Greece September 2014
This is an extract from a multi-country report to read the full report use the following link:
As the Greece bit of this trip included the PTG tour starting and finishing in Bulgaria and it going into Turkey the whole trip has been included in this one posting.
This trip took a fair bit of putting together and was based around doing two days of the PTG Bulgaria Track Bash tour, when it was in Greece with OSE MLW’s. However when the dates for the PTG Bulgaria Track Bash tour were changed and the tour was ultimately turned into a Greek Track Bash tour the planning was turned upside down and we basically went back to starting from scratch.
In the end a decent plan was hatched to start in Bulgaria, mainly due to it being the cheapest place to fly to, then head into Serbia, dash into Montenegro and back, and then into Macedonia before returning to Bulgaria to do the PTG Greek Tour. After the tour I’d head on from Bulgaria to finish in Romania. Originally we’d planned to head into Kosovo as well but as the trip now warranted more time in Greece something had to give.
Having had literally no clue about the geography of Eastern Europe before starting this plan it was certainly an eye-opener but the hard work paid off and time spent at home planning the trip allowed for the rewards to be reaped when out doing the trip.
EZY8973 0530 Gatwick – Sofia £36.71
BA885 0830 Bucharest – Heathrow £60.92
Booked through Booking.com
Hotel Sylvia (Sofia) – 149 Sofronij Vrachanski Str., 1233 Sofia, Bulgaria (£28 for a twin room or £38 for a triple room for one night) – is a 5 minute walk from Sofia station front, over towards the main tram stop, then right off the main road. It has decent sized rooms, is basic, but was more than adequate for what we needed.
Hotel Erika (Alexandroupoulis) – Dimitriou Karaoli 110, Alexandroupoli, 68100, Greece (£157 for two twins & one triple room for one night) – was just across the road from Alexandroupoulis Port. It was clean and the staff spoke good English, the rooms were spacious enough with AC, TV and while breakfast wasn’t included we were given it a €5 each, pay on the day.
Hotel Anessis (Thessalonica) – 26th October 20, Thessaloníki, 54627, Greece (£247 for two twin & one triple room for two nights) – about a 10 minute walk from Thessalonica station. While the rooms were ok everyone suffered the same issues on the first night, no AC and a stifling hot night. WiFi was free throughout the hotel and breakfast included in the room rate.
Hotel Golden Yat (Tekirdag) – Ertugrul Mah. Yali Sok No:21, 59100 Tekirdağ, 59100 Tekirdag, Turkey (£49 for a twin room & £59 for a triple room for one night) – It turned out that the hotel had basically sold all their rooms and all our rooms and our booking.com booking was of no use so we had to take whatever rooms were available; thankfully there were still rooms for everyone. While the rooms were small and without AC they still did the job and a very good breakfast was included in the rate. WiFi was free throughout the hotel.
Sunday 14th September 2014 (Standard Railtour Farce – PTG Greece Day 1)
An early start wasn’t what was needed at all but we didn’t have a choice with an 0621 start from Sofia. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and everyone could have actually had an extra hour in bed had they known that the BDZ 06 that was supposed to be provided was going to fail on shed! As it happened by the time I got to the front coach, just before 0600, there was only one free compo and that was us for the day.
While BDZ figured out what to do about the fact our 06 didn’t want to play our stock had to be shunted from platform 1 to 4 by shunter 52046 to allow the set of stock behind us to have its engine attached; which actually departed before us in the end. Finally we were given 44100, spun in the previous evening, off an incoming train to work to Kulata and we set sail a mere 90 late; not quite realising at the time that if we didn’t pick the time up our booked arrival of 1906 into Alexandroupoulis in Greece could potentially be after midnight!
The lack of 06 was no biggie really as the main event as far as our compartment was concerned was in Greece, everything outside Greece was just a means to getting to/from the proper power that would work the train.
