This brief article concerns an interesting operation in Wien (Vienna), that will very easily fit into an itinerary of a family holiday as well as a trip purely for railway interest.
At 15 inch gauge (the same as the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch and Ravenglass & Eskdale Railways in the UK), this will not be for everyone and certainly features at the smaller end of bonafide narrow-gauge railways. However, it is very good fun, highly recommended and does not take you far off the beaten track to do.
D2 at Prater Hauptbahnhof, 27/10/19 (JW)
The Liliputbahn (see website here) – named after an island populated by miniature people in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels – is one of two 15 inch gauge railways in Wien. This was the first and was opened in 1928; the other – the Donauparkbahn – followed in 1964, built by the same company for the Wiener Internationale Gartenschau in 1964. This will be the subject of a future article.
The Liliputbahn is located within the Prater park, a matter of minutes on foot from Wien Praterstern station on the Wiener Stammstrecke; this enjoys frequent loco-hauled service on this cross-city axis. One of its intermediate stations – that at Rotunde – has an interchange with tram line 1 at its terminus of Prater Hauptallee, which at the time of my most recent visit in October 2019 still had many of its services provided by the 1970s-era SGP E2-type vehicles.
The Liliputbahn takes a 3.9 km (2.4 mile) circular route through the park, effectively a double-track railway with a balloon loop at each end. The park is very sylvan in nature and makes it a very pleasant, scenic, family-friendly activity, particularly in Autumn when the trees are turning orange.
The operating centre is Prater Hauptbahnhof and it is fair to say that although there are three other stations (Schweizerhaus, Rotunde and Stadion – the stadium in question being the Ernst Happel Stadion, Austria’s national football stadium), there is not much to get off at any of the others for – although if you have a return ticket and there is more than one train in use, there is nothing stopping you breaking your journey at one of these stations and returning with a different one.
Prater Hauptbahnhof is in the middle of the Wurstelprater theme park (which is free to enter) and is effectively a ‘theme park ride’ as much as a railway. It is located in the shadow of the famous 1897-built Riesenrad ferris wheel, and indeed combined tickets are available.
Opposite Prater Hauptbahnhof station is the Republik Kugelmugel – actually a micronation, which declared itself independent in 1976…
A round trip generally takes 20 minutes, which means that a 30-minute frequency timetable is managed by one loco. If resources and passenger numbers dictate, the service can be increased to provide a train every 5 minutes at very busy times, but 15 or 30 minute frequencies are the norm. Generally if steam locos are going to be used, this will be in the afternoon, after 12:15. Saturdays, Sundays and Austrian public holidays are the best times to find steam out.
There are two steam locos – Da1 and Da2, both 1928-built Krauss 4-6-2s – and four diesels (D1 to D4), all built to different designs between 1957 and 1967. The diesels have been converted to run on vegetable oil which is all recycled from within the theme park. Trials with a hydrogen loco have been carried out recently, however.