Sunday, 20 December 2015

Picture of the Week - 20th December 2015

As Autumn gives way to Winter photographic opportunities change. The run up to Christmas is often a rewarding time to be out taking photographs with cold crisp mornings and trees now fully devoid of their leaves in addition to a large number of extra charter trains running in the lead up to the festive season. This season however has got off to a strange start - those cold crisp days have not happened and instead the UK has seen one of the warmest (and cloudiest) December's on record. Many of the usual steam trips have also fared badly with diesel replacing the planned steam on a number of trains in recent weeks. This photograph, taken on one of the very few sunny days this month shows recently re-painted 67015 joining onto the South West Mainline at Byfleet & New Haw with a Christmas Belmond Pullman excursion to Winchester.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Sri Lanka Observations - 23/11 - 06/12 2015

M8 945 reverses on the bridge outside Colombo Fort Station.
Observations from a 'normal' holiday to Sri Lanka, with as many trains as I could fit in.

Visited a location just to the West of Colombo Fort in the late afternoon.
Observed M10 916 arriving on a train from the Galle direction. M10 944 was observed shunting (presumably running around a train at Fort)

M8 842 passes the Batticaloa train at speed with an express bound for Colombo.
An early start to catch the 06:05 train from Colombo Fort to Batticaloa (as far as Habanara). M4 756 was the train loco which proved to be a very rateable machine. We were traveling in reserved 2nd class (this train is 2nd and 3rd only) which, like most of the train, was not particularly busy. The journey of around 6 hours cost about 600 rupees (£3). Leaving Colombo we passed several commuter trains, most formed of DMU's but several with locos and stock, some of these probably being the end of longer distance overnight 'night mail' trains. Commuter trains into Fort at this time were extremely busy with all space used and many people hanging onto the outside of doors. At Kurunegala we passed a loco hauled train with what looked like an M2 and another short train stabled with M7 806.

M4 743 passes through Semaphore signals as it approaches
Maho junction with a mixed t
The train was paused at Wellawa for M8 842 to pass non-stop which made a nice photo (having climbed down from the train and crossed over to the bank having worked out something was going to pass us). At Maho Junction the train reverses and the M4 loco was run around and turned so that it would continue to lead 'nose first' to Batticaloa. M4 743 also pulled into the station with a mixed train from the northern line for connections. As with much of more rural Sri Lanka this juction station contains a nice collection of 'British' looking semaphore signals. I got chatting the the crew of the train before leaving Maho Junction and found myself sharing the cab with the driver and secondman for the next section of the jounrey, passing Hunslet shunter class Y 699 on leaving Maho Junction. The track quality was significantly poorer off the main line and train speed reduced somewhat. Many signals on beyond Maho Junction appear to be out of commission with the line beeing worked by token block. There was a pause at Moragollagama station to pass another train.

Our journey with M4 756 comes to an end at Habanara.
This was the first time I had encountered the slightly odd passing procedure (which seems common) whereby at a single platform station with loop the train pulls in, calls, and then sets back beyond the station approach points and then pulls into the unplatformed loop to await the train in the opposite platform to pass. We were running late (so this may not have been the usual passing place) and had to wait some time for the passing train led by M4 751 to pass.
Time to make frineds with the station groundsman and show some pictures of the UK railways to the staff, which generally went down quite well! The ALCO back on the move again we eventually arrived into Habanara around 1 hour late. A really excellent train ride with hawkers selling food through the train and massive window (and doors) to lean out of. Friendly crews and a really great loco- what more could you want!?

M6 797 will be our traction into the mountains. Seen herea at Peradeniya Jcn.
The next encounter with the railways was a journey on the Highland line from Peradeniya Junction to Ella (Most trains from Colombo stop at the junction some 10km from Kandy with only a few slower trains running through on the line from Kandy to Baddula) on the 12:30 train. This station again has an impressive array of semaphore signals, a traditional looking box, and platforms on two sides of the triangle. The station also has an easily vieweable array of block equipment and you can see into the back of the ticket office where the Edmondson card tickets are still issued for journeys. The train from Colombo arrives backwards, having taken the '3rd' side of the triangle it then reverses into the Badulla bound platform to negate a run-round. The loco for this journey was Henschel built M6 797 which while good fun really didn't compare to the Alco M4 a few days earlier. Unfortunately on this train we were booked into the 'Expo Rail' coach, one of two privately run 'luxury' coaches which run on Sri Lankan Railways, the other being the 'Rajadhani Express' coach. While most 'Expo' coaches have an open air viwing balconly, ours did not. The coach is air conditioned and has TV screens, fairly comfortable seats, which were all facing in the opposite direction to travel, and provides meals- imagine aircraft food. Fortunately the small windows did still open (no good if you had a 'virgin style' wall next to your seat though!) and after a while passengers caught on to the fact that the crewe didn't mind people leaning out of the door on this very scenic train ride. Either way if you are a rail enthusiast being couped up in the Expo coach is not ideal- 3rd class looked much more fun in the traditional coaches with big doors and windows! The train soon starts to climb up into the hills and through tree planatations- only the British love for tea could really explain why a railway was built through such difficult terrain. Again I managed to escape the luxury of the 'Expo' carriage for a ride in the cab, where the friendly crewe happily pointed out the sights of Waterfalls and mountain loops as the journey progressed. It was interesting to note that instructions to the driver were still handed up to the cab in English, which is widely spoken to at least some degree. The secondman held on to my photo of Waterloo station as a souvenier!
A mixed train was passed at Nawalapitty (possibly a W3 loco) and another passenger with M6 785 at Watagora. A final mixed train was passed at Pattipola with M6 795. Despite these observatiosn is it worth noting that two of the 5 trains each day on this route are now handled by the S12 'Chinese' DMU's.