Upon arrival at Kulata the only engine there was BDZ 61002 with the stock for the 1405 Kulata – General Todorov; there was no OSE engine anywhere. Someone had however seen MLW A467 at Strimon earlier that morning and sure enough it arrived about 30 minutes after we did but couldn’t drop onto our train as 44100 couldn’t managed to get itself off the train and A467 ultimately ended up dragging it off and dumping it in the sidings!
The poor old bar outside the station didn’t know what had hit it during the wait and almost everyone off the train descended on it for some form of refreshment; beer or otherwise. Meanwhile the most eagerly awaited Alco hauled train of the decade was prepared for departure as A467 eventually dropped onto the stock to work the train forward to Alexandroupoulis Port. The A451’s had been the main stay in Greece back in the 1990’s; eventually becoming freight only in 1998 after the influx of brand new Adtranz replaced them on all main line hauled trains. Unfortunately my first trip abroad, ever, wasn’t until 1999 so I missed the MLW’s in Greece and only had three of them in the end, the last being A461/A469 on a photo-charter back in 2006. Needless to say my experience in what was a good one or a bad one wasn’t the best but to say A467 wasn’t a good one was a good bet. I wouldn’t quite describe it as an anticlimax but thankfully OSE seemed to have turned out the worst one on the first day of the trip.
Since the MLW’s had been overhauled they had their high nose end chopped down as there was now no longer a need for the steam heat boilers and unfortunately they’d had their electrics messed with which resulted in their being no transition. What did surprise me a little was the fact that the noise level never seemed to die off at speed, like other locos would do before they had a divert or transition. A467 took a while to load up but once going it was ok and definitely fulfilled the part of being a 12 cylinder MLW; but just needed that bit more it seemed?
Due to the late running the photo-stops planned prior to Drama were all dismissed to allow time to be clawed back and prevent the disaster that would be a midnight arrival into Alexandroupoulis Port. This was ultimately due to the long sections created when OSE closed stations and lines in Greece in 2011 in an attempt to save money. After quick stops at Drama & Livera we were back to time by Xanthi; where we had to wait to cross train 601 1511 Alexandroupoulis Port – Athens with Adtranz 220031.
During the stop at Xanthi everyone used the opportunity to get snacks etc from the station shop, which was nothing short of a farce. The old man serving didn’t appear to want to make money at all with the speed he was going and seemed to make up for his shortcoming by charging people what he wanted and then had the cheek to accuse some people of stealing things! This resulted in the guard on the train having to resolve the situation as he boarded the train to claim his “alleged” lost money. The end result of it all was us departing 20 late from Xatnthi but thankfully we were now in the long section and wouldn’t get screwed by some old berts incompetence, who’d seemingly robbed people by selling them “special” beer, at a price of his choice!
Arrival into Alex Port was about 30 late. The hotel we were staying in, Hotel Erika, was just across the road from the station and exactly what we needed after a long day, in fact more what some needed than others after a day of drinking…..
The hotel were expecting us the rooms were divvied up with the three piss-heads in one and those of us that were sober sharing the other two between the four of us. The place was clean and the staff spoke good English, the rooms were spacious enough with AC, TV and while breakfast wasn’t included we were given it a €5 each, pay on the day.
Food isn’t hard to come by in Alexandroupoulis and we didn’t walk far, sampling some good food just round the corner from the hotel and then retiring to a semi-stalwarts bar near the hotel for a night cap; which some didn’t seem to need; Dan was caught falling asleep in the chair at the bar!
