In reality the trip started the evening before with an HST to Luton, a curry and an Ibis in order to make the fairly early 08:15 Wizz air flight to Skopje. We were delayed at a shambolic Luton while a 'normal' (in the loosest of terms) threw his toys out of the pram and refused to join the aircraft... after his bags were offloaded we got into the air around 40 mins late. Arrival at Skopje was not far from time and the 13:00 bus into town was made.
|'Batman Boobie' (I know it says boogie really!) on the Bitola|
|Soviet EMU power back to Skopje- very dirty it was too!|
661-236 was sitting behind the Prishtina train, this must have been ready for the 16:50 to Kicevo.
|642 403 passes our train as it heads towards Kocani. This train |
is booked for a DMU, but can produce a 642 loco in times of
Tickets for the Prishtina train are purchased on the train- Skopje station wouldn't sell them- The gripper came to our compartment and spent half a year writing out five individual paper tickets none of which cost very much to Deneral Jankovic- which then becomes Hani i Elezit on arrival at the border. The passport grip was before leaving the Macedonian train and then we were free to wait for the connection to Prishtina... Everything crossed that we might just get lucky and get a Nohab- but it was not to be. Ex-Sweedish DMU 02 1304 turning out for the train forward. Again, inexpensive ticket purchased on board.
|Another 642- this time 404 at the border with Kosovo.|
Prishtina turned out to be a pleasant surprise for all of us- a very warm and welcoming city with ever so friendly people. Nothing in the restaurant that evening was too difficult to be met with a 'Yes' from waiting staff- not that that meant we would actually get what we had asked for! 'Desert menu?' 'Yes' 'We do not have ice cream...' Cheers then!
The remainder of the evening descended under a cloud of beer and wine.
|A DMU is now the usual forward traction after changing trains at the border station Hani i Elezit|
Thursday 2nd October-
|I could not have asked for more- Nohab 007 waits between duties at Peja- the sun and mountains completing the view.|
Well this was it. We were frankly only on this trip for one thing- we wanted a Nohab- and the Peja train was our chance. Having read that GM 001 was now the regular loco on this train it was with much apprehension that we arrived at the station in Prishtina to await the inbound working from Peja. None of us could quite believe our eyes when Nohab 007 appeared in the distance illuminated by the early morning sun- we had our Nohab!
|007 approaches Prishtina|
|The Nohab is ready to leave the diminutive Prishtina station|
Departure was just a few minutes down with the 07:50 to Peja. A decent train as well: a generator/luggage van, two former SJ coaches and two Austrian coaches. An excellent run down to Peja was had through some amazing scenery and it warm enough to enjoy the sound of the battered Nohab through the open windows. A freight was passed at (I believe) Drenas with 2640 007- not a Nohab, but a very smart looking loco (ex JZ 661).
|Remains of a turntable and engine shed (out of view) at Peja|
|Just enough time to hop off for a photograph on the return journey from Peja to Prishtina.|
|007 pauses at a ruined station. Evidence from the war still|
survives in some parts of this country.
|The new loco at Train Kos- Vossloh 009 is seen with a freight|
After spending a short while 'bothering' the plinthed steam loco we went into the Train Kos offices to request permission to visit the depot. During this process we had a lengthy chat with the railways translator who was able to confirm that the Nohab is still the usual traction for the Peja train- Much as they would like to get new locos to replace them the money simply does not exist.
|You never know what you may find in scrap lines- Ex SNCF |
shunters with KFOR logos were not what I was expecting!
|Nohab 006 on depot. It has reportedly worked the |
Peja train earlier in the week.
We met a German enthusiast while wandering the long-demic locos who advised that 006 had worked the Peja the previous day. Several other locos were locked away inside the depot which we could not gain access to. These are all apparently dead and awaiting parts which will probably never arrive- the locos being Serbian these parts are not forthcoming, and the Croatian outfit who has overhauled other Train Kos locos will not touch them! Nohab 005 was nowhere to be seen- presumably also in the shed.
|This scrap 661 will not be running again!|
Ex 2044 loco '001' had been seen on the depot from our train in the morning- but had now vanished.
|Nohab 008 is passed on a freight train|
|Fantastic scenery on the Peja line|
With no trains forthcoming it was the bus back into Prishtina after watching the evening Peja departure (again with Nohab 007). The bus still proudly displaying 'Bahnhof' on it's front- which the map inside revealed to be Lucerne!
