Railways were of great importance in the history of the port of Trieste in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when it was the principal outlet to the sea of the Habsburg Empire. In 1857 the city gained a direct link to Vienna with the completion of the Sudbahn (southern railway) over the Semmering Pass, whose terminus was the predecessor of the present central station. An alternative route through Jesenice and Nova Gorica, the Ferrovia Transalpino or Wocheiner Bahn, was opened in 1906, terminating at the Campo Marzio station, which ceased to be used by passenger trains in 1959, and has been a museum since 1984. It was also the terminus of the 0.76 m gauge line known as the Paric Railway, the Istrian Railway or the Parenzaner Bahn, that extended 123 km to Parenzo in present-day Croatia, which worked between 1902 and 1935.
The museum includes 11 steam locomotives made by several Italian companies, and by works in Wiener Neustadt, Vienna-Floridsdorf, Berlin and Budapest, as well as diesel and electric locomotives and several railcars. The steeplygraded metre gauge tramway from Trieste to Villa Opicina was built in 1902 to give tourists access to the spectacular views from the mountains around the port, and its first tramcar forms part of the museum collection. The museum holds an archives collection and has a substantial library.