Semmering Railway

Home » History » Semmering Railway
History No Comments

Semmering railway was constructed between 1848 and 1854 by some 20,000 workers under the project’s designer and director Carl von Ghega born in Venice as Carlo Ghega in an Albanian family.

The construction features 14 tunnels (among them the 1,431 m vertex tunnel), 16 viaducts (several two-story) and over 100 curved stone bridges as well as 11 small iron bridges.

The unique travel experience which the Semmering railway offered contributed significantly to the original opening of the Semmering region for tourism.

Numerous hotels and mansions are witnesses of this era.

This enormous upswing to the turn of the century and the revaluation of the region as a winter sports area in the first third of the 20th Century were interrupted first by World War I and then by the changed recreational needs of the population.

Therefore this unique culture landscape could be preserved with little change.

The first railway line (horse-drawn) of any significance on the European continent was opened in 1824-32 between Linz and Budweis (Ceské Budejovice), and 1837 saw the installation of the locomotive-hauled line between Florisdorf and Deutsche Wagram.

The southbound Vienna-Gloggnitz line opened in 1841 and the section from Mürzzuschlag to Graz was added in 1844, leaving a gap over the difficult Semmering stretch.

The line was later extended southwards to Cilli in 1846, Laibach (Ljubljana) in 1849, and finally, over difficult karst terrain, to Trieste in 1857.

The appearance of the whole line was significantly changed between 1957 and 1959, when masts were erected to carry the contact wires needed by the conversion to electrical locomotives.

The Semmering pass itself is well known for the ‘summer architecture’ of the villas and hotels that were built for Viennese society between Gloggnitz and the small market town of Schottwien in picturesque locations.

It became one of the first artificially laid out Alpine resorts in the decades following the opening of the railway line.

This process had begun even before that project began, with the development of Reichenau and der Rax and Payerbach, to the north-west of Gloggnitz, as tourist areas in the early decades of the 19th century.

On December 2, 1998, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee inscribed the Semmering Railway as the world’s first railway on the world heritage list.

The justification for inscription of the “Ghega Railway” read “the Semmering Railway represents an outstanding technological solution to a major physical problem in the construction of early railways”.

Across an overall track length of 41 km, the Semmering Railway was quite daring for its time; it had a maximum gradient five times that of previous railways.

This was an entirely new technical dimension for railway construction, and new instruments and methods of surveying had to be developed to handle the resulting challenges.

Also, new technologies were employed for the Engerth locomotives because the types in general use at this time could not handle the extreme gradients and turning radii.

Today, winter sports and summer hiking are the top draws for the town.

The Semmering ski resort, which hosts Alpine skiing World Cup events, is located at the pass and extends on the Hirschenkogel Mountain.