Salzburg’s scenic suburban railway

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Serving rural northern suburbs of Salzburg is the charming Salzburger Lokalbahn (SLB), an electrified 37 km (23 mile) largely single track system that runs from the subterranean platforms 11 and 12 of the city’s Hauptbahnhof (main station).

IMG_9727Services are run in two sections, with the main S1 route operating the 25.6 kms (16 miles) from Hauptbahnhof to Lamprechtshausen, while a shuttle service (S11) connects with these services at Burmoos, two stops before Lamprechtshausen, and runs through very rural terrain to the northernmost terminus at Ostermiething.

The original Lamprechtshausen line opened in 1896, and had been fully electrified by 1950. Services were moved to new station platforms below Salzburg Hauptbanhof in 1996 and there are plans for a southern extension of the line. Continue reading “Salzburg’s scenic suburban railway”

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Slovenian steam spectacular

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For rugged scenery and a remarkable number of tunnels and bridges, few routes in Europe can compare with the magnificent 89km (56 mile) Bohinj Railway in western Slovenia, which stretches from the town of Jesenice, near the Austrian border and 64kms (40 miles) north-west of Ljubljana, to Nova Gorica on the border with Italy.

The Bohinj Railway forms part of what is known as the Transalpina route, a link between Central Europe and the Adriatic Sea at Trieste that was authorised by the Parliament in Vienna in 1901 and was built between 1902 and 1906. Its most impressive feature is the 6327m (4.2 mile) long Bohinj tunnel, opened by the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, in 1906. Continue reading “Slovenian steam spectacular”

Steam-hauled to Hel and back

IMG_8556Poland has been totally transformed over the past three decades since the drab and sinister days of communist rule were overthrown by Lech Walesa and his brave shipyard workers, and nowhere is that change more evident than on PKP, the national railway network.

Pictured above is Pt47-65 arriving at Chełmża on 13 April 2018 during the first day of its trip to Hel and back.

Having been the last European country to retain steam traction, 1988 marked withdrawal of the last true main line class, the Pt47, with steam then rapidly disappearing over the next three years and eliminated entirely by 1992, except at the remarkable museum depot in Wolsztyn. Continue reading “Steam-hauled to Hel and back”

Velingrad re-visited

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Hopes (fulfilled!) for some winter sunshine, and the offer of bargain-priced flights with recently-troubled Ryanair, were all that it took to persuade me back to Bulgaria this week, for another chance to travel on the remarkable 125 km-long (78-mile) narrow gauge railway that winds its way from Septemvri – a town on the main line linking capital Sofia and second city Plovdiv – all the way up to the noted ski resort of Bansko and a terminus at nearby Dobrinishte.

IMG_6490My round trip once again took me from Stansted to Plovdiv, for a night in the splendid Alliance Hotel, a five-minute stroll from the railway station, before a 30-minute trip the following day to Septemvri. From here there are four round trips a day on the narrow gauge line, the earliest of which leaves at the unearthly hour of 02.05, with the most civilised departure being my chosen service, the Mesta, at 13.10 (all services on this route are named). Continue reading “Velingrad re-visited”

Steam-hauled return to Leszno

IMG_4962More that three years after its March 2014 suspension, (see my earlier post “Last steam to Leszno”) scheduled standard gauge steam returned to Europe in May 2017, when two return weekday services from Wolsztyn to Leszno in Western Poland returned to steam haulage.

IMG_4866This followed the agonisingly slow setting up of a trust to own and manage the famous steam depot at Wolsztyn, the return to traffic of two locomotives and the sourcing of suitable coaches to operate the service, which should also see two Saturday round trips between Wolsztyn and Poznan, once track renewal work has been completed later this year. Continue reading “Steam-hauled return to Leszno”

Heritage traction on a Breton branch line

Chateau_04In summer 2016, Brittany remained one of only three regions in France to see local services still worked by single car X2100 units, which were in service alongside the new generation X73500 units on routes such as the branch line heading south from Rennes to Chateaubriant. Weekday services on this pleasantly rural route comprise just three or four round trips, with one  late afternoon working as far south as Retiers.

Chateaubriant’s well-preserved station has become an interchange with the re-opened route south to Nantes, which has been converted into light rail route T1 by the Pays de la Loire region and is currently served by eight trams a day, with a significantly more frequent service operating from Nantes as far north as the towns of Nort-sur-Erdre and Suce-sur-Erdre.

 But co-ordination of the two rail services appears almost non-existent. Looking at the summer 2016 timetables, there was only one viable connection a day in each direction – with a southbound departure from Rennes at 07.43 connecting into a tram that gave an arrival in Nantes at 10.29, while in the reverse direction the only connection was from a tram departing Nantes at 10.10 that gave a connection into a train service arriving into Rennes at 12.51. Continue reading “Heritage traction on a Breton branch line”

Narrow Gauge to the Rhodope Mountains

Narrow gauge railways have always held a particular fascination for me and one which I had long wished to visit was the 125km (78-mile) 760mm gauge Septemvri-Dobrinishte line in Bulgaria. Despite persistent closure threats the line continues to be run by Bulgarian State Railways and is the country’s only narrow gauge line.

IMG_1057This is a truly remarkable railway that traverses some fabulous scenery and feels like a step back in time when you are able to look out of the window and see horse-drawn ploughs being used in the fields. With the four daily round trip hauled by diesel locos dating from the mid-1960s, it is a trip not to be missed. Continue reading “Narrow Gauge to the Rhodope Mountains”