser.

Short pause at BHM before VT’s 09:00 Bendyleano to Euston with the usual windowless, backwards facing reserved seats for us peasants on advance tickets. Still, at £31 for two singles from TFC to EUS, vice the ‘open’ price of £115.35…

The Bendyleano would have been on time but for standing for a while somewhere south of Watford – 5 late in the end. And so to Heathrow via the bus to Baker Street, and a couple of pints in the Metropolitan (one a bathtub which had better remain nameless, and the other Exmoor Gold) with the usual ‘Spoons willing but inadequate staffing. This followed by Circle Line to Paddington, and Heathrow Connect to T123 (track from Airport Jn onwards). Obligingly this and the HE unit which took is to T5 both used P1 at Heathrow Central so contiguous track was done (and as far as I could glimpse, the flyover is single line).

BA were spot on to Vienna, with an 1810 arrival giving us time to do all the required chores before the 18:39 S-Bahn to St Marx and the hardly-worth-the-effort 74A bus to the hotel (Gartenhotel Gabriel, perfectly suitable if a little pricey at €87).

A short walk back to St Marx then the 71 tram took us to Schwarzenbergplatz for the short walk to the Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg where a very nice if expensive meal was accompanied by a pleasant Helles. This was followed by an even shorter walk to the 1516 Brewing Co round the corner for a really cracking weizen. I wondered why so many people were drinking it, until mine arrived!

Back at Schwarzenbergplatz we found a 71 tram just preparing to go. Very convenient – H pondered this happy coincidence and then pronounced it ‘integrated drinking’. A fine concept, rounding off a pleasant evening!

Saturday 23.8.08

Fortunately breakfast (a pleasant spread including hot option) started at 7 so we were able to partake before getting the 71 again (other way this time, and a modern tram) to Simmering for 08:04 EZ to St Valentin, hauled by 1042 013. [Ticketing was the good value Einfach-Raus-Ticket, €28 for the two of us (or 5, had there been 5!)]

An unscheduled 10 minute stop at Nussdorf was accompanied by a very irritating bod putting reserved labels (Spitz a.d. Donau to Persenbeug) on all but one coach – which of course was full, the train having filled up at Wien-Handelskai. Should not that route to Nussdorf was via the Donauuferbahn to Handelskai and the freight ‘curve’ from Abzw. Brigittau Nord to Nussdorf, almost all PSUL.

Having found seats further down, Mr. Irritating came and labelled us again, however when we stopped at Tulln I noticed a contingent leave the rear of the train, after which we found the last half coach was empty. [I don’t have any objection to reserved seats at all, it was the manner in which this individual simply leaned over any pax already occupying seats and stuck the labels on without speaking at all, not so much as a good morning. Language had nothing to do with it – the locals got treated just the same.]


2043.24 waits for time at Sarmingstein with EZ6390 on 23-8-08.

Loco change at Krems, from the 1042 to an immaculate 2043.24, after which we were about 8 late – but the timings are so slow to Sarmingstein that it was soon regained. The party at Spitz didn’t materialise, and the party of cyclists from Wien decamped at Persenbeug, leaving the train pretty well empty.


2043.24 standing at St Valentin after arrival with EZ6390

On time, give or take, at St Valentin; in view of the poor weather I’d decided to bin the narrow gauge today and go to Summerau instead – potentially tedious, but necessary! [I didn’t realise how tedious at that point…] It gave us the opportunity to nip across the road and book in at the hotel (Kerschbaumer) which seems comfortable enough. It also appeared that we could get to Wels and back via Traun before the 16:08 to Summerau. This we did (1043 out, Talent back) thus clearing the way for possible extras tomorrow. Sandwiches and Eggenberg on the first trip through Linz Hbf, and a very tasty (and reasonably priced) ice cream from the ice cream parlour on the second trip!

Off to Summerau on a 7 minutes late Taurus-hauled ‘R; train. Half way there, occurred one of those great Eurogricing moments when I realised that our return train, 18:04 ex Summerau, doesn’t run on Saturdays. Ah well, early supper at the pub then. On arrival at Summerau, confirm the non-running of the 18:04, then off to the pub (see 4.4.08). Permanent notice on window – closed Mon and Tue. Phew, it’s Saturday. Bounce up to the door, cheerful greeting from the pub cat – but notice sellotaped to the door ‘closed 23-8-08’. Another great Eurogricing moment. An hour’s walk round Summerau produced nothing, so it was back to the station to watch it rain until the Czechs arrive at (hopefully) 19:26.

They didn’t – rolled up about 12 late. The 340 was removed from the front – fortunately it was an Austrian City Shuttle set so 1116 155 could drop straight on to the rear.