|52046||Sofia Platform 1||Sofia Platform 4||Stock Shunt of PTG Tour||BDZ 52 shunter – stock moved|
|44100||Sofia||Kulata||0621 Sofia – Kulata||MBV1361||PTG Tour – BDZ 44 vice failed 06; 90 late start|
|A467||Kulata||Strimon||1125 Kulata – Strimon||7651||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|A467||Strimon||Alexandroupoulis Port||1200 Strimon – Alexandroupoulis Port||7670||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451 – Via Alex|
Gen for Sunday 14th September 2014
61002 50252 1405 Kulata – General Todorov
220031 601 1511 Alexandroupoulis Port – Athens
PTG Tour Day 1
52046 shunt stock platform 1 to 4 at Sofia
44100 MBV1361 0621 Sofia – Kulata (Vice failed BDZ 06)
A467 7651 1125 Kulata – Strimon, 7670 1200 Strimon – Alexandroupoulis Port
Sunday 15th September 2014 (The wrong bus at Tekirdag……)
An 0936 start was sufficiently late enough to have a decent lay-in, get breakfast at the hotel, with a little extra for the day out, and head down to the station in time to get ourselves a compo at the correct end of the train. As it turned out there was no rush as we were late away; nobody was bothered though when the reason for the lateness was explained as due to doing a last minute loco swap on shed at Alex!
As many had expected very few loco swaps on the tour most were actually surprised that OSE had actually entertained a loco swap at all, let alone at the last minute! Alex shed had planned to use A467 again but thankfully there had been another loco on shed and the person arranging the tour within OSE had asked them to swap it and they had; MLW A507 bringing the stock in from Alex shed at about 0950, this being a class I’d not had before in Greece.
For a 16 cylinder MLW the load 3 rake didn’t tax it at all. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting from it but it sounded like most other 16 cylinder Alco’s; quite chuggy. It also wasn’t in the best of health and not particularly good but it did the job of getting us to Svilengrad in Bulgaria where it handed over to BZD’s 07049 which was nothing short of diabolical with no thrash coming from it at all. It did pour clag out as it set off though and someone likened it to having a burning tire on its roof, all that was just in the station area at Svilengrad as it backed onto the train. Thankfully it wasn’t on the train for long, a bit of a waste for a 20 minute journey through Bulgaria really.
Svilengrad was nothing short of a building site and while we were allowed off the train, after the Bulgarian passport checks, there was no platform for us and we had to get down to the ballast for our photos. Whatever trains seemed to use Svilengrad to stable seemed to carry something that attracted flies, they were everywhere and once back on the train they’d loaded up inside the coaches as well; some managed to stay around for days before being killed and every compo had some remnants of Svilengrad squashed within it by the time the stock was handed back to BDZ at the end of the tour.
07049 was removed promptly at Kapikule in Turkey and sent back to Bulgaria. No photos were taken of it as there were no Turkish border police to deal with the train when it arrived; they turned up 15 minutes after arrival. Stabled by the train as we arrived were a Pielstick DE24, requested for the tour, and a GM DE33; we ended up with the latter, DE33029, which while quite big was not what everyone wanted and quite a disappointment for all. It was already on the train before the passport/visa checks had been carried out.
Eventually one Turkish guy manned the office and we all had to queue to present our passports for stamping; visas didn’t need to be shown as they had the record of whether they’d been applied for when swiping passports. My passport was stamped where I asked for it to be stamped, again avoiding the two empty pages, yet the other pages were now running out of space as well. While the majority of the train waited in line photos of the GM were taken and a couple of beers bought from the station shop, in Bulgarian Lev. As could have been predicted though one person on the tour had managed to get his visa to start the day after we arrived into Turkey. Luckily for him the border police ran him down to the road border post so he could be processed in again and get himself a valid visa! Even more lucky was the fact he wasn’t at the back of the queue and was back at the train before everyone else had been checked.
DE33029 was rubbish noise wise, as expected. The newly built line down from Muratli to Tekirdag was interesting though and while skirting the extremities of the valley that led down to the port the sheer steepness of the downhill drop became clearly evident. In some points the line was 6 track and it was all in the process of being wired up It was evident by the rusted rail-heads that not much used it at present.
We didn’t waste any time in attempting to get to the hotel at Tekirdag, where there weren’t any taxis at all; of course there wasn’t any reason for taxi’s to be there with no train service running was there? As we walked down the station approach road we passed a bus going to the station, this turned out to be the right bus and the No.1 bus we flagged down on the main road turned out to be the wrong bus, to get us straight to the Hotel Golden Yat. Both buses were side by side, both with people off the tour on board, when ours turned off the main road down the front; that being the road that the hotel was on. In the end some guy on the bus, who spoke no English, got us off the bus at the right point and walked us down the hill to the Golden Yat; where the folk who’d been on the right bus were attempting to check in, which wasn’t a good sign.
