The Long Journey Home Part 5 – Moscow to London
Thursday 6th June 2019 (In transit from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Minsk, Belarus – the long way around!)
Thankfully, as we were never allowed off the train in Belgorod, the forward UZ loco for our 073 1500 (P) Moskva Kurskaya – Kryvyi Rig had been sat in the adjacent road when we arrived; VL82-045 (1/2). In the adjacent platform was the set of RZD stock we could have arrived into Belgorod the previous day on, had we gone with one of the alternative options for getting to Belarus via Ukraine, but as it would have taken away our night in Novosibirsk we flagged the idea of another 3-days straight on a train, after arriving there from Vladivostok.
The Russian passport control was quite strict and Flossy was adamant that the guy processing our wanted to find something wrong with mine. He’d thumbed through it dozens of times and even his magnifying glass on it, before eventually stamping me out of Russia, well over 5-minutes after I’d handed him my passport. Processing Flossy’s didn’t take as long as a result and while he took the entry/exit card we’d had with us since entering Russia at Khasan, he wasn’t interested in the registration document we’d been given at the Primorye Hotel in Vladivostok. After the ruthless passport checks the train was allowed to continue forward to Ukraine, smack on time at 0305; where we didn’t realise we’d have to sit on the train and wait for passport formalities to be completed before being allowed off; and it was a good job we had nearly 2 hours before our next train.
Having already filled out the Ukraine entry cards that the coach attendant had handed out the previous night, entering Ukraine was less of an ordeal than departing Russia was and for us it was a simple flick through the passport, find the page closest to the back where it could be stamped; and job done. The Russian guy in our compo had to produce paperwork and answer a whole host of question before his was stamped. We then had to wait until the whole coach had been processed and customs had done a sweep through before being allowed onto the platform. We could tell when the sniffer dog had been into the end compo as the little shit of a dog yapped at it constantly; it should have ripped its face off, then it would have shut up.
It was a nice fresh morning when we eventually got outside, about 35-minutes after arriving. UZ ChS7-132 had already dropped onto the front of the train to work 073 1500 (P) Moskva Kurskaya – Kryvyi Rig forward. Our first task of the morning was to find the booking office and collect our tickets for or onward journey to Minsk, which had been booked on the UZ website but we had to exchange the booking voucher for a ticket; most likely as it was a cross-border train, which I’d been surprised we’d even managed to book online anyway. It was a 30-second affair at the only open ticket window in the massive ticket hall. No words were spoken, I handed the lady my phone displaying the reference details on the UZ App, she typed stuff on her computer and handed me two printed tickets moments later: job done!
Outside the impressive Kharkiv Pas. station, despite it only being 5am, almost every money changing bureau was open and with all having exactly the same rates there was no need to mess about and the nearest one to the station exit got all my remaining Russian Rubles, in exchange for UAH860, with the exchange rate being 0.40 Ukrainian Hryvna to 1 Russian Ruble. After that little job was done, we sat it out in the park in the morning sunshine, waiting for the sun to get high enough to allow us to take a decent shot of the station front, before making our way onto the platform; just as UZ ChS7-166 arrived with 100 2138 (P) Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas.
100 2138 (P) Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas. was formed of a UZ portion to Sumy and a BCh portion for Minsk and when we boarded our BCh Kupe coach we were very pleased to end up with compo to ourselves, which was very tidy, had constantly working air-con, in a coach that was relatively empty anyway and there was no noise in it at all; it was just what we needed after the shitty journey the previous night. UZ TEP70-0116 had already dropped onto the opposite end of the train by the time we’d dumped our bags and once we set off it was tera and porridge time; only now I was digging into Flossy’s stash!
After a brief morning catch-up sleep, I took the opportunity to tend to a wound I’d been nursing for a week by this point. Quite how I got it in the first place, I don’t really know, but one of my fingers had started bleeding down the side of a nail after I’d trimmed them the previous week and had been hurting ever since; to the point that I wasn’t able to write my moves down by this point because of the pain and it felt very tender. I’d been putting antiseptic cream and plasters on for the last few nights but when I got to the toilet to take it off this morning, it didn’t look good at all. While trying to investigate where the pain was coming from, I inadvertently pulled the skin away from the side of my nail, and there it was, thick, creamy, white puss! Lots of it. The more I squeezed, the more came out, but thankfully there was an end to the puss squeezing when clear fluid started to come out; at which point my finger end didn’t feel like it was going to explode anymore, and within a couple of hours I could actually write again; which is quite important in this hobby.
