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The mountain saw at the old Maria Theresia Berghaus on the Ischler Salzberg:

A saw was of great importance for every salt mine operation, since the mine operation required large quantities of "Ladwerk" (thick boards) for the expansion and the brine production. Therefore there was at least one, but usually several saws at each salt mine, which is why they were also among the oldest systems of the respective salt mine.

Three saws are known on the Salzberg in Ischl: as the oldest, the Steinberg saw with the "Schafferklause", the Grabenbach - or Graben - saw built near the Ludovika tunnel and a third, from 1867, at the old Maria Theresia Berghaus.

The following report will mainly deal with the latter saw, also known as the mountain saw, since the other saws and the associated Klaus systems were already dealt with in detail in the 2012 article by Franz Federspiel "News from the old Ischler Salzberg".


Situation of the mountain saws on the Ischler Salzberg in the 18th century:

Originally there were two plank saws on the Ischler Salzberg, the one on the Steinberg and the Graben saw below the Ludovika tunnel.

The Steinberg saw was probably built immediately after 1563 with the start of salt mining in the Steinberg district. According to a note in Dicklberger's "Salinen - Geschichte" (volume 1, p. 388), the Steinberg saw existed before 1586.


Figure 1: Steinberg - saw, conversion plan, 1842, archive Salinen Austria


Figure 2: Steinberg - saw, ground plan, conversion plan, around 1845, archive Salinen Austria

Due to the concentration of salt mining on the Pernecker salt storage and the associated deepening of the mining tunnels, the ditch - saw at the Ludovika - Berghaus was built. The exact date of construction of this saw, which was probably built around 1700, could not be found in the files. The first known documentary reference from September 25, 1769 provides information that the ditch saw and the associated hermitage were rebuilt after a fire at the estimated cost of 292 fl 52 kr. In the course of the conversion, a new storage hut was built along the entire length of the hermitage to store the saw cuts.

The Graben - saw along with the associated hermitage had completely decayed again in 1816 and was rebuilt in the three following years. In 1839 the woodwork of the hermitage was rotten again, and the water wheel and the river also needed replacing.


Figure 3: Ludovika Berghaus, site plan with ditch – saw, 1839, Archiv Salinen Austria

Because of the high repair costs to be expected, in 1839 the Ischl mining operations manager at the time, Franz v. Schwind to leave the Graben saw at all and instead expand the Steinberg saw to make it more efficient.

When converting the Steinberg saw, Schwind succeeded in increasing sawn timber production fourfold compared to the previous ones by using an overshot water wheel and a belt transmission in the gearbox, the first saw drive of this type in the monarchy. As a result, the sawn timber requirement of the entire Ischler Salzberg could be satisfied by the sole operation of the Steinberg saw.


Figure 4: Steinberg - saw, design of an overshot water wheel, 1840, archive Salinen Austria

The operation of the ditch saw should only have continued on a smaller scale, since the cost of bringing the cut goods from the Steinberg saw to the Pernecker tunnels via a specially created goods route was very expensive. For this purpose, Schwind replaced the desolate Grabenbach hermitage with a wooden weir in 1839. After the Graben saw burned down again in 1856, it was finally abandoned.


Figure 5: Trench - saw with Ludovika Berghaus, 1838, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 6: Connecting route Steinberg - saw to Graben - saw, 1838, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 7: Ludovika Berghaus, site plan after digging – sawing, 1859, Archiv Salinen Austria

Transfer of the Steinberg saw to the old Maria Theresia Berghaus:

After the new Steinberg tunnel was shut down as the last tunnel in the Steinberg district in 1775, the Steinberg saw only produced for the Pernecker tunnel, which was much further down in the valley. After the final closure of the Grabenbach saw in 1856, the entire sawn timber requirement had to be laboriously transported from the Steinberg saw down into the valley.

For this reason, the plan was made around 1865 to move the Steinberg saw closer to the Pernecker tunnels. Various installation sites were tested: at the Grabenbach at the confluence of the Gaisbach opposite the Josef tunnel and directly at the Sulzbach or, connected to the Sulzbach via a river, at the old Maria Theresia Berghaus.


