Czech Republic 31.10.07-3.11.07 <  >

After my trip with Herself at the start of October I was very irritated to find myself with little bits of lines 036 and 087 undone, together with the extension of line 144 to Loket předměstí which had failed due to moleworks earlier in the year. Add to that line 143, which I’d only done in the dark, and a few oddments round Praha and I had what I considered a good excuse to go again!

Wednesday 31.10.07

Back to Czech again, hopefully to do those bits left undone earlier in the month, plus one or two other required items.

Usual rush hour fare from TFC, 2x150, 6 minutes late and wedged. No problem as I had plenty of time; passed up the Desiro on 0848 New St-Northampton because it was (surprisingly) wedged too, and caught the almost as wedged 0903 Bomo, a particularly stinky Voyager.

Collected pre-ordered dosh from Travelex (much cheaper than LTSB even with debit card charge), then through the rat-training maze to wait for the flight. This caught me on the hop by being opened up 20 minutes early! Again no problem and we were airborne at 1051 (vs 1050 booked departure). Inside the terminal at PRG by 1345 (vs 1400 booked arrival) and on to the bus by 1351, making the seemingly impossible 1455 from P-Mas a doddle!

Arrived P-Mas at 1436, ticketed (booking clerk didn’t seen too well up on Siťové jízdenky Klasik so it was a good job I had it written down, as per), off to Pont for a sarnie and a couple of Krušovices, and on to the train for 1447. Utterly satisfactory, apart from the malodorous Jan The Lad who arrived in the otherwise empty compartment with a few seconds to go.

Up to Lovosice where the 1557 booked arrival was a couple of minutes late. Didn’t matter because 1600 Česká Lipa was too, and left at 1605 after collecting a (much needed) trailer. It obligingly went right across the layout having acquired the trailer from a Louny train in P5 (west side). Off then to Horní Repčice which was where the daylight ran out on 4.10.07! Ten minutes there, then another wheelie bin back to Litoměřice horni nadráži. I decamped there and walked across town to L-město (where the buffet is being refurbished, not before time!). Just too late for 1710 to Ustí but in time for 163 094 on 1736 to Ustí, giving me, hopefully, a handy connection to the ‘R’ for Karlovy Vary at Ustí nad Labem zapad.

Looks good – R616 goes at 1842, I’m in the station buffet at U.n.L.z. at 1810! Could it be even smokier than last time? Possibly. Was the barman going to keep my change until he realised I was going to wait until I got it? Probably. Hardly worth it for the change from CZK20 (it was 17.80) but hey, there’s a principle here!

On to R616, which is 5 late but has Radegast in the buffet car. What more can you say. Well, perhaps you could add that there was a very nice chicken steak and chips, too.

Only a minute or so late at Karlovy Vary where a wheelie bin was waiting to go down to dolní nádraži. I saved myself the walk.

I found my 'hotel' in the end (it was in darkness so I missed it on the first pass) and after an acrimonious debate with the incompetent, cantankerous and uncooperative individual on the desk [it takes one to know one], managed to pay in cash (he didn’t or wouldn’t know how to deal with cards) and get a receipt (‘Tomorrow, tomorrow’. ‘No, now!’). No breakfast until 0800 so that was the (expected) washout.

Thursday 1.11.07

Individual still there at 0550 so at least I didn’t have to break out. The 'hotel' turned out to be the same place I stayed at on my first visit to KV all those years ago (5.4.99 to be exact).

The walk up to the main station took a fairly strenuous 13 minutes so I had a bit of a wait for 0627 to Chodov, noting a 742 on 0614 to dolní nádraži, with two wheelie bin trailers.

362 060 arrived on time with the 0627, by which time technical daylight was in evidence so full daylight should be there before any track gets done.

I include this ridiculous photo of 810 077 only to show the separate platform at Chodov which is used by the branch trains. I'm looking west; the train has just arrived so still has headlights on but in fact it goes away from the camera, reverses and then heads north east off the picture to the right.

And fog, too. Ah well. It took me a while at Chodov to realise that the Nova Rolé line has its own platform. Luckily I did so before 0700 and was able to join 810 017 with its new and uncomfortable high backed seats in time to watch the connecting ‘R’ train go at at 0656.

Fog prevailed to Nova Rolé unfortunately but hey, it’s still daylight! Božičany has a rail served factory which presumably keeps the line in business though as it faces Nova Rolé (and is closer to it) it’s hard to see why they keep the passenger service to Chodov. Only one other passenger from Chodov, who left the train at Božičany. The Mírová stop was passed at “speed”!

