Friday, 10 October 2014

MZ, Train Kos, ZS Trip Report 1st-6th October 2014

Wednesday 1st October-

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
We had booked hostels in both Skopje and Prishtina for the night depending on how things worked out. Plan A, which was to take the 14:30 Bitola was soon thwarted when DMU 712-101 'Batman Boobie' was sitting in the platform ready for the train. Excellent start. We called in at the Skopje hostel to tell them we would not be turning up that night and booked the post-Kosovo night instead. 

Soviet EMU power back to Skopje- very dirty it was too!
Having stocked up on beers and bureck we took the DMU at 14:30 anyway- just a few shacks to fill in time. Soviet EMU 412-056 was then taken back into Skopje, passing 642-403 with load 2 on the train to Kocani. Another small fester at the delightful Skopje station (is this the worst capital city station in Europe? It must be a close call with Sofia (Bulgaria)- the addition of a burnt out car at Skopje would definitely swing it if there were any doubt) before boarding the 16:20 to Prishtina. In the absence of a loco on the Bitola we were really hoping for a 661 on this- but had to be content with 642-404 on load 1. Would the close connection with the train from Bitola work? Well- sort of. A 661 rolled in ex Bitola just as we began moving off, only our train then ground to a halt. By the time we started again a few desperate passengers had crossed the tracks and were running for the train- so we stopped again for them. Definitely not a safe connection! 
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.
The journey was an absolute stagger to Prishtina arriving around 40 mins down for no apparent reason. Vossloh loco 009 was passed en-route with a freight. 

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
We took sunny photos in Peja of the run-round (does it get any better than this!?) before exploring the old town and finding some food and beer for the return journey. At Drenas we again passed a freight, this time with Nohab 008. Another cracking run to Fushe Kosovo and we left the Nohab behind.
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!
Permission to enter the depot was granted and having watched the Vossloh loco 009 run around a freight train we wandered down the tracks watching some shunting with MDD3-01 on the way. Locos on the depot were 2640 007 (ex class 661), 010 (the heavily rebuilt 661 with two cabs) and Nohab 006 stabled with four ex-Austrian coaches. 
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
We bailed at a shack- Zinzifov and waited the train from Bitola. A short while later we were rewarded with 661 236. The gripper became thoroughly confused when one of our party showed the return ticket to Veles, and I then tried to explain our move to the next shack to pick up the Kocani to then head back to Veles and that we wanted a return to some random shack that even the gripper had probably never sold to before... Some timetable pointing later we had nearly achieved an element of understanding until one of the group produced his FIP- It was all too much for the gripper and he retreated back to the next coach! 

642 403 departs Veles for Kocani. A long run for a shunter!
We sat quite a while at the next tiny shack... not realising it was where we had told the gripper we were alighting- Smesnica. We didn't realise until it was too late and despite the call of 'Bail Bail Bail!' we were already on the move... we were going to have to rely on a +1 to the Kocani at Zelenikovo! We knew this was our shack as 642 403 was already in the adjacent platform as we rolled in- some gesturing to the driver and a very quick disembarkation made the connection- and we went on to Veles with the 642. 
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
08:05 came and went, 441 755 left with the 08:20 Belgrade, 712 103 arrived from Bitola... and *eventually* 661 236 returned and backed onto the Kicevo. We left 43 minutes late- presumably the loco had gone for a drink- it must have worked yesterdays 16:50 Kicevo straight after arriving from Bitola. Anyway- it was a storming run trying (and failing) to make up lost time. I must thank Gruntle for the additional company and bus gen (and apologise for the state of the 5 corpses he had to share a compartment with). 

Journeys end our 'Kennedy' has reached Kicevo
The return run was slightly closer to time- and we were all a little more awake to enjoy it. The planned move was then to do the 14:30 Bitola... but there were two question marks over the train- would we make it? (the connection hadn't worked the day before), and would it be a loco? Well it did make- and it wasn't. We couldn't face another trip on the DMU- even though it was a different one- 712 106 so we stayed on the platform and debated what to do next. 
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
The loco was our friend 'Nellie' 661 410 with full elephant horn to Dorce Petrov. There was a fantastic parallel departure with 441 105 on the 16:20 to Tabanovici- the drivers loved it! The gripper seemed most put out that we were on the Pristina train with tickets for Tetovo and advised us that we were on the wrong train and must change at Dorce Petrov... Well that was our move anyway... Either way- with our 'mistake' realised we bailed and waited for the 16:50 Prishtina. No surprise to see 661 236 again- which we took to Tetovo for the bus back to town. This move worked especially well with less than 5 minutes spent in Tetovo. It is easy to see why the busses are more popular than the train over here- the bus was clean, and there were frequent departures- however it didn't have opening windows or any GM Thrash- it also took almost as long as the train once city congestion was factored in!
A quieter night tonight- off to the old town for a bite to eat and then to retreat to the hostel- a shame we had burnt out the previous night as the streets of Skopje were clearly the place to be!
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
We had flagged the overnight to do the day train to Belgrade- a sensible move. After saying goodbye to Gruntle who left on the Kicevo with 661 236 (again!) we boarded the front of two coaches behind 441 755 for the 08:20 Belgrade. 
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 have reached the tunnel at a location described by the locals as 'Lipe' before the next key event of the journey. The loco has popped. We sit in the tunnel for some while before deciding to try rolling out under gravity. Fair play to the loco driver as this is admirably managed and there is a loop outside the tunnel where we can now fester and await developments. The loco tries to take power several times but each time a loud 'Bang' is all that is achieved. After 20 minutes or so a few normals get off the train- so I go out for a photo- the gripper doesn't look especially pleased. We communicate that the loco is dead. Back on the train our normal has pinched the remainder of our gin- her friend has finished it off and chucked the bottle out of the window!! Cheers then! We begin to wonder what might rescue us as a soviet EMU pulls up alongside- surely we're not going to be shoved onto this? Surely this isn't our rescue drag? No- on both accounts- it speeds off and leaves us alone once again. About 50 minutes after grinding to a halt 441 040 sticks its pan back up- and miraculously we are off! Something must have been isolated- but we were on the move. Dreams of a rescue Kennedy are left behind in the loop at Lipe. Our normal has clearly taken a liking to us and is now showing us her wedding photos, before scrolling through some photos of her trollied on a night out on her phone... eventually we come to her collection of semi-naked lady photos 'My son, my son!' she shouts... continuing to scroll through the pictures as she does...

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


  1. Wish I had been there - my only problem was reading the light blue text - I had to highlight it to read it comfortably

  2. Should have stayed the extra day as 661-146 was the Sunday afternoon Bitola on load 4!


  3. I get the impression that the 14:30 was a Kennedy every day we didn't go for it!