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Visiting strangers:

In the Salzkammergut, "foreign access" is understood to mean the generally permitted visit to the salt mines by non-workers, whereby the miner also speaks of "access" when people go into the pit on foot.


History of foreign vehicles in alpine salt mining:

In an article published in 1974 in the magazine "Der Anschnitt", the former director of the saltworks, Othmar Schauberger, describes in detail the history of foreign inspections in alpine salt mining.

The fact that anyone has access to a mine that is still in operation is by no means a matter of course. On the contrary, at the entrances to mines of all kinds one can read on boards that according to the mountain police ordinance, "unauthorized persons are prohibited from entering the mining facilities".

An exception can be made to this rule in alpine salt mining, as the routes outside of normal operations can be accessed safely. In addition, there are a number of properties that make alpine salt brine mining particularly suitable as a show mine compared to other mining operations. These are the easy accessibility through tunnels with a barely noticeable incline, the natural ventilation with an even pit temperature between 12 and 14°C, which is perceived as pleasantly cool, especially in summer, the great stability of the salt rock and last but not least the dryness and the relatively high level of cleanliness the mine workings.

It is not possible to determine exactly how long it was used for visiting the alpine salt mines, but it can be traced back at least to the early 18th century on the basis of occasional notes in the chronicles and files. The circle of visitors, originally limited to high-ranking personalities, was gradually expanded, initially only on the basis of a special recommendation from the Salzoberamt, later with a permit from the responsible "kk Salinenamtsverwaltung", which was finally replaced by today's admission ticket.


Illustration 1 : Exit from Salzberg, Dürrnberg salt mine, 1756, Prince's Room Museum Hallein


Figure 2: Visitors' clothing, Dürrnberg salt mine, around 1830, ÖNB archive


Figure 3: Entrance to the tunnel, Dürrnberg salt mine, around 1830, ÖNB archive


Figure 4: Visitors on a roll, Dürrnberg salt mine, around 1830, ÖNB archive


Figure 5: Rafting on the salt lake, around 1840, Kranabitl archive


Figure 6: Exit from the Wolfdietrich tunnel, Dürrnberg salt mine, around 1860, Nussbaumer archives

In the files of the Hall in Tirol salt mine, which was closed in 1967, a regulation for the distribution of the "tips" given by the mine visitors is noted as early as 1650. The oldest visitor book of this salt mine dates back to 1790.

The fact that outsiders were already visiting the Hallstatt salt mountain was common in the 17th century, as a result of a ban on entering the mountain issued by Emperor Ferdinand II in 1629, “for which the officials give all foreigners permission without considering that they could see the secret of the salt mountain.” However, this ban does not seem to have been strictly enforced for very long, because reports date back to around 1690: “When nobles or other prominent guests came to visit the salt mountain, miners and workers practiced the greatest hospitality. They were carried up the mountain in armchairs and, because of the steepness of the path, taken down on sledges in the summer, were lavishly entertained at the top, and their lackeys were also kept completely free in everything.”

According to JA Schultes, the Hallstatt Salt Mine visitor book, which was still available around 1800, contained the signatures of several Austrian emperors and archdukes, such as Emperor Joseph II on April 19, 1779 and Archduke Johann in 1800.

The first entry in the visitors' book of the Altaussee salt mine was in 1812.


Start of the tour for foreigners in the Bad Ischl salt mine:

As C. Schraml reports, the salt mines in Perneck were already a popular attraction for spa guests in 1825. At that time, the mine visit was free of charge, "since it would be neither fitting nor compatible with the dignity of the state administration to accept certain taxes from strangers for visiting the salt pans." Tips or gifts had to be distributed to the workers, officials had no part in this.

Over time, a certain scheme had developed in the course and layout of the "Foreigners' Trail" through the pit, which varied somewhat locally depending on the operational circumstances.


Figure 7: Tourist car, Salinas manipulation description, 1807 – 1815, Archive Salinas Austria

The descent began with the entry through the main tunnel, followed by the descent down one or more "slides" as a special amusement. In the intermediate sections, which were covered on foot, visitors learned interesting facts about the geology, historical development and technology of alpine salt brine mining from pictures, plans, models and exhibits. The highlight of the visit was the visit to a leach plant with a "salt lake" that could sometimes be crossed on a boat. Finally, the exit to Obertage took place through the same main tunnel.


Figure 8: Tourist visits, Hallstatt salt mine, 1847, GBA archive

Old tourist route in the Empress Ludovika tunnel:

A colored ink drawing made by the Ischler Salzberg viewer Michael Kefer in 1826 can be regarded as the oldest pictorial representation of the stranger's tour. The title of the picture reads: "The Salt Mine - construction, as such is shown and explained to the arriving high foreigners at the kk Salzberg zu Ischel." explanatory texts on both sides. At that time, the tour of foreign visitors began with entering the Empress Ludovika tunnel and visiting the Archduke Karl works as a foreign work, then down into the Kaiser Josef tunnel and into the Empress Maria Theresia tunnel, through which the exit finally took place above ground.


