Information & history

Travelling on the northern and southern branches on the "Kleiner Semmering" ‒ a turbulent history

On the Semmering in the north between Gmünd and Groß Gerungs (Southern Branch) and Gmünd and Litschau (Northern Branch), nostalgic locomotives serenely puff up and down the line as they have been doing for more than 100 years. Just like then, inviting railway halts become the stage for notable festivals, events and memories.

Turbulent history

For a whole century the narrow-gauge railway has transported people and goods. Two World Wars almost obliterated the joyous expectations, which were present at the opening ceremonies. The surrounding area and the hinterland were cut off and the routes now lay at a dead frontier. In the sixties and seventies increasing motorisation and the extension of the road network made running the railway difficult. Therefore in 1986 passenger traffic ceased on the northern branch and with the start of the summer timetable in 2001 the last hour tolled also for ÖBB scheduled services on the southern branch.

But months before the deadline for services to cease the NÖVOG worked ceaselessly to alert the municipalities along the railway to the loss threatening their unique attractions. And so, in July 2001, the daring attempt was made to put traffic once more on the narrow gauge. A contract was drawn up between NÖVOG and the ÖBB to ensure a thriving tourist traffic on the narrow-gauge railway from 2001. One of the conductors was appointed as the coordinator between the railway and the municipalities located along it, as a way of enabling mayors, hoteliers and many others to develop their own ideas and initiatives. In summary: the railway had become a matter close to the heart of the Waldviertel people and thus since the re-opening in 2001 thousands of passengers have been welcomed.
When the NÖVOG took over the entire railway route from the ÖBB in December 2010, operation for the future was assured and this has anchored the railway even more firmly as a major catalyst for tourism in the region.