Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Introducing the class 73/9

On a dull 20th February 2016 73968 prepares to leave Oban returning the empty sleeper stock to Polmadie depot. This was
 the second weekend which had seen class 73/9's (and the Caledonian Sleeper) reach the town following the
classes passenger debut the previous week- which by all accounts was in far better weather conditions!





















First appearing in 1962 the Southern Region's class 73 have become known as a reliable workhorse on the 3rd rail electric systems of South-East England. The locomotives run well on the electric current and their supplementary diesel engines have proved versatile, taking them off the juice on many occasions, but rarely far from their home territory. In the early to mid 2000's as the class lost their passenger work on the Gatwick Express and had all but been consigned to history on freight workings it appeared that the class 73 was reaching the natural end of it's life. GBRf then took on four locomotives for infrastructure work and have grown their fleet ever since, the versatility and reliability of the electro-diesels once again proving itself.

On 18th March 2015 GB Railfreight liveried 73963 'Janice' is pictured at
Clapham Junction on a deliver run from Loughbrough to Tonbridge. 
In 2013 something unexpected was announced; the class 73 was going to receive a major life-extension. A complete re-build with a new engine and traction package would give this ageing workhorse a new lease of life. The first locomotives to begin their re-build, by RVEL at Derby and fitted with Cummins engines will shortly begin working for Network Rail, however the larger and more 'standard' class 73/9 design is undoubtedly the MTU engined version which has been re-built by Brush at Loughbrough. A fleet of more than 10 locomotives will be outshopped from Loughbrough split between infrastructure operations in the South-East of England and in a surprising move, operating the diesel portions of the Caledonian Sleeper train in Scotland. Far from their original area of operation the upgraded 1600hp class 73's will be able to meet the haulage capacities required of them on the routes from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William while also providing train supply to Serco's new fleet of CAF built 'Mk5' sleeper coaches from 2018.

73967 prepares to work the 04:50 Edinburgh - Oban diverted Caledonian
Sleeper service on February 20th 2016.
The first passenger working north of the border was on Saturday 13th February when 73967 worked the 04:50 Edinburgh - Oban portion of the Highland Sleeper with 73968 dead on the rear for the return trip. The train itself was diverted to Oban as engineering works were blocking the line to Fort William, the 73/9's route availability of 5 making the diversion possible as heavier locomotives are banned on this line. While the locomotives look, and most certainly sound, different they do still retain much of their 'class 73' character with all locomotives retaining their option of electrical working from the 3rd rail and with the Southern based locos also retaining their 27-way multi-working cables (though re-positioned to allow the provision of new lighting clusters). GBRf have signed a 10 year deal with Network Rail to use the locomotives in Southern England and following the significant investment it is likely that the re-built class 73/9's will now be with us for a significant time to come.





Monday, 22 February 2016

OBB Austria 4th-7th February 2016 Vienna and Semmering

RailJet Sandwich. 1216-234 is sandwiched between two RailJet sets. I took this train to Wien Hauptbahnhof from the airport.
Upon arrival the RailJet set atattched to another for the onward journey.

A short trip to Austria because I could and because I had not visited properly before. Having worked now for a year on the railways it was also time to celebrate the arrival of my first set of FIP coupons. The aim was not necesarilly to score lots and lots of locos in Vienna but to have a few good runs on the Austrian network and hopefully come home with a few decent photos as well.

