Monday, 30 December 2013

Another wet end to another year

While writing this I cannot help but reminisce my final rail activity of 2012- a very wet, dreary day on a railtour down to various freight branches in the south of England.
This years final rail activity was also not set to be a dry day. I had been aware for some days that the weather forecast for Monday 23rd December was, at best, 'appalling' and had even wondered the night before if UK Railtours 'Salisbury at Christmas' trip would run at all.
34046 'Braunton' makes at fine sight at London Waterloo.
The magical Salisbury Cathedral at Christmas.
Run it did, and we were met at Waterloo by a gleaming Bullied West Country Pacific 34046 'Braunton'- it hadn't even started raining yet! The rain however did arrive and by the time we reached Salisbury conditions were worsening considerably. The train schedule was amended to leave one hour early as with trees beginning to fall onto rail routes and a blanket 50mph restriction our journey could become anything but predictable.
In Salisbury we sought refuge in the cities magnificent 13th century Cathedral which boasts the tallest spire in the UK.
The storm is lashing down at the train prepares to depart Salisbury.
Returning to the train rather soaked and having just dodged a shop sign which had lost out to a sudden gust of wind there was bad news. A tree on the line at 'Salisbury' was delaying trains, though as departure time approached our charter appeared with 'Braunton' proudly defying the elements at its head. Progress was steady until our approach to Southampton where further trees on the line, and a prolonged visit to the goods loop at St Deneys hampered our progress. Booked route however was maintained up the SWML towards Basingstoke and Woking though there was some confusion as to whether we would end up back at Waterloo, or at Victoria as was booked.
Steady progress continued following our stop at Eastleigh where we disembarked the train to watch the locomotive take on water, and to find our clothes drenched yet again. At Woking however the next obstacle became apparent- a tree on the line at Chertsey was blocking our booked route. Our pause was brief however as we soon commenced a magical mystery tour of south London continuing off booked route up the SWML to Wimbledon and then by way of Tooting, Tulse Hill, Herne Hill and Wandsworth Road to finish our journey at Victoria.
Despite everything the weather had thrown at us we had made it to our destination, and only minutes away from our booked time! Time to get some dinner and dry out! 
Credit should go to UK Railtours, DB Schenker and all others involved for running another excellent trip and delivering exactly what was promised despite some challenging conditions.
We made it! And here's to another fun year of railways in 2014!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The end of Elipsos?

At 10pm on a Friday night passengers board the
Trenhotel at Paris Austerlitz ready for the
comfortable overnight journey to Barcelona.
The popular bar on board the Trenhotel


There is great news for passengers traveling between France and Spain from the 15th December 2013 timetable change- Direct high-speed services will, after many delays, link the two countries. The new TGV and AVE services will provide the fastest connection ever between cities in France and Spain.
The less good news is the almost certain curtailment of the Elipsos Trenhotel.

Quality dining is available aboard the Trenhotel
Set up in 2001 Elipsos is a joint venture between SNCF and RENFE to run overnight sleeper services
between their networks, and also formerly into Switzerland and Italy. The Trenhotel may not provide the fastest journey between Paris and Barcelona/Madrid but it does provide a very time efficient way of travelling. No longer will you be able to board the train in Paris as late as 10pm with an arrival in Barcelona the following morning before 9:45am having enjoyed a good nights sleep with an evening meal and breakfast served to you at a table. The earliest arrival possible in Barcelona by way of the new TGV service is is not until almost 2pm- and that requires boarding a train in Paris at around 7am!

What is disappointing about the withdrawal of the Elipsos service is that these trains are popular and busy. The fact that they cater for a totally different market to the the TGV has seemingly been totally overlooked by the SNCF and RENFE. The TGV will hopefully gain passengers from airlines, but the service Trenhotel service should remain as an alternative for time conscious passengers- particularly those making a longer journey by rail. It is a shame that these two services cannot both be retained to compliment each other.
From December 2013 the overnight Trenhotel from Paris will no longer arrive into Barcelona and Madrid.
The train is pictured here a few months before the end of its service at Barcelona Estacio de Francia.
Update Feb 2014: Since this post the Elipsos Trenhotel has been withdrawn leaving no direct overnight connections between France and Spain. It is still possible to travel largely overnight on these routes by taking 'Intercities du Nuit' trains within France and connecting to local services at the Spanish border. The excellent Seat 61 website contains details of how to make this journey.