The Potůčky – KVdn train was on time at Nova Rolé but was detained for 5 minutes awaiting a northbound train (742 and two trailers). That was OK though, with an 11 minute connection at KV. 810 060 and a trailer were the haulage.

The connection at KV was 5 late too, 242 242 and three coaches. 5 minute connection at Nové Sedlo u Lokte but no problem with that – 810 114 (new seats) was waiting and did a simultaneous departure with the 242.

This picture shows 810 114 just north of Loket predmesti with the town of Loket and its castle behind. The line passes under the centre of the town in a tunnel.

Down to Loket předměstí in glorious sunshine and then back to Chodov (so doing the connection at Nové Sedlo) where there was a handy 6 minute connection on to R623 to Ustí. Not much track for quite a while (in fact none) but it’s a fabulous morning now and a pleasant enough ride.

Usti nad Labem hl.n. is undergoing much needed rebuilding; at the time only the two northernmost platforms were in use, with single line over the bridge to the east. 163 098 has just arrived with a terminating Os train at around 1300 on 1-11-07.

On time all the way to Ustí then we were held outside zapad for 5 minutes or so. Had I not done 087 last night I’d have been on a tight unbooked connection and would have been climbing the walls! But I did, and I wasn’t, so on arrival I went for a bit of a wander and then to the excellent (has a non-smoking dining area so it must be!) Staropramen pub near hl.n. for some lunch (and breakfast, as I didn’t bother on the train). A schnitzel and two Staropramens later I decided to get the 1300 stopper to Děčín just for a change of scenery and regretted it when it turned out to be 460 073!

854 223 on the Liberec was 5 late at Děčín hl.n. By the time it had waited for the single line at Děčín východ, faffed about at Benešov (got the physical connection there, so not a complete waste) and transferred everyone to bus at Česká Lipa, R693 was 17 late. I’m not panicking, honest.

Usual scary bus ride to Mimoň where 854 218 ‘Jamilka’ was waiting with one trailer. 26 late away from Mimoň. Plan A is dead, plan B (if viable) can stand about 35… The deficit was down to 22 at Jablonné so at least we’re heading the right way.

Eventually arrived Liberec at 1601, 19 late and 11 minutes after the 1550 to Tanvald, with its ‘I don’t wait for connections’ symbol, had gone. So I had to settle for the 1630, which arrives at Vratislavice at sunset! It doesn’t wait for connections either so hopefully all will be well.

And so it was – though it’s a cloudy evening and much more delay would have meant disaster. Nothing for it now but to sit out the long haul to Tanvald (1731/1750) and Praha hl.n. (2038) comforted only by a couple of bottles of Svijany. I decided to pass up the Tanvald Takeaway this time in favour of something a little (lot) more modest. 843 009 provided haulage to Tanvald – on arrival there 854 004 ‘Milos’ was waiting with two trailers to form 1750 to Praha.

And what a drag, in the dark. I was glad of the Svijany and my iPod to help pass the time. Only 5 minutes or so late at Praha hl.n., due to waiting at Všetaty for the Ustí – Nymburk train which I worried about missing three weeks ago!

There followed an irritating farce at the Golden City (HRS booked) where I was given a polite letter telling me that they’d had to move me to the Amadeus, 5 minutes away. They’d pay the difference, it said. Harrumph.

Nothing for it but to trot off to the Amadeus, where all seemed to be well. By the time I’d got there and sorted myself out it was almost 2200 so I abandoned the idea of ticking the Libeň brew pub and went to bed instead.

Friday 2.11.07

Too early for breakfast (to be fair, I was offered a packed one) so after tram 9 to the station I grabbed some supplies from the ever reliable Pont before joining a particularly revolting 4xx on 0626 to Beroun.

Light was well established by Zadní Třebaň where the inevitable wheelie bin was waiting to go to Lochovice. This line has a very scenic start, with a long climb out of the Beroun (?) valley to the reversal at Liten. This seems to be partly for geographical reasons, to avoid an excessively steep gradient. Soon after that the line levels out and at the time of writing is unexceptional. That said, it was more interesting than I’d expected. 810 086 was the haulage; unusually it had a little (but not a lot of) trouble with leaf fall.

