Czech Republic and a tiny bit of Austria 3.4.08-9.4.08 <  >

This was to be my last great Czech track bash. PR and I had been working our way fairly methodically round the system and we’d got the remaining track down to the area of South West Bohemia bounded by a line Domazlice-Plzen-Zdice-Praha-Tábor-Summerau. We’d done slightly different bits within the ‘target’ area but basically it could all be done in 6 days – if the engineers let us. As the engineering notices appeared on the ČD web site during the preceding days we had to adjust the plan but up until the afternoon before we left it all held together. Then the Curse of the Moleworks struck for a final time, with the České Budějovice to Černý Kříž line out of action from 3rd to 1710 on 8th, which ruled PR out. As luck would have it BMIbaby had cancelled my flight on the 8th, forcing me to stay an extra day which gave me a chance to finish the job.

Thursday 3.4.08

Theory was, this was to be the last great Czech bash. That was before yesterday’s moleworks update. Anyway, off to Irrational on London Midland’s 170 and Arriva’s stinky Voyager, arriving to find a huge queue at BMIb’s checkin. Fortunately I’d circumvented this by checking in on line so it was off for the usual boring wait (1.5 hours having been allowed for train cancellations which didn’t happen). Arrival at PRG was in sufficient time for a gentle wander to hl.n. via 119/A/C. I purchased PR’s and my tickets and a bagful of beer before joining 363125 and PR on 1511 to Tabor.

113 001 is at Bechyně waiting to leave with Os 28415, 1805 to Tábor

Despite extensive moleworks (which have been going on for years so presumably the timings allow for them) we were on time at Tábor, allowing us adequate time to go and find 113001 on the Bechyně train, which goes from a single platform in the road outside the station. By ČD standards a loco and two open (well, a second open and an open brake second) coaches was quite civilised provision for a 50 minute late afternoon trundle. The sun obliged us at the end for a shot from the high viaduct just before Bechyně, and a nice shot of the loco once it had run round.

On to České Budějovice on a strange and wonderful Praha-Salzburg ‘R’ largely composed of Italian stock and including sleepers – this on a train which ostensibly reaches its destination before midnight. In fact it’s renumbered at Salzburg and continues to Zürich and Venezia. Hotel Amstel was located easily enough but under no circumstances whatsoever would I recommend anyone to stay there. This demonstrates the wisdom of not staying in the same hotel for 5 nights. Which we are. [I’ve reworded my original rather pithy notes here between ‘easily enough’ and ‘the wisdom’ As you read on you’ll get an idea why.]

Friday 4.4.08

Arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed [an unusually inaccurate observation] for breakfast at 0800 to find nobody present; laundry man and chambermaid were locked out and I had to let them in. The main man arrived eventually and we managed to get some breakfast before heading for the 0900 bus to Netolice. Obviously the bus station is on the second floor of the shopping centre… [hard to believe, but true. It seems to work well enough though I wonder how the buses get on if it snows].

Over to Netolice on the bus; we spotted a Platan pub on the way in. Having left the bus and located the station I declined the Platan pub on the grounds that it would be empty (opened 10:00, this was 10:02). Nowhere else open and on the way back I said to PR that we’d probably go in and find 15 old boys in a cloud of smoke. We went in. There were 13; with us that made 15…

810 572 took us from Netolice to Zliv where we crossed the layout to finish up in what seemed to be a dedicated platform on the north side. On to ČB in an 834 (or its trailer in fact) on a Most- ČB working.

340 049 heading Sp 1931 at Ceske Budejovice on 4-4-08

340 049 had charge of 3 coaches on 1209 to Linz which currently (1223) is awaiting the connection from Plzeň. Eventually left around 20 late and remained so for a fairly tedious run down to Summerau.

40 minutes at Summerau seemed like a potential punishment, but blessedly there’s a pub there and we were able to sample the products of the Freistadt brewery. Not particularly enthralling, but any port in a storm. [And the pub is both immaculate and friendly].