Figure 9: Salt mining in Ischl, Kefer, 1826, from Köberl "Bad Ischl"

In the upper tunnel are the apparently padded "Bergwagerln", with which the high strangers were brought in and out. This is followed by the depiction of a weir or jelly chamber into which most visitors slid down a slide built into the sink works


Figure 10: The Ischl salt mine, 1833, from Wilsdorf "Cultural History of Mining"


Figure 11: Salt mining in Ischl, around 1840, Archiv Salinen Austria

In his work "The Travel Companion through Austrian Switzerland" from 1820, Johann Steiner describes a foreign entrance into the Empress Ludovika tunnel.

"You drive half a mile through the friendly village of Reiterndorf, then up through the forest to the romantic, quiet village of Perneck in the valley, in which the lowest mountain house built in 1811, the Bergmeister's apartment, is located, further to the Sulzstube in the Au, above which for the Highest and Highest Dominions, when driving on the Salzberg, carrying chairs are prepared to facilitate the very tiring foot journey to the entrance tunnel - mouth hole. Finally, you pass the middle mountain house and the mountain smithy, which are romantically situated between two magnificent waterfalls. At a not insignificant height, which costs the hiker quite a lot of sweat, especially on humid days, you reach the entrance mouth of the Empress Maria Ludovika tunnel.

From the mouth of the tunnel, you can either walk on the rods or, for greater convenience, depending on the level of the mountaineers, in the small pit chests prepared for small wagons - called pit hounds in Hungary - which are properly assembled for driving, some of them with a lantern are provided, a lightman in front, together with a pulling man, and according to ratio one or two miners pushing behind. After the previous mining “lucky streak”, we continue into the bowels of the salt-rich earth to the Sinkwerk – a staircase that leads to a well, also known as a chamber. For 20 years foreign travelers have been allowed to use the Archduke Karl Chamber, which is 30 fathoms (56.9 m) long and 25 fathoms (47.4 m) wide, and has a cubic content of more than 60,000 buckets (3,396 m³) brine, and at the same time all branches of manipulation can be seen in itself, depending on the persons of rank entering this pit.

The sight of an illumination of such a Wöhre is pleasant and surprising, and especially the Archduke Karl – Wöhre in its significant extent. An even more beautiful and varied sight can be provided by the Lemberg - and Sollinger - Wöhre, which were applied for the highest, highest and high ride, cut together, ie united by breakthrough.


Figure 12: Visit of the queens of Prussia and Saxony to the Ludovika tunnel, 1864, Archiv Salinen Austria

After seeing enough manipulation, the exit occurs through the same, or if desired, through a higher or lower tunnel in the same way as the entrance.

A health rule for every mountain climber is that if he sweats heavily before entering, he cools down so that he doesn't get physically uncomfortable due to the sudden and long-lasting cold inside the salt mountain. Neither should one refuse to put on the pit clothes, here of a white linen, or gradel, in the form of dressing gowns - for Most High Dominions of silk - and put on the mountain caps, or hats, to spare one's clothes.

Anyone who bumps into the ridge – sky – so much as a ceiling, or the two elms – side walls – means, in miners’ language: he has registered; but whoever slips off the rod and sometimes, depending on the circumstances and place, gets his foot pretty dirty, is said to have caught a salmon.

But who does not have the nice opportunity to visit the highest, highest, or high rulers, will also find out the type of mining, depending on the circumstances, through higher approval, and liberality, and in the mountains through the local officials and masters enough of it to satisfy a thirst for knowledge.”

A travel guide from the Griebens Reise library from 1882 states that permission to drive on the Salzberg must be obtained from the lower Berghaus in Perneck. The illumination of the Fremdenwerk takes place once a week, otherwise you have to pay 5 - 6 guilders extra.


Illustration 13 : Admission ticket Ischler Salzberg, July 20, 1889, archive Salinen Austria

In the "Illustrated Guide through the Salzkammergut" from the Woerl's Reisemanuel series from 1913, one reads that admission tickets are available in the saltworks building on Wirerstraße in Ischl and in the lower Berghaus in Perneck. In the middle mountain house you get clothes and guides. You enter in 10 minutes through the "Maria Ludovika - Stollen". Then on trolleys to the "Archduke Karl - Chamber", which is colorfully illuminated and effective, then to the "Maria Theresia - Stollen", from where you can take trolleys to the surface. The duration of the entire tour is given as 2 ¼ hours.


