|E1316 pulls into Rabat Ville with a service to Fes on 6th January 2017. Both the locomotive, based on the SNCF BB7200 and the Corail coaches which it pulls are typically French. 06/01/2017.|
No trains today- unless you care about the journey to Stanstead airport.
It was a leisurely fight with Ryanair to Rabat. Despite not choosing to pay for an allocated seat I was given a window right near the front of the plane. During the course of the flight both of the two people sitting in my row got up and disappeared... I did't think I smelt particularly bad!?
Having arrived at Rabat there was a bit of a faf with getting money as neither ATM at the airport liked my card (I think it was my card rather than the ATM's at fault) so my first dinar was exchanged from my sterling at one of the money exchanges- I would have to hope my card would work in the morning! Transfer to the city was by the airport bus for 20 dinar (about £1.80)- first impressions of Morocco were as a modern 'civilised' country, then we passed two lorries massively overloaded with the most hay bails I have possibly every seen!
I stayed at the Rihab Hotel which was well located and fine. At first glance very nice actually, but the bathroom turned out to be ropey and the water turned out to be luke warm at best. As it was well dark by the time I arrived dinner was at a chain chicken restaurant around the corner, all very nice but I didn't really want the football on loudly booming across the whole place. I asked for the WiFi code and the waiter smiled and said 'no'... not sure what that was all about!
Friday 6th January-
|Rabat Ville with Anseldo Breda Z2M EMU's which work local|
trains between Cassablanca and Kenitra (plus some to Fes).
|My first ride on ONCF was with E1412 a very smart Alsthom Prima II.|
|I liked the Hitachi built E1200 class much more than I expected to. These|
locos definitely have some character. E1262 stats at Rabat Agdul 06/01/2017.
Before I had got bored of the place it was time to head back to the hotel, pick up my bag and head to the station for my train onward to to Fes. I had bought my tickets at the station earlier, this time from the counter as I wanted to break my journey in Kenitra in order to score another loco. This was no problem and with a bit of French and English I had my tickets no problem. I was told that despite having a train number printed on the ticket I could take any train that day with my 2nd class fare.
The train rolled in with E1316- Brilliant- not another modern Prima! The train was very busy but I did find a seat with a window in an open coach. Not everyone was so lucky. Kenitra turned out to be a building site but I didn't have too long here. Shortly after my arrival E1411 pulled in. Soon there was a flurry of activity around the front of the loco so I headed down to see what was going on- At some point earlier on its run it had clearly hit something large enough to smash and shatter the windscreen. No problem though- some sticky back plastic was quickly found and a makeshift repair made. Now I couldn't see a driver back home taking that forward in service, but off it went! My chariot forward pulled in as E1404 where I found a nice seat in a compartment for the journey on to Fes. The area around Rabat/Kenitra is seeing heavy investment as it will take the TGV's off the high speed line when it opens- part of this upgrade involves fencing in the entire railway with large concrete 'upside down T' sections which will make any lineside photography very ugly- and also doesn't entirely seem to keep the locals out as I saw several men vaulting over them. The line is rather flat and boring until reaching somewhere near Sidi Kacem where the landscape becomes more mountainous, and it god dark.
|I don't think this would continue in service in the UK somehow! E1411|
receives attention to its windscreen while it is paused at Kenitra.
Gare du Fes is located in the new town, so I would need to make my way to the Medina for my hotel. Out of instinct I told all the taxi hawkers to go away before realising that what I actually needed was a taxi. I paid 40 dinah to reach the beautiful Riad Ibn Khaldoun, where upon arrival I discovered a taxi should have cost me 15-20 dinah. I would highly recommend this Riad to stay in- my room was stunning and it had heating (which is not a given for Morocco in winter). It was dark now so I went for a walk around the local area for the medina before finding somewhere for dinner. I rather suspect I was put upstairs in the 'foreigners room' for dinner as non-Moroccan parties were scattered sparsely around tables generally eating spaghetti bolognase. The restaurant was cold and sadly lacked atmosphere- but I can't complain at my giant bowl of cous-cous with lamb and with hindsight I don't think I paid too far over the odds for it at 100 dinah.
In an unusual change for these trips I was in bed at a reasonable hour.
Saturday 7th January
|The 'wrong' end of DH363 is seen as it prepares to shunt a coach off of the|
stock which has arrived at Fes to form the 10:45 to Beni Nsar Port. 07/01/2017.
|DH430, one of the newer batch of locos in the revised ONCF colours departs from Gare D'Oued Amlil for Fes.|
|Just time for a quick photo of DH363 as we pause at Gare Ain Sbit.|
|I should have come years ago if I really wanted to see the DF|
class at work in Morocco- With an awful shadow across the
front DF116 (ex SNCF CC72018) stands in the yard at Fes still
wearing it's former Fret SNCF livery. 07/01/2017.
|Wandering the Medina in Fes in search of dinner.|
It was an early night again and after some photographs of the city skyline by night it was time to bed down.
|A view worth waking up for- the rooftops of Fes|
Sunday 8th January
|I got my first ride behind a Hitachi E1200 leaving Fes. As it|
happens this was not it, but it would be my second as it would
work Tangier the train which followed behind my departure.
Next stop was Sidi Kacem where our train was scheduled to lay over for around 30 minutes, quite significantly reduced because of our delay. I can only assume the timetable has not been re-cast since locos used to be exchanged here for the diesel run to Tanger before the wires were put up? In the other platform was a very well lit E1302 heading southbound. I popped over for a picture but before it departed was ordered not to take photos by the station staff. The driver didn't look best pleased either (all others had been super friendly) and I was advised that I 'should delete the picture'. As this was only advice and not an order I obviously didn't (it's probably my best shot of an E1300 as well)- but I did retreat back to my own train without taking any more!
