Multi Trip (Bulgaria – Serbia – Montenegro – Macedonia – Greece – Turkey – Bulgaria – Romania) September 2014
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 Centar (Skopje) – St.Istarska Str., 1000 Skopje, Macedonia (£103 for a twin room for two nights) – is about a 10 minute walk from Skopje station. The nice clean room was a very welcoming sight and everything was spotless. The AC worked fine and the water was piping hot, toiletries were provided in the bathroom and a decent sized flat screen TV was attached to the wall. WiFi was free and a decent signal too, yet full strength was only achievable in the corridor. There was absolutely no noise at all making its way into the room. Breakfast was included in our rate and started at 0700.
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 Aqua (Varna) – 12 Devnya St., 9000 Varna City, Bulgaria (£25 for a twin and £20 for a single room for one night) – overlooks the station and is only a couple of minute walk from the side exit at Varna, being visible from the platforms. Check-in was simple and I even booked a room for the following night before we went to the room; through Booking.com while at the counter as it was cheaper than the hotel’s own rates. The room was spacious, clean, had toiletries provided, along with AC and free WiFi.
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.
Booked through Ibis direct
Ibis Gara De Nord (Bucharest) – 143, Calea Grivitei Sector 1 Bucharest, Romania (€110.40 for a single room for three nights) – just down the road from Bucharest Nord, out of the left hand side of the station (as you walk towards the buffer stops from the trains), down the steps, over the small square and it’s about 100m up the road on the right; I have to say I was surprised at the size of the place, and how grand it looked. The first room I was given had a constant noise from the AC units so I was moved, when I asked, to another room which had two large double beds. This room was quiet, had all the Ibis mod-cons and the WiFi was free throughout the hotel. Food in the hotel’s restaurant was cheap, fresh and very good.
Booked through EU Rail
Inter Rail one country pass Bulgaria (6 Days) – £93
Bought at Sofia Railway Station from Rila International ticket office
Balkan Flexi Pass (10 Days) – Lev 302
Booked through Wasteels at Belgrade via e-mail (reservations only); these were given to us in person at Belgrade station by the owner himself
12432 1805 Belgrade – Bar (2 berth sleeper)
12433 1700 Bar – Velika Plana (2 berth sleeper)
337 0931 Velika Plana – Skopje (seat reservation)
Saturday 6th September 2014 (Who went and booked the stupid o’clock flight?)
Having had a thoroughly good day out with 31271 & 31466 at the Mid Hants Gala I went back to Ladywell with Aidy afterwards for a relaxing evening; which included a decent meal and a derance before heading back out into the big wide world on the last unit from Ladywell to Waterloo East. Our crap flight to Sofia was at 0530 the following morning and rather than do a bus to Victoria later we opted for training it the whole way to Gatwick instead. There were some sights at Clapham while we festered but we were at Gatwick by 0130 and through security a little after 0230; sat festering in the waiting area, kind of wishing we hadn’t been where we were and at the time we were and with only another three overnights to follow……..
Sunday 7th September 2014 (Eastern Europe; welcome to the hard way to crank)
I was told by Aidy that our plane had taken off 25 minutes late due to the buses having to make two runs from the terminal. I could understand how it would delay us as it was a long enough run when we’d done it. While I wasn’t asleep for take-off I was only vaguely aware we’d left the stand and never really opened my eyes the whole way to Sofia! Not the best flight plan I’d ever come up with but it was a bargain compared to anything else on offer at the time; so stupid o’clock from Gatwick it was.
Upon landing in Sofia the jacket was immediately put away as it was 23 degrees. We’d been warned about taxi touts wanting to charge tourists around 25 Euros to get into town from the airport, and also that it should cost around 8 Euros to do the journey. Immediately outside the arrivals, in front of us and to the right, was Ok Taxi’s airport desk. We asked how much for a taxi to Sofia station and were quoted “around 7 Euros” and then escorted to the taxi at the head of the queue outside the airport’s entrance. With no meter and after a 20 minute journey we were asked for BGN15 (15 Bulgarian Lev), having been dropped at the bus station; right next door to the railway station.
Sofia station was a building site, with its already concrete façade looking even more untidy as we approached and once in the confined of the station booking hall it was like taking a step back into the 70’s. There were plenty of places to buy snacks but it wasn’t immediately evident where to buy tickets.
The main, and only booking office, is downstairs beneath the concourse. You can buy every type of ticket you want there apart from what we wanted. Having figured that out in pigeon English we were sent back upstairs and eventually found out from the tourist information office that International tickets are sold at Rila’s office, which is actually BDZ’s International Ticket agent. Their office is in a corner of the station tucked out of the way but if you enter the station by the main entrance and turn left and follow the wall right to the end you’ll come across it as you’re about to exit the station buildings.
The lady inside was very helpful and spoke good English so getting what we needed became a whole lot easier. I needed a 10 Day Balkan Flexi Pass which was served up to me in no time. I had to pay the BGN302 in cash so had to withdraw the money from one of the two cash machines below the main station arrival/departure screens. Having got the tickets the reservations we needed for 292 2030 Sofia – Belgrade were soon printed; which was music to our ears. We’d attempted to get all our required reservations in the UK through DB in the UK; who managed to be able to do Skopje to Sofia, via Nis, reservations but couldn’t manipulate the system to be able to book us Sofia to Belgrade berths, hence us being where we were at that point in time; just hoping that there was room on the train. As it turned out, the very nice lady serving us booked us two lower berths in a 6 berth compartment, and picked an empty one for us. The grand total of 6 Euro’s was payable for each international reservation and Aidy booked an internal couchette from Varna to Sofia for just 4 Euros; the latter being booked downstairs in the BDZ booking hall at the highest numbered window on the right hand side as you look at them all.
In possession of everything we now needed to get around Bulgaria we were then officially on the bash and proceeded onto the platform to flag 44082 on 2615 1300 Sofia – Varna, in favour of what we considered to be a better move in doing 8613 1325 Sofia – Burgas to Iskar for 8610 Burgas – Sofia back in.
Blue and yellow 46211 produced for 8613 with a short-ish load of about 5 and promptly delivered us to Iskar for what turned out to be a three hour fester for 44185 back with 1624 1325 Plovdiv – Sofia. We hadn’t initially realised but once we’d figured out what was going on with the lateness to trains arriving into Sofia from Burgas/Varna via Plovdiv it soon started to make sense. The prior knowledge from ERG postings and reading of the posted timetables at Iskar, along with some amendments, all in the local lingo, it appeared that everything arriving from Burgas/Varna would be up to 3 hours late due to the daily closures of the line between Dimitrovgrad & Plovdiv resulting in trains being diverted. This would also explain why we’d seen a train on the arrivals board when we’d got to Sofia, just the 150 minutes late. Bizarrely when we got back into Sofia off 1624, which was spot on time, we found 8610 to be 150 late on the arrivals screen!
Iskar has very little to offer anyone festering for three hours. We saw Sulzer 55192 head off down some branch just beyond the station limits light engine and then return light engine about an hour later and the only other hauled train we saw was a freight that terminated in Iskar sidings hauled by BDZ Cargo 44123 with 43511 dead inside. We’d actually initially thought that 43511 had failed and 44123 had gone to rescue it and assumed that this was the reason for the delay; until the next train in was an EMU heading to Sofia from Plovdiv that should have been behind 8610.
As always Haribo saved the day and stemmed off the hunger until we got back to Sofia, where snacks were on tap; and very cheap! Our next planned move at the time of day we were now at was to see what would work 5611 1700 Sofia – Kulata; which quite a few folks had reported as being a 61, centre cabbed shunting device, recently, and bugger me if it was. 61002 was already sat on the train waiting to go when we walked up to the front so our move was decided and we did 61002 to Gorna Banja, where the line climbs out of the station at about 1:45; which we assumed might tax the BDZ Cargo 06 that we should have to Kulata the following week. We discussed these fact over a coffee from the station buffet while waiting for the next EMU back into Sofia; which turned up 7 minutes early and with the numbers 31407/31408 on two of its cars.
In Sofia we grabbed a few snacks before checking the arrivals board, from which we figured out that we could do a quick move to Sofia Sever thanks to 2612 1105 Varna – Sofia, via Levski, being 35 late. 44197 was at the head of 382 1845 Sofia – Moscow, our train out, and while waiting we were soon regretting not waiting at Gorna Banja for the next train into Sofia when 61004 came rolling in with load 5! On the BZD website it doesn’t give what type of train 5622 1610 Blageovgrad – Sofia is so we’d wrongly assumed it would be an EMU; only a small schoolboy error on our behalf there. While getting over that error we were treated to a freight passing through the back of the station headed by BR Blue 87004 and tailed by BDZ Cargo green/yellow liveried 87029. We’d already seen green/yellow liveried 87026 pass through dead inside a freight earlier in the afternoon so that was three sightings for the day.
Back at Sofia we were in need of some decent food but didn’t really find any as most of the places by the bus station were closed so we ended up over the other side of the tram tracks and at a shop on the main road there, which sold everything from crisps and pop to pizza and beers; so a few slices of pizza and a couple of beers for the train it was and all for minimal price.
Back on the station imagine how withered we were to find shunting device 61004 preparing to be buffered up to the stock to work the three coach train that was 292 2030 Sofia – Belgrade. The Staropramen beers went down a treat that evening and even more so when Aidy figured out that 61004 had been topped by BDZ Cargo 44068, which must have been prior to departure from Sofia, and that both had pantographs up and were working!
Unfortunately Aidy decided to step off the train at Dragoman to find out what our bonus 44 was on the front; much to the Serbian customs and border protection staff’s amusement; who thankfully didn’t quiz him too much as he re-boarded. Between Dragoman in Bulgaria and Dimitrovgrad in Serbia the train was taken to pieces by the Serbian customs. While all that was taking place everyone was processed at Katolina Zapad, which is where the Serb’s have their border post set up. I managed to get the first European stamp I’d ever had in my passport while the non-Europeans had to get their visas in order; thankfully a lot of that processing was done after we’d left and their passports handed back after we’d arrived into Dimitrovgrad.
At Katolina Zapad I thought the coach we were in was actually going to burn out and set alight; I’d never seen as much smoke coming from bogies, without a flame being visible! The crew on 44123 parked in the adjacent loop, as we arrived, seemed to have the same concerns as me and were immediately out of their cab to investigate once we’d stopped right by them. Thankfully the smoke soon dissipated as the wheels cooled during our standing time and the issue appeared to just have been rubbing brakes; it was a bloody good job we hadn’t been bowling along at the time though as the outcome could well have been different. Had we been in the situation that our coach had to be knocked out though there was plenty of room in the Serbian sleeper coach next door, which had just the one occupant! If I’m correct it seems that BDZ can only sell berths in their couchette coach and SZ can only sell berths in their coach. I actually checked and it turns out DB had booked us into the BDZ coach from Nis to Sofia so it didn’t make sense really that they couldn’t manage to book us into the same from Sofia? Either way all was well when we departed Katolina Zapad, albeit about 30 late.
At Dimitrovgrad I walked down the inside of the train to the front to check out the loco change. The train wasn’t wedged at all. As I’ve already said the ZS sleeper was a waste of time being on the train and even the open compartment coach at the front had plenty of room. In the front vestibule there was a lot of commotion surrounding the panels of the coach in that particular vestibule end; one customs guys was undoing the roof panels and taking photos inside to check if there was anything hidden that was being smuggled into Serbia from Bulgaria. The same guy wouldn’t let me onto the platform at Dimitrovgrad either, I was guessing as he hadn’t finished checking the train over thoroughly as he then went outside and proceeded to take the coach battery boxes to pieces. As a result I watch the loco change take place through the glass at the front vestibule.
444068/61004 both went off to the headshunt but returned separately into the adjacent loop to then stand about 5 feet apart from each other. 661157, as it turned out to be, then shunted out of the adjacent platform and dropped onto the train. Once the customs guys had finished their checks the people wanting to board the train at Dimitrovgrad were then allowed to board. Unfortunately 661157 wasn’t given a great deal out of Dimitrovgrad, either that or it was dire? Either way we didn’t stay up to bellow as only just over 4 hours doss was available to us after we departed Dimitrovgrad, still 30 late, so we settled into our personal sleeper cabin and got dossed out; it didn’t take long let me tell you and when the alarm went off at 0205 I wondered where the hell I was!
|455704||Waterloo||Clapham Junction||0009 Waterloo – Guildford||455704/724|
|377435||Clapham Junction||Gatwick Airport||0100 Victoria – Three Bridges||377435/445 via Redhill|
|G-EZFB||Gatwick North Terminal||Sofia||0550 Gatwick – Sofia||EZY8973||Easy Jet|
|46211||Sofia||Iskar||1325 Sofia – Burgas||8613||BDZ 46|
|44185||Iskar||Sofia||1325 Plovdiv – Sofia||1624||BDZ 44|
|61002||Sofia||Gorna Banja||1700 Sofia – Kulata||5611||BDZ 61 (shunter)|
|31007||Gorna Banja||Sofia||1705 Pernik – Sofia||50218||EMU|
|44197||Sofia||Sofia Sever||1845 Sofia – Moscow||382||BDZ 44|
|44127||Sofia Sever||Sofia||1105 Varna – Sofia||2612||BDZ 44|
|44068||Sofia||Dimitrovgrad||2030 Sofia – Belgrade||292||BDZ Cargo 44068 / BDZ 61002 in tandem to Dimitrovgrad for ZS 661157 forward|
Gen for Sunday 7th September 2014
(Other than in the moves above)
44082 2615 1300 Sofia – Varna
44169 1625 1530 Sofia – Plovdiv
61004 5622 1610 Blagoevgrad – Sofia, 292 2030 Sofia – Belgrade (in tandem with BDZ Cargo 44068 to Dimitrovgrad)
Note: trains coming into Sofia from Burgas/Varna via Plovdiv were a minimum of 150 late due to current engineering works in the Plovdiv area.
Monday 8th September 2014 (We should have learnt our lesson the previous day!)
As crazy as it might seem we hadn’t originally planned to get off 292 at Lapovo but due to the fact that someone had seen a 641 shunting device working the 0325 Lapovo – Kraljevo recently we though it seemed like a good idea at the time, to get off and do the train to Kragujevac for 12432 Bar – Belgrade back to Belgrade, which was of course being worked by 661’s from Kraljevo to Lapovo while the train was being diverted due to the direct route still being closed after the flooding earlier in the year.
We’re all full of those good ideas but when a DMU rolled into the platform to form the 0325 to Kraljevo we soon re-evaluated our plans and watched it leave in favour of doing 334 Thessalonika – Belgrade overnight forward to Rakovica for the 0350 Lapovo – Belgrade stopper in behind it. More best laid plans that sounded good at the time, until the 0350 ex Lapovo presented itself with an EMU and the Thessalonkia – Belgrade was wedged and we ended up sitting on fold down seats in the OSE coach at the front of the train, as opposed to standing in the vestibule of the ZS coaches and contracting cancer through passive smoking! Things wouldn’t have been too bad had the journey taken the 2 hours it was supposed to, instead of the three it did due to the line speed being crap north of Lapovo. Things also wouldn’t have been too bad had the coach not been freezing as the air-con was doing overtime, but for a change everything seemed to work on the coach, even if it was graffiti’d quite well outside. Finally things wouldn’t have been too bad had we not arrived into Belgrade at 0630, just under 60 late, freezing cold and tired; having got off a nice warm train after vacating an empty sleeping berth some 4 hours earlier!
