Czech Republic, Slovakia and a bit of Poland 2.9.06-10.9.06 <  >

There’s no rest for the dedicated gricer! With Germany safely in abeyance it was time to concentrate on the Czech Republic for a while, and I set off again through the chaos which passes for weekend travel in the UK.

Saturday 2.9.06

Germany done (but reopenings imminent?) – what next? Czech, obviously. 1000 seemed quite a good time to be flying, really, until you allowed for ATW’s unreliability, Notwork Fail’s inability to maintain a rail service to a major regional airport on Summer Saturdays, and the ongoing aviation security clampdown. So the 0543 it was, courtesy yet again of H who even after 35 years hasn’t really got used to my early starts! Inevitably the 0543 turned up on time, because I’d allowed for it being late. On time at BNS too I think, just in time for me to miss the 0615 SEV to Birmingham Irrational. Gave me time to find out that it takes 7 minutes to walk from Moor Street which might be useful next weekend.

714 011 stands in the impressive train shed at Praha hlavni nadrazi on Saturday 2-9-06, heading an equally impressive array of railcar trailers

0640 bus in the end, arriving at Irrational around 0700. Short (when I joined it) but very slow queue to check in for BMIbaby, then very long but quicker queue for security. The whole thing took an hour this time. BMIbaby were as good as one could reasonably expect (though full, with some tedious fellow passengers, and seated in 17D next to a woman so obese I couldn’t use the armrest) and best of all, were on time at PRG. Baggage was pretty quick and I was at the bus stop at 1331 (scheduled arrival 1305) for the 1338 to Dejvická (bus 119) then Metro A and C to hlavní nádraží via Muzeum. Once ticketed, which caused a modicum of confusion (2 day second class rover and 7 day first class), I had a long wait for 1537 parliamentary to Všetaty via Neratovice which was two red and cream corridor 2nd opens hauled by 742 381. The wait was enlivened by a can of Krušovice from the supermarket.

Off on time with the 742, leaving on a single line diverging left, then a left/right S before (presumably) crossing a line out of Praha Mas. Eventually ended up amid major moleworks with a posh double track trailing in R and a very posh single track below L. On to Neratovice and Všetaty, running a couple of minutes late until Měšice u Prahy where it was decided to start running early. Through Neratovice on the second track from the south, for what it’s worth.

On time at Tišice and Všetaty where (annoyingly? Maybe not) all Neratovice and Mladá Boleslav trains use one side of the island and all Ustí nad Labem and Lysá nad Labem the other. The station buff lies between the two so that was a good place for a compromise CZK17 worth of Gambrinus.

An Ustí – Kolín ‘R’ was next, as far as Nymburk. Haulage was 163 080, arrival at Všetaty dead on, patronage light. And remained thus until I baled out at Nymburk hl.n., pausing to grab a bottle of Nymburk brewery’s Postřižinské Zlatovar (I think, something of the sort anyway). A pleasant enough 4.7% in the local style. This came from a small bothy/standup/whatever – never found out if there’s a proper buff. The Jičín train was waiting (Sp1943), composed of 854 014 and a trailer.

There’s never a dull moment on CD – after a bucolic wander up to Kopidlno on a pleasant summer evening I decided to make use of the facilities prior to arrival. While there, an emergency stop occurred. Reason unknown, obviously. No harm done though, and we proceeded on to Jičín without more ado. Jointed track for a lot of the way today – from reading this [ were it the handwritten original] you might guess!

Back on dry land in Jičín it was quite a walk to Hotel Rieger (20 minutes-ish) though nice enough. Smart hotel, very fractured English but the email did the job and a phone call to the parent Hotel Jičín resulted in all smiles. Out for supper after a wash and brush up – almost everywhere shut (2000 Saturday!) except the dingy Hotel Paríz which served up a nice enough meal (chicken and bacon bits in gravy with a side order of chips and a Staropramen, CZK 141, or £3.71 at tourist rate).