The gripper, a kindly soul, seemed to be trying to convince me that the train went through to Zdice so I was quite surprised when he dragged me off at Lochovice and pointed me to the waiting connection, another 810. Still, decent of him nonetheless.

Ceske Budejovice on 2-11-07; 340 062 is on a passenger train; the 242 appears to be, but was in fact just collecting a solitary sleeping car which was there for reasons unknown (to me at least) and 842 013, with a trailer which was detached at Ceske Velenice, was working Os 8714, 1356 to Gmünd.

Back to Zdice for a long cold wait for the 0910 to České Bud – had my wits been about me I’d have gone to Beroun and back to get the connection at Zdice – but they weren’t, and I didn’t. Long, long trudge to České Budějovice where I was able to purchase a České Velenice – Gmünd return for what I considered a completely excessive CZK105. Also a can of Budvar (well, you have to) for a definitely excessive CZK30. This from the bothy on the station. Rip-off price for a very indifferent beer. So there.

Even more tedious, though shorter, trudge to České Velenice and Gmünd (which I nearly didn’t reach as nobody bothered telling me the trailer was detached at České V.). The line is being electrified and with heavy molework throughout I suppose I was lucky to be able to do it. 15 late at Gmünd, precluding a swift half at the posh looking station buff. But my, was it good to be in civilisation for a few minutes. Only I did ČV to Gmünd; two more joined me for the return working.

809 350 and its trailer standing at the large and rather under-utilised station at Česke Velenice prior to working Os 8174, 1356 to Veseli nad Luznici on 2-11-07.

Surprisingly (given that we left the gripper at ČV), a ČD gripper appeared on the return journey. Shows the wisdom of buying a ticket! More reasonable conditions at ČV where the bothy dispensed Kozel for CZK17. In a can, even. The (less than obvious) station buff seemed lively enough, but I hadn’t time. The gents’ was fairly civilised, and useful!

Another pretty uneventful trundle up to Veselí nad Lužnicí although at least it gets a bit more populous as you get further north. Twice delayed while waiting to cross late running southbound trains, we were around 8 late at Veselí, no great worry with a 15 minute connection.

One of the advantages of doing ‘dead’ track – you can sleep! It made the journey to Praha shorter, and the train was only 5 late which was a good effort considering all the moleworks. I suppose the timetable allows some moleminutes.

By tram on arrival, to U Medvídků – the advice of the GBG to ‘KBO’ until you get to the brewery was very useful. Dark 5.2% lager is the standard; there’s also a 12.6% silly beer at CZK350 the litre. I think not.

Much enjoyed the ‘dark’ lager which wasn’t really, and seemed to have quite a lot in common with Old Hooky. Nothing more to say, really.

Off to the ‘burbs then, to visit the Richter brewpub in Libeň. This was quite a lengthy undertaking involving trams 9 and 10 which drop you (in the case of 10) at an unpromising crossroads in suburban nowhere. Thanks to the power of the ‘Net I had directions memorised, and followed them to the letter. I’d just got to the point of ‘if it isn’t that light there I give up – too dodgy’ when it was that light there.

A fine pub too, one large square room with brewery right rear, bar along the back. It was packed and I had to stand at the bar but fortunately they don’t stand on ceremony and the English-speaking barmaid served me. Friday was jazz night at least this week, and a competent trad jazz band (or were they jamming? Maybe, but still competent) were gathered round the tables in the front right corner. Bass, guitar, clarinet, banjo and oddly, fiddle. Not sure what else! Very pleasant light unfiltered pils, which I much enjoyed and seemed to be the popular choice.

Return was slightly more eventful – I had the inspired idea of getting the Metro back to the city centre and baled out at Palmovka. Only after baling out did I remember I was going to the hotel, not the station! 10s being fairly infrequent I thought I’d have a long wait but a 19 came along which got me to Nákladové nádraží Žižkov. And a bit beyond, in fact, as I managed to ignore the perfectly clear announcements and get carried past the stop!

As often remarked before, fortune favours the terminally stupid and I was just starting the walk back when a 26 hove into view and I was able to get back to Husinecká on that, for a slightly slippery walk down the hill (my boots don’t like wet cobbles) to the Amadeus.

Saturday 3.11.07

Breakfast starts at 0730 so with my 0811 tram in mind I tried for 0725. It was not to be, and just as the key turned at 0731 a party of Germans presented themselves at the door. You might know. They hadn’t got their tokens though (uncharacteristically disorganised) so it was last laugh for the Brits! Breakfast was the usual fare but none the worse for that, much enjoyed after two breakfastless starts.