It turned out that the hotel had basically sold all their rooms and all our rooms and our booking.com booking was of no use so we had to take whatever rooms were available; thankfully there were still rooms for everyone. While the rooms were small and without AC they still did the job and breakfast was included in the rate. WiFi was free throughout the hotel.
As with Alexandroupoulis, food wasn’t hard to come by in Tekirdag and we ate at one of the restaurants right outside the hotel, sampling a local specialty kebab. As nobody other than Youth had any Turkish Lira Flossy ended up getting enough out to pay for everyone and was essentially the bank while we were in Turkey. This way everyone saved messing about getting money out and getting stung for the transaction as well as likely having some left at the end of the 24 hour visit.
|A507||Alexandroupoulis Port||Svilengrad||0936 Alexandroupoulis Port – Svilengrad||7680||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A501|
|07049||Svilengrad||Kapikule||1340 Svilengrad – Kapikule||MBV12491||PTG Tour – BDZ 07|
|DE33029||Kapikule||Tekirdag||1430 Kapikule – Tekirdag||85003||PTG Tour – TCDD DE33 – Via Muratli (RR)|
Gen for Monday 15th September 2014
PTG Tour Day 2
A507 7680 0936 Alexandroupoulis Port – Svilengrad (Bulgaria)
07049 MBV12491 1340 Svilengrad – Kapikule (Turkey)
DE33029 85003 1430 Kapikule – Tekirdag
Tuesday 16th September 2014 (Watching a Greek MLW arrive on a service train!)
After a very leisurely start and a decent breakfast a taxi from the hotel to Tekirdag station cost either 12 or 15 Lira, one was driven by a lunatic who nearly crashed into the other twice before even getting out of the taxi line, the second was more of a leisurely drive; the latter being the more expensive and not on the meter like the first!
Despite attempts to get the loco swapped the previous night DE33029 was sat waiting to depart when we arrived at the station and despite the steep gradients up towards Muratli my opinion of the GM didn’t change. Due to a possession on the Muratli avoiding line, which had track out, we were diverted back into Muratli to run round vice doing the curve as planned. This messed up compartments at the relevant end of the train but thankfully I was one of the first to find this out at Tekirdag and we managed to bag the only empty compo at the back of the train ex Tekirdag; which would be next to the MLW upon arrival back into Greece at Pythio.
At Uzunkopru, the Turkish border frontier before entering Greece, we were asked to put our passports into a bag for the Turk’s to process without anyone getting off the train. As we were guaranteed to get a stamp this caused a bit of a stir with Flossy & I, who still had to preserve the two remaining pages we had in our passports so ours were handed over and presented to the border control staff separately, who were asked not to stamp the blank pages. Thankfully this worked and as we departed Turkey our passports were handed back out by way of simple name calling in the coach corridors! They needn’t have bothered handing them back out though as the same happened at Pythio upon arrival, where they were handed back with various people calling out names outside the station building.
There was a prolonged stay at Pythio as the MLW that was to come down from Alexandroupoulis to collect us had been used to rescue another train prior to being sent to get us. It can only be assumed that it had rescued train 600 2303 Athens – Alexandroupoulis as the connecting train from Alex to Dikea, 1684 1447 Alex – Dikea, was over 2 hours late and to add insult to injury OSE topped the train with our train loco, A455, to save a path; the whole tour having to watch it arrive at the station limits with the train, be detached, turned on the wye and then backed onto the train. The MAN DMU then continued to Dikea under its own power! I’m sure that had we known what was going on we could have found some road transport to get us out to the first shack to have it in, or even considered walking to the first shack; we had over 2 hours at Pythio before it arrived.
