May 2020 will see the return of the popular Summer loco-hauled nostalgic train on the branch from Retz to Drosendorf, in the far north of Austria near to the border with the Czech Republic.
The “Reblaus Express”, as it is known, makes three round trips from Retz to Drosendorf (24.75 miles each way, and quite steeply-graded in places) each Saturday, Sunday and public holiday between 1st May 2020 and 1st November 2020. I have not yet seen a timetable for 2020, but previous years have seen departures from Retz at 09:25, 13:25 and 16:25 and returns from Drosendorf at 11:55, 14:55 and 17:55.
The Reblaus Express actually begins on Saturday 21st March 2020 and runs until the end of April with a diesel railcar. However, after that, loco-haulage will be the order of the day.
Usual loco haulage is an ex-ÖBB class 2143 diesel-hydraulic, and 2143 070 had virtually sole charge of the Reblaus Express in both 2018 and 2019. On one occasion where this loco was not available, an ÖBB class 2070 deputised, whereas sister machine 2143 056 took charge for a very short period during August 2019.
The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user Andreas Suck of 2143 070.
A single ticket costs €14 and a return (which acts as a day rover) is €19. Children under 6 are free and adults over 62 qualify for a concessionary rate. There is no UK rail staff travel privilege fare and Interrails etc are not valid. More detail can be found in a PDF here.
Retz lies just 3 miles from the Czech border, and is on the route from Wien to Znojmo, which sees an (electric) loco-hauled service to a roughly two-hour frequency. Wien to Retz is about an 80 minute journey.
Combining it with other haulage opportunities
This is not the only regular nostalgic train that operates in Austria in the Summer. The “Nostalgieexpress Leiser Berge” (to be the subject of a separate article in the near future) operates also with ex-ÖBB class 2143 power and makes a round trip from Wien Praterstern to Ernstbrunn, usually every Saturday between May and October.
You can have both locos on the same day, either as a (fairly long) day trip from Wien if you so wish, or as an interesting way to get from Wien to the Czech Republic. In previous years, it has been possible to catch the “Nostalgieexpress Leiser Berge” from Wien Praterstern to Korneuburg, going forward after a bit of a wait on an electric loco-hauled regional express to Retz, from where the “Reblaus-Express” can be taken to Drosendorf and back at 13:25, arriving back at Retz at 16:05 – sadly too late to get back to Korneuburg have a second run with the Ernstbrunn train back into the capital, but it did connect nicely onto a regional train across the border into the Czech Republic.
Combining it with a family holiday
Clearly the shuttle nature of the operation lends itself quite nicely to permitting a day trip to one of the stations along the line; heading up on the first round trip, having a few hours there away from the trains and then returning on the Reblaus Express later.
The most obvious destination for this would be the end of the line at Drosendorf itself, a historic town and the only one in Austria with a fully-preserved city wall. As the town’s website itself states: “Drosendorf has all the ingredients you need to dream; a lot of nature and a bit of town, a castle and a river, sunny meadows and shady avenues, blooming gardens and wooded rocks. But also inns with beautiful terraces, solid accommodations and many ideas for the future“.
However, the train also makes stops at various other points along the way, many of which have merits of their own – check out this official PDF (in German) for some detail on this.