In the end a bit of time was regained – we arrived in Linz 9 minutes late for our 8 minute connection. For some unknown reason it was being held )though not booked as far as I could tell) and a quick dash from P1 to P11 was sufficient. Back to St Valentin for 21:30, and the hotel obliged with a very nice meal which didn’t quite ruin us (in fact given the quality it was quite reasonable).

Sunday 24.8.08

A reasonably relaxed start today for the 08:43 stopper to Linz. Breakfast was a bit mean spirited we felt, but did the job. It turned out that the set from the 08:43 worked through to Passau – it was on time as it happened but even if late I needn’t have concerned myself about the connection! Luckily I hadn’t concerned myself enough [it was an 8 minute connection] to get up an hour earlier…

It’s not a very exciting ride up to Schärding – though pleasing to note the Braunau train to the right of us at Neumarkt-Kallham. Hopefully it will be the same when we do the line, with physical connection guaranteed! It seemed to be due to moleworks. [Regrettably we didn’t do the line on the Wednesday morning as planned, due to missing a connection at Salzburg – so I might miss that crossover in the end.]

Worth noting for the purist that the physical connection from the Ried im Innkreis line is at km 172.9 just outside Schärding, and not at Gopperding which is a ‘V’ station. I suspect when we go back that we’ll find the train doesn’t do that connection but originates in P1 at Schärding.

Up to Passau for a nice wander down to the Inn/Danube confluence followed by a visit to the Innstadt brewery’s showpiece beerhall (Bayerisch Löwe). Very nice too. Paulaners obtained on the station (+vile mayo’d roll) to sustain us for the 13 minutes back to Schärding.

The buffet at Schärding was shut (Helmut’s day off I guess – see 9.5.05) and 10 minutes’ walk proved fruitless so we wandered back to await 14:32 SuO (read the timetable properly this time) to Attnang-Puchheim, which was a 5047. Very pleasant trundle down a rural line complete with halts in the middle of cornfields – but quicker and more comfortable than a ČD 810! Attnang-Puchheim’s buffet was closed too but we found a café nearby dispensing Zipfer, hot chocolate, and a spectacular chocolate gateau. Well, you have to…

On returning to the station the moles struck again, with 17:07 to Kammer-Schörfling SEVd. There didn’t seem to be much else worth the effort, so we settled for the 17:00 stopper back to Wels – not such a bad thing as the fast lines are separate at several points.

Hotel located, we set off for supper. Inevitably the hausbrauerei (Gerstl Bräu) is closed on Sundays and public holidays; so was almost everywhere else that wasn’t an ice cream parlour. Eventually we got a very reasonable meal, accompanied by Grieskirchner Weisse, in a hotel at the west end of the market place. [Kremsmünstererhof, Stadtplaz 62].

Monday 25.8.08

Interrails today – a beautiful morning and Austria open for business again! First rate (just refurbished) room and a first rate breakfast (well, OK, there wasn’t any cake, but fresh fruit instead) at Hotel Traunpark which was a bargain at HRS’s €56.05. Why .05? Who knows.

Off to the station via the supermarket, for a hot, wedged 08:50 IC to Salzburg. Compartment stock, and despite an amiable English speaking fellow traveller, not a pleasant way to travel. [I absolutely detest compartment stock and was hoping to be free of it once I’d left the Czech Republic behind.] Dead on time at Salzburg though, despite moleworks, and an easy 8 minute connection for 10:04 to Bischofshofen, much preferable City Shuttle stock behind 1116 241. This was more than equal to the task and deposited us at Bischofshofen on time.

Went for a wander round Bischofshofen, a pleasant town in dramatic surroundings with a notably non-pedestrian pedestrian precinct. H having declined a smoky four ale bar with some interesting looking beers, we ended up outside a small hotel selling Stiegl from Salzburg, which I greatly enjoyed.

Top-up supplies of Ottakringer and Stiegl from the supermarket were extremely cheap – the supermarket (Billa) had a very good choice of interesting looking bottled beers and is clearly one to watch.

Back at the station, the IC to Innsbruck turned up on time behind 1044 015 and to our relief had a City Shuttle coach and an IC open second, the latter providing comfortable accommodation on the shady side. To those sweltering in the three compartment coaches, good luck!

A fairly amazing ride to Innsbruck on a fine day when you could see all the mountain tops. On time arrival too, allowing plenty of time to do the chores particularly as IC69 München-Milano was 15 minutes late behind its DB class 101. Good British commuter tactics obtained us a seat in a DB ex-IR coach and a highly intelligent, multilingual, Italian-brought-up German-and-Russian-studying fluent-English-speaking perpetual student joined us in an otherwise empty compartment. Politics was next on his study list!


