There’s much to attract the visitor in the Austrian city of Innsbruck. One of the less likely enjoyments for a first-time visitor is an astonishing curiosity, the Igls tramway [Innsbrucker Mittelgebirgsbahn] – in English, the Innsbruck Central Mountain Railway.
It joins end-on to the Innsbruck city tram-system, which is now a state-of-the-art light rapid transit, with dignified claret-coloured Bombardier trams very similar to the new Blackpool fleet.
The Igls line, which runs as Route 6, climbs sharply away from the streets and disappears into deep forest, climbing steadily by means of cuttings, embankments and hairpin bends to an upland level of pastures, dotted with expensive residences. It serves two intermediate villages, Aldrans and Lans, and passes a couple of recreational lakes, the Mühlsee [Mill Lake] and Lanser See. The surviving original Igls Bahnhof building is a generous-sized branch-line station.
It could hardly be a serious tram-route: its purpose could only be for pleasure, carving its way through the woods, and it has a strong resemblance to the Manx Electric Railway with the practical pointlessness of the Snaefell Mountain Railway.
Surely, I thought, it can’t have run by any other means than electricity.
But it did. It was conceived as an adhesion steam railway in 1900, and only converted to electric traction in 1936. 8½ kilometres long, it was intended to connect the upland town of Igls with the centre of Innsbruck, yet has never penetrated more than three-quarters of a mile from the centre of Igls, which is now served by buses.
Nevertheless, the tram is more fun than the bus, and is within easy walking distance of coffee and cake.
There’s a detailed history of the line, eccentrically translated into English, at http://www.tmb.at/railways/index.php?lang=de&siteid=6&site=showrailway&id=3.
A more comprehensive study, Roy Deacon, Innsbruck’s Alpine Tramways (LRTA 2011) [http://www.lrta.info/shop/product.php/1101/9/innsbruck_s_alpine_tramways], also describes the Stubaitalbahn line to Fulpmes.