In hindsight doing 444006 on 6730 0340 Lapovo – Smederovo, with its own first class sleeping coach might well have rewarded us with more doss. What probably wouldn’t though would have been 2951 0335 Lapovo – Nis, worked by 441420 on load two, as it was quite full when it departed anyway. We were where we were though and 441752 had delivered us to Belgrade with just enough time to get a coffee before heading off on a decent morning’s bash; another of those plans that delivered absolutely nothing it promised, all of which could have actually been figured out beforehand had we put our mind to it; our tired, hungry minds!
444009 had been sat in platform 1, waiting to depart with EC272 0645 Belgrade – Zurich, as we’d arrived and was on time at Nova Pazova when we lighted to do 742 0715 Belgrade – Subotica behind it, forward to Indija. From there we’d be able to observe 3403 0723 Novi Sad – Belgrade local, which if it turned up with an EMU we could simply do IC541 0545 Subotica – Belgrade back into the Serbian capital behind it. A nice little move that could offer up four engines but three would be perfectly acceptable. 1h40m later we’d managed one loco and spent all our time waiting at Nova Pazova; watching units depart on locals, trying to keep the annoying station dogs away from our bags and where the station waiting room smelt as though the dogs spent every night, which was inhabited only by a sleeping kitten on one of the benches during the time we were there! Serbia got itself off to much the same crappy start as Bulgaria had done less than 18 hours previous!
We didn’t think much of the fact that there wasn’t any stock in at Belgrade, to form 742 0715 Belgrade – Subotica, as we departed. When we eventually worked out that the train wasn’t going to turn up, ever, we’d figured out that it conveyed through coaches and couchettes off the Bar overnight. This is all very good and well when the train was running in its booked path, arriving into Belgrade at 0601, of course with it currently being diverted and not arriving until 1007 there wasn’t any stock for 742 so logically there wasn’t a need to run it. A note on the booking office window indicated that due to the Bar trains being re-timed the stock from it would go to Novi Sad on IC546 1115 Belgrade – Novi Sad instead; of course I could have completely misconstrued what I was attempting to read but that’s what I took from the notice. Maybe had we been more awake, and had more time at Belgrade to wake up and figure out why there hadn’t been any other stock in the platforms to form B742 then maybe we could have prevented the rather long fester we endured. The station master must have wondered what the hell we were doing as every time an EMU departed his station would then have him, us, three dogs and a cat left behind; and we were definitely the odd ones out in that equation and we came to the conclusion that two of the dogs were gay……..
Thankfully IC541 0545 Subotica – Belgrade didn’t prolong our crap morning and was into Nova Pazova early, with 444017 dragging 444015 dead inside and two. Back at Belgrade more bad news was set to follow though as we found Wasteels office closed. Wasteels are an agency that can book train tickets and reservations from Serbia or Montenegro and hold the tickets for you to collect on your arrival into Belgrade. Aidy had been in touch with Mr Popovich, who runs the Wasteels show in Belgrade, and had passed on the details of all the required reservations we needed, along with his credit card details; yet by the time we left the country no money had left his account which left us fearing the worst at this point; we were straight to the International Booking window in the station’s booking hall and amazingly in possession of two reservations for 12433 1805 Belgrade – Bar that night in a 2 berth sleeper coach for the sum of RSD4780 (Serbian Dinar), approx. 45 Euros the woman serving told us. Unfortunately though she couldn’t book us return berths from Bar the following night and told us we’d have to do them in Bar when we arrived.
Pleased with our latest reservation booking we had omelets for breakfast at the station restaurant before hoping for more joy with the next move we’d come up with, which involved doing EN414 1100 Belgrade – Zurich out to somewhere for IC546 1115 Belgrade – Novi Sad to its destination and returning to Belgrade with the return working; IC547 1415 Novi Sad – Belgrade. ZS had other ideas when they utilized one of the four locos we’d had in the country, 441752, to work IC546!
Plan re-thunk we still did 441039 to Novi Belgrade on EN414 but then decided it would be fun to try and get from Novi Belgrade to Rakovica by tram, in an attempt to make 2902 0735 Nis – Belgrade, which had been viewed as hauled very recently and posted as so on ERG.
We’d managed to get an out of date public transport map from the tourist information window at Belgrade and had the whole journey to Novi Belgrade trying to understand it. We figured out that we had to do any tram from Novi Belgrade back to Belgrade station and change to Tram Route 3 to get to Rakovica. We had no idea how long this was going to take but had about 90 minutes to get to Rakovica.
The tram stop at Novi Belgrade is underneath the railway station and while it took a moment to figure out which direction the tram would go and which track the tram travelling in the right direction would come on we chose correctly; the one heading in the opposite direction to that in which we’d just arrived and on the furthest track from the station steps leading down to the tram stop.
As there were no ticket machines or anything on the tram platform we just go on and sat down. Locals were scanning their cards on a reader, exactly the same as oyster cards, but there was no evidence to suggest how we should pay. Then on got two grippers, who didn’t seem to understand where we were heading and that we actually needed tickets and who got off as promptly as they’d boarded, at the very next stop! It was only then that an English speaking guy approached us and then pointed us to the correct tram stop outside Belgrade station to get tram No.3 forward to Rakovica. Basically the No.3 trams come down the hill from town and turn left in front of Belgrade station and stop at the stop furthest on the right, outside the station front. As we got off our number 7 tram from Novi Belgrade this was about 100 yards directly in front of us, over the busy road junction.
Still without a ticket we boarded the next No.3 tram and were on our way to Rakovica. While enjoying our rather empty tram we managed to find the gen on tickets on the very same map we’d planed our journey on! Apparently single journeys on all public transport, bus & tram, in Belgrade was a flat fare of RSD72, the tickets for which you could buy at various places around town. If you boarded a tram without a ticket though you had to pay the driver RSD150. Oooops……… At least we were aware that we’d completely and utterly effed it at that point though but as we were only a few minutes from Rakovica we chose not to hassle the driver and possibly give him more work to do; and just let things be. I guess the just reward there was the fact that we managed to get off at the stop before Rakovica, as soon as we spotted the station, not realizing at that point that there was a stop right outside the station itself. Luckily it was only a short walk. We were on the platform at Rakovica 58 minutes after departing Belgrade on EN414 at 1100. The journey from Novi Belgrade to Belgrade took 10 minutes and the one from Belgrade to Rakovica took 20 minutes. The trams are quite heritage, as you’d expect in Eastern Europe, but there were some newer ones thrown in amongst the older stuff, albeit not many.
Rakovica saw a bit of traffic while we sat and pondered what to do next with 444029 just departing as we got onto the platform, 444010 then running through light before 61119 drew in with a petroleum train and before we departed 441510 came through dragging 461205, the same combination having arrived into Belgrade earlier with 12432, 1007 arrival from Bar, and obviously having been run round each other again to go off to wherever they were going.
441749 was only about 30 late with 2902 0735 Nis – Belgrade, on load two, although I’m not actually convinced that the train was 2902 at all and I say this as when we departed Belgrade 5 minutes after arriving on the 1325 Belgrade – Rakovica we passed a train heading into Belgrade with load two and then later found 441420 at the head of the 1530 Belgrade – Nis. We’d seen 441420 at Lapovo with the 0335 Lapovo – Nis, which according to recent ERG posts would end up at Belgrade off 2902. We’d seen every other arrival from Nis that day and hadn’t seen 441420. We’d also seen the screens outside showing 2900 0315 Nis – Belgrade as being 2275, which I actually thought probably meant 275, late. At 275 late 2900 would have been into Rakovica at approx. 1300; which was right about the time 441749 rolled in. It was announced as a Nis to Belgrade too so I’m thinking that 441749 was actually the late running 2900 0315 Nis – Belgrade and 441420 was what we passed when departing Belgrade on the 1325 back to Rakovica, just running about 45 late.
We actually had a stroke of luck when arriving into Belgrade off whatever train it was we’d actually done from Rakovica as we noticed a loco baking down onto one coach as we were rolling in; from a distance. On a normal day many might have dismissed it as an ecs as there were no people on board the one first class compartment coach that 444001 had been coupled to. Our inquisitiveness soon revealed that the departure screens had the 1325 Belgrade – Rakovica as departing from platform 8 and the guard stood at the back coach confirmed it to be the case so we had a nice relaxing journey straight back out to Rakovica in an empty first class coach; which was in quite good condition as well.
After we’d got off at Rakovica 444001 took its coach and did one; meanwhile we sat on a station bench to await its return. It did so loaded with railway workers so the train’s very existence must be to ferry workers from somewhere or other just the other side of Rakovica, strangely though there is only a one way journey in a morning, the 0735 Rakovica – Belgrade and no outbound corresponding working at all. Everyone waiting on the platform boarded immediately but any ideas of getting a photo before it departed were blown away when we were given the tip 4 minutes early!
The early departure from Rakovica at least meant a right time arrival into Belgrade, where 441420 was already sat waiting to depart with 2905 1530 Belgrade – Nis. This was probably the fullest train we’d been on all day and we had to stand in the vestibule to Topcider, the station between Belgrade & Rakovica. There was a 1548 EMU back into Belgrade according to the timetable but the gesture the station master made to us, shaking his finger as though it wasn’t running then pointing to the tram stop across the road, had us on another tram back into Belgrade instead. Even though we now knew the score with ticketing we just got on and sat down, bracing ourselves for the changing when we stopped half way to town, at a station where there were 4 ticket inspectors; thankfully none joined our tram and we went on our merry way without incident. The journey took 12 minutes and we walked onto the station to watch the 1548 EMU from Topcider roll into the platform 5 minutes later!
Even though it was a bit late in the afternoon to be risking anything stupid there were actually two trains we could have done out to Novi Belgrade for a tram back, or even EN415 Zurich – Belgrade back in, arriving at 1732 if it wasn’t late. In the end we settled for doing neither as 441001 had been shunt released to do 6096 1615 Belgrade – Stara Pazova and 441752, which had worked back into Belgrade on IC547 1415 Novi Sad – Belgrade, was also shunt released to work IC540 1645 Belgrade – Subotica.
While sat eat our food at the station restaurant 441753 arrived, which actually stumped us for a while but it then sank in that 3407 1517 Novi Sad – Belgrade had ran; this being the train that conveys the through sleeping cars for the Bar overnight, which we’d assumed wouldn’t run after the morning outbound hadn’t. We could have done this back into Belgrade from Novi Belgrade had we realised it ran. After the stock for the Bar was shunted onto the overnight in platform 6, 441753 was then shunt released and dropped back down to work 2402 1800 Belgrade – Subotica.
Something rather strange occurred while we were trying to find some snacks for the journey in that a random guy approached us as we walked across the front of the station; this turned out to be Mr Popovich from Wasteels. Apparently he’d e-mailed Aidy two days previous to arrange to meet at the platform end to hand over all our required reservations; of course we’d been out of the country since 0530 of two days previous, with no access to WiFi! He’d got all the tickets together and had already taken the money from Aidy’s account so we now had an extra ticket for two berths on the Belgrade – Bar overnight; 30 minutes before the train departed!
Having thanked Mr Popovich for his time we headed straight for the booking office, of course while chuntering bit about what had just happened. While Aidy went for snacks I attempted to get a refund at the International ticket desk; where we’d bought the ticket that very morning. Unfortunately they would only give a 50% refund and I was sent down to the furthest window from the International one to have the ticket cancelled; the next problem then being, after I was handed back RSD2390, was getting rid of it! That problem was immediately solved by exchanging it for Euros at the counter just inside the front entrance to the station; on the right hand side as you walk out of the station. €20 was handed over immediately and we were on our way to the train moments later; having done a little more running around than was needed at that point, and fuck me if it then didn’t start to absolutely hammer it down. It wasn’t too bad as our coach was the very rear one, with only the motor-rail carrier behind it; unfortunately the engine was 9 coaches in front of ours and I was soaked by the time I got back to the rear of the train. It didn’t help that the doors were locked in the middle of the train either, which resulted in me having to get out and walk down the platform on the way back instead of keeping dry on board the train.
ZS 461011 eased us out of the station bang on time but was immediately stopped by the emergency braked being dropped; we then watched some young lass being marched down the ballast by the station master to her coach! The driver was getting a bit impatient at this point; obvious by his horn blowing. Once we set off again the order of the evening was then to relax in our spacious 2 berth non air conditioned compartment. It was steaming, especially with the storm that was passing over, which also prevented the opening windows from being down by any more than an inch. Even when they could be pulled down, after the rain had stopped, Aidy did so while my trousers were the nearest thing to it and bearing in mind the bed was higher than the bottom of the window I was very lucky not to have watched my trousers being sucked out of the window; which would have been closely followed by Aidy after them as my wallet, passport and train tickets were in the pockets! The only thing I would have had would have been the Bulgarian Inter Rail Pass that the sleeper attendant had filed away in his compartment to hand back to us at Bar the following morning; which would be absolutely useless to me at that point!
I spent the evening trying to get this very report up to date while Aidy spent it snoring on the lower berth. As it was dark and I was comfortable I didn’t bother paying attention to the route we took to Velika Plana but really should have done as the train is right away from Rakovica and can take either the main route via Palanka or the chutney route via Mala Krsna; judging by the timings and the time it was given to Lapovo I’m going to assume it was routed via the latter, the journey taking over 3 hours to do.
Had we had our wits about us and our man of steel boots on we could have got off at Velika Plana for 444006 on 6735 1915 Smederovo – Lapovo; which we overtook and then watched arrive while we were sat at Lapovo during our booked engine change. It was actually run round and sat waiting to go back north with 6736 2125 Lapovo – Smederovo before our 661 had even buffered up!