An S12 Chinese DMU crosses a significant viaduct on the
mountain line between Ella and Badulla.
Our first 'disaster' with Sri Lankan railways was the short 20km hop from Ella to Badulla which I had insisted on doing by train. The timetable revealed the 'Goods' train would be perfectly timed at around 13:24 from Ella, and would also give me a chance to travel on my frist 'mixed' train. Unfortunatly on arrival at the ticket office the clerk was not keen to sell us our Edmondson tickets claiming that the train was 1 hour late today. This wasn't a terrible issue so we decided to wait it out. After the hours delay it was abundantly clear that the train was still not about to arrive now being just 'late'. The next train at 15:14 was scheulded to be an S12 DMU and after waiting over 2 hours when this arrived late as the first train there really was no alternative but to take it. I don't know what happened to the 'Goods' or if it ever turned up. Quite a waste of an afternoon, but the journey on the final section of the line to Baddula was at least scenic, andjuor a 30 minute journey though!
S12 933 has reached journey's end at Baddula. A number of services in this route are now in the hands of these Chinese DMU's instead of the more traditional loco hauled coaching stock.

M10 944 at Galle.
Popped into Galle station on a quick fact finding mission. I was suprised to find a train in the station which turned out to be the the 2:45 to Kandy with M10 944. Tickets are rarely checked on the trains, but are at stations, so I could not get down to get a photo without a platform ticket. Fortunatley there was just time to purchase this for 10 rupees (about 5p) before the train departed.

M2 626 'Montreal' waits to depart from Matara towards Galle.
After a few more days away from the rails we would meet them again at Matara on the southern tip of Sri Lanka. We had made good time by bus to reach the station for the 09:40 Vaunia Express (which I would talke to Mount Lavinia to spend an afternoon train hunting). The train loco was Canadian M2 626 'Montreal' while 1954 built M2 569 'Ontario' was sitting in another platform with the 10:25 mixed train to Galle. This train was formed of the older style red coaches with unreserved 2nd and 3rd class on board. Matara station has a useful pictoral display of all different classes of diesel loco (broad and former narrow gauge) and DMU which have been used in Sri Lanka. The train left on time and passed M10 944 between Matara and Galle. M4 756 was on shed at Galle. On arrival at Galle the loco runs around before continuing north towards Colombo. Heading north we passed M8 877 at Gintota and M7 800 was passed with a short train stabled at Aluthgama before we passed M2 591 here with another southbound express.
M2 626 runs around it's train in the terminal station at Galle.
By the time I arrived at Mount Lavinia for an afternoon of photography the weather had turned for the worst and it was now decidedly wet and grey- had nobody told the weather that it was the dry season? I didn't have an awful lot of luck with photographs here- having noted the timetable at the station the first train I thought would be loco hauled failed to appear and even the first DMU photo was 'disturbed' by some locals on the beach who wanted to befriend me and promised me a 'good time'. The northbound loco eventually passed while I was in a cafe eating lunch and the next southbound train which I had reckoned on a loco turned out to be an S12 DMU for Matara.
The first loco to actualy grace my camera was the ECS for the 16:10 to Polgahawela with M10 945 which passed at around 15:35. The light had improved a little on earlier but it was not the nice sunny shot I had come for. Being farily wet and defeated I decided the best course of action was to have a ride with the M10- which sounded very good!
There was just time to photograph the 15:52 to Panadura which I was convinced would be a unit at the station, ths turned up with M4 743.
The M10 run up to Colombo Fort was very good- these locos which were new in 2012 are some of the loudest I have come across. Coupled with running right along the coast and the opening doors the ride was certainly good fun- and very cheap.
M10 945 approaches Mount Lavinia with the empty stock for the 16:10 departure.
Once I had arrived at Colombo my simple task was to get back to Aluthgama or Bentota loco hauled. The lack of a timetable was really going to hinder this objective. M10 916 was noticed arriving at Colombo Fort from the East- maybe the perfect trian to head south with- Hopefully this would be the 16:50 to Aluthgama? Having asked the crewe they advised it was not and directed me to an S11 unit to get back to Mount Lavinia- I decided to take this, I could stop off to get some more photos then pick up the next loco in the right direction. Unfortunately the unit didn't stop at Mount Lavinia at all and I am still not entirely sure what train it was, except a busy one. The lack of a timetable really started to cause trouble now as I was stopping at stations where I did not know what trains were going where, or whether the expresses I needed would stop. After jumping off at one station to speak to staff I was promptly advised I needed to get back on the train and ended up riding on a crowded footboard to the large station at Panadura where I at least hoped most trains would be stopping. Unfortunatly I couldn't find a timetable here so had to rely on questions to the booking clerk. The next train to Aluthgama was a DMU so I flagged that, leaving the next train to be the Bentota service which I was fairly certain would be hauled - only problem was I had no idea if it was fast or slow or how long it would take! M10 944 was photographed with a northbound train after which bumped into Daffy who seemed to be doing a lot better for moves than I was! His somewhat out of date timetable guide clearly was very beneficial.
I returned to the station in time for my train to Bentota which turned up to be an all shacks stopper to Galle... and a DMU! Not really wanting to take this I asked the guard if there was an alternative to Aluthgama and was advised there was an express... but he didn't seem to know the calling pattern or when it was arriving. As I was already getting late for dinner and it was dark I took the S10 DMU, Defeated. To be fair, the DMU's are not bad at all with a large above floor power car and are more akin to an HST than what we would consider a DMU. They don't sound too bad either and still have the large opening doors and windows- not a loco though which is what I wanted. To add final insult to injury we paused for along while at Aluthgama- you guessed it, to let the express behind overtake us. This was M10 943 which I clearly could have had a ride on and still made the DMU to my locol shack. Oh well... you win some...

The final rail trip in Sri Lanka was from Bentota to Colombo.
I was fairly sure again that the local trian from Bentota at 11:05 would be hauled and it was with Loughbrough built M7 800 and finally a mixed train (even if only with one wagon). The train was tediously slow shunting at several stations to let trains pass in the other direction and calling almost everywhere.

Brush built M7 800 pauses en route to Colombo with the slow train.
En route M7 807 and M6 789 were passed with local trains. M6 788 was waiting at Kalutara south with the next train to follow behind us. Following more slow running we were quite late by the time we arrived at Panadura and after sitting there a few minutes the mass excodus of passengers indicated that we were were going to be overtaken by a faster train to Colombo. Not knowing how long our train would be delayed (and quite keen to get a final loco in the book) we crossed over for M2 591 'Manitoba' for the very crowded final run into Colombo. Within minutes or arriving the M7 followed in behind- it would have been a much more comfortable way to arrive in the capital. The local train was quickly re-engined with W3 677 to continue its run to Kandy.

