Today in Transportation History – May 16, 1841: The Austrian Empire Expands Its Railway Network

In the Austrian Empire, the first segment of a railway to connect the capital city of Vienna with the pivotal Hungarian city of Győr (the halfway point between Vienna and Budapest) was officially opened. This initial section had been constructed between the town of Baden, which is 16 miles south of Vienna, and the Austrian city of Wiener Neustadt.

Construction of the railway had been authorized in response to the ever-increasing industrialization and trade within Europe; the line ultimately formed part of the Austrian Southern Railway, which provided regular train services between Vienna and the empire’s primary port city of Trieste (now the capital of the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia).

The person responsible for building the railway between Vienna and Győr was Matthias Schönerer, who had already established himself as one of the Austrian Empire’s most renowned railway engineers. Schönerer had been born in Vienna in 1807. His earlier construction projects included the Budweis-Linz-Gmunden wagonway, a horse-drawn line that is generally considered to be the first railway built in continental Europe. Schönerer’s pioneering efforts for the Vienna-Győr railway included constructing a railway tunnel in the town of Gumpoldskirchen; this was the first structure of its kind in Austria.

Schönerer’s subsequently played a major role in building both the Empress Elisabeth Railway between Vienna and Linz and the Emperor Franz Joseph Railway between Vienna and the city of Cheb (in the present-day Czech Republic). He died in Vienna in 1881.

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