Aidy went hunting the new engine at Lapovo and returned to confirm that 661155 was now the train engine and that 461011 had been left on the train dead inside the 661. At Kragujevac we passed 661314, which seemed to be heading in the same direction as us, running and with a crew in it. Even though we were 10 coaches from the engine 661155 could be heard as we set off and it sounded loads better than 661157 we’d had from Dimitrovgrad to Nis the previous night. I wasn’t going to stay up any longer to bellow though; I had an appointment with a bed that was long overdue and needed absolutely no help to get to sleep that night.
|444013||Nis||Lapovo||2030 (07/09) Sofia – Belgrade||292||ZS 444|
|441752||Lapovo||Belgrade||1452 (07/09) Thessaloniki – Belgrade||334||ZS 441|
|444009||Belgrade||Nova Pazova||0645 Belgrade – Praha Hlavni Nadrazi||EC272||ZS 444|
|444017||Nova Pazova||Belgrade||0545 Subotica – Belgrade||IC541||ZS 444|
|441039||Belgrade||Novi Belgrade||1100 Belgrade – Zurich HB||EN414||ZS 441|
|Tram||Novi Belgrade||Belgrade||Tram #389 on Route #7||Tram|
|Tram||Belgrade||Rakovica||Tram #654 on Route #3||Tram|
|441749||Rakovica||Belgrade||0735 Nis – Belgrade||2902||ZS 441|
|444001||Belgrade||Rakovica||1325 Belgrade – Rakovica||6903||ZS 444 – Load 1|
|444001||Rakovica||Belgrade||1450 Rakovica – Belgrade||6904||ZS 444 – Load 1|
|441420||Belgrade||Topcider||1530 Belgrade – Nis||2905||ZS 441|
|Tram||Topcider||Belgrade||Tram #620 on Route #3||Tram|
|461011||Belgrade||Lapovo||1805 Belgrade – Bar||12433||ZS 461011 to Lapovo then ZS 661155 dragging 461011 dead to Kraljevo where both removed|
Gen for Monday 8th September 2014
(Other than in the moves above)
444001 6096 1615 Belgrade – Stara Pazova (load 1)
444006 6730 0340 Lapovo – Smederovo, 6735 1915 Smederovo – Lapovo, 6736 2125 Lapovo – Smederovo (load 1)
441066 341 2220 (P) Budapest Keleti – Belgrade
441420 2951 0335 Lapovo – Nis, 2902 0735 Nis – Belgrade
441510 (461205 dit) 12432 1700 (P) Bar – Belgrade
441752 IC546 1115 Belgrade – Novi Sad, IC545 1415 Novi Sad – Belgrade, IC540 1645 Belgrade – Subotica
441753 3407 1517 Novi Sad – Belgrade, 2402 1800 Belgrade – Subotica
EMU 412030 2990 0350 Lapovo – Belgrade
EMU’s seen on the following:
3404 0815 Belgrade – Novi Sad
3406 1015 Belgrade – Novi Sad
2400 1300 Belgrade – Novi Sad
3401 0600 Novi Sad – Belgrade
3403 0723 Novi Sad – Belgrade
2203 0605 Sid – Belgrade
2202 0840 Belgrade – Sid
3906 1341 Pozarevac – Belgrade
2990 0350 Lapovo – Belgrade
2903 0720 Belgrade – Nis
742 0715 Belgrade – Subotica doesn’t run at the moment; probably as the stock for it comes off the overnight from Bar as through coaches? Through coaches are added to IC546 1115 Belgrade – Novi Sad instead.
Trains generally lose approx. 40 minutes between Lapovo & Belgrade due to slow running.
Tuesday 9th September 2014 (Welcome to Montenegro)
The first thing that I knew about the following morning was when Aidy was waking me to tell me he couldn’t get out of the compartment. He was going to see what occurred during the engine change at Kraljevo. Having lent over and twisted the lock firmly, I managed to open the door for him in seconds; apparently he’d been trying for about 5 minutes, had something in the slot trying to twist it open, tried to use the call attendant button and had even tried booting the door open! My earplugs rule by the way. To be fair to Aidy the lock mechanism was a bit stiff and I did struggle to get it open myself later in the morning.
The compartment related door issues weren’t the only ones Aidy had while trying to get to the front of the train to spot the loco change at Kraljevo; he told me the following morning that he couldn’t walk through the train as all the vestibule end doors were chained up and to get out of the coach he had to unchain the door as well. Neither ZS nor ZCG seemed to be big up on safety with that one as had we actually managed to get out of our compartment in a fire we’d then got a further two doors to negotiate before reaching fresh air and potential safety; I’d have been out of the window in the compartment as it seemed to be the only thing in our coach that opened quickly and easily but for the bog door! Bless him, Aidy had to run back down the ballast to get into the rear coach once 461155 had replaced 661155 and the dead 461011 at Kraljevo; before being left behind and he’d very recently had an operation on his foot which had almost stopped him doing the trip full stop!
The next disturbance in the morning was the passport checks as we departed Serbia at Prijepolje Teretna. Thankfully it was a quick affair and sleep wasn’t disturbed that much at all. When the Montenegro border police joined the train at Bijelo Polje to do their stuff though sleep was disturbed a little more and I almost averted a disaster when I realised the guy was about to put an entry stamp in one of the two empty pages I have left in my passport; these were needed for my next Indian visa, that I would be getting very shortly after returning from this trip; thankfully I wasn’t actually needing to apply for a new passport as well and once I’d explained to him why I didn’t want that particular page stamping he just handed my passport back and didn’t stamp it at all!
After another hour’s sleep we decided to surface at around 0800 and having opened the compartment door we were soon in awe of the fantastic scenery that people comment about when travelling by the Belgrade – Bar overnight train. As the sun was still trying to elevate itself in the sky it hadn’t quite burnt off the morning mist that lingered in the mountains as we sailed through them on our train. By the time we reached Podgorica though, having dropped down the other side of the range, the sun was blazing down and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. We were about 30 late and joined most of the rest of the train as we alighted at Podgorica.
With over two hours to kill we attempted to get breakfast from the restaurant on the station but were told the kitchen wouldn’t be open for at least 30 minutes so after a quick coffee we used the same route to get to the depot that all the locals were using to get from one side of Podgorica to the other; straight over the tracks at the Bar end of the station. There was always a constant flow of people so we didn’t stand out at all.
As we crossed the tracks 644015 departed south with a freight and was duly photted in the glorious sunshine. Nobody bothered us at all as we investigated the two scrap lines on the shed, which consisted of 661273, 642174, 744005 & 744006 as well as 643050, 661142, 661269, 642024, 661315 & 642173; note numbers listed as south to north (Bar to Belgrade end) and are in two different lines. On the fuel/service road were 644007 & 644024, which never moved all day, and over the back of the shed were ZCG Cargo 461044 & passenger 461033. We didn’t go down to the south end (Bar end) of the shed but noticed 3xBosnian 770xxx and a 661 dumped in the yard at that end and also found Bosnian 770050 (also carrying No. 3356) in the wagon sidings just to the south of the station, on the right hand side of the tracks (opposite side to the shed).
Back at the station the kitchen at the station restaurant didn’t open until it was just too late for us to contemplate using it so we settled for some very good freshly made pastries from a place inside the station booking hall; and a bargain they were at 60 Euro cents each.
During our time at Podgorica we saw two arrivals off the Niksic line and both were new EMU’s. 152 1020 Bar – Podgorica arrived with EMU 412050; which ultimately stayed out all day. Having passed 6100 0525 Bar – Bijelo Polja in the mountains that morning we were pleased to see 461043 arrive into Podgorica with the return working; 6103 0901 Bijelo Polje – Bar. The train was load 4, with a couchette coach leading then a couple of 2nd class compo coaches followed by an air-conditioned compo coach, which was freezing cold! We managed to get a compo to ourselves in one of the non-AC coaches and enjoyed the journey to Bar but for the half a dozen kids that were just being kids and running about screaming at each other and out of the windows. The journey took under an hour and the scenery is best where the train heads round a lake about 15 minutes out of Podgorica, as well as that offered as the train arrives into Sutomore; where the beach down below was rammed with sun-seekers; it was bloody hot though!
461043 was immediately dispatched to the shed upon arrival at Bar and the station pilot loco, 643051, shunted the stock away shortly afterwards. As we couldn’t be arsed to walk to Bar shed we went in search of some food. We didn’t walk far in the end and opted for a place called Bar Konova on the right hand side of the road just over from the station. While not in English the waiter managed to explain some things on the menu to us and we had a decent grilled chicken with chips and salad, followed by a 0.5L Jelen each and the bill only came to €13; the beers actually only being €1.50 each. If you think that was cheap we found a 2L bottle of Jelen in a fridge at the station for the grand price of €2.30; I can hear everyone saying how cheap now……..!
Unfortunately 461043 was turned out to work 6102 1450 Bar – Bijelo Polje again in the afternoon so we flagged it and went for another beer at the Bar Konova before returning to the station to board 12432 1700 Bar – Belgrade; the stock just being backed in as we got back at 1615 by 643051. Once that had done one ZS 461155 dropped on to work the train back towards Serbia. There seemed to be a bit of a commotion going on with two Germans and their rather large bikes. We didn’t see what actually happened to the bikes but the two Germans were on the train; there isn’t a bike coach on the train so maybe they had to put them on the car carrier at the rear of the train?
We were in the second coach from the engine for the journey back north, which would save a lot of messing about during engine changes. Strangely though the upper bed had been left down in the compartment but this was soon dismissed and the middle berth was higher than the one the previous night which actually allowed us to sit on the bottom berth without having to duck. Once we’d departed Bar the attendant came and took our tickets/reservation; only when he started to become a little confused with what he was looking at did Aidy hand over his Serbian travel passes as well as his Montenegrin ones, at which point all became well with the attendant.
While the scenery beyond Podgorica wasn’t as atmospheric as it had been that morning, watching the sun sink behind the mountains was still pretty impressive. After watching which we decided to use the restaurant car on board to get a bit to eat. Aidy was handed a menu in English on his first trip to the restaurant car and when he returned the second time, with our order, he returned empty handed as hardly anything was available; only cold sandwiches and beer. Ultimately we ended up with what turned out to be a decent sized cheese sandwich, which randomly had tomato sauce on it; still it filled a hole before we relaxed for the evening and unfortunately I managed to trip the plug socket out in our compartment when I tried to charge my Surface so beware. The sockets do take mobile phone chargers though but don’t like laptop ones! Other than the sockets not being up to scratch the ZS sleeping coaches were in a lot better state than I expected. The toilets weren’t quite up to the borderline standard but at least they flushed, had running water and a toilet roll; once the latter had gone though, it was gone and never got replaced. When the doors were left open they could be smelt down the whole coach corridor!
At Mojkovak we passed ZCG 461029 heading south with a load 3 passenger train. There’s no reference to this train in the ZCG timetable and I’ve seen nothing mentioned anywhere else regarding it; maybe it was an extra train coming in from Serbia off the currently closed line???
The passport checks by Montenegrin border police at Bijelo Polje were harmless enough and we were soon on our way; at Prijepolje Teretna it was a different story and despite being stamped in to Serbia two days previous we still got another stamp and thankfully the guy put it right by the previous one in the corner of an already full page of my passport; I was watching the whole time though, just in case he decided that the two empty pages looked like they were in need of a stamp. While the guys on board the train at Bijelo Polje did the grip others proceeded to take the train apart inside as others did the same outside and one guy even through the engine with a fine toothcomb. Meanwhile the two through coaches to Novi Sad, which were conveyed to Bijelo Polje on 6102 1450 Bar – Bijelo Polje, were shunted onto the rear of the train; making it load 10 + car carrier. At Prijepolje Teretna while the border guys did their stuff 461155 was detached and used to add a car carrier to the rear of the train, which was removed at Lapovo by 661158 the following morning, making the train load 10 + 2 car carriers.
After the border grips were complete and we’d departed Prijepolje Teterna it was time for bed; the next disturbance would be my alarm clock going off at 0600 so we could spot the 661 before it came off at Lapovo.
|461155||Kraljevo||Bijelo Polje||1805 (08/09) Belgrade – Bar||12433||ZS 461|
|461043||Podgorica||Bar||0901 Bijelo Polje – Bar||6103||ZCG 461|
|461155||Bar||Bijelo Polje||1700 Bar – Belgrade||12432||ZS 461|
Gen for Tuesday 9th September 2014
(Other than in the moves above)
Podgorica Shed – scrap lines on the shed
661273, 642174, 744005 & 744006 as well as 643050, 661142, 661269, 642024, 661315 & 642173; note numbers listed as south to north (Bar to Belgrade end) and are in two different lines.
644007 & 644024 were stabled on the service road
ZCG Cargo 461044 & passenger 461033 were stabled on the far side of the shed.
We didn’t go down to the south end (Bar end) of the shed but noticed 3xBosnian 770xxx and a 661 dumped in the yard at that end and also found Bosnian 770050 (also carrying No. 3356) in the wagon sidings just to the south of the station, on the right hand side of the tracks (opposite side to the shed).
644015 Podgorica trip engine for the day
643051 Bar station pilot
461043 6100 0525 Bar – Bijelo Polje, 6103 0901 Bijelo Polje – Bar, 6102 1450 Bar – Bijelo Polje, 6105 1835 Bijelo Polje – Bar
461029 seen at Mojkovak, while on board 12432 1700 Bar – Belgrade, with a load 3 passenger heading south; not in timetable!
EMU 412050 6152 1020 Bar – Podgorica, 6155 1250 Podgorica – Bar, 6156 1405 Bar – Podgorica, 6157 1520 Podgorica – Bar, 6158 1640 Bar – Podgorica, 6159 1800 Podgorica – Bar
All Niksic trains viewed were new EMU’s
Wednesday 10th September 2014 (Who’s idea was the day train from Serbia to Macedonia?)
Having slept almost solidly my alarm going off at 0600 was indeed the next disturbance I knew about and I was very surprised, when I figured out where we were, to find us bang on time as we rolled into Lapovo with the same 661 we’d had in the opposite direction the previous night, 661155. On the adjacent road at Lapovo was 661158 and on the road next to it 441027; the former was used to shunt the rear car carrier off the train and the latter replaced 661155 for the run forward to Belgrade. There were plenty of 461’s about at Lapovo but we were denied one on this occasion.
While not really wanting to flap about the fact we hadn’t got our tickets back from the sleeper attendant we decidied we’d remind of the fact anyway; rather than waiting the 15 minutes it would take to get to Velika Plana and then really flapping! Aidy found him playing cards with other attendants in the next coach and when he did hand our tickets back Aidy’s Serbian Travel Passes had been dated by the attendant for the 09/09/14 yet he’d already had the 08/09/14 written on it. For those that don’t know passes are valid for 48 hours and it is sometimes a bit of a hassle enforcing this but there is now a handy crib sheet with the gen in all languages to show to the grippers when it becomes an issue. Of course when they’re dated as you sleep there is no way of having that discussion; although it did come afterwards, by which time it was too late of course. Luckily for Aidy he still had enough boxes for the rest of our trip as we’d only being in Serbia for one more day after this.
Off at Velika Plana, the next main shack north of Lapovo, we had over an hour to kill; and then some in the end. I managed to find a few shops up the road from the station, turn right, one of which provided fresh pastries for breakfast and different ones for lunch, the other provided crisps and bananas. We’d been a little concerned that we’d struggle for food all day as we were heading through to Skopje in Macedonia and on board train 337 0750 Belgrade – Skopje for at least 8 hours; thankfully that issue had gone away.
There was quite a bit of freight through Velika Plana, unfortunately the morning sun was all wrong on the northbound trains. Just as we were thinking of giving up on our spin move back to Lapovo on 6731 0735 Mala Krsna – Lapovo it turned up 27 late, 444006 with just one coach; we’d seen the same engine on the same turn two days previous. It wasn’t wedged and dropped us back into Lapovo with about 25 minutes to kill before our long journey to Skopje should begin.
Of course we didn’t depart Lapovo on time and at least had a few freights to photograph in the meantime; 461106 with a container train and 661155 with a general freight being amongst them, the sun being prefect from the offside of the station for trains heading south. 441749 ultimately arrived with the two coach train that was 337 0750 Belgrade – Skopje about 30 late. The train wasn’t wedged but people had spread themselves around the compartments. We’d already got reservations, courtesy of Mr Popovich at Wasteels, which only cost €3 each and once the guy dossed across them got himself upright we were seated and ready for the journey.
Other than being a very hot journey and being shot blasted with pollen all the way it was pleasant enough and we eventually ended up with the compo to ourselves. We didn’t pass much en-route but did spot the following: 444011 sat with load 1 in Nis station, 444029 with 4902 0815 Presevo – Nis and 441321 with 336 0820 Skopje – Belgrade. I was ready for something a little different by the time we reached the Serbian Border post at Presevo; lunch had brightened up the day at one point during the day and a bit of interaction with the border police, or at least a little intrigue on our behalf as to what was going on, did so at Presevo.
