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HIGHLIGHTS


Eisenerz
Erzberg Tours
Mines Railway
Fortified Oswald Church
Kammerhof Museum
Heritage Walk & Museum
Shift Tower
Ramsau Valley
Leopoldsteinersee
Präbichl Pass
Polster Chair Lift
Vordernberg
Radwerk IV Charcoal Furnace
ErzbergbahnRailway
Erzbergbahn Museum
Leoben
Göss Abbey & Brewery
Radmer Valley
Hieflau
Gesäuse Gorge
Ennstal Alps
Johnsbach
Grossreifling Forest Museum
Salza Valley
Admont Abbey &
Baroque Library


SURROUNDINGS


Salzkammergut Lakes
Dachstein Tauern Region
Graz
Hochschwab
Waidhofen a.d.Ybbs
Steyr


TRAVEL


Austrian Airlines and British Airways
flights from Heathrow to Vienna
Various low cost airlines operate
from regional airports to Vienna,
Graz and Linz


Styrian Iron Road - Steirische Eisenstrasse


The Iron Mountain (Erzberg) provided much of the iron ore for the Empire. Nowadays it offers a
fascinating industrial and cultural heritage, set within stunning Alpine scenery ïn the "Green Heart of Austria"


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River Enns in the Gesäuse
STYRIAN IRON ROAD

The Styrian Iron Road winds between the picturesque mountains of Upper Steiermark (Styria) between Altenmarkt on the border with Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), southwards following the course of the River Enns and its tributary, the Erzbach, upstream to the Erzberg. It continues over the Präbichl Pass to Vordernberg and Leoben. It's focal point is the extraordinary red, stepped pyramind of the Erzberg "Styrian Iron Mountain" whuch stands at the watershed between the Enns and the Mur, a pyramid six times the height of the Great Pyramids at Giza, glowing copper red in the late afternoon sun and surrounded by the dramatic backdrop of the Hochschwab and Eisenerz Alps. The Erzberg, the largest open-cast iron ore mine in central Europe, has been shaped over 1500 years by man and during the last 150 yearsand its exploitation called for the construction of an extensive narrow gauge railway system and what was undoubtedly Europe’s most famous standard gauge rack railway, the Erzbergbahn.
The region is not only ideal for anybody with an interest in industrial heritage, but for those seeking beautiful alpine sceney
off-the-beaten-track, unspoilt upland valleys and peaceful meadows, genuine hospitality and good food.
EISENERZ Eisenerz is the focal point of the Styrian Iron Road, an important iron-mining town situated at the foot of the Erzberg, and surrounded by the mountains of the Hochschwab and Eisenerzer Alps. The town developed with the iron industry with settlements appearing along the courses of the Erzbach and Trofengbach rivers from the 13th century. The water was harnessed to drive water wheels operating bellows in the early charcoal furnaces. The town saw an economic boom in the 15th and 16th centuries as witnessed by the beautiful mansions with 'grafitto' decoration and arcaded courtyards which belonged to the foundary proprietors. Much of the old town (Altstadt) was renovated for the 1984 Styrian Provincial Exhibition “Erz und Eisen”, and a walking tour can be made by following a series of numbered, descriptive plaques which were attached to notable buildings at the time. The Schichtturm (:Shift Tower") is a good place to start a tour, as it overlooks the entire town and the Erzberg. This bell tower was erected by the foundry masters in 1582 to strike the shift changes. A path leads down to the romantic, old town square, Bergmanns-Platz, and the town hall with sgraffito decoration, which dates back to 1535. Here you can also find the crib museum (“Eisenerzer Krippenmuseum”), the Heilige Geist Haus with a stucco facade and several 15th and 16th century mansions which once belonged to furnace and foundry masters. The fascinating Local History Museum (Stadtmuseum) is housed in the Kammerhof, a former Habsburg hunting palace above the town centre, while overlooking the town is the imposing fortified church of St. Oswald (1279-1517). The suburb of Krumpental lies in a narrow valley to the south of the town, a purpose built settlement for the mines. Most of the Eisenerz foundries stood here, along the Flutergasse, where the remians of the Rupprecht-Ofen foundry and various mansions may atill be seen. Of particular note is the Schwarzer Hof, a large mansion with a Rennaissance arcaded courtyard. On the outskirts are the 17th century Schloss Geyeregg and Schloss Leopoldstein, located near the dramatic Leopoldsteinersee, a deep lake beneath the sheer walls of the Seemauer. Eisenerz is a good centre for climbing with various marked footpaths leading into the surrounding alps, and from the idyllic, and very peaceful, Eisenerzer Ramsau valley.

