Austria 14.7.10-20.7.10 <  >

This was the second part of my 10 day Interrail ‘experiment’ to see how I got on under my ‘no-fly’ rule. Basically a routine Austria track-bash, my only en-route track this time was to be the relatively trivial connections from Berchem to the new intermediate level platforms at Antwerpen Centraal. I’d booked this time as a ‘senior’ which got me a very reasonable rate from Telford Central to ‘Any Belgian Station’ using Wrexham & Shropshire’s through service to Marylebone.

Wednesday 14.7.10

Fairly civilised start on 08:27 W&S to Marylebone, shoved by 67014. I’d been given a backwards seat but as the three surrounding WXM-MYB reservations haven’t turned up, I’ll settle for facing. If they’re not in the BordBistro of course!

Hmm... when did I last pass through Wolvo non-stop? P4, for the record, and thence to Portobello Jn for the Tame Bridge Parkway stop. A real stagger from Aston to Stechford, non-stop through Birmingham Irrational and another stagger, but still non-stop, through Coventry. Despite the stagger no time was lost – 4 late at Telford and still 4 late at Leamington.

WSR's 67014 stands at Marylebone after arrival with 07:23 Wrexham General-Marylebone on 14-7-10

Still 4 at Banbury but 55 seconds early at MYB no doubt helped by the usual padding. [ Despite my cynicism over the manipulation of punctuality figures by this (if practised in reality) pathetic trick the 2hr 48 of this service from Telford to London is pretty respectable compared with what we’ve had in past years and I wonder what they’ll be able to achieve when all the engineering’s been done on the former GW ]. But a nice civilised journey; the refurbed Mk3s are smart and comfortable and the toilets are among the best I’ve seen on a train anywhere.

Round to the Metropolitan as I had an hour to get to St Pancras. Tetley’s Summer Madness – 3.8% and with just a little touch of vinegar about it...

'Visual clutter' surrounds 3215 as it waits to depart from St Pancras with EST 9132 to Brussels on 14-7-10

Bit of a dash to St. P after the 205 had struggled along the Euston Road. After getting a sandwich from the far flung M&S I had (in theory) just 4 minutes to spare. Checked in, through security and Schengen immigration, sorted out the ‘wanted on voyage’ items, currency and watch, quick wash and brush up and the train was announced as boarding. It left on time from P5 (the westernmost international one) which was highly satisfactory as it did the last of the three routes in and out of the HS1 side.

Left Ebbsfleet 13:15, into the tunnel at 13:39 (I think it was that which woke me up!). Out at 14:56 local, Lille at 15:22, possibly early as we’re due out at 15:28. [It was. Due at 15:24.] On time at Brussel Zuid. By the time I’d found the (electronic, in the booking office) sheet to check for my ICE to Frankfurt, the heavens had opened. Violent storm ensued which soaked me and destroyed my brolly en route to Au Laboureur, which appears to have closed down. [ It has, according to ]. Nothing for it but to squelch back to the station bar (actually it’s across Place Victor Horta outside the station on the west side) which dispensed perfectly acceptable Duvel and draught Hoegaarden among other more expensive goodies.

Thalys TGV set 4341 stands at Brussel Zuid/Bruxelles Midi on the evening of 14-7-10

On return to the station the screens were down and various things getting cancelled due to weather. No problem with ICE17 though, other than it turning up with the ‘GGF RESERVIERT’ showing everywhere. I took a seat, then they turned the reservations on... managed to relocate though, so still no problem.

.6225 and .6313 noted in the yard at Leuven. Ground to a halt near Ans due to catenary/thunderstorm problems, 30 minutes delay announced. Finally on the move (well, maybe finally) at 19:57, due Liège 19:12 and we’re not through Ans yet... After one false start we got away and left Liège at 20:17, 65 minutes late. Started the thrash down the new high speed line but we’ve just ground to a halt (briefly thank goodness) somewhere near Welkenraedt, reason unknown. Accelerating rapidly now, crossing what I assume what was the Maastricht-Visé line. If the driver’s up for it I imagine Köln to FFM-Flug will be quite invigorating.

