Spain January 2020 – PTG ALCo-Holic 5 Charter
It seemed like a sensible idea at the time to fly halfway around the world to do this tour, having spent the previous week in Vietnam doing Alco’s on pre-Tet specials. I had round two to look forward to after the PTG tour too, and the PTG tour couldn’t have fell any better if I’d planned it to be on these dates myself!
SU0291 1105 Hanoi – Moscow Sheremetyevo Term D
SU2604 1930 Moscow Sheremetyevo Term D – Madrid T1
SU2501 1120 Madrid T1 – Moscow Sheremetyevo Term F
SU0292 1935 Moscow Sheremetyevo Term D – Ho Chi Minh City
Madrid – Hotel Exe Plaza – right outside Plaza de Castilla Metro station. Is a very well-appointed place with very modern rooms and all the mod-cons included. Our triple room had two separate bedrooms with a sofa-bed in the second one, a separate bathroom with loads of toiletries and very good WiFi & AC.
Zafra – Hotel Victoria – just off the main square in town, about a 15-minute walk straight up the main road from the station, and our triple rooms were clean and respectable, if not bloody freezing when we arrived. When the air-con was turned on to heat the room, it was a mere 11 degrees! The rooms were basic though, with no toiletries and simple amenities, but more than adequate for a night’s sleep and a shower.
PTG Tours – Alco-Holic 5 booked direct through PTG Tours group booking
Renfe tickets bought when required at ticket offices
Saturday 25th January 2020 (Spain PTG Alcoholic 5 – Day 1)
Despite flying across the globe, the previous day, it seemed that either my body was well rested on the flight, or I was all excited about the tour at 0530 of a morning! Either way, I was up and out before 7am; at which point I wasn’t even sure who I’d just shared a room with.
Day 1 of the PTG Alcoholic 5 tour had been timed to start at Principe Pio vice Chamartin, so a metro ride was in order to get to the start location, as opposed to a 10-minute walk; which was where buying a 10-ride metro ticket the previous night came in handy. The charter rake was formed of 4 coaches and a steam heating van with SECN built DL500’s 321059 (masquerading as 2148 due to the original 321048 being long scrapped) top & tailing with 321050 (appearing as itself!). The set was stabled overnight in the bay platforms at Principe Pio and the steam heat van was already in full swing by the time I got there. It was a shame the same can’t be said for any shops that sold breakfast items and coffee, with the only shop open before the train departed being a 5-minute walk, over the road from the station.
Despite being up early to bag a compo at the correct end of the train for the first day, I still managed to end up sat at the wrong end of the train, and was settling in nicely to a compo at the 321050 end of the train when someone kindly rang to tell me the error of my ways. Thankfully the masses hadn’t turned up by that point and I was able to claim what would be the leading compo of the train for most of the day. It was just a shame it was behind the bag of nails that was 321059 (2148).
Departure was prompt and the set reversed outside Principe Pio before 321048 led the way south through Madrid via Getafe Industrial and Aranjuez to the derelict station of Algodor, where the train reversed but nobody was allowed off for photos despite it being 20 minutes before we set off again! After the short journey to Villaluenga Yuncler, with 321050 leading, the train then reversed again before heading via Torrijos to Talavera, where a lunch break had to eb taken by the crew; despite the train arriving at almost the booked departure time, over an hour late!
A rather handy Aldi right outside the station provided a haven for everyone on board to get some goodies for the train, whether it be food or beer, or both! By the time everyone had got back, 321050 had been run-round and was on top of 321059 in readiness for the pair to head to Merida via Caceras. Which was a complete and utter stagger! At least both locos were working, despite not being multi’d up and they’d both been working when the train was top & tail as well.
After a quick run-round at Merida the pair took us south to Zafra, which would be our base for the next two nights. Unfortunately, the hotels in Zafra, along with the posh town centre, were a 15-minute walk from the main Zafra station. Thankfully there was a supermacado between the station and town and we were able to stock up for the weekend, with the following day being a Sunday and everything being closed.
