Selzthal to St. Valentin

My train from Selzthal, central Austria, was a local, #3602. The trip began in a narrow rural valley between jagged peaked mountains; horses grazing peacefully, farmers cutting hay with scythes. As we proceeded the valley widened, past tiny villages, curving along a rushing river in a narrow defile, a gorge lined with steep pine-covered walls. Alongside, the sparkling white river was nearly eye level as we jiggled, clickity-clicking along. The village stations were little green shacks, a lone attendant standing by.

It was an exciting ride of breathtaking scenery. This section of the Enns River appeared too wild for white-water rafting. As the river cut more deeply through the rocks, we rose. It rushed past below, dangerous looking rocks sharply protruding from its foamy surface. As the train cut in and out of tunnels 60 feet above the Enns, old single lane bridges passed below; a slim concrete highway was overhead, crossing and recrossing the gorge. Then the river began to lose its wild character.

In the little town of Hieflau, halfway through our 70-mile trip, it widened and became less turbulent. Dikes walled it off from the tracks and we entered tunnels where the gorge was too narrow for us and the river. In Grosreifling, a valley town with a distinctive onion-towered church with a gold clock, the highway soared dramatically overhead.

Alone in the coach, it seemed like a private run. The ride continued along a more gentle river course, more towns, each with its dominating church. In places the gorge narrowed, churches and alpine homes perched on its slopes. Wheels scraped around sharp curves as we passed several hydroelectric stations using the river's energy, then climbed 80 feet above to a wide valley past dairy farms, more hydro installations and small industrial plants, the Enns now wide, still and quiet. At a stop at Steyr, with its towering Gothic church, the train came to life as a dozen teenagers boarded. After a pause in the small city of St. Valentin, the run continued past level fields to Linz.

This was a special train ride. Well worth a detour off the main line.

June 1994