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.|
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.|
|2M62M-1162 at Vilnius- sadly our only sunny Lithuanian M62|
|2M62M-0949 heads southbound through Kaisiadorys|
|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|
|Stored TEM2's outside Vilinius depot|
|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.|
|TEP70-0250 at Daugavpils with the overnight sleeper to Saint Petersburg.|
|DR1A-2463 awaits the first morning service from Daugavpils|
|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|
|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|
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|
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|
|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!|
|This is the loco that it is permitted to photograph!|
|Belasussian 2TE10Y-0065 departs Daugavpils for Belarus|
|2TE10MK-3606 descends towards Daugavpils on the line from Belarus.|
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.
|2TE10Y-0223 rounds the corner from the Rezkene line into Krustpils|
|TEP70-0230's smoke contrasts the surrounding gloomy fog|
|ChME3-4327 is employed on trip workings from Krustpils|
|2M62-0924 awaits the road out of Krustpils yard.|
|2TE116-928 rounds the corner onto the Rezkene line|
|A final treat in what was now rapidly fading light- M62-1227 approaches Krustpils with an engineers train|
|TEP70-0234 was our locomotive into 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.|
|Riga still uses many 'Tatra' manufactured trams.|
|ER2-800407 heads towards Riga through Ogre|
|An unidentified 2M62 gleams in the last of the days light as it approaches Ogre with a northbound freight.|
|2TE116-928 makes it's way through the yards in Riga.|
|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|
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 (http://blog.railwaymedia.co.uk/2014/06/57-lincolnshire-then-lots-of-large.html)
|A final treat for the day- M62 1151 hauls a short freight through Ogre.|