Wednesday, 18 October 2017

More 442's delieverED

Southern's 73202 had a special outing on 4th October when it made one of it's longest runs for a good number of years. The former Gatwick Express locomotive, more recently used in connection with the Southern / Gatwick Express class 442 fleet was utilised to move some of the final 'Wessex' units off the Southern patch to Bournemouth where they are currently being assessed for their return to traffic with South Western Railway. On Mondy 3rd 73202 moved some units between Selhurst and Brighton Lovers Walk Depot before transporting 2408 and 2402 through to Bournemouth (via Poole). This is through to have been the first appearance of the Southern liveried class 73 away from it's home patch since it was re-painted several years ago at St Leonards. With the final 442's leaving Southern the following week under their own power to Bournemouth it remains to see what future will bestow 73202.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Ireland in 2008

078 arrives into Dublin Heuston with one of the several daily trains to be powered by the 1977 built GM 071 class. 31/03/2008
The GM 201 'River' class were delivered in Orange/Black and
worked the majority of passenger trains. 31/03/2008
With an RPSI tour featuring IÈ Class 071's this coming weekend I thought it was about time I looked back on my trip to the Emerald Isle back in Easter 2008 where locomotives, and the classic Orange & Black livery very much ruled the Irish rails.
Days were numbered for traditional trains in Ireland with the first of the Rotem 22000 DMU's having recently entered service. Steam Heated 'Cravens' coaches had finished in 2006 and BR built Mk2's had worked their last train the morning we arrived in the country. The small GM's (classes 141 and 181) together with the single cab 121's had lost all passenger work, though small GM's could still be found working freight and on pilot duties at Dublin's Heuston station. Despite this almost all passenger services were still formed of loco's and stock at this time with the GM 201 class predominating and 071's making several daily appearances. None of the class 201 had been stored at this time and rolling stock was comfortable BR built Mk3's formed into traditional rakes with generator coaches as well as several smaller push/pull rakes which featured cab cars with a built in generator.
Today just a handful of loco-hauled trains remain, all hauled by the 210 'River' class on the Dublin - Cork main line (with Irish Mk4 stock) and on the Dublin - Belfast 'Enterprise' with De Dietrich stock.

'Small GM' 173 is one of two station pilots at Dublin Heuston. 31/04/2008
087 passes 077 at Limerick Junction. the 4 wheel cement 'bubbles' are now long withdrawn. 02/04/2008
River class 201 approaches Portarlington with an evening peak service from Dublin. 02/04/2008
In the then new IE livery, 085 approaches Thurles with the 13:25 Heuston - Limerick. 02/04/2008

Friday, 6 October 2017

MAV / CFR Trip Report 3-10 September 2017

CFR's 40 0887 passes PO H.Oirza on the outskirts of Bucharest with a freight. 09/09/2017

Sunday 3 September

With very little sleep (having finished night shifts) I made my way to Luton for my late afternoon flight to Budapest. There was never going to be time to do much with the day but I could at least get a ride into the city from Feirhegy (Airport station). Or so I thought at least. I missed a bus in the scramble to get a ticket at the airport but didn't have to wait too much longer for the local bus to from the airport to the station. The machine wouldn't take my Forints (left from a previous trip) so it ended up being a card transaction. The timetable at Feirhegy revealed that I should have just missed a train and unfortunately it looked like it would be a 25 min wait for something hauled into the city. Long before the 25 minutes was up it became apparent that all was not well. It turns out the announcement in Hungarian was a message of doom and another passenger finally tipped me off that there was a problem with the trains and 'maybe' there would be none until 21:00, I waited a little longer just to see, but with no sign of a train eventually gave up and headed back to the bus.

MAV-Start 432 450 approaches Kobanya Kispest. 04/09/2017
Here I encountered my next issue, buying on board as I now had no ticket I handed over my money to be told 'Old Forint!' by the driver. I tried another note... 'Old Forint'. This wasn't going well! Totally perplexed I gestured I had no other money and after a shrug from the driver took a seat. Some passengers explained to me that the money had recently changed and clearly since my last trip the paper Forints were no longer legal tender. I could exchange them in a bank but that wouldn't help me get to the city. At Kobanya-Kispest I could at least use a card machine and get a ticket from there. No need- some great Hungarian hospitality persisted and a gentleman from the bus insisted on giving me a ticket for the metro. I checked into my hotel and went off in search of food. I found a lovely place that served some sort of pancake type thing- with Deer meat! It did the job and I was back at the hotel in reasonable time, by this point being quite tired and well ready to hit my bed!

Monday 4 September

Heritage liveried M41 2143 with a late running service from Budapest Nuygati which would terminate at Kispest 04/09/2017
My one day in Budapest started with a trip to the bank to exchange my 'Old Forint's', which it had turned out had only expired around a month earlier. The railway target of the day was the Lajosmizse M41 turns from Budapest Nuygati which I had failed to cover on previous trips. These run hourly for most of the day with a couple of gaps which appear to be filled by Desiros. With a plan in hand I had time to explore the beautiful soviet architecture on Metro line 3 (plenty of material for a later post!). By the time the sun had come out there was a little time to spend with my camera at Kobanya-Kispest during which time I was rewarded with 3 freights, and a surprise, the Venice Simplon Orient Express (in totally the wrong place and direction for a photo). I also bumped into heritage M41 2143- noting it's diagram so that I could finally catch up with it later in the day. 