'My' train was Sp 1835, 0811 to Tabor, headed by 363 131.

I skidded my way back to Husinecká just in time to see a tram approaching so made it to hlavní nádraží with ease for the first class-less, plastic seated Sp1835. Harrumph. A splendid grumportunity. Haulage was 363 131.

Right on the nose at Olbramovice, despite the moleworks, so the only problem there was getting off on the station side and having to wait for the Sp to go! 810 472 was the branch bin.

Sedlcany is the terminus of a very scenic branch from Olbramovice. 810 472 is seen there on 3-11-07.

What a nice branch too. I had a bit of a down on it simply because of the difficulty of fitting it in with anything else – but it’s quite short (30 mins down the hill, 28 up for some reason) and very attractive. Dead rural, know what I mean. Autumn’s probably the best time for it, too. Sedlčany itself has a collection of industry in varying degrees of run-down-ness but also timber (surprise) and coal traffic – and a pub across the road, not viable in 1005-1016.

742 161 putting up a fine display of clag as it starts a freight away from Olbramovice.

Back to Olbramovice right on time again; annoyingly 472 crossed over to the main line after we’d left it, and went haring off towards Benešov. More annoyingly, it still had two passengers!

The booked connection turned up from Veselí 5 late with 363 085 on three coaches. That still leaves 32 of the 37 minutes pivortunity at Benešov…

…which was heading for a washout with the station buff seemingly out of use. However across the road I found a cafeteria-cum-pub which dispensed Ferdinand on draught. Exceptionally nice, as was the barmaid! I liked the Ferdinand enough to purchase additional supplies, but alas it was Branik and like it at the shop on the station. 810 117 was waiting on P2/2 with a very well patronised 1147 to Trhový Štěpánov. A trailer wouldn’t have hurt.

Last call for this trip was Trhovy Stepanov, where the station stands amid rather run down surroundings a little way from the village. 810 117 is seen after arrival with Os 19112 from Benesov u Prahy.

Vlašim is by far the biggest intermediate place and the majority of passengers stayed on until then (it’s a little over half way). Thereafter the loading was around 12 – will be interesting to see what happens on the way back.

Back to 12 again by Zdislavice. Where do these people come from. Trhový Štěpánov is a hole in the middle of nowhere, at least station-wise. The no doubt once-imposing Station Hotel is derelict and there’s nothing much else nearby but goats and station cats (though the branch does appear to continue into some industry, whether functioning or not I wasn’t going to find out in the rain). The village is a little way off; looks big enough for a pub but too far for half an hour with added beer. I have a plane to catch, after all.

Only 15 from Vlašim on the way back. Can’t really conclude whether this one’s a survivor or not. I don’t think I’d back the last bit unless the industry’s alive and well. There seems to be some sort of failed/ing preservation site at Domašin – lots of derelict rolling stock and a couple of 202-sized diesels which I couldn’t identify at a glance.

A couple of minutes late at Benešov but no doubt the connection would have been held even if it had been longer. 1418 Os to Praha was a 4xx – this possibly being my last visit to Praha [chorus: Oh no it isn’t!] something better would have been welcome. Nothing else on offer in the time available, unfortunately.

Scruffy or not, the 4xx was right on time at Praha hl.n. It remained only to purchase supplies at Pont and get the 26 tram to Divoká Šárka and thence the dreaded 119 – a modern one with lots of interesting things to say (not) about which countries are served from which terminal.

BMIbaby came up trumps again with a 15 minute early return to BHX and despite the huge immigration queue (Emirates had just arrived with, presumably, a large aircraft) I was able to get the 1934 Cross Country, supposedly to Wolvo. Farce ensued at BHM with the train splitting and the rear four coaches worth of passengers put into the already full and standing front set. Fortunately I realised the sort of time this might take and baled out to get the 1957 CT stopper to Shrewsbury which duly went on time, before VT! Collection by H from TFC and a Bonfire Night session at the All Nations rounded off a very satisfactory day.

The next planned trip is in early April 2008 with the aim of finishing off all my remaining routine ČD passenger track (there's a new 'seasonal' curve appeared - 072 to 087 of all places, and some diversions and kettlexes Praha-Smichov - Praha-Vrsovice). However I have no doubt whatever that moleworks will intervene - and you'll be able to read my grumblings soon!








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