Finally, I get to go to Vienna again!

With my new job I’m travelling considerably less than before and have no direct responsibility for Austria anymore.

An upcoming series of official functions in Vienna, however, have me fully booked for 2 days and I thought to myself hmm… how about extending the trip to visit some friends and stay with my family and work out of the Vienna office? Everyone I got in touch with was very exited at the prospect and my agenda for my week in Vienna filled up in no time.

My company has a global policy limiting the number of people from each office traveling together at the same time – I used this as the basis for my request: travel to Vienna by train and take TW560 with me to save on taxi costs.

One thing I really didn’t like about the ticket purchase process was that my local train company SBB doesn’t sell these tickets anymore. As a customer I either have to go to an Austrian train station, order on-line (tried & failed…yes, me!) or call an ÖBB call center in Austria (which I did – one gets a identification code to pick up the ticket in Feldkirch)

Time flies – after just a few days (at least it felt like just a few days) it’s time to drive to Feldkirch. I’ve already written about the dozens of times I’ve driven to Feldkirch in my TWIKE – this time I just drive the usual route with a quick recharge in St. Gallen.

Feldkirch’s railway station is perfect insofar that there is a charging station just a mere 100 metres from where vehicles are loaded onto the trains. Today, however, I’m confronted with a combination of ev-drivers’ frustrations I’ve been encountering more often lately:

  • Charge point hogging by an EV
  • ICE cars parking on reserved EV parking spaces
  • Non-functional charging infrastructure
How do I hate this kind of situation!
How do I hate this kind of situations!

Grrr! Fortunately, I’m prepared for such situations: a 15m high-throughput three-phase cable, the decision to disconnect the (fully charged) EV for the duration of my charge and the fine eye to re-reset the FI in order to get the current back on.

During my charge I get my train ticket and return to my TWIKE to enjoy 300W worth of heat coming from my external chargers – turning the inside of my TWIKE into a cosy place to be 🙂

Just in time, my charge completes and I proceed to the loading station.

TW560 ... ready to be loaded onto the train
TW560 …ready to be loaded onto the train

I’m the last vehicle on the train – see how this went 🙂

The usual discussions with ÖBB operatives follow. I don’t want TW560 to be strapped in the usual way – by applying tension to both sides. TW560’s front wheel is to be held down, not back. The loading station crew is worried that TW560 will just lift-off at 160km/h, the maximum speed the train will be travelling at. I show them the pictures from my previous trips…and all is good 🙂

Ready for the trip to Vienna
Ready for the trip to Vienna
Ready for the trip to Vienna
Ready for the trip to Vienna
Vienna, again!
Vienna, again!

I should have looked at this picture closely when I took it!



To cut a long story short: I was distracted during my 50 minute wait between loading TW560 on the train and the final departure time of my train to Vienna. When I realized that something was wrong I jumped up and ran towards the platforms…

…just to see my train departing with TW560 on its way to Vienna ON ITS OWN!

Hmm. Not good. 10:30pm at a provincial train station in Austria with my over-night train already gone, I saw my options dwindle and lots of problems coming up. ÖBB doesn’t like unloading with cars not being collected. Fortunately, TW560 was the last vehicle, I wasn’t blocking an other fellow traveller. They usually levy a high fee for holding the car, since an uncollected car essentially blocks a full carriage for any further use.

Add that fee to me trying to get to Vienna the day after plus a hotel or return home plus me missing some meetings – I’m really in quite a pickle here!

I went back to the ticket counter and was greeted by the same woman who released my ticket just an hour ago and an incredulous look on her face. I kept my story and request short: Car gone, me here, please help!

Over the course of a few past lives I seem to have collected a lot of Karma: The woman told me that there is another train leaving for Vienna within 40 minutes … and that it would reach Vienna 30 minutes before my original train!

Only drawback: Since the train was already on its way she was unable to sell me a ticket or reservation. I would have to buy the ticket on the train. Now, that’s not really a problem, right?

40 minutes later I get on the train and wait for it to depart before approaching the Hungarian train attendant – worst case scenario is being kicked off the train in Salzburg, halfway to Vienna and starting point of many trains to Vienna.

With the train on its way, I approach the attendant and have a thoroughly Kafkaesque dialogue: yes, my ticket is not for this train. No, I didn’t get on the other train. Yes this train doesn’t transport cars. Yes, I would like to travel with this train. Yes, my ticket isn’t valid for this train. No, I don’t need any car transport…etc. This went on for about 10 minutes until a female ÖBB operative arrived and looked at me with disdain and asked: What is your problem, Sir?

My problem is simple – I told her about (and showed her) my many trips to Vienna with TW560 during the last 5 years and convinced her that I was a train aficionado in distress 🙂

She then smiled and told me: Sir, I’ve just decided that your ticket is valid on this train – welcome to Austria! Please let me have a quick chat with my Hungarian colleague – we will find an acceptable solution to your overnight reservation issue. Three minutes later I’m in a couchette, preparing for a good night’s sleep after being asked what I want for breakfast!