Sunday 3.9.06

Rain in the night but woke to a dry though very humid morning. Shower, shave and off to Hotel Jičín for breakfast (and to pay the bill – all very trusting). Friendly English-speaker to deal with my credit card on reception, and a nice breakfast in a smart dining room. Most patrons seemed to be German (though noticed one Pole in the book at Rieger).

Went for a wander round the old town after breakfast. It has a marvellous main square, requiring a number of photographs! Spent the first part of the morning conviced my train was at 0953. Luckily at about 0855 I checked. 0935… Plenty of time still so no harm done. First 810 of this trip was awaiting our pleasure, 810 616. And I forgot to note last night that the physical connection was done south of Jičín.

At Kopidlno the railcar for Bakov nad Jizerou and Mladá Boleslav (809 239) was on the easternmost track, so physical connection guaranteed. (Later) Couldn’t fail anyway, the junction’s on single line quite a way south of Kopidlno. Noticed a Kláteniské (?) Pivo pub next to Dolní Bousov station. Is this a rarity? [Could well be I got the spelling horribly wrong and it was the nearby and not particularly rare Pivovar Klášter a.s., from Klášter Hradiště nad Jizerou ]

The junction with the Turnov line is single line some way north of Bakov nad Jizerou město (which is also single line) so there would have been no problem even if I’d been changing at B.n.J. In fact we were held at the junction for a northbound ‘R’, Grumpy hauled . Bakov ‘Hbf’ appears to have a buffet – but not with a 3 minute stop! A very pleasant trundle altogether, ending up at Mladá Boleslav hl.n. with a buff that appeared to be closed but wasn’t. Kozel was taken to prepare me for another hour plus on the railcar to Melník.

Achieved the connection between the Praha – Turnov line and the Libuň line – the Melník train went out of P2 across the connection on to the Libuň line where it reversed then went past the station at a higher level and with a road between. As luck would have it the Kopidlno train arrived on P3 and Melník left from P2 so well and truly done! The run to Melník is a mixture of cornflakes and wooded valleys – very easy on the eye. It doesn’t seem to have major engineering apart from one concrete viaduct which appeared to be in good shape; also there were quite a lot of passengers. Patronage thinned out towards half way in the traditional manner but the railcar (810 166) was full again before Melník.

810 166 decanting passengers after arrival at Melnik from Mlada Boleslav. The branch line via Mseno, with its odd reversal outside Mlada Boleslav, is a very attractive one and this photograph does it a serious injustice!

Melník disappointed – no buffet, and the station bothy, the café/pub opposite and the Station Hotel just along were all closed on Sunday. Next stop Všetaty for a few minutes then Mladá Boleslav. Of course I should note that the 810 came right across the layout at Melník to terminate in P1 so all was very well there. Onward connection to Všetaty was an ‘R’ hauled by 163 076. 2 minutes late but connection is 11 minutes.

3½ late in the end but no problem getting the (early) 1400 from Všetaty, 854 009 and three coaches bound for Tanvald. Unfortunately used the third road so no physical connection with yesterday’s. Got the overlap though as it stopped well short!

Mladá Boleslav mesto is a smart new sub surface station nearer to the town centre than is the main station. The connection beyond gives access to the large Skoda car factory. Here 810 410 is about to return to Mlada Boleslav hl.n. with Os 26410, 1442 SSuO to Melnik.

Very boring back to Mladá Boleslav but at least it’s quick. 854 049 and two trailers. Shot myself completely in the foot by deciding to get the shuttle up to MB město in the hope of a pub. No train back so I was hoping for a single platform station or a bus. No such luck; it’s a brand new sub surface station with two platforms and no indication of what uses what. No bus, no taxis. I decided prayer was the only viable option and set off to look for a pub. After a publess mile, found a bus stop. No buses to hl.n. On to the tourist office (closed 1200, it’s 1500). On again to the centre of town – two pubs, another bus stop. Miraculously [maybe prayer was a viable option ] there’s a bus at 1507. Time now? 1507… Over the hill comes the bus, CZK20 please. I’ve got no change, just 100… driver lets me bunk it, bless him, and all ends well with another CZK18 worth of Kozel from Ms Miserablova in the station buff. Another case of fortune favouring the terminally stupid.

