Festungsbahn: Railway to Salzburg Castle

The Festungsbahn is a kind of cable car that looks like a train and that runs between the Altstadt (Old Town) of Salzburg and the castle Festung Hohensalzburg. The origins of the Festungsbahn go back to 1892. At that time, the castle was used as an army base. Times were good, liquidity around and there was something like an entrepreneurial spirit. Lots of building projects were pursued at this time, especially when it came to the utilisation of new technologies.

This also applies to the Festungsbahn: A company was founded and the railway was built. Its technology was based on basins that were filled with water; the increasing weight pulled the car upwards. If the basin was emptied, the car went back down. The system used water from the Almkanal and powered two cars, linked with a steel rope of 33 millimetres diameter. The cable car was locally known as the "Tröpferlbahn" ("little drop line") due to the unusual system underlying its movements. The Altstadt stop was built in the house where Michael Haydn had once lived.

The Festungsbahn was an instant success, it was a time in which tourism rose and prospered in Salzburg. This success lasted beyond the Empire: After World War I, the Festungsbahn continued to be in operation, with the fortress being now solely a tourist attraction. The boycotts of the Nazis in the 1930ies caused some financial trouble. The Festungsbahn managed to avoid bankruptcy, but golden times returned only with the full recovery of tourism in the 1950ies.

Due to its unique mechanism using water, the Festungsbahn could not be operated in winter. Due to the rise of skiing tourism, a second season developed in the 1950ies that created a need for efficient transport to the fortress even in winter. As a solution, the "little drop" mechanism was abandoned in 1959. The Festungsbahn was dismantled and re-built. The new Festungsbahn was significantly faster, increasing the speed of travel from 1 to 2.4 metres per second.

In 1974, the stop at the Haydn-living-place was modernised, two years later, the fortress stop followed in this. A general over-haul happened for the 100th anniversary in 1992, in the course of which the Altstadt stop was transformed into a shop. Today, the Festungsbahn travels with an impressive 5 metres per second, 48 people fit into one car - the most efficient Festungsbahn that Salzburg has ever seen. Note that the Mönchsbergaufzug offers another mechanic access to the hills here.

Further Reading

The Festungsbahn Salzburg on Wikipedia

Offcial Website of the Festungsbahn

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