The run back to Alex with A455 had been well worth the wait and it was nothing short of cracking, way better than A467; loud, crisp and meaty with a decent MLW growl. The fact that we were late probably made for a better run and even though we were about 2 hours late into Alex Port and our early finish had been taken away, it had still been an excellent run and the fact that we didn’t start until 1152 the following morning more than made up for the late arrival.
Check-in at the Hotel Erika was simple, after our previous stay, and everything dumped we found a decent pizza place near the lighthouse in Alex and then bumbled around a few bars before settling on a decent one for the night. Some people were sensible that night; others not so much and the consequences felt the following morning…..
|DE33029||Tekirdag||Pythio||1030 Tekirdag – Pythio||85004||PTG Tour – TCDD DE33 – Via Muratli (RR)|
|A455||Pythio||Alexandroupoulis Port||1617 Pythio – Alexandroupoulis Port||7681||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
Gen for Tuesday 16th September 2014
A455 1684 1447 Alexandroupoulis – Dikea (drag DMU to Pythio)
PTG Tour Day 3
DE33029 85004 1030 Tekirdag – Pythio
A455 7681 1617 Pythio – Alexandroupoulis Port
Wednesday 17th September 2014 (What better MLW could anyone ask for?)
The was one member missing from breakfast that morning, this would be the same person that ended up throwing up on the balcony of the hotel due to Vic being in the shower at the time. Had a bit to drink had we sir….?
Those that stayed out did so until about 3am! Strangely Orpington was coaxed into staying with the “Ped Massive” and the result of that being the guy he was sharing with at his hotel having to sit outside until he returned to the hotel at some point after 0300; he’d not got a key to get in! Mark’s only words to Flossy as he walked past our compo that morning being “You’re a very dangerous man” followed by the compo door being closed. Any broken gen?
After breakfast, that only 6 of us managed, there was time to relax a little before the run straight down the main line to Thessalonica and the ecs was in quite early at Alex Port. The bonus of the day being that the MLW legend that was A456 was sat with it. The damn thing was a legend in its own right, renowned for being the loudest of the Greek MLWs, back in the day. Would it still be?
As we departed Alex another MLW hauled special would arrive 38 minutes later, with what was suspected to be A467, from Pythio. As we passed Alex shed A455 was noted paired up with A454 which only led to the assumption that A456 had arrived with A454 and that they’d worked the “Young Explorers Train” overnight from Thessalonica to Pythio as the train returned to Turkey; despite us being told that the train would be a pair of Adtranz the day before. That’s just 4 MLW’s on some form of passenger carrying train in the Alex area in less than 24 hours, working 5 different trains!
After the reversal at Alex A456 was wound up to do its stuff, like A467 & A455 it was slow to load up and had no transition but it was excellent and the loudest one we’d had. Those having sampled A456, in the past, confirmed that it wasn’t as loud as it had been but that it was still very good. The trash in the tunnels apparently being about as loud as it was in the good old days. What impressed me about A456 was the fact that when the power was eased back the engine seemed to regulate itself before bringing itself back in at whatever power the controller demanded; giving a cracking 12 cylinder Alco growl as it did so. To say I was suitably impressed was an understatement and most of the day was spent bellowing out of the window at the beast that was A456.
During the first photo-stop at Komotini we passed train 600 2355 Athens – Alexandroupoulis with Adtranz 220019 and after a quick stop at Toxote we then crossed MLW pair A469/A459 at Stavroupoulis, Alex bound with a decent sized freight.
We didn’t stop at Xanthi on the way to Thessalonica but the robbing bert from the station shop was out on the platform as we passed through; it was probably best for him that we didn’t! There were however photo-stops en-route at Drama, Lefkothea and Strimon and despite the journey taking 8 hours to Thessalonica there was no getting bored of the noise that A456 was making on the front of the train; what a cracking day.
MLW A461 was sat at the platform end as we arrived into Thessalonica and A501 had been on shed; most people on the train seemed to be hoping for the latter the following day, me included.
We were staying at the Hotel Anessis in Thessalonica, which was about a 10 minute walk from the station. While the rooms were ok everyone suffered the same issues on the first night, no AC and a stifling hot night. WiFi was free throughout the hotel and breakfast included in the room rate.