Thankfully the passport checks at Presevo were inoffensive and I barely even showed the guy mine after he’d seen Aidy’s was a British one. After the train had been taken to bits to prevent any smuggling taking place we were sent on our merry way to Tabanovci in Macedonia; where things were a little more interesting.
The Macedonian border police took all passports off everyone on the train and went to process them in their office. I’d asked the guy taking them not to stamp my empty two pages beforehand and thankfully he didn’t and stamped the entry stamp to Macedonia on a different page. While the passports were being processed ZS’s 441749 was replaced by MZ’s 441755 for the run to Skopje. On all the postings I’ve seen regarding this train it’s always been the same engine, 441755, so we weren’t treated to anything out of the ordinary.
What we were treated to on the way into Skopje was some speed at last; having staggered virtually all the way through Serbia and been 40 late almost throughout 441755 gave us quite a good run to Skopje and delivered us there only 15 minutes late.
With all the afternoon departures having gone when we arrived we went straight to find the Hotel Centar, which is about a 10 minute walk from the station. The nice clean room was a very welcoming sight, having not had a hotel for the previous 4 nights, and everything was spotless. The AC worked fine and the water was piping hot, toiletries were provided in the bathroom and a decent sized flat screen TV was attached to the wall. WiFi was free and a decent signal too, yet full strength was only achievable in the corridor. There was absolutely no noise at all making its way into the room; which was a massive bonus. Breakfast was included in our rate and started at 0700; which was just the job for the 0805 departure to Kicevo.
Having dumped our bags we went straight over to the nearby shopping centre to get some cash, which enabled us to pay for a meal at the very good Lezet Restaurant, which is on the road by the side of the shopping centre as you walk down from Skopje station; turn left when you get to the shopping centre and it’s on your left about 50m up the road. The food was fresh, good quality and cheap and there were a few beers to choose from as well; all at about £1 per bottle. The exchange rate is roughly MKD75 to the pound.
We were hedging our bets when we went to the station to view the 1938 Skopje – Bitola, but it had been hauled the previous week. Of course it wasn’t on this occasion and DMU 712105/6 was left at the station idling to itself while we went to rid the supermarket in the shopping centre; where a 1.5L bottle of Skopsko Beer cost a massive MKD112, that’s a bloody bargain at £1.50. Compare that to a 2L bottle of Coke which was MKD73.
Back at the hotel that night the shower was shown who was boss and we managed to get all the clothes we’d worn thus far on the trip handed in to reception for washing; we were told it would be ready by the morning and it was ready and waiting for us, nicely ironed and folded, the following evening when we returned, the whole lot costing just €14.
There was no coaxing needed to get to sleep in a non-moving bed and I even managed to charge things without shorting out the circuits in the bedroom that night!
|661155||Kraljevo||Lapovo||1700 (09/09) Bar – Belgrade||12432||ZS 661155 to Lapovo for ZS 444027 forward|
|444006||Velika Plana||Lapovo||0735 Mala Krsna – Lapovo||6731||ZS 444 – Load 1|
|441749||Lapovo||Tabanovci||0750 Belgrade – Skopje||337||ZS 441749 to Tabanovci for MZ 441755 forward|
Gen for Wednesday 10th September 2014
(Other than in the moves above)
444006 6732 0950 Nis – Smederovo
444011 at Nis on load 1
444029 4902 0815 Presevo – Nis
441321 336 0820 Skopje – Belgrade
441709 2901 0330 Belgrade – Nis
712105/6 (DMU) 645 1938 Skopje – Bitola
Thursday 11th September 2014 (A nice relaxing day)
An 0600 alarm call was needless in the end but the reason for it was so I could nip to the station before breakfast and see what did the 0648 Skopje – Bitola as if we made the 1430 Skopje – Bitola in the afternoon we could do that out for the return working if both were hauled. It wasn’t though and I didn’t hand around to watch DMU 712101/2 depart; I had an appointment with breakfast back at the hotel. It was a decent breakfast too including fried & hard boiled eggs, plenty of meats, cheeses and bread and with that much on offer it would have been very rude of us not to make up a little something for lunch.
Back at the station for the second time that morning we were just in time to find 661223 seemingly running round a set of stock in platform 1, it was actually sat in platform 2 at the time waiting the arrival of 661 0533 Kicevo – Skopje, which 661236 rolled in with and then promptly departed ecs for shed. 661223 then dropped onto the stock in platform 1 to form 660 0805 Skopje – Kicevo and that was us sorted for the morning.
Before 661223 departed with 660, bang on time at 0805, 441755 had brought the stock in to form 336 0820 Skopje – Belgrade. 61223 was the first one of the class that we’d actually been able to listen to during the trip but the load two train it was towing didn’t really test it, yet the driver did give it bit of hammering. From what I’ve heard myself, for a 661 it was quite good but as with the rest of the GM’s I’ve had recently it joined the club of having no meat on the bones and ultimately droning away once onto full power
The line to Kicevo climbs for the duration and from about half way into the journey the scenery changes and is actually quite decent. There are quite a lot of tunnels, one being a good 4km long, and a decent looking viaduct at the top end of the line but all the station building are quite derelict apart from the bigger stations of Tetovo and Gostivar; which are actually manned for the four trains a day that pass through! Kicevo itself is a shadow of its former self but does at least have a booking office, even if it doesn’t have a departure screen anywhere at all that I could see; it does have one for Skopje thought so you can in theory work out the departure times from that.
We’d arrived on time after a very good run to Kicevo but the timings for the train leave a little to be desired as we were 4 early at one point and then 2 late shortly afterwards where the timings clearly need a bit of tweaking. Thanks to our on time arrival we had plenty of time to discover what Kicevo had to offer.
We managed to discover the JZ steam engine, Henschel & Sohn 15079, 99-4-025, mounted with a couple of wagons just outside the station and the next thing we discovered was the inside of a local bar for local people at the bottom of the hill; where a Skopsko was a mere MKD60. Having got had a piece of cake from the place just outside the station, on the left, we were back on the train by 1130 to claim our compartment for the return journey and consume our pre-stolen lunch before departing for Skopje.
As with the outward timings there is room for improvement and we found ourselves 7 late en-route at one point only to end up 2 late at the next stop. Our quest for making the plus 8 onto the 1430 Skopje – Bitola hadn’t looked good t a couple of points during the journey and I’m sure our 3 late departure from Kicevo hadn’t helped that; yet we rolled in only 2 minutes late and with an extra crank on board.
Now joined by Orpington, who’d boarded 663 1218 Kicevo – Skopje at Skopje Sever after doing a taxi out that cost him MKD300, we all watched the 1430 Bitola depart with DMU 712105/6 and with no other option we then festered around to see what did the 1522 Skopje – Kocani, which had been hauled a couple of times recently and when that rolled in with DMU 712107/8 we went for a walk to the bus station to see if there was any gen on which buses we could potentially do back from Skopje Sever or Dorce Petrov if we ended up there on either the 1620 Skopje – Pristina or 1650 Skopje – Kicevo. While there might well have been some gen on the posters we looked at the only thing on them that we could read were the bus numbers, all the text was in Cyrillic!
Skopje station comes alive between 1500 & 1710 with trains departing for everywhere on the MZ network; the only three of interest being 2020 1620 Skopje – Tabanovci which was 441108 vice EMU on load 2, 892 1620 Skopje – Pristina which was 661236 on load 1 and 662 1650 Skopje – Kicevo on load 2. The latter two were actually both in platform 1 at the same time, parked behind one another, which meant we didn’t need to wait around at Sever having done 661236 out on the Pristina as we’d already had 661223 that morning of course.
On the approach road to Skopje Sever station, which doesn’t even resemble a station when you look at it from outside, there were a few buses parked up, one of which had just had its engines started by its driver. Mark managed to accost him before he pulled away and we were on board moments later paying MKD25 each for the single journey back to Skopje; the bus actually dropping us right outside the Hotel Centar, having turned off the main road towards the station just before the bus station. The journey back took about 15 minutes and we literally had just enough time to walk back to the station to watch the roof of a DMU depart with the 1710 Skopje – Bitola; it was then off to the Lezet Restaurant for a good evening meal.
As Aidy and I had decided to do the 1900 Skopje – Tabanovci out and back we parted ways with Mark for the evening, who went in search of his own hotel while we went in search of 441108. We found it soon enough as it arrived back into Skopje with 2021 1740 Tabanovci – Skopje and then headed straight off to shed, where we assumed it would be run round and sent back judging by the fact the guard had put the tail bracket on the opposite end upon arrival and waited on the platform himself for it to return; we never saw it again that night!
Having waited until nearly 2000 Aidy eventually managed to get the gen from the guard, still waiting on the platform himself, that the 1900 to Tabanovci had been cancelled and that 334 1452 Thessalonica – Belgrade would be stopping additionally at all stations to Tabanovci. 442002 arrived with it at 1950, on time, and departed at 2010, on time, but without us on board as there was no option at all to get back to Skopje that night. God only knows what anyone wanting to travel on 2023 2011 Tabanovci – Skopje was going to do? What we were going to do though was head back to the hotel and to add insult to our needless fester a thunder storm had just passed over and it was still raining!
It was a relaxing evening at the hotel and our washing was presented to us the moment we asked for our room keys; by the time we went to bed we were all packed ready for departing the hotel the following morning.
|661223||Skopje||Kicevo||0805 Skopje – Kicevo||660||MZ 661|
|661223||Kicevo||Skopje||1218 Kicevo – Skopje||663||MZ 661|
|661236||Skopje||Skopje Sever||1620 Skopje – Pristina||IC892||MZ 661 – Load 1|
|Bus||Skopje Sever||Skopje Hotel Centar||No. 9 Bus – 25 Dinar, 15 minutes||Bus|
Gen for Thursday 11th September 2014
661223 660 0805 Skopje – Kicevo, 663 1218 Kicevo – Skopje, 662 1650 Skopje – Kicevo
661236 661 0533 Kicevo – Skopje, 892 1620 Skopje – Pristina
441108 2020 1620 Skopje – Tabanovci, 2021 1740 Tabanovci – Skopje
441755 336 0820 Skopje – Belgrade (to Tabanovci)
442002 334 1452 Thessalonica – Belgrade (Gevgelija – Tabanovci)
712101/2 641 0648 Skopje – Bitola, 642 1245 Bitola – Skopje, 645 1938 Skopje – Bitola
712105/6 643 1430 Skopje – Bitola
712107/8 651 1522 Skopje – Kocani
412053/4 2082 1423 Veles – Skopje, 631 1650 Skopje – Gevgelija
2022 1900 Skopje – Tabanovci & 2023 2011 Tabanovci both cancelled throughout after 441108 took the stock off 2021 to shed and never returned.
Friday 12th September 2014
After a decent doss and breakfast we left the hotel, set for the long day ahead. Mark was already at the station when we arrived and unfortunately so was 661223 having arrived from Kicevo with 661 0533 Kicevo – Skopje; unlike the previous morning where 661236 went empty to shed though, 661223 ran round to form 660 0805 Skopje – Kicevo and that was our morning set.
At Dorce Petrov the whole train was shunted across the way to attach two empty log wagons to the rear of the train; the result of which being us departing 30 late for Kicevo. This of course wasn’t much of a problem on the way out but would make a difference on the return in terms of making the plus 8 onto the 1430 Bitola at Skopje.
It was a good run to Kicevo, the lateness probably helping, and the little 661 was given quite a hammering. Upon arrival we attempted some photting at the station while 661223 shunted the stock round the wagons, before placing them with a third, already at Kicevo, for loading. The miserable shunter at Kicevo had other ideas though and ultimately stopped us photting. What he didn’t see didn’t hurt him though, the miserable fucker, and when he was out of sight nobody else bothered us, let alone the guy that had been on the platform photting all along….
Having discovered Kicevo the previous day we didn’t venture far and made it as far as the shacks outside the station where some decent grilled chicken was rustled together for dinner. Back on the station afterwards the train had been left on the loading dock just off the platform end, where logs were still being loaded. Mr Miserable didn’t draw the train into the platform until 5 minutes before departure and stopped anyone boarding that walk down beforehand. Thankfully we managed to board first and bag a compo. It was invaded by some old bert shortly before departure who wasn’t content with the fact we’d moved our bags to sort him a seat in a corner near the door, no, he moved the bags himself to create himself a seat in the middle! Bert seemed to only speak one word of English which he repeated continuously when an attractive girl ended up stood in the aisle outside our compo; this word was sex! It was quite comical watching bert, who must have been about 65, gesturing about the girls shape and repeating “sex, sex, sex” on and on, thankfully though he gave it up and piped down and even more thankfully got off en-route as he was insistent on the windows being closed; which only happened through the very long tunnel near Kicevo, much to his annoyance.
We were bang on time at Dorce Petrov but the 3 wagons on the rear put pay to us making the 1430 Bitola. 661223 was shunted off and ran round to the rear to shunt the wagons into the same sidings we’d collected the two from earlier. The shunting cost us about 20 minutes and we only missed the 1430 Bitola by 11 minutes in the end. We later found out from Daffy, who we found arriving back at Skopje of an EMU, that it had been 661236, which they’d done out for the EMU back. Once we’d viewed the DMU for the 1522 Kocani a decent meal followed at the Lezet Restaurant before we returned to view and chew the late afternoon departures.
Skopje station is quite busy between 1600 and 1700 with usually 4 trains in. On this occasion though one was delayed, which was of course the one we were effectively waiting for; the 1620 Skopje – Pristina. In the meantime 441754 arrived to form 2020 1620 Skopje – Tabanovci, vice EMU again, and the EMU that had arrived on 2083 1423 Veles – Skopje earlier formed 631 1650 Skopje – Gevgelija. The sign that the 1620 Pristina was going to be late came when 661223 rolled into platform 1 to form the 1650 Skopje – Kicevo; both trains usually being booked out of platform 1 and had been sat one behind the other prior to departure of the Pristina the previous day.
After every other train had departed we were left at an empty Skopje station with only 6 other people waiting for the Pristina. Whether they actually knew what was going on wasn’t evident but just over an hour after the train should have departed 661146 dropped into the station with the usual load 1 to form the train. We departed just the 69 late and the possible reason for the late start became immediately evident, 661146 was not well at all; it stank and sounded absolutely shocking. If this was all MZ had to offer then either they were on the floor for power as everything was knackered or they were using the remainder of the summer months to batter some engines before the winter?
The journey to Skopje Sever was enough off 661146, the photos there in the late evening were quite good though. It took us no time at all to find a No.9 bus on the drag outside the station and we were back in Skopje with plenty of time for a beer before Aidy & I left Mark to it and went to have a second attempt at doing the 1900 Skopje – Tabanovci; after our failed attempt the night before. Sure enough though 441754 was just arriving from shed with the ecs as we got onto the platform, we can only assume that 441108 had had some major issue the previous night?
Even though we could have done 441754 to Tabanovci and back to Kumanovo on its return we opted to get off at Kumanovo on the way out and wait for our overnight there; just in case there were any issues, which of course there weren’t and we watched 441754 return to Skopje right time.