A new tunnel appears to be under construction parallel to the existing one just west of the border [ It’s actually a reconstruction of an older one ]. What appeared to be a TBM [ but presumably wasn’t ] was in the open near the western tunnel portal. Inot Aachen Hbf on the ‘Belgian’ P9 at 20:43, 67 minutes late. 20:47 out, another minute down.

A 103 was seen on the left coming into Köln, couldn’t see the number. Out of Köln a mere 57 late at 21:25, with a little help from the timetable. Not much of note to FFM-Flug apart from rainbows and dramatic lighting, and we were 58 late arriving. Finally reached FFM Hbf at 22:30, exactly an hour late. Hotel Cristall is no more than 100m from the north side entrance, which suited very well.

Thursday 15.7.10

Tiredness overcame heat, at least until 05:00. Can’t really fault Cristall given its price and location – ‘would stay again’. Very nice to sit down to a proper breakfast for once.

08:19 ICE to Wien (St Pölten in my case) is 6 late from FFM Hbf, no cause for alarm yet... a bit of a scrum for a seat mainly caused by trying to use LM commuter tactics while being too stupid to notice the large ‘1’ on the outside of the coach. No harm done though and I’m out of the sun and facing forwards!

A stagger to Hanau and a very long stop – now 13 late. It seems the long stop was to sort out an impending diversion – pilotman/new driver maybe? At any rate we used the classic line all the way to Burgsinn, crossing on to the NBS south thereof. Now horribly late with Kienberg-Gaming beginning to look like a problem.

Left Würzburg 32 late, then emergency stop 2 minutes later. Reason unknown, under way again (slowly) now. Large party of elderly ladies causing chaos by trying to turf people out of ‘their’ (un)reserved seats only to find they’d got the coach number and the train number (ICE 23) mixed up. The stop was followed by another stagger, this time through moleworks. Arrival at Nürnberg was 34 late.

39 late at Regensburg after being held up by an RB which was eventually looped for us to pass and then by a track machine and a freight which were held while we crossed over and into a northbound loop to pass them.

37 at Plattling despite another signal stop en route, and 37½ away, then 38 into Passau. 35 late away as there’s a 6 minute booked stop. Nip and tuck – come on, ÖBB!

They did but .. 28 late into Wels then held for a Railjet and who knows what else. Result: 32 late. Humbug. An then we got stopped just short of Linz Hbf, maybe waiting for the RJ to clear the platform. Result: 33 late. More humbug. Away 32 late. It’s in the lap of the gods now.

They smiled. Despite another dive on to the classic lines (Ybbs a.d. Donau to Pöchlarn (new track for me!) we arrived 35 late at 15:12 just as the REX came in. Mad dash through the molefest that is (still) St Pölten Hbf, arrived to find the doors shut but the gripper he said ‘OK’. Wouldn’t happen on VT, LM, or ATW.

After all that, the (held) connection at Pöchlarn was a bit of an anticlimax. A 5047 (008) it was, hardly unexpected. The branch looks much nicer in today’s sunshine than it did in the murk on 14 November last year. Reassuring, now I think about it, to see 5047 012 roll into Scheibbs from the south. The wooden beer shack noted in November is closed today, not that there’s time in any case.

Narrow gauge stock at Kienberg-Gaming on the preserved section of the 760mm gauge line to Lunz and Waidhofen, 15-7-10
I'm hiding in the shade while 5047 008 gets hotter at Kienberg-Gaming on 15-7-10

And so to Kienberg-Gaming where the narrow gauge will be working on Saturday! Great caution was taken beyond Scheibbs but the track seemed OK the rest of the way. That said, there were only 2 pax besides me. Temperature at K-G, 1200ft up, was 35° according to the thermometer on the wall of the station. There is a pub opposite the station but with 12 minutes available I wasn’t about to hazard the rest of the day.

If you peer through the undergrowth at Wieselburg the track and platforms of the narrow gauge from Mank are still visible. I think the brewery might have been built over the line though. [ I thought wrongly though, the n.g. curves off to the east about 200m before the brewery connection diverges. ] 4 late from Weselburg waiting for a southbound train but hey, if I miss the connection at Pöchlarn there might be a beer to be had!