A trip to Greece wouldn’t be a trip to Greece without having eaten at a pointy-pointy restaurant, where the food has been laid out all day and is warmed up upon purchase. That’s exactly what we did that night and right outside the hotel too. The food was ok and cheap enough as well. With it being an 0740 start the following morning nobody wanted to venture far or drink much anyway so it more than sufficed before bed.
|A456||Alexandroupoulis Port||Thessalonica||1152 Alexandroupoulis Port – Thessalonica||7611||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
Gen for Wednesday 17th September 2014
220019 600 2355 (P) Athens – Alexandroupoulis
PTG Tour Day 4
A456 7611 1152 Alexandroupoulis Port – Thessalonica
Thursday 18th September 2014 (Disappointed but pleasantly surprised)
With a leisurely 15 minute walk to the station and getting a compo at the front of train to think about breakfast was ultimately dissed in the hotel. There was a little already laid out but the woman setting up was quite adamant that we weren’t touching it until after the 0700 start time. In the end the fresh air was a blessing as the AC in our room hadn’t worked overnight and it had been quite a hot night; it turned out everyone was in the same boat so hopefully my complaint to the front desk would rectify things while we were out during the day.
There were plenty of places to grab breakfast on the way to the station and as we clambered the steps to platform one the MLW for the day was just shunting down into the sidings over the far side of the station. As could have been predicted the previous night, A461 revealed itself out of the darkness and ultimately shunted the stock out and into a platform for all to join. Having only had three Greek MLW’s who wouldn’t be a little disappointed? Well it turned out that A461 was a bit of a machine, which certainly took away the fact that I’d resented it backing down that morning.
It wasn’t a particularly warm morning and it began to rain as we climbed away from Thessalonica, a theme for the morning it seemed and something that would ultimately put pay to us fulfilling everything track wise on this day! A461 hammered away up the lengthy climb towards Edessa, even though it was only on load 3, the need for noise outweighing the fact that it got colder as we climbed higher into the hills; who’s idea had it been not to bring a jacket!? Unfortunately by Florina it was absolutely hammering it down, making photograph taking a bit tricky without anything to keep the camera dry at all; where there’s a will, there’s a way though.
On departure from Florina the fun began as we tackled the forgotten line from Aminteo that ran towards Bitola in Macedonia. The line on the Greek side hadn’t seen any traffic for a very long time and despite OSE’s best, well actually halfhearted attempts, the vegetation along the trackside was ridiculously overgrown. A461 was slipping and sliding all the way to Neos Kaukasos when the driver had to slam on to stop, or was brought to a stand as some vegetation caught some cock or other beneath the train. The loco running boards were covered in tree debris by the time we got there and at one point we’d stopped with a tree branch protruding a few feet into the train, through our compo window! Any other country would have probably given the short journey up as a bad job and shoved the train back to whence it came! Perseverance did pay off in the end and for a journey we were time 15 minutes to do it actually took 1h15m!
After A461 had run round and photos were taken we returned to Aminteo, a little less precariously than we’d run up the branch, yet still lost further time. It was at that point that it was announced that we wouldn’t be traversing what remained of the Kozani line due to severe rainfall the previous day. OSE staff had allegedly assessed the line and deemed it not fit to run over; that at least cured our lateness issue and after waiting at Aminteo for a unit to head to Florina we were Edessa bound where we arrived only 40 late after being over 2 hours late at one point. The scenery round to Edessa, as the train climbed over the hills and skirted the hillsides, was better enjoyed after the rain had stopped and the sun actually began to make an appearance but food was the order of the afternoon and the planned 4 hour stop at Edessa for just that was used to the fullest.