Czeck 242 451 with OBB 1116 018 in hot pursuit in
a busy moment at Kobanya Kispest 04/09/2017 
418 149 was my first train down the branch towards Lajosmizse. It is great to see a line worked almost entirely by reasonable diesel locos with opening windows and not even a push-pull trailer in sight. On a negative note however the line speed is very slow meaning the journey is somewhat of a stagger. Several more moves ensued before heading up into Nyugati having failed to make it the previous night. I found myself a nice V31 to take me on to Kobanya-Kispest however all was once again not well. Departure time came and went and our train did not move. Shortly before I gave up together and got on the M41 behind (which I would drop back onto) we got on the move and crawled out of Nyugati. If I wanted a spirited run this was clearly not going to be it. We soon came to a halt at a signal displaying no aspect and I noticed the M41 following very closely behind our train, and then noticed the rear of the previous train a short distance down the track in front of us. Clearly there had been some sort of major signalling failure which was throwing the service into tatters. The journey to Kobanya - Kispest was delayed around 50 minutes with the train crawling between stops at little more than walking pace. I'm pretty sure the method of working that had been adopted was 'line of sight' in places and I also came across at least one ground signaller. The good news was that I knew my M41 would still be behind me, the bad was that the schedule had been thrown out of the window. I stuck with my plan and positioned myself for a photo of M41 2143 working the 15:18 Budapest - Lajosmize. Almost an hour after the train should have turned up I finally resorted to loading the MAV Mapper up on my phone. No sign of the train I wanted, but I could at least see that the following one was sitting waiting to leave Kobanya Kispest. The sun had gone round a little more than I would have liked but it was at least a shot. A final look at the Mapper before I left revealed that M41 2143 was finally on the move and this turned up about 5 minutes later. Knowing there were single lines ahead I ran on to Kispest station to see if I could catch the train again. I could, as it turns out that M41 2143 was being terminated and passengers transferred to the train which had run in front of it (the one booked an hour behind it). All in all a total farce but I got some good photos!

M41 2143 at Kispest after terminating due to signalling problems.
I was grateful there was a nearby tram line as a back up to get back into Budapest but finally M41 418 149 turned up for the run back into Budapest- clearly trains were still leaving from Lajosmize on time. On arrival at Kobanya Kispest the conductor came round the train and turfed everyone off- the reason was soon apparent, we had gone into one of the terminal platforms. For the second time in two days I would not be going in to Budapest Nyugati! With the train service comprehensively broken again it was left to Metro line 3 to take me into the city centre for a relaxing visit to the Rudas Baths and a very pleasant dinner.

After picking up my bag it was time to head over to Budapest Keleti for the 22:50 to Bucharest. The refurbishment of the station is now mostly complete and it is certainly a fitting gateway to an international journey. On less of a positive I had no idea whether my train had a restaurant car and had missed the SPAR over the road to spend my last few 'New Forints' on emergency supplies. Fortunately the 24 hour alcohol shop came to the rescue as it did also sell water. 
After watching the Belgrade sleeper depart, the Bucharest train arrived from Vienna with 470 003, after a quick check of our forwarding loco, Romainian 47 7689 it was time to take my position in my 4 bed compartment for the night. Unfortunately this was already occupied with 3 passengers and was a top bunk. After enjoying the fresh area at a corridor window until the outskirts of Budapest it was time to sleep and it didn't take long after a busy day.
MAV 470 008 arrives into Budapest Keliti with the Vienna - Bucharest sleeper.
All credit to SNCF ear plugs- I'm a light sleeper at the best of times and it was a new experience having to be woken up by security staff at the border. Passport formalities were not big issue either on the Hungarian or Romainian side. For a moment I did think I might get a stamp as the Dutch guy in the other top bunk did- maybe if I had asked...? Before turning back to bed I quickly fired up my phone to check our location and the time. It was around 02:00 and we were not far from the wonderfully named Locoshaza on the border. By my reckoning we had travelled about 1/3 of the distance to Bucharest in not much more than 3 hours. Our arrival time was after 14:00... clearly Romainia was going to be a stagger!