Figure 14: Tourist car in the Bad Ischl salt mine, 1908, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 15: Exit from the Empress Ludovika tunnel, around 1900, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 16: Exit from the Empress Ludovika tunnel, around 1915, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 17: Exit from the Empress Maria Theresia tunnel, 1910, from Brandstätter "Salzkammergut"


Figure 18: Exit from the Empress Maria Theresia tunnel, 1918, ÖNB archive

Old tourist route in the Empress Maria Theresia tunnel:  

The aforementioned guide path was retained on the Ischler Salzberg with minor changes until 1934. On March 5, 1934, according to the main inspection decision, the front part of the Ludovika tunnel and the Lemberg quarry leading up to the Elisabeth tunnel were abandoned.

  From 1934, foreigners entered via the Maria Theresia tunnel. After the outfitting and an introduction in the Maria Theresia Berghaus, we entered the Maria Theresia main shaft on foot. Via the Riethaler - and Stampfer - Kehr you got to the Schedl foreign works on the Scheuchenstuhl - Kehr. On the way there, drilling equipment and mine plans were shown in a chamber. A salt lake could be admired in the Schedl factory. The trip went over the Lichtenfels - and Scharf - Kehr zum Pohl - Schurf.


Figure 19: Dressing room, smithy, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, 1935, Archive Salinen Austria


Figure 20: Entrance to Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, 1930, Plamberger archive


Figure 21: Museum, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, 1934, Plamberger archive


Figure 22: Drilling machine room, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, around 1932, Archive Salinen Austria


Figure 23: Fremdenwerk Schedl, slide, around 1950, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 24: Fremdenwerk Schedl, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, around 1930, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 25: Fremdenwerk Schedl, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, 1939, Bartos Archive

The 35° inclined, 60 m long Pohl Schurf leading to the Leopold tunnel 30 m below was equipped with a slide. This consisted of two round posts placed next to each other and suitable for sitting, between which a narrow staircase was built. A thick hemp rope was attached to the right side, which the miner grasped in his hand and thus regulated the speed of the descent. Because of the steepness of the chasm, the guide was only allowed to slide down with a maximum of 3 people. The use of the Pohl pit was certainly spectacular for the mine visitors, but also very time-consuming and labour-intensive.


Figure 26: Pohl Schurf, head, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, around 1930, Archive Salinen Austria


Figure 27: Pohl - Schurf, group of visitors, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, around 1935, Archive Salinen Austria


Figure 28: Pohl – Schurf, group of visitors, Kaiser Leopold Stollen, around 1934, Archive Salinen Austria


Figure 29: Pohl – Schurf, group of visitors, Kaiser Leopold Stollen, 1939, Plamberger archive

At the end of the tour for foreigners, gravity was used to extend around 1,800 m to Hunten via the Leopold tunnel and back to the Maria Theresia Berghaus on foot via the "Perneckfuss".

The visit lasted around 2 hours. Visiting hours were daily at 9:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00 from May 1st to the end of September. The retired miner Josef Hütter was employed as a mine foreman.


Figure 30: Kaiser Leopold Stollen exit, around 1930, Herbert Fritz Archive


Figure 31: Kaiser Leopold Stollen exit, 1932, Plamberger archives


Figure 32: Group of visitors with mine guide Josef Hütter, around 1940, from Schiendorfer "Perneck"

New tourist route in the Empress Maria Theresia tunnel:   

During the main inspection in 1948, it was decided to build a new blind shaft in the stable rock to connect the mining horizons between the Maria Theresia and Franz Josef Erbstollen. For this purpose, the Maria Theresia tunnel was torn down to a profile suitable for locomotive traffic and a 22 hp diesel locomotive from the Ruhrthaler company with a service weight of 5.3 t was purchased in winter 1951.

From 1955, the guided tour could be limited to the Maria Theresia tunnel.


Figure 32: New route, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, 1954, archive Salinen Austria

For the entrance to visitors, "stranger cars" were built, which were pushed in by the Ruhrthaler diesel locomotive around 1,450 m to the station at the central shaft in the Maria Theresia tunnel. Tourist carriages are 4-wheeled hounds with foot and hand brakes, on which up to 10 people per carriage could sit astride a seat board. Lamp holders are attached to the front and rear of the foreign caravans.

A passenger train pulled by the Ruhrthaler diesel locomotive type GZ 22 could consist of a maximum of 6 foreign cars. With the Jenbacher diesel locomotive type DH 40 G with 40 hp, put into operation in 1982, up to 7 cars per train could be transported.


