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Sunday, 16 November 2014

159) The “25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin Series: (ii): 2003 onwards minted by the Austrian Mint: The Second coin in the Series: “150 years of Semmering Alpine Railway” issued in 2004:

159) The “25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin Series:(ii): 2003 onwards, minted by the Austrian Mint by using Niobium and Niobium metal insertion technology for the first time anywhere in the World of Numismatics:
  The Second coin in the Series: “150 years of Semmering  Alpine Railway” issued in 2004:

The Semmering Railway in Austria built between 1848 and 1854 over high mountains at an altitude of about 460 metres is one of the greatest feats of civil engineering during the pioneering days of railway construction.

This was the world’s first true mountain railway in Europe built with a standard gauge track.

Planning & constructing the Semmering Railway Line:

In 1841, the first plan for crossing the Semmering was shelved due to technical reasons.

In 1842, a second plan was taken up by Carl Ritter von Ghega, Chief Inspector for the Southern line linking Vienna and Trieste. He carried out a complete survey of the area and several routes were studied in detail by him. He even studied the processes abroad to find a solution to overcome the challenges of the Semmering Pass to construct a Railroad.

In 1844, even before his plan for constructing the Semmering railway line was accepted ,Ghega submitted a subsidiary plan for locomotives without an extra rail for gear wheels, which he perceived would be successful in negotiating the steep gradients and curves of the Semmering railroad, once the Semmering Railway was constructed. Ghega began to set in place the process which would ultimately get the construction of these locomotives carried out.

In 1846, based on Ghega’s detailed survey of the area, a 42 km long route with 22 major bridges and viaducts and a tunnel 1200 m long situated just below the pass was proposed by him in 1847, which met with immediate opposition by those who felt that his project was doomed to failure.

Nevertheless, as his project was the most feasible in the light of the technological limitations of the day, particularly the lack of powerful explosives and drilling machines for tunnelling his daring project was approved.

In August 1948, work on Ghega’s proposal commenced. The entire stretch was divided into fourteen sections, each one of which was entrusted to a separate firm. At the start 1007 men and 414 women were employed but the work force increased to over 20000 as the work progressed carving out the Railroad through limestone rock.

Ghega’s vision for laying of the Semmering Railway tracks pushed the technical boundaries during this pioneering phase of railway construction. The track was built over a kilometre high mountain pass, the highest altitude reached by a railway line anywhere in the World and overcame extreme radii and upward gradients.

Meanwhile, a public competition was conducted to manufacture a new type of locomotive to negotiate the curves and gradient of the Railway line. Four firms participated in the competition in 1950 but their entries, though fulfilling the conditions of the contract, were not found up to the mark in trials. Therefore, it was decided to incorporate the best features of all the four proposals. New technologies were employed for the Engerth design locomotives because the locomotives in general use at that time could not handle the extreme gradients and turning radii.

The result was immensely successful and 26 Engerth steam-engines were commissioned.

On 17.07.1854, the transport of passengers and goods commenced as the construction work on the line and manufacture of the locomotives and rolling stock were completed on schedule.

Karl von Ghega was knighted for his superlative effort of engineering on the Semmering line, hence he is addressed as “Ritter” – meaning “knight”), even before completion of the Semmering Pass project.

The Semmering Railway: An outstanding engineering feat:

Ghega rejected the use of iron and steel as a matter of Principle, as such, a “bricked railway” consisting of 65 million bricks and 80000 flagstones has come up as a result of his vision.

The Semmering Railway represents an outstanding technological solution to problems faced in the construction of early Railways. The Semmering Railway has 15 tunnels, 16 viaducts (several supported by two-storey arches), over 100 curved stone bridges and 11 small iron bridges over the course of its 42 km length connecting the towns of Gloggnitz and Murzzuschlag. The 57 two-storeyed attendant’s houses, stations and buildings for the supervisors etc., placed at 700 m intervals (approx) are a very characteristic feature of the Semmering line, which were built from coursed rubble masonry with brick trimmings/waste material produced in the course of tunnel construction. The original stations were initially planned as relay stations and watering points, but have been converted into more impressive buildings, as tourist traffic increased.

Most of the portals of the tunnels are simple but monumental in design and variously ornamented. Support structures are chiefly made of stone, but brick was used for the arches of the viaducts and tunnel facings.

The Semmering Railway line is part of the Sudbahn Railway that runs between Vienna and Graz, continuing on to Maribor, Ljubljana and eventually to Trieste. It is still fully functional as a part of the South Railway which is operated by the Austrian Federal Railways. The Railway line traverses over the eastern Austrian Alps before reaching the Hungarian plains.