Tuesday 5 September
'GM' 64 1179 pauses at Sibiu where it will be removed from the Vienna - Bucharest train. 05/09/2017

Lunch on board the International train
from Budapest in the restaurant car.
I woke at around 08:00 and there was no rush to get out of bed. The weather seemed fairly dull and I couldn't really see much out of the window anyway from my top bunk. The Dutch guy had left already and the two older Romainian ladies were still inhabiting the lower bunks occasionally scowling. When I did eventually rise from the compartment and made my way to a window I was rather surprised to discover we had a diesel at the helm of our train (clearly I had done a lot of desk research back home!) and were on what looked very much like a non-electrified secondary line. Having started with a Romainian electric in Hungary I had incorrectly assumed that the loco would take us right through to Bucharest. Upon arrival at Sibiu I was able to confirm the identity of our loco as 64 0976. There was time for some photos while an engine swap took place, 64 1179 now taking charge forward to Brasov. The line forward form Sibiu is scenic and very very very slow! Vast amounts of lineside vegetation cover pretty much everything including much of the running line. At times it would have been little slower to walk, the GM provided entertainment though and I found myself an empty compartment further up the train (the two Romainian ladies in mine had between them managed to occupy the entirety of the lower bunks in seated formation with themselves, their bags and associated paraphernalia). I had no real desire to help them cover the floor with monkey nut shells and the seats in the day coaches were more comfortable anyway. 
A RegioTrans ex-SNCF Carvelle 67-0669 waits between duties at Brasov.
At Brasov I got my first glimpse of ex-French stock with BB25517 on a Regiotrans service to Bucharest as well as a 'Carvelle' in the yard. It was now well overdue time for lunch and although I did have my emergency supplies as it turned out we did have a restaurant car on the train and it would have been rude not to try it. A fellow passenger had warned me that the offering was 'abysmal' and that they 'didn't even have any sandwhiches'- clearly he hadn't asked for proper food. I did and the offering appeared to be 'grilled chicken' which I ordered and must say was pretty good. I understand the restaurant car on this train may be withdrawn from the December timetable, maybe not a surprise considering it's minimal usage.
62 1202 shunts at Bucharest Gara de Nord. 05/09/2017
The landscape had flattened by the time the train reached Budapest where we crawled into Gara de Nord 1 minute late (not at all bad considering the distance). I checked into the Ibis, resolved a little issue that my companion for the trip James Hawkes and I had been booked a double rather than twin room, and then headed back to the station to meet James who had flown in from London before we went off in search of our first Sulzer on the 16:40 to Slobozia Veche. Bucharesti Gara de Nord is a fairly pleasant station, more so than I was expecting and we received no hassle while spending a few hours watching and photographing the trains.

We had made notes of the RegioTrans arrival times with more ex-SNCF BB25500's (4 diagrams a day are booked between Brasov and Bucharest) and also enjoyed a few diesels before calling it a day. It had clouded over and with an excellent forecast for the week ahead it seemed a good opportunity to have a look around the city before it got dark -seeing the city before dark- most unusual for these trips!

Wendesday 6 September
82 0443 passes Chitila with (possibly a late running) R9112 12:00 Târgovişte - Bucureşti Nord. 06/09/2017

RegioTrans BB25576 arrives into Bucharest with the 07:00 from Brasov.
The morning was spent picking up where we had finished the night before, watching the morning rush at Gara de Nord. Light is good for the RegioTrans arrivals and there were a couple of Sulzers to watch out for with 60 0748 arriving into the annex station from Slobzoia Veche at 09:38. 
CFR's 60 1200 shares the yard at Chitilla with GFR's ex-SNCF BB25208 and BB25222 'Frenchies'. 06/09/2017

40 2302 the last example of its subclass at Bucharest Gara de Nord.
The rush over with we headed on to Chitila in the suburbs of Bucharest in search of some freight. On arrival we were greeted by one of our big targets for this country- a pair of ex-SNCF Fret BB25200's! Unfortunately they were on a train positioned in the worst possible location for the sun- but good to see. To make things even better there were another pair in the yard along with a Romainian class 60 Sulzer.  A pleasant morning was spent here watching the proceedings and searching for the optimum location for our photos. As usually happens after a few hours I began to get the itch to move and leaving James behind made my plan to head back into Bucharest and get a few moves in- this plan soon changed when 62 1196 pulled into Chitila while I was waiting on the platform with the 15:03 Bucharest - Targoviste. 

A very fresh looking 81 0422 shuts at Bucharest.
I took this up to Bildana for a GM back as far as the shack at Carparti H in the city. I had a bit of a run in with the guard on this one who really really did not like my FIP coupons. He was actually quite aggressive and kept pointing to things and shouting- The covering letter explaining the 2nd day validity did nothing to appease him and eventually he disappeared muttering something about going to the info booth at Bucharesti Nord. Carparti H turned out not to be just a rateable shack but also an excellent photo spot. It wasn't long to wait until 62 1051 appeared with my next move back to Chitila on the 16:40 to Slobozia Veche. 

62 1196 pauses at Bildana with R9013 the 15:03 Bucharest - Tirgoviste. 
The thrash wasn't amazing given the terribly low line speed, however the loco did put a bit of welly in once I had got off! Reunited with James we headed back to Carparti H for the evening RegioTrans departure and to take in the last of the days light. Our passage back to Gara de Nord was by tram after the train we were waiting for never materialised. We couldn't work out how or where to buy a ticket for the tram but the driver didn't seem too concerned- having been fined in Sofia I am always very nervous about tram tickets these days!