Our hotel base, the Hotel Victoria, was just off the main square in town and our triple rooms were clean and respectable, if not bloody freezing when we arrived. When the air-con was turned on to heat the room, it was a mere 11 degrees! The rooms were basic though, with no toiletries and simple amenities, but more than adequate for a night’s sleep and a shower. There were quite a few places around two main squares in town to eat at but in true Spanish style, nothing started serving food until between 2000 & 2100, so we ended up at a Chinese restaurant just off the square, where google translate and the owner helped us all choose what we wanted.
Gen for Saturday 25th January 2020
PTG Alco-Holic 5 – Day 1
321050/321059 T&T in tandem
39099 0830 Madrid Principe Pio – Bif. Santa Catalina
39098 0835 Bif. Santa Catalina – Algodor
39099 0941 Algodor – Villaluenga Yuncler
39098 1023 Villaluenga Yuncler – Talavera Reina
321050/321048 in tandem (on front)
39130 1235 Talavera Reina – Caseres
39131 1532 Caseres – Merida
37344 1700 Merida – Zafra
Photos for Saturday 25th January 2020
Sunday 26th January 2020 (Spain PTG Alcoholic 5 – Day 2)
An early start, with the temperature gauge on a shop on the way to the station reading only 6 degrees, and a blanket of fog covering Zafra afforded for some very atmospheric night shots with steam oozing from the train as the steam heat van did its thing. Thankfully it had been doing its thing for a while before people started arriving for the train, otherwise it would have been a very cold morning on board.
The stock and locos were in the same formation as they’d arrived the previous night and the whole caboodle continued south, just as it had arrived the previous night. When the sun began to shed some light on the surrounding countryside, and demist the train windows, news started to filter through that all wasn’t so well in the private operator world in Spain. To the point that the ALSA crew were detested by Renfe crew and regularly given the V’s by passing Renfe drivers. Further to that it seems that Renfe’s hatred of private operators was that strong that they tried to stop the charter operating and there was a distinct chance that one of the Renfe red-cap’s that should dispatch our train during the next few days, could well refuse to do so; which would bring our progress to an abrupt halt! The ALSA travelling fitter, who followed the tour throughout in his van, was driving ahead of the train and stopping at the relevant stations to make sure there was a red-cap in attendance in advance; everything was well, as it happened, albeit Renfe still managed to put a spanner in the works!
As if the prospect of the tour’s progress coming to a halt at anoint wasn’t enough, some bright spark managed to put a stop to the tour entering the Huelva Docks complex and only filed the paperwork on Friday, the day before the r started out. Despite ALSA challenging the reasons in court, as courts are closed over the weekend, there was no way to get the decision overturned before we reached Huelva. As a result, rather than cover the Huelva Docks branches with an ex Renfe Alco 313 top & tailing our train, we were routed forward to Huelva main station, some 4km beyond the entrance to the docks complex, and held there to pick up our booked pathway back at Huelva Mercanias, before returning to Zafra via Los Rosales. A journey we were at the rear of the train for, throughout.
With a sociable enough arrival time back at Zafra there was time to relax before the Spanish got their act together and started serving food of an evening. Another trip to the Chinese restaurant beckoned for some of us, followed by a reasonably early night for some of us. For others, neither of the aforementioned……
Gen for Sunday 26th January 2020
PTG Alco-Holic 5 – Day 2
321059/321050 in tandem (on front)
37344 0740 Zafra – Huelva Mercancias
37348 1144 Huelva Mercancias – Huelva
321050/321059 in tandem (on front)
37349 1301 Huelva – Huelva Mercancias
37345 1309 Huelva Mercancias – Zafra
Photos for Sunday 26th January 2020
Monday 27th January 2020 (Spain PTG Alcoholic 5 – Day 3)
Day three would be the longest of the trip, with a 13h43m train journey ahead of us when we set off. It wasn’t a foggy morning but the temperature gauge on the shop said it was only 4 degrees this time, yet it felt strangely warmer! Outside anyway! It was freezing on the train until the sun broke through and the steam heating van started to warm the train through.
We ran via Merida to Puertollano where there was a lengthy 2-hour plus stop for a pre-arranged lunch. Which based on PTG’s previous attempts in Greece we expected to be nothing short of a farce. Rather refreshingly, after a 15-minute traipse through the streets of Puertollano, we reached the restaurant. Which had closed its doors for the afternoon and laid out its entire insides to cater for over 100 people. Everything was efficiently done, with a three course meal, and accompanied drinks & wine dished out with plenty of time for people to return to the station at their own accord; and via the nearest supermarket to stock up on beer, if they so wished! Which we did!