ERZBERG TOURS: Guided tours of the Erzberg itself start from Voest-Alpine’s “Talstation”, on the approach road from the Präbichl Pass, daily at 1000, 1230 and 1500 between May and October . They take about two hours; warm clothes and strong shoes are recommended. A giant 860hp WABCO Haulpak dump truck, “Hauly”, has been specially adapted with seats on the top to take visitors up onto the Erzberg taking in all the main points of interest including the daily ore mining activities and the “Schaubergwerk”, a permanent exhibition area on Level I comprising a remnant of the mine system, through which a conducted tour is made with the Werksbahn train. Group tours of up to eight people with an English speaking guide, and a detour to the Erzberg summit, can be arranged.
The Erzberg with the Schichtturm (Shift Tower)

The legend of the Iron Mountain

Local legend describes how, long ago, a water sprite (”Wassermann”)
was captured in the flooded waters of the Erzbach river.
Leading him towards their settlement, his captors arrived at
the point in the valley where the Erzberg first comes into view.
The water sprite struggled and offered them “a golden foot,
a silver heart or an iron hat” in return for his release.
The gold would last for a year, the silver for ten and
the iron for evermore. They chose the latter and the sprite
pointed to the Erzberg and said, “this mountain will
provide iron for eternity!”, before disappearing into the
dark waters of the “Schwarze Lacke”,
a karst spring near the Leopoldsteinersee lake.

RADMER A scattered farming village, with a long history of forestry and mining. stretched out along the upper reaches of the Radmerbach valley between the mountains of the Gesäuse and the Eisenerzer Alps. The 7km approach road follows the river upstream from its confluence with the Erzbach, climbing steeply in the forest before squeezing through a narrow gorge beneath the towering walls of the Kaiserschild and Hochkogel, dramatic mountain scenery. The Radmerbach valley was once an important route to Admont before a road was built through the Gesäuse, and a forest trach still leads drom Hinterradmer at the top of the valley over a small pass to Johnsbach. Radmer is ideal for anybody seeking peace and tranquillity in beautiful surroundings with plenty opportunities for walking or climbing. It also has a small pilgrimage church, a 17th century hunting lodge, Schloss Greifenstein, and the remains of iron workings and a former forestry and mines railway.

HEIFLAU This village, located at the confluence of the Erzbach with the Enns as it flows out of the Gesäuse, was an important supplier of charcoal to the foundries of the Erzberg. Huge "Rakes", the Ennsrechen, were built across the river to trap driftwood from 1510 onwards. Now it s a good centre for climbing or for whitewater canoeing on the Enns, Radmerbach and Erzbach.

LANDL Rge community of Landl comprises the villages of Mooslandl, Kirchenlandl, Grossreifling, Lainbach, Erb and Krippau situated in the Enns valley and the region of its confluence with the Salza. The clear waters of these rwo rivers are very popular for whitewater canoeing. Grossreifling is the main village and ws once an iron-working and charcoal making community. It is now home to the excellent Austrian Forestry Museum "Silvanum". Kirchenlandl is a picturesque village huddled round its gothic church, while Mooslandl is a farming community scattered across the meadows of a sunny plateau high above the eastern bank of the Enns.

There is some excellent accommodation in pensions and guesthouses, some of them with restaurants serving special Styrian Cuisine. Facilities include a network of marked footpaths, an open air swimming pool, tennis courts and the adventure paradise of the Salza and Enns rivers and the surrounding mountains. Mooslandl hosts a country fair. the 'Landler-Kirtag' in the middle of August.



LEOBEN The largest town, and the main cultural, commercial shopping centre in the region, located at the southern end of the Styrian Iron Road, in the Mur Valley. It is also the centre of Styrian iron working and site of the university of the coal, iron and steel industries. It has been a market town and important centre for the iron industries since the Middle Ages. Attractions include the Schwammerlturm ("Mushroom Tower"), the Hacklhaus with a baroque facade dating back to 1680, several notable churches including the 14th century Maria am Waasen, and the famous Gösser Brewery housed in the former nunnery at Göss. There are a wide range of facilities and activities and easy access to other towns along the Mur Valley including the Austria-Ring at Zeltweg, Seckau Abbey and the provincial capital of Graz.

The Iron Road climbs north from Leoben over the Trofaiach basin via the Donawitz steelworks, and the villages of
Trofaiach (15th century Schloss Stibichhofen) and St.Peter-Freienstein (Pilgrimage church and Schloss Friedhofen, a 16th century arcaded palace) into the Vordernbergerbach valley.