Thursday 7 September
40 0850 passes eastbound from Medgidia as it heads towards Constanta. 07/09/2017

Constantin Grup 40 1083 heads east at Medgidia.
Today's target was the line towards Constanta which we hoped would be busy. The day got off to a poor start when we arrived at Bucharest Gara de Nord to find the arrivals and departures screen riddled with delays- most of them reaching into three figures. We had obtained a reservation for our train to Medgidia the night before from the surprisingly helpful and efficient reservation hatch (rather than the main ticket office) at Bucharest. Our train was only showing around 45 minutes late, but having worked out that the inbound stock was closer to 140 late we weren't holding our breath. I would love to know what had caused the issues which seemed to be affecting pretty much every train into Bucharest- I even resorted to trying to translate the CFR website to find out what the problem was but to no avail.

CFR 47 4011 heads east from Medgidia with a cereal train.
After a little while a delayed train to Constanta appeared and while it wasn't the train we had reserved we figured it was fair game to get on given that we were already over an hour behind our planned departure time. We didn't have any issue with our reservations and were surpised to find that the Bucharest - Constanta line actually has a very reasonable linespeed! Upon arrival at Medgidia we quickly discovered that the photospot we were looking for really wasn't anywhere near the station. We did find it however, being passed by quite a number of interesting trains on the 40 minute walk.
Ex-SNCF BB25109 is one of the highlights of the day pictured heading towards Medgidia. 07/09/2017

DB's 47 0783 heads towards Constanta with a class 651 'Ludmilla' at the rear.
At this point the railway follows the Danube - Black Sea canal.
Of course once in position the freight seemed to dry up- it was short lived however and before long our reward arrived in the form of a very nicely lit train of boxwagons behind GFR's ex-SNCF BB25109. Across the river from the main Bucharest - Constanta line is a large cement works which sees several diesel hauled trains which come across a bridge perpendicular to the main line before then taking chords back to either Medgidia or towards Constanta. The afternoon proved to be busy and plenty of rewarding shots were achieved. Later in the afternoon it became time to move on after a lineside fire started to smoke out our location- back home I'm sure all trains would have been brought to a stand, but fortunately not over here. We had noticed a few trains stopping at a station a little further down towards Medgidia which turned out to be Castello- plenty of opportunity for photos here but our time was cut short by needing to get back to Bucharest- if we missed the local trian it would be a very long walk- fortunately it turned up on time!

60 1212 heads into the cement works at Medgidia having crossed the
Danube - Black Sea canal.
We changed at Medgidia and due to our connection being later did have time to purchase a reservation. What a faff that turned out to be! I'll conceed that the booking lady was trying to be helpful when presented with two foreigners who had odd tickets she had never seen before and who didn't have a word of common language. It took some while to persuade the lady that we wanted to travel on a train that should have already left (it appears she did not realise it was delayed?)- once we eventually got our Res we were ushered quickly out of the booking hall in the direction of the platform and told to hurry. There was still time to buy an ice cream from the stall on the platform and photograph the class 60 that had turned up before our train rolled in. The train was busy but we found seats in a compartment and James disappeared to the restaurant car to return with a well needed beer.

Friday 8 September
40 0572 brings up the rear of a long CFR coal train lead by 40 608 at Halta Porta Alba. 08/09/2017

63 1143 waits to depart Constanta with a through train to Mangalia.
Having had such a good session on the Constanta line the previous day we choose to do the obvious thing and head back again! This time we took the train through to Constanta as there are several diesel workings which can produce both class 60's and the small (and ancient) 'Malaxa' DMU's. If we were going for these we were wasting our time (as we realised on the way down) as during the summer a number of the GM diesels migrate to Constanta in order to provide through trains to Mangalia.
47 0451 approaches the station at Medgidia.
Slightly annoyingly we sighted our only non-Fret liveried BB25200 on the way through Medgidia non-stop, one of the remaining 'Concrete' examples- of course by the time we were back it had gone! Our train indeed received 65 1143 to run through leaving a 60 dormant in the station and no sign of any Malaxa's. Constanta proved to be rather less busy that we were hoping so we soon made our way back to Medgidia on the first available train. I tried to check with the train guard that it was the train we wanted but he unhelpfully refused to tell me until I showed him a ticket, a little faff later and it was confirmed that it was.
Bogie 'Malaxa' 78 0785 works the 16:22 from Medgidia to Tulcea Oras. These ancient DMU's date from 1939! 08/09/2017

Astra Transcarpartic run a colourful daily train between Arad,
Bucharest and Constanta. The 11:00 Bucharest - Constanta is
seen approaching Medgidia behind 40 0316. 08/09/2017
I visited a couple of other locations to the west of the station today, this also gave us the opportunity to view the afternoon Malaxa turn to Tulcea Oras which produced one of the larger bogie Malaxa 1000 railcars. Once the afternoon local trains started running I explored a few more shacks on the line near Medgidia before we once again took the same train as yesterday back to Bucharest. This time we didn't have a lot of time to get a reservation, and based on the previous day's experience we decided not to bother- this wasn't an issue and to be fair the train was wedged, we joined many passengers who were already standing for the 3+ hour run back to the capital. Not far from Medgidia our 'Concrete' SNCF friend was sighted again- it clearly hadn't got very far in the space of 8 hours or so. Freight trains, even where plentiful, seem to be particularly slow in Romainia being looped at almost every opportunity- usually not for any apparent reason. 

