Greece October 2014
The opportunity to sample some good old Greek Alco thrash wasn’t one I could pass up, especially as I didn’t need any leave to do it. It turned out to be the only Alco hauled train that ran on the closed Peloponnese network during 2014 but was unfortunately marred by events that unfolded on the last day and a bit of non-crank friendly driving going over the steepest parts of the line.
As there were two parts to the PTG run tour, a Cultural part at the start and an enthusiast part at the end, there was even some time to discover bits of Greece that I’d never seen before and also to reminisce along the old Meter Gauge route between Patras & Athens; now completely closed to traffic.
EZY5451 0540 Gatwick – Kalamata – £37.73
BA639 1340 Athens – Heathrow – £43.56
Booked through Booking.com
Hotel Ostria (Kalamata) – (£39 for a twin room for one night) – the room balcony overlooked the sea, it was spacious and clean with a small TV and AC.
Hotel Isthmia Prime (Korinthos) – (£78 for a single room for two nights and £47 for a twin room for one night) – the room wasn’t big but just the right size, it had AC and a small TV along with free toiletries in the bathroom. There were two balconies from the room, one overlooking the pool and the other had a direct view to the old railway bridge that went over the Corinth Canal. Breakfast was included, as was a free welcome drink on arrival.
Hotel Ionian (Kiparissia) – (£31 for a triple room for one night) – we booked a triple room as there hadn’t been a double left when I’d booked, this actually turned out better as the triples have a separate bed in its own little cubby hole. The rooms were clean and had WiFi, TV and toiletries provided. The only issue we had was the fact that the AC didn’t seem to be working when we arrived, this was rectified once it was mentioned at the front desk and was a hotel wide issue not just in our room.
Hotel Nana (Athens) – (£30 for a twin room for one night) – Our small twin room sufficed and there was no need for the AC. The WiFi worked a lot better down in the hotel lobby than the room. Breakfast was included in the rate.
Tour Operated by OSE on behalf of PTG Tours based in the UK
“Culture” Tour (I travelled towards the end of the trip only)
Day 6 Kalamata – Megalopoli – Nafplion
Day 8 Nafplion – Korinthos (Day 7 was spare in Nafplion)
Day 1 Korinthos – Nafplion – Megalopoli – Kiparissia
Day 2 Kiparissia – Pirgos – Katakolo – Patras
Tuesday 7th October 2014 (Storms stopped play)
Getting to Greece certainly started early on this occasion, with the 0024 departure from Milton Keynes to London Euston, followed by a walk down the road to St Pancras for the 0154 Thameslink from there to Gatwick. My flight was the 0540 EasyJet direct flight from Gatwick to Kalamata; a flight only operated once a week, the timing of which couldn’t have been any better for me. Having finished work on Monday evening the flight was Tuesday morning and the PTG Tour I was going for departed Kalamata on Wednesday morning. Justas I got to the departure gates at Gatwick they were opened to allow the first passengers into the airport for the early flights out. The wait at Gatwick’s South Terminal was harmless and we were Kalamata bound right time, the plane being full of people going to Stupa for a beach holiday.
There were plenty of taxi’s outside the airport at Kalamata and the fare direct to the Hotel Ostria was just under €18 for the 8km journey. I’d stayed at the Ostria before so knew what to expect and it didn’t seem too busy. The room I was given overlooked the sea, it was spacious and clean with a small TV and AC. Having basically been up all night I took the opportunity to relax for a while, before attempting to venture out. The sun was glaring down anyway and it was quite relaxing just lying on the bed listening to the waves crashing onto the pebbled beach down below.
When I decided to drag my ass off the bed and make a move it was about 1330, the sun was still glaring in through the open balcony doors. A wonder down to Kalamata Rail Park seemed on the cards; that was until I went out onto the balcony to get some photos. I’d noticed the wind getting a little stronger and cooler and the reason why was dominating the skyline to the east; it was black with storm clouds, which soon made their way over to the mountains in the west leaving a gap out at sea to the south. Heavy rains soon followed and Kalamata was pounded as the rains moved slowly from east to west, meanwhile I was confined to barracks while the storm passed over, bizarrely the thunder and lightning followed after the rain; it was cracking to watch from the hotel balcony.
By 1600 that afternoon it was safe enough to venture out, the rains having passed and the cloud with it. The sun was trying to get out again but the place was saturated making walking through the Kalamata rail park a little muddy underfoot. As I followed the old railway line up towards Kalamata railway station I thought I could hear a train horn somewhere in the distance, I assumed it was the DMU that would be heading down the Messini to collect the PTG party, just shunting off shed to head down the branch; I was wrong. As I arrived at the station, round about 1645, a MAN unit arrived, loaded with the PTG group, their afternoon having been a complete washout in Messini and the site visit there being cancelled due to the storms.
