Lovable and unique, narrow gauge railway in the Zillertal Valley
Construction of the railway from Jenbach to the Zillertal Valley was first discussed in 1868 in the local press. The condition of the paths and single highway, which was a very narrow, winding and bumpy, sometimes swampy road, were all so bad that they normally were only able to be used with horses or pack animals. By 1902, there was the so-called ‘omnibus operation’ whereby travellers had to stay overnight in Zell am Ziller.
On 25 November 1892 there was a meeting for all the parish councils and highly esteemed personalities from the Valley in ‘Gasthof Bräu’ in Zell am Ziller, wherein a ‘rail committee’ was formed.
However, only two and a half years later, on 21 April 1895, the decision was made to build the railway.
The rail committee appointed the shareholders Kaspar Schneider, a member of the administration in Zell, Dr. Raimund Rainer from Fügen and the hotelier Franz Prantl from Jenbach as concessionaires. On 2 December 1895, the k & k rail minister Heinrich von Wittek handed over the ‘concession certificate; and thereby the ‘Zillerthalbahn Actiengesellschaft’ was established on 26 December. The railway went into operation to Mayrhofen on 31.7.1902 after a lot of work and financial difficulties. At this time, the railway had two locomotives called ‘Raimund’, probably after Dr. Raimund Rainer, and ‘Zillertal’ as well as 10 passenger wagons and 22 goods and mail wagons.
A positive mention should be given to the magnesite mining that began in 1928 in Tux and that remained an important economic foundation for the railway until it was closed in 1976.
In 1965, it reached its most critical time in its history to date; it was to be closed to make way for a road project. A project by the electricity industry to build a storage power station that would enable the railway to avoid this dangerous phase. The Zillertalbahn Railway took on the transportation of the construction machinery and delivered 325,000 tonnes of cement on time without putting any further strain on the already overloaded road. The purchase of roll-block wagons, new diesel locomotives for the goods trains, the introduction of rail radio, which was unique in Austria and served as an example for many other railways, proved that even a small railway was able to do incredible things. Today, the Zillertalbahn is called Zillertaler Verkehrsbetriebe AG, because it included bus transportation in 1956 "in support of the new developments on the roads” and was, therefore, renamed.
The majority of shares are owned by Zillertal Valley communities, so that the citizens of Zillertal can be truly proud of ‘their’ railway.
Today, the company operates both the railway and a bus company with 30 modern buses for excursions and for public routes. Furthermore, there are also historical steam trains and many activities, such as the hobby train, the New Year’s Eve train, etc.
There is always something going on in Zillertal Valley.
Zillertalbahn Railway is 32 km long and passes over 35 bridges, past famous tourist sites on its single track with a width of 760 mm. The top speed of the steam trains is 35 km/h. So...please fasten your seatbelts and stop smoking.