63 0847 waiting for departure - possibly the 23:15 Bucharest - Piatra service.
Unfortunately the restaurant car of our train had no beer today and we were certainly grateful for refreshment when we arrived back in Bucharest. After dinner at our hotel (it was late) where we accidentally bumped into a couple of British rail enthusiasts (lovely to meet you Chris and Mike) I headed back to the station for some night photography- I figured I might as well get some use out of my tripod having brought it all this way!

Saturday 9 September
'Malaxa' DMU 77 0907 arrives into Rosiario with the 16:32 Rosiario Nord - Tumu Magureli. 09/09/2017

BB25517 works the 11:40 Bucharest - Brasov for RegioTrans.
This was always set to be our 'mop up' day. There were still a few things we wanted to achieve, I wanted to cover a few more runs with the Sulzers as well as a BB25500 and we also both wanted to see the smaller Malaxa railcars in action. A plan was made to cover some of the early diesel turns starting with the 07:37 to Urziceni before heading up to Rosario on the Craovia line in the afternoon. There are a few more Sulzer turns here and also a few Malaxa's, although significantly less than on a weekday.
The run out of Bucharest behind 60 1038 was good fun and we took this to Cacaulati where we bailed onto 62 1051 heading back into Bucharest on the 06:05 from Slobozia Veche, this providing a nice out and back Sulzer run of about an hour in each direction. 

45 0364 stands at Rosiario Nord having worked the 13:50 from Bucharest.
Back in Bucharest there was a little time to kill before the 11:40 Regiotrans to Brasov with ex-SNCF BB25517 so I took the metro into the city for a bit more sightseeing. Back at the station the 'Frenchie' was taken to PO Darza for a +5 back into Chitila and Bucharest. On the way I had passed 472 002 'Mricea Eliade' (former British 92001) which was stabled at Buftea, the first of these locos either of us had seen all week. The station turned out to be a complete shack and I will confess that I did get a bit worried when my train didn't turn up at the expected time. Turn up however it did, around 25 minutes late (I had started to worry a lot less when some locals turned up on the platform. I'm sure they wouldn't have been there for the following train some 4 hours later).

472 002 'Mricea Eliade' is stabled at Buftea waiting it's next
duty. The loco will be better known to British enthusiasts as
92001 which has been exported by DB Schenker to Romainia.
There was a nice connection at Chitila picking up a GM into Bucharest. I didn't have time to get both a Res and lunch before my required train towards Craovia for Rosario Nord- you can guess which option won! I have to say the journey was fairly uncomfortable on a load 2 train of some of the tattier stock running out in Romainia. The corridor was full so I stood by a window. This would have been fine had somebody else in the corridor not insisted that all the windows were closed! I cannot for the life of me work out why as it was sweltering! Another 92 was passed at a logistics park just beyond Chiajna at the tail end of an Intermodal train in a non-electrified siding. Clearly not going anywhere particularly soon.
Finally reunited with James having left him on the Sulzer from Slobozia Veche some hours earlier we camped out waiting some Malaxa action. One appeared as booked for the 16:32 to Tumu Magureli- These DMU's are very ancient originally dating from 1935 and re-built in 1987- I had considered taking a ride but while the DMU's are photogenic on the outside the interior was certainly nothing special. Instead I spent the some time hanging around 60 0938 which was forming the 16:30 to Alexandria. Despite my best efforts I failed to get a cab ride from Rosario Nord to Rosario (I'm sure the secondman would have been fine with it but the driver was less keen!) so had to ride on the one coach instead. 
60 0938 prepares to haul its single coach with the 16:30 to Alexandria.
On arrival at Rosairo I had time to photograph the Malaxa which followed behind before walking back to Rosario Nord, a walk of about 20 minutes plus ice cream stop. If I had more time there would have been a nice move to take the Sulzer through to Alexandria for another back, but instead we decided to head back to Bucharest at a sensible time- after all it was going to be our 'night out'.
The last activity (and last train of Romainia as it turned out) before heading 'out' was a ride on the graffiti ridden Astra IVA train sets which now exclusively work Metro line 4 in the last days of their lives. This was the only time we had really had any hassle in this country taking photos- they definitely don't like it underground.