Back to ČD-land then in a nice comfortable Austrian coach with 340 049 in charge again. We alighted at Horni Dvoříště where Budvar was taken pending the arrival of the 210-powered connection to Lipno nad Vltavou (210 037). This started with a double decker and a single decker – lost the latter somewhere en route. Rain was falling big time at Lipno (the branch is surprisingly industrial in the upper reaches) but a couple of phots were managed for record purposes.

Back at Rybnik the EC from Lubljana was (only) ‘fier und zwanzig’ minutes late arriving with its Austrian loco and assorted smart coaches. The decision not to take the 1828 local proved a good one as it was held in one of the loops to let us past.

Goulash and dumplings (superb) rounded off the day on the way back to ČB.

Saturday 5.4.08

A very disturbed night (noisy neighbours, noisy persons in street, deliveries etc.) but at least it’s a fine sunny morning at 0648!

Breakfast materialised OK, if a little late, and I was at the station by 0750 for 0802 to Plzeň, top and tailed by 242s (207 leading). Out to Čičenice for 810393 on the 0845 to Volary which pleased me greatly by crossing over the main line to stop by the station building. I piled in straight away in case of subsequent manoeuvres, though reasonably enough there weren’t any! The Týn nad Vltavou branch looks a lost cause as it appears to use a separate platform.

751 223 with a short train of timber at Volary on 5-04-08

It’s a long run to Volary (1hr 40) but increasingly scenic and on a fine morning, accompanied by Bach, Mozart, Wagner et al. it was pleasant enough. Better yet, the same wheelie bin worked through to Strakonice thus ensuring at least one of the two physical connections. We used the second track across – will have to see what Monday brings.

Quite snowy still in the upper reaches on the way to Vimperk, with Kubova Huť [the highest ČD station at 995m or 3264 ft] seemingly a ski resort [it is]. The train emptied there, all but 3, though obviously not for skiing purposes in April! There was serious downhill from Kubova Huť onwards, with a break at Vimperk for 8 minutes, during which a foraging party managed to obtain Grafenwalder Premium Pils from the bothy outside, and take some photos.

Strakonice has a buffet, but sadly doesn’t sell the local brew [the stand-up next to the station does, but we didn’t see it] so we had to settle for a Gambrinus. Should have mentioned that the 810 on its way in from Volary went across the layout and stopped in front of the buffet door. Very decent gesture, we felt! The 810 for Blatna left from the next track, one north of the main line, and didn’t touch the main line before diverging. You can’t win them all, and 810 393 did a very good job for us!

Strakonice to Blatna isn’t the most inspiring line, though it does improve. We arrived at Blatna on track 3 (from the station building), departed to Březnice from track 2. In the interim we visited the pub across the road which though heavily advertising Nektar (Strakonice) only sold Staropramen.

No problem at Březnice as the Rožmitál branch diverges quite a way up the main line towards Zdice. Rožmitál is a fairly traditional (i.e. semi derelict) ČD branch terminus – but with only two more to go it seemed quite nostalgic! The Blatna trains use a dedicated bay on the west side at Březnice so no hope there unfortunately.

Back at Blatna we arrived on track 4; the same bin worked through to Nepomuk so at least half the job got done there. No such luck at Nepomuk though.

After a fruitless search for supper ( had suggested something which might have been a pub, but wasn’t) we caught a local to Horažďovice where there is a buffet but ‘twas shut. So we had to return hungry to České Budějovice on an ‘R’ which (encouragingly) went direct from Ražice to Protivín [encouraging because there were moleworks on that stretch, which we both needed, and as they seemed to be keeping to the advertised possession times it looked hopeful for the next morning .]