The buffet was indeed open, and a terrible temptation. But the Wien trains are hourly so I nobly resisted and went to melt on the REX at 18:20.

Melt I did, not helped by it losing time, being looped for another Railjet, and ending up 13 late. But the hotel (An der Wien) is opposite the platform end at Hütteldorf and has air con. A good spot on HRS and at €55 not outrageous.

In retrospect walking to Medl-Bräu, which is about a mile, and being considerate and sitting inside instead of occupying the one remaining large table outside, was stupid. Nonetheless it’s a fine brewpub and my €15 got me half litres of the unfiltered Helles and the seasonal weizen and a meal, all of which were excellent.

Friday 16.7.10

Nice hotel! The air con provided a good night’s kip and when I turned up for breakfast at 06:58 and found the door locked, cheery staff rushed out to drag me in as I trotted off happily enough to wait for opening! Imagine that happening in London for £48/night... Off to Meidling on 07:49 S-Bahn, it’s already sweltering with 37° forecast again. Water, kursbuch and 48 Wien pass for ‘ron all obtained at Meidling. The Spar supermarket sells Kerrygold butter – goodness knows why, theirs is much better.

Blessedly the 08:38 Deutschkreuz was an air con 4124, just the job. You can keep your heritage stock, in the high 30s! The thought of the stopper back from Györ possibly in Hungarian stock didn’t seem a good one, so a quick replan had me doing Hegyeshalom-Sopron via Neusiedl both ways – if it works.

Another wonderful 4124 to Bruck, including the 15 minute fester at Eisenstadt where the sight of parasols looks encouraging for the 32 minute fester on the way back!

GySEV's 1116 061 makes its way west through Bruck an der Leitha with a freight on 16-7-10

The decision to go past Parndorf Ort to Bruck an der Leitha was spot on – Parndorf Ort is in the V of the two lines with the branch on a sharp curve. Physical connection duly done.

Well, the MAV kart to Hegyeshalom is a 5342 (identical to 4124), spotless and with efficient air con. Never mind, the die is cast and I don’t do Hungarian track anyway.

Hegyeshalom. Not a building in sight as you approach from the west. Platforms desolate, just bus shelters. Eventually find station building; restaurant, change, toilets ... er, no. All shut, permanently by the look of it. Outside. Houses. Left or right? Choose right. Start walking. Typical run down ex-Eastern Bloc heaven. But then ... Tabak! ... and then ... tables, parasols, speaks English, takes Euros [ I didn’t have a forint to my name ], beer €1 (Borsodi). I think I’ve died and gone to a rather smoky heaven.

Never lose heart! This bar, invisible from the station entrance at Hegyeshalom, is only 100 metres or so east of it.

It’s 37° as promised in Hungary. A lady has just wandered into the pub with a carrier bag marked ‘Merry X-mas Happy New Year’. This is, possibly, why I Eurogrice. Good job I checked the timetable before the second Borsodi as I had 70 minutes not the 90 I’d thought. Still time though.

More air con heaven on another 5342 going back to Bruck. I fear tomorrow won’t be so comfortable but so far so good. On to Eisenstadt on a 4124 – although 7 minutes late I had time to investigate the parasols seen earlier. The Bahnhofsrestaurant Monika is the owner – Murauer served, English not spoken but as one of the locals pointed out ‘“ein beer” ist international’. A cheery crew and another reason why Eurogricing is entertaining.

Just made the 14:20 to Deutschkreutz after possibly the fastest, er, facilities visit ever. In fairness all the flat stuff this morning was a bit tedious but it’s quite a nice run down to Sopron. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of air con stock at Sopron (nice plinthed 2-6-2 though) so maybe the comfort option was a good one. Sopron looks a better place (potentially) to get stuck than Hegyeshalom, but who knows.

On time at Deutschkreutz where there’s a very enticing bar but only 16 minutes. Reason prevailed. The 5047 (059) was not a particularly pleasant contrast. No time in my schedule for a through working but the 4124 ended up quite a way south of the 5047 so at least the overlap got done.

