September 29th – October 14th 2008
Richard Hingley, Nick Kelly & Tim Lockley
As with previous reports this is a diary done (more or less) at the time with some later updates. This trip was my first since regular traveling companion Mike Simpson's untimely death earlier this year. This trip was built around the IRS/LCGB tour of (mainly) Serbian steam locomotives but was undertaken entirely by train other than the tour bus and included visits to Austria, France and Hungary on the way.
Monday September 29th
St Pancras at lunchtime...
This started with Eurostar to Paris, using a lunchtime one to enable Tim to reach us from Lincoln. As there had been a fire in the tunnel a few days ago we were retimed and the train was packed but we still arrived in Paris in good time for the TGV to Strasbourg. The next stage was by sleeper to nominally Vienna but in fact we got off at St Pölten. By booking this in stages (Eurostar direct, TGV and sleeper through SNCF's Rail Europe but as two separate transactions) we got the whole journey for less than £100 that in real terms beats the cheapest possible air fare.
....Paris at tea time....
Tuesday September 30th
The sleeper (we actually used a 6 berth couchette) turned out to be the last remnant of the Orient Express, until recently this ran from Paris but the TGV connection now allows a much later departure with the same arrival time in Vienna (now as far as it goes). To our surprise even the ultra discounted fare included a minimal breakfast and the steward roused us in good time to get off at St Pölten for the 760mm narrow gauge Mariazellerbahn to Mariazell and Mank. The main line is electrified and still uses the (rebodied in the 60s) original electric locos dating from 1911-1914. They also have some modern electric railcars, B-B rod drive diesels and some single car diesel railcars (mainly used on the non-electrified branch but also on the main line as the electric railcars have proved unreliable). We intended to use the 'Einfach Raus' ticket - a group only off peak day rover that is only valid on local trains, however as it was clear the first train up the mainline (all the narrow gauge trains are considered to be local) was going to be hauled by one of the old electrics and departed too early to use the ticket so we also booked singles for the first few stations until the rover became valid. The number of passengers was minimal and certainly did not justify the size of the train that was in a brown tourist train livery.
....St Pölten at breakfast time
We reached the terminus after a pleasant run although the weather had turned for the worse and it was rather wet. We crossed one of the new EMUs on the way and another loco hauled train came up to the terminus. There is a standard gauge preservation operation here, it was not open but we we able to wander round the usual collection of semi-derelict stock, there were several nicely restored trams in the shed however.
We rode back down to the main depot at St Pölten alpenbahnhof seeing another loco hauled train but using a diesel and one of the diesel railcars - all being used on the electric section that seems rather a waste.
Crossing part way back - presumably they are short of working electric locos
From here we took one of the railcars down the Mank branch - this is quite short (it is the truncated remnant of a longer line) and was fairly busy with students. From here we returned to St Pölten then to a pre-booked hotel at St Valentin (Amstetten or Waidhoffen would have been more convenient but were too expensive) - this took a while as we used the local trains to save re-booking (these run on the classic route via Melk rather than the more recent high speed line and you cannot do it in one hop).
Wednesday October 1st
The main aim today was to get up the Ybbstalbahn (we did about half of it a few years ago but mis-read the timetable and had to turn round half way). This runs from Waidhofen an der Ybbs to Ybbsitz and Lunz am See. This line used to continue over the mountain to Kienberg-Gaming but this section is now a preserved line we also failed to ride on when we were here last. We also wanted to visit the paper mill at Amstetten where they still have a fireless but (partly thanks to us telling them where a good one was available) not the same locomotive we saw before. All this was achived but the Ybbs timetable is quite sparse meaning that again we had to leave quite early and use a normal ticket as far as Waidhofen (unlike St Pölten where there is a bay platform there is a separate station next to the standard gauge one). This was a classic line bash - belting with rain and we only spent 3 minutes at Ybbsitz (we also changed at Gstadt where there was time for a coffee):
08:21 St Valentin - Amstetten 08:56
09:00 Amstetten - Waidhofen 09:27
09:35 Waidhofen- Lunz 11:05
11:47 Lunz - Ybbsitz via Gstadt 13:58
14:01 Ybbsitz - Waidhofen 14:24
14:30 Waidhofen - Amstetten 14:58
There was a steam loco at Waidhofen for a charter (pure luck we saw it) and we crossed it later on the way back from Lunz (I wonder if it also worked the mountain section where public running has finished for the year). Lunz still has a couple of semi-preserved locos (the Gepacklok has at least had a coat of paint since we saw it last) but the 40 min or so we were there was enough given the rain.
