A short review of the history of the trolleybus (variously O-bus or Obus, short for Oberleitungsbus [overhead contact bus]) in Austria. This booklet appears in Slezak’s ‘Eisenbahnsammelnhefte’ (Railway collector’s series) because, unusually, trolleybuses in Austria have the same legal status as trains and trams. The reason probably goes back to the vehicle’s origin in the early 20th century, when they were known as ‘trackless trams’ – the source of traction obviously making more of an impression on commentators than the presence or absence of rails!
This booklet details the early installations using the Stoll system, most of which disappeared by the end of the First World War, apart from a small system in Vienna which lasted until 1938. Strangely, it was the Nazi Anschluß that caused new systems to be be built during the 1940s because of shortages of strategic fuel supplies and the availability of standardised trolleybuses from Germany and Italy. Salzburg was the first to open in 1940, followed by systems in Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, Kapfenberg, Leoben and Vienna (again, a limited group of routes). There was also a strange freight-only system serving the Nobel explosive factory at St.Lambrecht.
Most of these systems have closed now (the system in Kapfenberg closing as recently as 2002), but Innsbruck reopened a small system of two routes in 1988, only to close them in 2007 in favour of expanding the tramway network. Trolleybuses can now only be seen in Salzburg and Linz, but their future is currently not in question.