Having conversed with a few folk off the train I headed back down the old tracks, which have recently been tarmac’d over in a couple of places and had wooden walkways put over them in other places, and had the railway park to myself while I got some photos. Surprisingly the steam loco fleet there remained in quite a respectable state. They’d been repainted a couple of years previous and had hardly been graffiti’d at all since.
After a quick stop to get some goody’s for the following day’s journey I found a taverna to eat at near the hotel and after my long day was actually in bed by 1930!
Wednesday 8th October 2014 (A disappointing start to proceedings)
My alarm was set for 0535 to give me plenty of time to walk to the station for the 0700 departure of the PTG tour to Nafplion; I was woken at 0531 by thunder. This wasn’t a god sign and I discovered it to be hammering down again when I opened the balcony doors! This meant a taxi to the station as opposed to the planed walk. It was ordered while I checked out and outside waiting by the time I’d paid. The journey to the station only costing €3.50! I was there for 0600 though and the station was all locked up so I got some breakfast in the café over the road while I waited.
Eventually the train crew turned up from their hotel and the red-cap opened up the gate to allow access onto the station and from the gloom emerged Alco A9105, to lead the stock for the days train into the station; this left A9101 on the leading end of the train upon departure. Unfortunately there was a late start due to the main tour party’s bus getting lost on the way from the hotel to the station; it was a long enough day as it was for the crew and they didn’t seem to happy when we departed at 0734, 34 late.
As I’d been allowed to travel with the last two days of the culture part of the PTG tour I made myself scarce and took up residence in one of the vans towards the rear of the train eventually. Mainly as the driver on A9101 didn’t seem to be giving it what for at all and A9105 was doing the hard work, on full power at the rear of the train. Very, very disappointed with the thrash on the way up to Chranoi I couldn’t resist asking the train crew if there was anything wrong with A9101; the response being that the speed through the hills was being regulated by the rear engine and I was assured there was nothing wrong with A9101 at all. Not appeased at all, and slightly annoyed, it was a very tedious and frustrating journey to Megalopoli, with A9101 not being worked hard at all and all the work being done by A9105 pushing on the rear.
There was a 4 hour break at Megalopoli while the tour group visited the nearby St Paraskevi Vasta Chapel and had lunch at Nikola’s Watermill; the bus journey to which was a rather interesting one. The roads were hardly fit for cars let alone coaches; the journey ultimately taking about 50 minutes to the Chapel, and we’d already been 35 late on arrival at Megalopoli.
The Chapel itself was only a small building but the attraction seemed to be the fully grown trees that were growing out of it. Needless to say we didn’t need too much time there and the restaurant at Nikola’s watermill was only a short walk away. The food was freshly prepared and was a set menu, everything dished out in a timely manner and rather plentiful yet good.
Once lunch was done the return bus journey was as long as the outward journey, including the driver taking a wrong turn down a dead end road just as we set off back to Megalopoli. The views from the bus were the best thing about the journey with the mining around Megalopoli being clearly visible, as were the two power stations that the mine served; only one of which was in service at that point.
Due to the fact that we wouldn’t be back at the train to make our 1500 planned departure the crew wanted to set off right time and divert our bus to Lefktro for us to join there, thankfully this didn’t occur and the train had to wait for us to arrive. The big issue with the timings was that the crew had to work the train all the way through to Korninthos that night, after dropping everyone off at Nafplion; their day being effectively from 0700 to 2300, and that was only the travelling time on the train itself! Still we departed Megalopoli 30 late, a little earlier than we had been when we’d arrived. What our late departure had done was spur the crew into getting a shift on and A9101 was no longer around for the ride after we departed Lefktro; it was just like the Greek driving of old and the little red machine was punished for the late start we’d had, sounding just like a 6 cylinder Alco should when climbing steep hills. As had been the case on previous visits in 2013, when the transition came in on A9101 by the time the electronics had done what they needed to the speed of the train had dropped sufficiently enough for the transition to drop straight back out and require the low transition to come back in again, even with A9105 pushing on the rear. It was cracking to listen to.
It was a nice late afternoon run through the hills from Tripoli towards Argos and we’d even managed to pick up nearly all the lost time by Tripoli and as we approached Myloi we were early. At Myloi there are a good half a dozen steam locos just rusting away in the undergrowth and a photo-stop was originally scheduled for 1915-30 but as it should have been dark this was cancelled yet as there was still plenty of light when we approached 40 minutes earlier than planned people naturally wanted the stop to be re-instated to allow for the photos; this request was point blank refused by the train crew, which was very unfair of them. Despite their long day the train was run for a customer and had a timetable to run to with demands to meet, on this occasion they completely dismissed their customer outright; which was out of order, especially with how early we were!
The fast run over the hills and cutting out the stop at Myloi resulted in A9105 running into Nafplion with our train at 1935, 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Once all the passengers were off the crew wasted no time in setting sale for Korinthos with the empty stock; a train I’d had pre-authorisation to travel on and the crew had been reminded of this fact very early on in the day’s journey.
