Falkenstein

Falkenstein

A real castle for your layout

By Ernest H. Robl

Do you recognize the structure in the image below?  If you’ve browsed a Kibri catalog in the last 30 years, you should.

C000500

Castle Lower Falkenstein appears to float in the mists above the nearby community of Obervellach. The castle is located in the Austrian state of Carinthia (Kärnten in German), next to the double-track Tauern line.

There’s one iconic Kibri structure model that’s found on most larger European layouts – in part because the prototype of that model is equally iconic in Austria.

While it’s one of Kibri’s more expensive structure kits, it’s also one of its most popular. Yes, it’s the Kibri model of castle Falkenstein, located in central Austria, only a stone’s throw from the key north-south Tauern line that carries substantial traffic between Germany and Italy.

First introduced several decades ago, this model has seen new production runs nearly every year through several changes of ownership of the Kibri brand. (Viessmann now owns Kibri.)

Falk-st-w

One indication of the iconic status of Falkenstein Castle is this Austrian postage stamp issued in the 1970s.  The viewpoint of the artist is almost exactly the same as my photo location.

If you travel on the Tauern line, you cannot help but see this iconic structure – if you are looking out the correct side of the train and if your view is not blocked by another train on the parallel track of this double track line.

Actually the correct name is Lower Falkenstein Castle; there’s also a nearby Upper Falkenstein Castle – higher up on the mountain, as the name implies – that still exists mostly as a ruin, and is much less known. (Falkenstein means “falcon stone” in German.)

Being there

What few people know, however, is that Falkenstein has its own passenger train stop. No, you can’t tour Lower Falkenstein Castle; it is privately owned. But, you can certainly explore the landscape around the castle.

Why would the tiny community near this castle merit its own stop? It’s basically a “school bus” stop. Austria has very few school buses as such. Most students reach their schools by public transportation.

Throughout Austria, most small towns have their own small elementary schools. However, higher level schools usually serve a larger region, meaning that often students reach them by commuter train.

Of course, the stop also serves other commuters from the nearby community heading to a nearby larger town for work or shopping.

The stop is basically just a short platform on either side of the double track line – with a bus-shelter type windbreak.

On my spring 2000 trip to Austria, whose main purpose was to update my photographic coverage of travel and railroad subjects in Austria, I decided to include a stop at Falkenstein on a circular train trip out of Innsbruck.

I traveled that segment on a local trains, as these were the only ones stopping there. (On my trips around Austria, I always purchased the paperback-novel sized main Austrian railroad timetable to help me plan my trips.)

Not surprisingly, I was the only one getting off at this stop in the middle of the day – and the only one getting on a couple of hours later.

It was not the best of days, weatherwise. Over a couple of hours, the weather ranged from moderate rain to light drizzle. My plans to shoot other trains on the spectacular nearby bridges didn’t work out at all, both due to the weather and construction “windows.” Several nearby line segments were in the process of being double-tracked (including some new curve alignments for higher speeds), so there were substantial pauses in rail traffic on the normally very busy line.

I was also hesitant to do too much climbing around in open terrain, as the grass and rocks were quite slippery due to the rain.

But, I did make several forays out from the passenger shelter, several hundred yards downhill on the gravel road to a location where I had a good view of the castle each time the rain subsided a little. One of those resulted in the photo at the top of this article. (The photo was made with a telephoto lens; the castle is not quite that close.)

On the whole, I don’t think I did too bad photographically, possibly better than I would have done on a perfectly sunny day.

(If you have access to a vehicle while in Austria, you can also reach that location on the steep side road up from the main highway down in the valley.)

Was the photo worth spending a couple of hours in the rain? You can decide for yourself.

Other photos

There are some iconic photos that I’ve seen that show the Falkenstein castle framed by the new concrete Falkenstein double track railroad bridge – looking toward the valley below. These were made from the old abandoned single-track steel Falkenstein railroad bridge – by official photographers for the ÖBB.

I’m not sure if this old bridge still exists or has since been dismantled. If it does, reaching it would require some serious trespassing – either going through the abandoned railroad tunnel that ends near the Falkenstein commuter stop or hiking overland. The bridge itself would probably have been blocked off at either end to keep trespassers off.

In any case, trying for that photo angle without consent of the ÖBB is not recommended.

The Kibri kit

The Kibri kit ( http://www.reynaulds.com/products/Kibri/39010.aspx ) produces a substantial structure as it is essentially a to-scale rendition of the original.

Though the original molds were produced decades ago, the kit still matches more current structure kits in quality and detail.

About the only major criticism is that most of the components depicting the stone parts of the castle are in a warm brown tone when the original really is gray. That, of course, can be remedied by painting those components.

The kit also offers plenty of opportunities for adding additional details such as vegetation and figures, though those are not included.

K-Falk-3

An old Kibri catalog illustration of the caste kit. The catalog number of kit was changed when Kibri kits were integrated into the Viessmann numbering scheme – but the kit is still essentially the same. Click the link at the beginning of this section to see current catalog illustrations.

My model

Yes, I have one of these models, purchased many years ago, never completely assembled. I was working on this model in 2004 when I ended up moving – and of course dismantling the layout I was working on at the time.

That had an unintended benefit, as the partly assembled castle was easier to pack and move. At that time I hadn’t yet started to paint most structure components. So, when I do unpack and start working on it again, I’ll have to look at what I can do with additional painting.

Yes, I do already have a place in mind for this structure on my planned layout. But, to give my HO scale visitors better access to this structure, I plan to have a much more substantial station nearby in the fictional town of Falkenfels.

Falkenfels-1

Station sign for my fictional town of Falkenfels.

That way, during adverse weather, my HO travelers can just stay in the coffee shop at the station!

Postscript

If your are interested in more information about the fascinating history of this castle that was restored several times and has changed hands many times – and you read German – there is an extensive article in the German-language version of Wikipedia. Search under “Falkenstein (Obervellach)” as there are some other locations named Falkenstein in the German-speaking parts of Europe.

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