Germany and Czech Republic, 27.4.05-10.5.05 <  >

Winter 2004/5 didn’t feature any gricing, with my contract situation uncertain and the relatively high cost of gricing in the short daylight hours. Once British (and European) Summer Time arrived a longish trip was planned, starting and finishing at Stuttgart and chipping away at some of the lines in Bavaria en route to and from a 5 day stretch in the Czech Republic. A rendezvous with PR, who was flying out to Praha, had been arranged for Nové Sedlo u Lokte, a relatively obscure junction in North Bohemia - such are the delights of Eurogricing.

Wednesday 27.4.05

Longest layoff for a while (6 months) during which one contract has come and gone (Nov - Feb) and another come and almost gone (Feb - May). Full speed ahead and damn the uncertainty. Another heroic early start by H, who had a busy enough day herself, to get me to BHX for an 0550 checkin. Arrived 0540, with rucksack so no quick checkin. Rat’s maze even more wedged than usual, with queue well beyond. First panic was for SN Brussels passengers (0625), then for BA to CDG (0630). I had to queue for 35 minutes and eventually left checkin at 0615… Clockwork thereafter, left the stand at 0652 (sched 0650) in the single seat, row 5, of an Embraer. One club class, quite a few in steerage, as per. Brief queue at the runway end, took off south-eastwards for once. Early arrival at STR (booked 0940) and despite bus to the terminal, a first for STR, and an incredibly slow DB ticket machine, I made it on to 0948 for Bad Cannstadt, ticketed through to Donauwörth. 1 hour ahead of the plan; long may it continue. Unusually the paramilitary gripping squad came round en route from the airport.

Out to Bad Cannstadt on time, thence a round shouldered double deck RE, also on time at BC, to Aalen. Over the flyover off P7 at BC, not sure if there’s any alternative. Exchanged texts with H, who’s now on her way from Stourbridge Junction to Marylebone.

An hour’s gentle potter in front of 143965 got us to Aalen about 3 late; the remaining 7 minutes of the connection to Donauwörth was nowhere enough for a beer in the buff - the paper shop sold only Warsteiner, so Sprite won the day! Onwards in front of 110400 in some proper rolling stock.

A pleasant run up to Nördlingen where the 7 platforms are a bit OTT for the hourly Aalen - Donauwörth locals. Five lines used to meet here; now there are just the Aalen and Donauwörth lines and a freight line on 2 km of the route to Gunzenhausen. The railway museum has a large assortment of rusty rolling stock and tenders. I couldn’t see most of the loco collection because of wagons in the way, but I did note two ancient electrics and at least two steam locos which looked as if they would go, one a 2-10-0 and the other a 2-8-2 (class 22?). The 5 minutes booked stop at Möttingen enabled time lost at Böbingen waiting to cross a northbound train to be regained, and we left there on time.

Disaster at Harburg, with the gripper announcing SEV thence to Donauwörth. Nothing to be done, and as I unerringly picked the bus that was doing the two intermediate stops, I thought I might lose my hour’s advantage as well as the track. The SEV driver knew no fear, however, and the supposedly faster bus only caught up as we waited at traffic lights in Donauwörth. Arrival at the station was at 1255, 9 late but in adequate time to get a Bayernticket (€17) and a Paulaner for ‘lunch’. 111055 provided onward haulage to Ingolstadt, 4 minutes late for no discernible reason. This little gap Harburg - Donauwörth could be a real pain in the, er, side.

Got a gentle harangue from the gripperette - since April 1 you have to sign your Bayernticket, which I knew but had forgotten. She was perfectly pleasant about it, so no problem. Curious that although the through RB to to Ingolstadt was an electric, the short working to Neuburg which we crossed at Rohrenfeld was a 642, The 111 driver wasn’t having any of this ‘4 minutes late for no discernible reason’ nonsense and the deficit was down to around 20 seconds by Weichering, with arrival at Ingolstadt a few seconds early. Quick communing with the online timetable didn’t reveal a lot so I grabbed a couple of timetable leaflets and set off behind 111028 on the 1402 to Treuchtlingen with a view to getting to Eichstätt Bf and back ASAP.

Surprising at Tauberfeld to see an ancient 229, or something similar, passing very briskly with a southbound freight. The loco is privately owned of course. Once at Eichstätt Stadt it began not to look so good. A nice ride up the short branch from Eichstätt Bf which diverges short of the end of P1 to dive under a ridge, emerging in the valley which winds up to Eichstätt. Transport was a 642, and on arrival the rain had stopped. A lot of enquiries were then made of the timetable machine to see if Hilpoltstein could be slipped in along with Gunzenhausen - Pleinfeld. Although I’d lost my extra hour thanks to Eichstätt (½ hour wait at each end of the branch) it looked feasible to change at Treuchtlingen and go straight to Ansbach, book into the hotel then back via Gunzenhausen and Pleinfeld to Hilpoltstein, returning via Nürnerg Hbf and the two home brews!

Stage 1 OK so far, with the changes at Treuchtlingen miraculously fitting between two short but very sharp showers. Still OK at Ansbach - hotel located OK and run by a very pleasant non-English speaker who must use Google/Babelfish for translating his guest information. Hilarious but still helpful and full marks to him for making the effort. The hotel is about 12 mins from the station and I managed to make it between showers again - just. Away from Ansabch on 1854 RB to Gunzenhausen, 3½ late for a 4 minute connection due to a late running IC. It was about 4 late at Gunzenhausen but the connection (a 642) was held and was 4 minutes late as well, all the way to Pleinfeld. The connection here was 6 minutes but a) the 642 arrived in time and b) the RE, 111 hauled and double deck, was a few minutes late. Hopefully this won’t hazard the 12 minutes at Roth…

It didn’t. Roth is quite a busy little junction with terminating S-Bahn services from Nürnberg which have a dedicated 2-track island platform to the south of the main line. One track continues (unused by the look of it) via a slightly used trailing crossover into the branch platform, P1. The branch diverges near the end of this, the loop continuing to rejoin the main line.

DMU 642 118 stands at Hilpoltstein before working back to Roth as the last train of the day.

The 642 for Hilpoltstein was standing in P1, half on and half off the branch, so I sat in the back to be reasonably ethical about it! Presumably the physical connection is only used when the kart goes for fuel/maintenance.

Half way down the branch the plain clothes gripping squad descended - another real surprise. They nailed someone further down the coach and to my further surprise the debate (there was no-one to sell us a ticket, etc., etc.) was conducted in English though it wasn’t either side’s language. I think the offenders were either Italian or Greek; quite what they were doing bunking the Hilpoltstein branch I don’t know. At Hilpoltstein the line beyond is closed and lifted, with the bufferstop by the old station building. The current platform - with bus interchange, this being a civilised country - is just short of the old station. Annoyingly there was a proper, open pub across the road but given German beer dispensing times, 13 minutes until the last train of the day Did Not Seem Sensible. It’s a nice little branch, running beside the main road most of the way but with enough traffic to hold its own (presumably commuters to/fro Nürnberg, hence the early finish at 1933 M-F, 2033 SSuO). The grippers were in action again on the way back with a 25% success rate, one of my three fellow passengers having an out of date ticket.