The cart (810 564) arrived on time from Nymburk and shunted (with passengers) from P4 to P3 to collect a trailer. As the shuttle to MBm went from P4 I’m getting pretty comprehensive coverage.

Inevitably after all the tomfoolery we used P1 again at MB město (in fact crossing 854 031 which was in P2). With us due off at 1604 and the 854 at 1617 I’d never have worked that one out.

And so to Libuň – another very pleasant rural trundle with the physical junction done on the approach to Libuň. Libuň is as dreary and run down a communist era station as you could wish (possibly excepting Oldřichov u Duchcova of blessed memory). The pub opposite looks even worse but has in fact been refurbished and is smart and pleasant with (vaguely) English speaking staff. Beer was Svijany, again at CZK17.

The Sundays only PSUL flyer [ R1460 SuO Turnov – Praha Vršovice ] duly appeared at 1818, 854 029 and three trailers as booked. It remains only to see if it does the Nymburk avoider…

It did, and at a brisk trot too. Not only that but left Nymburk město a minute or two early and tore into Praha, arriving at Praha-Libeň early enough that I’d had time to walk to the entrance and look at the departures display, and get back into the subway by its 2007 booked arrival time. It was long gone by then. Noted en route: there doesn’t seem to be a connection north of Nymburk město so you need to go through to Praha-Libeň to do it properly if that’s the case. Also there are separate slow lines to Pořičany from the junction (we crossed to the fast immediately west of the junction). It was still light at Pořičany so all in all, a job well done.

Last train of the day, in the dark by now, was an R at 2017 from Praha-Libeň, a Brno train headed by 362 164. This arrived at Kolín on time (2052) and I trooped off to Pension Harmonie only to find it closed and locked. No amount of banging on the doors would produce any life so I went off in search of kippage and ended up in the downmarket Hotel American – still it’s only CZK 315. Always look on the bright side!

Monday (hooray) 4.9.06

Grim night awoken by noises from nearby room at 0655. Off to the station via a supermarket for breakfast supplies. Bread and cheese and a litre of water later I’m just hot and uncomfortable. [As opposed to hungry, thirsty, hot and uncomfortable! ] ‘Jan Palach’ is late too, arriving behind 163 079 but I think acquiring a 363 (363 027).

Good to see local wagon load freight surviving. Here coal is being unloaded at Bystrice nad Pernstejnem on line 251 while 714 222 waits with Os 14911 which is booked for a 6 minute wait here.

Wrong road to Kutná Hora due to moleworks, increasing the lateness from 11½ to 12 minutes. It remained about the same to Havličkův Brod where PR joined me after his various excursions in south Bohemia, and on to Žďár nad Sazavou where the alleged 14 minute connection had to be taken at a canter. 714 222 and two railcar trailers did the business to Tišnov via Nedvědice. A very scenic line it is too, particularly the southern half. There are several points where a train bound south east is heading north west. Beer break at Tišnov – we couldn’t locate the home brew so settled for Starobrno 10° in the first smoke filled shed we came to.

Back at the station the ‘R’ to Brno was on time – and with working air con. 363 011 was the haulage. With an hour to spend at Brno… Černá Hora 11°, and very nice too. Postal liveried 362 121 took us on to Přerov and Hranice na Moravě, by the northern route out of Brno to Blazovice. 7 late out of Přerov for a 7 minute connection into the Žilina train, but we currently believe it’s behind us. Watch this space…

It was. 163 255 powering, and 11 minutes late. Not too bad, given that it’s come from Cheb. No air con in the first class though; how standards are falling.

A bit of a hunt round for the Hotel Apollo (amazingly the locals disclaimed all knowledge at a point from which you could see it if you knew what to look for) then some linguistic difficulties but it was all overcome and the hotel seems very good for CZK 660 or thereabouts. [This hotel is near the station in Valašské Mezi říčí ] .