As we departed Nafplion at 1950 it was immediately evident that help was at hand for the road crossings as two of the Greek photographers that had been chasing all day were stopping traffic to allow the train a better run over them; this continued all the way to Korinthos. To put it bluntly A9101 put in a sterling performance throughout, and really did sound the part as it climbed away from Argos; it was A9105’s turn to burble away on half power on the rear while the better engine of the two showed it who was boss on the front! We absolutely flew, all the way to Korinthos, at speeds of up to 75kmph, not stopping for any level crossing at all and arriving into Korinthos at 2140, just 1h50m after departing Nafplion and a mere 1h30m before we should have arrived! I thanked the crew as I exited the train at Korinthos, who’d even fed me on the way down, and confirmed that it would be an 0500 start for the run back to Nafplion to collect everyone on Friday morning.
There were plenty of taxis outside the station, something that had concerned me a little had we not arrived until 2330, after the last train would have departed. The fare for the 5km journey to the Isthmia Prime Hotel, which is about 200 yards away from the Corinth Canal bridge, was €3.44 on the meter; the driver then asked for €10, as he turned the meter off! Then ensued a discussion in which he told me it was €1.19 per kilometer and it was 10km from the station to hotel; unfortunately for him my Google Map prints showed otherwise. He then tried to tell me that it was 5km each way and I should pay for the outward journey and his return journey to the station; the result being our discussion taking itself into the hotel lobby without me having paid at that point. He told the girl behind the counter exactly what he’d tried to tell me in the car and I told her exactly what I told him outside, the result being the taxi driver storming out while refusing to take my money; something he came back for a couple of minutes later. I paid €3.50 in the end and the girl behind the counter thanked me for making her night as she told me that taxi drivers in Greece deserve all they get and he’d been firmly put in his place that night!
Having checked in I was allowed to have a twin room for all three nights I was at the hotel as on the last night I’d be joined by Dave Bugg for the two day return trip from Korinthos to Patra. The room wasn’t big but just the right size; it had AC and a small TV along with free toiletries in the bathroom. There were two balconies from the room, one overlooking the pool and the other had a direct view to the old railway bridge that went over the Corinth Canal; something I’d been over countless times in the past but was now banned to any train movements.
Having forgot to get the WiFi code for the hotel I ended up back downstairs where I was treated to my welcome drink that the hotel offered its guests; while it says red wine on the booking they allow any alcoholic drink so I sat having a Fix beer while chatting on Facebook Messenger. A fitting end to what turned out to be a decent day after the disappointing start to the thrash. I was ready for bed though……
Gen for Wednesday 8th October 2014
A9101/A9105 T&T in tandem
7403 0700 Kalamata – Lefktro
xxxx 1054 Lefktro – Megalopoli
xxxx 1500 Megalopoli – Argos
7440 1956 Argos – Nafplion
xxxx 2030 Nafplion – Korinthos (New Station ) empty stock
Thursday 9th October 2014 (New discoveries and a trip down memory lane)
As I had a completely free day I didn’t have any plans but had tentatively made some with Paul Garvey & Stan, who’d been chasing the train the previous day, to head towards Athens and attempt to photograph something on the newly built Thriassio to Ikonio Docks line. A text message at 0930 said they’d be outside my hotel to get me at around 1100 so I had plenty of time for breakfast before they arrived; unfortunately they got waylaid by their satnav and didn’t end up getting there much before 1230! This at least gave me some time to have a scan at the Corinth Canal while I was waiting, the sun being almost perfect as I peered over the footbridge towards the blue depths below. I could only imagine what it had been like back in the day and thanks to a photo on the wall in the hotel things were a lot clearer; it showed a steam train heading over the very bridge that was about 100m in front of me, with a passenger train before the canal construction had actually been completed when there was no water flowing through it.
Once Paul & Stan collected me we headed out of town and towards Athens via the coastal route, along which the old MG railway used to run in many places. We passed over the crossing at the end of Agios Theodori station, which looked like it could accept a train at any moment round that familiar curve that ran beneath the trees growing beside the platform. On the coastal road it was interesting to see just how much of the old MG tracks were still in situ, slightly overgrown in places, but nonetheless still there and the road crosses the line at various places en-route to the Greek capital. Even the old section that clings to the cliff side, where A9107 & A9112 almost met their demised after falling down it in the late 1990’s, remained virtually untouched up above the road and I was surprised to see the capsized ferry still in situ near Megara, which had been there over 10 years now. It was a great trip down memory lane but unfortunately we had to deviate as we headed down towards Ikonio Docks to see if there was a train in there, which we could photograph on its way out.
