The Renon railway is an electric and narrow-gauge railway built on the Renon plateau near Bolzano, in South Tyrol, Italy. Inaugurated in 1907, the Renon cogwheel train was one of the most important events of the period as it was finally possible to reach the capital of Bolzano in just 90 minutes. Therefore the transport of goods and people became comfortable and constant. The Renon train still connects the towns of Soprabolzano, Costalovara, Stella and Collalbo, offering some of the most exclusive landscape settings in Bolzano and surroundings.
Ferrovia del Renon History
A promoter committee composed of local notables founded a joint-stock company to build the railway, the cost of which was expected to be 1,460,000 crowns in 1905. The engineer Josef Riehl, born in Bolzano in 1842, was very active throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a designer of roads, power stations but above all of secondary railways, including the nearby Transatesina electric railway, he began work with his enterprise in February 1906 and ended them in April 1907. The inauguration took place on 13 August 1907.
The train of the Renon was a mountain train on the Swiss model in vogue at the time of the Belle Époque, when they wanted to open access to the mountains to wealthy tourists. Over the following decades, the construction of this train represented a lucky opportunity for the same population of the Renon.
The track, 12 kilometers long, exceeded a total difference in height of 985 m. It consisted of a stretch of almost 1 km that connected Piazza Walther, the main square to the "center" of Bolzano, with the valley station of the cogwheel section "Bolzano - Ferrovia del Renon", then part of the neighboring municipality of Dodiciville ( Zwölfmalgreiner). Behind every convoy directed on the plateau, there was a tractor with a toothed wheel that pushed the train on the steep climb at a maximum speed of 7 kilometers per hour. After the 910 meters difference in height that separates Rencio from Maria Assunta, the rack ended and the "pusher" moved away (in the opposite direction this slowed down the descent). The train continued up to Collalbo at a speed of 25 kilometers per hour.
The construction of the railway broke the centuries-old isolation of the Renon plateau, which until then could only be reached through mule tracks, paths and some "improvised" cable cars.
Almost certainly used the train even the famous Sigmund Freud when in April 1911 he went on holiday with his wife at the hotel Bemelmans Post.
In recent years, the restoration of buildings has been put in place: the masonry of the stations benefited from a conservative restoration while all the wooden buildings were replaced by new artefacts almost identical to the previous ones. Even historic rolling stock has been radically revised. Of the four "German" vehicles, the only "12" tractor was also reactivated - also called "END" to distinguish it from the homonymous one dating back to 1907.
The narrow gauge train, which today is the last of its kind in all of South Tyrol, today connects only Maria Assunta to Collalbo with some vintage and other modern cars.
Going up for a trip is worth anyway, if only for the breathtaking panoramic view of the Dolomites peaks along the route.