A slightly tamer evening in town- we even managed to find the one establishment in Prishtina which sells postcards (but no stamps- that would be far too helpful).
|Shunder MDD3-01 is a bonus find while around the depot|
|Loco 010 has its origins in a JZ 661, but is heavily modified!|
Friday 3rd October-
|661 410 has arrived at Hani i Elezit from Macedonia with a freight. It would leave the wagons to return to Skopje with |
one coach on the 'international' train.
|Another DMU awaits for the journey to the border|
The morning move was simply to get ourselves back to Skopje on the 07:10 from Prishtina. Of course once again we had a faint hope that a Nohab might produce- but following our success the previous day nobody was particularly disappointed, or surprised when DMU 5800 004-9 rolled in. The passage to Hani i Elezit was much quicker than they day we arrived- maybe the other unit only had a top speed of 20mph?
On arrival at the border we were greeted by 661 410, one of the arguably more attractive 'lower hood' examples. The loco soon came off its freight and ran round the single Macedonian coach. We then nearly had a farce as one of our group nearly missed the border grip by going off in search of a post office to send some Kosovan postcards home! A little desperate we all agreed!! Border patrol fortunately took it in good humour and all were present and correct for the departure- complete with the amazing 661 410 'Nellie the Elephant' horn! Amongst the fits of laughter at 'Nellie's' trumpet the gripper came round and managed to write the ticket for all of us on one piece of paper this time.
|661 236 arrives into Zinzifov with a Bitola- Skopje train|
Back in Skopje in time to miss any morning activity there was nothing to do until the Bitola at 14:30... and if the diagrams had stuck we were expecting a kart on that. Into town for an explore and to find a pivo- We eventually ended up in a wine bar in the old town and that really set the tone for the rest of the day. We did prise ourselves away back to the hell hole of Skopje station for some more bureck and the Bitola- which was our friend 'Batman boobie' the unit again. We brought returns to Veles and took it anyway, as, in theory the 12:45 was 661- and who can have enough of leaning out of the door on these DMU's?
|Loco hauled trains passing at Zelenikovo|
|642 403 departs Veles for Kocani. A long run for a shunter!|
We had a while to spare in Veles so wandered down to the shed where 661 408 was hiding- bothering some demic wagons and a kettle along the way. After this it was back to one of the establishments next to the station for kebab, pivo... and some nasty firewater type spirit that one of my esteemed companions had found!
441 754 was our escape from Veles, a good 20-30 mins down on the overnight Thessoloniki to Belgrade. We were slightly surprised to see a fairly smart Serbian air-con coach on the front of the load 4 set- with the couchette on the rear. Unbeknown to us this train was compulsory reservation- and we were chinged 50 dinar by the gripper. A worrying sign on the outskirts of Skopje- we passed the 19:38 Bitola with a unit- this was the diagram we really needed to stay hauled for tomorrow afternoon!
|Steam loco 01 046 dating from 1922 has clearly not moved from this siding in Veles for some time- nor is it likely to!|
Back in Skopje it was a quick turn around to go out in search of pivos, wine and more ghastly firewater spirit. 4 bars, a taxi ride to a car park and eventually an open air club (which we definitely *didn't* have a reservation for) later and we fell into bed around 04:30!
|661 408 pokes it's nose into daylight from the Veles shed|
|461 120 passes Veles with a freight|
Saturday 4th October-
|661 236 catches the suns rays while paused at Radushe on the Kicevo line|
|Soviet EMU 412 056 at Skopje|
The hostel owner is rather surprised to see our corpses getting up just after 7am... 'You have had no sleep'- True, but we needed to get the 08:05 Kicevo!
