28th August 2016 - Mistelbach Heizhausfest
Sunday 28th August 2016
Today was one of the highlights of our whole trip, a special train to the Heizhausfest at Mistelbach from Wien Praterstern. Describing it like this doesn't make it sound very special but the direct line between the two places was closed due to engineering works so the special was routed along the line to Retz as far as Zellerndorf before heading across to Laa a d Thaya along a rather rare bit of freight track which was allegedly proposed for closure in the near future. When we first started coming to Austria there was a sparse passenger service over about 2kms at the eastern end between Laa a d Thaya and Laa a d Thaya Stadt which, like many other things, got filed under "we'll do that one day" but we never did get there before the service finished in December 2006. The rest of the line lost its passenger service in May 1988 and there had been no specials along it that we could recollect so it was no surprise that around a dozen people from the UK had made the effort to come over for this.
The organiser given the UK contingent seats in the same coach but the two of us had drawn the "booby prize" of the seats opposite the toilet in their own little cubby hole. We didn't really feel left out though as a couple of people popped in for a chat and to share "gen" and we could freely wander into the main part of the coach to socialise. Unfortunately the "party atmosphere" was somewhat soured when one friend "lost" his laptop; he had put on the luggage rack pushed between two bags and we could only think that either someone had noticed all the people with cameras and other gadgets and decided to whip through the train to see if there was anything worth pinching or a more unpalatable alternative in that someone travelling on the train had noticed the item being put up there and decided to help themselves.
The loco working the train to Zellerndorf was preserved 2143.070, a nice loud specimen which was normally based at Mistelbach and which we'd had on a special to the museum at Strasshof earlier in the year. 2-8-2T steam loco 93.1420 took over from Zellerndorf with the 2143 running round to the rear and we set off a quite a respectable pace for a line that might be facing closure. We could see no reason for the lines continued existence on the first section and there were a couple of level crossings that required the train to stop and the conductor to get off and operate the barriers.
The first sign of any location that produced rail traffic was at Pernhofen where there was a large factory (Jungbunzlauer) with plenty of wagons in the sidings which we guessed was served from the Laa end of the line. On past the closed Laa a d Thaya Stadt station and into the other Laa station on the outskirts of the town where the train had to reverse again. Some work was being done on the station which included a new footbridge but we were told not to get off whist the train reversed which only took four minutes.
2143.070 took over for the run to Mistelbach and although it is a nice loud example of the class we were never going to be able to fully appreciate it as the maximum speed of the two axle coaches was not very high plus they rode quite noisily so we were never going to recreate the experience of one of these blasting out of the old Wien Südost Bf on a train to Marchegg or Bratislava.
The train passed straight through Mistelbach ÖBB station without stopping and came to a halt on top of the bridge over bypass road where a reversal took us along the connection between ÖBB metals and the Mistelbach Lokalbahn which had its own station about ¼ mile down the road from the ÖBB one. The old loco shed here is now the base for Verein Neue Landesbahn and is the home for the 2143 and others used by Regiobahn who operate the regular trains on the Ernstbrunn line and ran the special train that brought us here.
There was a fine array of diesel locos on display, plus one electric and steam 93.1420 which had brought us here but we had something a little more pressing to do before looking round the site. Tickets had been on sale on the train for food which was being provided by a mobile grill; we could have waited but the queue was long enough when we arrived and would no doubt get even longer once everyone had got off the train. There was a choice of half a chicken or pork for which we had been given a different coloured ticket according to our choice when we paid and this was exchanged for a portion of the chosen meat served with a chips or salad, very nice and tasty. Our decision to eat first looked to be the correct one as the queue was a lot longer by the time we had finished eating so it was now time to wander round and take photos of the various locos on display, these included a nice line up of three class 2143s, 1110.505 and the sole class 2020 diesel loco.
