Serbia September 2014
This is an extract from a multi-country report to read the full report use the following link:
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 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)
Sunday 7th September 2014 (Eastern Europe; welcome to the hard way to crank)
Having spent the day in Bulgaria we were to find BDZ 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|
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.
The following day was spent in Montenegro before we returned the same way back into Serbia, en-route to Macedonia.
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.
|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
After Macedonia we headed direct to Sofia in Bulgaria via the Thessaloniki – Belgrade overnight to Nis for the Belgrade – Sofia overnight forward to Sofia.