At Sumy ChME3-1946 dropped onto the rear of our train and drew the UZ Sumy portion off. TEP70-0116 then continued to Vorozhba, where it was replaced by VL40U-1384-2 for the short run to Konotop and while the electric was on the train, we took the opportunity to make up our butties for lunch and were all done and dusted by Konotop. Where the VL40 was immediately removed and M62-1546 dropped onto the train to work forward to Gomel in Belarus. It was a nice relaxing run north, over a line not frequented by much loco-hauled traffic, via Mena to Gomel and it was probably one of the best journeys we’d had throughout the whole trip for relaxation and peace & quiet; so we reveled in it while we could and with only four more trains to get us to London after it, it was worth reveling in.
At Snovsk the Ukraine border staff boarded the train, with the dogs and everything they needed to deal with the train when it got to Khorobychi, the designated exit location from Ukraine. Just north of Snovsk on the right-hand side, in the yard behind a wall, were four steam locos in various states of disrepair, although one looked in decent condition having had a paint job in the recent past by the look of it. We spotted them too late to get photos though and had to admire them, while we were licking the windows as they went by.
When the time came to exit Ukraine, after only arriving into it 15 hours previous, the border guards didn’t quite understand the method in our madness and wanted to know why we were bypassing their beautiful country. When he found all my Ukrainian stamps in the back of my passport though, he understood a bit more, especially after he’d studied them; and probably realised that most o them had the little train symbol within them. They were peasant though and even the sniffer dog took a liking to us, well Flossy mostly, but it did slaver all over my RZD slippers while mooching around our compartment.
Next stop, Terezhovka, Belarus, where while our train was being processed a local DR1A DMU came off the Krugavets branch and ran forward to Gomel in front of us. The young Belarussian border guard that spoke English was equally as confused as the Ukrainians when he found out that we were spending less than 18 hours in his country; and wanted to know why we’d not just flown home from Kyiv! In the end, his questioning was more about him being able to practice his English as he didn’t see foreigners very often to attempt to speak English. It was a thorough passport check though and the magnifying glass was out again, before they took our passports into the next compo to scrutinize them further. I half expected them to return with a pre-printed entry card, as the Russian’s had in Khasan, but we never filled one out manually, and they never did one for us; so, we entered Belarus without filling out an entry card.
At Gomel, the last remaining passenger, but for us, in our coach got off and we ended up with the whole coach to ourselves for the run forward to Minsk. It was a nice sunny evening in Gomel and after M62-1546 was hastily removed from train 100, it was replaced by BCh electric ChS4T-545 for the run forward to Minsk. This was the first time I’d seen an electric loco working any of the express trains up the newly electrified main line from Gomel to Minsk; with everything on my previous visits being solid diesel, despite EMUs using the OHL. I think M62-1546 was run straight back through the station to re-engine a Minsk – Odessa train that had arrived with a TEP70BS while I was scurrying around the station area trying to find a money changing place. Trying, being the operative word!
After failing on the money changing task, not spotting any trains at all during the stop and not being able to buy anything due to the failing t execute task 1, cheese sarnies it was! All of which were polished off before ChS4T-545 got proceedings under way and we were both dossed out well before Zhlobin, where a portion was attached to the rear of our train. After a brief interlude of sleep at Babruysk, I was sock on when the coach attendant came and knocked on the door to give us our tickets back and remind us we’d soon be into Minsk; and I heard nothing until 15 minutes out, which left me flapping around to get ready to get off at the last minute. Our arrival into Minsk was at 2348, 17h31m after we’d departed Kharkiv, and we now had a 3h24m fester to contend with before our next lengthy journey forward to Wien Hbf, departing at 0312.
Minsk station is a clean and advanced station, with all the mod-cons, except for WiFi. Here were still local EMUs running after midnight and there were plenty of people knocking about until the last one went, after which the station became dead and every platform was empty. Initially we sat outside the station building so Flossy could have a beer, but he was told off by a female security guard for drinking outside station premises. She did allow him to drink it inside the station building though, but he was eventually told off by another security guard for drinking it in a public area; and had to go upstairs to the buffet area and finish it off. Where he met a gob-shite who polished off a bottle of spirits in one go and then tried to get the dregs out of Flossy’s beer bottle, apparently. He was later heard causing a commotion upstairs, before being led away by the same security staff who’d told Flossy off for drinking outside and in!
