Discover the rich cultural heritage and beautiful natural scenery of Austria and the Czech Republic on this wonderful winter holiday, packed with memorable steam highlights.
Based initially in Vienna, you’ll experience this magnificent metropolis and the famous railway lines that lie nearby. Enjoy a journey over the iconic Semmeringbahn and private steam charters on famous narrow gauge railways such as the rural Murtalbahn, the mountainous Mariazellerbahn and the idyllic Waldviertelbahn. A private main line steam charter with a Class 93 tank engine over pretty countryside routes north of Vienna is an additional highlight. Later, there will be exclusive steam charters in the Czech Republic, covering the entire JHMD narrow gauge system in South Bohemia. Two days in Prague, to conclude the tour in fine fashion, are an added bonus. While in the Czech capital, you’ll get a sightseeing tour of the “Golden City” by vintage 1920s tramway. There’ll be film and photo opportunities, with staged run pasts in outstanding rural landscapes. You’re sure to enjoy the enchanting ‘Winter Wonderland’ scenery that the Austrian Alps and the Czech hills have to offer.
Tuesday 5th March
Fly to Vienna
You arrive in Austria’s capital around mid-day, following a morning flight from London. After a direct transfer from the airport you check into your centrally located 4-star hotel, where you’ll be based for the next five nights. You can spend the rest of the day exploring iconic Vienna at your leisure, using the complimentary public transport rover ticket supplied, valid for the duration of your stay.
Wednesday 6th March
Prater Ferris Wheel, Hotel Sacher and Evening Danube Cruise
After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll experience a ride on the landmark Prater Ferris Wheel dating from 1897. Built by Royal Navy engineers it was made famous by the British film from 1949, ‘The Third Man’. The giant wheel stands next to the Wien Praterstern railway station and offers stunning views of the city. For 65 years until 1985 it was the world’s largest Ferris wheel. After you transfer to the famed Hotel Sacher for a light lunch and famous dessert, with the name-sake chocolate cake with delicate layer of apricot marmalade. In the afternoon there will be time to explore the city before you reconvene with the group for a private dinner cruise on the Danube and see Vienna’s impressive skyline illuminated at dusk. (B L D)
Thursday 7th March
The Semmering Railway and steam at the Murtalbahn
This morning you’ll travel over the stone-arched viaducts of the stunning Semmering line, the first trans-Alpine railway built in Europe. You’ll travel First Class on an ÖBB service train over the UNESCO designated Semmering pass to the junction station of Unzmarkt. There a private steam charter with a typical early 20th century Austro-Hungarian tank engine will haul you westward on the narrow gauge branch line to Murau. This unique railway line meanders along the namesake river and provides wonderful views of the Alpine surroundings. En route there’ll be photo stops and run-pasts before your buffet lunch is served in the bar car. On arrival in Murau you’ll have time to visit the historic town centre and Baroque chateau, before returning to Unzmarkt and another ride in First Class on an ÖBB service train back to Vienna. (B L)
Friday 8th March
Steam on the Mariazell Railway in the Austrian Alps
After breakfast you take an ÖBB service train from Wien Westbahnhof to St. Pölten, the provincial capital of Lower Austria. There you join an exclusively chartered steam train on the spectacular Mariazellerbahn, Austria’s longest narrow gauge railway. Your private charter train of First Class carriages is hauled by the vintage 1908 0-8+4 articulated tender locomotive No. Mh 6. The 84 km branch line runs between St. Pölten and the pilgrimage town of Mariazell. Upon arrival at Mariazell there’ll be a short coach transfer to the town centre, where you can see the landmark pilgrimage basilica and enjoy lunch at a typical Austrian inn. Nestled in the Styrian Alps, Mariazell is dwarfed by impressive peaks. You return by steam train to St. Pölten, once again enjoying the spiral tunnels, horseshoe curves and impressive viaducts on the line. After arriving in St. Pölten you return the short distance to Vienna on another ÖBB high speed train. (B L)
Saturday 9th March
Main line steam over scenic bylines from Mistelbach via Laa to Retz