Having driven along the front at Ikonio we eventually found the tunnel mouth where the new line exited the hillside and ran straight into the docks; we couldn’t find a train there though and so spent the afternoon driving around the Aspropirgos area trying to find a suitable photographing location. In doing so we discovered that the old dual gauge section of track that ran from Athens to Elefsis was still used; based on the state of the rail-head and the gaps where wheel flanges had cut a path over crossings. The roads in the area ran between both this line and the new line to Ikonio Docks, which was further up the hill, clinging to the cliff side; two very prominent bridges showing just how much money had been spent on the line’s construction. The first being a large curved concrete bridge and about 500m beyond that, heading towards the docks, was a large blue metal span bridge which certainly stood out on the hillside.
We managed to eventually find a way up to the two bridges, after a lot of trial and error, and the view over the blue bridge was nothing short of spectacular, with a great view over the refineries at Aspropirgos in the background. As we’d already spotted from another vantage point that Thriassio Yard was devoid of locos we didn’t hang around long and headed back towards Korinthos via Elefsis to check out the dual gauge tracks. What we didn’t have a clue about at the time was if we’d hung around for another 30 minutes we’d have seen a train heading down to the docks, which would return an hour later! We only found this out the following afternoon while speaking to a Greek photographer at Korinthos.
Elefsis station was easy to find and it was immediately apparent that the SG tracks were not in use that far so we could only assume they were only in use to the refinery at Aspropirgos. The tracks leading towards Aspropirgos were heavily overgrown and in some areas trees were growing right out between them. The station itself was in very good condition and looked like it had been recently painted, including the station name being re-added to the building side. The tracks were relatively clear in the station area and there was a Z14 box wagon still there. In the distance the semaphore signal at the Korinthos end of the station remained in situ and looked in good condition.
Reminiscing done we headed back down the coast to Korinthos and parked up by the old Korinthos station, where there was just enough light to get a few photos. The main thing noticeable was the fact that the wall that used to run down the side of the yard had been completely demolished and in the station area the areas between the tracks had been freshly dug out and weeded and bizarrely the old water filler at the Kiato end of the station had been partially painted in red-oxide paint. The station buildings had all been broken into yet not vandalised too much at all; all the pictures painted on the walls inside the waiting area remained intact. Down at the Isthmos end of the station, in the yard opposite where the standby loco used to stable, were a few remaining wagons and a coach or two. All were heavily vandalised and had probably been in too bad a condition to move to Tripoli when the movements that had effectively re-opened the “Pelly” to traffic had taken place in late 2012.
As the sun got closer to the horizon our trip down memory lane really did come to an end and a decent meal in one of the modern restaurants down the road from the station followed before I was dropped back off at the Isthmia Prime just after 2100. As I had a very early start the following morning I wasted no time in getting myself sorted and to bed.
Friday 10th October 2014 (Nobody said we couldn’t go over the Corinth Canal Bridge on foot!)
My plans for the day were to do the ecs back from Korinthos to Nafplion before returning with the last leg of the PTG Culture tour to Korinthos. With it being a planned 0500 start from Korinthos I wasn’t taking any chances with taxis in the morning so was up just before 0400 and had one ordered by just after 0400; it was sat waiting for me within 10 minutes. The fare was considerably higher than my €3.44 journey the previous night and the meter already had €6.61 on it when I got into the taxi. It seems that when taxis are called from out of town their meters are started from their home depot. As it was stupid o’clock the meter racked up the Euro’s a lot quicker and in the end the journey cost just over €17; I did argue the toss with the driver about the €6.61 and the difference in cost to the previous night but it was all to no avail and maybe it was my penalty for arguing the toss the previous night?
Korinthos station was in complete darkness and all the doors at the front appeared to be locked. The good news was that the Alco’s and stock were still in the platform they’d been left in two days earlier; neither loco was running. In an attempt to get into the station I tried to see if the sliding doors would open manually and just as I did a security guard turned up and opened one of the side doors instead. He wouldn’t let me onto the station though and told me that the train would depart at 0500 to Nafplion, and then did one with his torch to do some more rounds. I wasn’t overly concerned at that point as the crew clearly weren’t around and at 0435 a taxi conveying the first set of crew arrived and I got onto the station with them, the security guard looking a little concerned as I walked through with them.
Just before 0500 a second taxi turned up with the remaining crew members and we set sail for Nafplion at 0508. Initially there had been some discussion about the empties not actually departing Korinthos until after the first train had arrived from Kiato at 0539 as the crew were lodging in the train crew digs at Kiato. It was just as well it left when it had as the journey took 2h15m to Nafplion, it was nowhere near as fast as the journey down to from Nafplion had been at 1h50m, mainly because there was nobody to man the crossings and we had to slow for every one.
It was a cool morning, in fact I’d go as far as to say cold morning, and that clear that the moonlight was casting shadows onto the ground! It didn’t stop me bellowing and not long after we left Korinthos I was shown from the front door of the second van to the front door of the leading van by the travelling electrician on board from the Workshops in Piraeus; apparently I’d be able to hear the engine better from there! He wasn’t wrong and A9105 was working hard as it climbed away from Korinthos, a much needed hand was given after most crossing stops though as the rails were slippery and both engines had issues with wheel slip in quite a few places. While A9105 did sound the part in regards to how the A9101’s used to sound I have to say A9101 is louder, and the only thing missing from their display that morning was a typical Alco display of black clag polluting the atmosphere every time they got going from a crossing.