Obviously, we managed to get some money changed at Minsk station before our train arrived, with there being at least two 24/7 money changing places within the station building; although the first one slammed the hatches down before it got to my turn and the second wouldn’t change Pound Sterling, only Euros.
After a drought of trains in Minsk station for a couple of hours, RZD ChS8-060 broke the mold when it arrived with 077 Moskva – Hrodna and was quickly replaced by BCh TEP70BS-009 for the forward run. As that departed BCh ChS4T-555 arrived with 029 Moskva – Kaliningrad and worked forward with it; now the line is electrified through to Vilnius. Our 017 1814 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Nice Ville wasn’t far behind it, with RZD’s green liveried ChS8-052 (2/1) doing the honours. As we were booked on the train from Orsha, but had changed our plans to avoid any Russia/Belarus border complications, we were pleased when the coach attendant allowed us straight onto the train; although he did mutter something about Orsha to a colleague. Our 1st Class compartment was just what we needed, it was spotless, cool, had plenty of mod-cons, including an electronic key to get back in, and even had RZD branded cups and a teapot on the table. And, at last, we had a compartment with charging facilities to ourselves. Even the beds were ready-made and all we had to do was fold them down, close the compo door and turn the lights out; even if it would only be for a few hours until we reached Brest.
Gen for Thursday 6th June 2019
RZD ChS7-270 (1/2) 099 xxxx (P) Kryvyi Rih – Moskva Kurskaya (from Belgorod)
VL82-045B/A 073 1500 (P) Moskva Kurskaya – Kryvyi Rih (Belgorod to Kharkiv)
ChS7-132 073 1500 (P) Moskva Kurskaya – Kryvyi Rih (from Kharkiv)
ChS7-166 100 2138 (P) Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas. (to Kharkiv)
TEP70-0116 100 2138 (P) Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas. (Kharkiv to Vorozhba)
VL40-1384-2 100 2138 (P) Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas. (Vorozhba to Konotop)
M62-1546 100 2138 (P) Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas. (Konotop to Homiel Pas)
BCh ChS4T-545 100 2138 (P) Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas. (from Homiel Pas)
Moves for Thursday 6th June 2019
|VL82-045B||Belgorod||Kozacha Lopan||1500 (05/06) Moskva Kurskaya – Kryivy Rih||073Ya|
|VL82-045B||Kozacha Lopan||Kharkiv Pas.||1500 (05/06) Moskva Kurskaya – Kryivy Rih||073Ya|
|TEP70-0116||Kharkiv Pas.||Vorozhba||2138 Novooleksiyivka – Minsk Pas.||100P|
|ChS4T-545||Gomel Pas.||Minsk Pas.|
Photos for Thursday 6th June 2019
Friday 7th June 2019 (Minsk, Belarus to Wien, Austria, via Poland & Czech Republic)
Despite the fact we were in an end compartment and right over the bogies, with things rattling all over the place, we were both sock on when the coach attendant woke us on the approach to Brest Centralny. And no sooner had I opened the compo door and put the blind up did we roll by a waiting ChME3-7097, which trundled through the opposite platform and was dropped onto the rear of our train for the shunt. After a bunch of very attractive young border security girls took our passports away for processing, the ChME3 then propelled us the 1km into Brest gauge changing shed, where it split the stock over two roads and then detached the restaurant car and another old-style RZD coach before disappearing off with them.
The bogie changing process was very efficient and done with a minimum of fuss, and noise. Previous experience of gauge changing had involved a lot of clattering and banging but it seemed that changing bogies on new stock did away with a lot of the manual work required to free the bogies from the coach. We watched on as the coaches were jacked up, the bogies from all the coaches on each road were then winched out and positioned at the top end of the shed, as the fresh, standard gauge, bogies were winched into position at the same time. Meanwhile the Russia couplers were replaced with standard drawer-hooks to allow things to be coupled in Europe as the RZD knuckle-couplers are non-standard and only used in Russia. The whole process for the rake of four coaches on or road only took around 30-minutes to complete and we were being shunted back towards the station before we new it. The ChME3 that did the shunt had been parked on the SG side of the shed all along but we’d missed spotting it on our way into the shed and as we were in the middle of the train during the shunt there was no way of getting the number before we got into the station; which also didn’t happen! Thankfully, we’d been able to see a reflection of the ChME3 in a coach window opposite ours, which had been confusing us a little as we couldn’t figure out from the reflection where it was standing. While a photo of the reflection didn’t reveal the loco number on my camera, thankfully I’d taken it and would be able to scrutinize it on a bigger screen when I got home to reveal the number; after I’d cleared it up a bit.