Er...what 5047? Luckily spotted a GySEV kart approaching and dived across in time to get both it and the contiguous track. Very close to disaster!

GySEV 5147 511 stands at Neckenmarkt-Horitschon on 16-7-10

A draisine operation heads south from Neckenmarkt-Horitschon. With the temperature in the mid to high 30s it wasn’t doing much business but I did see (and phot) one intrepid crew setting off, uphill, from N-H.

No refreshments at N-H (and a bit of a moment when the driver moved the kart a few metres) so I’ve gone into saddo mode and settled in the back of the rear car from which advantageous position I’ll move to the front of the front one for Deutschkreutz. I’ll be nearer the ice creams that way.

But we were a couple of minutes late. Sigh. Never mind, it’s good to be back in the air con if only for a few minutes to Sopron. For what it’s worth GySEV arrived in P2 and ÖBB departed from P1, but the track’s done anyway.

The connection from Sopron to wiener Neustadt was indeed a GySEV fresh air 5047 with all seats taken on the shady side. Not nice, but it’s going fast enough for a bit of draught at least.

Very tedious journey to Wiener Neustadt nonetheless, held twice for eastbound trains and ending up 5 late. Some very tasty thunderstorms developing in the direction of Hungary but the one we had last night had no effect so the absence of any here probably makes no difference.

Strange situation currently as I appear to be on the right train (17:07 W N to Retz) but it’s 15 late and making the stops of the allegedly following 17:12 Břeclav. The icing on the cake is that the conductorette has announced it as terminating at Meidling. Platform display where we’ve just stopped says Retz. Hey ho. If I don’t make it for tonight’s non-air con outing to Wolfsthal I won’t cry.

But I did, via the delights of Tram ‘O’ and the Rennweg Burger King. Crowded as far as the airport of course but a pleasant run after that with a surprising range of hills near the end, plus a short run by the Danube and various general picture-skewness around Hainburg.

This EMU was stabled at Wolfsthal on the evening of 16-7-10 in readiness for the following morning's commuter service.

Wolfsthal also looked quite interesting [ should do, being 1000 years old ] and with 25 minutes to wait the Café-Bar Luca over the road looked worth investigation. From the station side you walk through an old barn to get to it, emerging into a ‘square’ with the church behind a wall in one corner. The whole thing has the look of a group of farms huddled together for protection, and it would be interesting to know what its history really is. [ has a history page, in German only ]. The pub has a bar outside and in (only the outside one is manned today). My Wieselburger came from an Ottakringer fridge in a Budvar glass, and the tablecloths were Radegast. Draw your own conclusions, more time would have been handy. The local mozzies probably thought that too but they put their limited time to good use on my hands and arms. The whole ensemble, mozzies included, seemed more like Czecho, Slovakia or Poland than Austria – but then, it’s not far away from Slovakia with a bus connection to Bratislava from outside the station.
Back to Südtirolerplatz where I missed a tram by seconds and instead of waiting for the next one, walked back to the hotel (Caroline in Gudrunstrasse). Stupid! Even in my room it was 26°C.

Saturday 17.7.10

Overslept after forgetting the hour discrepancy on my clock. I blame the hotel. Or the Wieselburger. Or anything except my own stupidity. Made it to breakfast for 07:00 nevertheless – it was up and running with cheery staff in attendance. Full marks. This enabled me to get tram O to Praterstern in good time to await 08:02 to Retz, praying for air con – which I got, it being a double decker set. And so to Retz, a pleasant ride through the fields. The last few miles are quite a switchback as the line climbs over a couple of ridges between Guntersdorf and Retz, with associated steep gradients and sharp curves. No problem to the 1116 of course and after a couple of very minor hold-ups the train was just 2 minutes late into Retz, leaving me a luxurious 4 minutes before the 09:18 back to Wien. It ran in as I was walking up the platform to have a look at the display.