VORDERNBERG A picturesque, little market town on the south side of the Präbichl Pass with many relics from the former iron industry. There are good walking opportunities in the surrounding mountains, including the Eisenerzer Reichenstein (2165m) which dominates the town. Several guesthouses offer local Styrian cuisine, some of them clustered round the summit of the Präbichl pass where a chairlift ascends the Polster for extensive views over the Erzberg and Eisenerz, and the Hochshwab, and Eisenerzer and Ennstal Alps. The first settlement 'Vor dem Berg' (before the Erzberg) arose in the 12th century. "Radwerke", iron foundries with water driven bellows, were built along the river and new furnaces were built on the site of present-day Vordernberg from the 15th century. New techniques and modern developments sustained the industry through the 17th and 18th centuries to rach a peak of production in 1881. However, from 1891, the new coke blast furnaces at Donawitz took over from Vordernberg and the last of the foundries closed in 1922. On account of its wealth of technologically and culturally valuable remains, Vordernberg is one of the most interesting examples of the development of the iron industry in Europe. The various museum sites provide an insight into early industrial history though it can sometimes be difficult to imagine in the midst of such beautiful mountain scenery.

The main historical attractions include the former foundries, in particular Radwerk IV, dating from 1846, which has been fully restored to working condition as amuseum, and is the only complete charcoal blast furnace in central Europe. It was closed down in 1911, placed under protection in 1928, and finally restored as a museum in 1959. Radwerk III which produced double the amount of iron as the other blast furnaces may also be visited. This contains a powerful steam engine which used furnace gases to drive the bellows. The complex of buildings which comprised Radwerk I are also still standing. Other attractions include the Erzbergbahn museum in the former Vordernberg Markt station (shared with a museum dedicated to skiing in the area) and locomotives of the railway plinthed at the station and on the market square (more below), There is an impressive wrought iron well cover in the square (1668) and an assortmanet of interesting buildings - Lehrfrischhütte (early 16th century forge), Raithaus (predecessor of the university in Leoben), Meranhaus (mansion of Archduke Johann with classical facade) and the 16th cenuiry Steyrerhaus with an onion dome, the erstwhile mansion of the owners of Radwerk IV. Further upstream are the castle-like ruins of the Laurenziröst, a group of furnaces employed to raise the iron content of the ore. Nearby is a fortified, Gothic church, the Laurenzikirche with notable stone reliefs dating back to 1515. Vordernberg also offers good sports facilities, including paragliding and skiing on the Polster.


ERZBERGBAHN

The rack and adhesion railway over the Erzberg opened in 1891 to transport iron ore over the Präbichl Pass from the Erzberg to Virdernberg from where it was taken onwards to the new blast furnaces at Donawitz. It also provided the remaining Vordernberg furnaces with ore until their closure in 1922. The rack-railway survived until the end of steam operation in 1978 although ore traffic continued into the 1980s hauled by diesel locomotives specially fitted for adhesion traction. A new ore loading plant was erected at Krumpental in 1984 and the line connecting it to Eisenerz electrified. It proved more economical to load trains here and to transport the ore round to Donauwitz via the Schoberpass than to use the Erzbergbahn. A passenger service, utilising special diesel railbuses in later years, operated until March 1988. In 1990 the
Verein Erzbergbahn (Erzberg Railway Society) took over the 18.5km railway between Vordernberg-Markt and Eisenerz from the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) to run a tourist railway using four railbuses. Full details of services can be found on their website (link above).

The route of the railway is outstanding, winding around, over and through the Erzberg via six viaducts and five tunnels. It is a scenic line, away from the road, passing through the forested Hintererzberg valley and over the Weiritzgraben viaduct behind the Erzberg and beneath the Eizenerzer Reichenstein. Ore was loaded at Eisenerz via the narrow gauge Erzförderbahn works line, and on the Erzberg just before the long Plattentunnel. The highest point on the line is 1205m which is reached in the Präbichl tunnel. The south side is less rugged, the line twisting down through the forest to Glaslbremse before commencing a long descent down the eastern side of the Vordernbergerbach valley to Vordernberg-Markt station where you will find the Erzbergbahn Museum and the largest rack loconotive in the world, 297.401.

Four steam rack locomotives of the class 69 (Later ÖBB 97) were built at Floridsdorf for the opening of the line. They had a wheel arrangement of 0-6-2T (C1zzt) abd were found to be very useful and quiet running. A further 14 followed until 1908 and remained in service until the end of steam operation. Five of these have survived, one of them (97.217) as a monument in Vordernberg and another (97.208) as a museum locomotive at Strasshof. Three locomotives of the new class 269 (ÖBB class 197) were delivered in 1912. They were larger and more powerful with six coupled axles, i.e. 0-12-0T (Fzzt) and were intended for hauling heavier trains over steeper sections. One is preserved (197.301) as a working museum locomotive at Strasshof. The final class of steam locomotives was 369 (ÖBB class 297), two of which were delivered in 1941. These monsters had a wheel arrangement of 2-12-2T (1'F'1zzt) and were the most powerful rack locomotives in the world, capable of hauling a 300t train up the steepest section of track at 15kmh. However, they were also unreliable and susceptible to derailment. The first was withdrawn prematurely in 1949 and used for spares to keep 297.401 running until 1968. It is now plinthed on Voredernberg-Markt station. A diesel rack locomotive was tested during the 1960s but was found to be unsuccessful. Railbuses fitted with magnetic brakes (5081.560-565) were introduced from 1971 and diesel locomotives with adhesion traction of the class 2043.5 replaced the last steam locomotives in 1978.