Into Nürnberg on dead track on a punctual RE, thence to Lorenzkirche on U1 and a walk to the Altstadthof where I gave up after waiting 20 minutes for my order to be taken. Well annoyed, I retired to Barfüsser which seemed to be more efficient, albeit ‘blessed’ with really dreadful accordion/guitar music. Two large Blondes (each 0.5l of their house brewed blonde beer!) worked wonders but unfortunately the second took an age to arrive. Fortunately I’d settled up on ordering, unfortunately got lost on the way to the station, fortunately made the 2150 by literally 20 seconds, unfortunately by running a good part of the way, etc., etc. A bit weary on arrival at Ansbach, so straight to the hotel and bed.

Thursday 28.4.05

First branch of this particular day was Windsbach, a very pleasant market town between Ansbach and Nürnberg. Here 642 608 stands at the very solid buffers.

Leisurely start today for the 0922 to Wicklesgreuth (where else). 143888 provided the push. I’d had a reasonable breakfast and a reasonable-ish night’s sleep so combined with a sunny morning, it was quite a good start. Oh no, why did I write that? Hundreds of children have just arrived… Quiet enough though, being as they aren’t in ‘my’ coach. Off to Wicklesgreuth where the seemingly inevitable 642 was waiting to go to Windsbach (642608, for the record). This is a very pleasant country branch, albeit serving dormitory villages expanded beyond their natural size. On arrival at Windsbach I had about 40 minutes to kill so had the traditional wander into town. In size and general demeanour it’s quite a close parallel to Much Wenlock (though its cobbles are much harder on the feet than Wenlock’s tarmac!). When you think Windsbach - Nürnberg is probably much the same distance as Wenlock - Birmingham, and Windsbach to Ansbach a little further than Wenlock - Telford, it’s not immediately obvious why Wenlock doesn’t still support a branch line. Windsbach’s service is similar to Hilpoltstein - 0450/0630 start weekdays/ends and around 2030 finish for both.

Back to Wicklesgreuth for onward RE to Nürnberg - this was a mere minute late and to my delight arrived spot on at 1125 allowing me to gallop slowly (heavy rucksack!) through the subway and join the S2 to Altdorf (1128) at 11:26:20. 143629 provided propulsion for what proved to be a fairly dull ride, typical S-Bahn really, out to Altdorf. S2s have reserved tracks all the way out to the junction at Feucht; the last bit thereto, and the branch itself, are single track. The stations on the branch are very basic, just platform and pink concrete shelter.

It's hard to get excited about S-Bahn lines! I've included this view of the 'blunt end' of a Nürnberg S2 at Altdorf just to show willing.

Altdorf (two platforms, one rarely used - maybe only to check the track circuits) looks fairly unappealing but gave me a chance to grab a couple of phots and find out that the camera had been set up wrongly since yesterday. You win a few… On the return I managed to note the junction with the NBS line to Ingolstadt; although apparently complete it has stop boards on both tracks. The junction is between Fischbach and Feucht.

Back at Nürnberg, U1-d it to Lorenzkirche again and walked up the hill to the Altstadthof. 17 minutes in total including mistaking Burgstrasse, where it isn’t, for Bergstrasse, where it is. Much better this time, just two (other) old blokes in the front bar so I got served straight away. No Maibock (not Mai yet, she said sternly, and correctly) so I settled for the draught weizen which is pleasant enough, even a little unusual. Strangely ½ litre cost €2.70 - somewhat less than last night I feel. Certainly the bockbier etc. were €4.10 for 0.4 litre, over £4/pint. This seemed altogether better, and the daytime staff much friendlier into the bargain, so I left much happier than last night.

On then to Lauf (links Pegnitz) stopping off at Laufamholz to seek out the home brew there. Available info said Schupfer Strasse 36 - it’s a block of flats… Walked up Schupfer Strasse to about the 90s but it looked highly unlikely so I nipped back to the station for the next S1 20 minutes later and retired to Lauf, not particularly hurt. [Had I had the admirable Good Beer Guide Germany at the time, I would have known it was at 39, not 36 - but more importantly that’s it’s only open by appointment! In fairness it’s also on the Nürnberg tourist website now. Meanwhile, at Lauf:] There was a reasonable looking pub at the end of the station approach but better yet was the bahnhofsgaststätte - open, can you believe? At 1450? Suited me though, and provided a nice sweetish pils brewed in Lauf by the Dreykorn brewery. A happy result under the circs. A very pleasant lady minding the shop; not a word of English but found it all very entertaining, and beer wasn’t a problem (‘don’t get many Martians in here…’). 143628 was the first shove to Laufamholz, didn’t note the second one. Beer was €4 for a litre, which I make about £1.62/pint.

Back to business after this pleasant break; a 628, no less, to Hartmannshof. The RB and S-Bahn use opposite faces of the island, so no physical connection unfortunately. Although we were a little late there was plenty of time at Hartmannshof as the 1558 RE was 6 late (composed of non-tilting 610s). 20 minute connection at Hersbruck so no cause for alarm. From Hersbruck (rechts Pegnitz) 218203 was the haulage and I was lucky to get a seat by an already open window. Suitable ‘on time and staying that way’ noises from the Rabbit.

Not so good from Neunkirchen - time lost all the way up the very pleasant Simmelsdorf-Hüttenbach branch by the 614, with 6 late arrival at S-H. If I worked in Nürnerg I’d happily live up the branch; it really looks very nice. The driver is basically a large lazy scruff in an all too familiar mould - leaving S-H 4 late I fear for my 6 minute connection at Lauf and/or the 8 minute one at Nürnberg.

Made it. Only by a few seconds - I’d decided if the train was there at Lauf I wouldn’t get off, and if it wasn’t I would. As I walked up to the platform edge it was on the way in with Rabbit pushing, presumably 203 again. The 614 driver really was irritating. A virtual standstill at every ungated crossing even when he could see clearly both ways (I’m all for this when you can’t see, but where’s the point of dropping below, say, 10kph if you know there’s nothing near), and no chance of power on between them. No excuse for that, really. The conductor was equally punctilious, carefully looking up and down the train even when there were no passengers on or off.

Despite the efforts of the electronic timetable to make me go via Nürnberg I arrived in the comparatively rare P1 at Hersbruck r.P. on time at 1742 with 20 minutes to wait for the RE on to Bayreuth. The station gaststätte was open (hardly surprising, I’d put my Blue Peter hat on and checked earlier) so in I went for a Hersbrucker Pils. Pretty average but hell, it’s the local brew…

There are still quite a lot of Rabbits active in the Nürnberg area. This one is 218 387, stabled at Bayreuth Hbf.

And on to Pegnitz (where the train split but I’d noted it on the yellow sheet and was in the right portion) and Bayreuth. A very nice ride too, on a glorious evening. Down the road to the Goldener Hirsch, which wasn’t outstandingly welcoming but seems perfectly OK, then the Restaurant Weihenstephan just down the street for some seriously overdue food. Weihenstephan Original, sweetish again and pretty ordinaire. Claims to be the oldest brewery in the world, which just goes to show that BS is international. Awesome 50s garbage on the Muzak system.

On to the Maisel’s tap (Goldener Löwe) for a Maisel’s Weisse then decided my feet were too sore for any more pavement bashing so retired to the hotel and bed.