Thursday 4th February-
One of the main purposes of the trip was to catch up with some of OBB's fairly elderly class 1142's. Here 1142-661 is seen at Wagram-Grafenegg with the 15:04 from Wien Franz Josefs Bahnhof to Krems an der Donau.
1063-029 shunts in the station at Krems an der Donau.
It was an early start for the first train to Gatwick- My EasyJet flight at 08:20 potentially cut it slightly fine but was made with ease- I was even able to enjoy a Gatwick 442 from Clapham Junction to East Croydon (perversely it didn't stop at the airport!). In another first for me I went for a big carry-on bag (as I got a suitable one for Christmas) and this turned out not to be too much faf on the plane and did ensure I was out of the airport at Vienna with the minimum of fuss.
On arrival at Vienna you are very much pointed in the direction of the CAT (city airport train) to reach the centre of town, but at 13 euros single (and no FIB discount) I elected to take an equally comfortable RailJet with 1116 234 to Vienna Hauptbahnhof for an S-Bahn on to Mitte, which was near where I was staying. Had I not been bothered about traveling in comfort an S-Bahn would also have done the trip for 2.20 euro (or on FIP). Passing a large yard en-route to the city I passed the only old liveried orange loco I would see for the whole trip- a class 1142.
Having dropped my bags off it was off to search for some 1142's which was the primary purpose of the trip. The line with the largest concentration of workings in the Vienna area was that to Krems an der Donau so I set off to Franz Josefs Bahnhof for the 14:05 to Krems. The station can hardly be described as nice, and certainly not photogenic! It did however provide me with some lunch and then the somewhat unexpected sight of MAV 370006 sitting on some OBB double deck stock.
2016-030 at Krems an der Donau with the 16:23 to St Polten.
Shortly before departure time 1142 624 rolled in with the 14:05 to Krems which I took as far as Wagram-Grafenegg as this looked like a reasonable place to get a photo and drop back to the next train. The following train into Vienna produced 1144-059 vice a 1142 and as I didn't run fast enough back to the station from my photo spot I missed it- 50 minutes to explore this tiny village then before the next 1142 to Krems! Fortunately this all worked well as the sun re-appeared just in time for a nice picture of 1142-611 arriving- and I managed to get on the train this time for the short run to Krems. It was a quick connection, but with just enough time to photograph a railcar and 1063-029 shunting before I boarded 2016-030 on the 16:23 to St Polten. Shortly after leaving Krems diesel 2143-037 was seen on shed. I wasn't aware that these locos were still in use with OBB but it certainly looked serviceable and I also saw another example later in the week parked in the Vienna area. I'm a big fan of OBB intercity loco hauled trains, and it was one of these with 1116-093 which took me on from St Polten to Linz for dinner and a few 1142 night shots.
1142-658 at Linz Hauptbahnhof.
I had a great dinner in a cafe in Linz, where the very astute waiter weirdly wished me a pleasant stay in Austria but also warned me to 'be careful- Austria is famous for it's sausage' (not quite sure what to make of that!!!). By the time I was back at Linz Hauptbahnhof for a RailJet back to my Vienna hotel it was starting to get a bit late. CD 380015 arrived shortly after I did into Vienna Hauptbhanhof with the overnight to Prague/Warsaw- it's really difficult to take photos under those LED lights!






Friday 5th February-
The famous 'Twenty Schilling' view over the Semmering pass. A pair of OBB 1144 locos can be seen with a freight train.
I hadn't really had many thoughts on where I was going to go around Vienna photographically in advance of the trip, and it was only a few days before flying that I started looking into locations. The Semmering pass shone out as being both close to Vienna and an area with spectacular scenery, as well as being busy for both passenger and freight trains. The only problem was the fairly infrequent local train service.
My smart Czeck RailJet train at Wiener Neustadt. The weather
was not looking great for a day of photography in the mountains!
After breakfast it was off to Wien Mitte to take 1144-125 the short hop to Miedling. I had woken to see some sunshine in the sky, but by the time of arrival at Miedling this was very much rain, which shortly turned to sleet. Conditions were far from ideal for photography but at least I had a small glimmer of hope that there may be some snow up in the mountains. 1216-236 was my next train with a Czeck RailJet (no wifi on these ones at the moment) to Wiener Neustadt Hbf, here I picked up a suburban train again (which I could have taken all the way on a slower journey) with 1144-106. As we started to climb into the mountains a thin layer of snow started to appear on the ground and by the time of reaching Payerbach-Reichnenua, to change onto a Talent EMU, it was clear that there would definitely be snow over Semmering. I got off the train at Breitenstien and immediately regretted my lack of planning. I hadn't seen any particularly viable photo location up to this point (or passed any freight trains) and I didn't really know where to go looking. I probably wasted an hour aimlessly wandering trying to find somewhere to shoot the trains (and throwing the occasional snowball at trees), before I headed off on a somewhat blind walk down towards the Katle-Rinne viaduct. This didn't turn out to be too far to walk (30 mins tops) and after a scramble up the mountainside I found myself level with the viaduct. What's more some freight trains started to appear and the sun even made an appearance for a few of them!
1142-664 leads 1144-065 across the Katle-Rinne Viaduct in a patch of sunshine.

