On the Rails of the Double Headed Eagle III

The Way to the West

A TV-Documentation by Björn Kölz and Gernot Stadler

Documentation, 52 min, 2015
GS-Film, ORF/3sat
Idea & Concept
Björn Kölz
Written and directed by
Björn Kölz, Gernot Stadler
Gernot Stadler, Dieter Frank, Marco J. Rusch, Jonathan Rinn
Manfred Plessl
Camera assistance & Sound
Björn Kölz
ORF Enterprise

The second half of the 19th century was marked by epochal changes, also for the great multi-ethnic empire in the centre of Europe, the Austrian Empire. Above all, the development of a gigantic railway network linking the most remote areas of the Austrian crown lands, between the steppes of Galicia and the coasts of the Adriatic, was to change the way people live together forever.

Suddenly, goods, people and ideas circulated at breathtaking speed in an empire that was home to more than a dozen peoples. And for the first time it was possible to drive from Vienna to Lemberg in the east or south to the old Austrian port city of Trieste in just a few hours. Distances which had taken days and weeks before the railway was built.

In the third part of the television documentary series “On the Rails of the Double Headed Eagle”, the two directors Björn Kölz and Gernot Stadler take the audience on a journey to the southwestern Crown Lands of the Habsburg Empire. The Kaiserin-Elisabeth-line, today’s West line, goes to Bad Ischl and the Mühlviertel in Upper Austria, from Innsbruck the journey continues on the Arlberg line to Vorarlberg and the Brenner line to South Tyrol. It highlights the engineering masterpieces that had to be accomplished in order to cross the Alps on the way to the west and south. The filmmakers also spend some time in the various regions along the route. In Ampflwang in Upper Austria’s Hausruckviertel, the locomotive park of the Austrian Society for Railway History invites you to visit, while in Carinthia there is an excursion with a historic steam locomotive of the Association Nostalgiebahnen. A visit to a cheesemaker and farmer in the Bregenzerwald or to a winegrower in South Tyrol are further stops on this cinematic railway journey.

In the third part of “On the Rails of the Double Eagle” it is also becomes clear that it was the railways that filled the vast empire with life, that allowed people and goods to circulate and enabled the conquest of landscapes in a touristic way. In a vast area occupied today by more than a dozen sovereign states, a hundred years ago travellers were able to move freely without any restrictions. The railway became a symbol of freedom and unity within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy due to its cross-border and interethnic function.