Thus was the end of our Sri Lankan adventure and after leaving our cases in the HUGE lockers at Fort Station we were free to explore the city for our last afternoon.

A commuter DMU works in Colombo.
In conclusion Sri Lankas railways are really good fun, but a little hard work at times! The lack of anything resembling a timetable makes planning journeys incredibly difficult. Information is usually just the time of a train departure with no idea of how long the journey will take, an arrival time or calling pattern. The arrival of the Intercity S12 DMU's has also not helped matters as these turn up on some long distance trains that you would hope would be hauled. On a more promising note the 2012 built M10 locos are very loud and well worth following. During the whole trip I did not come across any Hitachi M5 locos or any Alsthom M9's with the exception of one which was deep inside the shed at Aluthgama.
Railway systems here are very antiquated with Edmondson tickets, ancient signalling equipment and ancient trains. Train crews are friendly and most people speak a good level of English. The country as a whole is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

More British than Britain!

Right now I am sampling the wonders of the railway system of Sri Lanka. Certainly it is quite different from what any London commuter would be used to, with seemingly ancient trains and passengers leaning out of every open doorway (and on the most crowded trains simply hanging on to the handrails outside the doors). However look beyond the foreign mask and you will find hints of the railways colonial past at every opportunity. a lack of recent investment has left many long vanished British traditions thriving here. You can still catch the 'Night mail' across the country and peer into many station offices and you will find wooden clad cases containing ancient block instruments. Outside of the main cities thwrw are also a plethora of semaphore signals to enjoy. The tickets too are something quite archaic!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Picture of the week - 25th November 2015

The Bellmond Pullman (formerly Venice Simplon -Orient-Express) makes regular luxury excursions from the London area providing fine dining and an interesting day for those who can afford the tickets! Most trips with this train, with vintage 1920's and 30's 'Pullman' carriages are behind modern class 67 diesels, along with several trips each year worked by steam. Very occasionally more interesting heritage traction gets a turn on the train such as on 16th July 2015 when the Pullman was hauled by Deltic D9009 'Alycidon' on a UK railtours trip to the Severn Valley Railway. Here the train is seen near Gerrards Cross on the Chiltern Main Line heading north.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Semaphore so long

Autumn sees additional interest at Barnetby several days a week when class 20's working the 2S13 water cannon circuit pass.
GBRf's 66745 applies its sanders as it passes by the signals
at Barnetby. The road has been set for the next move in the
opposite direction.
I first came to Barnetby in 2007, I knew then that it would be a place I would keep coming back to. The combination of a busy freight scene together with a stunning array of semaphore signals and plenty of photographic variety was a winning combination. Sadly however the days of the semaphores have had a line drawn under them. On 24th December 2015 they will be used for the last time before a 17 day blockade takes place to renew all signalling equipment under the North Lincolnshire Area Resignalling scheme. Nine boxes at Appleby, Barnetby East, Brocklesby Jcn, Elsham, Marsh Jcn, Pasture Street, Roxton Sidings, Stallingorough and Wrawby Jcn will be made redundant with control of the new signals transferring to the Route Operating Centre (ROC) in York. The new equipment will be more reliable than the old signals and release capacity for freight services. However photographs such as these, from my last trip to see the semaphores at work on 16th November 2015 will become a thing of the past.

The evening light catches the semaphores controlled by Barnetby East box. All of this will be gone after Christmas 2015.
The sun is setting on the semaphores at Barnetby as a passing freight train streaks across my camera lens.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Crazy for Crewe!

97303 stands at Crewe having reversed on 3S71 the north Wales RHTT. Due to traversing ERTMS fitted lines this diagram
has to be worked by the class 97's which bring some welcome growl to Crewe. 97304 is on the rear. 
43062 'John Armitt' waits to head south with the NMT.
Talk to any of the camera or notepad wielding inhabitants of the platforms at Crewe station and you will no doubt be told that this place simply 'isn't what it used to be'. Of course the days of loco hauled passenger trains; diesels on the North Wales Coast and the regular passage of Anglo-Scottish expresses at the hands of class 86 and 87's are long gone. Even the general presence of locomotives is much reduced following the demise of the once busy Crewe Diesel Depot.
All this said- the station can still have interest and I was fortunate enough to have the company of no fewer than eight class 37's during a quick 2 hours stint at the station on 28 October 2015 (three of these being on the depots to the south of the station). Throw in the New Measurement Train, a few light engines and of course the regular traffic and it is certainly still possible to have a crazy few hours at Crewe!

The first test train, 37604 and 37667 pause at Crewe on their route to Holyhead. 
At one stage 75% of the class 97 fleet was present at Crewe as 97301 turned up to work a test train back to Derby while the
RHTT 97's were also in the station to reverse- unfortunately they were at opposite ends of the station.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Comment: To brand or not to brand?

The Scotrail franchise has it's own identity quite distinct from Abellio who currently operate it. 380011 in 'Saltair' colours waits at
Glasgow Central on 9th July 2015

Lime green was a stark contrast to pre-90's liveries. A Central
Trains 170 approaches Ely on 4th November 2006.
Whatever your view on privatisation of Britain's railways it has without doubt been colourful. The first fruits of colour bloomed out of BR corporate blue in the late 80's with sectorisation and creation of railway businesses such as InterCity and Network SouthEast. When privatisation took hold 'en mass' the railway was awash with colours it had never seen before; Central Trains brought us lime green, Anglia; turquoise while Midland Mainline gave us a peculiar shade of teal. Liveries continued to morph with the vinyl revolution in the 2000's making once un-paintable liveries possible- the 'dynamic lines' of First Group and even at one stage a mobile Ginsters Pasty advertisement!