Lunz am see
At Amstetten we walked to the paper mill to see the fireless, this was arranged but it only works in the morning so we saw it hot but dead on the charging point - we had a ride round much of the works on our last visit and were invited back 'next year but please come in the morning so you can have a ride'.
Walter the fireless
This was the end of the planned activities for the day, however as the weather was now improving we went back to Waidhofen and were allowed round the depot. Just as we were leaving the steam loco returned and by now the sun was out.
Steam loco running onto the shed
We had noted that there was an alternative route back to St Valentin via Kleinreifling and Steyr and this proved possible and highly scenic as dark fell while we passed through the mountains crossing several freights on the way.
Thursday October 2nd
The main aim today was to get to Vienna, we had hoped to use the secondary line via Perg etc but it only has a few trains and the only morning one does not run via St Valentin and had no convenient connection. We thus settled for a gentle trundle to Vienna on local trains, again in belting rain. We needed to try to book the sleeper to Belgrade (having had the Rail Europe booking system crash repeatedly when trying to do it in the UK) and this proved no problem and gave an extra day in Vienna compared to going via Ljubjana (Nick still wants to see the fireless there but was unable to get permission). We had the hotel booked so checked in and, as we still had the day rovers, went for an afternoon trundle round the Sudwestbahn that should have taken us back via St Pölten but turned out to be closed beyond Weissenbach-Neuhaus.
Friday October 3rd
There was some discussion what to do today (the weather was still foul), in the end we dropped the Lugagge at Wesbahnhof (the main building is now out of use presumably pending the new station to be built at Sudbahnhof) and as I left my tripod on on one of the local trains yesterday went to buy a new one (there turned out to be several large photo stores near the station). As we had day tickets for the trams we went to the park at Prater which has a very old ferris wheel and a miniature railway.
Tim normally doesn't do hights...
The railway uses steam fairly regularly (we were shown round the shed and there are two very nice Krauss pacifics). The train today was a rather curious diesel conversion of another pacific which retains the same chassis and has now been converted to bio fuel derived from the chip fryers in the park.
The staff here mentioned that the miniature in another park would also be running so we headed over there - this was not so easy as it needs a combination of train and bus to get there and Nick cannot walk far. When we did get there it was running although in the awful weather we were the only passengers.
Saturday October 4th
The sleeper got us to Belgrade an hour or so late (three bed compartments where the top bunk is a fold out from a shelf and not very comfortable - really meant for children I think). We eventually found the left luggage - it is in a rather tatty concrete shed to the left and behind the main station building and for a wonder the toilets have been improved no end (not bad after 19 years...). A preserved Kriegslok (usually seen on the depot) was in steam to work the 'Romantica' service and we could have had a ride but there appeared to be no way to get back by service train and the kettle was scheduled back very late so we changed our mind getting off just before it left.
Romantica in Belgrade
Instead we had a few tram rides and a stroll through the city before meeting up with Richard Bowen and then the rest of the IRS/LCGB group who has flown in. 2009 update: as the IRS have produced a comprehensive tour report (Bulletin 847 March 2009) no attempt to duplicate this with loco numbers etc will be made I will only mention things I found of particular interest. We first visited the Belgrade railway museum - not much here as it seems the civil war prevented much being done. We then had a depot visit - as well as the other locos in the Romantica fleet there are several nominally preserved kettles here but they are hopelessly derelict and several have been incorporated into squatters homes that also occupy a lot of abandoned coaches. From Belgrade we then headed to Ruma where there is a plinthed class 62 0-6-0, this one being a genuine VIW USA tank, before catching up with the Romantica at Sremski Karlovci. Overnight was in Novi Sad which looked very attractive on a post dinner stroll round.
Ruma plinthed 62
Sunday October 5th
Today was pretty much all plinthed and derelict (sometimes both) locomotives, they ranged from the nicely presented 2-6-2T at Novi Sad station to the horribly derelict 0-6-0 class 60 (a VIW but from 1915 not WWII) at Vrbas seed oil factory. We also had a ride on the DDak diesel at the sugar factory in Crvenka.
