Croatia and Slovenia

28th March - 2nd April 2011

Richard Hingley & Nick Kelly

Summary

This was unfinished business from 2007, do the railway museums in Zagreb and Ljubljana, plus the technical museum in Zagreb and find the working fireless loco at the power station in Ljubljana.

Monday 28th March 2011

As time is a little tight we flew out on EasyJet from Gatwick, a minor cock up meant we got on an earlier train from Nick's local station at Shoreham than planned which did not stop at Gatwick, luckily there was plenty of time to turn back at Croydon and the guard let us off the extra distance.  The flight was slightly late and (just like 2007) it was pouring when we arrived in Zagreb.  I had booked a hotel very near the airport (Zagreb is short on decent budget options) and Rooms Pleso proved very good once we found it (it is a few hundred yards from the terminal but the road access is a long way round, satnav seemed to be leading us up to an impenetrable fence but a, probably unofficial, open gate turned out to give direct access).

The hotel is very good (actually a block of rooms in someone's garden) and they kindly lent us an umbrella as the rain showed no sign of letting up.  The hotel is beyond the tram system and city busses don't run to the airport so the airport shuttle bus is the only option.  This goes to a special terminus on the edge of the bus station, which is a couple of stops on the tram from the railway station.  This is mildly annoying as there was nowhere easy to get a tram ticket (Zagreb still maintains the buy them at fag shops system but there was not one obvious).  Deciding to go to the station where the fag shop is obvious we got gripped on route but she couldn't be bothered with the excess.

As it was now early evening and still pouring we used the station restaurant (looks tatty but the food was fine), got the tram tickets for the rest of the Zagreb visit and went back to the hotel.  The weather was so vile I took not a single picture.

Tuesday 29th March 2011

Our host said the weather was meant to get better and so it did, sun out and quite warm. 


The bus station tram stop with new vehicles

The Zagreb railway museum has been rather a mystery, all data on it online is secondary and the opening times/dates have never been clear.  The consensus was weekday mornings is the best time and the museum is not far from the station, as it happened the bus passed it and it was clearly very close to a tram stop (route 5 from the bus station, get off by the petrol station on Avenda Vukovara where the tram is on the central reservation). The gates were firmly shut and there are no posted opening times (or even a sign) but a ring on the bell got us instant admission.

The confusion was easily explained, the museum is still part of the state railway and is not technically open yet.  There are only two staff and they both work the early shift, hence access is only possible in the morning and it is not uncommon for neither of the staff to be present, if you want to be sure of access email first (English is fine).

At present the only exhibits that can be viewed are the locomotives outside, lack of utilities and a poor building means other items are crated up at present.  The locos are rather cramped but fairly well kept, the kriegslok had just been repainted but as volunteer labour is apparently illegal here all work is done under contract and cost is an issue.  There has long been a plan to move into the adjacent works (now disused and apparently containing some vintage machinery) but this depends on finance and political will so may take some time.  The staff have a great deal of enthusiasm so hopefully things will develop, there is also talk of a railtour loco if anyone comes up with the money and a steam crew.


Some of the locomotive exhibits

This took most of the morning (until the staff went home in fact), we then moved on to the Technical Museum that proved to be very good.  The narrow gauge loco that was outside has now been moved indoors and there is another loco and a few items of stock.  The most interesting exhibits to English eyes however are in the history of power collection (starting with treadmills and finishing with nuclear) where there is both a (marine) Deltic engine and a 1937 Merlin.


Deltic - sadly no indication what it came out of


Pre WWII Merlin 

There is a lot here (including a simulated mine), it took most of the afternoon to go round and we finished off with the very entertaining demonstration of some of Tesla's work on wireless power transmission, including letting off some of the discharge coils.

Outside the museum a 4W tram is now sitting off track, this turned out to be hosting an exhibition / information centre for Civitas who are an international organization promoting improved city transport, sadly they weren't terribly busy although it seems the main purpose of the tram is to entertain school parties.

