Last of the Interurbans Part 6 – The Rittnerbahn – A True Interurban Railway

by

 

The 11.8 km. Rittnerbahn, located in the Western part of the Italian Dolimites, once connected the city Bolzano with the Ritten plateau and today only connects the villages on the Ritten plateau.

Opened in 1907, the interurban line started at Walther Square in the center of Bolzano where it shared the track with the Bolzano trams until it reached Brenner Street. From Brenner St.  to the village of Maria Himmelfahrt the line was a rack railway climbing 990m until it reached the Ritten plateau. A  rack locomotive was placed behind the trams and pushed them uphill. The train that went down to Bolzano produced, by an early example of regenerative braking, some of the power for the ascending train. After arriving in Maria Himmelfahrt on the Ritten plateau, the locomotive was uncoupled and the trams could proceed unaided on normal tracks until the final station in the village of Klobenstein.

In the 19th century the Ritten plateau was an highly frequented place by the people of Bolzano, who liked to pass their weekends there. To connect the two places, it was decided to build a rack railway and 1906 the railway engineer Josef Riehl commenced the planning of the line. In April 1907 the construction finished and the railroad was officially inaugurated on August 13th, 1907. At the end of the sixties a highway was built from Bolzano to Ritten and the railway was nearly abandoned, with minimal maintenance and operation. A decision was taken to augment the rack railway with a ropeway or gondola, which in the end replaced the rack railway, which suffered a serious derailment and accident in 1966 caused by reduced maintenance. In 1985 the Rittnerbahn was fully renovated  and a new tricable aerial ropeway with eight gondolas, that can carry 550 persons per hour was constructed.

Today, remaining interurban line between Maria Himmelfahrt and Klobenstein is used by tourists, locals and train enthusiasts. Two interurbans still in use are vintage 1907 and can be said to be some of the oldest tram cars still in operation.  The company that currently operates the line, SAD (Servizi Autobus Dolomiti),  is the same company that runs all the buses in the province and also the Vinschgerbahn in the Vinschgau valley.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: