Join us on a journey back in time to 1906 and learn all about the history, construction, architects and many other interesting milestones and highlights of the Innsbruck Nordkettenbahnen from then until today.
Construction of the Hungerburgbahn
Innsbruck's cable car history begins with the construction of a funicular to the Hungerburg, the second of its kind in Tyrol after the Mendlbahn near Bolzano.
Construction began in February 1906 and the bridge over the Inn was a technical masterpiece for the time. It spans the river with a length of 158 m, with the weight resting on a single pillar. The wooden carriages offer space for up to 60 passengers, 10 seats per compartment and 10 standing places on the two open platforms. A fully occupied carriage weighs just under 12 tons.
The technical pioneering spirit of the builders of the Hungerburgbahn was unique for the time. In addition to the aforementioned bridge over the Inn, the viaduct in the upper section was also a novelty of its time.
The 160 m long and up to 13 m high viaduct was made entirely of "Portland cement tamped concrete". Constructing structures of this size from concrete was still considered impossible at the beginning of the 20th century. In this respect, the viaduct is Austria's first structure made entirely of concrete.
The first trip
After a construction period of just 7 months, the Hungerburgbahn opened for operation on September 12, 1906. With a maximum gradient of 55.5 %, the lift covers the difference in altitude of 287.7 m from the valley station to the mountain station at a speed of 1.2 m/s in just 11 minutes.
From the very beginning, it was possible to transport 300 passengers per hour in each direction. The Hungerburgbahn was extremely well received right from the start and was used by the people of Innsbruck for easy access to the local recreation area of Hungerburg/Nordkette. In 1907, the first full year of operation, 155,197 people were transported, which corresponds to an average of 425 passengers per day.
Start of construction of the Seegrubenbahn
The first ideas for the construction of a cable car to the Nordkette mountain range emerged as early as 1909, but were rejected due to the outbreak of the First World War. In 1926, the city of Innsbruck selected the proposal that was easiest to implement from four possible construction projects, including proposals to build the valley station of the cable car in the area of today's Löwenhaus station: The route still in use today with a connection to the Hungerburgbahn.
Construction officially began on July 15, 1927 and the lion's share of the material transport to the Seegrube, until the construction of an auxiliary cable car, was carried out by 10 porters. These made the journey to the Seegrube up to twice a day with an average load of 70 kg, resulting in a transport capacity of 1.4 tons per day.
Construction of the Seegrubenbahn
Various problems had to be solved during the construction of section 1, the Seegrubenbahn: The well-known "3er Stütze" was a particular challenge as, unlike the other supports, which were hewn into the rock, it was built on sloping terrain and therefore had to be particularly well founded. The biggest setback was the fire in the Seegrube station caused by a defective coke oven, which destroyed a large part of the entire building.
Despite all the adversity, Section 1 - Seegrube was officially opened on July 8, 1928, and Section 2 - Hafelekar only two weeks later.
Architect Franz Baumann
Architect Franz Baumann, who was the winner of a competition to design the Nordkettenbahn stations, succeeded in creating an architectural synthesis of the arts of international significance, from the integration of the buildings into the topographical situation to the detailed design of the furniture and interior fittings.
It was important to Baumann that the stations of the Nordkettenbahn were not just treated as purely functional buildings, but that they also had a connection to the "Alpine city" of Innsbruck. He developed a multi-stage concept to adapt his architecture to the respective altitude of the cable car station.
Sports enthusiasts from Innsbruck
The beginnings of skiing in Tyrol date back to the early 20th century. Small groups of ski tourers began to explore the high alpine terrain. By the time the Seegrubenbahn cable car was built, there was no stopping the Innsbruck skiers, and this enthusiasm culminated in the construction of a ski jump on the Seegrube in 1937. With the emergence of snowboarding in the 1980s, the Nordkette soon became a hot spot in the still young sport.
A telling anecdote about the Innsbruck winter sportsman is described by the Innsbruck writer Walter Klier:
"In the avalanche winter of 1998/99, the closure was extended by one day after the end of the dangerous days. They wanted to use the untouched and spectacularly abundant white to film Martin Freinadametz[nbsp], one of Innsbruck's most famous snowboarders. A foreign television station was on location and the slope needed to be untracked. And they didn't want to cheat the people of Innsbruck and announced the real reason for the extension of the closure. The next day, the dear people of Innsbruck struggled for hours in the meter-deep snow next to the cable car up to the Kammhöhe and enjoyed the untouched slopes, which unfortunately were no longer untouched for the spectacular snowboard shots. That's how we Innsbruckers are."