Off to Bylnice for the last track of the day. EMU to Horní Lideč then an 810 down the branch, returning with it to Vsetín to get the physical connection. A very nice branch too, surprisingly populous in places. Back in the dark but you could see the connection at Horní Lideč. Back at the hotel food was available, to the relief of all, accompanied by Radegast.

Tuesday 5.9.06

The night was disturbed only by trains… Breakfast was provided at 0640 as requested (officially started at 0700) so very satisfactory, all in all.

810 234 stands at Novy Jicin horni nadrazi after arriving as Os 23152 0729 from Hostasovice on 5-9-06

742 139 and brake van stand at Suchdol nad Odrou on 5-9-06

Started the day with an (expected) SEV, to Hoštasovice. This arrived a little late and was away a couple of minutes late, but the branch train to Nový Jičín horní nádraží wasn’t much delayed and left us with more than enough time to walk up to NJ město where CZK 4 can be very well spent! In fact it’s a very smartly done up station altogether. 810 234 did the NJhn branch; 533 and 892 (leading, we were in 533) did the NJ město to Suchdol nad Odrou branch. Annoyingly, 533 then worked empty over the connection on to the main line at Suchdol.

The next train was faster still and with a turquoise number against a silver background I've no chance of telling you which Pendo it was! For those who want to work it out, it's working SC501 Praha Holesovice - Ostrava on 5-9-06.

49 minutes of train watching (including another Bendyleano, photted this time) ensued as although the pub was open, 0839-0928 was too early even for us! Then off to Budišov nad Budišovkou on 810 253 with a trailer. A very fine line it is too, starting flat then into a wide valley, getting steeper and narrower further up (as they do). It would be interesting to know the height of the summit as it’s a long climb. The last part’s a very steep and winidng descent. Only 4 passengers after Vítkov, then just us at the end. It was looking a good candidate for closure beyond Vítkov and we were surprised to find 742 379 with a van at Budišov.

Back in the 'real' CD world at Budisov nad Budisovkou, our railcar (810 253) and its trailer find themselves alongside 742 379 and its one timber wagon.

The station’s on the outskirts at Budišov with no pub to be found so we headed for the only shop. Having had a nervous twitch about 12-2 closing we got there at 1055 to find it was 11-1 closing! The day was just saved, with Radegast Premium for me and Zlatovar (Opava) for PR.

We passed the 742 on the way down at Vítkov, also noting (potential) timber traffic at a yard near Heřmánky, and a rail served quarry at Čermná ve Slesku.

Slightly early arrival at Suchdol gave us plenty of time to go over to the previously noted pub. It being well past the Puritan hour by now, Radegast 11° was enjoyed.

Back to platform 5 track 1 (out to Budišov on 2, back on 3) for a comprehensive collection of bits of track without any overlap. On that score, Suchdol was a spectacular failure. 810479 was working the Fulnek service.

Out to Fulnek, which is a short 13 minute run, then back to Suchdol to make sure we enjoyed the Radegast (we did) before the ‘R’ to Studénka for the only first class of the day, and late at that. All Bílovec trains go from their own platform at Studénka so no hope there for a connection on to the branch. Bílovec is surprisingly large and well appointed (even has a buffet).

Fulnek and Bílovec weren’t particularly inspiring – to add insult to injury most Veřovice trains go from a separate platform (4) at Studénka which really qualifies as separate alignment. We were booked from 4 but went from 3 which gave the physical connection – arguably the better result!

Verovice is situated in the 'V' of the lines from Valasske Mezirici to Frydlant nad Ostravici and from Verovice to Studenka. The picture shows 810 151 just arrived as Os 23120, 1601 from Studenka. The junction is behind me and the Frydlant line is behind the station building to the right.

Studénka to Kopřivnice is fairly uninspired but thereafter the line climbs and becomes very user friendly. Particularly so at Veřovice (sadly a station in the ‘V’ of the two lines and with no services through to Valašské Meziříčí) where there’s a bothy dispensing Radegast – and to my surprise, giving you back CZK 3 on receipt of the empty! A delightful place to sit for half an hour beneath the trees supping a cool beer on a warm evening.

