Special Exhibitions

150 Years of the Southern Railway Villach-Franzensfeste

On 20 November 1871, after a construction period of 26 months, the Villach-Franzensfeste line was opened to public traffic 10 months earlier than planned. The Südbahn-Gesellschaft distributed 20,000 gulden to the communities for the “poor along the railway line”. The opening was celebrated with a large parade.

The valley and the neighbouring districts of Lienz and Bruneck experienced a rapid economic upswing. The timber trade flourished and tourism was also boosted. The railway brought many holidaymakers and tourists, so that in the 70s and 80s of the 19th century one could already speak of real tourism. The Dolomites suddenly became known in alpine circles. As a result, a number of hotels were built, including the Südbahnhotels. In 1910, the Puster Valley already had 11,000 tourist beds.

In addition to stimulating the economy in many sectors, the railway also brought a previously non-existent profession to the Pustertal: railwaymen. The Südbahn employed 800 people in Lienz alone, which, assuming three family members per employee, means that 2,400 people lived off the railway. This increase necessitated the extension and construction of old and new residential buildings, which grew into entire railway settlements. Many railway workers found their jobs in the only surviving Südbahn boiler house, which was built to maintain the “steam horses”. While Lienz had 2,000 inhabitants in 1870, 40 years later it already had 6,000.

From 1953, the steam locomotives were gradually replaced by diesel locomotives. Steam locomotive operation ended on the Spittal-Innichen line in 1963. On 14 November 1971, the 100th anniversary of the Pustertal Railway was celebrated with a jubilee train from Lienz to Franzensfeste. Since then, the line has been adapted to modern requirements. In 1991, electrification was completed. In the years 2019-2021, numerous stations were modernised by ÖBB and in Lienz – in cooperation with the city – the mobility centre was created (in completion).