After we’d topped the hill and started to descend towards Argos I attempted a bit of sleep on the bench seats in the van, unfortunately it was a little too cold to sleep and the bakery over the road from Nafplion station was a very welcome sight from which food and a hot coffee soon thawed me out a little.
It was a prompt departure at 0800 and after Argos it was A9101’s turn to start with the hard work, unfortunately after a spirited start the crappy driving, that had marred the run over the hills from Kalamata, came back into play whereby A9105 was doing all the hard work on the rear while A9101 was only driven on half power and I was glad to get to Mikine when we did, before the frustration really set in with the driving style!
The PTG bus was already waiting for us as we arrived into Mikine and everyone was whisked off the short distance to Mycenae Archaeological site. The site wasn’t very busy when we got there and we were given until 1010 to be back at the bus; one person didn’t get back until 1035, delaying the stop at the Treasury of Atreus on our way back to the station.
The ruins at Mycenae date back to between the 16th and 12th centuries BC, some bits are well preserved, others bits only represent the foundations of where the city once stood in all its glory; the views all around from which are cracking. The site doesn’t take too long to walk round but is quite a climb and can be very slippery in wet conditions. Not quite on a par with the likes of Machu Picchu but still worth a visit.
The Treasury of Atreus is just outside the site of Mycenae and is the best preserved example of a Tholos tomb anywhere in the world, dating from 1250BC. From the outside you wouldn’t be able to tell there was anything buried beneath the earth that adorns the hillock the tomb lays beneath but once through the entrance the main hall opens up as your eyes adjust to the darkness. Unfortunately the secondary chamber, attached, is off limits due to the hazard of falling rocks. With a torch you can just make out the opposite walls to allow yourself to compare the size of the secondary chamber with that of the main one; I’d say the main one is about twice the size.
Even though it was a quick visit, it was worth the short trip to Mycenae and due to our slightly later than planned arrival back at the train the crew on A9101 were given an incentive to stop fooling around and use the damn thing to its full potential. When used properly it was a pleasure to listen to but unfortunately the uphill section came to an end all too soon, as we began to descend into Korinthos, and the day’s bash was all over in a flash as we arrived into Korinthos close to our booked time of 1245.
Having met up with Dave Bugg, Paul Garvey and Stan at Korinthos we chewed the cud with Greek photographer Jorgo before heading off. It was at this point that we found out that we’d missed a train heading to Ikonio Docks by about 20 minutes the previous day! Jorgo also showed us some small wheel flats on A9105, while nothing major the pitting did need to be dealt with at some point before it got steadily worse.
Once back at the Isthmia Prime we opened the balcony curtains to find three people in view in the vicinity of the Corinth Canal Rail bridge. Two had been on the train, who’d I actually given a map of the area to, and the third was Kev Combe, who ended up bottling it and walking back the long way to the hotel where they’d got lunch ordered. In the meantime we followed in their footsteps and went for a walk ourselves.
The open land behind the hotel leads straight to the railway and we walked down it to the bridge, discovering missing fishplates as we went and a length of cable that appeared to have been cut in various places by something running over it on the tracks; maybe OSE had actually attempted to inspect the Corinth Bridge and found missing fishplates, hence their decision to not allow any train movements over the line?
The bridge itself didn’t seem to be in bad condition at all, despite OSE not allowing train movements over it, nobody said we couldn’t walk over the bridge did they; other than the “Danger, do not enter” sign of course! It didn’t stop us and the walkway down the side was safe enough, even if it was only protected on one side. The severity of vertical drop to the canal below was brought home when you looked down between the walkway and tracks and definitely wasn’t a good thing to do when trying to walk at the same time!
Once off the bridge Isthmos station is just the other side of the road bridge at the other end, another station that looks like it’s been left untouched since the line closed; and it seems that even the graffiti artists have a bit of respect for the station sign as they left it completely untouched while they defaced the rest of the building’s outer! While the main line through Isthmos seems to be free of vegetation the branch off to Loutraki is a completely different story and is completely overgrown, with trees growing in the formation too; not a quick fix at all and probably too much like hard work for OSE.
We walked back to the hotel over the public bridge and after a quick beer at the hotel we drove to Loutraki and spent the rest of the afternoon there at a nice Italian type restaurant on the seafront. Both Dave & I were knackered and neither of us were up after 2000 that night; our early starts getting the better of us.
Gen for Friday 10th October 2014
A9101/A9105 T&T in tandem
xxxx 0500 Korinthos (New Station) – Nafplion empty stock
7439 0800 Nafplion – Korinthos (New Station)
The Photos PTG Tour
The Photos Old MG Isthmos & Corinth
Saturday 11th October 2014 (Thrash of the bash)
It would be a long day but thankfully one that at least managed to start with a bit of breakfast at the hotel before we set off; the food wasn’t ready but cereals and fruit were on hand to dip into before getting into a taxi to the station. Unlike the previous morning this one only had a couple of Euro’s already on the meter and it only came to €12 by the time we reached the station; the only one to have used the motorway to get there.