Two further class 2143s were inside the shed, one of which, 2143.048, was being worked on; from a purely selfish point of view it would be nice to see that one back in service as it was the only one of the seven class 2143s on the site that we needed for haulage. We were also told that the group had plans to restore the class 2020 to working order in two years if we understood correctly though we thought that timescale sound rather ambitious.
There was one other attraction that could be done whilst we were in the area, a rather quirky service over a section of the former Mistelbach Lokalbahn using type X626 personnel carriers which started from a station about half a mile down the road called "Mistelbach Interspar" after the nearby supermarket of that name. This was a relatively new addition as people who had done it before said that previous station was a short distance further on, just beyond the bridge carrying the ÖBB line over the Lokalbahn. A new bypass road had severed the track between Interspar and the Lokalbahn station rendering any further extension in that direction extremely unlikely but the service, running under the name of Zayataler Schienentaxi did have a decent run of around 5.3km to Asparn a d Zaya.
We had been a little wary of the capacity on this train as the personnel carriers themselves were advertised as carrying nine people including the driver but the passenger seats were a tight squeeze for all but the slimmest people which most of our group certainly weren’t! The journey was booked to take 20 minutes but actually took 16 so there was an extra 4 minutes to look round to add to the 10 that was the booked turn-round time. Asparn was the group's base but there was not a huge amount to see here beyond two further X626s which looked as if they were usable and a couple of other items of rolling stock. The line beyond here to Ernstbrunn was available to be covered if we so desired but we would have to expend some energy to do it as it was now a rail bike operation, maybe something to do on a cooler day than this one.
There were fewer passengers on the return journey so we went back in the open wagon, picking our way back to the Lokalbahn station on arrival at "Interspar" past the supermarket and along the footpathless road. There weren't so many people milling around the site by now and we could actually get into the room at the rear of the shed where there was an impressive N gauge model railway under construction. Outside the shed, the locos had been taken off the train, the 2143 was taking fuel whilst the steam loco was engaged in some shunting, first collecting a "disco coach" which it added to one end of the train then picking up 1110.505 and placing it on the same end, raising our hopes for a winning loco on the return journey though we suspected that the overheads would be off due to the engineering work. The steam crew appeared to be quite keen and were putting on a good show whilst doing all this shunting.
93.1420 ran round and we did briefly wonder whether we were going back without the 2143 until it came off the shed and attached to the rear of the train behind 1110.505 meaning that the steam loco would be starting off the return journey up the steeply graded connection between the Lokalbahn and ÖBB. The consist now included the extra coach and the dead electric loco so the 2-8-2T had to really dig in to get this lot on the move, the noise was superb as it set about the task, getting slower and slower as the gradient increased. Although it didn't slip once we did wonder if it would just grind to a halt until a roar from the rear indicated that the 2143 had joined in as well. 93.1420 did slip just as it reached the mainline but it was quickly controlled and we reversed on the bridge in the same place as the outward journey where the steam loco was detached, leaving 2143.070 to continue.
We didn't go into the platform at Laa a d Thaya this time and set off along the freight only line to Zellerndorf as soon as 2143.070 had run round. There was a brief wait here for an RE service to come off the single line, a further stop at Hollabrunn for the same reason and again at Stockerau where the preserved "Blauer Blitz" DMU pulled up alongside our train; it had been to a similar event at Sigmundsherberg as the one we had been to. We stood at Stockerau for a bit longer than needed to cross the various trains and noticed that the class 1110 had been detached from the rear - put it on the front please! No such luck though as we think that it went off towards Absdorf-Hippersdorf whilst we carried on with the 2143.
Our train lost a bit of time here and there and we arrived a little late at Praterstern before bidding farewell to our various travelling companions and heading off in our different directions. We hung around to take some photos of the 2143 once it had run round and noisily headed to Ernstbrunn where it usually stables then waited for a required class 1144 that we had seen earlier to take us back to the Hbf to cap an excellent day with a winning loco.
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