40 0848 passes Chitilla at speed with an express bound for Bucharest. 06/09/2017.
47 7871 with what must be one of the best liveries I have seen passes Chitilla.
All in all an excellent trip with Romainia turning out to be a much more pleasant and busier country than I had expected. Budapest as ever was good fun- a lovely city and good trains to boot. Train services in Romiania away from the Constanta line tended to be a bit of a stagger and even I was impressed that between the two countries the train service had gone so badly wrong on 3 occasions (a transferable skill from my desk at work it would seem!). Trains in Romainia were generally to a good standard- I didn't encounter any trains which didn't have fully working toilets and many trains are comfortable with air conditioning. Some of the more premiere coaches are amusingly painted in a livery that looks very very much line an Austrian 'RailJet' - right down to the font used on the side. Ticketing was FIP coupons which thoroughly confused almost all of the grippers. I think I may have been lucky that only one gripper wasted a box by filling in the date having not understood the 48 hour validity (despite being shown the covering letter!). James got on a lot better with his Interrail, though we both found that if we had a reservation (and we didn't always) that the gripper lost all interest in the ticket itself.
We encountered very few issues with photography, the only real issue being at Bucharest when to be fair we were probably somewhere where we shouldn't have been. We didn't attempt to visit any depots having been warned against it before leaving home!
470 738 is seen heading west from Medgidia. 08/09/2017.
The SNCF locos were far easier to photograph than I had anticipated. It seems that the GFR BB25200's may even be being painted into 'Fret' colours as almost all the examples we saw wore this livery and generally looked quite smart. Several of the push-pull RIO sets used by RegioTrans have also been refurbished to a high standard and all of the BB25500's we saw were now devoid of the French liveries (though it is believed that a solitary Fret example is still running around). 
As with anywhere it is great to see proper diesel loco and stock workings and there are certainly plenty to chase around Romainia even if a lot of them are quite few and far between. The Sulzers are lovely locos but one shouldn't expect much thrash out of them on trains which are often very lightly loaded and certainly don't go all that fast. It was nice also to bump into so many other British enthusiasts- five in total across our time in Bucharest. David (at Bucharest on the first day) Chris and Mike (in the IBIS) and Gruntle and Mike (at Bucharest on the last day)- I hope you all had successful trips.
Unfortunately a good week ended rather disastrously with a the flight home being a complete farce- but that, as they say, is another story! 
41 0122 has arrived into Bucharest with a set of stock as a passenger waits for his train. 08/09/2017

Thursday, 21 September 2017

442's back to Wessex

As part of the new South Western Railway franchise plans are being put in place to return 18 of the 24 class 442 'Wessex Electric' units dating from 1988 and withdrawn by South West Trains in 2007 to the Wessex Route. The 442's are planned to be fully refurbished, including new traction equipment to 'as new' standard before they are deployed on Portsmouth 'fast' services offering a higher level of comfort than the class 444 and 450 trains currently used on this route. In preparation for the return of the 442's units are being repatriated from Ely where they have been in warm store to Eastleigh works and Bournemouth depot. One such run was captured on Tuesday 19th September 2017 with Rail Operations Group 47812 returning units 2423 and 2415 on a run from Ely to Bournemouth.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

SNCF trip report 26-29 August - Why do we do this again?

Classic SNCF lines as Grand Confort liveried BB15002 crosses the River Marne at Trilport while working the 10:36 Paris Est - Bar le Duc. 28/08/2017

France is one my most frequented countries for rail trips. Is this because it is the closest country? Because of the classic locos and liveries? Or is it because SNCF make it such hard work that you always have to return to do the bits that you didn't achieve on your previous trip?! This trip probably falls mostly into the latter category. This was to be the third attempt to cover the Nimes - Clermont Ferrand 'Cevanol' loco hauled. Previously we had been thwarted by a strike in the PACA region, and then a rockfall on the line which sevoured it a year later. Another target was the route from Montlucon to Bourges where a unit had left our loco hauled plans in tatters last year. We had left things to the last minute with the last loco hauled run of the Cevanol being booked northbound for the day of our trip before units once again took over for the low season. Before even leaving the UK we received the news that the locos would finish a day early- SNCF had blown our plans before we had even left the UK!

BB67438 crosses the Liane on its final approach to Boulogne Ville with IC2021 14:31 Paris Nord - Boulogne. 26/08/2017

Saturday 26 August
Javelin 395021 at Dover Priory
Day one started with the traditional run to Paris via the Dover - Calais ferry. Engineering work in the UK made it an early start to get down to Dover in time for the 10:10 crossing with the 'Pride of Cantebury' to Calais. Foot passengers are asked to check in 60 minutes before the ferry departs and it did seem that this was around the cut off time when the buses left for the boat. One of the most bewildering moments of the trip was while on the boat when an older woman approached to ask 'Is this the way to the boat?'... Um.., you're on it! She seemed fairly clueless about the whole thing and was later observed to be very confused by the bus to the terminal at Calais.
We took the walk from the ferry terminal into the city- the weather was great so we used our couple of hours before heading to Boulogne to have lunch sitting on the beach. Lovely.