A bit of timetable bashing on the way back from Retz threw open the option of going via Hadersdorf and Sigmundsherberg thus avoiding a possible 2 hours plus in fresh air stock. It also offered at least the possibility of a beer break at Sigmundsherberg instead of plan A which was to try the wretched Brigittabräu again. Having sworn never to execute plan A, I thought plan B a good ‘un. Accordingly I baled at Handelskai, got the Womblebahn (U6 : underground, overground) to Spittelau and arrived at the platform together with 10:32 REX to Gmünd. It was, indeed, fresh air stock. So I waited until I saw the whites of the driver’s eyes on 10:45 REX to Krems, grabbed a Gösser Märzen from the shop (worth every cent of the €2.40 as it came from the fridge) and chucked myself into the air con.

It’s a 5 minute connection at Hadersdorf and at Kirchberg we’re 4 late. It is booked though.

And was held for the large crowds (well, it was almost all seats taken on 5047 038) making the connection. It’s a very scenic line, good to see in proper daylight (see 14.11.09) which was part of the reason for the plan B. Amongst other sights there’s a church/ruined castle combo overlooking Gars-Thunau. I was more than glad to be rid of Kevin The Teenager and his insanely loud music; no doubt everyone else was too.

5047 038 pauses at Horn (for long enough for me to leap out for a photo) on 17-7-10

A minute or two early at Horn so I took the opportunity for a photo in something resembling daylight (again, see 14.11.09). At Sigmundsherberg there’s now a fully modernised station buffet with Stiegl and Zwettler, also more flies than I’ve seen in one bar outside the Czech Republic – but in the prevailing weather I doubt they can do anything about it. More clocks too (twelve).

Back on to plan A with the 13:44 to Gmünd – fresh air but with the cloud cover that’s developed during the morning, not too awful. Altogether a thoroughly satisfactory revision of plan, undermining my belief that I shouldn’t do it.

Into Gmünd on time-ish, to find the buff shut. Across to Billa therefore, for a wonderful Magnum Gold (had to stay indoors to eat most of it, due to heat!) and an emergency Ottakringer in case of fester at Schwarzenau. Beer €0.69, ice cream €1.80 which must say something (like it’s cheaper to drink beer).

5047 004 in the west facing bay at Schwarzenau, which is used for Zwettl branch services.

On to Schwarzenau where the good news was the Bahn-Hotel right outside. The bad news was that it was closed for holidays. So it turned out that the Ottakringer Helles from Billa was a purchase of almost supernatural foresight.

5047 004 at Zwettl Stadt waiting to depart as the twice weekly R6341 to Waidhofen an der Thaya on 17-7-10.

Zwettl Stadt – one of those ‘this is what it’s all about’ moments. Completely impossible to put into words. Hanging out of the window all the way (thus unintentionally spoiling the photo of another enthusiast who got on the train at Gross Globnitz). Rain starting (at last). Just two genuine pax plus me and the Austrian photter. We were the only two to Zwettl Stadt – he told me there’s freight beyond, otherwise the impressive viaduct over the valley would surely put paid to the line beyond Zwettl ‘proper’ (which we agreed is probably nearer to Zwettl stadt than Zwettl Stadt is!). There’s also a brand new bridge over a similarly new road just south of Gross Globnitz.

My fellow enthusiast departed at Gross Globnitz – I kept my head in this time and I hope he got a better shot, though the light’s not too good. The train was a through working to Waidhofen a.d. Thaya and arrived in P1 neatly achieving the overlap, physical connection ‘and all that’. With Zwettl Stadt suitably done it remains to get back to Wien, and now that it’s cooled down and clouded over what should turn up from Gmünd but some air con stock. No matter, it might well get warmer again.

Back to Wien then with some delays due to molework which if I’d read the parish notices properly I would have been expecting. We were 15 minutes late in the end. I went through to Wien FJB in the hope of being able to reserve a seat for tomorrow’s Westbf-München journey. Saturday night? You’re kidding. So outside, to find a stop for tram D to Südbf. Seemed a good idea at the time even with the notice saying it was being diverted this evening due to some hooley in the city centre.