After being drawn out, then propelled back into the shed to piece the second part of the train back together, we were then drawn out again and then propelled to just outside the station, where PKP IC EP07-397 ran by us; which we assumed correctly would work 017 forward into Poland. A very half-hearted customs check went on before the train was set back into the station and our passports were handed back to us. After which we were asked to leave the compartment while the girl did her own check before moving on to the next compartment to do the same. Eventually, we were allowed onto the platform, where armed guards stood around to make sure nobody left it. I wasn’t allowed to take photos of EP07-397, which was now bolted to the train and the ChME3 that had shunted us in was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t sat outside the station area anywhere either, so I really was going to have to rely on my photo for the loco number.
With Terespol, Poland, only being 5km from Brest we were there in no time and went through a time zone in the short distance as well. It was nice to be greeted by border staff in fluent English, who were smiling and didn’t scrutinize our passports with magnifying glasses; although when the actual passport checks took place, I was getting hot water from the coach attendant’s kettle and managed to pick the most miserable of the bunch to process me into Poland; who took an age at it as well. We were 8’ late away from Terespol and nobody had been allowed off the train during the station stop. There was a lot of Infrastructure work going off in Terespol station with a TEM2 and an SM48 being in attendance, with their respective trains. Next stop Warszawa….
We were a few minutes late into Warszawa Wschodnia, where an EP07 I didn’t spot the number of was used to draw the rear coach off our train and then shunt it onto a PKP restaurant car, which EU07-324 was sat with in the middle of the station. The, while the UID EP07 shunted the two coaches back onto the rear of the train, EU07-324 replaced EP07-397 for the run through Poland to Bohumin in Czech Republic. We weren’t the only people on the train that were photographing the locos at Warszawa Wschodnia either and unfortunately, after I’d established both were cranks, one didn’t speak English and the other, who did, hadn’t even realised there’d been a 2nd ChME3 involved in the gauge change shunt. It was worth a try though….
After running through Warszawa Centralna and Zachodnia, we opted to check out our first restaurant car of the trip and found ourselves occupying the last two seats available in it when we’d walked almost the length of the train to get to it. It was a pleasant place to spend an hour and the air-con kept it cool. While the staff were very busy, service was cool, calm and collective and the menus were randomly only in Russian & English; not Polish. The staff all seemed to speak Polish, Russian and English, very well, and food could only be paid for in Euros; something we still had a fair bit of. The food was cooked freshly, tasted very good and was well presented at the same time; and after being washed down with a couple of beers an afternoon nap beckoned; after which the trip started to fall apart at the seams.
Before we arrived into Bohumin, Czech Republic, I’d been trying to find out what locos would be involved on our OBB operated trains that night and in the process found out that EN462 from Salzburg Hbf to München Hbf was shown to be 218497/218498 but more importantly, our EN466 from Salzburg was showing to be dragged back from Salzburg Hbf to Hallwang-Elixhausen by an 1163, before the train was then diverted via some freight lines in Salzburg to reach Salzburg Sud, then via Bischofshofen, Schwarzach St Veit, Zell am See and Kitzbuhel to Innsbruck Hbf; and retimed to arrive into Zurich Hbf at 1020 vice the planned 0820. Which really put the cat amongst the pigeons as we were booked on the 0934 TVG from Zurich to Paris and then the 1513 Eurostar from Paris to London! There was bugger all we could do about it at this point, other than check availability of the TGV and Eurostar websites, which both showed the next available trains as having availability at that point. It was a job for Wien Hbf booking office to sort, so we put all our eggs in their basket on arrival; but the outcome wasn’t great….
Meanwhile, after spending most of the journey through Poland trying to figure out what to do when we arrived in Zurich the following morning, PKP’s EU07-324 gave way to ZSSK’s 362002 at Bohumin, where the train reversed and the Slovakian loco then took the Russian stock through the Czech Republic, after relieving a Polish loco! CD 3621734 arrived into Bohumin with R837 1456 Brno Kralovo Pole – Bohumin during the fester and CD 150225 headed off to Poland with the late running EC117 142 Praha Hlavni Nadrazi – Warszawa Wschodnia, while Rejiojet Vectron 193227 set off towards Wien Hbf in front of us with the late running RJ1037 1620 Praha Hlavni Nadrazi – Wien Hbf.
