Debts of around £6 million (CSK 160m) have led to shock closure from Sunday (2 October 2022) of the privately-operated 79km (50-mile) narrow gauge system based on the town of Jindřichův Hradec in the south of Czechia, despite its huge popularity as a tourist attraction.
Less than three months after I had spent a glorious few days in the area known as Czech Canada for its lakes and forests, services are being halted on the two 760mm (2’ 6”) gauge lines that lead 33km (21 miles) from Jindřichův Hradec to Nová Bystřice, close to the Austrian border, and 46kms (29-miles) on a northern route to a town called Obrataň.
It seems unlikely that there will ever be a travel offer again as generous as the month-long €9 ticket offered this summer on German public transport, so having bought one for August in order to re-visit the Harz (HSB) narrow gauge system, I felt compelled to return and sample some more narrow-gauge steam action with my €9 ticket.
My destination this time was Dresden, where I planned to stay four nights in the northern suburb of Radebeul and spend a day each on the 16.6km (10.4 mile) Lößnitzgrundbahn nearby, the 26.1km (16.3 mile) Weißeritztalbahn to the south-west of Dresden and at a third 750mm gauge railway, the 16km (10-mile) long Zittauer Schmalspurbahn.
TRAVEL BARGAINS don’t come much more generous than the German Government’s decision to get people back on public transport over the summer by pumping €2.5 billion into the state’s rail and bus services and offering a €9 ticket that gives an entire month’s travel across the country.
Ever on the look-out for cheap travel opportunities I decided to buy a €9 ticket for the month of August and, in the first of two planned trips over that month, spend a few days re-visiting the remarkable Harz (HSB) narrow gauge system, on which the €9 ticket is valid for all services except those up the Brocken mountain.
Twenty-five years after it was abandoned by the state rail operator České Dráhy (ČD) and handed over to a locally-based private company, the charming 79km (50-mile) long narrow gauge system based on the town of Jindřichův Hradec in the south of the Czech Republic is booming.
Spending five days in the area known as Czech Canada for its forests and lakes I was able to sample two days of steam haulage behind a locomotive that is more than 120 years old and spend the rest of my time photographing and being hauled by diesel locos that are more than 60 years old.
Having a weakness for anything narrow gauge, the offer of some cheap as chips Ryanair flights to and from the Bulgarian capital tempts me to pay a springtime return visit to that country’s remarkable state-run and sole-surviving narrow gauge railway, the 125km (78-mile) route from Septemvri, south-east of Sofia, into the Rhodope Mountains close to the Greek border.
When the 2,800-mile round trip from Stansted to Sofia had cost less than £28.00 it means my four-day mini-break came in at a remarkably modest total of just £195.65, including flights, all rail travel, accommodation in Sofia (one night) and Velingrad (two nights), as well all my restaurant food and drink.
Scheduled steam passenger services from Wolsztyn depot in Poland came to an end for the 2021 season on Saturday, 27 November, when Ol49-69 worked the final two round trips from Wolsztyn to Poznań.
The 2-6-2 loco has been the sole working engine at Wolsztyn since the boiler ticket of Mikado 2-8-2 Pt47-65 expired a couple of months ago, while a third loco (Ol49-59) remains under long term overhaul and is unlikely to return to Wolsztyn for many months.
Scheduled steam services will continue to operate from the world-famous depot at Wolsztyn in Western Poland for at least the next two years, under an agreement between the depot and the Marszalek (Marshal) of the Wielkopolskie province, who comes from Wolsztyn and is determined to see steam working continue.
There had been fears that the twice daily services to Leszno on Mondays to Fridays and two Saturday returns from Wolsztyn to Poznan would finally come to an end on Saturday, 27 November this year, after which there is the usual seasonal break in services until mid-January.
Finally resuming an extended tour of the wonderful narrow gauge railways in eastern German, my travels take me on 22 September 2021 to the city of Dresden and a return to the two steam-worked narrow (750mm) gauge lines I last visited back in 1990.
Much has changed over the past three decades, but it is reassuring to see that daily steam-hauled services still continue to operate on the 16.6km (10.4 mile) Lößnitzgrundbahn to the north-west of the city and the 26.1km (16.3 mile) Weißeritztalbahn to the south-west of Dresden.
Finding a holiday destination in Europe that does not require 14-day quarantine on returning to the UK seems increasingly difficult, so I count myself lucky to have been able to take advantage of bargain basement air fares to pay an early October visit to the fascinating railways of Sardinia.
Having previously had two wonderful trips to neighbouring Corsica and its marvellous metre-gauge, I was particularly keen to sample what I could of the numerous narrow gauge (950mm) lines that are dotted about the second largest island in the Mediterranean.
On a long hot summer’s day in 1989 I made one of my most rash investment decisions ever when I followed the example of many other Brits at the time and bought a second home, near Dinan in Brittany. Over the next three decades it gave me a chance to get to know the region and its fascinating, but much-rationalised, railway network.
Having finally and reluctantly decided to sell the house, this seems like a good excuse to look at some of the changes that I have seen on Brittany’s railways over the past three decades, as witnessed on my numerous delightful days by train out over that time.