Linz is perhaps one of the three most “historic” cities in Austria, but to really enjoy it you and your family should “get out of town!”
Located on the Danube River, Linz is the capital of Upper Austria and is a popular stop with the cruise ships that journey between Nürnburg and Budapest, although these tourists simply don’t have time to visit the beautiful countryside. However you get to Linz, plan a full-day excursion to the romantic town of Steyr, about forty kilometers south of Linz.
Chris and I arrived in Steyr on a lovely autumn day in 2012, specifically to ride the historic steam trains of the Steyrtalbahn (Steyr Valley Railroad). Opened in 1889, this 760-mm narrow-gauge railway is the oldest in Austria. The railroad follows the Steyr River, one of Austria’s clearest rivers, between the towns of Steyr and Grünburg.
Bicycles are loaded onto a bicycle car and transported for free, so if you bring bikes you could ride the train from Steyr to Grünburg, then bicycle the 17-km back to Steyr. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch!
These steam locomotives still burn coal, unlike many American and Canadian steam engines that have been converted to burn oil. If you are the type of person that likes to poke your head out the window, or stand on the open platform between cars, you will soon learn that not all of the coal gets burned. Enough gets blown out the smokestack to coat you, your camera and clothes! Make sure you have your eye-drops handy.
The coaches were beautifully restored, and the steam locomotives were in top condition. We both enjoyed this little adventure, and we encourage you and your family to make friends with the Steyrtalbahn the next time you visit Austria.