Thursday, 14 November 2013

Picture of the week- 14th November 2013


Every now and then when trawling through my photo collection (usually looking for something which I remember taking but can not for the life of me remember where or when) I stumble across one of those pictures which you remember being super pleased with at the time. This is one of those pictures. Taken from the towpath of the Grand Union Canal in Harlesdon looking down towards Old Oak Common and North Pole depots. It was my favorite time of day for photos- twilight. Almost as if I had planned it FGW's 57602 then pulled up to the depot reception roads with the empty coaching stock for the Night Riviera Sleeper. There was just time to set up my tripod and camera to get a few snaps before the train disappeared to Paddington to pick it's passengers for the overnight trip to Penzance.
Since this photograph was taken- 24th July 2006- I have often considered re-visiting the location to repeat it- if indeed it is even still possible. Maybe I shouldn't bother. This is still one of those photos that 'just worked'.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

SNCF RENFE Trip report 25-28 October 2013

Friday 25th October-
67570 at Dammartin-Juilly-St Mard with the 16:24 Laon - Paris Nord

67484- Amiens
08:32 Eurostar St Pancras - Paris Nord 3021/3022
BB22339 12:28 Paris Nord - Amiens

A good hour to find myself some lunch and stroll around the city- It was my third visit and I finally got a chance to marvel at the cathedral!
Well worth the effort if you are stuck here between moves.

BB67456 14:59 Amiens - Laon





17059, 17046 and 17097 with peak hour services at
Crepy-en-Valoise
This is a fairly tight cross platform connection into
BB67570 16:24 Laon - Paris Nord (to Dammartin-Juilly-St-Mard)
BB17097 back to Crepy-en-Valois [from Paris Nord]
BB67599+67414 Crepy-en-Valois - Soissons [17:52 Paris Nord - Laon]
AGC back to Crepy-en-Valois
AGC back to Paris Nord
BB7277 [to Cerbre] Paris Austerlitz - Barcelona Francia








67599 + 67414 at Soissons with the
17:52 Paris Nord - Laon
I had spent quite a while working out what to do with my day in Paris (with an Interrail) and decided to head out a little further than the usual Transillien workings. All of the BB67400 diagrams which I saw were running as booked which is always a good start and I do enjoy the variety in liveries of the Picardy 67400s. The RRR stock in use in Picrdie is now really starting to look pretty dire on the inside- particularly the 'cycle/thrash/smoking' compartment at the business end. I am sure that the Picardie diagrams are made unnecessarily complicated by the fact that one loco does not stay with one set of stock all day. The RRR set which arrived with BB67484 from Creil on C1 was then paired up with BB67456 on C9 to head to Laon. It's not like there aren't spare sets sitting outside the station all day!



Elderly BB8638 has brought in ECS at Paris Austerlitz
I was surprised to find that the Crepy-en-Valois route out of Paris Nord still seemed to be solid BB17000 with RIO sets- I did not see any Transilien units on this route at all!


BB7277 prepares to haul the 22:16 Trenhotel from Paris Austerlitz to Barcelona


Saturday 26th October-
AVE set arriving at Barcelona Francia

252 052 leads the empty sleeper stock out of Barcelona
252 064 [From Cerbre] Paris Austerlitz - Barcelona Francia
252 052 worked the empties
Met up with a friend in Barcelona which negated finding anything to do rail-wise. I had such a lovely time that I almost missed...
252069 [to Portbou] Somewhere in Spain (from Barcelona Sants) - Montpellier Talgo 460
311 146 Shunt loco
BB7277 (Oh- you again!) [from Portbou].







The bar coach on board Talgo 460 to Montpellier
It was actually great to get a break from the trains and feel a little like I was having a 'real' holiday having got very little sleep on the Trenhotel. I did not find the Talgo sleeper particularly comfortable and the suspension is certainly odd. That said both Talgos were well loaded- I really hope they don't face the axe once through TGV's begin. The Trenhotel would seem to serve a very different market.
For anyone wondering, the gauge change process is really not very exciting at all.