Rather than walk back to our coach we hopped back on board at Bohumin and straight into the restaurant car for a second sitting of the day. It was a bit more relaxed of an evening but the food quality was just as good as it had been earlier in the day; and we both had a cracking schnitzel before walking the length of the train and beginning to get our shit together to get off in Wien Hbf a couple of hours later. As it had been a hot day, I even used the on-train shower for a second time and managed not to be almost thrown out of it by erratic driving, as I had been earlier in the day.
By Breclav, where OBB 1116044 replaced ZSSK 362002 at the head of the train, we were almost packed and ready for getting off and with only just over an hour to run from Breclav to Wien Hbf it was one of those journeys where we sat and waited to get off; while reveling in the fact we’d been through almost 200 teabags between us since arriving in Vietnam and the cuppa we were drinking would be the last we made ourselves during the trip. It had been a nice journey, made more so by the first class compartment and the fact there was a shower in the coach, but we were ready to get off when we got to Wien Hbf and I was surprised at how many Russians got off there too. We now had other things on our mind though and as we arrived, OBB 1116048 set off with EN462 2127 Wien Hbf – München Hbf; which we’d catch up with in Salzburg later when our EN466 from Budapest would be shunted onto it. For now, we had an appointment with Wien Hbf booking office to make….
As with most European travel centers these days, Wien Hbf used a ticket issuing system but thankfully we only had to wait a few minutes for our turn to come around. The lady dealing with us spoke good English but didn’t seem to know what to do with or situation, especially as we had TGV & Eurostar tickets that were affected by OBB’s retiming of our EN466. Thankfully, I’d figured out that if we could get transferred onto the München portion of EN462 from Wien Hbf, we’d have a plus 35’ onto the 0728 ICE to Mannheim, which overtook the 0653 München – Paris Est TGV at Stuttgart; which would get us to Paris with enough time to get from Est to Nord for our booked Eurostar. Unfortunately, that suggestion fell at the first hurdle as EN462 was fully booked to München; which was the only option available to allow us to get to Paris in time to make our booked Eurostar. After a bit more scratting around on the computer she admitted defeat and told us there was nothing she could do for us at all, and that we’d have to take our tickets to the booking office in Zurich and get them endorsed; so they could then make onward arrangements for us on the next available TGV. There was nothing like passing the book, and considering OBB had caused us this discomfort in our plan, their lack of direction or assistance and the fact they’d not e-mailed me to advise of the later arrival time into Zurich, just came across as sheer incompetence; and yet nobody seemed to care! So, after travelling over 20,000km from Saigon to Wien we were now thrown into the realms of the unknown by a bit of OBB incompetence that had the potential to leave us stranded in Europe; and would definitely tarnish what had been an otherwise faultless trip.
With time cracking on we used the excellent Thai fast-food place in the station building, which served up a tasty, good sized Pad Thai, which was just what was needed before or overnight into the unknown. While waiting on the platform for our train, I was bitten twice by mosquitoes, something which hadn’t happened on the trip since Vietnam; and something which had never happened to me in Wien at all, ever! So, while OBB 1116174 was sat waiting to depart with EN246 2242 Wien ARZ – Bregenz, I found myself using afterbite and then putting mosquito spray on; which wasn’t quite what I’d expected to be doing in Wien, although I wasn’t expecting to be trying to figure out a way home the following day either! But I was…
As expected, OBB’s 1116061 arrived with EN462 2040 Budapest Keleti – München Hbf. Our coach was the rear one on the train, at that point, and our 2-berth compartment was freezing cold. Once the coach attendant had done his thing, I stuffed bog roll in everything that looked like it could rattle, before clambering into the bottom berth while Flossy got himself acquainted with the upper one. I hadn’t planned to be awake at Linz Hbf but as I was and opportunity arose, I took the opportunity to ned OBB’s 2070012 in when it shunted the through Praha – Zurich coach onto the rear of our EN462 at Linz Hbf; which of course was right next door to my coach anyway.
I wasn’t long in bed though, before being on my toes at Salzburg Hbf, which I didn’t need to be quick about for a change as 1163008 stayed attached to the rear of EN462 after shunting our through Zurich portion from EN462 to EN466; with 1116048 still being present at the opposite end. To avoid some DB engineering works, as already mentioned, EN466 was being diverted via Zell am See to Innsbruck and once 1163008 began to drag us the 8km to Hallwang-Elixhausen I got myself horizontal again, after I’d taken snapshots of the next train numbers that we’d inherited as a result of the diversion.