I caught the ‘D’ anyway – it took well over half an hour and ended near the S-Bahn entrance which is now quite a way from what’s left of the main line station. All that remains is the covered apron across the platform ends of the Ost side. Nothing resembling a travel centre, not even a Portakabin. So give up, trudge to the S-Bahn and go to Rennweg, arriving at Salm Bräu some time after 9. Blessedly there was a table empty so I ordered up a pils and a goulash. Both duly arrived but so did the lightning, the thunder, and half way through the goulash (which was excellent and a bargain to boot), the rain. I sought refuge with some friendly locals who had room under their parasol.

Usual panic ensued with staff rushing round collecting money and pushing punters indoors. I didn’t fancy that so having finished meal and drink, paid and trudged off into the rain, luckily finding a 71 tram very imminent, which got me to Rennweg. S-Bahn to Meidling in the faint hope of the Reisezentrum being open and at 21:55 against all the odds, it was. So I have a seat for the 14-something Railjet tomorrow.

Back to Südtirolerplatz, this time having the sense to wait for the tram. So I got back to the hotel only partly soaked, and fed, watered and seated. What a performance.

Sunday 18.7.10

Thunder, lightning and torrential rain in the first part of the night, through most of which your correspondent slept contentedly!

Hotel Caroline bright eyed and bushy tailed again at 06:55 – paid the bill and in for breakfast on the stroke of 7. 07:48 tram to Praterstern left more than enough time for the 08:38 to Laa a.d. Thaya – this was a 4020 but who cares, it’s cool today.

A (slightly) cooler 18-7-10 finds 4020 229 at Laa an der Thaya.

A gentle potter up to Laa, quite nice once you get out of the ‘burbs. There’s a very striking ruined castle perched on a conical hill between Enzersdorf and Staatz – one to look up back home. [ which I did – the hill is the Staatzer Berg, with a lot more information about it and the castle at ]. An hour to wait at Laa – 10 to 11 Sunday morning. The situation seemed hopeless but no – wait – Café Weigl opposite the station is open. Praise be! (and in fact they seemed to have the Austrian equivalent of ‘Songs of Praise’ on the radio). So, after a token walk for 15 minutes or so to ease the conscience, in for a Hubertus Bräu [ Laa is its home town ], pretty routine fare but still a nice surprise.

Back to the Floridsdorf and the U6 to Dresdnerstrasse for another failed attempt at Brigittabräu (yes I know what I said, but it’s a challenge). It doesn’t open on Sat/Sun, 10-22 other days (yeah, right). On to Salm Bräu for another nice pils. Chucked out of the comfortable side because I wasn’t eating but I did get a seat under cover, it being spotting with rain. Their answer to schweinhaxe is a behemoth, awesome to behold. Comes with a cereal bowl piled high with roasties too. One day ... meanwhile I could only watch and wonder.

Left in plenty of time, got a 71 instantly. Got off a stop too soon, had to walk to Karlsplatz. Still no problem at all. U1 to Stefansplatz, fine. Then mayhem. U3 was SLW from somewhere east of Karlsplatz to Volkstheater. Two Simmerings (eastbound) came and went before a westbound train. Then at Westbahnhof the two lifts are completely inadequate to deal with a full U-Bahn train. UndergrounD lifts are far, far better. Struggled up 8 (I think) flights of stairs with the rucksack – good thing I’ve lost over a stone this year. RJ64 was just being announced so I grabbed a Gösser from the nearest bothy and threw myself in, giving thanks to the gods for making me go to Meidling last night and get a seat reservation.

Nice enough train, not sure it really needs the Airbus-style moving location map, or ICE/TGV style speed indication. I’ll be surprised if it gets over 200 kph.

Well, I did notice 202 and in fairness, despite all sorts of shenanigans east of St Pölten we were in and out of Linz on time at 15:50/53. Likewise at Salzburg 16:59/17:02 and into München Hbf on time at 18:33 despite an extra pick-up stop at Rosenheim, not booked as far as I know. As for the journey, I was asleep for half of it. I was awake most of the way from Salzburg though and did notice how very slow this is. 100 kph in a lot of places, and even less here and there.