Figure 8: Project transfer Steinberg - saw to the Josef tunnel, around 1865, archive Salinen Austria

In view of the focus of the advance in the Empress Maria Theresia tunnel and the short transport routes, the decision was made to transfer the saw to the old Maria Theresia Berghaus. The transfer of the Steinberg saw to the new location took place in 1867. By using the old saw drive and parts of the old saw building, the costs were kept low at a total of 669 fl 81½ kr. 


Figure 9: Transfer Steinberg - saw to the old Maria Theresia Berghaus, 1865, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 10: Transfer Steinberg - saw to the old Maria Theresia Berghaus, 1865, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 11: Transfer Steinberg - saw to the old Maria Theresia Berghaus, 1866, Archiv Salinen Austria

Description of the gear mechanism of the plank saw:


With the report prepared by Franz Kreuzhuber, manipulation pupil Ite class, on March 14, 1868, there is a precise, contemporary description of the historical saw drive:

"Where there is great hydroelectric power, undershot water wheels of 2 to 3 feet in diameter and 5 to 6 feet wide are usually used to operate the board saws.

Here an overshot water wheel with a diameter of 12 feet and transmission is put into operation.

A cog wheel of 6 feet diameter fastened to the base of the water wheel sets a driving wheel and with it a pulley of 6 feet diameter, - this by means of belts a second pulley of 1 ½ feet diameter, with it a wooden flywheel of 6 feet diameter and at the same time an iron winch in motion, whose arm carries a rod connected to the sag container /: Saggatern :/ in its circumference, which pushes the same up and down in a vertical guide.

The Saggatern is assembled from 4 pieces of wood in the form of a door frame, to the short pieces of which the Sagblatt is screwed.

Since the saw always makes its movement in the same place, a device is necessary for advancing the object to be cut in proportion to the power of the saw. This device /: Sagwagen :/ is a twenty-seven foot long frame movable on a horizontal slide and fitted with small rollers for ease of movement.

To move it forward, the sagger carries a 7-foot-long horizontal rod on the lower crossbar, the end of which is fastened in a shaft Rings with indentations /: Thrust ring :/ gives an impact to the surrounding wheel of 3 ½ feet in diameter and as a result rotates the same slowly. During the retraction of the former, a second bar holds the thrust ring against slippage. The wheel, which is attached to the iron base of the thrust ring and is similar to the drive wheel, pushes the sag wagon through the combs attached to it along the entire length according to the power of the saw.

A second overshot water wheel, 6 feet in diameter, is used to move the sag wagon backwards to its previous position, the shaft of which winds around a rope which runs over a small pulley attached to the end of the track and is attached to the sag wagon.

As the sag wagon moves forward, it unwinds the rope from the shaft again.”

In the following plan, the original work of the Steinberg saw is shown as it is described in the report by Franz Kreuzhuber in 1868 during the transfer. Only the second, smaller water wheel for moving the sag wagon backwards was added at the new location at the old Maria Theresia Berghaus.


Figure 12: Gear mechanism of the Steinberg saw, 1857, archive Salinen Austria

Saw - Fluder:

After the transfer, the service water for the saw was no longer fed through a hermitage, but through a small cushion in the Sulzbach. The "Schmiedenfluder" from the Sulzbach, which has existed since about 1825, could be used for this purpose. This river had to be built for the operation of the mountain forge, since from 1825 larger amounts of water were diverted from the Grabenbach via the water scour into the Elisabeth tunnel in order to be able to provide the service water required for the Laistauss flooding in the Maria Theresia tunnel. The amount of residual water in the Grabenbach was often too low for the operation of the forge at the Maria Theresia tunnel.

The river was designed as an open wooden channel made from cut posts, 72 m long and 0.6 m wide. As early as 1881, the river, which had been renewed in 1867, had to be removed due to damage and a new river channel including water catch and wheel hut had to be installed at a cost of 719 fl 81 kr. to be erected. Further repairs of this kind on the fluder were necessary in 1891, 1905 and 1933. 


Figure 13: Saw - fluder, 1904, archive Salinen Austria

Performance of the two saw - water wheels:

The overshot water wheel for driving the gang saw had a diameter of 3.7 m and a width of 1.0 m, depending on the water pressure, an output of 4 - 5 hp; the also overshot water wheel ("mold wheel") for reversing the saw carriage with 1.7 m diameter and 0.75 m width 1 - 2 HP.