Gen for Friday 7th June 2019
ChS8-060 (RZD) (1/2) 077Sh 1636 (P) Moskva – Hrodna (to Minsk)
TEP70BS-009 077Sh 1636 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Hrodna (from Minsk)
ChS4T-555 029Ch 1724 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Kaliningrad
ChS8-052 (RZD) (2/1) 017 1814 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Nice Ville (to Brest)
ChME3T-7097 propel 017 into Brest Gauge Changer (CIS gauge)
ChME3T-4175 draw 017 out of Brest Gauge Changer, piece train together then propel into Standard Gauge platform
EP07-397 017 1814 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Nice Ville (Brest to Warszawa Wschodnia)
EU07-324 017 1814 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Nice Ville (Warszawa Wschodnia – Bohumin)
362002 (ZSSK) 017 1814 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Nice Ville (Bohumin to Breclav)
1116044 (OBB) 017 1814 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Nice Ville (from Breclav)
362173 R837 1456 Brno Kralovo Pole – Bohumin
150225 EC117 1424 Praha HN – Warszawa Wschodnia
193227 RJ1037 1620 Praha HN – Wien Hbf
381002 Os4288 1816 Bratislava HS – Breclav
1116174 NJ246 2242 Wien Hbf Auto – Bregenz
1016021 R7745 2245 Wien Hbf – Bratislava Petrzalka
1216226 RJ375 1850 Praha HN – Wien Hbf
1116061 EN462 2040 Budapest Keleti – München Hbf
Moves for Friday 7th June 2019
|ChS8-052(2)||Minsk Pas.||Brest Centralny||1814 (06/06) Moskva Beloruskaya – Nice Ville||017B|
|ChME3T-7097||Brest Centralny CIS Gauge||Brest Gauge Changing Shed|
|ChME3-4175||Brest Gauge Changing Shed||Brest Centralny Standard Gauge|
|EP07-397||Brest Centralny||Warszawa Wschodnia|
|1116061||Wien Hbf||Salzburg Hbf||2040 Budapest Keleti – Munchen Hbf||EN462|
Photos for Friday 7th June 2019
Saturday 8th June 2019 (The final leg from Zurich to London; no thanks to OBB!)
I’d not felt the additional loco being attached at Innsbruck Hbf, or the 11163 being detached after the shunt for that matter, but I was pleased to find OBB 1116252 in multi with 1116048 when we arrived into Buchs SG; which was already after the time we should have originally arrived into Zurich! SBB oldie Re4/4II 11109 had already attached to the opposite end by the time I got to it and during my amble down the platform I was subjected to a random passport check, which often happens at Buchs.
Even the coach attendant didn’t know what time we were now booked away from Buchs and I had to show him on OBB Scotty when he tried to make us board the train 15 minutes before departure. To be fair to him though, I’d mentioned out missed connection at Zurich the previous night and when he handed our tickets back it had been endorsed by the grippers overnight and stamped with their ticket stampers over where it had been endorsed to prove authenticity. And after a rather nice breeze through the Swiss countryside along Lake Zurich it came in handy at the SBB booking office in Zurich Hbf.
We had to wait about 10 minutes for our turn to see someone at Zurich Hbf but once we got to the counter the woman couldn’t have been more helpful and we had alternative tickets for the 1134 TVG from Zurich to Paris in our hands in moments. Unfortunately, as it was fully booked, we didn’t have guaranteed seats, so might have to stand for some, or all of, the 4-hour journey to Paris. Still, we were halfway there and hadn’t had to pay anything; all I had to do now was sort the Eurostar tickets out.
The first call to Eurostar lasted 11 minutes, which I spent talking to a wet lettuce who eventually decided that I’d rang the wrong office and that he couldn’t deal with our FIP Eurostar tickets. After he gave me another number, which turned out to be for International Travel, that deal with Priv Eurostar tickets; and was closed at a weekend! So, I rang Eurostar straight back and managed to speak with someone who seemed to know what he was doing. And after another 10-minute conversation I hung up no better off at all. Despite there being availability on every Eurostar from Paris to London from 1713 onwards, and in he class we’d booked, there was no availability for staff travel or Interrail and as a result our tickets couldn’t be transferred to another train. Yet, if we’d had normal tickets, he told me that they would have been transferred without a hesitation; which left me confused and so thankful that being rail staff had got me out of a very big hole; or actually that being rail staff had fucked us over and Eurostar had just treated us like 2nd class citizens! Maybe I’m too polite, or maybe Eurostar are just wank, either way the outcome of the conversation was that we needed to present all our tickets to Eurostar at Paris Nord, where we’d probably be transferred to the next available train home; or we could have paid over £200 each to make sure we got onto the train we wanted to be on; yeah, fucking right!