For further information about the Erzbergbahn and the Erzberg please refer to our separate page:
ERZBERG & ERZBERGBAHN
ADMONT & THE GESÄUSE

Creating a backdrop to theStyrian Iron Road are the bizarre formations of this part of the calcareaous northern Alps - the rugged peaks of the Eisenerzer and Ennstaler Alps, and the Hochschwab Range. Of particular interest is the Gesäuse, the most imposing part of the Ennstal Alps and one of the wildest mountain groups in the Alps, where the Enns has carved a magnificent gorge through the limestone massif between Admont and Hieflau. The mountains here are dramatic and rise to 2413 metres at the Hochtor, with sheer faces falling to the river below. They offer a wide range of possibilities for walking and climbing, the more difficult faces only for skilled, experienced rock-climbers. A road climbs up from the Gesäuse through a landscape dominated by limestone pinnacles to the tiny village of JOHNSBACH, located in a high alpine valley, and best known for its rock climbers' cemetery. The journey through the Gesäuse is one of the most beautiful in Austria, especially when made by train. The river here is also popular with experienced canoeists, as is the Salza which joins with the Enns further downstream.

Beyond the western entrance to the Gorge, Gesäuse Eingang, the valley is wider with peaceful, flower-filled meadows and stretches of woodland, overlooked by the face of the Haller Mauern to the north. Here you will find the small town of
ADMONT, famous for its Benedictine Abbey which was founded in 1074 and once owned some 30% of the land in Styria (Steiermark). Of special note is the beautiful baroque library (Josef Hüber, 1776), the largest monastery library in the world with ceiling frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte and impressive wood carvings representing Death, The Last Judgement, Heaven and Hell by Josef Stammel. Within the area of admont are the villages of HALL and WENG providing decent accommodation, sports facilities and excellent bases for walking in the region. Further upstream the valley is dominated by the twin onion-domed towers of the pilgrimage churtch at FRAUENBERG.


Baroque Library attached to the
Benedictine Abbey at Admont
Styria (“Steiermark”) is well known for its beer (Gösser, Puntigamer, Reininghaus, etc.) but more recently some local restaurants have been reviving Styrian culinary specialities and the regional tourist office has even promoted the Styrian Iron Road as the “Steirische Speisenstrasse” (Styrian Cuisine Road). It is not surprising that the forests that gave the province its name, the “Green Heart of Austria”, provide many of the ingredients for local cooking. Game, such as wild boar and venison, wild berries and a wide variety of mushrooms and fungi together with influences from neighbouring Croatia and Hungary form the basis of Styrian Cuisine. Especially recommended are Steirisches Wurzelfleisch, diced pork with potatoes, horse radish and caraway, or Kernöl43, a thick dark green oil (looks like engine oil!) used as a salad dressing which is extracted from gourds and has a heavenly nutty flavour which is quite unique.
Entrance to the Gesäuse Gorge with the Hochtor


EISENWÜRZEN
The Iron Roads of Upper and Lower Austria

Iron from the Erzberg was transported northwards down the Styrian Iron Road to the Enns and then, usually by river, to the manufacturing centres of Linz and Steyr and to the Danube for export. Consequently many iron related businesses developed along these trade routes, not only blacksmiths but also numerous foundries along side valleys where water wasw harnessed to drive the hammers, the bellows and other machinery. Some communities specialised in particular industries such as scythe-making in Laussa, needles in Losenstein, pocket knifes in Trattenbach, and knives and tools in the Ybbs valley. Some towns became important markets for iron and iron products, such as Weyer, Waidhofen an der Ybbs and Steyr, and the prosperity brought with this trade allowed them to develop culturally. Steyr in particular, situated at the confluence of the River Ateyr with the Enns, has always gained its wealth from iron and during the 19th century became the chief armaments supplier to the Empire. Tractors, trucks, buses and ball bearings are still produced in the town which is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful in Europe.

The cultural gems of Steyr and Waidhofen, and the remainder of this beautiful region will be covered by our separate "Eisenwürzen" section.
Gesäuse with the Reichenstein / Hieflau and Ennstaler Alps / Gesäuse

Heflau with the Ennsrechen "Enns Rakes") / Old Eisenerz with Bergmannsplatz /
Ramsau valley, Eisenerz, with the Eisenerzer Alps

Admont Abbey / Vorderberg and the Polster / Tourist train into the Erzberg mines








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