Hochschaubahn at Prater in Vienna

Bottom of the chain lift Slowly going up
Itīs becoming darkPicturesque idyll ...on the the other side S-curves Past a diorama Almost like a miniature railwayOverview

Impressions of Hochschaubahn

One of the worldīs last Scenic Railways

Nostalgia at the Prater in Vienna

The end of the 19th century was the first golden era of roller coasters. Even then people were looking for ever new experiences, and with technology still being in very early stages, the patrons´ needs had to be fulfilled in a different way. So roller coaster pioneer La Marcus Thompson had the idea to run the coaster track within an artificial landscape. He built such a ride in 1887 in Atlantic City at the US east coast - the Scenic Railway was born.

In the following decades such rides sprung up like mushrooms, today their number is shrunk to just nine - with a downward trend due to high operating and maintenance costs. The youngest Scenic Railway is called Hochschaubahn and can be found at the Prater in Vienna.

A characteritic feature of Scenic Railways is, next to the embedding in an artificial landscape, the brakeman conducting every train, keeping it safe on track. This is absolutely necessary, since such rides are side friction roller coasters without upstop wheels running under the track. Over the decades the brakeman became the most characteristic "feature" of a Scenic Railway, so even wooden coasters without any theming are called Scenic Railways if there is a brakeman. De facto seven of the nine remaining Scenics do not show the landscaped theming. But the Hochschaubahn in Vienna does: This ride represents the elaborate theming as it was originally intended.

The Prater has a long tradition, and it has been the home of several classic wooden coasters and a Scenic Railway. The old Hochschaubahn by La Marcus A. Thompson from 1909 was combined with a water ride and was placed next to the ferris wheel, one of Vienna´s landmarks. But in 1944 it fell victim to a fire that was caused by an electric malfunction. One year later the complete Prater was destroyed during an air raid.

WaterfallThe other side

A ride through an artificial mountain landscape...

1948 the innkeeper of today´s Schweizerhaus, which was only a tent at that time, started to build a new wooden coaster in his beer garden. But he miscalculated the costs, so a group of investors took over the activities. Under the supervision of the Kremser, Moltre, Schneeweiss, Gasselseder and Krista families the 2.5 million Schilling, about 180.000 Euros, required to finish the project could be raised. So the Hochschaubahn was opened in February of 1950. In 1971 the Kremser family has acquired 100 percent of the ride.

The two trains of the coaster consist of two wagons and carry the brakeman as well as 14 passengers each. After the station, where the riders are greeted by a number of garden gnomes, the train at first passes through a twinkling grotto before it reaches the 10 meters high chain lift at the back of the ride. Here the original motor performs its task - with an engine power of 14.5 kW, scarcely 20 HP.

After an ample left curve the first drop follows, having a height difference of almost ten meters. At the bottom the train reaches its maximum speed of about 40 kilometers per hour - those are no spectacular numbers for sure, but numbers isn´t what counts here anyway. Important is the fun experience, and this is - last but not least - accomplished by the missing restraint system as an extra thrill. The subsequent track leads through an artificial rock landscape, passing villages and small rivers as well as a tunnel. Especially on warm summer days some wet surprises produce a short cooling. The ride ends in a second tunnel before the train slowly glides to the exit platform. Re-riders can remain seated on the way to the station, doing the rest of the 450 meters long full circuit.

The big dropPassage to the other sideThe castle

... with drops and a castle

The Kremser family employs five full time workers and three seasonal workers who also perform maintenance of the Hochschaubahn. With their know how they carry out the repair works that last up to four months each year. Except for some minor technical improvements the original condition of the ride could be maintained. So for example after the collapse of the Reichsbrücke in Vienna in 1976 the coaster was closed by the authorities since they feared that the same misfortune could happen to the Hochschaubahn. Within just two weeks a complete second base frame was built, so the construction now has a multiple of the original stability.

Even though it is the youngest Scenic Railway, the Hochschaubahn at the Prater in Vienna inheres the charisma of the waning 19th century, the first golden era of roller coasters. Besides the enjoyable ride experience the elaborate and affectionate theming makes it a pleasure for the whole family, whilst for coaster enthusiasts it is a must do ride not only due to its historical significance.

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