More recently something seems to have changed. Several large franchises have adopted somewhat more generic liveries or decided not to re-brand at all. The first area to throw a spanner into the debate was Scotland- where many of the decisions on the railways are already devolved to Holyrood. Here the Scotish government has taken the lead and specified a livery which was first applied by First Group- the 'Saltair' livery. What happened here for the first time was the removal of the rail operators image from the franchise. First Group and now Abellio (who have run ScotRail services since April 2015) have a small logo pasted onto what is otherwise a 'national' livery. There isn't even a mention of Abellio in the company name or much of their promotional material - it is very much 'ScotRail - Scotland's Railway'- and it will stay this way for the considerable future negating the cost of re-painting vehicles which has long been lamented as a wasteful by-product of the franchise system.
A large new 'Great Western Railway' plaque on the side of
57605 at Paddington 23/09/2015
The new livery de-brands franchise owner First Group from
the new and sophisticated livery. 23/09/2015

First group has now gone on to de-brand another of their franchises- the flagship Great Western route out of London Paddington to Wales and the West country. In a bold move the 'dynamic lines' of First Great Western will be replaced by a smart (if slightly dull) dark green and silver scheme harking back to the networks Brunelian routes as the Great Western Railway. It is yet to be seen if this will be another livery which will transition with a new franchisee, and while only a handful of trains have yet been repainted the re-branding of the website and station announcements from 'First Great Western' to 'Great Western Railway' has certainly been stark.

Despite now being part of GTR the colour scheme of
Southern has not changed. 455824, 19 May 2013
Another surprise has recently been thrown into the pot by what is now the largest rail franchise in the UK- Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). This new monster franchise is the combination of former First Capital Connect (FCC) and Southern franchises within which there are four brands- Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express. While GTR has worked to remove former First Group branding from it's ex-FCC trains it has surprised some critics by taking the decision to retain the existing brands and not to re-package all operations as GTR. Those passengers on the Southern and Gatwick Express routes (already owned by Govia) are unlikely to have noticed any difference in the appearance of their rail franchise since GTR took over in July this year. In a talk to the Institute of Railway Operators CEO Charles Horton explained that the individual brands had become established and were recognised by their individual passengers. He reiterated that the large size of the franchise was not important and that smaller changes to services and facilities would instead define the success of the business. In keeping the existing route brandings best practice can be taken from each to build a better GTR.

It seems that as the franchise model matures the garish paint schemes of the not-so-distant past are becoming more subdued and also maturing. Operators are becoming more focused on service and less on having the most eye-catching paint job as their train pulls into the station. This is an attitude I would support as I have long argued that the public by and large does not care whether their train is aquamarine or pink- so long as it arrives on time and provides a safe and reliable service at a fair price. All this said it is difficult to see brand conscious operators such as the Virgin group relinquishing their red and silver scheme which is as much part of the product as the train itself.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

RHTT time again

Class 20's on a loco hauled RHTT at Epsom Downs? Who would have thought it! 19/10/2015
It is that time of year once again when the days draw in and the leaf busting trains come out to play.
As with last year GBRf are providing locomotives to haul various rail head treatment train (RHTT) diagrams from Tonbridge and Horsham with classes 20, 66 and 73 having seen action so far. Here are a few photos of the GB pairs on the southern region.
73141 'Charlotte' leads an RHTT towards East Grinstead across Riddlesdown viaduct. This is a shot I first tried last year ( and liked so much that I just had to come back. Maybe next year the sun might shine as well?
The 3W91 diagram visits some some very rare 20 haunts indeed. 20901 stands at Sutton waiting time having run up from Epsom Downs. Sadly the class 20's failed later in the day and were taken off the diagram. 19/10/2015

Thursday, 22 October 2015

LG/LDZ Lithuania Latvia 30 September - 10 October 2015

Day 1-
It was a leisurely start to make the early afternoon Wizz air flight from Luton to Vilnius. Luton, while a mess, was a fairly painless experience for a change and the flight was fairly unexciting- to compound this I had already read the entire Wizz in-flight magazine on my previous trip! Arrival in Vilnius was on time at around 18:30- and the late evening light was absolutely stunning- unfortunately there was nothing to photograph in it. We checked out the airport rail station to discover that trains were around hourly at best. The next one was in around an hour, and as it turns we had missed the previous one by quite some time as well. Bus it was then. Tickets were 1 euro and could be bought from the driver (thanks to the girl who explained the process).
TEP70BS-083 at Vilnius with the Kaliningrad - Moscow overnight sleeper.
We checked into the Corner Hotel which turned out not to be particularly near to either the station or the old town and from the outside appeared to be a building site. Fortunately there was nothing to grumble about inside and our triple room for the next two nights was entirely adequate.
Once settled it was time to head into town for dinner, via the station of course as the overnight Kaliningrad to Moscow train was due- our first opportunity to see a TEP 70.
Unfortunately, but predictably, the train, led by TEP70BS-083 was leaving from the fenced off international platforms. Photography was not enhanced by this, and it was further not enhanced when a security guard noticed the three guys with tripods and came over for a word just as the train was about to depart. While the security man was pleasant enough the conclusion was that we couldn't take photographs on the station, and we could only get permission by writing to somebody or the other. Of course the Latvian letter of permission didn't help! Ah well.
Vilnius has a pretty old town and we ate in a nice semi-traditional restaurant near to the main square. I had by this time discovered the one item I had forgotten to bring with me on the trip- a hair comb- so we popped into a 24 hour hypermarket on the way back to the hotel. Of course they had everything you could imagine- except a comb.
TEP70BS-004 shunts at Vilnius awaiting the arrival of the next train to Kaliningrad.
Day 2-
2M62M-1162 at Vilnius- sadly our only sunny Lithuanian M62
We got up at a reasonable hour to pick up the 09:56 train to Klaipeda- these trains are hauled by TEP70's and aside from the passenger services which travel to Russia are the only loco-hauled passenger trains in Lithuania. Tickets were cheap and easy to get hold of before the train left- all came with reserved seats. Vilnius station was fairly busy with a 2M62 and TEP70BS shunting around the station as well as the fairly uninspiring shunters. Before we departed another 2M62 passed through with a freight- all very promising. It is also worth noting that the cities railway museum is located here and the exhibits can be seen from the platform. A very smart TEP60 is amongst them but unfortunately not in a good position for the cameras without going into the museum itself.