442002 collected us from Kumanovo, also right time, with 334 1452 Thessalonica – Belgrade. We had reservations on the train in the seats, which had been done in the UK via DB at Surbiton. The sleeper berths were apparently full but as we got on at Kumanovo anyway we decided against even trying for a berth; especially as the compo our seats were booked in was empty, with the exception of Orpington already occupying it!
Passport checks at Tabanovci and Presevo went without a hitch and I managed to explain easily enough that I didn’t want a stamp on my black pages; the Serb’s insisting I would be getting a stamp! Upon arrival at Tabanovci though some guy was straight off the train, on the non-platform side, and he dumped a few black bags of stuff underneath the wagons stabled alongside He was last seen walking down the tracks between our train and the adjacent freight with his bags so whether he was actually trying to smuggle something into Serbia I don’t really know as it didn’t seem like he was actually going any further…..!
Having checked outside I thought ZS 461024 was going to replace MZ 442002, until ZS 441708 was split off from the 461 and shunted onto the front of our train. ZS 461024 was likely going to replace MZ 461120, which arrived with a northbound freight while we were waiting.
Our compo remained empty to Nis but unfortunately the coach inherited a group of squaddies en-route, who’d obviously been out on the piss. Their evening sign-a-long seemed to be abuse hurled towards Kosovo, not that we could understand any of it but being sung by Serbians and the only word we could make out was Kosovo we could do nothing but surmise! Either way we were all glad to be getting off at Nis where the 24 hour station buffet beckoned as we waited for the Belgrade – Sofia overnight.
|661223||Skopje||Kicevo||0805 Skopje – Kicevo||660||MZ 661 – Mixed train ex Dorce Petrov|
|661223||Kicevo||Skopje||1218 Kicevo – Skopje||663||MZ 661 – Mixed train to Dorce Petrov|
|661146||Skopje||Skopje Sever||1620 Skopje – Pristina||IC892||MZ 661 – Load 1|
|Bus||Skopje Sever||Skopje Hotel Centar||No. 9 Bus – 25 Dinar, 15 minutes||Bus|
|441754||Skopje||Kumanovo||1900 Skopje – Tabanovci||2022||MZ 441 vice EMU|
|442002||Kumanovo||Tabanovci||1700 (09/09) Bar – Belgrade||12432||MZ 442002 to Tabanovci for SZ 441708 forward|
Gen for Friday 12th September 2014
661146 892 1620 Skopje – Pristina
661223 661 0533 Kicevo – Skopje, 660 0805 Skopje – Kicevo, 663 1218 Kicevo – Skopje, 662 1650 Skopje – Kicevo
661236 643 1430 Skopje – Bitola
441754 2020 1620 Skopje – Tabanovci, 2021 1740 Tabanovci – Skopje, 2022 1900 Skopje – Tabanovci, 2023 2011 Tabanovci – Skopje
441755 336 0820 Skopje – Belgrade (to Tabanovci)
442002 334 1452 Thessalonica – Belgrade (Gevgelija – Tabanovci)
712103/4 541 1710 Skopje – Bitola
712105/6 641 0648 Skopje – Bitola, 642 1245 Bitola – Skopje
712107/8 651 1522 Skopje – Kocani
412053/4 2082 1423 Veles – Skopje, 631 1650 Skopje – Gevgelija
MZ 441044/107 light through Skopje at approx. 1600
MZ 461120 arrived into Tabanovci with a freight at approx. 2130 would have been replaced by ZS 461024
Saturday 13th September 2014 (Sofia revisited)
The 24 hour buffet at Nis now isn’t; it was closed, yet still advertising the fact it was open 24 hours! So with nothing else better to do our fester commenced on the platform at Nis, departure time came and went and there was no sign of the train, or announcement to confirm just how late 293 2150 Belgrade – Sofia actually was.
There wasn’t a great deal going on and in the station area was ZS 441510 waiting to depart with 2900 0315 Nis – Belgrade. We only saw two other trains, the retimed 335 1845 Belgrade – Thessalonica with ZS 444019 and a special train that had been doing the rounds of Eastern Europe, originating in Istanbul, titled “Young Explorers Train” headed by ZS 441749. This same train had been in Greece on September 3rd and was worked Thessalonica – Pyhtio by OSE MLW’s A453/A459. At that point we didn’t realise that it would be in Greece again when we were in Alexandroupoulis on the PTG tour and likely provided us with one of the locos for the tour that morning; after being worked by A454/A456 from Thessalonica to Pythio on this occasion!
293 2150 Belgrade – Sofia ultimately turned up 90 late with ZS 441321, which was replaced by ZS low nose 661112 for the run to Dimitrovgrad. Aidy & I already had couchette reservations, done through DB in the UK, and we were shown straight to our compartment by the attendant; after handing over our tickets. We actually had two upper berths but it seems the compartment’s occupants had decided to leave us an upper and a lower free. Having had to wake the whole compartment to let us in everyone soon settled down and sleep wasn’t far away. Meanwhile Mark, Daffy and Co. managed to bag an empty couchette between the three of them for the run to Sofia; paying the attendant €6 cash for the privilege.
As we were late sleep seemed to be better than it would have been had we been on time and the Serbian passport checks at Dimitrovgrad were very un-intrusive, everyone just flashing them from their berth and the door was closed again until the Bulgarian checks at Kalotina Zapad; by which time it was almost 8 o’clock and time to start thinking about what the day would hold for us. First things first though, we found “coat hanger” 61012 at the head of our train, having replaced 661112 at Dimitrovgrad, which deposited us into Sofia over an hour late and with enough time for breakfast and to gather some intelligence from the arrival/departure screens at Sofia before doing the 1035 Sofia – Varna to Podujane for what turned out to be a lengthy fester!
With various bits of engineering works affecting trains there were lots of different notes stuck up at stations alerting passengers to re-timings and cancellations. These notes, coupled with the original lists for train departures and the poor information given by the electronic displays made for a bit of a mind-fuck when actually trying to figure out when the next train would be from Podujane back to Sofia, let alone which train it would actually be and after some time trying to figure this out I had a chat with the woman manning the booking office window.
Pre-empting the inevitable language barrier I went armed with a list of train departures towards Sofia, from the timetable, this ultimately allowed her to write down the number 40 at the side of the 1119 departure, which was 8640 0520 Jambol – Sofia. We eventually agreed that the train was 40 late and to get this information she had to use her mobile to phone someone foe the gen, all the while still selling tickets as she did so! Sure enough though 44144 turned up 38 minutes late with 8640 and whisked back into Sofia. That was the first 90 minute fester of the day!
While festering at Podujane we’d watched Dan’s EasyJet plane fly directly over the station as it came in to land and after dropping our bags off at the Hotel Sylvia we met Dan & Kev Taylor by 44127, which was heading 2615 1300 Sofia – Varna via Levski. Having decided to do the 1325 Sofia – Burgas out to Podujane we all departed on 44090, Aidy & I leaving Dan & Kev to their own devices as they did a longer distance move; we’d have been as well doing it in the end!
Our plus 36 turned into a plus 2 hours courtesy of 8610 0645 Burgas – Sofia being 75 late. Having been bitten by the very same train a week previous at Iskar we’d decided on the Podujane move to at least give an option of a tram back to Sofia if we needed and also the option of waiting at Podujane for the 1530 Sofia – Plovdiv; and that’s ultimately what happened. 46234, with 8610, was about 3 minutes too late to risk doing back into Sofia for the 1530; it only having 7 minutes to get there as it departed. Coupled with Sofia seeming to dispatch trains a good 60 seconds early, likely due to their clocks being wrong, it was never going to make and sure enough 44144 rounded to corner from Sofia a couple of minutes early! That would be the same 44144 we’d had into Sofia earlier after our 90 minute fester at Podujane. Thankfully there’s a decent bar on the station and having spent 3h30m that day at Podujane we departed at 1537 hoping the evening wouldn’t be as wasted as the rest of the day seemed to have been! The irony being had we actually gone to Iskar, as we had done a week earlier, we’d have had a better move…..
At Iskar we didn’t have too long to wait and attempted to pass the time photting a couple of BZD 43’s that were basking in the sunshine when we arrived. The security guards roaming about had other ideas though and we were pulled aside and asked to produce our passports and train tickets. Thankfully it wasn’t a police station affair and once they realised we were tourists and interested in the railway they actually apologised for not allowing us to take photos; but didn’t let us take any more. 1624 1325 Plovdiv – Sofia was bang on time with 44066, complete with Dan & Kev on board; who’d had a nice afternoon out.
The evening in Sofia is a lot easier to bash than the daytime but it got off to a bad start when the 1700 Sofia – Kulata didn’t produce a 61 so we headed back out to Podujane on the 1700 Sofia – Jambol instead for a quick beer. Back at Sofia a second attempt to get a 61 in was made as we did 44096 out to Zaharna Fabrika on the 1800 Sofia – Dupnica, hoping for one back in on 5622 1610 Blagoevgrad – Sofia; which Aidy & I had seen one arrive on the previous week.
It had started to rain as we left Sofia and by the time we got off at Zaharna Fabrika it was absolutely hammering down and we got soaked just legging it from the train to bar! Unfortunately we were bowled out by a nice shiny Flirt EMU on 5622 and that concluded our hunt for 61’s that evening and another trip to the bar at Podujane followed with 44128 on 493 1845 Sofia – Istanbul. En-route back into Sofia we wre gripped and as Dan hadn’t got a ticket we managed to stand in front of him in our compo and flash the gripper everything we had, her interest in Dan waning after our confident shield had put her off!
Back at Sofia we came across Daffy & Co. and couldn’t resist joining them on one last late bash to Sofia Sever where a 45 minute fester resulted in us using the tin pot shack outside the station for a beer. A quick walk down the road towards the main road revealed nowhere to eat but plenty of tram related options to get back towards town if needed. Right outside the shack is the turning circle for the No.18 tram, we only saw one during the hour we ended up spending at Sever; during which time the shack we were using to drink beer at closed!
44138 was a little late with 2614 1330 Varna – Sofia but dropped us into Sofia just in time for the rest of the clan (Flossy, Youth, Brigg & Vic) to be waiting at the station front for us. A quick pizza at one of the small restaurants next to the bus station sufficed before we were kicked out just after 2230, when the place closed for the night.
The Hotel Sylvia is a 5 minute walk from the station front, over towards the main tram stop, then right off the main road. It has decent sized rooms, is basic, but more than adequate for what we needed; which was really just a bed for the night. With 7 of us staying we had three rooms next door to each other, one triple and two doubles.
|661112||Nis||Dimitrovgrad||2150 (12/09) Belgrade – Sofia||293||SZ 661112 to Dimitrovgrad for BDZ 61012 forward|
|44132||Sofia||Podujane||1035 Sofia – Varna||8601||BDZ 44|
|44144||Podujane||Sofia||0530 Jambol – Sofia||8640||BDZ 44|
|44090||Sofia||Podujane||1325 Sofia – Burgas||8613||BDZ 44|
|44144||Podujane||Iskar||1530 Sofia – Plovdiv||1625||BDZ 44|
|44066||Iskar||Sofia||1325 Plovdiv – Sofia||1624||BDZ 44|
|44178||Sofia||Podujane||1700 Sofia – Jambol||8641||BDZ 44|
|44128||Podujane||Sofia||1345 Plovdiv – Sofia||10114||BDZ 44|
|44096||Sofia||Zaharna Fabrika||1800 Sofia – Dupnica||50235||BDZ 44|
|31001||Zaharna Fabrika||Sofia||1610 Blagoevgrad – Sofia||5622||EMU|
|44128||Sofia||Podujane||1845 Sofia – Istanbul||493||BDZ 44|
|44100||Podujane||Sofia||1000 Varna – Sofia||8602||BDZ 44|
|45180||Sofia||Sofia Sever||1930 Sofia – Lom||7630||BDZ 45|
|44138||Sofia Sever||Sofia||1330 Varna – Sofia||2614||BDZ 44|
Gen for Saturday 13th September 2014
(Other than in the moves above)
441321 293 2150 Belgrade – Sofia (to Nis)
441510 2900 0315 Nis – Belgrade
441749 Young Explorers Train heading towards Skopje
444019 335 1845 Belgrade – Thessalonica
44090 10205 1045 Dragoman – Sofia
44125 2613 1030 Sofia – Varna
44127 2615 1300 Sofia – Varna
44177 7621 0540 Vidin – Sofia
46234 8610 0645 Burgas – Sofia, 5611 1700 Sofia – Kulata
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
Saturday 20th September 2014 (More disappointing Sulzers….)
Having had a late enough night the early alarm call to get us to the station for IC460 0755 Sofia – Bucharest wasn’t a particularly welcome one but we were quite thankful of the fact that we didn’t turn up for it last minute as the train was wedged; full and standing on departure from Sofia. Thankfully we managed to get in a compo at the front of the train and were joined by others off the tour who were making their way home via Bucharest, as the flights were cheaper.
The journey to Levski was harmless and BDZ’s 44141 did a good job of getting us there right time. The scenery en-route is worth a mention and it’s quite picturesque in places as the train climbs and runs through some hilly terrain. You could be forgiven for forgetting you were in Bulgaria as the scenery takes away the dismal attempt that Sofia had to impose itself on us as a nice place to visit!
In the station at Levski we found BDZ 6 cylinder Sulzer 55116 attached to two coaches, which the driver confirmed was the 1122 to Svishtov, and 07106, which ran to shed shortly after we arrived. There was a single coach in the east facing bay platform, which could well have been left by 07106; it had been out working locals from Levski the previous weekend. This loco had been the mainstay power for the Kardam based 07 turn for most of the summer, with 07126 having replaced it in recent weeks.
As we boarded the 1122 Svishtov a Desiro came off the shed to form the 1120 to Lovech; both that train and ours were held waiting connections from the 1110 arrival ex Varna which was 45 late. We departed 38 late at bang on 1200, heading out of town and into the wilderness; literally. The line curves away from Levski, to the east, as it heads out of town then back on itself as it then climbs the hillside to get up and over towards Svishtov. The journey is quite nice with emphasis on a dustier ride than that on the journey over from Sofia. With the hills the loco was worked hard but unfortunately it was as disappointing, if not more so, than 06029 had been the previous evening and even the sound even more muffled. Still it did the job and was run round at Svishtov quite quickly and we were only 16 late on the return journey; albeit on a plus 13 at Levski onto the 1346 to Varna if we needed to do it, or a plus 17 onto the 1350 Troyan if it was hauled, and not 07106! We’d decided, based on previous experience of Kolomna’s, that it just wasn’t worth doing and an earlier finish in Varna was more preferable to spinning it in!
Svishtov station has its own restaurant, which was open and serving. We just didn’t have enough time to use it. There’s plenty of siding space adjacent to the station and the docks are close by so a decent amount of freight must operate over the line? Even if so we saw nothing freight wise at all and there didn’t seem to be a great deal of traction available at Levski shed.
Coming back down to Levski the town is visible from the hillside and its more evident where the railway line goes and turns back on itself. As we rolled by the shed, at 1347, there was no sign of the 1346 towards Varna and we found 55196 in the platform upon arrival, poised to work the 1530 to Troyan with the one coach in the bay platform; the 1346 to Varna then becoming irrelevant and we were ultimately held 5 minutes waiting connections off it from Sofia.