Friday 29.4.05

Two very pleasant young ladies, one serving breakfast (standard) and one on reception, much improved my impression of the Goldener Hirsch. [Time and again this happens - nothing to do with young ladies, just that morning/day staff are far more cheerful and welcoming than evening staff. Male evening/night staff seem to be the worst.] It’s right by the station - would stay there again. Meanwhile, my phone charger’s not working. Maybe it will when the phone needs it.

Off to the station to commune with the ticket machine again. It offered a -1 minute connection at Hersbruck (r.P.) into an earlier Weiden train, so if on time best just to look out for the Weiden train, as before. Ticket purchased for Bayerisch Eisenstein - Plattling on return, and also a Bayernticket which proved to be several Euros cheaper than buying singles.

Off to Hersbruck on the RE at 0905 - it was substantially (by local standards) delayed at Pegnitz waiting the Hof portion and consequently 8 late at Hersbruck with the Weiden train obviously long gone. I stayed on to Nürnerg Hbf therefore, where I found a mobile phone shop whose assistant persuaded the phone charger to work. As ever, we’ll see… The part of the Pegnitz valley/gorge which I missed yesterday through having a few Zs is quite impressive with some limestone outcrops/caves to add a bit of extra interest.

Back to Hersbruck and on to Weiden on the RE, a 610 which managed to arrive close to time. Nothing of great note along the way though it’s a pleasant enough run. At Weiden I was sold a Cheb grenze - Cheb single as an add on to my Bayernticket. Whether the B/T is valid Schirnding - Cheb grenze, who knows. It saved €0.30 if it is!

RabbitPower plus from Weiden to Marktredwitz on an RE hauled by 218192 and 218309. Alas, train full, no windows open. They made a good job of it, as well they might with 1000 hp per coach, and arrived on time at Marktredwitz. I dashed up the platform for a phot and a listen, and got a friendly wave from the driver as they thrashed past.

Bit of an incident then, as two scallies tore off the platform end, hotly pursued by a redcap. The chase went on across all the running lines (no trains in view, fortunately - I suppose) and disappeared from view. The redcap bounced back about 10 minutes later; his body language strongly suggested that justice had been done. I hope so.

On the Cheb train a bunch of very loud, very drunk blokes got on just before we left - shouting, ghetto blasters at level 12, etc. They reckoned without a very determined Fräulein Marple and two border polizei, one German and one Czech. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, it helps if you have a gun. They (the border cops) had. Relative peace reigned to Cheb…

Being in plenty of time for the Nové Sedlo u Lokte rendezvous with PR, I took 1502 to Františkovy Lázně with a view to going round via there to Tršnice in an attempt to see what’s afoot, engineering wise.

To my surprise, hurtled out of Cheb with wheelie bins fore and aft (of a trailer) to Tršnice where the front wheelie bin was detached, and thence to Františkovy Lázně. On approaching F.L. there was seen to be no track on the direct line. Well, that explains that, then. I’d struggled with a full Regent in the few minutes available at Cheb so settled for a 0.3 of Gambo at F.L. from the bothy in the front of the station. Jolly nice it was too, sitting in the sun and all.

Before the wheelie bin left F.L. I’d leapt to the front to take a pic; it was just starting and as I sighted, the engine note dropped. Friendly waves were exchanged again - the driver had slowed to give me time to phot. Imagine that in UK? Er, no. Back to Tršnice on a Vogtlandbahn kart - didn’t seem worth risking the connection so I waited at Tršnice for the 1613 to Karlovy Vary, which turned up loco hauled (242279). No first class, sadly (the Vogtlandbahn had, but I’d forgotten I had a first class ticket!). Exemplary punctuality of this was spoilt by a signal check, reason unknown but we were wrong line, at Sokolov Sorting Sidings No. 4 or some such. Only 3 late at Sokolov though, so all is not lost.

First branch to be done was Loket, the end of what was formerly a through line from Nove Sedlo to Becov. 810 077 did the honours.

And it wasn’t. PR was located and the connection held at Nové Sedlo u Lokte whence a wheelie bin took us down what’s left of the branch to Loket and a celebratory Gambo. Return (or onward journey in my case) from Nové Sedlo u Lokte to Karlovy Vary was with 242280.

The Hotel Kosmos is definitely a hotel, though further speculation at this stage might be rash. OK for the purpose though, and we retired to the Restaurant Charleston for an excellent steak accompanied by Pilsner Urquell and a piano-clarinet/sax duo. Yes, well, I suppose there could have been a ‘cello. Round the corner to the nearest pub to Karlovy Vary dolni nadraži which sold Bernard, and nothing wrong with that. Thence on a surprisingly crowded 810 to Nejdek where it was deemed sensible to disembark, to make absolutely sure we got the train back. We found that Nejdek had a reasonable pub at the bottom of the station approach where we could take on a Gambo while watching the Czech snooker variant. Four balls (plum, blue, two white) and no pockets.

Mission accomplished, albeit in darkness, by doing line 143. As PR had correctly surmised, the line passes north of Chodov station so a reversal is needed to reach the station. More of a surprise was the westward departure followed by another reversal and a stop in the southernmost platform. Thereafter as normal down to Karlovy Vary dolni nadraži where we decamped to stagger off to bed.

Saturday 30.4.05

749 102 headed west into Karlovy Vary with the Kosice-Cheb sleeper which was electrically hauled for the last stage to Cheb. Line 140 east of Karlovy Vary is currently under electrification.

Too early for breakfast. Harrumph. Wouldn’t take credit cards. Harrumph. Hot and cold shower…. Anyway, 0800 from KV dolni n. which was 714203, three trailers and a wheelie bin at the rear which was detached at KV hl. n. to go to Merklín. Meanwhile we caught the Košice - Cheb kipper which shed its 749 in favour of 242230 for the run to Cheb where it arrived 5 or so minutes late. After a grim breakfast in the buff, on to Bad Brambach via Tršnice in a Vogtlandbahn 642. Two rusty crossovers noted at Františkovy Lázně-Seníky - I may have got this slightly wrong last time.

Beer search at Bad Brambach was almost in vain with three shut pubs, but a shop saved the day with bottles of Hasserode for me and Sternquell for PR. Back to Cheb on the Vogtlandbahn, this time booked (as opposed to diverted) via Tršnice - and to the amusement of the Czech border man. [He probably thought we’d gone to Bad Brambach by accident.] At Cheb there was just time to grab a Regent in the buff, which was much nicer than their breakfast!

Goggle 754 060 standing at Plzen hl.n.

On then to Plzeň, main line in an R train with a buffet car whose enthusiastic attendant offered Kozel, Radegast, Pilsner Urquell etc. Well, when in Rome… Plzeň hl.n. could be impressive if a couple of megapounds were spent on it; it certainly has the infrastructure. We arrived at and left from the northernmost platforms. The southernmost require investigation. No sign of the hotel at Plzeň-Jižní předměstí but no doubt it’s there really.

First 'real' branch of the day (at 15:30) was Hermanova Hut, where 810 418 is seen at the end of the line.