The same attendant wakes me up just before we arrive, serves me my breakfast and hands me a yellow paper slip. A receipt for a “reservation change” at €21. We arrive on time in Vienna…30 minutes before my original train. A short taxi ride later, I arrive at the new Vienna car train terminal – just in time to see TW560 being pushed into the train station!

Wow! That’s what I call luck!

Since November 2015 all car trains are routed to the new Vienna Hauptbahnhof, Vienna’s new main station. For TW560 and me, a first.

The brand new Vienna car train terminal
The brand new Vienna car train terminal

With all other travellers, I wait for ÖBB’s operatives to prepare the unloading process.

I got there just in time - TW560, never leave without me again, OK?
I got there just in time – TW560, never leave without me again, OK?

I open TW560 and find its inside covered in snow! A night at 160km/h on snow-covered tracks left its mark!

After one night @ 160km/h
After one night @ 160km/h

After getting into a VERY cold TWIKE, it’s time to join Vienna’s morning commute traffic and my first meetings of the day.

Vienna - TW560 feeling very at home here
Vienna – TW560 feeling very at home here

Charging isn’t a problem. With my Wien Energie Tanke RFID I’m able to charge at dozens of places all over Vienna.

… however, one of the best places to charge in Vienna is still the park garage below my former office. 🙂 electricity and one hour free parking!

4 years later - things are still simple!
4 years later – things are still simple!

My first charging attempts here are from 2009! (note the missing Swiss flag sticker added to TW560 during WAVE2011)

6 years ago!
6 years ago!

Vienna is a great city for me – many friends to meet, many parties to have. I’m usually back to my room very, very late / early.

If you have the chance… please visit Vienna! 🙂

3.30am and still going strong!
3.30am and still going strong!

Partying hard and not much sleep takes its toll on me…

Don't we all need a recharge day?
Don’t we all need a recharge day?

TW560 certainly does 🙂

At least the executive floor’s breakfast offering greets me with a very tempting view!

Breakfast...with a view!
Breakfast…with a view!

The next few days until my official events start consist of working out of the Vienna office and meetings. Weather-wise I get some special treats:

Finally, winter has arrived!
Finally, winter has arrived!

Finally! Snow! … not much fun, when combined with:

100% ice can be tricky!
100% ice can be tricky!

Driving TW560 on these streets is a challenge!

One thing I love doing is arrive at an up-scale hotel with valet parking and just leave TW560 there for the valet attendant to park 🙂

Valet parking?
Valet parking?

Usually, I’m asked many questions by the attendant and I get to treat him by driving him down to the parking garage and plug reserved for me.

Another thing I really like when staying at a 4-5 star hotel are lobby bars that know how to serve gin & tonics.

Ah. The Intercontinental knows how to serve a G&T!
Ah. The Intercontinental knows how to serve a G&T!

Vienna’s Intercontinental is a good place to enjoy some drinks!

Then, the official part of my visit to Vienna starts:

An official function
An official function

We have many meetings and sessions at the Intercontinental.

Opulent Intercontinental
Opulent Intercontinental

There are also some sessions that require us to move to other locations throughout the city. This lets us see the weather outside. We from Switzerland marvel at the snow – we’ve had precariously little snow for the last two months!

Snow, finally!
Snow, finally!

One of the highlights of my visit was a gala reception at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace.

The inside of the Hofburg is unbelievably beautiful. Very high ceilings and gold-lined grandeur from past times.

The Hofburg - as it presented itself to me!
The Hofburg – as it presented itself to me!

I dressed for the occasion and joined the event 🙂

Ahh, the pleasures of official functions
Ahh, the pleasures of official functions

I headed back to the hotel after a very nice event and a week that was over within a blink of an eye.

My last day in Vienna starts with me meeting with some friends for a brunch before heading about 50km outside Vienna to visit a friend and his family that I haven’t seen for about 2 years.

This drive gives me the opportunity to relax and see some of the very rural landscapes just outside of Austria’s capital.

Niederösterreich's commitment to sustainable energy
Niederösterreich’s commitment to sustainable energy

As always, I could have stayed much, much longer. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Heading back, I’m acutely aware that my time in Austria is coming to an end: My train today leaves at 22:38 and this time, TW560 AND myself are going to be on it 🙂

Sunset over Niederösterreich
Sunset over Niederösterreich

But before that, I’m due for a fare-well visit at my family. TW560 gets a charge while I’m treated to a last very tasty meal and a glass of Styrian white wine.

45 minutes before ÖBB’s loading of cars starts and after a tearful farewell, I start driving towards Vienna’s main station. It’s a 40 minute drive across town.