2M62M-0949 heads southbound through Kaisiadorys
We took TEP70BS-005 to Kaisiadorys where, having woken to brilliant sunshine in Vilnius, it soon clouded over. We were expecting the location to be fairly busy with freights but sadly only a few appeared during our 3 hours here. Two were in the hands of Lithuania's very smart looking 2M62's while another was hauled by one of the modern Siemens ER20's and we were also entertained by a couple of CME3 shunters (these are HEAVILY rebuilt ChME3's and none the better for it!). With the weather now thoroughly gloomy and having only seen a few freights we picked up TEP70BS-003 back into Vilnius. We managed to find an opening window on this train and can sadly confirm that the TEP70BS is fairly disappointing!
ER20-044 at Kaisiadorys- the only such loco we would see on the trip.
Back at Vilnius there was little activity aside from our train shunting out of the station and a DR1 DMU. We picked up a few bits of cheap local food (which was pretty good) from a station kiosk and then headed over the road to pick up our hire car for the next few days from the Sixt rental office. The car wasn't exactly what I had ordered (Manual VW gold) and we left with an immaculate Corsa automatic 'I think it will be find. You just drive' were the words of the assistant. The brake was a bit heavier than I was used to but apart from trying to use the clutch quite regularly it did 'just drive'. We first went to check out a location just round the corner from the station on the line towards Belarus. 
A Czeck built 'City Elephant' in the Vilnius suburbs
We had seen some great photos from here despite it being under the wires. Unfortunately the light was getting on for being 'dire' by this point and with the exception of 'city elephant' EMU's little of interest was seen. A light engine M62K-1612 and Belarusian TEP70BS-107 were all that broke the gloom. Time to give up for the day and head into town for a bit of sightseeing, a pizza and a night out featuring a deserted bar and one of our group being 'face profiled'! Can't have been too bad as we didn't roll in to corner hotel until around 3am.

Day 3-
Stored TEM2's outside Vilinius depot
A more leisurely start today after enjoying a decent breakfast. One of our group skipped this to go to the bridge over the railway for the departure of the Klaipeda train- he was rewarded with a 'real' TEP70, but wires in the shot were not abundantly helpful. We all met at this location, just near the depot and didn't see an awful lot more. There are a line of TEM2's on the depot but it is not entirely clear what, if anything these are used for. A stealth operation was begun to photograph half of a 2M62 on the roundhouse through the entrance gate. The security man's interests were soon sparked but quick planning meant we were already well on our way back to the car by the time he got close to the scene. Job done!
2M62M-0676 heads towards Kyviskes on the Vilnius 'avoider'

Feeling we could have done better the previous day it was decided to stay in Lithuania for the majority of the day before driving up to Daugavpils in Latvia. We headed to the railway junction at Kyviskes where the 'bypass' line from Vilnius joins the main line to Belarus. We encountered our first 'sat nav' fail here (the maps usefully did not show Railways!) and as a result we actually *never* found the station (there appeared to be an airfield between us and it!). We did however find a good location on the 'avoiding line' and set up here for a few hours. At least one train was heard on the 'other' line before one of the signals on this double track section turned green and forced us to await a train. The reward was a 2M62 with a long freight which we could hear approaching for almost 10 minutes! We decided to head off in the car for some lunch after this, and also to search out some alternative locations beyond the junction where both lines could be covered. Neither of these exploits proved particularly successful- food was scarce as these towns appear to be tiny- we eventually sourced some bread, salami and cheese and a bulk pack of wafers which would have to suffice. Possibly more concerning was the lack of railway locations- not to say there weren't good locations- but since pictures we had viewed of the line masts had gone up for what is clearly an impending electrification- ruining all of the locations we hoped to photograph from. Back to Kyviskes then as at least there weren't poles here. Sadly this electrification will make photographing Lithuanian M62's away from the wires far more difficult- and presumably will result in new traction coming to replace them as well. Two more 2M62's were seen on the 'avoiding' line before we began the drive up to Daugavpils. Lithuania is definitely a country I will be coming back to- hopefully in some sunshine, and hopefully before this electrification takes hold!
A smart DR1AM unit is passed at Dukstas heading to Vilnius.
The drive to Daugavpils is around 2 1/2 hours on reasonably good roads. We stopped at a couple of stations to see if anything was around, and it wasn't- though we did luckily manage to intercept one of the smart Lithuania DR1 diesel units at Dukstas. In the process of photographing it I managed to nicely clonk my leg on a pile of sleepers- but I got the shot. These trains work as far as the Lithuanian side of the border with Latvia at Visaginas but since the international train was withdrawn it is now sadly not possible to travel between Lithuania and Latvia- hence our adventure in the Corsa. We hit the Latvian border around dusk and went straight across, all border formalities having ceased when the countries joined the EU. The quality of the road however was remarkably different. No sooner were we over the border than our progress was haulted by temporary traffic lights. Many miles of roadworks like we had never seen before awaited us- the road is being re-built and this means diversions onto what can only be described as treacherous dirt tracks around the main road, or should I say the hole that was left of it!? I guess this would explain why the Sat-Nav reckoned that our last 20km would take around an hour! We arrived at the Guesthouse Alexander (right across from the station in Daugavpils) and on previous advice headed straight out to dinner. The lady at the guesthouse suggested trying the 'Tex Mex' place in town- which sounded great- but turned out to be a rather peculiar place within a bowling alley with apparently no staff to seat us. Time for a re-think. There isn't a lot in Daugavpils but unlike some previous reports there definitely IS food available. We ended up in a Russian restaurant on the main street. The food was all slightly undercooked and the menu all in Russian- however the staff did do their best to explain what some of the dishes were and we go by. I felt like being adventurous and ordered a drink which I had never heard of. The waitress gave me a funny look and suggested I ordered something else- naturally I ordered it anyway and must say that it was revolting. Some sort of yoghurt type thing. Maybe I'm best sticking to the Kvass in this part of the world!
TEP70-0250 at Daugavpils with the overnight sleeper to Saint Petersburg.