We’d toyed with going through to Troyan and back but the nearly midnight arrival into Varna didn’t appeal to either of us so we went out to Aleksandrovo, on the load 1 train that was the 1350 Levski – Troyan, to await the nice Desiro coming back in from Lovach. 55196 was no better than 55116 had been and actually sounded better departing from Aleksandrovo than it did when bellowing out behind it from a window in the coach that formed “the” train.
After watching 55196 depart I went in search of some snacks and cold drinks outside the station. What I found was a large building with what appeared to be potatoes laid out in its very large court yard, on one side of the cobbled road that led away from the station building and another industrial type place on the other side. Further down the road were some dwellings and traversing the road were two separate horses with their carts in tow, also conveying people; there were no places to buy snacks or beverages of any kind, not even beer!
The Desiro back to Levski was on time and that was as far as the pleasantries went for the journey! There were no lights on board, the AC wasn’t working and the windows were open, for what the gesture of opening them was worth, the electrically operated bog worked though so you could go for a crap but the place would have soon become very “nice” indeed in the afternoon heat, which was in the high twenties. Other than that the nice new DMU was in tip-top shape and fit for service, but for the broken windows, which were held together by sticky plastic sheets. I’m not even sure if the Desiro journey was actually a step up from a compo on a load one train hauled by some old diesel……
Back at Levski we had an hour to kill and food was needed. Despite there being plenty of café types outside the station, all appeared to be either bars or simply coffee shops. There are two small shops on the station though and thankfully one did sausage or kebab sandwiches; which did the job, followed by a beer while waiting for the next train to Varna. One of BDZ’s refurbished 44’s, 44002, turned up with 2615 1300 Sofia – Varna, and in a stark contrast to the other trains heading west during the day, it was virtually empty and we had a compo to ourselves the whole way to Varna. An opportunity arose to catch up on some doss for the day and it was taken; I eventually got myself up half way to Varna, just in time for it to start getting dark. We’d toyed with the idea of getting off at Poveljanovo for 8601 1035 Sofia – Varna via Plovdiv, which was bound to be late, but didn’t bother, only to find it 40 late on the screens at Varna after we arrived; 1 minute early.
The Hotel Aqua overlooks the station and is only a couple of minute walk from the side exit at Varna, being visible from the platforms. Check-in was simple and I even booked a room for the following night before we went to the room. It had seemed like a good idea when we’d arrived in Sofia two weeks previous but as my planned overnight move from Varna to Bucharest via Ruse approached, it really wasn’t looking that enticing at all. I was told by the hotel staff to log in to their WiFi and book a room via Booking.com as it was cheaper than the rates they could offer me as I stood right in front of them; so I stood right in front of them and booked it on my phone before confirming I could keep the same room to myself for the following night, despite it being a twin room. The room was spacious, clean, had toiletries provided, along with AC and free WiFi.
The restaurant in the Hotel Aqua was open until 2230 and was used quite a bit during our stay. The food was good, and more to the point actually more like a meal than anything else we’d had in Bulgaria, it was cheap and was freshly cooked and just what we needed before retiring for the night.
|44141||Sofia||Levski||0755 Sofia – Bucharest||IC460||BDZ 44|
|55116||Levski||Svishtov||1122 Levski – Svishtov||24204||BDZ 55 (Sulzer)|
|55116||Svishtov||Levski||1238 Svishtov – Levski||24205||BDZ 55 (Sulzer)|
|55196||Levski||Aleksandrovo||1350 Levski – Troyan||24223||BDZ 55 (Sulzer)|
|10025||Aleksandrovo||Levski||1407 Lovech – Levski||24274||BDZ Desiro DMU|
|44002||Levski||Varna||1300 Sofia – Varna||2615||BDZ 44|
Gen for Saturday 20th September 2014
55116 24204 1122 Levski – Svishtov, 24205 1238 Svishtov – Levski (Load 2)
55196 24223 1350 Levski – Troyan (Load 1)
Desiro 24273 1120 Levski – Lovech, 24274 1407 Lovech – Levski, 24206 1520 Levski – Svishtov
24206 is part of the alleged Class 55 booked turn at Levski
07106 at Levski had possibly worked in from Troyan that morning?
44082 20164 1650 Varna – Komunari
44107 2613 1030 Sofia – Varna
44111 2612 1105 Varna – Sofia
44128 40118 1725 Gorna Oryahovista – Ruse
45204 2610 0715 Varna – Sofia
Sunday 21st September 2014 (Strange on goings on the Kardam turn)
The possibility of an 0715 move ex Varna was dissed the night before and a more leisurely 0920 start was more like it. Breakfast in the hotel was good with plenty of choice, including some hot food, which of course opened itself up to some being taken with us for snacks for the day.
As we got to the station 44082 was just arriving in with 20163 0540 Komunari – Varna and 44065 was being attached to 9620 0920 Varna – Ruse. It wasn’t the warmest of mornings but the sun at least kept trying to make an appearance as we headed out to Poveljanovo, where the sheer size of the surrounding industry becomes very apparent. The previous night it had been dark and there had just been lights scattered around all over the place, not making much sense to the eye with regards where buildings were. At this point of the cool morning though the cool air clearly showed the pollution emitting from some of the surrounding chimneys, depicted by a very clear yellow haze!
The station master clearly didn’t quite understand why we were waiting on his station to board the next train heading back towards Varna, having just got off a train coming from there, and was even more confused when we arrived back after a quick return trip to Beloslav via 44078 & 44060; and actually seemed a little concerned when he asked me if “there is problem” and then pointed to his watch and told me the train was running right time. It actually wasn’t and had just been dispatched 4 minutes early, which seemed to be the norm in these parts as the same had happened at Beloslav and with the previous train we’d got off at Poveljanovo! Maybe he thought we were spying on his timekeeping or something along those lines? It didn’t stop him dispatching trains early though.
44127 arrived with 2655 0700 Pleven – Varna and was let go in favour of doing the 07 turn behind towards Varna. We could see the 07 skirting its way off the Kardam line in the distance, as it approached Poveljanovo and when its number came into view we were a little confused when we made it out; 07106! Having seen it at Levski, a four hour journey away, the previous day we could assume one of two things; either it had worked the Sofia – Kardam from Levski, or done a freight to Poveljanovo overnight to then re-engine the Kardam portion at Poveljanovo. What we didn’t know at the time was that the Kardam 07 turn had been worked by a 55 the previous day!
As with the other Kolomna’s we’d had 07106 was very underwhelming and even the “burning tire” on the roof was starting to get a little boring; clag or no clag the noise was still the same, virtually non-existent! We did it back into Varna though as there was a lull in trains in the afternoon, both inbound and outbound. This lull was used to get me a reservation for IC460 0755 Sofia – Bucharest from Ruse to Bucharest the following day; vice my originally planned overnight that night. Once you know where to buy the correct ticket for the journey you want, that day, advance or international, it’s a little easier to get yourself to the window you require. The on the day counters are the general ones in the booking hall, the advance ones are tucked away in their own room down the corridor to the left of the on the day ones and the international one, run by Rila, is directly opposite the station’s side entrance as you walk through the door. Of course I found all this out the hard way and was directed around the station’s ticket windows from the on the day ones to the advance ones and then to the international one; which had closed 3 minutes before I got to it! The 1200-1230 closure only lasted until 1210 though and I was in possession of my reservation, courtesy of the nice English speaking woman behind the counter, for the grand total of 1.44 Lev moments later. There must have been a constant flow of people doing Varna – Bucharest via Ruse as she had the connections written down on a piece of paper and showed them to me to confirm I was catching the correct connecting train from Varna the following morning.
Ticket buying sorted we opted for what turned out to be a bit of a waste of time move in the end as we did the Desiro on 28202 1300 Varna – Dobrich out to Beloslav for 44132 back in on 8631 0718 Plovdiv – Varna, which was dud. The Desiro at least seemed to be in a little better condition than the one we’d had at Levski the previous day. Unfortunately we had to watch 44111 run non-stop through Beloslav with 2611 0645 Sofia – Varna; but everything comes to he who waits.
With the afternoon lull really taking hold when we got back we retired to the hotel for dinner and a relax in the room before heading back out to view the 1550 Plovdiv, which turned out to be dud 44132 and the 1600 Kardam which was indeed 07106 returning with the stock for the overnight Kardam – Sofia portion after cleaning at Varna; the only reason the two daytime locals in each direction ran. We flagged both and returned to the station again for the 1650 Komunari which was 44082 for the second day running; and started off a rather nice evening bash.
Back at Poveljanovo the same station master was still on duty, and still dispatching trains early. There was a cracking industrial sunset over Poveljanovo as the place was plunged into darkness and the imagination left to decide what fictional film best suited the surroundings as the lights glimmered all around and yet the industrial noise never changed tone.
After clawing back 44111 on 2654 1735 Varna – Pleven we were thankful of 44061 running about 35 late with 30155 1340 Burgas – Varna as bonus moves were offered from Poveljanovo and when 44088 turned up at Beloslav behind it with 20167 1710 Shumen – Varna a further bonus move to Strashimirovo, the next shack towards Varna, just had to be done. Both trains are shown on the BDZ website as units so they were both unexpected and after a last spin back to Poveljanovo with 44202, which was thrown out on the correct train ex Varna as far as getting new engines in was concerned, we headed directly back into Varna on the same train we’d arrive doff the previous evening, 2615 1300 Sofia – Varna, with 45158. 8601 1035 Sofia – Varna via Plovdiv was nowhere to be seen and we eventually found it showing only 25 late on the screens when we got back.
Aidy was a bit tight for time that evening and after a rushed evening meal, as far as he was concerned, he sloped off back to the station to do the 2145 overnight throughout to Sofia, which was worked by 45158; leaving me on my own to head to Romania the following morning and complete my bash, flying home from there 3 days later.
|44065||Varna||Poveljanovo||0920 Varna – Ruse||9620||BDZ 44|
|44078||Poveljanovo||Beloslav||0630 Ruse – Varna||9621||BDZ 44|
|44060||Beloslav||Poveljanovo||1025 Varna – Burgas||30152||BDZ 44|
|07106||Poveljanovo||Varna||0900 Kardam – Varna||28103||BDZ 07|
|10043||Varna||Beloslav||1300 Varna – Dobrich||28202||BDZ Desiro DMU|
|44132||Beloslav||Varna||0718 Plovdiv – Varna||8631||BDZ 44|
|44082||Varna||Poveljanovo||1650 Varna – Komunari||20164||BDZ 44|
|45196||Poveljanovo||Beloslav||1030 Sofia – Varna||2613||BDZ 45|
|44111||Beloslav||Poveljanovo||1735 Varna – Pleven||2654||BDZ 44|
|44061||Poveljanovo||Beloslav||1340 Burgas – Varna||30155||BDZ 44|
|44088||Beloslav||Strashimirovo||1710 Shumen – Varna||20167||BDZ 44|
|44202||Strashimirovo||Poveljanovo||1835 Varna – Karnobat||30156||BDZ 44|
|45158||Poveljanovo||Varna||1300 Sofia – Varna||2615||BDZ 45|
Gen for Sunday 21st September 2014
Varna Departures (All between 0920 and last train that day)
44065 9620 0920 to Ruse
44144 8602 0950 to Sofia
44060 30152 1025 to Burgas
44191 2612 1105 to Sofia
Desiro 10043/044 28202 1300 to Dobrich
44127 2614 1330 to Sofia
EMU 32081/082 30154 1340 to Burgas
44132 8632 1550 to Plovdiv
07106 28104 1600 to Kardam
44082 20164 1650 to Komunari
44111 2654 1735 to Pleven
44078 9622 1805 to Ruse
44202 30156 1835 to Karnobat
Desiro 10043/044 28204 1900 to Dobrich
45158 2616 2145 to Sofia
Varna Arrivals (All between 0859 arrival and 2023 except 8601 at 2010 as was late)
44082 at 0859 with 20163 0540 ex Komunari
44078 at 1023 with 9621 0630 ex Ruse
44127 at 1140 with 2655 0700 ex Pleven
07106 at 1205 with 28103 0900 ex Kardam
EMU 32081/082 at 1216 with 30153 0740 ex Burgas
44111 at 1344 with 2611 0645 ex Sofia
44132 at 1400 with 8631 0718 ex Plovdiv
Desiro 10043/044 at 1648 with 28203 1457 ex Dobrich
45196 at 1752 with 2613 1030 ex Sofia
44061 at 1815 with 30155 1340 ex Burgas
44088 at 1912 with 20167 1710 ex Shumen
44065 at 1950 with 9623 1605 ex Ruse
45158 at 2023 with 2615 1300 ex Sofia
Note: 2010 (8601), 2110 (30157) & 2314 (4640) arrivals not viewed
Monday 22nd September 2014 (A change of scenery)
I’d been told by others that Romania had been the worst country in Europe that they’d ever visited so as I sat in my compartment, with virtually the whole train to myself, on board the 0920 Varna – Ruse you can imagine just how much I was looking forward to getting into Romania, especially as I was on my own. Still I had the previous week to reminisce about during the four hour journey to Ruse as I’d planned to try and catch up on a lot of bureaucracy during me alone time; of course it would have actually helped if I’d charged my laptop since I’d last used it, and almost flattened it, in Macedonia some 10 days previous; what a schoolboy error! I had to reacquaint myself with the art of writing things down on paper; thankfully I had some scrap paper with me.
The train never filled at all to Ruse and I had the run of the front coach all the way. The scenery is nothing like that on the journey from Sofia to Levski either and was rather dull really. Thankfully I had something to keep me occupied. The first thing of interest that caught my eye was 87017 in the yard at Ruse which surprisingly still had its Iron Duke nameplates attached!
Ruse station is rather grand for the amount of trains it has passing through it nowadays and I’m sure it had seen a lot better days. Some of the tucked away corners outside it had the remnants of fires where the homeless looked to have taken refuge at some point and other parts were boarded up. It was a shame really as the architecture and the building itself were actually quite nice.
There are quite a few places to get snacks outside and over the road so getting a bite to eat wasn’t a problem. Back on the station there weren’t many folk about and those that were all disappeared on EMU 32083/084 working 40115 1400 Ruse Razpredelitelna – Gorna Oryahovista, leaving only a few waiting for IC460 0755 Sofia – Bucharest Nord; and even when that did arrive some were only waiting to greet people from it.
The loco to work the train over the border, 07032, had arrived into the station well before IC460 did itself and when 45158 arrived with IC460, clearly having gone Sofia – Varna on 2615 1300 Sofia – Varna then Varna – Sofia on 2616 2145 Varna – Sofia the previous day and then straight onto IC460 at Sofia, it immediately shunted the front coaches off the train and into the opposite platform leaving one BDZ and one CFR coach to go through to Bucharest. The reservation I’d made at Varna the previous day, costing 1.44 Lev, had clearly been a waste of time as there were only about a dozen people on the train at Ruse. My reservation had been in the BDZ coach and the CFR coach was completely empty.
Before departure the Bulgarian border police came through the train and checked passports, in the meantime 07032 was attached to the front, ready for the off, and we were away right time, with yet another crap 07 on the front. This one really did clag lots, while making no noise, when it was opened up; except for when I attempted to video it coming off the bridge on the Romanian side. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this but after the last few days in Bulgaria I was actually glad of an engine on a train that actually made a little bit of noise; when CFR GM 65-1204 dropped onto the train.