I had a plan to change again at Mechraa Belksiri as there was another Tangier service 90 minutes behind mine (and I still wanted another E1300)- I had also worked out that there should be two southbound trains passing which would be good for the sun. I eventually found a spot which was nothing more than 'ok' for the first of these trains which eventually turned up about 35 late with E1256. The second I had not seen before my cut off to head back to the station for my own train- It was the right decision to give up on it as it was 45 late, and had an E1400 at the helm. It passed the station as I was boarding my own train north, with E1417. For the sake of 1 mediocre photo and another E1400 I'm not sure the 90 minute stint had been worth it!
|The weather had clouded over by the time that E1417 arrived|
at Tangier Ville. Much construction is taking place here.
Tangier Ville station is another building site, with the station building some 100m away from the tracks connected by a temporary shelter. Once TGV services start running this will be the grand northern terminus. It is a pleasant 30 minute walk to the old town, mostly along the sea front (another construction site) with views of the Spanish mountains across the Straight of Gibralter.
|Some of the TGV's at the new depot at Tangier have already been standing idle for over 2 years. The High Speed line is currently expected to open in 2018. - Track has not yet reached Tangier. 08/07/2017.|
I took a wrong turning looking for my hotel the basic, but adequate (and cold) Hotel Mamora. A local stopped me trying to give me cards to hotels and as I was shoeing him away I realised one was the very one I was looking for! He got an adequate tip but wanted me more for showing me the way.
Not having any clue where to go for dinner I consulted trip advisor and ended up with a very nice meal which while the most expensive of my trip (130 dinar for two courses) I didn't feel I'd been overcharged for. I spent another hour or so wandering the Medina in Tangier and again not getting too lost before heading back to the hotel.
I would need a taxi back to the station in the morning as I had already purchased my tickets for the 07:15 train to Tangier Port Med. The hotel was happy to book this for me for 100 dinar- I sincerely hope the guy at the desk had got confused as it should only cost 15! I did try to point this out and eventually decided to try my luck hailing my own cab in the morning.
Monday 9th January
|Finally- a DF in ONCF colours- DF105 and E1351 show off both the French 'Nez Cassis' classes in use in Morocco.|
|DF120 hauls an empty car train out of Tangier Port Med.|
I hadn't pre-booked a ferry, in fact I was originally planning to take the FRS fast cat from the old port in Tangier town to Tarifa in Spain, but then I did discover the one daily train to Tanger Port Med which would put me on a boat straight to Algeciras. Unfortunately there was a long gap between my 08:15 arrival at the port and the next boat. One of the company rep's told passengers that their company would run the next boat at 10/10:30 (so 10:30 then). I checked and another boat was due to leave at 10, but as was pointed out to us, it was still out at sea on its inward voyage. To be fair to the guy his boat wasn't the first to leave when it did at 11:00, but the other boat was only 10 mins in front and at 23 euros I didn't feel too hard done by. It was however abundantly clear that I wasn't going to get a photo of the train departing Algeceras at 11:45 as I had hoped. My boat the Nova Star was well appointed and had a nice outdoor area where I spent the whole crossing taking in the fading view of Africa and passing Gibraltar before we turned left into Algeceras.
|Leaving Morocco from Tangier Port Med by boat.|
|The 15:03 Altaria Talgo service from Algeciras to Madrid gets underway behind 334018. 09/07/2017.|
Now it was time for me to rescue the heavily delayed itinerary for my day- heading across from the station to the bus depot to take the M-120 to La Lunea for Gibralta. It's more of a coach than a bus and costs 2.45 euro taking just under 45 minutes. Once at the end of the route it is a simple walk through the e-passport gates to get back into Britain- sort of! Gibraltar is a funny place, no less so from the fact that you must walk across an active runway to reach the town! I didn't initially find the main street having ended up in a residential area but once I did it was certainly time to find a pub and get a cider. It's very strange seeing common British brands among the local population, the majority of whom speak Spanish. Armed with a cookie from M&S it was back across the runway to make my flight back to Luton with Monarch.
|Walking across the runway with the Rock of Gibralta looking on.|
Our final drama was on the tarmac at Luton where one passenger accused another of stealing his wallet, a situation handled phenomenally badly by both parties. Welcome back to Luton folks!
As is often the case I then had the worst journey of the entire trip getting back to Waterloo- I hadn't realised there was a tube strike when I booked the flight!
|Gare du Fes is typical of modern ONCF stations build in the|
typical Moroccan style. Stations are clean and well appointed.
That aside the country is still well worth a visit for it's trains and I'm sure I'll go back. The locos which do run are very pleasing and travelling on Corails is pleasant wherever you are in the world. Travel is very cheap as well, I used point to point tickets totaling 353 dinar (about £30) including one 1st class journey. Unfortunately very little freight was seen, and I'd be interested to hear from readers of their experiences- I'd like to catch some, was I just unlucky or in the wrong areas for much of the time (it was also a weekend)? Photography was not as big an issue as it could have been, though seemed to be totally hit and miss with some locations being find and others not. Either way nowhere felt like you would get away with loitering on the station for more than a couple of hours.
Aside from the trains Morocco is a fascinating and beautiful country full of friendly people and I highly recommend a visit.
|DH373 approaches Gare D'Oued Amlil with the 08:40 Beni Nsar Port to Casa Voyageurs on 7th January 2017.|