On arrival at München, round to the disappointing, oversold and overpriced Astor. I won’t bother with it again. Thence to the usually excellent Augustiner Grossgastätte. Heaving and very noisy when I arrived (I had trouble getting a table, as ever), there was clearly a staff problem. I noticed several, er, constructive interchanges of views and a certain amount of behind the scenes muttering and banging of tables. They were all working flat out but the strange thing was that other customers besides me seemed to pick up on the atmosphere and the place began to empty, noticeably so by the time I’d finished my meal and its (one) accompanying beer.

Outside there were two very high grade busking ensembles. Flute, oboe, two violins and ‘cello in one case, and flute, violin, double bass and grand piano for the other (as far as I recall). All the excitement put me off further exploration for some reason so I gave up and went back to the ‘hotel’.

Monday 19.7.10

Well, it all looks better in the morning, as it does. 8 hours kip probably helped! Seat res not working on the 07:55 ICE to Köln-Deutz and Essen so I’ll have to settle for my backwards facing sunny side one. Mayo free roll and coffee from a takeaway on the station was half the price of the hotel breakfast, plus I didn’t have to get up so early.

More suits and laptops on the ICE than you could throw a stick at. Good luck to them all. The combined efforts of late running trains and moleworks got us to Nürnberg 7 late, not an outstanding start. Only 3 late from Würzburg though, by which time Mr Glasses-on-Head-Three-Calls-in-Five-Minutes had had it explained to him that he was in the ‘no mobiles’ coach. No doubt all were greatly relieved.

On time, or near as, leaving Aschaffenburg – all credit to DB for that. A bit of a stagger through Hanau then over a flyover between there and Steinheim. Was this standard? I haven’t the map to hand and can’t recall. [ I have now, doesn’t seem to have been out of the ordinary ]. Maybe not quite so much credit – a nice long signal stop just outside FFM-Hbf made us 4 late there. 6 late away, and 7 at FFM-Flug after more hiccups. With a 130mph start to stop scheduled to Deutz, will they get any of it back?

They did – 3 minutes. Only 4 late at Köln-Deutz after a good old thrash on the White Knuckle Line.

And so to Köln Hbf on a 628 and then to Neuplatz and Salzgasse, where the Pfaffgen and Sünner taps were found not to open at lunchtime early in the week. So a quick Gilden Kölsch to revive the spirits then on to the miserable Sion tap with its lame service, and P.J. Früh’s which is even worse. However, three good beers and I’m not in a big hurry. Fortunately. And Früh’s goulash ain’t bad either.

Mercifully decided to go early for ICE14 to Brussel Zuid, the sort of scrum you try not even to dream about. Got a facing gangway seat, but very limited window. Who cares. Ihr Platz sells Gilden Kölsch, €1.70/05l. Suited me ...

Into Aachen early and out on time at 15:21. The northern bore of the (currently single line through the southern bore) tunnel west of Aachen Süd is being renovated – the ‘TBM’ I thought I saw two weeks ago is still there but is presumably to do with relining.

Near enough time leaving Liège amid threats of ching if you didn’t have a supplement. Still can’t quite recover from the dramatic change to Liège Guillemins. Ground to a halt just before Ans amid a large cloud of déjà vu. Surely the wires aren’t down again? A train’s just gone the other way, and we’re on the move again.

Only a couple of minutes late at Brussel Noord and a couple more at Zuid due to the vast amount of time taken to de-muppet at Noord. Midi/Zuid in a certain amount of chaos (not for the first time) with assorted Gent-bound trains late. My P train at 16:44 seems to be lost somewhere. 17:05 Oostende is 15 late so I’m on what I hope is 16:58 to Gent. It’s got air con stock and empty seats anyway (2727 powering) so who cares where it’s going! Gripper has now appeared and it is indeed 16:58 Gent, Maybe the Oostende will turn up later, maybe not.

Still showing 15 late at Gent so I passed up the nasty plastic seated L767. Hopefully the right thing to do.