IC460 and the opposing working of IC461 from Bucharest are both timed to meet at Giurgiu Nord on the Romanian side of the border. The CFR GM ex IC461 shunts to IC460 and the BDZ 07 from IC460 shunts to IC461; both returning to whence they came from. While the locos do their thing the Romanian border police do theirs and go through both trains checking passports. With only a dozen or so people on our Bucharest bound train we managed to be 10 late away, the loco swap seeming to take a lot longer than it needed to and being the main cause of the delay but had the train been full I’m sure there would have been further delay. Still, after the stop at Videle, where the train loaded up with locals, we hammered along to arrive into Bucharest Nord bang on time and the first thing I found on the blocks when scanning about was CFR Sulzer 60-1356 which had arrived shortly before me with R7040 1455 Urziceni – Bucharest; this being a turn that used to be an 82 before the Summer yet seems to have stayed in the hands of 60’s/62’s since the Summer timetable had finished a couple of weeks before.
In the evening, after 1700, there are no moves that I could find to do diesel hauled trains so during my lengthy journey from Varna I’d managed to figure out a better move than I’d originally had planned, which involved an earlier finish in Bucharest as well, so I went about doing my electric bash for the evening. Having no clue of how things work, how prompt trains generally run or even where places are and what they look like, just adds to the adventure in some respects, however once it starts getting dark things take a whole new turn when trying to figure out where you are!
I was quite surprised at what Bucharest Nord has to offer by way of eateries, it’s a place you certainly won’t starve at, with the likes of KFC and McDonalds about! By the time I’d walked the length of the buffer stops to join EN472 1730 Bucharest Nord – Budapest Keleti I had a bit more of a clue what the lay of the land was and as CFR’s 477268 eased, and I mean eased, out of Bucharest Nord I was able to assess Bucharest Basarab, on the left hand side as we departed; which is nothing more than a few bay platforms chucked out in the sticks to seemingly connect with buses and trams, which are right outside the entrance. I later found a travelator that leads from the end of platform 1 to the metro station outside Basarab’s entrance, a short walk round this gets you through the doors to the platforms; allowing 10 minutes for tight connections is sensible!
The journey to Ploiesti Vest was harmless, even if I did stand in the front vestibule throughout. I thought there might be something said about the fact I didn’t have a reservation for the train but the gripper wasn’t remotely interested and just gripped my Balkan Pass. Ploiesti Vest had departure screens and they seemed to be displaying everything correctly and my train, one of the few a day that actually does Ploiesti Vest to Sud, IR1731 1640 Brasov – Galati arrived early but was held waiting the late running IR1746 0340 Saru Mare – Bucharest to depart first.
All trains towards Bucharest from Ploiesti Sud seemed to be a little late heading in, which put a move in jeopardy as a result and IR1752 1230 Suceava – Bucharest Nord did in fact miss R3007 1808 Bucharest Basarab – Brasvo at Crivina. In the end it had seemed like it had been a good job as the train I’d been planning to return from Prahova Halt on, R3008 Brasov – Bucharest Nord had been retimed according to the EU Rail App and I’d have ended up sitting at Prahova and watching IR1556 1925 Ploiesti Sud – Bucharest Nord trundling through. As it happened I ended up on IR1556 from Crivina and was content on doing it to Buftea for IR1622 0820 Timisoara Nord – Bucharest Nord behind but when IR1556 stopped out of course at Peris an opportunity arose; and I eventually took it!
I was already looking at the EU Rail App as we came to a stand, for trains ex Buftea to Bucharest, and it was only after we’d been at Peris a couple of minutes that I noticed that the retimed R3008 was timed to arrive Buftea before IR1622 to then allow the express to overtake it. As the doors on CFR trains always seem to be opened regardless of where a train stops, there was no problem getting off and watching IR1556 depart shortly afterwards; then funnily enough 40-0482 arriving behind it with R3008. At Buftea it ran into the loop platform, I got off and could already see the headlights of IR1622 behind in the distance. In it rolled with 477784, I got on; it departed and dropped me into Bucharest Nord at 2040 as it should have done. It was all very efficient and I was quite surprised at how well the little evening bash had gone, despite the few trains being a little late and the re-timing that I only found by chance.
My hotel of choice was the Ibis just down the road from Bucharest Nord, out of the left hand side of the station (as you walk towards the buffer stops from the trains), down the steps, over the small square and it’s about 100m up the road on the right; I have to say I was surprised at the size of the place, and how grand it looked. There was a definite contrast from the street leading to it, with a large amount of homeless dossing on the pavements, in the parks and generally making the place look a lot worse than it probably actually was.
It had been a long day and I was glad to take refuge behind the hotel’s doors for the evening. The first room I was given had a constant noise from the AC units so I was moved, when I asked, to another room which had two large double beds. This room was quiet, had all the Ibis mod-cons and the WiFi was free throughout the hotel. Food in the hotel’s restaurant was cheap, fresh and very good; loads better than the Ibis at Heathrow for example. Staying in one place for three nights was a refreshing change from all the traveling about and very welcome towards the end of a lengthy trip.
|44202||Varna||Ruse||0920 Varna – Ruse||9620||BDZ 44|
|07032||Ruse||Giurgiu Nord||0755 Sofia – Bucharest Nord||IC460||BDZ 07032 for CFR 651025 forward|
|651025||Giurgiu Nord||Bucharest Nord|
|477268||Bucharest Nord||Ploiesti Vest||1730 Bucharest Nord – Budapest Keleti||EN472||CFR 477|
|477703||Ploiesti Vest||Ploiesti Sud||1640 Brasov – Galati||IR1731||CFR 477|
|410588||Ploiesti Sud||Crivina||1230 Suceava – Bucharest Nord||IR1752||CFR 41|
|410406||Crivina||Peris||1925 Ploiesti Sud – Bucharest Nord||IR1556||CFR 41|
|400482||Peris||Buftea||1645 Brasov – Bucharest Nord||R3008||CFR 40|
|477784||Buftea||Bucharest Nord||0820 Timisoara Nord – Bucharest Nord||IR1622||CFR 477|
Gen for Monday 22nd September 2014
44082 20163 0540 Komunari – Varna
44111 90101 0720 Ruse – Shumen
45158 IC460 0755 Sofia – Bucharest Nord (to Ruse)
EMU 32083/084 40114 1050 Gorna Oryahovista – Ruse Razpredelitelna, 40115 1400 Ruse Razpredelitelna – Gorna Oryahovista
40-0873 R3007 1808 Bucharest Basarab – Brasov
40-0908 IR1555 1850 Bucharest Nord – Ploiesti Sud
41-0210 R9310 1515 Rosiori Nord – Bucharest Basarab
60-1356 R7040 1455 Urziceni – Bucharest Nord
The Photos Bulgaria
The Photos Romania
Tuesday 23rd September 2014 (Romania at its most miserable)
A simple bash on this day, as handed to me by someone in the know prior to my trip. It was a cold morning as well and the first day in weeks that I’d had to wear long trousers. Breakfast was sought at McDonalds at Bucharest Nord station and I have to say it wasn’t the most straightforward of affairs at all, the meal deals being specific to certain items and certain drinks not being included and it all just got a bit hard in the end; despite the staff speaking English.
Having found Sulzer 60-1356 at the head of R7033 0725 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni I headed for my train and the warmth on board IR1593 0745 Bucharest Nord – Rosiori Nord was very welcome as 41-0920 whisked me to the train’s destination; the plan for the day being to cover the three Sulzer turns on the Alexandria branch. It seemed to be colder at Rosiori Nord, where upon arrival I found Sulzer 60-1386 just shunting off a set of stock in the platform; it had clearly just arrived dit on R9303 0715 Bucharest Nord – Rosiori Nord as per diagram and 42-0302 was just running round to work R9308 1015 Rosiori Nord – Bucharest Nord with the same stock.
The wind at Rosiori made it quite chilly and if you’re only prepared for summer weather the shelter that the waiting room provided was quite enticing! I expected 60-1386 to come rumbling into the station with a set of stock from the sidings somewhere but when this didn’t happen I began to get a little concerned as the loco just sat in the sidings just south of the station, still running mind. It wasn’t until 41-0780 arrived with R9384 0755 Craiova – Rosiori Nord and the destination boards were turned over on the side of the train, that my mind was settled. The boards revealed Alexandria as the destination and as soon as the electric had shunted off 60-1386 pottered out of the sidings and was bolted to the train. By that time the heavens had opened at it had began raining, just to make it a little more miserable than it was.
The stock wasn’t in the best of condition but at least had opening windows, and under the circumstances thankfully they closed fully as well. We departed, after 41-0809 arrived with the tight plus while working R9305 0815 Bucharest Basarab – Rosiori Nord, and pottered off down the Alexandria line. As expected 60-1386 wasn’t up to much at all and all I achieved while trying to give it the benefit of the doubt was getting wet. The journey then became about trying to keep warm and keep the school kids, that the train is clearly run for, out of the compo and annoying themselves rather than others. En-route the rain really did start coming down and by the time we rolled into Alexandria it was absolutely hammering it down; it just couldn’t get any more miserable.
I wasn’t going to let the rain beat me and geared myself up to running down the platform to get some photos of 60-0748/62-1149 that were already attached to the stock to work R9364 1220 Alexandria – Rosiori Nord. The light was crap, my camera ended up soaked and I spent the return journey to Rosiori Nord trying to dry off in a compo on a wedged train. Thankfully the other normals on the train opted to sit in my compo, again leaving the college kids to their own devices as they run riot through the train.
As we departed Alexandria I wasn’t looking forward to the second trip down the branch, to get 62-1149 in, at all. The rain was relentless and the cold becoming uncomfortable. I don’t know why but at Rosiori, the shack before Rosiori Nord, I decided to walk into the open coach at the front of the train and at least attempt to find out what 60-0748 sounded like. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found, not by the thrash as it amounted to nothing, but the fact that both locos were powering. Initially I thought that on the 62 on the inside was doing the work but no, both locos were powering and the driver in the 62 seemed to be doing more than the lead driver on the 60. What that little bonus discovery did was save me from having to blunder my way back down the branch in the rain and cold on freezing stock with poor engines and loads of kids. The relative warmth of IR1824 0710 Deva – Bucharest Nord almost thawed me out en-route back to the capital and allowed both my jacket and camera to dry in the process.
The rains had stopped by the time I arrived into Bucharest but it was still cool. As I had no real plan, other than the electric move I’d done the previous evening, I’d managed to cobble together a ned plan on the train to get some GM’s in before doing the electric move again. Best laid plans soon went in the bin though when I realised, while stood at Basarab contemplating doing 65-1349 out on R9025 1605 Bucharest Basarab – Pitesti, that I could spin out to Carpati Halt and cover the inbound R7040 1455 Urziceni – Bucharest Nord; which would hopefully be 60-1356 returning off R7033 that morning. I managed to watch the GM leave at 1605 and did 40-0392 to Carpati Halt instead, behind it on R9309 1615 Bucharest Basarab – Rosiori Nord, before I actually realised that the GM stopped there as well! This almost cost me the move as the blue & white of the approaching Sulzer was soon into Carpati, only a few minutes after I arrived. It wasn’t 60-1356 but 62-1142 instead; my mind at that point figuring out that it was quite likely that the turn was out and back from Urziceni with the northbound loco then running to Ploiesti Sud in the afternoon and the inbound loco coming off the morning Ploiesti Sud – Urziceni.
I wouldn’t say the afternoon brightened up but the fact the rain had stopped gave that impression and after a quick walk down the travelator to Basarab, for the second time that afternoon I was Chitila bound on GM 65-1204 working R9105 1655 Bucharest Basasab – Targoviste. From there a quick spin to Darza with 40-0734 working R5007 1715 Bucharest Nord – Buzau for 41-0160 back to Buftea working R3006 1430 Brasov – Bucharest Nord; where similar move followed to that of the previous night this time with 45-0321 working IR1553 1745 Bucharest Nord – Ploiesti Sud to its destination for an on time IR1752 1230 Suceava – Bucharest Nord with the same loco as the previous night, 41-0588, to Crivina where it made R3007 1808 Bucharest Basarab – Brasov; unlike the previous night. With opposing working R3008 being retimed slightly later this allowed for a move to Brazi for 40-0402 back to Buftea on R3008 where, as per the previous night, I stepped off, walked up the platform a little and boarded IR1622 0820 Timisoara Nord – Bucharest Nord, which was already visible in the distance and rolled in with 477784, as it had the previous night. The guard on R3008 had asked where I was going as I got off and looked a little confused when I told him Bucharest and boarded IR1622; the confusion seemingly as I seemed to know what I was doing!
I was glad to be back at the hotel that night but not glad to be told that there was no room at the Inn as regards the restaurant. It was completely empty yet I wasn’t allowed to eat in it as a group was arriving shortly after me. A quick chat at reception soon rectified the situation and I waited in the bar until my food was cooked to then take it to my room; simples, or not as the case was. And having walked 6 flights of stairs with a tray I went back down to reception in the lift with my food as the damn room card wouldn’t open the door. The receptionist told me it was as I had two separate bookings for the hotel and the first had run out, canceling the card automatically; it wasn’t helpful when she joked that it didn’t seem to be my night! The food wasn’t as good as the previous night either, probably as it had been rushed? Still, I was grateful of it and didn’t waste any time that night when it came to getting to bed; the day had been hard work, no thanks to the atrocious weather.
|410920||Bucharest Nord||Rosiori Nord||0745 Bucharest Nord – Rosiori Nord||IR1593||CFR 41|
|601386||Rosiori Nord||Alexandria||1035 Rosiori Nord – Alexandria||R9365||CFR 60 (Sulzer)|
|600748||Alexandria||Rosiori Nord||1220 Alexandria – Rosiori Nord||R9364||CFR Sulzers 600748 / 621149 in tandem|
|410148||Rosiori Nord||Bucharest Nord||0710 Deva – Bucharest Nord||IR1824||CFR 41|
|400392||Bucharest Basarab||Carpati Halt||1615 Bucharest Basarab – Rosiori Nord||R9309||CFR 40|
|621142||Carpati Halt||Bucharest Nord||1455 Urziceni – Bucharest Nord||R7040||CFR 62 (Sulzer)|
|651204||Bucharest Basarab||Chitila||1655 Bucharest Basarab – Targoviste||R9105||CFR 65|
|400734||Chitila||Darza||1715 Bucharest Nord – Buzau||R5007||CFR 40|
|410160||Darza||Buftea||1430 Brasov – Bucharest Nord||R3006||CFR 41|
|450321||Buftea||Ploiesti Sud||1745 Bucharest Nord – Ploiesti Sud||IR1553||CFR 45|
|410588||Ploiesti Sud||Crivina||1230 Suceava – Bucharest Nord||IR1752||CFR 41|
|400864||Crivina||Brazi||1808 Bucharest Basarab – Brasov||R3007||CFR 40|
|410402||Brazi||Buftea||1645 Brasov – Bucharest Nord||R3008||CFR 40|
|477784||Buftea||Bucharest Nord||0820 Timisoara Nord – Bucharest Nord||IR1622||CFR 477|
Gen for Tuesday 23rd September 2014
41-0452 11041 1215 Bucharest Nord – Craiova
41-0769 IR1654 2142 (P) Vatra Dornei Bai – Bucharest Nord
41-0780 R9384 0755 Craiova – Rosiori Nord
41-0809 R9305 0815 Bucharest Nord – Rosiori Nord
41-0840 R2021 0845 Bucharest Nord – Targu Jiu
42-0302 R9308 1015 Rosiori Nord – Bucharest Basarab
60-1356 R7033 0725 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni
62-1149 R9367 1345 Rosiori Nord – Alexandria
63-1060 R9106 1457 Targoviste – Bucharest Basarab
65-1349 R9025 1605 Bucharest Basarab – Pitesti
Desirox2 IR1595 1745 Bucharest Nord – Craiova
Wednesday 24th September 2014 (Sorry sir, the train is cancelled!)