The central value of the Nordkette has always been clear from another quote by Walter Klier:
"The Nordkettenbahn plays such a central role in the city's mental budget that it's hard to imagine. it once didn't exist. For decades, the mountain has been what is known as an in-spot. The change in fashion doesn't change that: young people up there show themselves and others where they are going at the moment."
Hermann Buhl (* September 21, 1924 in Innsbruck; † June 27, 1957 on the Chogolisa, Pakistan) was an Austrian alpinist. He was the first person to climb Nanga Parbat in 1953 and four years later was one of the first climbers of Broad Peak. He is one of the pioneers of the alpine style.
Hermann Buhl was the first person to climb an eight-thousander on the final section alone and without additional oxygen. In 1953, he was voted Austrian Sportsman of the Year. Buhl was a member of the Austrian Alpine Club.
Due to his sensational first ascents in the Alps and the Karakoram, he is still regarded by experts as one of the most important rock climbers and high-altitude mountaineers of all time. His approach to extreme alpinism broke with the national mountaineering ideals of earlier decades. Buhl was guided by personal motives such as the desire to push the limits. Rather than heavy equipment battles on the mountain, he preferred light luggage, fast ascents and alpinism without additional oxygen. This is why Buhl is also seen as a pioneer of Reinhold Messner.
The Hungerburgbahn around 1958
In 1957, it was decided to carry out a general reconstruction, in the course of which the mountain station of the Hungerburgbahn was rebuilt and relocated according to the plans of architect Prachensky, and the gradient of the line was reduced.
This lengthens the route by 15 meters. Two new funiculars increase the capacity of the lift to 1100 passengers per hour. On July 23, 1958, the second Hungerburgbahn started operation with a travel speed of 4 m/s and a travel time of 8 minutes.
Reconstruction of the Seegrubenbahn and Hafelekarbahn
In the period after the Second World War, attempts were made to compensate for the ever-increasing volume of guests by increasing the speed of travel. However, by the mid-1950s, capacity had already been reached again and the railroad was fully utilized, especially in July and August. Planning begins for a general rebuild and no more investments are made in existing facilities for the time being.
Highlife on the Seegrube
During this time, the Seegrube is and remains one of Innsbruck's first ports of call for leisure activities. Whether sporty in winter thanks to the construction of the Seegrube lift in 1947 and the Frau-Hitt lift in 1950, or relaxing on the terrace of the Seegrube restaurant during the summer months: there is always something going on on the Nordkette.
Seegrube from 1960 until today
After almost 30 years of operation, a general refurbishment of the Nordkettenbahnen is decided. New gondolas with a capacity of 50 + 1 passengers are purchased. In the course of this, the supports and the three stations are also rebuilt. The renovated facilities go into operation at the beginning of the 1960s.
The intermediate station at pillar III is destroyed by an avalanche in 1966 and not rebuilt. The "3-seater lift" (formerly the Seegruben lift) is rebuilt. The "Frau-Hitt lift" is rebuilt in 1996. From the turn of the millennium onwards, there are more and more discussions about rebuilding the lift.
In 2004, the decision was finally made to build a new lift, with the preservation of the unique and listed buildings being the top priority. After a construction period of 7 months, the new cable car to the Seegrube was opened on December 22, 2006 and the cable car to the Hafelekar on January 20, 2007.
A monument by Zaha Hadid
On December 8, 2005, the listed Hungerburgbahn is closed.
After only 2 years of construction, a new era in the history of the Innsbruck Nordkettenbahnen begins: on December 1, 2007, the newly built "Section I Hungerburg" was ceremoniously put into operation.
The completely rebuilt lift now starts right in the heart of Innsbruck, not far from the famous "Golden Roof" right next to the Innsbruck Congress Center. Designed by star architect Zaha Hadid (already known in Innsbruck for her work on the Bergisel ski jump), the station buildings of the new lift set international architectural standards.
A special feature of the new Hungerburg funicular, although it does not reach the maximum gradient of its predecessor, is the strongly changing longitudinal gradient both along the route and at the various stops. For this reason, Leitner Technologies designed an inclination device with a stepper motor, which is adjusted via the copying mechanism, for the two funicular vehicles. These each consist of five passenger compartments suspended in a common frame. The active adjustment of the inclination allows passengers to board and alight from horizontal compartments at the stops. The two vehicles, each with a capacity of 130 passengers, have a transport capacity of 1,200 passengers per hour and direction.