Sunday 6.4.08

Another poor night, woken by commotion outside at 0330 and very uncomfortable thereafter [it was very uncomfortable all the time but I was so tired in the evenings that I managed to fall asleep fairly easily at first]. It made for a rather reluctant response to the 0500 alarm. Plenty of time for a shave and a shower [difficult as the shower fitting was broken and the shower head leaked sideways!] and a stroll to the station where I found 0602 Plzeň with only one loco (242 206), which seems a good sign [top and tail 242s as per yesterday would have suggested the diversion from Protivín to Putim (reverse) and Ražice instead of doing the main line]. And it was – straight through from Protivín to Ražice and on to Plzeň, filling in the gap from Protivín to Nezvěstice on line 190.

Stuck for 3 hours at Plzeň so I got some breakfast, went for a walk, decided to get 0908 (ex N ürnberg) to Rokycany and 0935 (if possible) back, alternatively 1031 which is my planned train to Domazlice.

0908 was a bit late arriving behind Goggle 754 058 which was changed for an electric and several more coaches. The first class was German ex-IR stock, now red and white and downgraded to Regio status. Inside it’s in its original state and after nearly 20 years it’s a disgrace.

Left Plzeň 6 late, but on time at Rokycany so no problem joining 363 077 on 0935 ‘R’ to Frantiskovy Lazné which was also on time. The first class was certainly no worse than the DB Regio stock, and arguably better.

On return to Plzeň (north side, same as outbound, but the ČB train had arrived at 3 east - south side) I paused to greet PR as he passed through from the undiverted 0802 ex ČB, to the 1008 to Beroun. Then to Tesco for lunch supplies just in case – same cheap beer strategy as in the UK but no lager louts in the streets. Now why would that be, I wonder. Surely they’re not better disciplined than us Brits…

When I got back 754 058 had reappeared ready to go forward with 1100 to München Hbf which appeared on time at 1050 behind 363 127. The air con ČD compartment 1st was much superior to the tatty German stock on the Nürnberg train.

On time arrival at Domazlice so I took a stroll down the road for something to do, and was rewarded by finding Hotel Kalous which is 5 minutes or so walk towards town and opens at 12 on a Sunday. After this little success (which would have been bigger had language difficulty not prevented me from getting the unpasteurised Bernard!) more was to come. On returning to the station, which is in the process of being done up, I found the 814/914 for Klatovy on the track nearest the station building – so hopefully we’re at PhysCon 5…

It stayed there for quite a while awaiting the 1228 arrival from Plzeň which was 20+ late. I’d have been climbing the walls… Duly across the layout though. Connection at Klatovy is 26 mins but I dare say they’ll hold it and if not, it’s something to do on Tuesday morning.

Didn’t need to, as the Domazlice train regained some time but it did wait a minute or 3 for the Praha – Bayerisch Eisenstein one. After the comparative (they are dreadfully noisy) luxury of the 814 we got an 810 and trailer to Horažďovice Předměstí, a journey which I found fairly tedious compared to the shorter and more scenic Domazlice-Klatovy stretch.

Onwards on a 242-hauled local to Strakonice where after a longish walk to locate pubs selling Nektar, I found there was a stand-up by the station which sold it. I wish I had a euro for every time that’s happened. Rendezvous with PR off the 1620 for a Nektar and then a Gambo in the station buff so that we could get warm. That was the excuse, anyway.

Onwards to Ražice with a 242-hauled ‘R’ which was somewhat late. The Tábor connection (814/914) was held though whether that will apply to the ‘Salzburg’ kipper at Tábor is another thing. At present we’re 16 late…

…but it was all made up, the Salzburg kipper was waiting, and we arrived back at České Budějovice on time, running in via the northern of the two routes past the carriage sidings. That rounded the day off nicely.

Monday 7.4.08

Raining vigorously when I got up. No staff again at 0700; wandered in around 0710. Snowing vigorously by the time I left at 0745, causing a little concern with a scheduled bustitution not far short of line 194’s 2500 ft summit. The weather eased off though, the bustitution took a clear main road, and for the icing on the cake it followed a snowplough!