The OSE staff had just unlocked the train and people had started to turn up for what was the first day of what was being termed the “ecs” back to Patras; the stock off the PTG culture tour had to get back to base and was being run as a train vice returning empties, and with everyone on board we set off at 0800 on the dot. A9105 led with A9101 on the rear.
The run to Nafplion was a lot less slippery than the previous morning, thanks to the clear morning and sun drying things out, and both locos coped a lot better on the rails than they had on the run up to Argos just over 24 hours previous. While being able to listen to A9105 without freezing my nuts off, like the previous morning, the noise difference between the two locos was emphasised again with A9105 not seeming anywhere near as loud as A9101. One reason for this may well be due to the turbo’s not working to their full capacity and only giving a fraction of the pressure they usually work at; A9105’s were a lot worse that A9101’s, the on-board electrician had told us, due to prolonged non-use. Still it was a good run up to Argos with the front engine doing most of the work; unfortunately something that wouldn’t last all day and things were soon reversed with the back engine doing most of the work. This being something that marred what would have been otherwise cracking thrash, and unfortunately it wasn’t an isolated incident!
At Nafplion we had a needed 15 minute break and the shops directly opposite the station took a hammering, especially the bakery. The idea behind the shorter break was to allow for a longer one at Tripoli. After the reversal at Argos the uphill section was turned into yet another frustrating uphill run, whereby the back engine did more than the front engine and for some reason even the photo-stops en-route were turned into farce when the OSE staff on board confirmed that the train was not allowed to reverse at any point in its journey when in section; this meant not being able to drop people off at one location then repositioning the train for the photos.
At Andritsa we were all de-trained before the bridge, the train was run over while we got our photos, and then we all walked the short distance across to re-board. At Achladokambos Bridge, which is a good ½ km in length and a very long drop off its high concrete structure, we were detrained before the bridge, told to walk over it and then get in position for the train to then follow us over! For some this brought with it other issues, not just height related ones, in that they would in theory miss out on the track over the bridge if they got off for photos! The phots were worth it though and while I’ve photographed at this location before there’s always new ground to scramble up and a cracking vantage point was found after a bit of clambering. The last stop before Tripoli was at Eleochori but strangely in the station and not at the fantastic curved viaduct before it. The decision was made to miss out the stop on safety grounds, which didn’t go down well with a lot of people, including Greek photographers. Even when at Eleochori things got a little out of hand when the Greek photographers started to take over the show and moved the train forward from where it had been stopped; putting it right beneath an overhead cable and of course the train couldn’t be set back then!
The break at Tripoli was needed and despite best efforts being made to prepare the station buffet for our trains arrival nothing was actually made and ready to be dished out so a trip to the Spar up the road from the station wielded food and beer for the afternoon. Bread, cheese, ham and tomatoes; sandwiches made the old fashioned way! It was all that was needed until food in Kiparissia that evening.
There was one more photo-stop en-route to Megalopolis, at a place called Nikolakachina, in a spot that was otherwise inaccessible to the public and where the sun was about right on the front of the train; apparently something the Greek photographers hadn’t quite managed to do at this spot in years gone by. Megalopolis wasn’t a lengthy stop, enough time to change ends and get withered by the sun, which had gone in just as we approached the station. The crew had wanted to get a photo of everyone in front of the loco at Megalopolis but this ultimately waited until Chranio. The weather had changed considerably and it was a lot darker at Chranio than it had been at Megalopolis but the surrounding valley was brought alive by the weather; low cloud, sunshine, rain and cool air adding to the atmospheric surroundings as we descended towards Zevgolatio.
While much of the thrash had been marred by the driving styles throughout the day with the rear loco doing much of the controlling of the train for most of the day, even with A9101 using its dynamic braking coming down the hills to control the speed, what we were treated to from Zevgolatio was more than worth the wait. A9101 put in the performance of the trip as it climbed towards the summit between Zevgolatio and Kalonero and I was treated to this display from the front window, right behind the engine and on the stack side. I could hear someone comment from inside the coach about “needing hearing aids”, I could only assume they were talking about my bellowing antics but it proved just how loud A9101 was and I wasn’t missing the thrash of the bash for anything. It was one of those hill climbs you don’t want to end as the engine was literally that good but unfortunately all good things do come to an end and yet I was so pleased I’d made the trip at that point.