Back to reality with the 810 to Hoštasovice and the SEV to Valašské which got us there in good time for the delayed and graffiti’d 1809 to Horní Lideč (why are all the 460s graffiti’d and not much else, I wonder). We baled out at Vsetín for 810 371 and trailer to take us to Velké Karlovice – another long branch, bucolic almost to a fault. There is though, a large rail served timber yard at Halenkov. Once past there the valley is quite wide and it’s a bit ‘ornery’ up to Velké Karlovice, where there is a striking lack of licensed premises. It appears that this has always been end of line. Darkness fell just after we left VK so it looks like a dull ride back to Valašské Meziříčí.

It was; but punctual, and the hotel delivered a very nice steak to go with the Radegast.

Wednesday 6.9.06

Hostasovice isn't normally a hive of industry. In September '06 the line from Valasske to Hostasovice was being rebuilt, with consequent bustitution, and here you see the passengers from the 0715 bus joining trailers headed by 742 046 on Os3901, 0727 to Ostrava hl.n., and an 810 on Os23152, 0729 to Novy Jicin horni nadrazi. on 6-9-06.

Much the same procedure as yesterday (though a different route on the SEV) to Hoštasovice, then on with 742 046 and four trailers to Frýdlant nad Ostravicí. Puritan mode had to be switched off here for an 0845 Radegast! Some light entertinment was provided by a 742 assembling a one wagon plus brake freight, before we set off complete with schoolchildren (and via the physical connection on to the branch) to Ostravice. The Ostravice branch’s main merit is that it’s short. It sure ain’t interestin’.

742 004 with a freight consisting of one wagon which it picked up at Frydlant nad Ostravici, and a van which arrived with the loco. In the distance 'Goggle' 754 021 is arriving with a train from Ostrava.

Back to Frýdlant where Goggle 754 021 was being held for us (we were 10 late due to waiting a train from Ostrava on the outbound journey) and then on through Frýdek-Místek into the grot that surrounds Ostrava. And you don’t even get the physical connection at Ostrava hl.n.

A few minutes at O-hl.n. convinced us that Bohumín couldn’t be worse so we caught R731 at 1107 to Bohumín, behind 363 039. Not the most exciting place on earth, but we were right! Station buffet and bistro were both closed to the point of boarding up, so after PR had tried, unsuccessfully and twice, to buy tickets to Wodzisław we retired to the nearest pub, as you do. This was cordoned off by ‘safety’ tape but one of the customers beckoned us in. We charged in and enjoyed Ostravar while debris from building work upstairs rained on the pavement…

PKP EMU EN57-653 stands in the bay at Bohumin awaiting departure as Os 832, 1301 to Katowice on 6-9-06

PKP provided a refurbished EN57 for the Katowice train – quite smart inside, loos and all. Despite searching the train for a ticket machine or a gripper we went unmolested even by border police all the way to Wodzisław. Pretty boring it was too.

Round the corner to the nearest pub, which obviously was situated at the back of a yard containing various other commercial premises. Friendly enough though, and dispensed Tyskie and Rybnicki, plus another we didn’t try, at modest rates.

It went a bit wrong then, with the returning EN57 (sort of refurbished but with hard plastic seats) around 15 minutes late. Connection to Český Těšín was long gone when we got to Bohumín and it was deided that only a taxi would get us back on plan. CZK 600 got us the services of Jacques Villeneuve (as it would) and the situation was retrieved with ease. 810s then, for the very uninspiring run to Frýdek-Místek (no physical connection).

754 077 at Frydek-Mistek, 6-9-06

From F-M another Goggle took us back to Ostrava hl.n. over this morning’s track. Minor dramas ensued with the local to Studénka being delayed – although it waited for connections and path at Ostrava-Svinov it got us to Studénka with 5 minutes (well, nearly) to spare before IC541 to Ostrava-Kunčice. Despite coming from Praha hl.n. this was dead on time and provided rare(ish) track, buffet car and Gambrinus. On arrival at Ostrava-Kunčice, job thoroughly done!