This vague picture of Brenner on 25-8-08 shows the DB Class 101 being removed from our southbound EC by an Italian diesel; presumably it had

Still 15 minutes late at Brenner/o where it seemed the 101 coasted in as it was removed by an Italian diesel. The local back to Innsbruck was SEVd and booked 10 minutes earlier, consequently the 37 minute break had shrunk to 12 and we weren’t able to patronise the buffet on P1. Back on the SEV to Steinach, quite a pleasant little trip even if not by rail, then a 4024 (Talent) all shacks back to Innsbruck. It turned out that the kart reversed there and worked through to Scharnitz, so finding our onward connection wasn’t too challenging.

The Gasthof Ritterhof is at the end of the station drive, English is spoken, Puntigamer and Paulaner Weizen available together with solid Austrian nosh so all in all it was an ideal place for the night!

Tuesday 26.8.08

Nice breakfast at 06:59, closely supervised by the breakfast monitor. Away at 07:25 for a 4024 at 07:34 to Innsbruck, a remarkable scenic run high on the valley side. Ending up in P41 we were handily placed for P4 and the 08:39 EC to Zürich, hauled by 1116 187 and with an open second, bless ‘em, behind the loco.


Getting this shot from the train on 26-8-08, bad though it is, was a great relief!

Another wonderful ride out to Bludenz and Feldkirch which of course included the Arlberg Tunnel, but the views are so amazing to someone unfamiliar with them that you almost ignore the railway. [Not totally – having only just managed to scrape this trip into the gap between the end of a fortnight’s moleworks on the Arlberg route and some fixtures back in the UK, we’d been alarmed the previous day when the gripper en route back from Brenner had been warning of bustitutions between Ötztal and St Anton. All was well today, but it was a close shave.] I did keep enough of an eye on the running to note we were losing quite a bit of time, mostly due to SLW delays. Although we had half an hour’s connection at Feldkirch it was on to a following Insbruck – Lindau – Münster IC and I was starting to fear for its timekeeping and our eventual connection at Bregenz for St Margarethen. All was well though, as we rolled in to Feldkirch 16 late but the 10:46 REX to Lindau (a 4024, surprise, surprise) was being held for us.

Saw the 10:57 local arrive at Bregenz before the IC, so my fears were far from groundless although the local would have saved the day too.

Meanwhile, Bregenz has a pleasant café, ‘zum Hans’ overlooking the station – it provided is with 0.5 and 0.3l of Mohren Bräu, ‘das Vorarlberger Bier’ for €5.30. I’ve had more inspiring beers, but it’s a pleasant enough venue to while away half an hour.

Off to St Margarethen at 12:08 on – oh, no – another 4024. ÖBB seems to have quite a humane policy on rover tickets and the enquiry office person at Bregenz had assured me our Austria-only Interrails would be OK. Nobody checked anyway. St M has a supermarket purveying beer and fruit and willing to be paid in Euros, so that solved lunch! (Feldschlössen, a Swiss version of Heineken, and bananas).


This shot of 4024 025 at the Montafonerbahn terminus at Schruns illustrates how well integrated transport works in many towns in mainland Europe, with buses and trains conveniently timed and placed to connect.

Back to Bregenz on the 4024 and then to Schruns on a through train to ensure the connection (though Bludenz was so stacked up with wagons it wouldn’t have mattered – terminating Schruns trains were going right across the layout). Despite being an ÖBB train it changed grippers at Bludenz and we were chinged for the branch. €4.40 each for a tageskarte, so hardly ruinous. Nice branch, as you’d expect in such a scenic area, and a fine example of integrated transport at Schruns. For the umpteenth time I ask myself why the UK can’t do this. Or won’t.

Back to Bludenz on the same kart, and thence to Innsbruck on a packed IC. It was held for nearly 15 minutes at Langen – seemed SLW was in force in all or part of the Arlberg Tunnel aand timekeeping was all over the place. As St Anton a westbound REX was waiting for us and left 20+ minutes late.

No further problems getting to Innsbruck and once we’d mastered the tram system and bought a [losing] Euromillions ticket we were able to get to the Classic Hotel Binders without difficulty (tram stop on line 3, at the end of the street). The same tram passes by Theresien Bräu so supper was a simple matter too, after calling in at the station for seat reservations on tomorrow’s IC into Wien Westbf. A particularly fine goulash at T-Bräu though I thought the beers (‘standard’ and weiss) were both pretty unexceptional. The pub, by comparison with others of its ilk, is pretty unexceptional too. Not particularly recommendable.

 

Wednesday 27.8.08

Binders pretty average, breakfast likewise. It seems Innsbruck’s an expensive place to stay so €82 is probably modest. Anyway sleep, food and shower were what we required, and that was what we got.

