Narrow-gauge railway – old technology steams into the future
Keep tradition alive with KLINGER reflex level gauges, providing immediate visual checks of water fill levels for steam engines.
Reflex level gauges from KLINGER keep the Liliputbahn’s steam engines in the Vienna Prater running safely.
One million kilometers – that’s a remarkable distance to cover for a light railway, especially on a track length of barely four kilometers. Since the narrow-gauge railway started running in 1928, it has been in continuous operation, its route taking it from the main station in the Prater amusement park to the terminal loop at the sports stadium via the Schweizerhaus restaurant. Two of the six locomotives are steam engines. Built especially for this railway, they have been in service here from the very beginning and are still running today. KLINGER is doing its part to make this possible, using “19th century technology that still has its use in the 21st century,” as Markus Fuchs, Key Account & Product Manager for Industrial Valves at KLINGER Gebetsroither explains.
Contacts mentioned in the article:
Markus Fuchs, Key Account an Product Manager for Industrial Valves at KLINGER Gebetsroither
Reflex level gauges must be replaceable by the engine driver even with the system pressurized and the engine running.
Keeping it real
“We use KLINGER reflex level gauges in our steam engines. These have sight glasses that show the driver the water level in the boiler. That’s really important since a low level can cause the boiler to burst,” says Ronald Durstmüller. Managing the operation and workshop of the Liliputbahn in the Vienna Prater, he knows the complex technology behind the historic steam engines like the back of his hand. The two identical engines Da1 (fabrication number 8441) and Da2 (number 8442) were both built nearly 100 years ago, in 1928. In keeping them running, Ronald is keen to keep them in their original condition. This includes making do without electronics, which would be an easy way of automating water level monitoring in the boiler. “But any automation would make a mockery of our efforts to preserve the tradition we’re committed to here,” he says. Markus agrees: “An immediate visual check of the fill level is still state of the art, even in industry.”
A level indicator just like in the olden days: the KLINGER reflex level gauge.
Pressure- and heat-resistant sight glass
That’s why, like in the past, there’s no way round using mechanical parts for this. The KLINGER K-DZ reflex level gauges are the perfect choice for the cabs of steam engines. Ronald Durstmüller describes the special requirements placed on the material:
„As well as withstanding a temperature of 200 °C and a pressure of 13 to 14 bars, they must be replaceable with the engine under steam and the system under pressure.“
Ronald Durstmüller, former Manager of Operations and Workshop for the Liliputbahn
The Liliput railway has been using KLINGER reflex level gauges for more than 30 years now, not least because the products are set to remain available for a long time to come. With KLINGER headquartered in Lower Austria, the short delivery routes are a further boon. “Plus, like our Liliputbahn, KLINGER has a long history,” says Ronald.
KLINGER gaskets are also used in the steam engines.
Challenges ahead for steam power
For some parts that need to be replaced, it’s harder to find reliable manufacturers like KLINGER. Many replacement parts are made in the railway operator’s own workshop, often drawing on the expertise of other steam engine operators, such as the railway museums in Strasshof and Schwechat. In all, 15 engines of the model run by the Liliputbahn were built in Munich at the time. Ten of these are still in service, for example in Dresden, Stuttgart and Leipzig. They all struggle with the same problem of sourcing fuel. “We can’t get coal anymore because of the global coal phase-out. Small operators like us, who need only little amounts, are the first to feel the squeeze,” says Ronald.
Having spent a lifetime running through the Vienna Prater on coal, alternative fuels are now needed to keep the Liliputbahn’s steam engines running.
An environment-friendly coal substitute
As of early 2022, the low-odor, smokeless Welsh coal that has kept the engines running is no longer available, forcing the Liliputbahn’s operators to search for alternatives. They came upon a new kind of fuel: coal-like briquettes that are made, in roughly equal parts, of ground olive kernels and anthracite dust, with sugar syrup used as binding agent. Although this coal substitute is still being tested, it has the potential to power the Liliputbahn into a new, more environment-friendly future.
A viable alternative to coal: Briquettes made from olive kernels and anthracite dust.