311 146 performs the shunt on Talgo 460 at Portbou
I also cannot clear up the Interrail situation with regard to Talgo 460. I was traveling on an advanced ticket as far as Portbou where the plan was to transfer to my France Interrail. This is valid from the border and a supplement should be payable for the Talgo. However nobody could sell it to me from either the UK or in France it seemed. Thought I would try my luck just waiving my Interrail... but nobody bothered to do a ticket check after Barcelona so I'll never know!
I also managed to confuse myself on the Barcelona Metro and not really leave enough time to get to San ts. Thanks again to the taxi driver in Barcelona who now has a £10 note thanks to it all going wrong. I literally made the Talgo by about 3 minutes!


Sunday 27th October
BB22239 flies non stop through Miramas with a Teoz for Tolouse

BB22301 working a local Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azure TER
This morning was always going to start with units-
AGC x2 Montpellier- Miramas [09:12 from Montpellier]
BB22301 Miramas- Marseilles [10:16 Avignon- Marseille - booked BB25500]
BB7340 13:04 Marseilles- Lyon PD (to Airport) [Booked BB22000]
AGC Airport- L'Estaque
BB67565 L'Estaque- Miramas [14:21 from Marseilles]
*photographed 66219 with a freight- you just can't escape them can you!
BB67565 14:21 Miramas - Marseilles [To L'Estaque]
-Unit on 17:32 Marseilles - Miramas so passed on that
AGC L'Estaque - Marseilles
Time for a wander around Marseilles and dinner before
BB26073 (to Culmont Chalindrey) 22:01 Marseilles - Strasbourg

You can't escape sheds- 66219 is passes Miramas
Of all the trip this was the day I was most worried about diagrams sticking. My wariness proved wise as the second BB67400 turn produced a unit and the only BB25500 turn produced a TER Provence Alps Cote d'Azure BB22000- Are there many of these around? Still- at least it was hauled, and the all day diesel turn produced. BB67400 was however plastered in graffiti right across its front runining any photo opportunity.
The Marseille end of the 'long way' to Miramas is absolutely stunning and highly recommended.
The condition of the TER Provence Alps Cote d'Azure stock is not great.



Beautiful scenery on the Cote d'Azure
There is clearly a graffiti problem in these parts and the 'cycle/thrash/smoking' compartment definitely seemed to be in the domain of the smokers! Some trains have signs of graffiti and vandalism inside also.
I did not have my Interrail checked once all day...
Unfortunately upon entry to the overnight sleeper I discovered that much of my compartment had already gone to bed at 22:00 with the lights very much out... no chance of reading then.







Monday 28th October
25606 arrives into Strasbourg ready for an evening peak service
72145 has completed its leg of the sleeper from Nice to
Strasbourg and is about to detach at Belfort.
CC72145 Marseilles - Strasbourg [Culmont Chalindrey - Belfort]
BB26155 Marseilles - Strasbourg [Belfort - Strasbourg]
BB25612 09:25 Strasbourg - Selestat (to Limersheim)
Unit Limersheim - Strasbourg
BB67514 10:08 Strasbourg - Haguenau (to Mundolsheim)
AGC Mundolsheim - Strasbourg
BB67519 10:53 Strasbourg - Roeschwoog
BB67519 11:53 Roeschwoog - Strasbourg
Unit Strasbourg - Mimersheim (this Should have been a Sybic on TER 200 set

to Selestat- but it was running over an hour and a half late! Plan B then...)


26145 waits at Strasbourg with a northbound TER 200
BB25613 Mimersheim - Strasbourg [13:30 Selestat - Strasbourg]
BB67422 14:38 Strasbourg - Haguenau (to Marienthal)
BB67513 Marienthal - Strasbourg [15:19 ex Haguenau]
Tram Strasbourg - Krimmeri M
BB67569 16:22 Krimmeri M - Sarregumines (to Strasbourg)
TGV 510 16:45 Strasbourg - Paris Est (delayed)
Eurostar 3213/4 20:08 Paris Est - London

The final day started off with a slight disappointment. Our 'Big Diesel' from Chalindrey to Belfort was one of only two which I do not require- 72145. We then arrived about 10 minutes late into Strasbourg. No ticket check on the overnight between Marseilles and Strasbourg- I found this a bit surprising!