After a considerable time chatting here we moved on to the funicular , still very nice at the top and the gas lamps were just being lit. 


Kelly by gaslight 

Heading down we ended up having dinner outside in a square just off the tram route.

Wednesday 30th March 2011

We'd checked the possible trains to Ljubljana on Monday and the only practicable option was a lunchtime one (the service seems to be getting ever thinner), this meant a leisurely breakfast and time to phot plenty of trams and what little happened in the station before getting on what turned out to be a through train from Belgrade.


Rather pleasant HZ livery

As on our last visit the run through the river valley to Ljubljana was very scenic, this time in full sun.  We managed to do grab shots of a couple of plinthed locos on the way (we were on the wrong side of the train last time). 


Yet another plinthed class 62


A more interesting plinth 

As we ran into Ljubljana station we saw the fireless was outside the power station on a line of wagons which looked good for later.

At Ljubljana we needed to pick up the hire car from the airport which is quite some way out of town and accessed by a city bus which is cheap but took us on an early evening visit to seemingly every village on the way (some of which were very pleasant).  The car was booked as a Renult Twingo but came as a Toyota Yaris that was fine except for the automatic gearbox, which was far from smooth.

Heading back into the city the motorway was much quicker than the bus and sat nav made finding the power station fairly easy.  Aerial photos had convinced me that the power station was best accessed from Polska Pot that appeared to run behind it along the branch (which for some odd reason comes off the main line a mile or two away and runs round the back of the state railway depot).  This proved correct (previous reports said access via the allotments), the road splits into three and after a couple of false starts we found the best option is first left then right which leads to a parking area in the middle of the allotments right by the power station branch and also convenient for the throat of the state railway depot.

The power station loop contained a train, it was not clear if empty or full as the wagons were too tall to see into.  The loco was sitting in steam on an internal wagon which was something of a relief since lack of heat haze over either chimney suggested the power station itself was not working although there are other boiler stations (as this is a CHP system) that presumably can charge the loco anyway.  The crew were not there and the loco was not on charge, so it seemed nothing doing at least before dark and we headed into town to eat.  Parking was not especially easy but is free even in the centre after 6PM.  The area around the triple bridge has now been further gentrified (no car kissing competition this time though) and there is now a much wider choice of eatery, the one we used being a bit tourist expensive but good and offering a view of the bridges while we ate, again outside at 8pm in March!


Triple bridge

Finally we headed to Ljubljana Resort (same place we stayed last time) and checked in once we found reception had been moved to the adjacent spots centre while an off season refurbishment takes place.

Thursday 31st March 2011

First port of call was the power station where last night's wagons look to have been loads as the loco was not visible but there were at least two rows of wagons inside the power station proper.  After a short time the loco emerged with several loads, presumably last night's train was now being broken up for unloading.  After quite a bit of thrash the loco returned to last night's position but went on charge.  This didn't take long and they spent the rest of the day unloading short rakes (wagons are end doored and use a pair of tipplers).   The crew also found time during one of the light engine moves outside the gate (much of the pointwork straddles the entrance) to give us a ride up and down the exchange siding.  We watched this for much of the day (the only real break was while they had a lunch-time crew change), the sun was out pretty much the whole time too and there was a succession of trains on the main line as well although the allotments make main line photography difficult from the best vantage point for the power station.






Two coach local comes off the depot

Eventually the loco ran onto the charging point again and as we had not eaten and the light was now wrong we headed into the city to first go up to the castle on the funicular (Nick was Ill and missed it last time).  Parking was difficult although it gave Nick time to use the tourist info at the bottom while I found somewhere.  Last time we went round the inside of the castle so on this occasion Nick had a sit down while I circumnavigated the outside and had a look at the view, we then ate in another tourist place just along the quay from the funicular.


Castle walls


Castle view

Friday 1st April 2011

Nick had wanted to try to trace a compressed air loco he knew was in the general area but the only information was 'at the mining museum'.  Yesterday's look in the tourist office meant we now know where that is. We went back to the power station first but not for very long - as the loco was part way through a long and very slow to empty rake where it simply needed to put each wagon in turn on the tippler, all the action is inside the fence (the security guard said yesterday 'no problem' to photography from outside but no to passing the gate). 



