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most easterly and lowest (3,232 feet [985 metres]) of the great Alpine passes, at the boundary between Bundeslander (federal provinces) Steiermark (Styria) and Niederosterreich (Lower Austria), in east-central Austria. Situated in the watershed dividing the Mur and Leitha drainage basins, it facilitates Vienna's communications with the Balkans via Steiermark, with Italy via Karnten (Carinthia), and with Innsbruck via the upper Enns Valley. Since the ancient routes skirted the Alps in the east, the Semmering remained unimportant until the foundation of a hospice (Spital am Semmering) in 1160 and the union of Austria and Steiermark. The first road through the pass was built in 1728 and rebuilt in 1839-42. The Semmering Railway (1848-54), the first mountain railway in the world, passes 282 feet below the summit of the pass through a tunnel nearly one mile long. A second parallel tunnel was inaugurated in 1952.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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