An RRR (Rame Reversible Regionale) set with BB67519
awaits its next duty from Roeschwoog
If you like Sybics and blue 67400's Strasbourg is definitely the place to go (it seems to be a lovely city as well). All diagrams viewed turned up hauled as booked.
The BB25500 diagrams I had for Strasbourg were rather old, so I was not at all sure whether they would stick or even still be around, but again all appeared to work as on paper. There are quite a mixed bag of liveries on the BB25500's with locos in the original 'concrete' livery, 'En Voyage' and several wearing 'Ile de France' colours.
The weather all day was not great- there were huge patches of blue in the sky... but the sun always seemed to stay behind a bank of cloud wherever I was. It is worth noting that pretty much ALL of the locos at Strasbourg are at the north end of the trains- this includes the push/pull Sybics and the 67400 and 25500's- this makes photography difficult for the light!


Shunter 8212 drags a TER 200 set out of
Strasbourg station
Also around Strasbourg station was DB 181 233 which spent most of the day stabled to the south of the station. Around 16:00 it was photographed at the head of the Russian sleeper train, but when I returned 20 minutes later it was back stabled again! Not sure what that was all about!
The tram between Strasbourg Station and Krimmeri M takes about 15 minutes- my move only just made it! The move was a bit desperate- but did get me my 10th BB67400 in the 4 days.
TER Alsace stock was probably in the best condition of any I had seen over the last 4 days. RRR 'Cycle/thrash/smoking' compartments here were actually being used for bikes! The first time I have seen this! The trains were all clean and smart internally and TER Alsace have done a fantastic job with their refurbished Corails! Ticket checks were a little more frequent than further south- I think my interrail was viewed twice- somebody even stamped it!
67422 powers its train away from Marienthal
I saw a few extra trains at the end of the day at the beginning of the evening peak due to my TGV being delayed. Initially by 5 minutes, but by about 15 by the time we departed. This only got worse as by this point a BB25500 on a stopper had been let out in front of us which we crawled behind most of the way to Saverne. Despite being 40 minutes late at one point we were only 25 down into Paris Est after a fast run on the LGV. This just about gave me enough time to connect with the Eurostar home- though I had got my ticket stamped with the delay just incase.





DB 181 233 is seen at the head of the Russian
sleeper train
All in all a very good trip. It would have been nice if my international connections had been slightly less rushed, but all trains were caught according to the plan. This wasn't really a photographic trip, which may have been a good thing given the weather- but did achieve a good amount of loco hauled mileage and I felt I had achieved good value from my Interrail.
I am sure I will make use of sleepers again as they are a great way to travel time efficiently between locations- even if I don't sleep on them very well.
My top recommendation for anyone who has not done so and wants to get out and enjoy the French diesels is to spend a day or two covering the Picardie workings off Amiens before it is too late. I am really going to miss these when they are gone!
Anyway- that is it for 2013 in Europe.

67569 at Krimmeeri-Meinau with a
service for Sarregumines
I hope some of you have made it to the end and have found this report interesting. Thanks again is due to all who have helped in planning this trip and providing information. Particularly all those on European Rail Gen and on this occasion James Hawkes for sorting e-mailing me the BB25500 diagrams which I had forgotten to bring!- without you all planning these trips would be very difficult!



Edit (Feb 2014): Since writing this report sadly all Talgo trains beyond Spain have been withdrawn following the commencement of through TGV services on the high speed line to Barcelona. The Elipsos Trenhotels from Paris to Barcelona and Madrid no longer run, while train Talgo 460 now only runs south of Barcelona. It is still possible to travel to Barcelona overnight from Paris by taking an 'Intercities du Nuit' train to Cerbre and a local RENFE service connecting into Barcelona. 
67565 pauses at L'Estaque with the 14:21 Marseilles St Charles - Miramas. This picture has been photoshopped fairly heavily to remove a large amount of graffiti on the front of the locomotive! 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Delivery run


On 22nd October 2013 the second of South West Train's re-formed class 458's made it's way to its new home.
The class 458/5's have been formed from the former Gatwick Express class 460's and the majority of SWT's 458's. Both these classes share the same bodyshell being part of Alsthom's 'Juniper' family.
The engineering works have taken place at Doncaster Wabtec and will result in a fleet of 36 x 5 car trains for use in SWT's 10 car program on the Windsor lines.