Out to Nyřani on a Goggle-powered local, thence a wheelie bin to Heřmanova Hut. No through trains, so no apparent hope for the physical connection. Heřmanova Hut produced a splendid four ale bar dispensing Chodovar, so one more tick on the beer list. [I’d sampled this before in fact, but forgotten to record the fact on the list.] The wheelie bin, 810418, contained a picture of a streamlined ‘Coronation’ - location was unrecognisable. [Closer examination revealed it was next to a third rail electrified line so presumably it was at or near Euston.]

Electric 242 242 entering Plzen Jizni predmesti with a Cheb train

Back as far as Plzeň-Jižní předměstí for a quick hotel book-in, then out to Pnovany behind a 242, changing to a wheelie bin on the Bezdružice branch. Very pleasant rural branch, and hopefully the physical connection will get done on the way back to Plzeň.

While I was waiting at Domazlice the following morning, 754 060 arrived from Furth im Wald with a München-Praha train.

Which it did - and I don’t think I did Bezdružice justice. It’s a nice a trundle on a warm spring evening as you could wish for without a steam engine! So, on down the main line back to Plzeň-Jižní předměstí where we decamped and caught a no. 4 tram out to Lochotin for the home brew pub (Minipivovar u rytiře Lochoty) which is right beside the main drag, 100m or so before Sokolovska stop on the left (big building with a red mansard roof). Very satisfactory with unfiltered pils (mercifully we stuck to the weaker one) and as good a sauce as I’ve had on a pork steak. Back on the no. 4 tram again - service is much reduced from 2300 but we knew this and caught the 2217.

Sunday 1.5.05

Meanwhile, ancient 831 167 was having a breather before returning to Klatovy.

The railway significance of Bela nad Radbuzou wasn't clear though it does have a number of 810s and trailers stabled in this picture. Still, while 810 032 took a half hour break en route from Domazlice to Bor, we took a half hour break in the nearest pub!

Just managed a quick breakfast (got in before the German contingent!) before 0816 to Domažlice, a well patronised wheelie bin and trailer. It became less well patronised as the journey went on, and a pleasant run was had through sunny countryside. Domažlice, however, was not much of a prospect. A station buffet (closed Sunday), a kiosk (closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday) and not much else. Worse, the Plzeň train stopped in the middle of the station, as you do, but Plana and Furth-im-Wald both go from the western end, the latter using a bay. I took the F-I-W wheelie bin to give myself 10 minutes for a look round at Domažlice město (not to mention a change of scenery) and was pleased to find what appeared to be an open pub across the road from Domažlice město. Also noted at Domažlice that an 831 from Klatovy ran to the west end of the station and stopped behind the Plana unit. On the way to Poběžovice a problem arose, with a late running southbound train making us 15 late. The gripper came round and asked if there was anybody for Stankov - I volunteered, thus delaying the Poběžovice - Stankov train for 10 minutes… It regained most of it by Stankov but I thought it inappropriate, having delayed it, to go back whence it started! Accordingly agreed with PR when he arrived at Stankov from Plzeň that I’d meet him later, and went straight to Domažlice behind a Goggle. Thence to Domažlice město on a Furth-im-Wald wheelie bin (again), this time with enough margin to nip across to the pub and get beer supplies in. On to Trhanov, there to meet PR coming south from Poběžovice and return to Domažlice, where we discovered that the local garage dispensed Pilsner Urquell - far better than nothing.

The following day 742 036 was running round its train at Plzen hl.n.

Onwards to Bela nad Radbuzou for a 36 minute stop, during which our heroes located another hostelry in which to avail themselves of a Gambrinus. Then to Bor to do some more track, the relatively difficult bit to Svojsin. Short but very scenic and thoroughly worthwhile as it cleared the north west of Bohemia for me. Near disaster as we got on a 242 headed train pointing in the right direction but not going for another hour, then the connection turned up and we made it with a bit of a scramble. En route to Střibro it occurred to us that we could get a fast train to Plzeň and arrive only a few minutes later so we baled out, grabbed a Chodovar in the nearest pub and joined 363014 and the supposedly air conditioned first class (it wasn’t - surprise, surprise). On time arrival at Plzeň allowed time for a victualling stop at the Pont supermarket before going on to Rokycany and Nezvěstice in a wheelie bin and (as far as Mirosov) trailer. The line from Rokycany to Nezvěstice was a real surprise - very scenic and like Bezdružice a lovely run on a sunny evening. Gambrinus was taken while resting at Nezvěstice and we returned to Plzeň via the direct route for dinner at the hotel.

Monday 2.5.05

The bus ride ended at Mladotice, from where 714 029 took us on to Plzen.

A quick look at before breakfast suggested that Štity was part bustituted and might be one to avoid; otherwise nothing too bad. On to 0725 Plzeň-Jižní předměstí to Plzeň hl.n. which had been really wedged, but fortunately emptied out at P-Jp. 0806 to Františkovy Lázně turned up on time, Košice kippers and all, and took us in relative comfort (and just before an engineering blockade) to Mariánské Lázné. PR and I both had our noses buried in timetables when the gripper arrived - she became very animated and gave us a volley of high speed Czech which turned out to be a request to borrow one of the timetables!

Serious wheelie binning started at M-L with an hour’s run to Bechov on a Karlovy Vary train. Long steep climb out of M.L. and very scenic again. Another wheelie bin for the 2hrs 50 mins to Rakovnik. More open country on this one on the whole though still a good mixture. It’s generally a bit more bland as you get nearer to Rakovnik, but only a bit.

The section of line 162 between Kralovice and Mladotice is currently out of use despite local notices advising that it is being rebuilt (we couldn't see evidence of this on the ground). 810 016 is seen here at Kralovice, whence we continued by bus.

After a couple of restoratives in the station buff (Rakovnik Bakalar) and a certain amount of confusion as to which railbus went where, we moved on to Kralovice u Rakovnika, viewing quite good chunks of scenery-type stuff again. From here a permanent SEV runs to Mladotice - and has done for some years, judging by the state of the track. The SEV was suitably decrepit and moderately scary but deposited us at Mladotice in plenty of time to find the shut (only on Monday - what day was it) pub and open village shop, bless ‘er.

Before the evening visit to Radnice we had a meal at the Pilsner Urquell brewery tap near Plzen hl.n. This is the entrance to the brewery; the pub (Na Spilce) is beyond the archway.

714029 from there on, with two very hot bogie trailers, to Plzeň hl.n., arriving on the north side again. We adjourned to Na Spilce, the Pilsner Urquell brewery tap. There a bland ‘beer battered turkey’ in a large but equally bland beer hall, provided suitable if unexciting fuel. On the return to Plzeň hl.n. it was out to Chrást u Plzně on a Beroun local behind a 363, then down the Radnice branch on a wheelie bin, delayed 10 minutes waiting the inbound Beroun - Plzeň which had no passengers for us!

Rather strange goings on at the intermediate reversal at Stupno. Layout is

The light was fading a little by the time we got to Radnice with 810 316 at 20:22, but the camera never lies, does it.

The unit did 1,2,3,4,5 outwards and 6,7,8 on the return. Why not 1,2,5 outwards? Who knows. So, back to Chrást u Plzně by which time it was dark. The physical connection had been thoroughly done earlier so there was no need to stay on the wheelie bin to Klabava and, publess, we awaited the 2133 back to Plzeň hl.n., which was on time and terminated in one of the bays. Back to the hotel on the admirable no. 16 trolejbus which stops just round the corner.