The DL500’s did a decent job getting us back to Madrid and just when we were on the outskirts of the city, we detoured around it to run via Getafe Industrial and Vicalvaro to reach Chamartin. Thankfully, with a near 10pm arrival, we managed to devour most of the train food we’d been hoarding for the last two days along the way and didn’t need to be concerned about food so late after arrival. So, it was a swift walk to the Exe Plaza and straight to bed; which some of us needed more than others……
Gen for Monday 27th January 2020
PTG Alco-Holic 5 – Day 3
321050/321059 in tandem (on front)
39313 0800 Zafra – Villaverde Bajo
39312 2057 Villaverde Bajo – Vicalvaro Mercanias
39313 2118 Vicalvaro Mercanias – Madrid Chamartin
Photos for Monday 27th January 2020
Tuesday 28th January 2020 (Spain PTG Alcoholic 5 – Day 4 – The BLS bit…..)
Another pre-8am start at Principe Pio vice Chamartin, where at least this time there was somewhere open to get breakfast and a coffee before the train departed; again, with the DL500’s top & tailing the set. It was to be a short day, with a lot less people on board than there had been on the main three-day tour. ALSA had offered an add-on to the main bit of the day which would have featured a hired Renfe freight GM but as the track bashers on board wanted to do the track into the Madrid Railway Museum, which we wouldn’t have been able to do if we’d not got back before the museum closed, then we had to run as booked and terminate at the museum’s gate as planned. Not that anyone seemed to care that the Alco bashers on board had been done out of an Alco earlier in the trip…..
It was a morning of backwards and forwards around the Madrid suburbs with plenty of reverse moves and due to late running we had to reverse at Villaverde Bajo vice Getafe Industrial to get into the museum anywhere near time. The branch into the museum is about 1km long and our movement down it had to be preceded by a motorized vehicle. We traversed the whole branch, right up to the museum’s rear entry gate, where everyone de-trained and the set returned to its base. We were then allowed to wander around the museum, before making our way back to the city using the nearby Delicias metro station to gain access to the system.
Some tour participants decided on an afternoon nedding in some Renfe 334’s and with 194 1618 Madrid Chamartin – Badajoz being booked a pair of 334s on load 6, it would have been rude not to partake; especially as there’s a flat €6 fare on Renfe trains for Priv users, which is reduced to €4 when the train isn’t running as an IC train; e.g. withing Madrid’s suburban limit. So, with tickets to Talavera, everyone did 334005/334027 to the limit of the Cercanias network at Leganes, for an EMU back to Madrid. The only issue being that we had to get someone to let us out through the electronic gates at Leganes, with us not having Cercanias tickets to get out. Quite why Renfe don’t man any of their electronic barriers is beyond me, not even at Chamartin!
There were grand plans of doing another move later that evening with a Renfe 252, but engineering work put pay to that, so an evening of food and beer at a restaurant local to the hotel it was. We all had flights out of Madrid the following morning, or early afternoon, and the sensible among us, mainly me, made it to bed at a sensible time; meanwhile everyone else stopped for that “one more” beer, which I’m reliably informed, turned into three more and an aperitif! I didn’t hear Vic creep back into our room after midnight, which was a bonus…..
Gen for Tuesday 28th January 2020
PTG Alco-Holic 5 – Day 4
321059/321050 T&T in tandem
39046 0755 Madrid Principe Pio – Pinar De Las Rozas
39047 0813 Pinar De Las Rozas – Las Matas
39050 0843 Las Matas – Fuencarral Fuente Grande
39051 0922 Fuencarral Fuente Grande – Colmenar Viejo
39052 1000 Colmenar Viejo – Guadalajara
39055 1134 Guadalajara – Villaverde Bajo
39069 1300 Getafe Industrial – Madrid Museo De Ferrocarril
334005/334027 194 1618 Madrid Chamartin – Badajoz
Photos for Tuesday 28th January 2020