I spent a good hour or so here and saw around 7 trains by which time I really felt cold. Having clambered back down the mountain I was pleased to find a path up to the Krauselklause Viaduct where I spent another hour and a half. Traffic initially had dropped off somewhat, but picked up again before I left with a total of 12 trains in this time.
2016-006 crosses the Viaduct with some sort of test/special
coach. These locos may not be particularly noisy but it could
certainly be heard making it's way up the Semmering pass!
There wasn't another train at Breitenstein for a little while, and having realised that the RailJets stopped at Semmering I decided to commence the scenic walk there. Signposts said this was around 2:35 hours and I reckoned I could do it quicker than that, the map didn't seem to show it as much further than I had walked already. I was prepared to ignore the fact that I had found nowhere for lunch and a had just a bar of chocolate and some lemon cake left from my emergency rations from the Spar in Vienna. The walk was spectacular- especially with several inches of snow on the ground and I barely saw another soul as I went. It quickly became apparent however that the walk was going to take that full 2 1/2 hours, especially if I stopped occasionally when I found a nice view of the railway to wait for a train. Some two hours into the walk, from high up in the mountains you reach the '20 schilling' viewpoint looking right across the Semmering valley. It is a spectacular view an I clearly had to wait for a few trains here, despite becoming increasingly concerned that it would be dark before I reached Semmering! Eventually the path began to descend and I saw a welcome 'OBB' sign. This however wasn't Semmering, it was the infrequently served station before, Wolfsburgkogel, and it was definitely getting dark. Fortuitously I found a timetable and there was a train in 15 minutes- that'll save the final 30 minute walk to Semmering I thought. Sadly not. I was using UK time on my camera so of course the train had been and gone! It was definitely getting dark now and there was just enough light to get me through to Semmering, where I then had a 45 minute wait for a RailJet back to Vienna. The walk had taken me just short of 3 hours with some photo stops- but was well worth doing.
The plan was to have traveled over the entire Semmering route to finish the day, but given it was dark, I had still not had lunch, and that it required a tight connection to get the last train back to Vienna I did the sensible thing and went straight back by RailJet, OBB liveried 1216-210 being provided on another Czech set. I headed to the restaurant car for some slightly disappointing sausage with ketchup and mustard- I had decided that the full meals were a bit on the pricey side unless you happened to be eating during 'happy hour'.
An unidentified class 1144 banks a steel train on the
'Fleischmann Bruck' viaduct.
Back in Vienna I waited for a Regional train back to Mitte, which produced 1144-125, just as the day had begun. It was then off to a very nice restaurant near the guesthouse for some well-earned Vienna Schnitzel.
Passenger traffic over the Semmering route was almost exclusively RailJets (both CD and OBB examples), though I did see one northbound IC and the Talent unit which was providing the local service.
Freight traffic was more varied with a mix of Taurus, 1142 and 1144 locos in use in various combinations, usually double headed, 1144's probably being the most common traction. Loco movements were common and a very small handful of trains also had banking locos on the rear.



Saturday 6th February-
One of the older style trams on the Vienna 'inner loop'.
A morning for some finishing off before heading back to the airport.
I went off to explore Vienna on the trams- finding the nice 'old' style trains quite hard to come by. I completed most of the inner city 'loop' and then headed off on a route '1' tram down towards Wien Miedling, because it was an old one and I wanted a ride on it. 1116-165 took me back to Mitte for a quick dash round the city centre with my camera and a hunt to find some chocolate, having missed a photograph with orange and cream liveried 1144-117 at Wien Miedling. I had to settle for an EMU for my final journey to Hauptbahnhof (they are at least loud with opening windows) before taking my final Austrian train, an IC behind 1116-226 where I enjoyed a compartment to myself for the run to Flughaven. On the flight home I got luck in having a seat on possibly the only row of 3 in the whole plane which didn't have a middle occupant. Even better the young lady sitting in the other seat was one of the rare variety that actually spoke so we had a nice chat about Vienna and London.
1144-074 and 1116-254 lead a long PKP coal train across the Krauselklause Viaduct. On the rear of the train were two further banking locomotives 1144-258 and 1144-290. 
Conclusions- 
An excellent trip but obviously too short. I would like to spend some more time in Austria when not limited quite so much by the short days. Having said that seeing some snow up in the Semmering pass was fantastic and I would definitely like to re-visit this line again. There is plenty of loco-hauled action in this country and while I didn't see a lot away from Semmering must be a fair quantity of freight traffic also.
1144-087 leads 1116 -088 through the snow with an attractive front load over the Katle-Rinne Viaduct.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Riding the Glasgow Subway

The London Underground is famous throughout the world. Between it and the Budapest Metro they are the two oldest underground railway systems in the world. The third oldest is somewhat less known- the Glasgow Subway. Completed in 1896 the network consists of a single twin circle of tracks which is contained completely above the streets of Glasgow. Three coach trains traverse an 'outer' and 'inner' circle around the city sitting on the unusual 4ft gauge track. While broadly similar in style to London Undergrounds 'deep' line tubes the Glasgow subway trains, built by Metro-Cammel from 1977-79, are noticeably smaller in size to fit through the very restrictive gauge of the tunnels on the system. Trains are painted in a version of Strathclyde Passenger Transport's orange which has lead to some, particularly in the press, nicknaming the system 'the clockwork orange'.
The network has 15 stations around Glasgow, many with central underground island platforms. Trains take 24 minutes to complete a loop of the Glasgow Subway and run up to every 4 minutes at peak times. Ticketing is now entirely through a 'smart card' system with disposable electronic paper tickets available for single journeys.