Due to TW560’s reduced battery capacity, to get to my office in Zurich I need a full battery to start with in Feldkirch and roughly a 40 minute recharge in Pfäffikon. This is why I asked the ÖBB operative checking my ticket if I could charge until the last minute before they finish loading the train whilst I charge off the single plug available in the small booth he works out of.

Topping up the drive across Vienna!
Topping up the drive across Vienna!

He gladly let me charge and told me that there were more and more electric cars travelling with this train. (although I was the only one until now that asked about charging)

Topping up...
Topping up…

Whilst waiting I have a look at my very, very dirty TWIKE. Snow, salt and dirt seem to be magically attracted to my little white vehicle. 🙂

Trans-European dirt!
Trans-European dirt!

At 99% battery SOC, the operative tells me that it’s time to proceed to the loading bay.

Yes! I’m ready! Let’s get back to Switzerland!

I drive towards the loading bay. Whilst waiting for the operative to show my exact place on the carriage, the glass roof overhead offers a rare photo-opp:

Finally, a picture from above
Finally, a picture from above

Instead of being told to proceed, an official looking person emerges and tells me to get out of my vehicle.

He asks me what TW560’s maximum top speed is. After hearing that last year, I’d done 115km/h whilst rolling down a hill, he tells me that ÖBB’s transportation rules forbid loading and transporting a vehicle with a certified top speed below 160km/h. This rule exists to protect ÖBB from damage claims due to parts of the vehicle being ripped off at high speeds in transit.

He is adamant and refuses to let me on the train.

It takes all of my negotiation skills and proof of many visits (photos and this blog) for him to relent and agree to let me on the train. I’m sure if he would have had a damage waiver form somewhere, he’d have me sign it. (fortunately, this is Austria and not an other country we all know well…so no waiver – just a stern warning not to attempt any damage claims!) On another note: Since this train is ideal to cover large distances without adding them to a vehicles overall mileage, especially during summer, many old-timers use this option to get to Vienna. How this rule is enforced with such vehicles remains a mystery that I didn’t want to test my luck with! 🙂

After this scare, I’m back to the normal process and very happy to have made it on the train!

VIP access to TW560
VIP access to TW560
VIP treatment - TW560 gets a full carriage to itself
VIP treatment – TW560 gets a full carriage to itself

This time I just have to tell the friendly ÖBB guys how I want TW560 to be tied-down and they just do it exactly as told.

Same same
Same same

Time to get to my sleeping compartment. I’ve been looking forward to this all week (since I missed the one coming here!)

Deluxe ...indeed!
Deluxe …indeed!
Private toilet and shower...on a train!
Private toilet and shower…on a train!

This is how train travel should be: in comfort and style. A full-sized bed, en-suite shower and toilet. Some space to sit and contemplate and work…or eat.

My mobile office
My mobile office
Vienna's new main train station
Vienna’s new main train station

My train leaves on-time into a dark and very cold night.

I don’t stay up long and after a good night’s sleep I am woken by the cabin attendant bringing me my breakfast and newspapers.

In Feldkirch, I get off the train and wait for TW560 to be pushed into the loading / unloading part of the train station. It’s always cool to see a TWIKE zoom by on a train 🙂 …see for yourself.

Arriving in Feldkirch

After getting TW560 back I start my trip back to Zurich. Seeing the same EV still parked in front of the charging station makes me angry again. This owner has an EV, doesn’t use it and makes life difficult for others! Grrr!

....still there.
….still there.

The trip back promises to be beautiful – blue skies, sun and moderate temperatures.

On my way back to Zurich
On my way back to Zurich
Beautiful Churfirsten
Beautiful Churfirsten

Arriving in Pfäffikon (a very nice place on lake Zurich) on the last few Wh, both charging points are occupied. Either I wait (which is – as I’ve written about earlier – the worst of all EV-scenarios) or rely on my creativity 🙂

Readers of this blog are used to the term creative charging – what follows is another instance of this mindset:

The charging station is a 22kW model – i.e capable of delivering 32A per phase. On one outlet, an i3 is charging at 8/10A…on one phase – which got me thinking:

Connected to twice the energy I need
Connected to twice the energy I need

Why don’t we both share this plug?

Let’s do it! I got the local RFID card from reception. The people there didn’t want to give it to me and told me to wait for the other drivers to return…no way! Lots of smiling and super confident “Trust me, I’m an engineer”-type behaviour got me the card after all. 🙂

With my DIY Type2 cable and the usual creative re-plugging of some more cables from my travel kit (old picture – current kit contains even more cables and connectors) I was able to satisfy TW560’s and the i3’s energy needs at the same time – see for yourself 🙂

Only with a TWIKE: i3 charging on TW560's loop-through
Only with a TWIKE: i3 charging on TW560’s loop-through

After just 30 minutes I’m ready to drive to my office and start my day after a brilliant week away that had all the (unexpected) thrills and pleasures a trip to Austria can have! (also, I’m going to get in touch with Ralph Schnyder to clarify this new TWIKE-on-train question that came up in Vienna.)

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