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150 years WolfgangseeSchifffahrt ferries & 130 years SchafbergBahn cog railway

On 20 May 1873, the imposing paddle wheel of the steamer “Kaiser Franz Josef I.” churned through the water of lake Wolfgangsee for the very first time. On the jetty meanwhile, a curious crowd of onlookers cheered on the birth of this passenger ferry service.

The atmosphere was similarly euphoric twenty years later: On 1 August 1893, the SchafbergBahn carried the first seven passengers to the top of the Schafberg, high above lake Wolfgangsee. This cog railway was regarded as a masterpiece of mobility and the ideal complement to the ferries of WolfgangseeSchifffahrt. And thus it has remained to this day.

Happy Birthday

We celebrate the special birthdays with exclusive anniversary trips of the WolfgangseeSchifffahrt ferries and the SchafbergBahn cog railway.

Summer escapes on the water: 150 years of the WolfgangseeSchifffahrt Ferries


For hundreds of years, only small rowboats had bobbed across the lake, carrying fishermen and, in many cases, pilgrims. No wonder, then, that excursions on those new paddle steamers were a particular source of excitement and enjoyment. The initial summer schedule in 1873 foresaw four voyages daily, whilst the boat landings became places to see and be seen, gathering spots for passengers and onlookers alike.


Anniversary cruise of the WolfgangseeSchifffahrt ferries

Jubiläumsfahrt der WolfgangseeSchifffahrt


From vision to passenger ferry service

Even back then, 150 years ago, when the very first steam ship glided across Abersee – as the Wolfgangsee was known in those days – the magic of this lake was ubiquitous. Berthold Curant, an engineer for the “Kaiser Elisabeth” railway company, had a keen sense for beauty and grandeur. His vision of a ferry service on Abersee was idealistic, though crowned by success. The lake lay only a few kilometers from the imperial summer residence in Bad Ischl: The presence of the imperial family was like a magnet for the nobility and wealthy – following them in droves from Vienna and across Europe to the Salzkammergut. There was no question in Berthold Curant’s mind that there was a “target group” for his ferry service, nor that the first paddle steamer would inevitably be christened the “Kaiser Franz Josef I.”. Its maiden voyage on 20 May 1873 marked the beginning of passenger ferry service on lake Wolfgangsee and it remains the beloved, nostalgic star of the modern fleet to this very day. 

Did you know that…
  • … the jetties also used to be a popular spot to see and be seen? A tourist newspaper printed in 1892 noted: “As a docking place for steam ships sailing across the lake, the beautifully tended garden in front of the hotel is transformed into a bustling social hub upon the arrival and departure of ships, since this is where virtually all summer guests residing in Strobl are prone to rendezvous.”
  • … today’s captains of the WolfgangseeSchifffahrt ships are also train drivers on the SchafbergBahn Cog Railway? This job combination is unique in Austria.
  • … 365 passengers fit aboard the biggest ship in the fleet, the “MS Österreich”? 

The “Grande Dame” of cog railways: 130 years of the SchafbergBahn cog railway


At 5:50 am on 1 August 1893, the very first train of the newly opened SchafbergBahn punctually pulled out of the valley station in St. Wolfgang: A local hotelier bought the first seven tickets that day, whilst barely one year later, it was no less a figure than the emperor himself who sat ensconced aboard the funicular. 


Anniversary trip of the SchafbergBahn cog railway

Anniversary trip of the SchafbergBahn cog railway


The SchafbergBahn cog railway – an attraction with unabated charisma

As early as 1893, the Schafbergbahn was a masterpiece of technology and a milestone in mobility in the monarchy. Austria's steepest cogwheel railway was built under the toughest conditions in just over a year and 12,745 passengers were recorded in the first year.

Still today, SchafbergBahn is facing a lot of popularity. In the record year of 2019, more than 340 000 passengers rode this cog railway. The man who conceived the railway would no doubt be thrilled by its success. Berthold Curant was an engineer employed by the “Kaiserin Elisabeth” train company and had already launched a regularly scheduled ferry service on lake Wolfgangsee. Twenty years later, he wanted to complement the ferries with a further attraction, in the form of the SchafbergBahn cog railway.

A gift on this anniversary year: the new ExperienceQuarter in St. Wolfgang

In spring 2023, the ultramodern valley station of the SchafbergBahn will open: This “ExperienceQuarter” comprises an entrance hall for passengers with ticket counter, along with a museum zone, shop, restaurant, and terrace overlooking the lake, all within easy walking distance of the WolfgangseeSchifffahrt boat landing.

Did you know that…
  • … a person can only climb around 300 vertical meters per hour on foot? Which means, for the 1200 vertical meters between the valley station and the top of the SchafbergBahn, hikers would normally need at least four hours. Using the cog railway, however, the journey barely takes forty-five minutes.
  • … the valley station of the SchafbergBahn lies on Upper Austrian soil, but you cross the border into Salzburg just 470 meters later? The summit of the Schafberg also lies inside Salzburger Land.
  • … the SchafbergBahn actually travels faster uphill than it does down: the top uphill speed is 15 km/h, downhill just 12 km/h.