Tuesday 3.5.05

Trolejbus 16 again back to Plzeň hl.n. and on to an ‘R’ train at 0905 to Beroun. Change of plan here as it dawned that more watertight connections were available if we took line 123 to Praha hl.n. Accordingly did so, ending up after a most interesting run in the southernmost bay at Praha hl.n. A quick refuel [bread and cheese for us, not diesel for the unit] and off with the same wheelie bin and crew on line 122 to Hostivice where the pub across the road provided moral and spirituous support even though we didn’t get the physical connection 122-120. On (yet again same wheelie bin and crew) down to Rudná u Prahy where the physical connection was resoundingly done and we had rather a long walk to ‘town’ for a Krusovice. Nice pub though, and English spoken a bit. Finally (for this bit) back to Praha hl.n. again on 123 - same wheelie bin, same driver, same conductor.

By this time it was raining - hooray! - so a quick scamper to Masarykovo for an air conditioned - hooray! - double deck EMU to Pečky. We were a little late there but the Kouřim connection was held and it was back to wheelie bins for a picturesque ramble to a place with no discernible attractions! Bošice didn’t look to be a winner so we decided to stake everything on 2 hours in Zásmuky…

A mad dash out to Pecky in the afternoon and then on to Kourim where 810 362 is seen.

Which is OK so far. We decamped from the Pečky train at Zalešany and returned on the daily through working to Zásmuky This ran on to the Pečky line at Bošice while the crew worked the ‘ground frame’ (or equivalent) then reversed to the physical junction before running through the other platform having reset the points for Kouřim. At Zásmuky the train terminated in the westernmost platform road which has no access to Bečvary so after a swift Gambrinus we returned to do a round trip to Bošice and see what happened next!

The unit which works this one evening turn returns to Bosnice before going on to Becvary. Here it's seen at Bosnice with the Kourim line to the right and the Zasmuky line straight ahead.

What happened next was that we went to Bošice and back, and while at Bošice it became clear that the crew realised what we were about (with a little help from PR). On return to Zásmuky it took only a moment to ask that we stayed aboard down to the headshunt and on to the platform road with access to Bečvary. A visit to the mess room and some souvenirs ensued, and we were invited to leave our luggage and go to the pub, both of which we did! On return each of us was presented with a telephone wire insulator to take away… With people so friendly at a personal level, why have wars? One of the things that PR elicited during his ‘bridge building’ at Bošice was that the crew didn’t expect Bošice - Zásmuky - Bečvary to last beyond the December timetable change.

810 294 took us to Zasmuky. Here I'm looking towards the end of the line - the right hand track is the one from Bosnice and the left one from Becvary.

Meanwhile, the plan moved on. After parting company with our friendly crew at Bečvary we travelled on to Kolín with a Rick Moranis lookalike as conductor, and thence to Pardubice on ‘Warszawa’, 15 minutes late. A lucky trolejbus connection had us at the Hotel Labe within 10 minutes - then round to the Pernstejn brewery tap which amazingly wasn’t doing food. A pub spotted en route from the hotel did the business however, with an outstanding dish of smoked ham rolled in pork, accompanied by a Budvar. All of this closed off a thoroughly satisfactory day, along with one of my notebooks!

Wednesday 4.5.05

Still cloudy this morning after a wet night - unfortunately my room was still an oven following the hot weather. The breakfast guards at Hotel Labe were far more amiable this time (see May 2003) and breakfast without the sun beating down on it was much nicer. Down to the station for the 0804 to Týniště nad Orlicí via Moravany, an 810 unsurprisingly but yielding the physical connections at both ends of line 016. 810297 was the motive power. The line seems to work almost as two separate branches meeting end to end at Holice, where the operation was very laid back, to say the least.

At Týniště nad Orlicí 749019 was lurking at the east end of the station and proved to be the motive power for our ‘R’ to Hanušovice (going on to Jesenik). After a flat start this was an interesting run, winding along beside rivers a lot of the way. A number of Grumpies were on shed at Letohrad where a steeple cab electric was noted on the shuttle to Ústí nad Orlicí. 749019 managed to recover all its lost time before Hanušovice albeit at the cost of some notably rough riding. As we suspected line 025 to Štity was looking rusty at the junction (bustituted for several weeks, alas) but alternative plans have been laid to do Litomyšl later in the day.

Grumpy haulage at last - 749 019 is seen here at Hanusovice.

The Hanušovice station buff (another one from the Czech/Slovak ‘Star Wars’ school) provided Holba from the local brewery, and very nice it was too as we whiled away an hour waiting for the 1225 to Staré Město pod Sněžikem. This short branch is another little classic, winding its way up a valley with snow still in evidence on the mountains around the Polish border. A ten minute turn round then it was off back to Hanušovice for another hour in the buff! Timber traffic was in evidence at S.M.p.S. and midday passenger traffic was reasonable so hopefully this one has a future.

At the time we visited, line 24 from Letohrad to Usti nad Orlici seemed to be entirely in the hands of class 111. Ours was 111 019 seen here at Usti.

Hanušovice to Letohrad, unsurprisingly, was the same Grumpy, 749019, and stock. It started 5 or 6 minutes late but by virtue of bouncing the passengers off the walls a bit, made it to Letohrad pretty well on time. Letohrad to Ústí nad Orlicí was handled by vintage electric 111019 and amazingly the ‘fast’ train from to Ústí nad Orlicí to Choceň was more or less on time, so we made it to Choceň in time for 100035 on the 1620 local to Hradec Králové via Týniště.

In the half hour available before setting off again we booked into the Amber Hotel Cernigov opposite the station (perfectly OK if too expensive) and dumped the luggage. Off then on a local to Pardubice hl.n. and another to Choceň where the Litomyšl wheelie bins unfortunately use a bay platform, 1A, and go straight on to the branch.

We'd missed doing the Stity branch because of bustitution but turned the situation to our advantage by taking an evening trip out to Litomysl where 810 540 is awaiting the return to Chocen.

The branch is reputedly threatened although there is track renewal going on at its main source of freight traffic at Vysoké Myto. At Litomyšl itself there is also freight - certainly coal and also a private siding to a factory, product unknown. There is a stretch of 3 km or so near the end of the line where the track is very overgrown and severely speed restricted. Clearly this is a problem although local passenger and freight levels seemed enough, on our very limited sample, to consider the repair work needed. Scenically the branch is no great shakes - we left there at 2010 so darkness fell en route back without spoiling our day! Return from Choceň to Hradec Králové was direct, on the 2115 local arriving at 2206. Two coach loads of Austrians were just arriving…

Thursday 5.5.05

More Grumpy haulage - after dropping us off at Castolovice, 749 008 puts up a bit of clag.

…and had done their best to strip the breakfast buffet by the time we arrived at 0800. Sufficient left though, and nice too. First train of the day was R757 again, this time from Hradec Králové to Týniště with 162054 and on to Častolovice with 749008, almost ex-works. Various manoeuvrings at Častolovice but no reward as the wheelie bin and trailer didn’t do the physical connection!