So, there we were, in Zurich only 8 hours from London, 29 days after setting off on our mammoth journey from Ho Chi Minh city by train and rather than reminiscing about what a fantastic trip we’d had over the last month we were both absolutely seething and not looking forward to the next 8 hours of travel at all; when they should have been among the most relaxing of the whole trip. By the time I’d finished on the phone with Eurostar the TGV forming our rebooked TGV9218 1134 Zurich Hbf – Paris Gare de Lyon was rolling into the platform and we found coach 18, our designated standing coach, at the front. As it turned out, despite the train being wedged and having people sat on the floor in vestibules, we ended up picking two seats in coach 18 that were vacant all the way to Paris and were able to at least sit for the whole journey. We almost bungled it at one point though when we moved out of the seats we’d been sat in, in favour of an empty bay, which was then taken over by a bunch of latecomers. All was well in the end though and we only had the very last leg of the trip to worry about as we approached Paris.
Arrival into Paris Gare de Lyon, despite being 5’ late from Belfort, was 2 minutes early. I’d been watching on GPS and we’d been bowling along at 285kmph, which I’m sure isn’t as fast as the TGVs are capable of. Still, it got us where we needed to be, when we needed to be there; well, sort of! I always get a bit confused in the big Paris stations when looking for the Metro or RER but Gare de Lyon is quite straightforward and having successfully bought single tickets for RER Line D, to get to Paris Gare du Nord, we were on a train virtually straight away and on the RER platform at Gare du Nord at 1550!
Now, Gare du Nord is definitely a little confusing if you don’t know where you’re going but we soon made it up to mainline platform level and there were only two people in front of us in the Eurostar ticket office when we got there. Having quickly explained the situation to the lad serving us, I thought he was going to tell us we’d have pay up to get back home, when he started scratting about the office. It turned out he was looking on his reciprocal agreement list to find out if OBB were on it, before dealing with us. The fact he was looking for QBB didn’t help, but his mate put him right and as soon as he realised he’d been a tit, he was on our case; and new tickets for the 1713 Paris Gare du Nord – St Pancras were handed over, free of charge. They were still in the same class but he’d managed to issue them in coaches 3 & 17 respectively; which we managed to rectify at Gate A once we’d been through security, and both ended up in coach 3 at the front of the train.
Security at Paris Gare du Nord was an ordeal, with British passport holders being singled out and asked to use a different line to everyone else. All the fuss about French security and customs staff wanting more staff to do the job seems to be a massive smoke screen to me, with the lines at security constantly being stopped just to allow people to pick their bags up and bugger off, before allowing the next people through. It was like timewasting in a cup final when you’re 4-0 up; utterly fucking pointless!
When we eventually got onto the platform our nice shiny new class 374 Eurostar looked the part but the seats in Club Class are as shit as they are on any new train these days; where it seems cheap to make things look nice but not to feel nice. It rattles too once we got bowling along HS1 but thankfully the group of noisy kids that had taken up residence behind us were very quiet. The on-board service was round about 30-minutes after departure and everything was included in our ticket price.
On arrival into St Pancras International we’d travelled 22,443km, through 12 different countries, on 120 different locos and it had taken 29 days. What a 29-days it had been too, through some very contrasting countries, with different regimes and different styles of living but every minute was worth the time and effort I’d put into planning it, and taking the time to get to grips with the finer points along the way; even if OBB and Eurostar did try to ruin it at the last hurdle! But I wasn’t quite home yet and 31128 would be a fitting end to the trip the following day, when it returned to mainline duties after a lengthy absence; and then I’d be going home, where the journey would finally end.
In true style of the bash, we used the underground to get from St Pancras to Euston and then did a Pendolino north to Crewe, where we met up with some fellow class 31 afficionados and checked into the Waverley Hotel, which had been a favourite haunt for some back in the 1990’s. It was a welcome bed for the night after not having been in a hotel room since leaving Novosibirsk! The rooms were basic but did what we needed of it that night, and after a cracking night out at the local pub The Brunswick it was around 2am by the time we got back to the hotel, by which time Aidy had fallen off the wall outside and Flossy had thrown his whole pizza on the pavement too!