My second full day in Bucharest and I was again following a suggestion made to me before I’d left the UK, a nice circular trip; Bucharest – Ciulnita – Slobozia Veche – Urziceni – Ploiesti Sud – Bucharest. It was obviously centered around Sulzers and was quite a good move on paper, with a bit of down time in the afternoon at Slobozia. I didn’t need to be Ciulnita bound until the 1015 Bucharest – Constanta so decided on a few spin moves before heading off to do the bash.
McDonalds was a lot more straightforward now I understood how things worked in that particular outlet and I was walking down the platform to await the loco backing onto R7033 0725 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni, with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately it was 62-1142, the same one I’d had the previous evening on R7040 1455 Urziceni – Bucharest. As it didn’t back on until 0720 it prevented me from doing a different train out to Carpati Halt so I did the Sulzer anyway.
It was still dark and on this occasion, my second visit to Carpati Halt, I had more time to figure the place out as it was a little confusing, especially if you didn’t have a clue about the geography like me. The platforms are made of concrete blocks and surrounded by tall grass; locals use them to get from one side of the railway to the other, despite there being a footbridge that goes over to adjacent carriage sidings. The destination of the train decides which platform a train uses at Carpati and it seems there are four directions you can head from there, which aren’t accessible from all platforms. Only one person boarded R7033 at Carpati but there were a few waiting on the opposite platform, across the main running lines, so I assumed that would be where R5021 0736 Bucharest Basarab – Ploiesti Sud would depart from and joined everyone else in waiting on that platform.
By 0800 nothing had shown up, a few trains had run straight through on various lines, but nothing had stopped at all. My concern being that if something didn’t turn up soon I was probably going to have to start walking as there was nothing stopping going inbound for hours so I had to do a train outbound to get back in regardless; or use my feet of course; it is 3.6km into Bucharest Nord from Carpati and my train out of Nord was at 1015.
Just when I’d began to seriously consider the walking option and was stood on the footbridge seeing if there was any sign of life in any direction, in rolled 41-0587. It was smack in the path of R9023 0806 Bucharest Basarab – Pitesti but the normals soon confirmed it was indeed R5021 to Ploiesti; of course the Ploiesti is booked electric and the Pitesti diesel so there was only one answer as to which train it was. I’d seen R5021 in Basarab when I’d departed with 62-1142, the name boards on the side hadn’t been turned round at that point though so I hadn’t actually realised at that point which train it was; nonetheless 41-0587 had already been bolted to the front for departure.
Decisions, decisions, did I or didn’t I get off at Pajura for R9023 behind to Chitila? Yes was the answer and 65-1349 was following very closely behind with R9023 and had only just set off from Chitila when 65-0915 arrived with R9104 0525 Targoviste – Bucharest Basarab. I couldn’t resist the step back for R9024 0628 Pitesti – Bucharest behind and was quite confident nothing would go wrong as I had over an hour back in Bucharest before the 1015 Constanta departed. 63-1060 was about 15 late with R9024 but it wasn’t an issue and had it been on time I’d have probably gone back to the hotel for a bit; it being late saved the days bash!
While pondering what to do in the 45 or so minutes I had I ended up changing a bit of money at a place on the main concourse area as I only had a small amount of Lei left. While checking what platform my train went from on the master departure boards in the main concourse area I was a little confused to not find it listed at all. A check of the electronic display screens revealed that IR1583 to Constanta was departing at 0945 and not 1015 as the timetable advertised; sure enough, if I’d looked a little further up on the master departures I’d have seen it.
Now with a lot less time that I’d realised for my train I gathered some snacks together and went to board, the stock, a mere load 3, wasn’t back in until 5 minutes before departure but wasn’t wedged on departure. Had I been sat in the hotel, still thinking I had 30 minutes for the train at 0945, the day would have been down the pan and when I got to Ciulntia I really did think it had gone completely down the pan!
The line to Ciulnita is fast and there’s no hanging about at all, unlike the Ploiesti line where slowing down for no reason seems to be rife. I was expecting more when I stepped off the train but Ciulnita is nothing more than a yard, which just happens to have a station. Shunting in the yard was a little Sulzer and waiting for connections from our train was R8593 Ciulnita – Calarasi Sud, retimed earlier than advertised in the timetable; which for some reason I didn’t note the engine of or the departure time! Once it had departed I went to figure out where the 1140 to Slobozia Veche was as it hadn’t arrived when it should have done; the timetable giving a clear reason why when I found neither R8583 Slobozia Veche – Ciulnita or R8586 1140 Ciulnita – Slobozia Veche on the list at all. As it stood at that point, the next train to anywhere on the station departure list was IR1585 to Bucharest, which would be the same loco and stock returning from Constanta, that I’d just watched leave.
At least there was a booking office at Ciulnita and inside were two women having their dinner. One came to the window when beckoned and showed me the screen of her computer to confirm the time of the next train to Slobozia Veche; it showed 15:43! She spoke no English at all but took me outside the station to the road that ran past it and after jabbering at the guys who were loitering around outside pointed to the road and jabbered to me; the only word I could understand was Autobus and I was guessing she’d been asking the guys if the bus had been seen heading past or not as she gave the impression it was due imminently.
So there I was waiting on the roadway outside Ciulnita station when a bus did turn up, it was full and standing and I wasn’t the only one boarding outside the station. I told the driver my destination was “Gara Slobozia Veche” and he asked for 6 Lei and handed me a ticket. The bus then ran into town, for want of a better word, where it first emptied and then re-loaded. I thankfully managed a seat at that point, it wasn’t full to standing point and was actually quite pleasant and fully air conditioned. Having picked up in town we went back past the station and turned off the main road in the direction of Slobozia; the sign saying it was 17km. The total journey time, from me getting on the bus, took 45 minutes and I was dropped right outside Slobozia Veche station where all buses seem to terminate in Slobozia, at the bus station.
Sulzer 89-0278 was sat in the platform with two coaches to form R8585 1429 to Ciulnita and shunted out of the station, to clear the platform for station rebuilding works to take place, was Sulzer 60-0864 with three coaches, labelled for Urziceni. The station looked like it was having a complete overhaul and the main platform was hardly accessible at all; even Indian Railways would have made a better attempt to give people access to the station. As it was I had to use the muddy access road by the depot to get in/out and do my photting before utilising the time to do lunch. Ironically the bus had dropped me off at round about the same time the train would have so the 2 hour fester still stood.
As college kids began boarding the train an hour before departure I followed suit, though the only door that was open at the rear of the train, and by the time the train was backed into the platform for others to board it was already full enough and by departure it was full and standing, as was 89-0278’s train to Ciulnita. Mine soon emptied out to a comfortable level and by Urziceni it was quite empty. 60-0864 wasn’t driven well at all and didn’t sound to be on full power so not the best of journeys thrash wise either.
At Urziceni my suspicions were confirmed as 62-1142 was sat with the stock to form R7112 1635 Urziceni – Ploiesti Sud, the turn, including the Bucharest legs of R7040/R7033, clearly being a 2 day diagram from Ploiesti Sud to Bucharest and return. So I’d been done out of one Sulzer due to a train not running and I was about to have a dud one to Ploiesti thanks to diagram changes. The worst of it was the driver off 60-0864 handed it over to someone else for the run round and return leg to Slobozia and he clambered into 62-1142 to take R7112 to Ploiesti Sud; so there’d be no chance of any thrash, even if the loco was actually capable.
The shunter attaching 62-1142 had a rant at me for taking photos at Urziceni but the driver rectified the situation and basically told him to leave me be, from the gestures I could see, as I was only interested in photting the loco and not the shunter himself. The run to Ploiesti Sud was a lot more comfortable than that coming across from Slobozia and the train wasn’t well used at all. The surprise of the day came when the driver beckoned me to the cab, after we’d crossed 82-0389 with R7109 1650 Ploiesti Sud – Urziceni. I was only in for a few stations and had to get back into the train at the last shack before Ploiesti Sud. The cabs are very spacious and strangely only have an opening door on one side pf the cab, on opposing sides at each end. The cab windows all had string to hold them shut and the driver complained to me about it whole I was with him. Had he been able to understand me I’d have complained there and then about his driving technique, the loco had 24 notches on the controller and he never went above 16! There’s a little electronic display by the controller that tells you what notch you’re in. The train was only load 3 though and accelerated to line speed quick enough so there wasn’t really a need to punish it, other than to try and appease me of course! Having seemingly had a conversation where neither of us spoke the opposing persons language at all, I got out of the cab knowing a lot more about the engines and had even been shown into the engine room while we stood waiting time at one place.
I was glad to be back in recognisable territory when we rolled into Ploiesti Sud and was soon away to Ploiesti Vest in a taxi to do IR1731 1640 Brasov – Galati back. There were plenty outside the station waiting and the 5 minute journey cost me 10 Lei, off the meter. After 477773 delivered me back to Ploiesti Sud the move back to Bucharest was a carbon copy of the previous evening, IR1752 1230 Suceava – Bucharest Nord to Crivina, with 41-0588 for the third day in a row, for 41-0873 to Brazi on R3007 1808 Bucharest Basarab – Brasov for opposing working R3008 1645 Brasov – Bucharest Nord with the same engine as the previous night, 41-0402, to Buftea, across the platform and onto IR1622 0820 Timisoara – Bucharest Nord with 476692. I knew the latter wasn’t going be a repeat of the previous night again as I’d seen 477784 heading to Constanta that morning. And that, as they say, was that; end of bash. I was flying out the following morning so had one last night at the Ibis and managed to offload all my remaining Lei in the restaurant before packing and retiring to be; not looking forward to the 0500 alarm call on bit!
|621142||Bucharest Nord||Carpati Halt||0725 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni||R7033||CFR 62 (Sulzer)|
|410587||Carpati Halt||Pajura||0736 Bucharest Basarab – Ploiesti Sud||R5021||CFR 41|
|651349||Pajura||Chitila||0806 Bucharest Basarab – Pitesti||R9023||CFR 65|
|650915||Chitila||Bucharest Triaj Halt||0525 Targoviste – Bucharest Basarab||R9104||CFR 65|
|631060||Bucharest Triaj Halt||Bucharest Nord||0628 Pitesti – Bucharest Nord||R9024||CFR 63|
|410891||Bucharest Nord||Ciulnita||0945 Bucharest Nord – Constanta||IR1583||CFR 41|
|Bus||Ciulnita||Slobozia Veche||Service Bus, 6 Lei, 40 mins, 17km||Bus stop outside station|
|600864||Slobozia Veche||Urziceni||1430 Slobozia Veche – Urziceni||R8152||CFR 60 (Sulzer)|
|621142||Urziceni||Ploiesti Sud||1635 Urziceni – Ploiesti Sud||R7112||CFR 62 (Sulzer)|
|Taxi||Ploiesti Sud||Ploiesti Vest||10 Lei, 5 mins||Taxi’s outside station|
|477773||Ploiesti Vest||Ploiesti Sud||1640 Brasov – Galati||IR1731||CFR 477|
|410588||Ploiesti Sud||Crivina||1230 Suceava – Bucharest Nord||IR1752||CFR 41|
|400873||Crivina||Brazi||1808 Bucharest Basarab – Brasov||R3007||CFR 40|
|410402||Brazi||Buftea||1645 Brasov – Bucharest Nord||R3008||CFR 40|
|476692||Buftea||Bucharest Nord||0820 Timisoara Nord – Bucharest Nord||IR1622||CFR 477|
Gen for Wednesday 24th September 2014
41-0004/0250 IR1621 1000 Bucharest Nord – Timisoara
41-0840 IR1553 1745 Bucharest Nord – Ploiesti Sud
477784 IR1581 0720 Bucharest – Constanta
60-0864 R8153 1630 Urziceni – Slobozia Veche
62-1142 R7033 0725 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni
82-0389 R7109 1650 Ploiesti Sud – Urziceni
89-0278 R8585 1425 Slobozia Veche – Ciulnita
Desiro R7041 1430 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni, R7044 1650 Urziceni – Bucharest Nord
Note: 8583/8586 Slobozia Veche – Ciulnita & return do not run anymore.
Thursday 25th September 2014 (Home time at last……)
Simples, up, out, found 2 x Desiro with R7031 0550 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni and boarded for the Aeroport Halt. I had been planning to do the 0625 Targoviste behind it but it had been re-timed slightly later so I took the sensible option; and passed a GM with the stock in an adjacent platform as we departed.
The Desiro was freezing and it was a cold morning. At least there were lights. The guard on board told me she’d let me know when we got to the Aeroport Halt and did so, along with another guy, the only other person to get off for the road connection. There’s a ramp down from the single platform to where the mini-bus was waiting. The driver inside wasn’t remotely interested in tickets and despite the journey showing 20 minutes in the CFR timetable it only took about 7 minutes. The bus dropped us at arrivals and then sat there to wait for its next booked departure to the station.
My 3 week trip was now officially over, I had no valid tickets left and was Heathrow bound on the 0850 Bucharest – Heathrow British Airways flight. Bucharest airport was a breeze, the flight a joy, on board which we were served food but thanks to the flight being full the staff nuked the food and mine went back straight away as the scrambled eggs were grey! The proper cup of Yorkshire tea on board made up for the not so good food though and when I got back to Kings Cross with an hour and 10 minutes to spare for my booked 1305 to Doncaster I couldn’t help but ask the guard on the 1205 if he’d let me on; initially he wasn’t going to but once the staff badge was produced there wasn’t an issue and I was back at home in Doncaster before I would have been at Peterborough on my booked train.
|2049||Bucharest Nord||Aeroport Halt||0550 Bucharest Nord – Urziceni||R7031||CFR Desiro DMU|
|G-EUUY||Bucharest||Heathrow Terminal 5||0850 Bucharest – Heathrow||BA885||British Airways|
|91118||Kings Cross||Doncaster||1205 Kings Cross – Leeds||1D13|
Gen for Thursday 25th September 2014
Unidentified GM IR1671 0638 Bucharest Nord – Galati
It had been a long trip with the climax being in the middle in Greece, everything after that was a letdown really, mainly due to the fact that the Greek MLW’s are cracking engines and put everything else we had during the trip to shame.
Eastern Europe was certainly an eye-opener but the general feeling around that part of the world can only be described as a bit miserable. There’s no attempt to make anything look nice, everything is just functional and does what it needs to do. There’s a lot of concrete about and when the weather is crap the miserable factor increases quite a few fold! Still once you’re used to what to expect the surroundings become part of life.
I will be returning to this part of Europe again; so it can’t have been that bad………