Not the most inspiring branch [to Solnice] and it appeared that most traffic went to and from Rychnov nad Kněžnou(as do most of the trains - and there was just me, PR and one other beyond Rychnov). However there’s a car terminal at Solnice and some other freight besides, so it seems the future of the line is secure at least, even if not the Rychnov - Solnice passenger service.

742 212 at Vamberk on a Mezimesti train.

Back at Častolovice we baled out at Častolovice zastávka and walked back via the pub (Staropramen) before going on with a loco and 3 wheelie bin trailers to Vamberk, for a quick swap on to a wheelie bin for Rokytnice v Orlických horách. Although similar to solnice (up the valley, out at the top, a couple of miles on the high ground) the valley is far more impressive (apart from Vamberk, which isn’t!). On the way down at Slatina nad Zdobnicí the gripper kindly volunteered - in English - that there was time to take a photo. So I did.

810 052 at the end of the catchily named Rokytnice v Orlickych horach branch.

Back at Vamberk we came into the same platform as the train from Častolovice so with the physical connection done we repaired to Hotel Brasil and its Manhattan Restaurant to ‘do lunch’. [The Hotel Brasil and the Manhattan Restaurant sound a great deal posher than they were, but..] A rather dour start but after two beers, a schnitzel and a stew we received not only a smile but a slivovitz each on the house! And all this for about £7.50 total.

Onwards then on 1429 to (eventually) Opočno pod Orlickými horami which produced joy unconfined at Častolovice by lurching right on to the incoming Solnice line! As luck would have it an ‘R’ train was occupying the normal through line (P3, the southernmost) and the lines to P1 and P2 diverge after the Solnice branch connection, so the job was done. Wonderful stuff, celebrated during the lengthy delay waiting connection at Týniště. This was done with Náchod brewery’s Primator, one of the more repellent beers it’s been my pleasure to sample.

Rejoined the train on to Opočno where the Dobruška trains (apart from a couple of through ones which didn’t include ours) start from a platform on the branch. Shame, but there you go. It’s a short, unexceptional branch!

On the way back to Hradec Kralove, 854 016 passed at Starkoc.

The Sp train from Opočno on to Náchod was a wheelie bin, running rather late but regaining sufficient time that we didn’t bale out at Náchod zastávka. It would have been pointless in the event, as the same wheelie bin returned to Starkoč, where it ran across the layout into the bay. Last train of the (planned) day was another Sp, this time 834016 hauling one open second back to Hradec Králové.

The unplanned day was a, er, visit to Pardubice. ‘R’ train out at 1840, off to the same pub as Tuesday night where the same pork/smoked bacon dish was much enjoyed. Thence to the Pernstejn brewery tap where a litre of ‘Wilem’ was also much enjoyed. Back to Hradec Králové on another ‘R’ train but this time an 8xx hauling 2 coaches.

Friday 6.5.05.

Hordes of grockles at breakfast but we managed to get fed and away on a late running 0804 to Týniště, travelling in comfort on an 830. Connection at Týniště was held and we set off to Meziměsti with 714201 and three wheelie bin trailers. Bouncy.

Otovice zastavka is at the end of another threatened line from Broumov. The line used to continue across the Polish border and the formation can be seen beyond 810 448.

Super power for Os 15758 from Teplice nad Metuji to Trutnov. 810 206 is assisting or being assisted by 742 149 and 742 093. The whole cavalcade went to Trutnov - we didn't discover why but wondered whether it was simply to avoid using up a path on the single line for a light engine working.

Meziměsti, reached 10 minutes late, was a hive of activity with a large depot and a stream of freight to and from Poland. The wheelie bin to Otovice zastávka was held for us, and was wedged as far as Broumov (and even more so coming back, with some sort of outing). Beyond there, patronage was very light. Otovice zastávka is just a platform and ‘bus shelter’ - the closed line into Poland continued beyond. A friendly conductor told us that Broumov - Otovice zastávka and Opočno - Dobruška will both close from December. 810448 was Wheelie Bin of the Moment. Back at Meziměsti we made a quick change to another 742 with wheelie bin trailers to go back to Teplice nad Metují where the train to Trutnov (unbelievably two 742s hauling an 810) had to wait an extra 10 minutes for a grumpy with an ‘R’ train from Cheb. No real loss as we still had to wait for time for 15 minutes ar Adršpach, clearly one of Czech’s leading tourist attractions with an area of huge limestone columns. And some cans of Pilsner Urquell.

From Adršpach to Trutnov is slow even by local standards, but nice to look at and with a fairly spectacular gradient down to Trutnov střed. At Trutnov hl.n. there were two station buffs, one really grim with an atmosphere barely breathable and no service (probably dead), the other fairly grim with lethal looking electrics, vile loos as usual, and a quite pleasant local brew (Krakonoš).

After this cultural experience we moved on to Kunčice nad Labem on a comfortable 8xx, thence to Vrchlabí, a short and completely unexceptional branch which we’d expected to be quite entertaining. One look at Vrchlabí convinced us that Kunčice was absolutely the place to be so we stepped back on the 810 and settled for a glass of Gambrinus served by Man Mountain in the (unexpected) station buff at Kunčice.

From there on to Martinice v Krkonošich for the Rokytnice (nad Jizerou this time, as opposed to yesterday’s Rokytnice v Orlických horách) branch, another wheelie bin benefit. A very picturesque one too - and thanks to PR’s quick thinking we were able to hop back on to the wheelie bin before it ran round and get to the end of track. Looking at the rust on the loops this is a fairly infrequent opportunity!

Back down the branch to Martinice then south westwards (sadly no physical connection) on an 854 to Stará Paka and Chlumec nad Cidlinou. We were 10 minutes late at Chlumec but the Františkovy Lázně - Hradec Králové ‘R’ train was held for us and we were back at HK within 10 minutes of ‘the plan’. Into town to find the microbrewery (failed) and ended up with an indifferent dinner in quite a posh restaurant.

Saturday 7.5.05

Managed to beat the Austrians to breakfast at 0630! Out from HK at 0712 on an 834 (or something) to Libuň - this was much delayed waiting connection at Ostroměř but fortunately the Nymburk - Stará Paka service was held at Libuň for us. A fantastic climb out of Libuň which is in flat countryside, straight up the side of a long, steep hill and back down the other side to Stará Paka. The view from the top was spectacular as were the efforts of the wheelie bin pilot to a) regain time and b) spread the track. All to no avail (other than his pride) as the Liberec - Pardubice (another 8xx) was having hardware problems. It eventually staggered out of Stará Paka about 25 late, was held at Mostek to cross the ‘R’ train it should have crossed at Dvůr Králové nad Labem, and again at Dvůr Králové nad Labem to cross an Os it should have met at Jaroměř. All of which, it must be said, was sensible train regulation of a sort hard to imagine in the UK, even if it did hold us up another 15 minutes.

We visited the museum at Jaromer on a Saturday morning. 310 006, seen here under repair, is occasionally used to work the Primator Express to Nachod.

0-8-0 414 404 is another of the Jaromer residents.

The museum at Jaroměř was open and contained a number of steam locos and other interesting items but alas, nothing in good enough shape to go to Náchod with the ‘Primator Express’ so we had to settle for the planned Sp1782 at 1228.