Today is dedicated to picturesque Weinviertel (Wine District) north of Vienna. After a short transfer by ÖBB service train from Vienna to Mistelbach, you travel steam-hauled on the secondary line via Laa an der Thaya to Retz. On the long section between Laa and Zellerndorf, this remote route is freight only, allowing the Class 93 2-8-2 tank engine to pause for attractive run-pasts in this pretty part of the Austrian countryside. Conveniently, warm soup and a hearty lunch will be served on the train. After arrival to Retz, the steam train will continue as far as Niederflatdnitz, along the closed branch line to Drosdendorf. This will allow us to stage more run-pasts on the picturesque bank west of Retz, which is one of the most photogenic spots in all of Austria, as it provides fine views of the train amidst the hilly landscape and with the towers and turrets of Retz. You will also be time to visit the attractive centre of Retz, before a late afternoon ÖBB service train back to Vienna. (B L)
Sunday 10th March
By rail to Gmünd, Steam on the Waldviertelbahn
After breakfast you’ll transfer by rail over the scenic Franz-Josefs-Bahn to the frontier town of Gmünd, located right on the Czech border. Gmünd is the starting point of an extensive narrow gauge network in the so-called Waldviertel (Forest District). You will travel on the northern branch line to Litschau today, enjoying the scenery that is marked by woodlands and rolling hills. Traction for your private charter train is provided by another one of the distinctive 0-8+4 articulated tender locomotives. Photo stops and run-pasts will once again be staged during the round-trip. After returning to Gmünd in the late afternoon, you check into the 4-star Hotel Goldener Stern, a charming Austrian inn. Your luggage will have already been transferred there directly by coach from Vienna. (B L D)
Monday 11th March
Steam in South Bohemia
Today you spend your first day in Bohemia and make the short drive from Gmünd to Jindřichův Hradec, where the Czech Republic’s premier narrow gauge railway is based. The privately operated Jindřichův Hradec Místní Dráhy (JHMD) runs two separate branch lines and today you’ll travel over the scenic 32 km southern line, which passes through so-called ‘Czech Canada’. Your train will be hauled by the 0-6-2 steam tank locomotive No. U37.001 to the terminus at Nová Bystřice. Here you take lunch at a typical Czech restaurant in the town. Afterwards there’s a road coach trip to visit the historic town of Třeboň, with its chateau, Baroque town square, city ramparts, and traditional castle brewery. In the evening you again have dinner at the hotel in Gmünd. (B L D)
Tuesday 12th March
Czech steam on the JHMD north branch to Obratan
You visit the Czech Republic again today when you take a private steam charter on the 46 km northern branch of the JHMD network from Jindřichův Hradec to Obratan. It’s an unusual treat to experience steam traction on both of the JHMD lines. The landscape of these ‘Czech Highlands’ is distinguished by rolling hills, open fields and lush forests. You’ll be steam hauled by a powerful tender locomotive and run-pasts will be staged. Lunch will be served at the half-way point in Kamenice at the station restaurant. On arrival in Obratan there’ll be a short transfer to Pelhrimov, to explore the historic town centre. In late afternoon you return by coach to Gmünd, where another buffet dinner awaits at your hotel. (B L D).
Wednesday 13th March
By rail to Prague
For the last part of the tour, you transfer by rail from Gmünd’s Czech sister town Ceske Velenice via Veseli to Prague. You will travel on loco-hauled service trains operated by the national railway operator Ceske drahy, including both diesel and electric traction. In Prague you have lunch at a gorgeous early 20th Century beerhall, before checking into your centrally located hotel and having time for a rest or some individual exploration of the Old Town. In the early evening you reconvene with your fellow travellers for one more dinner cruise, this time on the River Vltava. A dinner buffet will be served as you sail beneath the medieval Charles Bridge and have the best views of Prague Castle. As the sun sets, you’ll enjoy views of the soaring spires that define the “Golden City”. (B L D)
Thursday 14th March
Sightseeing in Prague by vintage tram and return to London
This morning you‘ll explore the sights of historic Prague on a sightseeing tour by vintage tram, travelling on wonderful vehicle of 1920s vintage. You’ll pass over river bridges and see churches and palaces up close. Naturally, several attractive photo stops will also be included, as will be a visit to Prague’s fantastic tram museum near Prague Castle. The tour will conclude by late morning, giving you more free time in the city before your evening return flight to London. (B L)
All prices shown are per person.
Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner