Austrian Southern Railway

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The Austrian Southern Railway[1] (German Österreichische Südbahn or just Südbahn,[1] Slovene Južna železnica) was an Austrian railway company established in 1841. It was the main railway company in the Austrian Empire (later Austria-Hungary) operating train services between Vienna and Trieste until 1923.

Today, the term Südbahn is still used to refer to the railway lines which were formerly operated by it: from Vienna via Bruck an der Mur to Graz and via Slovenia to Trieste (Southern Railway).

Today the term "Austrian Southern Railway" is sometimes also applied today to the railway line from Bruck an der Mur via Klagenfurt and Villach to Italy (Tarvisio), but that is historically incorrect.


The railway company was established to create train services between the capital city of Vienna and the busy Adriatic sea port city of Trieste in order to meet trade demands in the upcoming age of industrialization.

Construction began in 1839 and the first section between Vienna and Gloggnitz was completed by the private Wien-Gloggnitzer Eisenbahn Gesellschaft in 1842. It followed the construction of the section from Mürzzuschlag via Graz and Maribor and Ljubljana to Trieste, completed by the Imperial government in 1857. The two lines were connected by the Semmering Railway, when the railway over the Semmering mountain pass was built according to construction plans by Carl von Ghega between 1848 and 1854.

In 1858 all lines were sold to the private Südbahn Gesellschaft, which constructed another line from Maribor via Klagenfurt, Villach and Lienz to Franzensfeste. The Austrian Southern Railway lifted trade to and from Trieste manyfold. It lifted Austria-Hungary's international sea trade and established Trieste as the main sea port of all Southern and Eastern Central Europe (Lloyd Triestino). Trieste became the Empire's fourth largest city after Vienna, Budapest and Prague and the railway had substantial influence in developing tourism along the surrounding Adriatic coasts which made Trieste the center of the so-called Austrian Riviera.

After World War I Trieste fell to Italy in 1921 and in 1923 the remaining Austrian part of the company was nationalized. During World War II the Südbahnhof was damaged and rebuilt only in 1956, while Ostbahnhof was integrated into it. Graz Main Station also had to be rebuilt after being totally destroyed by bombs, it was reopened in 1955.

During the Cold War trade between Vienna and Trieste was mainly run through Tarvisio in Italy which tracks had been equipped with electric power by 1963; the same for the branch from Vienna into Graz and Yugoslavia by 1966.

Nowadays most of the line is double track, though the line between Werndorf (South of Graz) and Maribor is still single track after having the second track removed in 1945, though this is to change in the near future.

The Southern Railway was recently selected as the main motif of a very high value collectors' coin: the Austrian Southern Railways Vienna-Triest commemorative coin, minted on September 12, 2007. The obverse shows the locomotive “Steinbrück” with one of the typical viaducts of the Semmering Railway in the background. The engine “Steinbrück” can be seen today in the Technical Museum in Vienna. It is the oldest existing locomotive built in Austria; it was constructed in 1848 for the Southern Railway.


  1. ^ a b Ransome-Wallis, P. (1971). Preserved Steam Locomotives of Western Europe, Vol. 1, Ian Allan, London. p. 13ff. ISBN 0-7110-0196-0.