Running over two hours behind schedule Colas' 47727 is seen hauling 458531 through Addlestone Moor, Chertsey with 7Z58 Doncaster- Wimbledon Park. This was the first time a unit has been delivered during daylight.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Rail Enthusiasts Guide to Paris

Recently I was asked by a couple of friends for some recommendations of what trains to see in Paris, and where to go to find them. I started to write down a few notes, and before I really knew it had compiled quite a text on what to see in and around the city. Now if it was useful to them I figured it might be useful to others as well- after all I think Paris is a fantastic location for a rail trip, and often overlooked- especially by those in the UK for whom it really isn't very far at all to travel!

Note that this article is complied largely from my own sightings on trips which have covered a couple of years. Things may (and will) change without notice as the SNCF continue to upgrade their system. As far as I am aware this text is largely correct as of Summer 2013. Please don't hold me accountable if it is not accurate or you do not see the trains I have listed here!
Any corrections are welcomed.

Terminal Stations:

Gare du Nord
Loco classes likely to be seen:
BB15000
BB22000
BB67400

The station many first arrive at by Eurostar.
Electric locos work Intercities services north to Amiens, Saint Quentin, etc
There are also semi-suburban workings with Corail or double deck stock on the Paris-Creil-
Amiens route (and possibly others).
Diesel locos work a few Corail trains each day to/from Laon. One train each way is
double headed (into Paris in the morning, back to Laon in the evening).
There is a weekend train to/from Le Treport worked which is also diesel hauled.
All suburban trains now believed to be units.
BB17000 could occasionally turn up still maybe?

Other trains to note:
Thalys
TGV
Regional Eurostar
Eurostar

Good places to photograph electric locos away from Gare du Nord could be Saint-Denis (I have not tried it myself but light is supposed to be good in late afternoon/evening.)
A trip to Creil may be worthwhile for possible freight and BB67400 working RRR sets between Amiens, Creil and Beauvis. 
All weekday trains on the line from Paris Nord to Beauvis via Pearsan Beaumont are units (the exception is the Weekend Le Treport train mentioned above).


Gare de l'Est
Loco classes likely to be seen:
BB15000
BB17000
BB26000 'Sybic'
BB22000
BB67400
CC72100

Just 10 minutes walk from Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est has a very wide range of traction for viewing.
Electric locos work intercity trains out East though they are not as plentiful as from Gare du Nord.
CC72100 'Big Diesels' work Intercities trains to Troyes/Culmont/Belfort.
Departures of the big diesels are not regular with some big gaps in service. The best time to see them is  probably early evening with about 4 departures between 16:42 and 18:42. 
Note there is a lot of engineering work on this route at the moment, and not all trains to Troyes/Culmont are hauled!

BB67400 work two peak hour trains each day to/from Le Ferte Milon. Locos sit on the country end of RIO stock.
BB17000 Work quite a lot of ECS movements- likely to be found bringing in/out stock for the Diesel trains unless it the inbound stock goes straight out again.
There may still be some passenger turns (particularly in the peaks) on the line towards Meaux with BB17000. These may now be units.

Other trains of note:
TGV
ICE

If you want to see EVERYTHING out of Est then try Noisy-le-Sec, though this is a busy station and light is poor in the evenings for departures from Paris. 
Reasonable photo spots (still under the wires) for the CC72100's exist at Val de Fontenay and the
stations either side of it. Take RER E from Magenta (closer to Gare du Nord than Est).


