First Railway in Continental Europe
Salomon Mayer von Rothschild funded the first major steam railway to be built in continental Europe, the Kaiser Ferdinands Nordbahn, which opened in 1839. The Nordbahn was Austria's first steam railway company.
The first track was built between Floridsdorf and Deutsch Wagram in 1837. The extension to Vienna was built in 1838, and the track through Břeclav (Lundenburg) to Brünn in 1839. In 1841 it reached Přerov (Prerau) and Olomouc (Olmütz) and in 1842 Lipník nad Bečvou (Leipnik). An extension to Ostrava (Ostrau) and Bohumín (Oderberg) was finished in 1847.
On March 31, 1808, a memorable day in Austria’s railway history, Dr. von Gerstner, Professor of Mathematics in the University of Prague, proposed the construction of a railway line, a transport medium of which he had heard from England. Gerstner advocated a horse railway from Linz to Joachimsmuhle, but left the project in the hands of his son, who in September, 1824, was granted by the Emperor Franz I the exclusive right of building a wood and iron road between Mauthausen, on the Danube, and Budweis (now called Ceske-Budejovice). situated on the Moldau. The first section was opened on September 7, 1827, and the centenary of the event was celebrated in 1927. A large gathering of railway representatives from all over the Continent then met at Unter-Dvoriste, the frontier station between Czechoslovakia and Austria. Very little of the original road was then in existence, except the remains of some of the bridges, which were inspected by the centenary party.
At first, both horse and bullock traction were employed, but Gerstner was anxious to introduce locomotives, which he had probably seen working on colliery lines in the Tyneside area when he visited England in 1820. The railway, before being completed, was diverted from Mauthausen to Linz, and was opened throughout on August 1, 1832. It was built to a gauge of 3 ft 7½-in, and had a ruling gradient of 1 in 120. The last horse-drawn train ran on December 12, 1872, between Linz and Kerschbaum, but the extension of the line from Linz to Gmunden was converted to locomotive traction in 1854.