We finished dinner just in time to head back to the station to see the departure of the international trains. The Riga to Minsk leaves behind a Belarusian TEP70Bs just before 22:00, while some 45 minutes later the Riga to St Petersburg departs in the opposite direction.
DR1A-2463 awaits the first morning service from Daugavpils
Forget the modern TEP70BS's that we had become used to- this train had the real deal- a beautifully turned out Latvian TEP70-250. Instantly all our interest in the TEP70BS's disappeared and we spend a happy 30 minutes photographing this beast of a loco with lights illuminating its underframe and backlit number panels. The Russian coaches were complete with coal burning Samovars and when the train eventually left it was with the cloud of thick black TEP70 clag. Fantastic.

Day 4-
2TE10Y-0221 makes an imposing site heading south on the line from Krustpils to Daugavpils

The next day, to our huge relief, dawned with some breaks in the cloud.. Finally maybe we would get some sunny photos of these soviet monsters. Breakfast was provided from a supermarket and we then headed in the car out along the line towards Krustpils with hopes high- as we drove the light only improved. The line parallels the road here and we found a location for our first train without too much trouble. It didn't take too long to arrive either. Finally- A nice sunny photo, and our first monstrous 2TE10.

2TE10M-3421 passes a small crossing heading north
We headed further up the line for our next shot, by a crossing at the exit of a loop. A former crossing keepers house here provided some extra interest, and quite to our surprise Ada and her husband who lived within were no grief at all while we lingered outside their house. There were lots of photographic opportunities here and soon enough a 2TE10 headed northbound. That however, was it. In the next couple of hours nothing appeared. In either direction. Ada came out and offered us some apples from her tree (which were very nice actually) and we decided there was no option but to call time on this location.
A 'Skinest Rail' 2TE116 passes over the river bridge in Livani
2TE116-559 picks up the last of the days sunlight

We headed north, beyond Krustpils to Plavinas and drove around for some time trying to find locations to little avail. We eventually found access to the yard near Plavinas and turned up just in time for a rushed shot of a 2TE10. It wasn't an ideal location however so we headed back down the line to try the line from Krustpils to Jelgava. We set up near the junction and were rewarded, before too long, by a 2TE116 heading south. We could see the main line from Riga here as well and at about the same time a 2M62 was seen heading the same way. Time to give chase. We raced the car down to Livani for a shot of the trains crossing the river bridge here. It was a cracking shot but it turned out we'd have a while to wait for the southbound trains with a precession of northbound trains instead getting across the bridge first. The lull in traffic on the line that we had seen earlier had clearly passed. The first train was a northbound blue Skinest Rail 2TE116, which was followed by a 2M62 in the same direction.

2M62-0962 between Krustpils and Daugavpils
After this we finally got our first southbound train, before another blue 2TE116 appeared. The light was perfect by this point for the northbound train so we gave chase to the blue loco, arriving at a location at the other side of 'Ada's loop' where we had spent so long earlier. The chase was worthwhile with a nice full sun shot. There were plenty of other trains still in the area however, including that Southbound 2M62. We chased that twice with some satisfactory shots. The line had truly woken up now with trains following one behind the other. The final train we managed in reasonable light was a light engine dark red 2TE116- so that was all the liveries we hoped for seen. Eventually we were beaten by the light and headed back to Daugavpils the evening having made up for the midday disappointment.
Dinner was in the same Russian restaurant which was again finished in time to view the departure of the TEP70 to St Petersburg. I stuck to a more traditional coke in the restaurant this time!
Having given chase 2TE116-933 is captured in near perfect lighting north of Livani

Day 5-
Another disappointingly cloudy dawn. We didn't jump in the car straight away but instead planned to see what opportunities were on offer in Daugavpils itself as well as checking out the interesting tram network. We headed walked around some of the yard areas and came to end up at the main crossing point coming out of one set of yards where trains are dispatched either to Belarus or other destinations within Latvia or Lithuania.
2M62-0720 makes a smokey departure from the yard at Daugavpils
New trams in Daugavpils
The location was very busy and had plenty of photographic opportunities. Plenty of warning was given too as the sirens for the street crossing would sound before any train movements. Locos also shunt out here beyond the yard while they move from the loco depot onto their next train. For the first time on the trip we also got to see a 'real' ChME3 at work which was of course much more fun than its rebuilt friends.

Some older 'Russian' trams are still running in Daugavpils

Next up was a little exploration of the tram network. Recently a new fleet of plastic trams have taken over many duties, but there are still single car Russian trams which work over many of the routes, interestingly still running with trolley poles. There are 3 lines in Daugavpils, all of which run together for a short stretch north of the station. A stop named 'Locomotiva Depo' had caught our attention so we took a ride out on line 2 to check it out. As hoped, one of the Russian trams produced and tickets were purchased on board from Ada. I think the fare was 43 euro cents... There was certainly plenty of change from a 1 euro coin!
These M62's on Daugavpils depot have seen better days!
Locomotiva Depo turned out to be just as we expected- the loco depot. Gingerly we wandered in because that is what you do in these countries- after all there were no signs saying not to. The sun had finally broken through this time and we were rewarded with several lines of M62's and 2TE10's. After a little while, and by which time I had most of the required photos, progress was stopped. My friend had been accosted by a large security man and was being led by the tripod towards the office block. Oh dear- not looking so good! While the chaps baton remained firmly by his side it was abundantly clear that he didn't want us on the depot and we were marched into what appeared to be the depot reception.

This is the loco that it is permitted to photograph!
Phone calls were made. The letter permitting us to take photos of Latvian Railways was examined, and then another security guard came to join the party. I don't think any of us were surprised by this point to learn that photography on their depot was not permitted (though nobody mentioned the fact we were there as being a problem). Fortunately the second security man was much more friendly than the first and spoke some English. He seemed to understand what we had been doing and seemed genuinely apologetic but explained that 'this is not permitted- I do not know why'. We were shown the exit and pointed in the direction of the severed front of TE3-010 and told we could photograph that. Of course we did as we were told. My friend remembered at this point being told that Latvian loco depots were a 'no no'- ah well... you live and learn. Plus we got the pictures.

