"KAPRUN - HOME OF SIGMUND-THUN KLAMM" Top 5 Page for this destination Kaprun by balhannah

Kaprun Travel Guide: 29 reviews and 163 photos


Kaprun is a small alpine village in the district of Zell am See in the state of Salzburg, Austria.

It lies at the foot of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier, and is a year round sports centre.

What people most probably don't know, is the power plant was constructed during World War II by prisoners of war from Belgium and other occupied countries.

It was finished after the war.



"On 11 November 2000, 161 passengers and one conductor boarded the funicular train for an early morning trip to the slopes. After the passenger train ascended into the tunnel shortly after 9:00am, the electric heater in the unattended conductor's cabin at the lower end of the train caught fire, due to a design fault.
The fire melted through plastic pipes carrying flammable hydraulic fluid from the braking system, and the resulting loss of fluid pressure caused the train to halt unexpectedly (this was a standard safety feature).
The train conductor, who was in the cabin at the upper end of the train (which was the front, since the train was ascending), realised a fire had broken out, reported it to the control centre, and attempted to open the hydraulically operated train doors, but the system pressure loss prevented them from operating.
The train conductor then lost contact with the control centre because the fire burned through a power cable running the length of the track, causing a total blackout.
The passengers, by this stage aware of the fire and unable to exit through the doors, attempted to smash the break-resistant acrylic glass windows in order to escape. 12 passengers from the rear of the train who successfully broke a window followed the advice of another escaped passenger who had been a volunteer fire fighter for 20 years, and travelled downward past the fire and below the smoke.
Many of the still-trapped occupants had by now lost consciousness due to toxic fumes. Eventually, the conductor was able to unlock the doors, allowing them to be manually forced open by the remaining conscious passengers who spilled out into the tunnel, fled upwards and away from the fire.
The tunnel acted like a giant chimney, sucking oxygen in from the bottom and rapidly sent the poisonous smoke, heat and the fire itself billowing upwards. All the passengers ascending on foot, as well as the train conductor, were asphyxiated by the smoke and then burned by the raging fire.
The conductor and the sole passenger on the railway's second train, which was descending the mountain in the same tunnel from above the burning carriage, also died of smoke inhalation.
The smoke kept ascending the tunnel, reaching the Alpine Centre located at the top end of the track 2,500 metres away. Two fleeing workers in the Alpine Centre, upon seeing the smoke, alerted employees and customers and escaped via an emergency exit. They mistakenly left the exit doors open, a factor which increased the chimney effect within the tunnel by allowing air to escape upwards more quickly and further intensifying the fire.
Meanwhile, the centre was filled with smoke and all except four people escaped the centre. Firefighters reached the centre and saved one of the four, while the other three were asphyxiated.

The twelve survivors of the disaster were the passengers who travelled downhill past the fire at the rear of the train, escaping the upward-rising fumes and smoke.

Nearly one year after the fire, the official inquiry determined the cause was the failure, overheating and ignition of one of the electric heaters installed in the conductor's compartments that were not designed for use in a moving vehicle. A slow leak of highly flammable hydraulic oil was ignited by the burning heater, which in turn melted the plastic fluid lines further feeding the flames, and also resulting in the hydraulic pressure loss which caused the train to stop and the doors to fail.

The funicular was never re-opened after the disaster and was replaced by another gondola lift, a 24-person Gletscherjet 1 funitel. The stations were abandoned and the tunnel sealed, and it remains unused today."

On a brighter note, the Tauern Spa World was completed in November 2010, and is the second largest spa complex in Austria.

Please come along with me to ZELL AM SEE as we look for accommodation for the night.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:Pretty area with an excellent gorge!
  • Last visit to Kaprun: Jun 2011
  • Intro Updated Sep 2, 2013
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Reviews (4)

Comments (9)

  • himalia11's Profile Photo
    Jan 24, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    I plan to go there later this year and I definitely have to see the gorge, it looks great!

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Jan 15, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    That's a horrible tragedy you describe. I think I remember hearing a bit about it at the time, but not the details.
    But the gorge and the castle look great, as does the gondola ride - shame about the weather though

    • balhannah's Profile Photo
      Jan 16, 2014 at 1:13 AM

      Thanks for the visit Sarah! We haven't had much luck with Gondola rides in Austria, ever striking rain or fog! At least we did see some lovely scenery and the castle and gorge.

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Jan 16, 2014 at 5:40 AM

      Yes, the gorge looks worth the visit alone!

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Aug 28, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Very sad story.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2013 at 2:42 AM

    Oh yes, I remember this tragic!

  • Anniko's Profile Photo
    Apr 18, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    A very interesting, but sad story. Great photo!

  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    oh that gorge looks lovely, will have to find out more. good place to hike?

    • balhannah's Profile Photo
      Apr 17, 2013 at 11:18 PM

      I only did the gorge, so perhaps you could google to find out about hiking. sorry I can't help.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 12, 2012 at 4:51 AM

    I didn't know who originally constructed the power plant, but I do remember the news stories from 2000 about that awful fire in the funicular.

    • balhannah's Profile Photo
      Sep 12, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      Absolutely terrible, luckily, I find these things out when researching after I have been there!

    • jojes's Profile Photo
      Apr 16, 2013 at 4:10 AM

      It felt sooo strange when we heard on the news about it. We can see Kitzsteinhorn from our window in 'pension Kellerer' where we always stay in Saalfelden. Felt somewhat like something happened next door ...

  • MATIM's Profile Photo
    Jul 30, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    We just left Kaprun, it's nice to see some views back on your page

  • globetrott's Profile Photo
    Apr 4, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    Great to see Castle Fischhorn in your pics, unfortunately it was closed when I was there !


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