From Ostrava-Kunčice to Ostrava-Svinov on an EMU – technically track, but in the dark. We continued to Hranice na Moravě behind 162 039, and thence to Valašské on another EMU. Arriving at 2225, no supper was forthcoming which was none too welcome.

Thursday 7.9.06

A sunny morning finds 810 608 and its trailers at the branch terminus at Roznov pod Radhostem on 7-9-06 forming Os 13208 0826 to Valasske Mezirici.

A cloudless morning which obviously felt better than I did. Breakfast system still worked though, and we got away by train this time, 810 608 and two trailers forming 0714 to Rožnov pod Radhoštěm. Surprisingly for a valley line in these parts it’s flat, straight and pretty boring. Equally boring coming back of course, and straight into P1 without connection.

Change of plan with little point in festering at Valašské for an hour (this was the breakfast stop if the hotel hadn’t done earlies). Instead we joined 163 245 on 0900 to Hranice. After a 40 minute fester there including three freights, a light loco and a couple of locals we continued on a 10 minutes late R731, this time with 363 014. Arrival at Ostrava hl.n. was 5 or 6 late which gave us an hour in which to look unsuccessfully for an Internet café and to sample Starobrno again. EC104 was also late, but not enough to worry, and we rode to Zebrzydovice behind 362 168 (to Petrovice, PKP’s EP09-017 thereafter) in the buffet car with a Tyskie for company. Also an unfortunate young lady who ordered her beer and food before realising that the Krakow portion, not including the buffet car, dropped off at Petrovice!

EC107, Vienna to Warsaw and Krakow, divides at Bohumin. Here Polish electric EP09-017 stands at Zebrzydowice with the Warsaw portion on 7-9-06.

Having negotiated the ticket office at Zebrzydowice we went for the train (EN57 1305) to find a very amiable crew with an enthusiast driver. Not to put too fine a point on it, I had a very good view of the very slow line to Cieszyn. On arrival the event was celebrated in a nearby bothy/tent/pub with Brackie, a local brew from Cieszyn. More booking office negotiations, then on to Český Těšín on another EN57. Here there was a fairly organised border grip which we did our (unsuccessful) best to ignore! [Through stupidity, not malice ] .

Back in .cz we had an EMU from Český Těšín to Ostrava-Svinov via Ostrava-Vítkovice, completing the triangle. A quick Radegast at Svinov, which needn’t have been quick because IC905 with 362 168 (again) was half an hour late. At Otrokovice the connection was also late and ran in beside us (162 039 hauling). Final train of the day was the connection to Uherské Hradiště, formed from 810 651 leading, 810 614 at the rear and two trailers between.

Very nice supper at the hotel [Best Western Hotel Grand ] followed by an early night.

Friday 8.9.06

Awoke to heavy rain and partially flooded streets! Off to the station for 0730 to Kunovice zast. Things seemed a little confused when we got there – much debate with staff (and some with PR) as to whether we were getting on the right train. 754 009 was the haulage – we set off, duly did the required curve then charged through K-z without stopping. Thinking it must have been a request stop we prepared to bale out at the next station where were due to cross and eastbound train. Straight through again, past waiting train. This continued to Veselí nad Moravou… Once on the ground there was over an hour to wait so a taxi was commandeered to get us back to Uherské Hradiště for breakfast (and to recover our bags, pay for the rooms, etc.). [In our defence, this was a rare mistake! The reason soon became apparent ] .

810 651 brought us the short distance from Uherske Hradiste to Kunowice. The two curves diverge in the background of the picture, the temporarily closed line to Kunovice zastavka to the left, and the one to Uherske Hradiste to the right.

