The International Steam Pages

Steam on the Pinzgau Line, Austria 2013

James Waite reports on a visit to an area which I went on my first ever visit to Austria in the 1960s. It wasn't for steam, I have no memory of seeing this railway and I was with the Boy Scouts hiking in the hills above Mittersill. In those days of a recently devalued pound sterling, Austria was a country where your money went a lot further than in most of Europe.   :

The 760mm gauge Pinzgau line based on Zell am See in Austria has steam trains which run every Tuesday and Thursday during August with the Thursday trains continuing into September. I met up with Hans Hufnagel there. He's known the line well for many years and was immensely helpful in acting as an impromptu guide and taking me to some excellent photo spots - as well as to an excellent eatery near Zell for a well-earned lunch after the steam run..

I've never been to this line before notwithstanding that Krimml, its western terminus, is close to the Zillertalbahn (ZB) which I been visiting since the early 1970's since by then the Pinzgau line had been dieselised. The line was built in 1898, nationalised in 1906 and taken over from OBB by the Salzburgerland government in 2008 after flood damage at its western end and semi-privatised. It's now run as the Salzburg Lokalbahn, basically the same organisation which also runs the Schafberg rack line east of Salzburg. Unlike some of the Austrian narrow gauge railways this line is managed by an enthusiast and the steam loco and the train are well-kept and are painted in attractive colours. Nowadays there's a frequent passenger service, mostly worked by railcars or by three new diesel locos built by Gmeinder between 2007 and 2012.

The working steam loco is Mh3, ex-OBB 399.03 (Krauss Linz 5433/1906). The six 399 class locos spent most of their working lives on the Gmund lines in the north of Austria but Hans tells me that he has photos of them working occasionally out of Zell covering loco shortages etc so there's a degree of authenticity in seeing it in action here! 

The line is scenic though mostly the view is of rolling hills rather than the high Alpine mountains. Photographically the line isn't particularly easy as it runs east-west with little variation and the train starts at 9.18 from Zell at the eastern end and so runs out of the sun. Another problem is that the scenery and the hills are mostly more interesting on the southern side of the valley and so again difficult for the sun. The return working in the afternoon is tender first. According to Wikipedia ex-JZ 2-6-2 73-019, one of the old pre-WW1 Austrian-built Bosnian express class, has been obtained on long-term loan from Club 760 at Frojach and the regional government is underwriting its restoration to working order at Ceske Velenice works in the Czech Republic. They are very stylish machines, some of the few genuinely express locos on the narrow gauge in Europe, and of course it would certainly be good to see one of them back in action.

In addition to the locomotives shown, the SLB own 0-6-2T 498.07 (Floridsdorf 3037/1931), one of eight of these large superheated 0-6-2T's built for the OBB's predecssor between 1928 and 1931. One was regularly based at Zell mainly for the thriving timber traffic which the line once enjoyed. This one was withdrawn in 1973 and spent some years plinthed at St. Polten. It's now locked up in the shed at Krimml but the manager/engine driver had the keys with him and unlocked the shed for us.

Two of the 2095 class diesels standing at Tischlerhäusl depot at Zell. The nearer one is 2095.01 which was the prototype built by Simmering in 1958 (works no. 77664), three years before the other 14 in the class were built by Floridsdorf in 1961/2. It's been restored to its original OBB paint scheme by the railway but lacks its OBB markings. Hans says that the OBB won't allow the railway to use them. I've always been a bit jaundiced about these locos as they were responsible for the demise of most of Austria's narrow gauge steam locos back in the 60's and 70's but must admit that they look quite attractive with their outside coupling rods! On the left is 2091.03 (Simmering 65689/1936), the only one of this class on the line. The railway runs heritage trains with one of the old diesels at weekends.

Mh3 brewing up at Tischlerhäusl depot just after sunrise.
Zillertalbahn (ZB) 0-6-2T no. 2 under repair at Tischlerhäusl shed. I'd called at the ZB on my way to Zell and wondered where this loco had gone! Hans says it's on a year's hire to the line.
Ex-OBB 2092.02 (Gmeinder 4199/1944), ex-HFB M13.955, in Tischlerhäusl shed. It's been based at Zell for at least 25 years.
The line's third surviving 2095 class loco. I haven't discovered its OBB number. There used to be five of these locos on the line but two were destroyed in a fatal head-on crash in 2005. There are quite a number of these bogie carriages which I think are vintage vehicles in their own right, all well maintained in this green colour scheme. Although I'd been made very welcome at the depot it was just at the point where the train of coaches was being taken out into the sunshine prior to being put into a different siding under cover that I was asked to go and fetch a hi-vis vest so missed seeing the whole train out in the sunshine!
Mh3 setting off from Tischlerhäusl for Zell station.
The train about 3km out from Zell and one of the few places on the line where you can see the train with a snow-covered mountain in the background.
Near Stuhlfelden.
Passing Rettenbach.
The line turns in a big curve to the southeast just before Krimml station, the only opportunity to photograph the train with the sun on the front of the loco!

The railway's website is at

Rob Dickinson