It was (15 late, also the right thing – got a seat in a nice air con IC). 1347 in charge. Eventually arrived at Brugge about 30 minutes after plan, so there were no bones broken. Quck wash and brush up at Étap then away to Garre, diverted by polizei due to some shindig going on in the square, roads and pavements closed. My favourite table (under the speaker so I can hear the classical music) available. Rachmaninov. Mozart. Garre Tripel – well, Piraat then. Happiness.

Failed on the ‘new’ Brugge home brew – has it died or moved? Premises are now an art gallery. Also on Kuppe – loadsabeer but I wanted food. Eventually had a poor and overpriced stoverij in a place on Hallestraat. Dutch name which I’ve forgotten. Poor. So back to Garre for more Piraat, cheese etc. 22:30, mostly locals. Possibly something to be learned!

Tuesday 20.7.10

Fine morning, a little slow to start but I made the 07:18 IC to Antwerpen Centraal, albeit breakfastless. Nice air con dostos and lots of them. Belgium in good form – conductress comes on the PA and announces the next stops will be Gent St Pieters and Gent Dampoort, then within a minute we stop at Aalter where dozens of happy campers are clearly expecting us.

Into Antwerpen Centraal high level, out from P12 (mid level west side) to Bercham. Somehow got the times wrong from Bercham so took a flyer on 09:04 IR and guessed right – into mid level and P14 (east side) for the icing on the cake. Very worthwhile and just completed before a week’s digestion abuse caught up with me! Suffice it to say that Antwerpen Centraal’s facilities are absolutely immaculate.

Breakfast (ugh) obtained from nearby Delhaize Metro before the 09:45 to Brussel Zuid, air con double deckers again, from low level P23. Having finished somewhat earlier than expected (partly due to starting earlier) there was quite a long fester to be had. I baled out at Centraal for a stroll down to Grande Place for a sit and admire. Thence to Midi to sit and mull over a bottle of water (much needed – it’s hot again) in Horta Place, and finally a run up to Noord and back on a couple of suitably air conditioned ICs. One double deckers, one a 41. Finally staged a re-run of Wednesday’s Duvel/Hoegaarden combo at the Zuid/Midi “station buff” before checking in for E*.

Twins 3232 (about to work EST 9139) and 3219 standing at Brussel Zuid/Bruxelles Midi on 20-7-10

Two minutes to do two passport checks and security, again. Then a little time to sort out the ‘wanted on voyage’ bag before the boarding scrum. You’ve all got reserved seats for goodness sake. It’s not Ryanair... Also unlike O’Leary Airways you can dump your bag, get off again, and wander down for a phot of the kart (3232, for what it’s worth).

Asleep from Lille to Folkestone – excellent! ‘Up fast’ at Ebbsfleet so a bit of extra track, if a tad technical. In a minute or so early at St P so 1 hr 56 including the Lille stop, which seems quite rapid.

Surprised to find London as warm as Brussels, having received a number of texts on my travels telling me how miserable the weather was. Two buses got me to Baker Street for a really excellent pint of Butcombe Gold at the Metropolitan – so much enjoyed that I was nearly too late leaving to get my booked, compulsory 16:30 W&S from Marylebone. This was formed of blue and grey MK IIIs with 67011 shoving (very vigorously after a check at Princes Risborough – they certainly don’t lack power). Nothing much else to report then, apart from a punctual arrival at Telford Central. Herself being temporarily absent in Hamburg I had the dubious pleasure of a (free – there are some advantages to being in one’s dotage) ride home with Deutsche Bahn Regio Taxis, better known as Arriva.

A good venture from a track viewpoint – although the wheels came off my plan completely when I checked the Mole pages a week or so beforehand, I still need enough track in Austria to be able to fill up the time very productively with a hastily revised version.I’m still pondering the ‘no fly’ strategy though. I’ve done all the worthwhile new bits between London and Brussels now – well, maybe the ‘down fast’ at Ebbsfleet should be done – likewise between Brussels and Aachen. And it takes forever to get to Austria by rail, so I may yet have to give in and fly, once the upcoming wave of strikes (or threats thereof) has subsided.








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