After a lengthy walk we came across a decent place in town, with English menu’s and an English speaking waitress; the food was good too and all our time in Edessa was spent there before returning to the train for the evening run back into Thessalonica. A very good run it was too, A461 being one of the better engines of the trip thus far. As it was a late finish and we’d already eaten there was no messing about that night and thankfully the AC had allegedly been fixed at the hotel.
|A461||Thessalonica||Florina||0740 Thessalonica – Florina||7730||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|A461||Florina||Neos Kaukasos||1210 Florina – Neos Kaukasos||7780||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|A461||Neos Kaukasos||Aminteo||1255 Neos Kaukasos – Aminteo||7791||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|A461||Aminteo||Edessa||1502 Aminteo – Edessa||7721||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|A461||Edessa||Thessalonica||1940 Edessa – Thessalonica||7723||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
Gen for Thursday 18th September 2014
PTG Tour Day 5
A461 7730 0740 Thessalonica – Florina, 7780 1210 Florina – Neos Kaukasos, 7791 1255 Neos Kaukasos – Aminteo, 7721 1502 Aminteo – Edessa, 7723 1940 Edessa – Thessalonica
Friday 19th September 2014 (The end; unfortunately)
After a better night’s sleep, thanks to some working AC in the room, breakfast was quickly dealt with in the hotel before the morning stroll to the station; for what would be the last day of the tour to commence. As we’d done a compo swap the day before, to be at the correct end of the train for the majority of MLW thrash for the day, there wasn’t as much of a rush to get to the station. As we arrived A462 was just coming into the station to back onto the stock, which had already been shunted out of the sidings by shunter A125. This was the 6th MLW of the tour, way more than I’d ever expected to grace the tour with their presence, and there was still an opportunity for one more on the afternoon part of the tour; as we ran by Thessalonica shed that morning A205, A208, A453, A464 & A469 were all residing. The prime candidate from the bunch, if we did get a swap that afternoon, looked to be A469 as it was the right way round on shed already, the other MLWs were all short hood towards the station!
It was a straightforward morning out, simply a return trip to Idomeni on the Macedonian border with A462 doing the job with ease; it was good but not outstanding like A456 & A461 had been. Upon arrival at Idomeni the sun had come out to play and allowed for decent shots of A209, which was stabled in the bay platform at the north end of the station, and 120020, waiting in the platform to head over the border to collect the Belgrade – Thessalonica international train. Once 120020 disappeared over the border we had a bit of a delay waiting for another 120 to arrive from the Thessalonica direction before setting off back to Thessalonica ourselves; about 40 late.
On the approach to Thessalonica we passed A459 heading out of town with a freight. It had been in multi with A469 earlier in the week on the Alexandroupoulis line; A469 was still sat on shed. With three hours to kill everyone had plenty of time to do food and have a look round and we managed to get 7 bags into one locker at Thessalonica station for the bargain €2 before heading off. With the walk down to the restaurants by the waterfront being about 30 minutes some of us opted to eat on the main road, not too far from the station. It was another typically Greek meal with food being warmed to order but it was ok none-the-less.
During the downtime the OSE cleaning staff were tasked with cleaning off some graffiti from the top of one of the BDZ coaches, before sending the train back over the border. This graffiti had been added when the stock had been stabled in the far sidings a couple of nights previous; graffiti being all over Greek stock and units, clearly an issue that wasn’t under control within the country! Even the Indians would have bee proud of the way the Greeks went about getting up to the roof of the train to do the cleaning; using nothing but an A frame, with no step-ladders in sight! Even though he balanced precariously the guy managed to get the graffiti off and leave a gleaming clean patch on the roof; that didn’t draw your eyes to it at all. On the non-platform side of the train sitting on the window ledge, while leaning out to clean the roof, seemed to be the only way to do what was required. The fact there were overhead wires above the train didn’t seem to bother anyone at any point! Still the graffiti was gone before departure and of course, it just had to be, A469 was produced to work the last MLW hauled leg of the tour, back to Kulata in Bulgaria. It was only slightly annoying…….