Rather than run into Kalonero to reverse, as per timings, arrangements were made to run direct into Kiparissia, where we arrived almost an hour early; to everyone’s benefit of course. Having been stuck in the queue at the Hotel Ionion, across the road from the station, last time I made sure I was first through the door and had my room key before anyone else walked in. We’d booked a triple room as there hadn’t been a double left when I’d booked, this actually turned out better as the triples have a separate bed in its own little cubby hole. The rooms were clean and had WiFi, TV and toiletries provided. The only issue we had was the fact that the AC didn’t seem to be working when we arrived, this was rectified once it was mentioned at the front desk and was a hotel wide issue not just in our room.
Food was done at one of the usual haunts in Kiparissia, a place called Nynio, just on the corner of the square in Kiparissia. Bizarrely this had been the first time I’d ever looked at the name of the place, despite frequenting it loads in the past, and it was still run by the same folks it had been back in the good old days; and the food was good too. The night wouldn’t have been the same without a beer at the station bar with an Alco parked alongside while you drank…….
Gen for Saturday 11th October 2014
A9105/A9101 T&T in tandem
7424 0800 Korinthos (New Station) – Nafplion
xxxx 1100 Nafplion – Argos
xxxx 1127 Argos – Megalopoli
xxxx 1540 Megalopoli – Lefktro
xxxx 1616 Lefktro – Zevgolatio
7355 1831 Zevgolatio – Kiparissia
Sunday 12th October 2014 (The unfortunate ending…….!)
It was rammed in the breakfast room when I got down for 0730 and the staff were struggling to keep up, the good thing about that was that everything was fresh by the time I got myself sorted; having paid the €5 breakfast supplement when I checked out.
At 0800 all was well as we set off on the last leg of what had been for some an 11 day Alco adventure, for others their two day Alco bash was going to be turned upside down by Kalonero. It was a cool morning and dew covered the railheads, which were already covered in rust, dust and whatever else had accumulated over the months while it had been out of use. The crew’s driving style had already taken its toll on the wheels of the stock, with slight flats being audible as we trundled along, and the mornings driving was about to show how badly the toll could get!
The vegetation even from Kiparissia to Kalonero was very close to overrunning the tracks in places, despite it clearly having been cut back. This further hindered the train as it slowed for crossings when the wheels began locking up and ultimately sliding on the grubby rail head. Of course this not helped at all by the last minute brake applications, which had been rife throughout the trip. By Kalonero the slight flats on the front van were becoming worse and not just being a slight clink as the train ran along anymore; they were now a thud, thud, thud instead! It had originally sounded like the flats had been on the second van that I was in but when in the front van it was clearly evident where the flats were.
Shortly after Kalonero the crew eventually examined the front coach and the second coach and came to the conclusion that the flats were quite severe on the front van, which was actually the crew van, but not as bad on the second van. Their decision was to run the train forward to Pirgos at a very low speed where the front two coaches would be knocked out before the train continued to Patras. Unfortunately someone from the back coach, the only passenger coach in the consist, came down to the front shortly afterwards complaining of a burning smell, caused by the sliding; this ultimately put pay to the rest of the day as the crew then decided that the stock would not go beyond Pirgos after it had arrived and a DMU would take everyone forward to Patras. There was literally no thrash from then on as the train literally trickled towards Pirgos at about 10kmph, arriving 90 late. A9101 seemed to be doing more work on the rear of the train that A9105 did on the front and was even using its dynamics to keep the train at a steady speed and I’m guessing to prevent the use of the train brake. A very, very, unfortunate end to what had been a good trip thus far; despite the crappy driving in the hill sections.
What arriving into Pirgos late meant was that the Katakolo branch was missed, this only seemingly really concerning one person who was allowed to travel down to Katakolo on a Stadler DMU that was travelling down ecs to pick up people from a cruise ship. The Stadler DMU to take everyone forward to Patras was soon shunted into the platform and people were allowed 15 minutes before departure, most using the time to photograph stuff in the yard area, which included Mitsubishi’s 9402, 9413 & 9419 along with Alco A9103. 9413 seemed to be in the process of being returned to service and A9103 had been dumped back under some form of cover over the back of the yard and was buried behind some wagons.
The DMU departed at around 1230, without myself and Dave on board, we’d managed to blag a lift back to Athens with Paul & Stan and we’d overtaken the DMU by Amaliada as we headed to Egio and stopped off for lunch and a look round the remains of the station building.
But for the station building at Egio you wouldn’t have been able to tell there had ever been railway running through the place, it was that overgrown. The station building was open and had been recently burnt out, yet the whole roof was in the process of being refitted while the old burnt timbers were dumped on the platform outside. At the Diakopto end of the station were a few dumped wagons, one of which had an old Kalavrita coach loaded onto it, all its windows were smashed and the control cabs at each end were in bits but the seating inside didn’t look to bad at all. At the Patras end of the station the tracks that ran along the seafront were still in situ but some works had taken place along the front, including the removal off all the lights that used to line the front that prevented you taking any decent photos of trains as they ran by! Sadly this section of line would never see an MG train ever again as the section beyond Rion had been severed and works were taking place to convert the MG sections to SG along much of the current formation beyond Egio towards Diakopto and beyond.