Finally away on 810 651 (again) to Kunovice ‘Hbf’ where it all became clear. The east to south curve was out for moleworks and we had indeed got on the wrong train earlier, a diverted Kunovice - Brno! Our Sp on to Vlárský Průsmyk was almost 20 late as a result of being diverted, but at present is slowly regaining time on a very long climb to the border. The consist is 842 037 and two trailers. Enough was regained that after a brief border grip and a 15 minute trundle to Trencianska Tepla on 811 014 (nice seats, shame they’re so uncomfortable) we made the 14 minute connection on to R605 (362 004) with ease. There was even time to get tickets (SKK 146 to Vrutky), cash machine (PR) and beer (me, unsuccessfully as neither bothy was attended at the time). 605 had most impressive air con stock throughout, except the buffet – but that dispensed Šaris so all was forgiven. It was also on time throughout.

ZSSK's 362 004 took us on to Vrutky on R605 - it's pictured here at Vrutky.

Station buffets were conspicuous by their closed-ness at Vrutky so we retired to a local hostelry (across the road, slightly to the left, then 200m on the right) for Martiner, a local beer. The pub was a serious smoking and drinking shed.

From Vrutky we headed south with 754 053 on a Zr (appears to be Slovak Sp equivalent) to Zvolen. Bustitution was in progress at Banska Bystrica and we were delayed quite substantially waiting to cross a northbound train at Hronsek. Quite a dramatic line, particularly towards Banska Bystrica, with some long tunnels.

In Germany these wretched things with their bizarre centre power 'section' are class 642; ZSSK call them class 840 and this one is 840 005 which has just arrived at Zvolen o.s. with the continuation of Zr1841.

Farce at BB, with our fairly full 4x88 seat train (or was it 5?) expected to decant into two 41-seat SEVs. We eventually set off, ludicrously overcrowded. I was wedged against the windscreen (which had a 3 ft crack) with the train conductress wedged in beside me. Ridiculous. We only had to suffer as far as BB město where a pair of DMUs (class 840, German 642 equivalent) were waiting. 840 005 was the rear one; I didn’t note the front one. These took us on to Zvolen where arrival was around ½ hour late, at 1545.

Hotel Poľana was only a short distance away. Once established there we retired to a nearby café to ponder the day over a couple of beers (and a plate of excellent chips). It was decided that the Banska Šitavnice branch was a runner so we walked down to Zvolen nakl. stanice to suss it out for tomorrow. Not much to suss, and a couple of rakes of wagons to be moved! 812 039 took os back to Zvolen then electric 242 223 on to the junction at Hronska Dubrava. The branch itself is superb, running most of the way in a deep, densely wooded valley. With the setting sun just catching the top of the valley on the east side [obviously! ] it was quite striking. Alas the same can’t be said of the rather run down terminus at Banska Šitavnice. The three minutes we had to take photos before rejoining 811 611, which was the last train of the day, were sufficient… The train runs through to Zvolen so it remained only to stagger back to the hotel for a meal and go to bed.

Saturday 9.9.06

Outside framed 4-4-0 372, built in 1891 for the Suedbahn in Austria, now belongs to Vienna's Technisches Museum.

The Zvolen Grand Prix today, an extraordinary event involving racing steam locos six abreast, picking things up and dropping them in bins, putting out fires with water from the locos, ‘rescuing’ young ladies ‘chained’ to the track, rolling barrels and more*. A good event though, and hopefully at least some of the 100+ pictures will make it to Fotopic. *’more’ includes drinking beer of course – Zubr and/or Steiger were sponsors along with the local authorities from Zvolen and Banska Bystrice. All free, amazingly, and all very admirable.

Preserved Co-Co diesel T679.019 leaves the depot on its way to work a special from Banska Bystrica.

The journey home to Telford started on the much delayed 1525 Zvolen o.s. to Vrútky via Kremnica – refurbished railcar 812 033 and a very unrefurbished trailer in which we ended up. A long trog, 40 late throughout, though wonderful scenery again at least as far as the summit at just under 2600 ft (775m). It gets less interesting as it goes north, becoming a bit dreary and industrial towards Vrútky. An hour to kill at Vrútky so another visit to the desperate Martiner pub just down the street. There was some sort of knees-up going on which involved some spectacularly loud and awful ‘music’.