There are some nice bits of Calais, especially on a warm summers day!
BB67582 runs round its stock for the 17:33 Boulogne - Paris. 26/08/2016

A very smart looking BB7399 is traction for the overnight.
Another target of the trip was to travel the *entire* London - Paris route the traditional way- or as much as you can these days at least. On arrival at Boulogne BB67582 was waiting to run around it's train ready to head south with the 17:33 Boulogne - Amiens. According to the diagrams this train should have two locos on a Saturday but I have never known it to have and was happy to have my solo winning loco. We gave way to a 'Ghost' BB22274 at Amiens. This was another route we had failed to cover throughout on previous trips so was good to get the full route in. We had time to pop into the city centre for a quick dinner before heading over to Austerlitz for the 21:13 overnight to Port Bou- We haed planned to take this train in order to be in position for the Cevenol. Departure was more or less on time behind BB7399 . After Les Aubrais it was time to catch some sleep.

On it's final eastbound run CC72186 departs Troyes with the 18:12 Paris Est - Culmont Chalindrey. 27/09/2017

Sunday 27 August
E186 312 passes through Nimes with a freight. 27/08/2017
We woke up in the Narbonne area behind BB7290. We were expecting a lovely sunrise but it was an overcast morning that greeted us. We had a TGV booked to get us back to Nimes for the 14:13 departure. Thanks to the advanced info from Charles Hinton (Thanks!) we were at least able to make a 'B Plan' which would avoid spending a lot of time on units up into the middle of France again. Our accommodation in Cleremont was cancelled and we found ourselves making a plan to head straight back up to Paris by TGV. The only problem was, being the end of the Summer holidays half of the French were also heading home with all northbound TGV's full- with these trains being reservation only this presented a problem (also good justfication for not making trains compulsorary Reservation only!). Eventually we managed to find a TGV which we could take back to Paris in order to head over to Paris Est for the last booked passenger run of the CC72100.
Cab view from CC72186 at Paris Est.
There were plenty of enthusiasts at Paris Est waiting to watch the final departure from Paris which would be behind CC72186- not many however were on the train which ran without any fanfare at least as far as Troyes where we would disembark. This turned out to be a delightful town with beautiful old timber buildings- just a shame there will be no reason to visit now that the big diesels have gone!

The end. The very final booked passenger run of the BB72100; 05:14 Culmont Chalindrey - Paris Est on 28th August 2017 pauses at Troyes with CC72186 in charge. Alstom Coradia Liner trains will now work all services on Line 4.

Monday 28 August
A final photo stop at Nogent-sur-Seine with CC72186
Breakfast reception at Paris Est!
It was an early start ready for the 06:55 departure of CC72186 from Troyes (05:14 Culmont-Chalindrey - Paris Est). Again there were plenty of enthusiasts at the station in the first of the day's light waiting to see it go. Despite gen to the contraray we still held a slight hope that something big and blue (or at least with an original engine) might find it's way on to the last train. Of course the gen was correct and it wasn't to be. CC72186 carried no headbord or commermorative lable (it wasn't even required)- though a full breakfast buffet was provided upon arrival at Paris Est! That was it... the end of the Big Diesels and very sad. The weather however was very good so we got checked into our hotel (booked the previous night) near to Paris Est, dropped off our bags and head out for some photography.
BB22319 rushes through Maisons-Alfert-Alfertvile in the Paris suburbs with a train from Gare du Lyon. 28/08/2017

Not my favorite livery- but in the sun it doesn't look too bad! Sybic BB26074
passes Le Vert de Maisons with a southbound service. 28/08/2017
A plan was devised to get some afternoon photos on the traditional Paris Est - Strasbourg route with the classic liveried BB15000's, but first we headed south for some loco hauled trains out of Gare du Lyon and Austerlitz. We stopped off at Gare de Maisons Alfort Alfortville on the line out of Gare du Lyon before heading down to Le Vert de Maisons. We got a couple of good photos here in half an hour or so before being advised by 3 SNCF personel that photography was not allowed- This is probably the first time that I've ever had a problem with photography in France- fortunately I had my extract of 'Artical 7' with me which did at least explain what we were doing. 'Photography is permitted from public places' 'This is not a public place'- so that rather throws that theory into tatters. The staff weren't being particularly unfriendly but there was no point arguing further. We continued by way of Villenuve St Georges (quickly discounted after an announcement over the PA said something about being on platform 1... that would have been us then) and then Juvisy where just one freight was seen, in a location we couldn't photograph. Back to the passenger trains and onto the lines from Austerlitz.

A well timed boat completes the shot of BB7269 at Choisy le Roi. 28/08/2017
It turned out the shot from the Seine bridge at Choisy le Roi wasn't as good as we hoped- but a passing barge did at least play ball. I then got confused by the RER timetable and nearly missed us the next shot- we were able to get back to the mainline but only to Choisy le Roi again, where we were unbelievaby 'bowled' by a pigion taking off right over the front of the Sybic we were trying to photograph.

