27th August 2016 - A Nostalgic Return
Saturday 27th August 2016
Our tickets for the whole trip had been a combination of a European East Pass and Interrail when not doing special trains but no matter which way we tried to fit things in there was always going to be one day that we wouldn't have a ticket for. This day was chosen to be the one to miss out as there is an Einfach Raus day ticket available for two people in Austria although it doesn't include travel on IC trains. In the end we didn't need this as we decided to join our friend for a trip on the one remaining hauled train on the Mariazellerbahn (Nostalgie Elektrozug) running on Saturdays only between May and October which would give us chance to visit the recently extended Museumstramway in Mariazell.
Two priv returns to St Pölten were cheaper than an Einfach Raus ticket but could be used on an IC train as well and just as easily bought from ticket machine. We would have to pay to go on the NÖVOG train and the tramway but didn't have a problem with this, just happy to do our little bit to help keep the 1099s going. We met up with our friend on the 7:55 IC rather than the following Railjet with an 8 minute connection having found out from experience in the past that it doesn't always make; been there, done that, seen the tail lamp!
St Pölten now had a shiny new station but the "Nostalgie Elektrozug" appeared in the usual fashion with the loco propelling the coaches from Alpenbf, we can never remember there being a run round loop at the Hbf in the 16 or so years since our first visit. The whole set and loco was now finished in the traditional brown livery and looked to have a new bar car and panorama wagon.
There were only three seats reserved in the panorama coach and as the seats with the rear view were available the three of us decided to go for 1st class in the uphill direction to enjoy the view. St Pölten Alpenbf was looking very bare with the only items of motive power visible being a class 5090 DMU and 2095 diesel loco right down the far end. A lot of work had been done on the track and several loops had been re-instated with the whole line being centrally controlled and now operated by the new "Himmelstreppe" electric units. Whilst it was good that the line had been modernised and was still in use we couldn't help mourning for what it used to be like. More reminders of the past were seen in the form of 1099.008 outside the shed at Ober-Grafendorf, seemingly abandoned, though it could have been kept for spare parts, 1099.06 plinthed at its namesake station of Kirchberg a d Pielach and a further class 5090 in a siding at Laubenbachmühle.
The journey up the hill after the latter was as enjoyable as always and the lady from the buffet was doing a sterling job of tempting us with food and drink, the only person missing was the conductor; he knew our friend but surely he wasn't going to let us travel for nothing? He did come round shortly before we arrived at Mariazell, having been busy dealing with quite a lot of bikes en route; after all there was no need to rush round as he knew we were going all the way to the end.
The large number of bikes meant that the train arrived about 30 minutes late which was a bit of a blow as the connection on the Museumstramway had already gone, our original plan being to catch it to Erlaufsee, have lunch during the hours break down there then back to Mariazell to get the new extension in. As always, our friend had a "plan B" which involved walking to Mariazell along a footpath that we hadn't realised was there, though perhaps it had been put in since our last visit and having lunch there instead. The footpath was a pleasant walk alongside the tramway extension for part of its length, past the new terminus and into the town, a vast improvement to walking along the main road which was a bit circuitous and went up and down a bit.
Lunch was taken in "Pirker" a cafe / restaurant which specialised in gingerbread and also sold a lot of candles then we went for a quick look at the Basilica and the memorial to the people who built the railway outside it. We arrived back at the terminus in time to get a photo of the train chugging up the hill from the NÖVOG station.
The loco was VL1; an 0-4-0DH built by Jung in 1968, the same one that we'd had on other two visits with two coaches and an open wagon which we sat in seeing as it was a nice day. The train propelled down the hill and onto the route of the closed line to Gußwerk which closed in 1988 before reversing and going down to a new halt opposite the shed at the north end of the current NÖVOG line. The exisiting halt for the tramway was a little further south with a single platform on one side of the loop so the train did not stop there heading towards Erlaufsee. We stayed on to the end with the usual 15 minute stop on the turning loop there then back up to the new "town" station in order to get the third side of the turning triangle where the line leaves the route of the original narrow gauge line.
We stayed with the train which did the same performance as previously, propelling back down the hill and reversing on the trackbed of the former line and got off at the new station opposite the old shed around 30 minutes before the train back to St Pölten departed, more than enough time for some more pictures.
We didn't bother with 1st class on the return journey; there was little point in paying twice the price for a view of the rear cab of E7 no matter how much we like these locomotives. We sat in the bar instead where there were some tasty spicy frankfurters which went down a treat with a very quaffable local cider produced in Ober-Grafendorf but at 6.8% not a good idea to have too many bottles of that!
Fortunately there were no delays on the way back to St Pölten, the cyclists had either ridden down or gone on an earlier train so we were in good time for the 18:30 IC back to Wien, the journey taking around half the time of the previous route into Wien Westbf. The frankfurters from the buffet had been enough to fill our stomachs so we bade farewell to our friend and went back to the hotel.
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