This delivered us to Trutnov hl.n. in sufficient time for a swift ‘alf before the 1403 to Svoboda nad Úpou, a Viamont (slightly) refurbished 810. What an interesting line. The Hotel Sport opposite the station furnished us with Krakonoš before we returned on 1452 (slight change of plan) to Trutnov. Thence the 1608 to Žacléř, a most entertaining run with only two genuine passengers. Wagons were in evidence at Královec where the 810 reversed beyond the station just before the road crossing. Track beyond was shiny but as the line into Poland appears to be closed [having acquired a newer map since writing this note, I think it’s open!], presumably this is only because of shunting. Just west of Lampertice a freight branch diverges south-west to a coal mine - possibly this keeps the branch alive.

The last dead-end branch for me was the one to Zacler, which has quite a sparse service and seems to survive on coal traffic from Lampertice.

At Žacléř itself the branch ends in plain line - it clearly never went further though it looks as if there was once a rounding loop. Unsurprisingly, no passengers joined for the 1659 departure, last train of the day. More surprisingly, from Královec we acquired 5 passengers, two of whom detrained with us at Trutnov-Poriči to continue on an 8xx to Jaroměř.

Jaroměř was reached about 5 late but in good time (even had it not been held) for the connection on to the 1903 local to Hradec Králové, hauled by 163069.

Dinner in the hotel - accompanied by excruciating Austrian ‘music’. Quite an experience.

Sunday 8.5.05

Arrived for start of breakfast at 0615, to find a party of Russian schoolchildren assembling. Fortunately they were given plated meals (and were very well behaved) so we still managed to get fed and away for the 0635 to Chlumec. Which was late anyway. An unlabelled wheelie bin at Chlumec turned out to be the Křinec and Nymburk train which went out on time, doing the physical connection in the process (I think this is unavoidable but didn’t see all the track layout to be sure). A little time was spent waiting at the junction with the Jičin line, which is quite a way north of Křinec, so rather than risk the 7 minute connection at Nymburk I elected to bale out at Křinec, where I found a nice warm waiting room! PR remained on the train to do the track into Nymburk hl.n. as he’ll be doing the avoider later, so I’m solo from here on.

Northbound 0848 from Křinec was around 5 late - by Kopidlno it was 7 minutes late and I didn’t dare risk the connection (10 minutes) to southbound Os at Jičín. Baled out therefore, to find another nice warm waiting room which compensated slightly for CD bowling me. 46 minutes to wait this time, until 0958. At least it looks as if I can slip line 60 in and pick up R856 at Praha hl.n. Met PR again at Kopidlno as he changed to do line 63.

On my way back to Germany from Hradec Kralove I passed DB's 180 010 seen here at Nymburk hl.n. with an eastbound container train.

Meanwhile, back to Nymburk on an on-time wheelie bin, 810539. Lady gripper, who had been to Jičín (see, I’d have made it!) was thoroughly confused by my heading south again.

The Poříčany shuttle was a 451. Horrible thing, but warm. Although the rain has stopped currently, it’s still pretty cold outside. While I was waiting for the kart, a DB class 180 passed through with an eastbound container train; I can’t recall having photted a 180 before.

One of the new generation of railbuses, 812 613 at Praha Masarykovo with a Rakovnik train. Despite their original livery the trailers had been at least partially refurbished, with high backed 2+2 seating as far as I could see from a distance.

Much better going in to Praha Mas. from Poříčany (though 5 late) - a double deck air con unit with first class. On arrival at Mas one of the new class 812 SuperWheelieBins was in evidence. Didn’t look as if it had air con - two trailers with it were in the usual red/cream (the 812 is yellow/green) but had high backed seats.

Walked round to Hlavní nădraží, where some fuel was grabbed in case of problems in Germany this evening. [It was Sunday, not a good day for evening meals in smallish German towns unless you like McDonalds, which I don’t.] Nothing for it then but to wait for R856 which turned up early behind 150003. With over 20 minutes booked stop, the punctual departure at 1320 was no surprise! The loco had been changed for 363069.

750 314 took over from an electric at Klatovy for the very scenic run up to Zelezna Ruda.

1510 Železná Ruda was disconcertingly hot and wedged leaving Plzeň. I’ll have to hope for better later. Slightly mollified by a Gambo grabbed from a shack at Klatovy - very expensive too at CZK25. 242212 was the motive power from Plzeň to Klatovy, reached on time at 1611, and Goggle 750314 from there on. 754015 was crossed at Hamry-Hojsova Stráž. Once beyond Janovice nad Úhlavou it’s a wonderful ride through hill/mountain/forest scenery with the Goggle chuntering happily away at the front polluting the Böhmische Wald for all it’s worth!

I came back from the Czech Republic via Bayerisch Eisenstein to get myself in the right place for the following day. If you've been there you'll note that the border facilities have moved - they used to be on this island platform but are now on the platform to the left. Unfortunately the Czech trains stop on their side as you can see in the photo - the German Waldbahn unit was waiting just behind me. With no regular through trains, there's a very annoying gap!

Arrival at Železná Ruda was on time, border formalities informal - and suddenly you’ve left Bayerisch Eisenstein in one of a pair of wonderful air conditioned, cloth seated Waldbahn SULFAs, tanking along on welded track smooth enough to write these notes…

Arrival at Plattling was on time, train was by now packed with Sunday evening students as was the station. Hotel Preysinghof is 10 minutes away in the centre of town, a bit depressing roomwise and with very poor service in the restaurant from a proper little madam more interested in serving herself drinks. Arcobräu was pretty awful too, more like British lager. Turkey schnitzel was OK, I suppose, given the whole thing came to €7.10.

Monday 9.5.05

Very grey this morning; nevertheless Hotel P. was more cheerful with breakfast provided by a delightful young lady who was sort of, well, Bavarian! What a surprise. Having been ready for breakfast a little early I took the opportunity to nip to the station before it rained, arriving at 0830 for purchase of Bayernticket, checking of times etc.

First of the day was an RE to Landshut - fast, flat, boring! Dispolok ES64U2-097, photted on a car train (BMW, natürlich) was about the only thing of note other than the 5 minutes late running of the return RE to Plattling and Passau. Dispolok 011 was also present.

Staying overnight in Augsburg gave me the opportunity for a couple of rides on these impressive trams. They have 2+1 seating and the clear view from end to end of their 7 articulated sections makes them seem very spacious despite their narrow track gauge.

The Passau train made up all the lost time by the outskirts of Passau, then lost it all again waiting for a path into P1 across a northbound ICE. I went off to the Reisezentrum to enquire about ticketing to Schärding thinking I could get one from the machine. Thought I was going to be bowled having waited 15 minutes in the queue when I was told I’d have to go to the other counter and that I couldn’t buy a ticket from the machine (funny that, the machine at Plattling quoted me a fare of €9.80). Luckily the two people now queuing were very quick and I ended up with a ticket costing €6.20. Who knows. ÖBB’s class 1142 electric was duly photted with a minute or five to spare so I needn’t have been so concerned.

