• Kester Eddy

Vienna - Proud and Basking in the Light

Updated: Jan 2

Built just after the collapse* of the Austr0-Hungarian Empire, a veteran Class 77 locomotive stands illuminated by shafts of sunlight in Wien Nord shed. It is September, 1972: earlier that month, 11 Israeli Olympic atheletes had been murdered in Munich, Billie Jean King had won the 86th US Womens' Tennis Open, and an Icelandic gunboat had sunk two British trawlers in the so-called "Cod War".

Photo: Every Picture Tells a Story [Don't it]? - 31. After taking a wrong turn & traipsing for an hour under the mid-day sun around an industrial estate in north-east Vienna, I found my quarry - a handful of ageing steam engines in Nord shed, Praterstern.

Some people go to Vienna for the Opera, some for the Lippizaner horses, some for both. Me, I went for die Damploks.

Perhaps that wrong turn was for the better: if I'd arrived by the direct route, the sun would not have facilitated this shot. I'm particularly proud of this pic, as it was taken on my mum's old, fixed- lens Kodak Retinette. With no light meter, it was all guessing what the exposure should be - real film was far less forgiving than today's digital technology, and it was easy to end up with near all-black and/or over-exposed slides. I put the camera on a tripod and kept the shutter open for maybe a second I should think. It is taken on Agfa CT18 film.

What fascinates me today - I've only just thought of this - is the unusual clarity of the illuminated driving wheels and associated motion, which helps make this piccie special. These components would normally be in darkness in a depot such as this. There must have been light either coming through windows to my right, or (and I think this is more likely) reflected by some surface out of sight on the right.

I'm not sure when this particular engine was withdrawn, but it had, as a maximum, just two and a half years of further working life, hauling commuters from Retz and Hohenau in Niederösterreich into the Austrian capital until mid-1975. Still, that's not bad for a machine between 55-60 years old, one which entered service when Emperor Karl 1 and Zita ruled Hungary, Austria and more besides. This engine not only survived WW1, it lived through WW2 and (in all likelihood) Soviet occupation from 1945-55. (I can't be sure of the latter, as it might have been then allocated in one of the other zones occupied by the US, Brits or French.)

If you're wondering what the gubbins is to the right of the smokebox at the front of the locomotive - that's an air-pump to provide air for the brake system, and if you're really observant (and geeky), you might notice the unusual oblong chimney. That's a Giesl ejector - a special nozzle system designed by Austrian engineer Adolph Giesl which improved the draughting and efficiency of many older steam locomotives.

I promised to publish the results of KesterTester60 yesterday, and still haven't done it. Mea Culpa - I was busy and I'm somehwo reluctant to do so because only one reader has identified the location so far (and I like competition). But I guess I'll have to do it tomorrow, or it will be forgotten.

So you still have time to sleuth in the New Year.

* Update: I originally thought this locomotive was part of an order in 1917-18, and wrote that it was built "in the grim, twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire". However, Herbert Harrer, of the Austrian Railway Museum, has written to me noting that it was actually in a 1922 build - so it did not, in fact, survive WW1 and did not see service in the former empire (although, of course, earlier sister locomotives did).

Thank you for the correction, Herbert.

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