Gare de Lyon
Loco classes likely to be seen:
BB8000
BB7200
BB26000
BB36000

Not as many locos here as some other terminal stations but still worth a visit.
The main part is likely to be filled with TGV's as this is the main station for the busy TGV Sud-Est line. 
There is another part of the station on the left side which is where any loco hauled trains tend to be. These are mostly working Teoz services with BB26000 'Sybic's'.
BB36000's work into Gare de Lyon with their only passenger turns- the 'Thello' sleeper trains to and from Italy.
Of note here are the ECS locos which on my last visit (a few years ago) were some very elderly BB8000 locos, many in various incarnations of the SNCF grey/orange scheme. I understand these may now have been replaced by slightly less elderly locos, but still in a variety of liveries.

Other trains of note:
TGV

Suburban trains no longer leave Gare de Lyon as these trains now continue underneath Paris on the RER network.
Shortly south of the station can be found the terminal where the yellow 'La Poste' TGV sets are based.


Gare de Bercy
Loco classes likely to be seen:
BB7200
BB8000
BB22000
BB26000

The smallest of the Paris terminals, effectively an annexe to Gare de Lyon which is at capacity. 
It is not very pretty... but quite open.
Some loco hauled Teoz and Intercities trains leave from here. Though not a huge number.
Again the old locos can appear on ECS movements.
You can also see the shunting of the car terminal from here.


Gare d'Austerlitz

Loco classes likely to be seen:
BB26000
BB22000
BB7200

Just across the river from Gare de Lyon, a nice station if not particularly busy... it is possible to turn up at midday and find the whole station almost totally empty!
Most services from here are loco hauled. Intercities/TER to Orleans and Teoz to Tolouse.
Many Intercity Night trains leave from Austerlitz including the Elipsos Trenhotels to Barcelona and Madrid (though the Trenhotels may not last an awful lot longer!)
As with Gare de Lyon suburban services have now been absorbed into the RER network and do not serve this station.
Major re-building works have taken place on parts of this station since my last visit.


Gare Montparnasse
Loco classes likely to be seen:
BB7200
BB8000
BB7600
BB27300

Other trains to note:
Z 5300 (silver EMU's)
TGV

Imagine a cross between Euston and Birmingham New St... Montparnasse is not pretty and there is very little merit in taking photos here at all. 
This station in a previous guise was the Gare de l'Oest- the famous scene of the 'steam loco hanging out of station' photo.
Despite its appearances the traction on offer is good- so find a spot somewhere else to view it!
Since the refurbished BB7600's have virtually replaced the last of the Silver EMU's (Z 5300) almost all suburban trains from Montparnasse are now loco hauled! A few of the EMU's may still be working- and these are worth catching if you can... they are the last 'classic' SNCF units in France (some have been exported to Romania!). On my last visit we did not see any working though I have heard more recent reports of them being out, particularly during the peaks.
BB7600 and any EMU's tend to work trains to Ramboillet Other trains are in the hands of the modern 'Alsthom Prima' BB27300's.
All the loco hauled trains from Montparnasse work with VB2N double deck stock. Loco's are on the country end.
Intercities trains run to Chartres and Le Mans. Many of these are units (particularly to Chartres) but some are loco hauled with either BB7200 or BB8000. There are also additional loco hauled trains in the peaks.
Heading out to somewhere like Versailles Chantiers and then onto maybe Saint Cyr would not be a bad bet to see the Montparnasse trains- though I am sure there are other options on this route.

The TGV Atlantique runs out of Montparnasse, though this diverges from the classic line soon after leaving the station.


Gare Saint Lazare
Loco classes likely to be seen:
BB15000
BB17000
BB27300
BB26000

A lovely station (and painted by Monet should this be of interest!) and a haven for the elderly BB17000's on suburban passenger work.
BB15000 and BB26000 'Sybic' work fairly frequent Intercities trains to Cherbourg, Rouen, Caen and Le Harve.
Some of these are units, and many of these trains work push/pull- locos usuall at the country end. Those which do not work push/pull propell into the station without a pilot loco. These trains use the far R/H platforms- which are not easy to photograph at the country end for long trains.
Most inner suburban trains are units.
Outer/Middle distance suburban trains are all loco hauled.
BB27300 work most services on VB2N double deck stock.
BB17000 work some services, often interworking with the Alsthom locos and usually on RIO stock.
The are most prolific on the short inner suburban trains to Ermont-Eubonne (only about 25 minutes total journey). They therefore appear quite frequently... but before long you are seeing the same locos again!
BB17056, Asnieres sur Seine.
Some BB17000 out of St Lazare are in 'En Voyage' livery- elsewear they are all tend to be in Transillien white/blue. All push/pull suburban sets tend to have their locos at the Paris end.
If you walk to the very end of some of the long platforms you can get a good view of trains approaching the station.
Outside of Saint Lazare I recommend the station at Asnieres sur Seine which is busy and has some interesting angles.
Further out Villennes sur Seine has a car park south of the station which affords good angles in both directions (light good for southbound trains) There are less trains here- just the half hourly service to Mantes le Jolie which stops and the through Intercities. Do not expect to find any amenities (like somewhere to buy a sandwich) in this small town!

