Railway: Austria played an important role in the development of railways. The construction of railway networks started during the Vormaerz period and was completed for the most part under Emperor Franz Joseph. At the beginning, private companies carried out the construction of railway networks. In 1832 the first horse-drawn railway was opened on the route Linz - Îeske BudÆjovice (Budweis). It was built by F. A. von Gerstner as the first inter-city railway on the European continent. In 1837 the first steam-powered railway in Austria was opened on the route from Floridsdorf to Deutsch-Wagram ("Kaiser-Ferdinand-Nordbahn"), later extended to Olomouc (Olmuetz) by A. Negrelli and to Kraków in 1846. The first night-train in Europe started its operation on the Nordbahn (northern route). The route from Vienna to Gloggnitz was built from 1839 to 1842; in 1838 Baron Sina from Vienna was granted the licence to build the railway line Vienna - Gyoer (then Raab).
In 1841 the government took over the main part of the construction programme. In 1842 the Central Executive Board of the state railways was set up. A. Negrelli took over the technical management of the northern network, and K. Ghega was responsible for the southern network. The southern route Vienna - Graz - Trieste was completed between 1842 and 1859; the section of this line crossing the Semmering pass, built by Ghega between 1848 and 1854, was the first mountain railway in Europe ( Semmering Railway).
Under the Railway Licence Act of 1854 the government, which had run out of money, left railway construction to private companies. In 1859 "Suedbahngesellschaft" ("Southern Route Company") took over the southern route, in 1867 it opened the route crossing the Brenner pass. The Kaiserin Elisabeth Westbahn (Empress Elisabeth Western Route) was also built by a private company (1858 Vienna - Linz, 1860 Linz - Salzburg, 1861 Wels - Passau).
In 1873 the government took over railway construction again and extended the route network (1880-1884 the route crossing Arlberg mountain was built under J. Lott), and also started to nationalise privately-owned main routes. The Franz Joseph Route, built 1867-1872 (Vienna - Prague - Eger) was also taken over by the government. The southern route remained in private possession until 1923; it was not until 1937 that the route Vienna - Aspang, including the "Schneebergbahn" mountain railway, was nationalised. After 1900 important alpine railways were constructed: 1906 Karawanken Railway and Pyhrn Railway, in 1909 Tauern Railway (construction headed by K. Wurmb); later the first electrical short-distance railways were built: 1904 Stubaital Railway, 1906 Mariazell Railway (electrified in 1911), 1912 Mittenwald Railway and 1914 Pressburg Railway. After 1914 only few short routes were built: 1918 Hermagor - Koetschach-Mauthen, 1919 Peggau - Deutschfeistritz - Uebelbach, 1925 Friedberg - Pinkafeld, 1927 Ruprechtshofen - Wieselburg - Gresten, 1928 Felixdorf - Blumau, 1930 Birkfeld - Ratten, 1931 Feldbach - Bad Gleichenberg, 1951 Buermoos - Trimmelkam and in 1964 the Jaun Valley Railway.
Under the provisions of the 1919 peace treaty Austria lost almost 75 % of its railway network, especially many lowland railways. Only major parts of the mountain railways, which were very expensive to maintain, were left. The Austrian railways also had to keep 34% of their employees while retaining only 25% of their former capital resources. Since 1923 the state-owned railway has been run as a separate economic entity ( Bundesbahnen). In addition, there are 16 privately-owned railways (including societies), which operate on 22 routes (as of 1995), covering altogether 558 km (most being branch-lines of local importance and mainly narrow-gauge and single-track lines).
Having lost its large coal mines, the Republic of Austria had to electrify its railways. From 1919-1930, 620 km of the routes were electrified, e.g. the routes Salzburg - Buchs, Salzburg - Bregenz and the Brenner Railway, 1933-1935 the Tauern Railway, and 1937-1941 the route Salzburg - Attnang-Puchheim. After 1945 the Austrian Federal Railways carried on the process of electrification (e.g. the western route to Vienna, the southern route, Schnellbahn suburban service); today all the main railway routes are electrified. Since the Schnellbahn suburban service was inaugurated in 1962, the railway has gained importance as a means of urban short-distance and suburban transport, while in rural areas branch lines have been beset by problems.
Literature#T. H. Mayer, Wie Oesterreich seine Bahnen baute, 1934; E. Hofbauer, Die oesterreichischen Eisenbahnen 1837-1937, 1937; E. R. Kaan, Die oesterreichischen Staatseisenbahnen, 1946; K. Feiler, Die alte Schienenstrasse Budweis - Gmunden, 1952; W. Krobot et al., Schmalspurig durch Oesterreich, 1961; G. Zwanowetz, Die Anfaenge der Tiroler Eisenbahn-Geschichte, 1962; F. Aschauer, Oberoesterr. Eisenbahnen, 1964; Die Eisenbahnen in Oesterreich (at the 150th anniversary), 1987; K. Gutkas and E. Bruckmueller, Verkehrswege und Eisenbahnen, 1989; G. Schmid et al., Bewegung und Beharrung, 1994.