0-8-0T 422 0108 gives us a twirl on its way out...

The Os to Žilina was delayed 6 minutes waiting for the 45 minutes late 1626 from Zvolen via Banska Bystrica, our original choice! No harm done [quite the opposite – due to PR’s good timetable spot we had a good chunk of extra track ] and we reached the Astoria without incident other than its restaurant being closed. The bar closes at 2100 on Saturday too, and doesn’t have any ‘draught’ (keg) beer. The whole town was virtually shut (2000 on a Saturday, in a major city by SK standards, possibly their third after Bratislava and Kosice?) but we were directed to a restaurant by the hotel receptionist. It dispensed Gambo and an excellent steak, diminished only by the violin/bass/squeeze box ‘combo’ and its two memorably dreadful singers.

The six steam locos line up for the start. From left to right, 204, 422 0108, 310 433, 313 432, 372 and 331 037. Eagle eyed readers (wonderful 1950s term!) will spot a number of scantily clad persons between the tracks in front of the locos.

An early night – I went to sleep despite the roars from the football stadium! Eventually woken during the night by extremely inebriated persons out in the street – goodness knows where they found to become so inebriated.

Sunday 10.9.06

8 hours sleep at last, albeit in bits. After nipping down to the station to get tickets into Czech, a fairly minimalist breakfast. I thought the Astoria a bit expensive for what it was, but OK I suppose and certainly convenient to the station.

IC (or EC) 142 doesn’t wait for connections, according to the timetable, so waited 10 minutes at Žilina for a connection from points east. Still late at Čadca we were further delayed by the border grip and (I think) a southbound freight, leaving 13 down. This after 28 minutes which doesn’t bode too well. ZSSK’s 162 004 is providing (lethargic) haulage. By Karvina, 80 minutes in, we were 20 late. [Although I’d made reasonable provision for late running, it was my son’s graduation the following day and missing my flight was absolutely not an option! Had we continued losing time at 20 minutes every 80 I’d have had no option but the Praha-London motor omnibus… ] 18 late arriving at Bohumín was reduced to 17 after the loco change. Not too smart considering they had 13 minutes booked to do it!

Marginal improvement to Hranice, then un-rot set in with the deficit reduced to 9 minutes at Olomouc. Still major moleworks on the way to Česká Třebová but it looks like these are allowed for as wonder of wonders, we arrived on time at 1300 at Česká Třebová. Pretty well a canter to Praha hl.n. from there, with early arrival at Pardubice, Kolín and P-Libeň. Eventual arrival at Praha hl.n., whence PR departed to head for Germany, was two minutes early at 1444, and I was ensconced in Pivovarský Dům by 1507.

P. Dům has a number of silly fruit beers (silly, and expensive too) plus a very nice light beer at CZK 33/0.5l. I tried and enjoyed that, and also 0.3l of the dark beer which as usual tasted burnt and not much else! They also have quite a good tourist gag of 4 litres for CZK 231 which comes in a tall glass cylinder, graduated and with a tap at the bottom. Nice idea for a biggish party where not everyone wants to drink in half litres.

Back to I.P. Pavlova metro on the tram to save a hot walk up the hill, then the usual trudge to the airport, Metro C/Muzeum/Metro A/Dejvická/bus 119. Arrived at the airport about 1635.

No sign of flights to and fro’ BHX but it all sorted in the end and I checked in at 1705, first in the queue in fact, by slightly devious (and accidental) means! Flight was only a few minutes late at Birmingham; I missed VT’s SEV but got the Corporation bus into town, dashed across from Moor Street, got the connection to Wolvo and had time for a swift Golden Glow in the Great Western before the SEV (another one) to Telford where H collected me. [After all the worries about getting back in time, security clampdowns and all the other stuff, this was indeed a result! ]

Having made it safely to my son's graduation back in Wolverhampton it was time for a winter break, although rather foolishly we did think we'd like to see a bit of snow in February!








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