Novi Sad station plinth
Vrbas - this loco is nominally preserved with the bronze plaque to prove it!
Crvenka sugar factory DD shunter
At Sombor station we caught up with a loco hauled local that looked quite well in the sun
Despite it being an organised visit got asked to leave the wagon works here (very derelict 2-6-2T) - as luck would have it Richard Bowen and I were way ahead of the rest of the party and looked round pretty much the whole place before we were rounded up. It is unclear why we were not welcome although this was once the depot and is a part roundhouse much of which (along with the stock) is very derelict and may be considered dangerous.
Sombor wagon works (former depot)
From here we went to the border station at Subotica where there is a nominally stored 2-6-2 and loads of derelict diesels including one of a type I have not seen before (most are the GM and Brissonneau & lotz types common all over ex-Yugoslavia and their licence built equivalents). There was also the unusual sight of kids fishing in the flooded turntable pit on which it stood!
Unusual DDak 784 /1968
Monday October 6th
A contrast today - mostly another string of plinthed locos but we finished off with working steam (albeit chartered as the railway is little used) at Kostolac colliery.
This was rather frustrating although the day started well when we spotted a previously unknown plinthed 0-6-0 in a tile factory at Kanjiza. We first went to Kikinda then to the closed works in Zrenjanin where several locos are stored but we were refused access (the company has gone bust). Much time was wasted so we rolled up to Kostolac when it was nearly dark. By the time the two locos they had steamed for us got over the turn table and off the shed it was dark and the shots further up in the open cast pit are thus very poor. This was silly - we had wasted much of the day in decent light going to places we knew we could not enter and spent a couple of hors doing very little at one of the plinths (reason unknown to me). The locos at Kostolac are 1945 vintage 0-8-0 Davenports and were impressive to see. The railway is to close shortly and one loco was in the process of being plinthed (in position but with the pavement to surround it still being built).
Potisje-Tondach tile factory (0-6-0WT DDak 283/50)
Nicely refurbished Kikinda station with 'piglet taxi' railbus
Kostolac no 9
Kostolac no 12 in process of stuffing
Kostolac roundhouse (nos 9, 13 & 14)
Tuesday October 7th
We started today with working (chartered) steam at Resavica Colliery - the very old (1899 built) 0-6-0 being steamed for us. A DDak 4w diesel was doing all the actual work shuttling a single brightly painted coal hopper from the screens to a landsale point about 100 yards away but needing several traverses of the yard to get there. The other steam loco here is slightly newer (1906) but is interesting in that it is a two cylinder compound. As the Serb army were busy unloading tanks we first went to the colliery museum (quite good) and were shown their working steam winder (it is unclear if this is simply preserved or on standby).
Winder - as usual very hard to photograph
The very unusual two cylinder compound
1899 built 0-6-0 on demonstration train
This was followed by further stuffed and mounted locos - two locally made 62s at Jagodina (for sale if anyone wants one - they are complete but very worn), there were also some four wheel coaches here previously used on a roadside system into the factory. A 760mm 0-4-0WT in a garden at Novi Popovac cement works and an O&K 0-4-0WT in the factory manager's (rather large, it also contained a selection of machine tools) garden shed at Sisevac (ex Cuprija sugar factory). As darkness fell we visited Bor copper mine where we had a quick look at some of their diesel fleet and they directed us to a park in the town where they have a preserved Porter 0-4-0ST as well as several pieces of mining equipment.
Bor copper mine - again more time here would have been welcome
Wednesday October 8th
The first visit today was Nis where we visited both the depot and two works used by a permanent way vehicle maker where two very derelict Hohenzolleren locos were seen as well as rather better plinthed BMAG pacific. The depot has a large roundhouse with some tidy diesels as well as several preserved steam engines and a very dumped HKP USA tank. There were also rows of derelict diesels vanishing in the jungle.