Belasussian 2TE10Y-0065 departs Daugavpils for Belarus
This excitement done with it was most definitely lunch time. I couldn't face another salami and cheese sandwich so we headed into Hesburger- Daugavpils version of McDonalds (which is a Finnish I believe)- a good lunch down it was back to the trusty Corsa for a trip out on the line towards Belarus. Again on this line the road parallels the railway for much of the route so we simply drove around looking for spots. It didn't take long to find one and it didn't take long for a Belarusian 2TE10 to turn up either. These locos seem to be just a little bit more beastly than the Latvian examples and we really liked them. The single track line here proved to be very busy as well with 4 freight seen in little over an hour and a half. We also found time to get the car stuck in some mud and I as the driver was most relieved when we managed to get it out! I don't think standing by the main road giving passing tractors a thumbs up would have been fun for very long!
2TE10MK-3606 descends towards Daugavpils on the line from Belarus.
It was now time to say goodbye to the car, though a quick look at the state of it let us know that it would be a good idea to take it for a clean wash first. I had called up Sixt to arrange the drop off already and was now aware that the car would simply be left in a hotel car park for them to collect the next day. Not idea. What was even less ideal is when we turned up at the hotel to drop of the keys to hear the receptionist respond with 'And?' before informing us that they have nothing to do with car hire and we could not leave the keys! As we had a train to catch at 06:14 the following morning this was far from ideal! Sixt were fortunately able to arrange for us to leave the keys at our guesthouse... but it really wasn't the service I was hoping for.
One last night eating in Daugavpils and we needed a change from the Russian restaurant. We thought about giving 'Tex Mex' another go but frankly couldn't face it. Fortunately we found somewhere on the corner of the main square which actually served very nice food (though the portions were a little small)- If only we had found that on day one. Being our last night in Daugavpils we felt we did need to try a bar also- after all this is the second biggest city in Latvia. We settled on the slightly Mexican looking place on the main street and were pleasantly surprised. Apart from the place being totally empty it was actually very nice- and the Vanilla Vodka went down an absolute treat. We still left in time to see the evening TEP70 departure for St Petersburg as well.

Day 6-
2TE10Y-0223 rounds the corner from the Rezkene line into Krustpils

TEP70-0230's smoke contrasts the surrounding gloomy fog
We were glad of our accommodations location right opposite the station as the pre 6am start certainly did seem early! It was finally time to move on, and this time by train. The journey from Krustpils to Daugavpils is only around an hour and we had booked our seats the night before. The cost was around 8 euros. The ticket lady had tried her absolute hardest to book us on a different train, as it turned out the unit which left 10 minutes ahead of us was half the price. I don't think she would have understood that the extra 4 euros was well worth it for TEP70-0230 which was at the head of the train. We took our seats in the front 'Platskart' coach and most of us tried not to make too much noise as much of the train was still sleeping. The weather didn't seem to be great again and after we left Daugavpils became increasingly foggy- The forecast however was reasonable. Hopefully it would lift. It was still before 8am on arrival in Krustpils and the fog had most certainly not lifted. We watched the loco leave with a satisfying cloud of black smoke and started out for our hotel- we weren't sure of bus information so we decided we might as well walk it as at there was nothing else to do in this weather.
ChME3-4327 is employed on trip workings from Krustpils
We had been warned that Krustpils was the most remote of the locations we would be staying, and while the warning that there was 'only one hotel' proved to be incorrect, there certainly weren't many. We had settled on 'Citrus' hotel because it seemed to be the closest to the station- that said it was still a 30 minute walk- not ideal with cases, even less so when the pavement, then tarmac disappear! One broken wheel later and we arrived at the Hotel, which looked like a warehouse. Clearly it wasn't busy and we were able to go straight up to room number 1 (one questions... were there ANY other guests here?). We would definitely not be repeating the walk the following morning when we would take the train to Riga so I tried to arrange a taxi with Ada on the front desk. Unfortunately while she understood both the words 'taxi' and 'railway station' she couldn't quite work out the two together. Something to try later, along with the pool and spa that were at this hotel. Temptation to go back to sleep aside, it was time to explore town and look for some provisions- It was still far too foggy to be out with our cameras. We found a 'Super Netto' down the road and that would suffice for Breakfast. The walk from the hotel through the town was a little longer than the road we had taken from the station, but with fog still in the air and a requirement to find somewhere for dinner we gave it a go. There is nothing in Krustpils. Fortunately we stumbled across a 'tourist map' of the town (and nearby Jekobpils, across the river). While the 'landmark stone' and a reinforced concrete bridge constructed during the 30's didn't really do a lot for us- there was usefully a list of restaurants- with pictures. Finding a reasonable looking pizzeria in Jekobpils would be invaluable for later. Exploring done it was time to head back to the station. Freight trains seemed to be frequent but without being able to see them the whole activity was somewhat futile. Time to go for a ride on a DMU maybe? No- Ada wouldn't sell us a ticket and informed us that there wasn't a train until after 18:00. Excellent- all the midday trains were cancelled then. Another hour or so in the gloom and I was getting a bit fed up with the situation. Not fancying salami and cheese for lunch again it was time to search for food- there wasn't a lot else to do. Usefully Krustpils has a station buffet- and it was open. The choice though didn't look particularly appetising and the one elderly customer didn't seem to be the best advert. What made the whole thing worse was the diabolical choice of what appeared to be Latvian dance music. By the time we got to the chorus a blast of 'Hello sexy time' had really made up our minds- it *was* worth walking to Hesburger at the petrol station on the bypass!
2M62-0924 awaits the road out of Krustpils yard.
Something strange happened in Hesburger while we used their free WiFi- the sky cleared. Things were looking up! Back at the station ChME3-4327 was seen shunting (our first 'real' one of the trip) and several freights passed through the station. Something was odd though- nothing was taking the 'main line' to Daugavpils, but instead every single train took the curve to Rezkene. Being by the level crossing this didn't matter hugely- but did mean that we couldn't get any of the usual pictures that everybody else has from Krustpils. Clearly there was some work going on the line- which may also have explained the cancellation of the DMU's. Irritatingly the now largely sunny day just did not want to cooperate with the trains. You know the situation... train arrives in the yard in full sun, waits there for half an hour in full sun, starts to head off in cloud, passes the camera in cloud, then another train passes in cloud, then the sun comes back out. It happened too many times. Krustpils is a great place with plenty of locations but I'd be lying if I said I felt satisfied with the day- between the fog, line closure and the sun not playing ball I feel I have unfinished business here.
2TE116-928 rounds the corner onto the Rezkene line
We stayed in location until the light was well fading, but just in time to get a fairly rare single M62-1227 on an engineering train. We headed back to the hotel, tried to persuade Ada to book a taxi to the station, then out for pizza which was surprisingly good (just across the river in Jekobpils, attached to a hypermarket and open until 22:00) before heading back to relax in the pool and spa. Ignoring the fact that at 9euros each the pool probably cost almost as much as our room, it was a great place to unwind after a somewhat stressful day on the rails. I think we may have used the ladies changing rooms though- Maybe Ada sent us that way as we were the only people in the place and it was easier than pointing to another door!?
A final treat in what was now rapidly fading light- M62-1227 approaches Krustpils with an engineers train