There is a path between the railway and some of the allotments that peters out near the tippler so there is no great difficulty checking what is happening.  We had a closer look at the state railway depot (everyone and his dog cross the line here as there is no official crossing for miles), no one seemed to care although again we stayed outside the fence (wait by the control office long enough and all the action comes to you). 


Tatty unnumbered depot shunter

We next went to the railway museum, originally to check if it opens Saturdays (it does) but as there was an English speaking guide available we went round then and there.  The main building is a roundhouse and has a very good loco collection very well kept but is difficult for photography due to the very close spacing of the roads.  There is a working steam fleet here and these are maintained at one end of the building, we were not allowed in here but the locos could be seen from the turntable side of the shed. 


Inside the roundhouse

Our guide turned out to be a signalling buff and there is a very fine collection of working lever frames for him to demonstrate.


A corner of the signalling exhibits

In contrast the locos stored outside are in a pretty sorry state and there is another shed with further restored ones that is easy to miss. 



Lists show many more than were present, on asking in case they were hiding somewhere we were told they are in store elsewhere.

The mining museum is at Velenja but the leaflet does not give a street number or GPS coordinates and it took a while to find despite being at a working mine, the shaft it uses has a very compact headgear that is not easily seen and is some way from the obvious working mine. 





In fact it is very prominent (the derelict looking yellow building above the town is the old generating station and this is where the car park is).  Some signs from the main road would help but there is apparently a political problem getting them.


On display on the surface, there is an other underground

Once found this museum is very very good, all the main displays are underground and cover the whole history of mining in the area including a simulated accident and simulated blasting.   They give you an overall and hard hat to wear and a hot dog to eat, we were the only visitors so they did the tour instantly and in English.  Our guide was highly knowledgeable about the present mine as well as the history and readily showed us things not on the normal tour as well as explaining what the current mine (which only supplies the mine mouth power station) does.  Cameras underground need special permission so the compressed air loco remains unphotted, as does the battery electric that takes you back to the shaft after the tour.  Highly recommended.

Lastly we looked for a plinthed 62 that was not clearly located, the description implied it might also be at the mining museum but it was not, the next town with a mine turned up nothing and we eventually found it outside a Spar supermarket at Zagorje, the store is apparently on the site of the site of a coal separation plant (=washery?).


A long but successful day.

Saturday 2nd April 2011

This was our last day but as the flight was booked quite late we had time to again return to the power station where they were having much trouble emptying the wagons, a closer look revealed they were not unloading the usual Indonesian coal but some sort of biomass (probably wood chips) and this was likely wet as it was sticking to the wagons.  For at least one they had to resort to unloading by grab and this took an age and meant the loco had little to do.  We knew that the depot has a preserved electric so we went round to the other side to find it well inside a closed gate although easy enough to see. 



A yard full of dumped units and some of the OfficineMeccaniche articulated locos was also briefly investigated.


We had also picked up a leaflet for the technical museum, as it is not far away we spent the majority of the day there, it is very good, the only downsides are an inexplicable photography ban in many, but apparently not all, of the displays and that none of the working exhibits were actually being demonstrated.  As the museum started off by preserving a water-powered sawmill it is biased to forestry and agriculture but is non the worse for that.






This was all we had time for so we headed to the airport where a minor annoyance is the poor signing for hire car return leading to us being trapped in the wrong car park, the hire guy let us out saying it happens often but is pretty silly since a simple sign saying left entrance only would prevent mistakes.  The airport itself is small and quite nice and provided an adequate dinner.

The flight was off early which helped as getting back from Stansted proved a bit of a rush, we were frustratingly held up on the Underground and only just made the last train that has a bus connection to Nick's.

Conclusion

Very successful overall, we not only did what we intended but quite a lot more and in good weather, very tiring though as every day bar one was long.

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