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.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Comment: Where next for the 'Wessex Electric'?

Back on 2nd July 2006 'Wessex' unit 2422 'Operation Overlord' is leading a 10 car SWT service to Waterloo through Hersham. 
The days of class 442's working the premium 'Gatwich Express' service is now drawing to a close with news that the first class 387, which will take over from the class, is now in testing and due for delivery before the end of the year. Of course the class was never built for this work, which it is most unsuitable for. The 24 'Wessex Electrics' spent the first 19 years of their lives working services from Waterloo to Weymouth before being replaced by the newer class 444 'desiro' units. Once retired from Gatwick Express use there will be 24 five coach Mk3 build third rail intercity EMU's up for grabs. They will be a few years shy of their 30th birthday- but what could be next for these units, once described as the most comfortable in all of South East England?

442402 passes non-stop through Clapham Junction with a
Gatwick Airport to Victoria service in August 2012.
Further use in the South East on the 3rd rail system would be the obvious option- but there is scarcely any demand for these 'intercity' spec EMU's. Just looking at the recent order books of the London commuter TOC's reveals that the 442 just isn't the type of train being ordered today. Orders instead are for high capacity people movers such as the new class 700 for Thameslink and high capacity class 387's for Southern. Could there be any chance that the 442's may revert to the one line that might still be suitable for them- their old stomping ground from Waterloo to Weymouth? This is a possibility that cannot be totally ruled out but the author feels it very unlikely. The more modern class 444's are now well settled on this route and provide a slight increase in capacity over the 442's- further more displacing the 444's back to the Portsmouth Line where they started life would create a dramatic cut in capacity over 12 car class 450 trains which work many busy commuter services on this line (despite the complaints of some Portsmouth Line commuters!). The extra units could surely be used in the South West, but interoperability issues would also be an issue. Currently most Weymouth services split or divide at Bournemouth. Throwing class 442's into the mix with the newer class 444's would need a new look at the timetable to keep the fleets seperate. The only way I could see 442's having a place back on Weymouth trains would be if the power was finally upgraded to allow 10 car operation to Weymouth- at which point splits at Bournemouth could be removed and 10 car trains could run all the way through to Poole and Weymouth. Right now this seems unlikely.

Maybe new innovative 'growth' services could utilise the 442's? The Swanage railway will shortly be re-connecting with the national network at Wareham. The line has ambitions to once again connect the south coast town of Swanage with the mainline rail network- could a number of 442's be used to connect Swanage with destinations further afield? The heritage railway has several class 33's which can haul the 442 units when off the 3rd rail with the trains continuing on electric power beyond Wareham. A London to Swanage service would surely be the icing on the cake for the town and re-establish a through service which has not regularly run since 1969! Other options avoiding London could also be explored- maybe a train from Brighton to Swanage right along the South Coast?
Could the future use of class 442's be as hauled stock? On June 26th 2008 66547 hauls 2402 and 2010 through Wandsworth Town
while working a stock transfer from Eastleigh where the units had been in store.
Looking further afield it seems the most likely new home for the 442's could be well away from the 'juice' where they have spent all their lives. The North of England is suffering from an acute shortage of DMU's and new orders are thin on the ground as eventual electrification is the preferred option to upgrade lines and replace stock. One network where the capacity crunch is being particularly felt is Transpennine. Currently services are in the hands of class 185 DMU's running largely as single 3 car sets. These are routes where a 5 coach intercity unit would be ideal- especially if it was at relatively low cost. Could this be the perfect place for the class 442's to operate as hauled stock? The 5 car Mk3 build units are at least as comfortable as the class 185's and would allow strengthening of many Transpennine services with a huge increase in capacity. Sadly it would not be class 33's hauling the 442's but most likely a modern locomotive- class 67 or 68 would seem to be most preferable. With the 30, 1999 build class 67's seeking work this could surely be the perfect coupling of spare resources to meet a capacity need. As another advantage this option would render much of the electrical traction equipment- recycled from 4REP units dating back as far as 1966- obsolete.

With the 442's becoming spare over the next year only time will tell what fate befalls them next. I cannot help but feel these units are just too good to be scrapped yet- and after all this is the rail industry- one surprise seems to be just round the corner from the last!

Friday, 9 October 2015

A Baltic Adventure

It has been a little quiet on the posting front for the last week or so. The reason, as often seems to be the case was another escape from the country to chase down some trains. The destination this time was the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia with their appealing, and huge ex-USSR, double diesel engines hauling long Russian broad gauge freight trains. A full trip report will follow but here is a small taster of some of the delights of this trip.
TEP70 005 pulls away from Kaisiadorys with a train from Vilnius to Klapedia in Lithuania. 01/10/2015

2M62 0924 departs from Krustpils in Latvia with a train taking the line towards Rezekne. 05/10/2015

A line up of double locos at Krustpils- 2TE10Y-0190, 2TE116-184 and 2TE116-1259. 06/10/2015

On the outskirts of Riga is the main depot of Latvian Railways. Passing through the adjacent yard is 2TE116-1259 07/10/2015