BB15050 speeds towards Chateau Thierry and Paris as it passes Fossoy with the 15:37 St Dizier - Paris Est. 28/08/2017

BB15008 in 'Grand Comfort' livery leads the 16:36 Paris Est - Bar le Duc.
Ah well, on to Paris Est and the really sceneic shots- This very quickly took a bad turn when the 14:36 to St Dizier was sitting at Est with an AGC BiBi in place of the booked loco! Not only did this mean taking our trip out to Chateau Thierry on a unit, it also meant that one of the three Paris bound trains we would be walking to photograph later in the afternoon would be a unit. It was indeed a long walk to Fossoy but the photos should definitely have been worth it. Unfortunately after BB15050 on the 15:37 St Dizier - Paris the following train the 17:11 Chalons en Champagne - Paris Est, which should have been one of the best shots of the trip, turned with another AGC BiBi!
Axiem 77506 at Chateau Thierry. The A/C box does not
improve the look!
To say we were not amused would have been an understatement. With the knowledge the next train was also a unit we had a gap of 4 hours without a loco in the right direction... SNCF was really not being kind this trip! A solitary freight was photographed with Axiem 77506 on a grain train from Chateau Thierry- again the in the wrong direction for the light. After a somewhat disappointing afternoon it was time to begin the long walk back to the station (around an hour) but at least it now wasn't quite so hot. BB15008 was our chariot back to Paris before a meal was enjoyed by the slightly tired wanderers up in Montmatre. Perhaps tomorrow would be more fruitful for our photos!?

Tuesday 29 August
BB67515 crosses the Marne with the 07:18 Le Ferte Milon - Paris Est.
It was up early again to photograph the 'tricky' Le Ferte Milon workings with BB67400. It would be dark for the first, but I had worked out that a nice shot should have been possible crossing the River Marne at Trilport for the second. Unfortunatley I had not realised when doing my research that doesn't work on a mobile device in portrait! The light was therefore nowhere near where I had expected- had I not been so tired the night before I might have realised this error from the orientation of the map- still it wasn't a totally awful shot and BB67515 in blue was a fine sight on the 07:18 Le Ferte Milon - Paris. While the light was wrong this location certainly had promise and after heading back to Paris to check out of our hotel we were back again, now in much better light to try to make up for those BB15000 shot's we missed the previous day. The reward was much better with a perfect reflection of BB15002 on the 10:36 to Bar le Duc. BB15008 made another pleasing photo heading the other way though a boat had been less useful than the day before and had somewhat destroyed the reflection.
The start of a busy session at Saint Michael sur Orge with BB26045 heading south. 29/08/2017.

One of several freights, E186 306 heads south. 29/08/2017.
Happy with our haul we headed south again, this time to Saint Michael sur Orge on the lines out of Austerlitz. On my previous visit freight had been very disappointing but today we managed six trains in the 2 hours of our visit, the first hour being particularly productive. Freight travic levels are clearly very variable here and it is worth noting that all the trains seen were heading South (the way we wanted), add into the mix a couple of BB7200's and a few Sybics and it was a successful few hours.

BB67515 waits for departure with the 17:05 Paris Est - Le Ferte Milon.
Thoughts would soon be turning to our Eurostar home but a visit to Paris isn't quite right without a ride on the diesels to La Ferte Milon. 67515 was in place for the 17:05, which was good as it was required. This was taken to Meaux loosing a reasonable amount of time on the way and only just connecting with the train back into Paris. We had seen three sets marshalled up with locos, two in blue and the other BB67451 in En Voyage. Knowing that we should pass the 18:05 just outside Paris we were keeping a keen eye out but didn't see anything. Back at Est the reason became clear with the 18:05 showing 20 late on the boards and annoucements suggesting some sort of problem in the Noisy le Sec area. Eventually the stock arrived with BB67451 and turned around very quickly departing (very slowly) some 30 minutes late. Had we not been on the 20:13 Eurostar home we could actually have covered both turns today. Either way, finishing with an opening window and a blue diesel isn't a bad way to end the trip. As we weren't rushing off the 18:05 there was even time for a spot of grocieries shopping and an ice lolly before booking onto the Eurostar in good time (very unusual!) for 374009/10 back to the UK.

Shot of the trip? It should have been! BiBi 82510 works the 17:11
Chalons en Champagne - Paris Est in place of the expected BB15000.
Why do we do this again? This has to have been one of the most frustrating trips to France to date. Fingers are being crossed that the Cevenol may run again next year- surely after three failed attempts we deserve to get this route loco hauled? The change of plan there also threw Bourges - Montlucon out of the window. It could have been covered later in the trip but with such great sunshine it felt a waste to spend so much of a day sitting on a train. I've not been aware of unit vice turns on the Eperney BB15000 turns, but then maybe I've just not paid attention before. This was very frustrating as were the hot muggy conditions we experienced throughout most of the trip. All that said- I always enjoy these trips to France and the classic 'Nez Cassis' locos - though sadly now only the electric versions. Once again this trip has added more to the list of things to go back to France for that we have failed to achieve. So when is the next trip?

Even France is not safe from the DB Traxx invasion! E186 337 passes
Saint Michael sur Orge with a tank-tainer train. 29/08/2017