Figure 33: Ruhrthal mine locomotive with a group of foreigners, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, 1955, Archiv Salinen Austria

Until the 1990s, the exit of the foreign wagons took place through the Maria Theresia tunnel, which was driven at an incline of about 2.5%, by means of gravity without a locomotive. Up to 3 fully occupied, coupled together tourist cars were allowed to be brought to the surface by a mine guide. The speed could be controlled by operating the hand wheel and pedal of the braking devices. Small sandboxes were even installed for emergency braking. Although the speed was less than 20 km/h, the narrowness of the tunnel gave the impression of a much higher speed. After accidents in other show mines, from the 1990s, for safety reasons, it was only allowed to exit the tunnel with a locomotive.

The tour of the Ischl salt mine started with getting dressed in the cloakroom and a welcome at the mouth of the tunnel. After a short safety briefing by the mine guide, the mine train took us about 1,450 m deep into the mountain to the so-called train station.


Figure 34: Jenbacher mine locomotive, entrance, Empress Maria Theresia tunnel, around 1990, archive Salinen Austria


Figure 35: Ruhrthal mine locomotive, entrance, Empress Maria Theresia tunnel, 1988, Fritz archive


Figure 36: Ruhrthal mine locomotive with a group of foreigners, station, Empress Maria Theresia tunnel, around 1980, Fritz archive

After getting off the strangers' cars, there was a reference to the 204 m deep central shaft, which the miners used to drive through from the Erbstollen. We continued on foot through the Maria Theresia main shaft.

The next explanations were given at the junction between the Scharf and Riethaler bends. Here the glossy slate layer forming the transition between the limestone and the Hasel Mountains was pointed out.

The route continued via the Riethaler - and Stampfer - Kehr to the chute in the Rittinger - factory. After a brief safety briefing, visitors were able to enter the plant down a slide.


Figure 37: Fremdenwerk Rittinger, slide, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, around 1980, Fritz archive

In the Rittinger work, which had a sky area of approx. 2,500 m², the 1.5 m deep salt lake could be viewed. Then the geological section through the Ischler Salzberg was explained using a display board. Wooden models showed the situation above ground with the location of the individual tunnel mouths and the development of a production plant.


Figure 38: Rittinger foreign works, Salzsee, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, around 1980, Fritz archive

After that, they left the Rittinger factory on foot via a set of stairs and went on to the nearby Berghofer factory. A second, shorter chute was used to enter this plant. A drain box could be viewed in the Berghofer factory. Showrooms showed the function, structure and importance of the brine pipelines as well as various sales products from the salt pans. Then there was a short tour of the Berghofer factory, during which a small salt lake and a salt garden could be viewed. At one point, tunneling was simulated using a hammer drill. Finally, the Distler shaft machine set up here and an old compressor could be viewed. Beautiful rock salt structures could still be seen above the stairs from the Berghofer factory.


Figure 39: Fremdenwerk Berghofer, rock salt structure, Empress Maria Theresia Stollen, around 1980, Fritz archive

The way back to the station was again via the same tunnel sections. After a good 1 hour, the approx. 1 km long tour at the train station was over.

In the last part of the tour, we went back out of the tunnel to the top with the locomotive on the foreign wagons.


Figure 40: Exit from the Empress Maria Theresia tunnel, 1955, Nussbaumer archives

Despite the relocation of the above-ground facilities to the Kaiser Franz Josef Erbstollen in 1989, the mine was open to visitors during the summer months, partly redesigned and in 1993 a showroom with exhibits and display boards from the Vienna Technical Museum on salt and brine production was set up in the former forge.


Figure 41: Admission ticket, show mine Bad Ischl, around 2000, Kranabitl archive


Figure 42: Advertising brochure for the Bad Ischl show mine, around 2000, Kranabitl archive

Closure of the show mine in the Bad Ischl salt mine:

The show mine in Salzbergbau Bad Ischl had to be closed on July 31, 2000 due to unsafe access, a landslide relocated the steep road. At the end of 2000, the show mine operation, now operated by Salinen Tourismus GmbH, was finally discontinued for reasons of expected, necessary investments and probably also because of insufficient visitor frequency. The up to 40,000 visitors per year who visited the Ischler Salzberg should come to Hallstatt in the future; however, this hope has only been partially fulfilled.

Since the summer of 2000, the above-ground facilities at the Maria Theresia tunnel have not been used for operational purposes and have only been poorly maintained.


Figure 43: Press release of the closure of the mine in Bad Ischl, Krone, December 28, 2000, Fritz archive

Sources used:

Othmar Schauberger "The foreign inspection in alpine salt mining", Der Anschnitt, Bochum 1974

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian Salt Works from 1818 to the end of the Salt Office in 1850", Vienna 1936

Joseph August Schulte's "Travels through Upper Austria", Volume I, Tübingen 1809, reprint Linz 2008

Leopold Schiendorfer "Perneck - A Village Through the Ages", Linz 2006

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