Into Černý Kříž which was a disappointment in that I’d thought from the satellite photo that the ČB and Volary lines converged before splitting for the station. In reality there are two tracks into the station, splitting into three. We came in on the easternmost, leaving for Nové Údolí from the centre one. [Having revisited the satellite photo subsequently, it does show the second line, it’s just that it’s partly obscured by trees and I didn’t look hard enough!]

The terminus at Nove Udoli is only a few yards from the Czech/German border crossing. 810 393 can just be seen lurking in the trees beyond the German border sign.

Nové Údolí is a real border outpost, with a small museum and a draisine operation on a short stretch of line into Germany. I walked into Germany and back to notch up another border foot crossing! We repaired to the ‘Travel Free’ shack where Germans (and thirsty Brits) can come to be ripped off with Pilsner Urquell at CZK28 per can. I’m certain you can get Czech beer cheaper in German supermarkets – and Berlin garages (see 28.3.04). However, once again any port in a storm.

Back to Volary (so at least half the job got done at Černý Kříž where we went through on a different track again) but arrived there on the third track across and left from the fourth. Got overlap though.

Volary to Čičenice was dead track, delayed 5 minutes or so by a southbound service which had presumably had to wait for a main line train. And so to Týn na Vltavou, the very last of a long list of Czech branches. ČD thoughtfully provided a vinyl seated 810 226 to mark the occasion, though slipped up slightly as it had replacement vinyl flooring with co-ordinated (with the floor, not the dark red seats) buff coloured waste bins. Idiosyncratic to the end.

My last dead end branch on CD was that from Cicenice to Týn nad Vltavou, where 810 226 is seen on the afternoon of 7-4-08, after arrival as Os 18228 from Čičenice.

The occasion clearly had to be marked, so after a team photo with wheelie bin and station name board we repaired across the river to a friendly Platan establishment which hospitably opened just as we arrived. What more could one ask. Well, perhaps a shorter walk in sleet and biting wind!

Despite my pessimism we did get (sort of) the physical connection at Čičenice as we joined the line used by the incoming Volary trains immediately before diverging into the Týn platform. So the track was contiguous, if a little convoluted!

Back to České Budějovice on an ‘R’ with the usual bedraggled first, then a quick search on an Internet terminal at the station which turned up the Hotel Filip very near by, so I went and booked in there for Tuesday night. Thence to the Platan pub in Zizkova for a restorative while PR visited the stamp shop.

Excellent meal to finish the day (pork & bacon) in a Staropramen establishment presumably priced in inverse proportion to its distance from the main square. This last looked particularly fine on the way back to the hotel in the last of the daylight.

Tuesday 8.4.08

This was supposed to be home day but as BMIbaby had cancelled my flight it provided an opportunity to pick up the physical connection at Zdice [missed on an earlier trip due to sheer stupidity] and perhaps even the bustituted part of 194 from yesterday. [Such a nonchalant little note. This was my last bit of regular passenger track on ČD!] Started well, with a clear sunny morning and 854 030 with one trailer and strange interior furnishing [not that strange – as I recall it just had different coloured seat cushions in some places!], on 0626 to Beroun.

Very uneventful for the first half at least, with the Písek Ladies’ Walking Club (or near offer) joining me as far as Čimenice. Nothing much else happened at all! Also true of the second half, with an on time arrival at Beroun giving me 50 minutes in which to grab some very welcome breakfast, then go in search of the astonishing Rodinny Pivovar which is a beer hall style pub complete with breweriana. It’s in the middle of a semi-derelict factory complex, definitely not somewhere you’d want to be after dark! The light beer was sampled, despite the unpuritanically early hour (0915), and very nice it was too.

Off to Plzeň then on ‘Franz Kafka’ with the same nice ČD compartment first as on Sunday, but far more people. 363 046 did the haulage to Plzeň. Short delays before and at Rokycany caused us to be 5 late into Plzeň but with a 73 minute connection that was of no significance.

242 276 was the haulage for the connection, 1203 Plzeň - České Budějovice – Brno, which left from the east end bay platform on island 3 (south side). 8 late leaving for no apparent reason but presumably connections, and about 10 late at Nepomuk. Down to 7 leaving Horaž ďovice Předměstí where an 831 was noted on the Klatovy service. Straight on at Ražice (3 down), the moleworks seemingly having finished for the moment.