1889 0-6-0 at entrance to Nis depot
Very odd 0-4-2T of 1881 also on Nis shed
Part of Nis scrapline
From here we went to a further three steam locos dumped in a siding near the main line
(apparently meant for a museum that never happened), then to a park with a plinthed 0-6-0WT. The day finished with a very interesting visit to the closed colliery at Aleksinacki - supposedly there was just a very derelict DDak 0-6-0WT here but this was the least interesting thing on the site. The colliery closed due to an underground explosion in 1989 and has remained abandoned ever since. There was a quite extensive electric system here (an electric 'tramway' closed in 1974) and the various locos (a mixture of Siemens from around 1939 and 1948 built Metrovics built for UNRRA) were left more or less where they stood including those under repair. All in all a fascinating site to explore and wholly unexpected.
The BMAG 4-6-2 at Nis works
Another collection of abandoned and plinthed locos today and we were refused access to the munitions factory at Lucani despite written permission (there are two fireless locos here) but also a visit to the rather good if static narrow gauge museum at Pozega. Yugoslavia used narrow gauge quite sensibly to develop the country, eventually replacing all the main lines with new standard gauge ones although some towns are now completely bypassed. This museum is located where one of the narrow gauge lines joined the standard gauge system and contains a fair selection of locos kept under cover as well as a turntable, some goods vans and the station building.
We were booked to spend the night in the rebuilt Mokra Gora station (actually a new building but it looks exactly right), on the way we stopped at Jatrice where there is a 600mm gauge line under construction into the forest, they have yet to be approved to carry passengers however.
The Mokra Gora railway is based around the 'Sargan eight' where the railway spirals up the mountain. Closed in 1974 but not dismantled until 1989 it was reopened in 2003 after a local campaign. At present it is isolated from the remainder of the Serbian system but it is intended that it will extend into Uzice where it would meet the standard gauge. The other end now crosses into Bosnia and is also intended to be further extended possibly to Sarajavo (this seems unlikely as this is more than twice the current length). We had a charter with runpasts over the whole system including having customs inspect us in and out of Bosnia (apparently we are the first passengers to use the extension) and stopping at the monastery at Dobrun where the priest distributed fire water from a lemonade bottle.
The final day of the LCGB/IRS tour but with a major highlight, we did another plinth and a couple of stationary boilers before going to the mine at Vreoci which had working steam on two gauges (only the standard gauge was in steam, however). Two of the four DDak USA copies were in steam with one working under the screens and there are four 900mm gauge Decauvilles one of which is workable. The was also a plethora of 900mm electric locos. Sadly since this visit two new diesels have been delivered here and steam is assumed to have finished.
The very last visit was to the power station served by the colliery where there is a kriegslok that was intended for restoration but is very derelict, the depot at Obrenovac also contained a large number of Bo-Bo diesels and electric and a single GM-EMD Co-Co that they kindly pulled out of the shed for us.
We then returned to Belgrade for a final meal with our guide and his wife before catching the sleeper back to Budapest (my only previous visit being with Mike in 1989).
Sunday October 12th
The sleeper is through to Vienna and it turned out that it does not drop a coach in Budapest so we were turfed out of bed at 5AM. We spent some time finding the furnicular railway and when we did it cost a rip off £5 (judging by the queue it must be very profitable).
Locos used for train heating(?) - I photted them in 1989 and nothing has changed
We then headed up the pioneer railway where much has improved since 1989 when Mike and I had it pretty much to ourselves. Two steam locos were in use (one has been unstuffed from a plinth) and the diesels were very busy. We also visited the depot at Huvosvolgy (watch out for the dog here) then returned by tram for the train to Vienna.
Monday October 13th
The first target here was the internal railway at the hospital - a very odd (and quite extensive) narrow gauge system which delivers the food to the various buildings.
We then rode the Lokalbahnen - an interurban which starts off running with the tram system then goes out into the country at Baden.
After this we split up - Tim and I had a quick look in the soon to close Sudbanhof then dinner and a series of trams back to catch the sleeper, Nick saw that a vintage tram was running and had a quick ride.
Tuesday October 14th
We again used the stub of the Orient Express to Paris and spent the day riding round the city (made slightly annoying by my day card packing up and needing me to go though each gate manually - a problem at unmanned stations in the suburbs). Finally a late Eurostar (held nearly an hour for a path as they still have single line working in the tunnel) and a quick dash across London for the last train home.
A satisfying trip overall although rather tiring, the IRS/LCGB trip was good apart from the late arrival at Kostolac although I will never see the appeal of endlessly looking at scrap locos just because they have a number to be written down when there are interesting working things to see.
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