Figure 14: Saw - water wheels, 1866, Archiv Salinen Austria


Figure 15: Mountain saw with old Maria Theresia mountain house, around 1930, Kranabitl archive


Figure 16: Mountain saw at the old Maria Theresia Berghaus (upper left edge of the picture), around 1930, Archiv Salinen Austria

Modification of the mountain saw's gearbox:

In 1879, a circular saw was installed in the firewood store next to the mountain saw to cut the firewood better. This circular saw could be operated directly from the saw by means of a transmission transmission.

In 1893 the gearbox of the mountain saw had to be repaired because it was defective.

The complex maintenance of the saw fluder and the water wheels as well as the low performance of the mountain saw caused the management to convert this saw to electric operation in 1950. For this purpose, a stationary electric motor with 750 rpm was installed. From the 325mm diameter drive wheel of the electric motor, a belt led to a 1550mm diameter pulley on the main shaft. A second belt drive was placed on the main shaft on the stream side, which connected a belt wheel with a diameter of 900 mm on the main shaft to a belt wheel with a diameter of 730 mm on the water wheel shaft to move the saw gate. Another belt drive on the uphill side enabled the forward and backward movement of the saw carriage by means of a chain.


Figure 17: Conversion of the plank saw to electric operation, 1951, Archiv Salinen Austria

In the course of the electrification of the saw drive, a side saw was also installed. For this purpose, the sawing building had to be structurally extended.


Figure 18: Installation of the board saw, project 1949, archive Salinen Austria


Figure 19: Erection of the Ladwerkstadel, 1951, archive Salinen Austria

Closure of the sawmill:

The mountain saw at the old Maria Theresia Berghaus remained in operation until the mid-1980s. Since the migration of the mining industry from Perneck to the new site at the Kaiser Franz Josef Erbstollen in Lauffen in 1989, the saw building has been empty. 


Figure 20: Last shift arrival from Perneck, June 29, 1989, archive Salinen Austria


Figure 21: Mountain saw after the cessation of operations, 1991, Kranabitl archive


Figure 22: Old Maria Theresia Berghaus with a mule saw in the background, 1991, Kranabitl archive

Mountain saw revitalization:

In the summer of 2020, the Mitterbergstollen interest group (IGM) set itself the goal of preserving and opening up the mountain saw as part of guided tours along the Viasalis circular route.

The historic sawmill is well-preserved and, as a unique technical monument that is otherwise rarely found in the Salzkammergut, is particularly worthy of protection. The main elements of the saw gear, which dates back to 1847 and is made of wooden gears, have been preserved to this day.

In 2021, with the support of Salinen Immobilien AG, IGM would like to secure the building fabric, set up a showroom in the area of the former sawmill and have the technical history of the saw documented as part of diploma theses.


Figure 23: Mountain saw, 2018, Kranabitl archive


Figure 24: Saw carriage and saw frame, 2020, Kranabitl archive


Figure 25: Saw gear, Kammrad, 2020, Kranabitl archive


Figure 26: Saw gear, comb wheel with drive wheel and 1st belt pulley, 2020, Kranabitl archive

Sources used:

Franz Federspiel "News from the old Ischler Salzberg"; in: Messages from the Ischler Heimatverein, Episode 31, 2012, p. 18-25

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

Michael Kefer "Hand Karten des Ischler Salzberges", 1829, transcription by Thomas Nussbaumer, Archiv Salinen Austria

Josef Hütter "The Ischler Salzberg in words and pictures", manuscript, Bad Ischl 1938, Archiv Salinen Austria

Franz Kreuzhuber "Relationship on the gear mechanism of the plank saw at the kk Salzberge Ischl", manuscript, Ischl 1868, transcription by Thomas Nussbaumer, Archiv Salinen Austria

Ischler stock book no. 13 "Saw building" and no. 48 "Fluder for the saw", archive Salinen Austria

Anton Dicklberger "Systematic history of the salt pans of Upper Austria", I. Volume, Ischl 1817, transcription Thomas Nussbaumer

Plans from the Bad Ischl Salt Mine Plan Archives, Salinen Austria

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