Back to ČB at 1356, dead on time despite Čičenice’s slow motion station work. Round to the Hotel Filip which is as efficient as the Amstel wasn’t. How I wish I’d been there all week. Still, that’s life. They offered me a packed breakfast too, in view of my planned 0645 departure. There was even time to have a quick Platan before setting off to Polná na Sumavé – so I did.

The journey to Kajov was absolute hell in a quite crowded and suffocatingly hot 810 (vinyl seats for added misery). The bustitution, and the cooler 810 523, were quite pleasant by comparison. Nothing doing at Polná, with no findable pub, but at the edge of the village on a minor road was a pair of barriers to block the road with a disused ‘Portakabin’ structure beside them containing two beds, desk etc. Bit of a throwback, one assumes! [Looking at the map while typing this, there’s no clue. It’s certainly nowhere near a border].

I was able to finish my ČD passenger track on Os 8112, 1606 Volary-České Budějovice and this picture was taken from 810 522 as it covered the last few metres into Kájov. Mission accomplished!

And then – the end. 810 522 (fully authentic, vinyl seats, grey floor) turned up on time, to my relief, and pottered off to Hořice. On arrival the bus was there (horror, misery) but on closer examination it was seen to be parked and driverless. The conductor restrained two locals from leaving the train, then had a bit of debate with 522’s driver. Finally the driver trotted off into the station building, was there for a few minutes (I think I held my breath throughout) then back to the cab and without more ado finished off my regular Czech passenger track for me.

It remained only to trundle back to ČB (a very long dull trundle too in a wheelie bin, but at least it was the last of a successful day) and find some supper. The Budvar ‘tap’ was full again so I went back to the hotel and had a very nice pork cutlet in, supposedly, a dark beer sauce. With two beers, £7 which seemed reasonable enough given the way prices have risen and the pound has fallen vis a vis the koruna.

Wednesday 9.4.08

Excellent takeaway breakfast from the Hotel Filip at 0645 as promised. An entirely commendable establishment. 363 126 was on 0701 to Praha hl.n., which went out via the east/north side of the carriage sidings. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to it – yesterday’s Plzeň – Brno went the other way. Stock was old style but mercifully the first class had reupholstered seats.

Horrendous moleworks all the way, particularly between Benešov and the outskirts of Praha, with a near-10 minute delay at Čerčany awaiting an oncoming 451. Graffiti’d, obviously. In the circs, 10 late at Praha hl.n. was reasonable and not flight-threatening by any means. In fact there was time for a circuitous trip by Metro and on foot to Pivovarsky Dům, which opens at 11. Also time to sample their wondrous light beer, it being possibly my last visit. Off to the airport then, tram 16 to I.P.Pavlova then Metro C/A and 119, as ever.

BMIb did me proud again, with a punctual arrival at BHX allowing me time (even with bus to terminal) to get to Birmingham Irrational in time for the 1518 to New Street. Had it been on time, which of course in Brown’s Britain it wasn’t. Just as bad as Blair’s was. But it was a nice, smart, clean quiet Desiro.

Another nice smart clean quiet Desiro did the next leg to Wolvo (1551 New Street – Liverpool) and the final rail leg was an ex CT 170 on 1557 New Street – Shrewsbury to Shifnal for a lift with Herself.

Thus ended another saga, 15 years this time stretching from that first ‘out and back’ on an EC from Berlin in 1993 to 810 522 on the ‘cleared just in time’ line 194. I didn’t note it at the time but when the bus left Kajov on the way out to Hořice they were still working on the track with the line blocked by a loco and wagons. There are still a couple of PSUL curves to do, and one or two threatened re-openings, but for the moment I’ll probably move on elsewhere before I get too old to bother! [Just 3 months later I've proved that last comment wrong, but ever, that's another story].








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