There is something about mountains and railways. Perhaps it's because machines are pitted against gradients and men against the elements in an unforgiving environment. The constant struggle is nowhere more severe than in the Arlberg Pass in Austria and in the Brenner Pass which connects that country with Italy. Here, trains become part of a breathtaking Alpine landscape, the full beauty and drama of which is recorded in this programme.
The Arlberg is Europe's only main line to run through the Alps in an east-west direction. The terrain is so difficult and the gradients so severe that the mountain section is almost entirely single track apart from the 10 1/4 kilometre Arlberg Tunnel. All freight trains and virtually all express passenger services require a banker locomotive at the rear. Even EuroCity expresses like the Transalpin and the Maria Theresa require two machines in order to maintain the 100 kilometres per hour average speed through the mountains.
Both the Arlberg and Brenner passes are major international routes and they intersect at Innsbruck. It's one of Europe's busiest railway crossroads and it's a hive of activity.
Whilst the Brenner Pass is less arduous than the Arlberg, it's no less fascinating. Trains cross the Austrian/Italian border in the village of Brenner and begin a long, seemingly endless descent to the warm plains of northern Italy. In this tiny and remote frontier outpost it's common to see Italian, German and Austrian locomotives side by side awaiting their next assignments.
The Arlberg and Brenner routes are among the most exciting on the entire continent and this one hour programme shows all the line-side highlights in good light and perfect summer weather.