Quite a bizarre experience in the end. Went to Schärding, along Danube valley, all very pretty. Went into the station buff for a beer while waiting for the train back. This was Baumgartner Pils from the local brewery in Schärding, and really very nice for its sort. The buff was very smart and had two reserved tables with cloths, presumably for those wanting nosh. Beer (€2.60/0.5l, not quite what we’re used to this week) was provided by a rather flustered man wearing lederhosen. I’d be flustered…

The train back was on the same theme. A motley assortment of (comfortable enough) rolling stock with a wagon on the back. Presumably the Austrian version of a BG - there can’t be mixed trains in this day and age. It also had a buffet car. All this for what the Germans rate as an RE (RE5914 in fact) ending up in Plattling. Not to mention that the vehicle I travelled in was a couchette… Rather pleasingly it went into P1 at Passau (same as the RE from Landshut and not P3 as booked) where the Austrian loco was removed.

At Plattling I had time to walk the length of the train to discover that the wagon was for bicycles (in fact there were two) so not quite as odd as it appeared. A strange train formation though, even more so for working back to Passau as a German domestic service! The couchettes were Slovakian, not sure about the rest.

The RB to Regensburg (going on to Lichtenfels) hurled itself up the line as if possessed and just made it on time. It’s a world (or 20 miles as we doctors call it) away from the Czech Republic. The on time arrival gave me time to seek out the Johannes Albrecht ‘home brew’. Not bad in a wood and copper in the middle of a modern shopping precinct sort of a way. Tried the light unfiltered pils which was excellent if expensive at €2.50/0.4l and the Maibock (€1.50/0.2l) which was too caramel-y for my taste but in good shape.

Back at the station it was off to Ingolstadt on an electric loco hauled train bound for Günzburg. Unexciting ride generally, though some surprisingly large oil depots and another very security-conscious site probably best not asked about! At Ingolstadt the 642 for Augsburg was waiting. This is booked 5 minutes at Schrobenhausen so I dived out to see if there was any mention of Bridgnorth [which is twinned with Schrobenhausen]. There wasn’t.

Another pretty unexciting ride into the north end of Augsburg Hbf. I elected not to bother with Günzburg on the grounds that a little round trip Augsburg - Günzburg - Donauwörth - Harburg - Donauwörth - Augsburg would nicely fill in some gaps at a later date.

Well, that accounts for two of my interests! Augsburg Hbf is the location.

Probably as well - when I got to the hotel they’d never heard of me, but found me a room. Hotel generally ropey but the room seems fine and I’m sure the cooker will come in useful. Off into town then, to find the Hasen Bräu brewery tap shut. Monday strikes again, presumably. To the station then, to find out if my Bayernticket is valid on the tram (it is) and get one for tomorrow. BFG Bert came to enquire if my ticket had a name on it. I said it had. He asked if it was my name. I said it was. He read me a lecture about how important it was. And so on - sadly we were designed to irritate each other. We parted friends, however, and I got my BT and a single from Ulm to Stuttgart Hbf (machine refused my card 3 times so this last came from the Reisezentrum).

On a previous visit to Passau I'd neglected to do the cross border line into Austria. I remedied this by travelling to Schaerding behind 1142 588 on a Passau-Linz service.

This all sorted, I caught the tram to Rathausplatz and retired to the König von Flanderen for home brew (expensive but very nice unfiltered pils) and Schweinbraten (expensive but very nice pork in gravy). No complaints there.

Tuesday 10.5.05

Last day for this trip, and the hotel was far more congenial in the morning, as they so often are. Night staff seem to be a special breed of miserable. Earlyish breakfast for a bit of thinking time, then off to the station at 0901 when my B/ticket started being valid. Route was no. 1 tram to Rathausplatz then no. 2 to Hbf. The route 1 and 2 trams are wondrous seven section articulated low floor units, metre gauge with 2+1 seating. Very smart indeed. First train, after a few phots, was a 642 forming 0944 to Landsberg. Very flat and tedious down to Kaufering (lengthy wait for connections München/Memmingen, both Rabbits), better down to Landsberg, which is a treat. Firstly, very posh integrated rail/bus station with as nice a buffet/shop/booking office as I’ve seen, even in Germany. Usual arrangement - train and fleet of buses arrive, passengers exchange, train and buses depart. U.K. DfT., when will you learn.

The last branch on this trip was to Landsberg am Lech. This view is one of many similar examples of properly integrated public transport, something about which the UK seems totally clueless.

Then the town - a handsome market town on the (surprisingly large, to me) river Lech. Quite a lot of buildings which would be nice to know about (as well as the pubs!). Bustling, though with too much traffic for comfort, like Bridgnorth, and good to look at. Nice surprise. Among all this I managed to note the freight line continuing to Schongau, which looked well used.

Back at Kaufering, Rabbits were in evidence. 346 (I think) gave me a real treat as it was opened up just as it passed me under the platform awning! 218223 was my haulage to Buchloe and I ventured to open the window slightly for the good bit. Wonderful machines.

Very disappointing at Buchloe to find a hot, crowded 642 (Lindau bound) as the onward transport to Memmingen. Slightly less flat for this stretch, but only slightly. Memmingen to Ulm let me down with a horrid tilting (or, presumably, not) 612. At least it was on time at Memmingen, and fairly empty. Oh and the air con worked too, unlike the 642. Not a bad train, really. The Weissenhorn branch was noted to be shiny at the junction at Senden, by which time the 612 was getting a bit late - 3 late at Illertissen, followed by a severe engineering slack. Lots of thrash followed by more engineering at Finninger Strasse then a signal stop at Neu Ulm to let a southbound IC go. All OK in the end though and we arrived in Ulm Hbf at 1303, 5 late.

Platform 28 (or at least 27) turned out to be adjacent to platform 1 - that’s German platform numbering for you - so I had a few minutes to wait for the double decked, electric loco hauled RE19250 at 1310 to Stuttgart.

Horrendous thereafter. Held 7 minutes at Geislingen for a southbound IC then a further 10 at Geislingen West for another IC and an ICE. Looped at Eislingen to allow a following IC to pass, then signal checked at Göppingen making us 23 late. At least the spotty teenager with the loud voice, which she never stopped using, got off at Göppingen. 24 late from Ebersbach(Fils) for no discernible reason. A couple of minutes gained was mostly thrown away at Plochingen (23 late). Still the same (being charitable) at Esslingen, and back to 24 at Bad Cannstadt. Final arrival at Stuttgart Hbf was 23¼ late.

The late arrival at Stuttgart was sufficient to disrupt the pub plan. [In fairness, there only was a pub plan because if going for an airport I always allow at least an hour for trains to get delayed. So it wasn’t really a problem - I measure the success of my trips by track done. Any required pubs ticked off are an enjoyable bonus! ] I made my way to Sophie’s Brauhaus in pouring rain, found the entrance this time. It opens at 1600 and since I wanted the 1547 or 1557 S-Bahn from Stadtmitte, that was that. Returned to the S-Bahn disheartened and thence to the airport for an RJ100 home after a chance meeting with a former colleague who was on the same flight.

Back in the UK (slightly early so I was through Customs by arrival time - well done BA) everything was as usual. I let 1852 CT to BNS go in favour of 1858 VT to Wolves - loco shoved ex Euston. Sandwell & Dudley pax were all turfed out at BNS on the basis that the train was going via Bescot. Obviously, it went Stour Valley, passing Sandwell & Dudley at great speed! H picked me up from Wolves and we retired to Codsall for Golden Glow.








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