The high standard and quality of construction which went into the construction of the tracks, tunnels, viaducts etc. has endured the passage of time admirably and ensured the continuous use of the Railway line till the present times.

The landscape along the Semmering line – both Natural & Cultural:

The Railway runs through a spectacular mountainous landscape and many fine buildings have been designed for leisure activities along the way which were built when the advent of the Railway brought about commercial activity.

With the construction of the Semmering Railway, several areas of great natural beauty became more easily accessible and and as a result, these could be developed for residential and recreational use, creating a new form of cultural landscape. The numerous hotels and mansions along the rail-route, have brought about tremendous change in the area as a tourist and winter sports destination.

The Semmering pass is well known for the “summer architecture” of the villas and hotels that were built for Viennese society between Gloggnitz and the small market town of Schottwien in picturesque locations. It became one of the first artificially laid out Alpine resorts area in the decades following the opening of the railway line. The appearance of the villas & hotels is predominantly Gothic or Renaissance. The steeple-gabled and ornate “Swiss Chalet” look was also favoured by many builders.

Later the use of traditional Alpine wooden-frame construction was patronised and the “Semmering style” predominated in the buildings erected in the late 19th century.

The Semmering Railway is a harmonious integration of natural landscapes and man-made cultural landscapes.

The Semmering Line – present day:

Between 1957 and 1959, the appearance of the whole line was significantly changed when masts were erected to carry the contact wires needed for conversion to electrical locomotives.

In 1959, the steam engines that plied on the Semmering Railway were completely replaced with electric locomotives.

Barring this change, the Semmering line stands today more or less, as it was conceived and built by Ghega.

The Semmering Railway – A UNESCO World Heritage Site:

In 1998, the Semmering Railway was designated as a World Heritage Site selected for its outstanding technological solution to a major physical problem in the construction of early railways and also because with the construction of the Semmering Railway, areas of great natural beauty became more easily accessible, as a result these were developed for residential and recreational use, creating a new form of cultural landscape.

A parallel shorter route to navigate the Semmering Pass under construction:

On 25.04.2012, construction has begun on a 27.30 kilometre Semmering base tunnel which will bypass the 41 kms of the Semmeringbahn. This shorter, new Railway track is expected to open in 2024 providing a faster journey to the destination.

 Nevertheless, we hope that the Heritage line will continue to be used for the die-hard romanticists of the old Semmering Railway.

The Silver-Niobium coin titled “150 years of Semmering Alpine Railway”: 
On the Obverse of this coin, the Semmering Railway’s continued service is symbolised by its past and present locomotives shown on this face. One can see an Engerth steam engine and an electric engine moving along together. On the upper periphery is inscribed “Republik Osterreich” (meaning the “Republic of Austria) and on the lower periphery is mentioned “25 Euro”. The images of the two locomotives extend partially to the silver outer ring. The year of issue “2004” is mentioned below the railway track bearing the steam engine.

The colour of the Niobium insert in the centre/core in this coin is green.
 On the Reverse of this coin, the image shows a typical Semmering view. The coin’s vivid green Niobium core mirrors the colour of the landscape which the Semmering Railway passes through. Here an Engerth  steam engine train can be seen crossing a viaduct spanning a deep valley framed by the coin’s outer silver ring bearing the anniversary inscription “150 Jahre” (or “150 Years”) on the upper periphery. On the lower periphery is mentioned “SemmeringBahn” (meaning “Semmering train”) in a slightly lop-sided way to accomodate for the railway track image which has spilled over to the outer silver ring.

 The specifications of the coin are:

Face value: 25 Euros; Metallic composition: Outer ring: Silver (Ag) 900 – 9 gms, Niobium 998 – 6.50 gms; Diameter: 34 mm; Weight: 16.50 gms; Edge: smooth. 
The following coins have been issued in this Series:

2003 – 700 years old city hall in Tyrol or Tirol.

2004 – 150 years Semmering Alpine Railway

2005 – 50 years of Television

2006 – The European Satellite Navigation

2007 – Austrian Aviators

2008 – Fascinating light

2009 – Year of astronomy

2010 – Renewable Energy Sources.

2011 – Robotics

2012 – Bionics

2013 – Drilling tunnels

2014 - Evolution
2015 - Cosmology

1) The 25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin Series issued by Austrian Mint (i): First Coin: "700 Years of Hall City in Tyrol"

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