We all made it to the station in time, purchased tickets and a days supply of food and drinks... though nobody was sure how much beer we would actually manage in our zombie-like state!
On the platform were our two coaches and it was nice to meet Julian/Gruntle who advised the train had arrived with 661 236 which had disappeared during the run-round. He was after 661 408, and we were able to give the bad news that it was in the shed at Veles.
|661 236 pauses at Gostivar with the 08:05 Skopje- Kicevo|
|Journeys end our 'Kennedy' has reached Kicevo|
Gruntle went off to score Kocani with 642 403, but we stuck by our 661 guns and waited for the Prishtina.
|Nice light for 441 107 at Skopje|
|Racing 441 108 out of Skopje|
|661 236 at Dorce Petrov on the 16:50 Skopje- Kicevo|
|661 410 provides more than enough power for the one coach on the 16:20 Skopje - Prishtina|
Sunday 5th October-
|441 755 shunts off the demic coach at Tabanovici|
Arrival at Tabanovici for the border grip, loco swap and a bit of wheel tapping action. It turns out the tapper had earned his dues for the day identifying our coach as a demic! All off and into the one remaining coach for the trip across the border... we managed to keep a compartment to ourselves, but once in Serbia behind 441 040 it became apparent that load 1 was far from enough and the gripper invited a normal in to join us.
The first part of the journey was tediously slow and we began to wonder if we would EVER make it to Belgrade! After one station the loco repeatedly lost power and made 'banging' sounds- but somehow we soldiered on. At Nis- thank heavens- two more coaches were added to the train- though it was still fairly wedged. Our compartment gained a new 'normal' and we realised there was an opportunity to stock up on pivo from the platform kiosk. We realised this of course *at* departure time- but the train was clearly in no hurry. A suspicious character from our group headed up to the driver to gesture at the beer kiosk with some left over dinar from a previous trip... Thumbs up and across the track to the pivo shack. Beers placed on the counter and the lady in the stall displays a number on the calculator... more beers out of the fridge... a new number on the calculator... more beers from the fridge- juggled all over the place and on to the floor to howls of laughter from the rest of the compartment and the normal! Eventually our character has spent all his dinar and clutching a thin bag full of beer ambles back across the track to our train narrowly avoiding a Serbian carrier bag disaster! The driver and Redcap look as if they want to be annoyed but nobody can contain their laughter. The train then leaves and we continue- fully stocked with beer. Our normal disappears and returns with a cool bag for the new cans! Cheers!!!
|441 040 with its pans down and apparently a total failure- it got going again a little while later and made it to Belgrade!|
|441 017 attaches additional coaches to our train at Nis|
We arrive into Belgrade only around 50 late- which all considered wasn't bad at all- and a brilliantly fun journey. Not a lot happening on a Sunday night but those of us man enough still manage an 04:30 return to the hotel.
Monday 6th October-
|Belgrade has an extensive tram network. Most vehicles are |
Tatra KT4's but BE 4/6's from Deuwag and some newer
CAF Urbos also appear
Not a lot rail-wise to report. Shunter 621 110 busy in the station area. We spent the morning exploring the Belgrade tram system, taking a trip out to Kosutnjak to oogle at the three JZ 761 locos which once powered Tito's blue train and now lie very demic in the yard. As a nice bonus 661 117 was spotted (and photographed thanks to a running across busy road move) on freight as a concluding Kennedy to the trip.
All too soon it was a taxi to the airport ready to 'Wizz' back to London Luton.
|These German V200 derived locos once pulled Tito's |
impressive Blue Train. Their career is now sadly long over.
All in all an excellent trip- even if we never did make it to Bitola!
|412 103 works a local train near Topcider|
Huge thanks to Rick, Rabbit, Ted and Fatz for the excellent company and entertainment all week. Until next time!
Thanks as always to all who have provided gen, posted trip reports in these areas and answered my questions prior to this trip- all a huge help.
|661 117 passes the depot housing the 'Blue Train' in Topcider with a freight|