Tram to the station; there followed the usual catastrophe which seems to accompany any trip to Kufstein. The 09:30 IC arrived 5 late and absolutely heaving, resulting in a nice seat in the un for 2 hours – or so I thought. Having dawdled around and got ourselves to Kufstein 12 late (9 minute connection at Salzburg) we were informed that there would be a delay due to moleworks in Germany. By the time an ICE appeared heading south we were 25 late and currently it seems all is lost.

It was – connection was long gone. We settled for 12:08 IC to Wien with a view to ticking the home brew at Wels en route. This was a Salzburg starter and we were able easily to find seats on the shady side of a second open. By this time I’d more or less stopped sulking and after obtaining a couple of cans of Kaiser I reconsidered the timetable and discovered Kammer-Schörfling to be doable. Alighting at Attnang-Puchheim I enquired if it was a bus or train – train today, so all well. Quick visit to the sarnie shop and off to K-S on a 5047, with no problems with the physical connection, it being some kms away west of Vöcklabruck.


Single unit 5047 074 is seen here at the small lakeside terminus at Kammer-Schörfling on 27-8-08.

Kammer-Schörfling’s a very pleasant spot at the end of a large lake (Attersee) and seemingly dedicated to boating and sunbathing. Naturally, the pub shuts on Wednesdays. So back to Attnang-Puchheim on 5047 074 and thence to Wels on a loco hauled Salzburg – Linz REX.

There followed a mad dash (and it’s far, far too hot for dashing) to Gerstl Bräu which was at least open! A very nicely appointed pub this time, although the beer was again a bit nondescript to my taste (and in fact seemed very similar to Theresien Bräu’s ‘ordinary’). Back by bus at H’s insistence (though getting just as hot) which gave us enough time to get Stiegl and Wieselburger Gold (really) to replenish lost fluids.

Route from Linz to St Valentin on the IC was via the northern lines past Linz-Pichling then the new high speed line shown as ‘im Bau’ in S&W, to St Valentin. Then Neuewestbahn through the 6.4km tunnel east of St Valentin. Existing (northern) lines to Ybbs then the new high speed line through Sittenberg, Melker and Wachberg tunnels to Knolen Rohr and St Pölten. Leaving St Pölten we used the southernmost line (203) avoiding Pottenbrunner Tunnel.

Into Wien Westbf on time, thence U3&4 and a bit of a walk from Rochusgasse to the Embassy, a splendid Spanish owned, air conditioned, tastefully decorated brand new establishment. Out for the evening for a long haul by U-bahn, S-bahn to Floridsdorf and tram 31 to the Kadlez Gasthausbrauerei, a huge establishment with only about 20 customers in the courtyard ‘garden’. Nice own brand pilsener with a remarkably bitter after taste, and another top quality goulash.

Onwards to Brigittabräu which is right by the Hochstadtplatz tram stop (31 again, also 33 and N). Arriving at 22:00 we found it just closed and not prepared to let us in, so that was the end of the night’s ticking.

Thursday 28.8.08

Good spread for breakfast at the Embassy, a thoroughly recommendable establishment at €69 for a double through booking.com. No luck with the Internet shop for checking in for our flight but it didn’t matter because it was nearly airport time anyway. Out to the airport via 74A bus to St Marx and S2; the Billa supermarket on the way up from the airport station is worth noting. The wonderful BA check-in machine did the business and we ended up in row 9.

Uneventful floght back – although delayed for 15 minutes or so on the ground at VIE we were on time at LHR and proceeded sufficiently swiftly through T5 and the UndergrounD to make the 15:05 Charing X – Orpington (and another ORP-CHX and return in the evening for a theatre outing).

Friday 29.8.08

I’ll count today as ‘foreign memoirs’ as we’re still not home from Austria! Our daughter delivered us to Orpington in time the 10:23 ORP-CHX, Northern Line to EUS and the (very crowded, thank goodness for reserved seats) 12:05 Bendyleano to BHM. The final stage was another of LM’s immaculate 170s on the 13:57 Salop as far as Telford Central, then a bus ride, home from the station.

And so ended a generally very successful trip. It would have been nice to have done the two lines into Braunau am Inn as planned (we missed them due to the errant Innsbruck-Salzburg OEC) but on the other hand we got the sparsely served Kammer-Schörfling as some sort of compensation. And I’m clear west of Innsbruck so won’t have to traipse any further than Jenbach, or maybe Innsbruck if I really feel the urge to do the tram to Fulpmes! Nothing in the planning stage at the moment, though I’m starting to think about a winter trip to tidy up some new lines in Germany, which might get me as far as Austria too.

 

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