A469 turned out to be one of the engines of the trip and while not being as loud as A456 the 12 cylinder MLW growl could be heard through the sheer noise when on full power; making it very enjoyable indeed. At Strimon the loco was run round, to head up the branch to Kulata. A455 was there with a freight and drawn into the station shortly after we arrived. The driver on it had been on the tour when it had been on the Alex line and positioned A455 by the side of our train for better photos. It turns out that said driver, by the name of Spiros, used to be at Pirgos back in the day and had given some of us a cab ride on A9101 from Pirgos to Kipparissia when it had been working a vice DMU turn; small world eh?
The run from Strimon to Kulata seemed to be over in no time and unfortunately, after having 7 different MLW’s on the tour, the Greek MLW’s could sink back into obscurity again and go back to working freight only. It had been 8 years since the last “doable” MLW hauled train in Greece, which as I’ve already mentioned was A461/A469, hopefully it wouldn’t be that long again until the next ones would be “doable”! As A469 disappeared back to it’s own country, and after the Bulgaria border control had been dealt with, the correctly advertised traction arrived into Kulata to work the last leg of the train back to Sofia; enter Sulzer “tat” 06029.
The 06 had been spotted by someone, en-route towards Kulata, so everyone knew it was coming anyway. The 1968 built machine certainly looked the part and was soon on the train ready to go. The guard, the same one we’d had up to Kulata on the way out, offered PTG an early finish in Sofia by missing out some of the stops, thankfully this option was taken and the relevant paperwork dealt with to allow it to happen. Without further delay off we set for Sofia, where we only stopped to cross trains on the single line sections and arrived into Sofia almost an hour early; which was a very welcome early arrival!
As we departed Kulata intrigue got the better of those of us that hadn’t had a Balkan based Sulzer before. The 06’s in Bulgaria and 60’s & 62’s in Romania have the same power units as Class 44’s in the UK but bizarrely have a tick-over more suited to a 6 cylinder Sulzer and sound similar when under power. Unfortunately the similarities end there and the noise produced by 06029 was somewhat frustrating, there seemed to be so much potential and no matter how much you willed the damn thing to give you what you wanted your ears to hear, it just didn’t; the sound being muffled and not sounding like it ever got to full power at all. A disappointment, and even more so after the top class engines we’d left behind in Greece. Maybe the Romanian ones would prove to be better?
En-route to Sofia we passed at least 4 hauled local trains on the route, three of which were hauled by 61’s; it had seemed like a good evening to have been trying to get 61’s in ex Sofia, unlike our attempts the day before the tour! Even so I wouldn’t be trying the following morning as we had plans to travel out to Varna, via Levski to get some 6 cylinder Sulzers in. After a quick pizza that night bed beckoned at the Hotel Sylvia again and everyone would be splitting up the following morning; Vic, Brigg & Dan going straight home, Flossy & Youth doing the NG at Septemvri before going home that night and Aidy & I going to Varna. The end of a very enjoyable week had come; I didn’t realize it at that point but the come down from it would actually put a downer on the remainder of my bash a little. The high of the MLW’s and the tour making the rest of the trip seem a little insignificant and I could have actually gone home then!
|A462||Thessalonica||Idomeni||0750 Thessalonica – Idomeni||7900||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|A462||Idomeni||Thessalonica||0920 Idomeni – Thessalonica||7901||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|A469||Thessalonica||Kulata||1400 Thessalonica – Kulata||7652||PTG Tour – OSE MLW A451|
|06029||Kulata||Sofia||1712 Kulata – Sofia||MBV1362||PTG Tour – BDZ 06 (Sulzer)|
Gen for Friday 19th September 2014
PTG Tour Day 6
A462 7900 0750 Thessalonica – Idomeni, 7901 0920 Idomeni – Thessalonica
A469 7652 1400 Thessalonica – Kulata
06029 MBV1362 1712 Kulata – Sofia
44002 50226 2124 Pernik – Sofia
44197 361 1530 Sofia – Thessalonica (to Kulata)
46243 50235 1800 Sofia – Dupnica
610xx 50223 2146 Sofia – Pernik
61006 50247 1825 Blagoevgrad – Petrich
61011 5611 1700 Sofia – Kulata