Freight
BB22331 passes Juvisy with a Teoz service.
I have never been very sucessful at photographing freight trans in France but they do exist!
I would advise that it is probably to pick a nice location where passenger will turn up regularly and just hope for the best!
The two large freight yards in Paris that I am aware of are at Le Bourget (North East) and Villeneuve Saint Geoges (south).
The RER B runs alongside the yard at Le Bourget, but I do not know of any good photo locations.
BB37001 hauls a cereal train through Saint Michael sur Orge.
I am not aware of anywhere to photograph freight at Villenuve- though a lot of it will go south through Juvisy. This is however a large sprawling station which is difficult to cover.

Metro
I like the Paris Metro.
It is an interesting and quite attractive system.
There are several nice elevated sections- Line 6 (I think) Around the Eiffel Tower springs to mind, as well as Line 2 just north of Gare du Nord (it crosses over the ends of the platforms).
Several lines also use trains which use rubber tires for traction in addition to the more conventional metal wheels.

Monday, 9 September 2013

'Western' back on the Western

After more than three years away from main line duties, D1015 'Western Champion' made a welcome return to the main line on September 7th 2013 hauling Pathfinder tours 'The Western Wessexman' trip from Leicester (D1015 attaching at Bescot) to Weymouth.
The train is pictured here at Cholsey on the GWR between Reading and Didcot. Hopefully there will be some more opportunities to photograph this classic locomotive at spots like this before the electrification renders such scenes impossible.

Monday, 2 September 2013

If all else has failed... bring out the 'Short Set'!

In the UK in 2013 the thought of a locomotive hauled train is rare enough- but the thought of a loco hauled train with just two passenger coaches is almost inconceivable!
Desperate times however call for desperate measures. Greater Anglia is in the grips of a severe shortage of DMU's with trains being short formed or even being replaced (or supplemented!) with buses. It has been a number of years now that Norwich Crown Point depot has had to juggle its small mixed fleet of DMU's to maintain a service and there never seems to be any spare floating around. Recently with a couple of extra DMU's out of service for maintenance or repair the situation has reached breaking point- there are simply not enough units to maintain the service. Time to call in the 'Short Set'.
The so called 'Short Set' is formed from part of a London-Norwich Mk3 intercity set with two TSO coaches and the Driving Van Trailer. Either end of this short formation sits a class 47 diesel loco hired in from DRS to provide the power. Many platforms on the Wherry lines are only long enough for 2 coaches which prevents the train carrying more passenger coaches, while the DVT is required for the guard. Two locos need to be used as the class 47's are not able to work in push/pull mode with the DVT and also to avoid time consuming run-rounds at each end of the journey.
At approximately 350 tonnes for the five vehicles (unloaded) the short set weighs in considerably heavier than the 70 ton approximate weight of a two car class 156 (a typical DMU used on the route) and really a very inefficient train to run! It is unsurprising therefore that Greater Anglia try to keep use of the set to a minimum. It will only go out if there really is no other option and as soon as another DMU is ready off maintenance the set will usually be swapped out of traffic.
While this may not be a great situation for the train operator it is great fun for the railway enthusiast!
The photographs accompanying this story show the 'Short Set' in operation on Saturday (a very unusual occurrence in itself) 31st August, a day of particularly good weather and poor DMU availability in the area which lead to the train covering four return trips from Norwich to Great Yarmouth throughout the day. 47828 and 47841 were providing the motive power.