We headed back into Athens and reached our destination, according to SatNav on Paul’s phone, just after 2100. Unfortunately our destination was not the middle of some housing estate in Athens, it was the Nana Hotel! As luck didn’t have it the SatNav then decided to throw a wobbler and lose connection completely; we didn’t have a Scooby Do where we were! Thankfully we regained some network connection and discovered we were only 4km from the Nana Hotel and the SatNav delivered us to the correct location at the second attempt, even after recalculating when Paul managed to go the wrong way down a one-way street!
It had turned out to be a long day and after food in the square by the church, a 5 minute walk from the Nana, that was it for me. Our small twin room sufficed at the hotel and there was no need for the AC. The WiFi worked a lot better down in the hotel lobby and I used it to check-in for my BA flight home the following morning, which was already being advertised as 1h30m late when I did so!
Gen for Sunday 12th October 2014
A9105/A9101 T&T in tandem
7357 0800 Kiparissia – Patras (train pined at Pirgos due to wheelflats on stock)
7357 0800 Kiparissia – Patras (forward from Pirgos; not covering Katakolo)
The Photos PTG Tour
The Photos Old MG at Egio
Monday 13th October 2014 (The frustrations of photographing trains in Greece)
When we got up that morning I found a text and e-mail from British Airways telling me my flight was delayed to 1610, vice the booked 1340 departure. This was actually a good thing for me as it meant I could relax a little as regards getting to the airport. The morning plan being to meet up with a Greek photographer and attempt to photograph 2 trains in the Aspropirgos area. He’d rang me the previous evening to tell me that A465 would be working the Monday’s only oil tank train ex Aspropirgos refinery at approx. 1000 and that A469/470 would be working down from Thriassio to Ikonio Docks at approx. 1130. As the drive from one line to the other was about 5 minute this was nothing short of ideal and should have everyone at the airport for about 1230; as planned!
After breakfast we headed out to Aspropirgos and met up with the photographer. We’d been sat in an area frequented by Gypsies and with the stories he was telling us about them it was probably as well we hadn’t hung around the area too long; we were shown to a location very near the summit of the climb up from Aspropirgos, which was away from any Gypsies, and anyone else for that matter.
It was a great help having some local knowledge with us as he had a radio scanner with him and was able to listen to two channels at once, both for the ground shunting crew at Aspropirgos and Thriassio. 1000 came and went but there was no chatter to indicate that A465 would be departing the refinery anytime soon yet there was chatter at Thriassio as A469/470 shunted in the yard. By 1130 we couldn’t be sure which train would depart first and we ended up heading up to the same location Paul, Stan and I had found the previous week by the new blue bridge on the Ikonio Docks line, just in case; and the moment we got there we could see A465 just running round its tankers down at Aspropirgos, 5 minutes later it was on its way up the hill towards Athens.
At that point our Greek friend and I headed back down to where we’d been for the previous 2 hours and got a decent shot of A465 heading up the hill with its 6 oil tankers. Paul, Stan & Dave stayed where they were and then headed straight for the airport. Thanks to my plane being late I had more time than them and I would get a lift to the airport once the pair had gone down to the docks.
As A469/470 hadn’t departed by 1300 they wouldn’t be able to until approx. 1325 due to the margins available on the main Athens – Kiato electrified line, to get the train clear and onto the Docks line at the junction. This gave us plenty of time to park up, walk over the blue bridge and find a cracking spot on the hillside at the other side, which looked down on trains coming off the blue bridge. The sun was perfect and this shot wasn’t usually available in perfect sunshine but as the train was now late enough the sun had gone round to make it possible. All we had to do was wait for it to depart Thriassio; which ultimately never happened! Just after 1330 a call from a friend said the Docks train had been cancelled, it was then confirmed with a contact in OSE; apparently the ship with the containers hadn’t arrived in the port yet so the train would run the following day instead. Twice I’d been by the blue bridge and taken photos of what would be and twice I’d gone away having not seen a train!
During our trip down to the airport, the driver was cursing OSE all the way and telling me how frustrating it was chasing freight trains in Greece. My plane was still showing at 1610 departure when we got there at 1415 and some much needed lunch was consumed while I waited. Of note is the fact that once you go through security at Athens airport there is nothing for food and it’s worth a mention that my order of Onion Rings where I ate consisted of just the 19!
The plane provided for our flight was a long-haul plane, which I’d been told had been commandeered off an overnight flight from Istanbul at London, hence the late departure. What the late departure did mean for me was that I missed my booked 1833 train home from Kings Cross to Doncaster and only just made the 1930; the guard not having an issue with me travelling later, or people travelling earlier it seemed as the woman talking to him in front of me was booked on the 2035.
Late home or not, I was glad to be home and despite the running about for not much gain photograph wise I’d enjoyed the morning in Athens and was already looking forward to returning in May 2015 for my next dose of OSE Alco thrash…….