Gen for Saturday 8th June 2019
1163006 19466 0230 Salzburg Hbf – Hallwang-Elixhausen
1116048 17799 0248 Hallwang-Elixhausen – Zurich Hbf (to Buchs)
1116252 pilot 17799 from Innsbruck Hbf
11109 17799 0248 Hallwang-Elixhausen – Zurich Hbf (from Buchs)
456095/456092 VAE2569 0839 Luzern – St Gallen
Moves for Saturday 8th June 2019
|2070012||Linz Hbf Platform 2||Linz Hbf Platform 3||Shunt Praha portion to rear of EN462|
|1163006||Salzburg Hbf Platform ??||Salzburg Hbf Platform ??||Shunt Zurich portion EN462 to EN466 at Salzburg Hbf|
|1163006||Salzburg Hbf||Hallwang-Elixhausen||0230 Salzburg Hbf – Hallwang-Elixhausen||19466|
|1116048||Hallwang-Elixhausen||Buchs SG||0248 Hallwang-Elixhausen – Zurich Hbf||17799|
|1116252||Innsbruck Hbf||Buch SG|
|11109||Buchs SG||Zurich Hbf|
|384010||Zurich Hbf||Paris Gare de Lyon||1134 Zurich Hbf – Paris Gare de Lyon||TGV9218|
|384035||Basel SBB||Paris Gare de Lyon||1110 Bern – Paris Gare de Lyon||TGV9216|
|EMU||Paris Gare de Lyon (RER)||Paris Gare du Nord (RER)||1455 Corbiel-Essomes – Villiers-le-Bel Goaesse|
|374018||Paris Gare du Nord||Calais Frethun||1713 Paris Gare du Nord – St Pancras||9047|
|374018||Calais Frethun||St Pancras International|
|Tube||King’s Cross / St Pancras||Euston||Walthamstow – Brixton (Victoria Line)|
|390040||Euston||Crewe||1907 Euston – Liverpool Lime Street|
Photos for Saturday 8th June 2019
Sunday 9th June 2019 (BLS Tour “The Sunday Yicker” then home to Conisbrough)
There were some fragile heads of a morning and despite the BLS tour only being load-4 and we weren’t allowed to stick our heads out of the windows, the day out with 31128 on the main line was a welcome one; even if it wasn’t well patronized by 31 bashers. I’d not been into Liverpool Lime Street with a 31 since it all finished on 27th May 1995, so that was a bit nostalgic, and after a thoroughly enjoyable day, to make sure the spirit of the trip’s last leg continued, it was home via Stockport and Sheffield, and I eventually arrived into Conisbrough courtesy of 142088 on the 2208 Sheffield – Doncaster local. My wife was waiting at the station to pick me up, and it was back to normality………….
Moves for Sunday 9th June 2019
|37668||Crewe||Crewe Shunt Neck||0932 Crewe – Ashton-in-Makerfield||1Z28|
|31128||Crewe Shunt Neck||Crewe|
|37668||Crewe||Stone (South of Meaford Crossing SOT505 Signal)|
|31128||Stone (South of Meaford Crossing SOT505 Signal)||Crewe EMU Stabling Siding|
|37668||Crewe EMU Stabling Siding||Crewe|
|31128||Crewe||Dallam Royal Mail Platform 3|
|37668||Dallam Royal Mail Platform 3||Dallam Freight Depot|
|31128||Dallam Freight Depot||Wigan Springs Branch Jn|
|37668||Wigan Springs Branch Jn||Wigan TMD South Neck|
|31128||Wigan TMD South Neck||Wigan Springs Branch Jn|
|37668||Wigan Springs Branch Jn||Ashton-in-Makerfield (Haydock Branch)|
|31128||Ashton-in-Makerfield (Haydock Branch)||Liverpool Lime Street||1545 Ashton-in-Makerfield – Crewe||1Z29|
|37668||Liverpool Lime Street||Hunts Cross Platform 3 Bay|
|31128||Hunts Cross Platform 3 Bay||Liverpool Lime Street|
|37668||Liverpool Lime Street||Garston Church Road Arrival Line|
|31128||Garston Church Road Arrival Line||Crewe|
|390151||Crewe||Stockport||1837 Euston – Manchester Piccadilly|
|158862||Stockport||Sheffield||1952 Liverpool Lime Street – Nottingham|
|142088||Sheffield||Conisbrough||2208 Sheffield – Doncaster|
Photos for Sunday 9th June 2019