Day 7-
TEP70-0234 was our locomotive into Riga
10 minutes later than booked, three shivering tourists were relieved when a taxi turned up in the car park of the deserted Citrus hotel! My suitcase wheel has been superglued back on but I doubt it would have survived the walk to the station again. Light was better this morning and we enjoyed almost 30 minutes photographing a line up of diesels in the yard as the day dawned and TEP70-0234 arrived to finally take us to Riga.
Riga station is ugly and there is no reason to spend any time there. We waited for the sleeper to leave, the TEP70 propelling the stock out of the station- The train is terribly backlit at this time of day- in fact photographing a TEP70 without it being backlit is fairly difficult in Latvia full stop.
DMU DR1A-2913 has arrived at Riga from Valga

We checked in at out Hotel, the slightly fancier [than we had been used to] Garden Palace Hotel. It was a joy to be back in a city which had shops... restaurants... people! Oh- and some nice Tatra trams as well (both T3's and TK4's). Our stay in the city was brief- time for a quick look around and to pop into the Sixt office to hand in the car certificate (which in all the confusion in Daugavpils had remained in my coat pocket!). As it was a gorgeous day it was then high time to head out on the train for some photos. We knew the line towards Krustpils should be busy and we had scouted out some locations on the train up in the morning.
2TE116-662 passes through the yard at Ogre- The wide catenerary poles make photography a little easier here.
We therefore went to the ticket counter and bought our tickets to the delightfully named 'Ogre', for around 3 euro return and boarded the RVR EMU that would take us there in 45 minutes. One of our group bailed out at Salsapils (and also came back with some good photos) leaving just two of us at

Riga still uses many 'Tatra' manufactured trams.
Ogre where there was a pleasing gap in catenary masts and a river bridge to give us some photographic options. There were less options for lunch than we had hoped- but a small cafe next to the station did the job and we popped in at least twice! The quantity of freight trains was not what it had been the day before at Krustpils, but the weather was great and with the exception of a few reasonably long gaps the trains did keep coming- we also had the addition of passenger trains here, EP2 EMU's running down the line to Aiskraukles and DR1 DMU's heading beyond onto unelectrified lines. Seven freight trains were seen in around 4 hours, the highlight of which was another single M62-1151. The remaining trains were a mix of 2M62, 2TE10 and 2TE116.

ER2-800407 heads towards Riga through Ogre
 One of the highlights should have been the passing of the Riga - St Petersburg train, however by the time it passed around 18:00 huge shadows meant the shot really wasn't what we were after. This really was the end of the day's light so we retreated to a supermarket (which was playing some quite frankly awful western re-makes) before taking a DR1 back to Riga. It was nice to have some options for dinner for a change, though I'm not convinced we picked the best one- a rather expensive steak house. It was open, we were tired and we were hungry.

An unidentified 2M62 gleams in the last of the days light as it approaches Ogre with a northbound freight.

Day 8-
2TE116-928 makes it's way through the yards in Riga.
The final day was a little more of a relaxed affair and probably needed to be. A leisurely breakfast was taken, which would have been the best of the trip were it not for the fact that all of the 'hot' food was not. We were staying close to the river so headed here for some photos of passenger trains. The light was great again and we got lucky- 2M62-0010 appeared right on que with a freight. Brilliant. Next up was a visit to the depot at Daugmale- We were not going to repeat the Daugavpils exploits again, and did not need to as there is a footbridge which crosses over the depot. Several TEP70's were on the fuelling point and various other locos were positioned in the area. As well as this there is entertainment in the form of hump shunting in the marshalling yard. There is also a large yard near to the station which was bustling with trains- 5 passing in the space of 90 minutes- this is in addition to light engine movements.
2M62-1185 makes one of mny available moves within the depot complex
TE3-7294 takes pride of place in the Vilnius railway museum

The next stop was the railway museum- the highlight being TEP60-1206 which was very badly positioned for a sunny photograph. TE3-7593 was however slightly better positioned. We had a play on a Tatra T3 back from the museum, then a 30 minute 'sightseeing' walk. That was it- time to head to the airport and the Baltic adventure was over. Almost over at least- there was the small issues of the small bottle of the Latvian tipple 'Black Balsam' which was purchased at the airport. After the evening Wizz flight (which was again uneventful- and with the new issue of the Wizz magazine!) this wasn't tackled until the train home back in the UK. If anyone else has tried it I'm sure you will entirely appreciate how much it was enjoyed!

Looking into the LDZ depot at Daugmale
On the whole a fantastic trip. There were a few days that didn't go quite as well as they might have done, but overall some great photos and I just don't get bored of the massive soviet double locos which are quite unlike anything one can see in the UK. Freight levels were perhaps a little lower than we expected, but by the standards or many other countries I have visited I would still describe them as 'busy' with many lines having a freight on average at least every 30 minutes. It was disappointing not to see a TEM2 in action, and the electrification scheme together with the eventual completion of the 'Rail Baltica' project must surely put a time limit on trips such as this. It is worth noting that since completion of this trip it has been announced that the Riga - St Petersburg train will no longer call at Daugavpils, taking an alternative and quicker route (presumably Krustpils to Rezkene). I shall definitely be back in the Baltic's- it's too good not to return!
Thanks are due to James Hawkes and Rhys Jennings for the company and to all those who have advised on the trip either directly or indirectly. Thanks also to the 'bloggers' who's post provided much inspiration (

A final treat for the day- M62 1151 hauls a short freight through Ogre.