Monday, 31 December 2018

Highlights of 2018

It has reached that time again where as a new year beckons it is time to look back on the year that has passed. 

With massive orders for UK rolling stock it certainly feels like things are changing. I made a trip in late spring to enjoy a final fling on HST's with opening windows on the Dawlish Sea Wall. It is almost certain that this simple pleasure will no longer be possible in 2019. While HST's will still ply the route those remaining are now rapidly being fitted with new sealed automatic sliding doors. HST's days are now numbered with Great Western although the shift to Scotrail does provide new opportunities to travel behind these classic trains. 
Elsewhere in the UK it has been a good year for loco haulage- the Cumbrian class 37 turn has seen out the year, and despite a stint of class 68 operation on one set finished its final months with two 37's back at the helm. I have made three visits to the route over the year and wish I had made more before (hindsight and all that!). Despite services being cut back in May to no longer serve the route between Barrow-in-Furness and Preston the Cumbrain coast remains one of the best rail journeys in the UK. I've also managed to pick up a few much needed class 37's including 37402 an 403- definitely a great feeling when you manage to track down a machine which you never thought you would see in mainline service again. Certainly not in 2018! 
While the 37's have now finished in Cumbria the locos will continue into 2019 in Anglia. Perhaps the must unusual loco-hauled event of the year must be the crazy couple of weeks on the Windermere branch following the shortage of traincrew on Northern after the well documented disaster that was the May timetable change. Class 37's, 47's, 57's and even a class 33 had a turn playing on the trains which were free to the public. 

Once again I've managed a credible number of trips to foreign soils with seven countries visited during the course of the year. While not primarily a 'rail' holiday the highlight has to be my trip to New Zealand and Thailand in February where did at least briefly get to enjoy some wonderful railways. My stop off in Thailand could not ignore the rail system and a bit of research revealed that the GE 'Shovelnose' locos were the ones to go for. I had rather more luck than I was expecting with these locos and also was able to visit Bangkok's Hau Lampong station which will be replaced possibly during 2019. I'd love to go back- whether I will any time soon is another question. The highlight of the trip was of course New Zealand where I tracked down a number of trains with the help of Darryl Bond on the other end of the phone! A pair of DX locos on the North Island Main Trunk was very pleasing and although the weather may not have entirely played ball the journey from Wellington to Auckland on the Northern Explorer satisfied my needs for a long distance journey, the open observation car being particularly good fun. With the Coastal Pacific having now resumed I will have to visit the south island next time!

Some of my European highlights have included the Dampflok Spectacle at Trier earlier in the year with possibly the greatest concentration of mainline steam outside of China. Switzerland has also become a firm favorite and another very successful trip was made over the summer. A return to the Ratiche Bahn is already in the pipeline for this winter before the latest order for EMU's spells the end to some of the charm of this network.
The most complex trip was without doubt the 9 day epic to Italy and Croatia which brought not only great weather, and great trains but was also a great social occasion. The year was wrapped up with a very enjoyable couple of days in Bavaria enjoying a final fling with the DB 218's on the Fussen branch. It has now been announced that the elderly e656's will last a bit longer into 2019 so who knows if a return trip might just manifest?

I don't travel on a lot of railtours but an excpetion was made for the GBRf 2018 'Out of the Ordinary' spectacular. While I couldn't travel on the whole 4 days a lot of praise must to go GBRf staff and the wider industry for achieving something quite special and raising a lot of money for charity to boot! The sight of 73/1's on the blocks at Paddington will stay with me for a long time, the spectacle of crossing the Forth Bridge behind a pair will stay with me a lot longer!
Looking forward to 2018 we have the long awaited introduction of class 68's and new Mk5 rolling stock on Transpennine as well as deployment of the new coaches to Caledonian Sleeper duties. HST's will continue to be deployed to Scotland while a little closer to home class 442 'Wessex Electric' EMU's are due to return to the rails imminently. I've got a couple of trips lined up and I'm sure some more will mainfest.

Finally this leaves me to wish you all a very happy new year and all the best for 2018. 


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

DB Trip Report 22-26 November 2018

218 429 propels the 10:06 Fussen - Munich through farmland at Weizern-Hopferau. 23/11/2018 
With the end of the year approaching and some unused leave it was definitely time to make one last trip out of the UK. With some unfinished business on the Fussen line from last December and the impending end of DB class 218 'Rabbits' on the line it was time to head once again to Bavaria!

Thursday 22nd November:
218 401 leads 218 404 at Memmingen with a EuroCity. Note the unfinished
catenerary equipment which has appeared on this route. 22/11/2018
Touch down from our very affordable flight into the little airport at Memmingen was on time and the 12:55 bus to the station was made quite comfortably. The afternoon was beautifully sunny but with only a few hours until darkness there was really no useful move to take advantage of it. The station here has changed significantly since my last visit with overhead wires now at an advanced stage of construction- the days of diesel haulage here are definitely numbered. 218 401 and 404 pause with a Switzerland bound EuroCity before we board a unit to Kempten and then back up to Kaufbeuren. Here 218 415 was photographed heading down to Fussen before 218 446 then pulled in with our train to Munich.

In a view not dissimilar to my first trip to Munich in 2015, peak hour departures wait to leave Munich Hbf with 218 420 ready to work the 16:52 Munich- Kempton while a class 111 electric waits its next duty. 22/11/2018

218 415 approaches Kaufbeuren in glorious
sunshine with a Fussen service. 22/11/2018
On arrival at Munich Hbf there were a few more Rabbits than I was expecting from my diagrams (maybe I was missing some Kempten diagrams?) with 218 497 on the 16:38 to Memmingen and 218 420 on the 16:52 to Kempten. A couple of 111's were also noted around despite the Twindexx invasion. None of these 218's were required, and as it turned out neither were the ones on my next move the 17:05 to Muhldorf which produced 218 418 and 218 403. Having been to this part of the world a few times I wasn't expecting many winning locos but did make a plan to pick up the two that had been seen on the EuroCity earlier which *were* required.
120 114 has brought in stock for the NightJet to Rome. 22/11/2018
Unfortunately things all went wrong when the 17:05 Muhldorf lost almost 10 minutes between Munich Ost and Markt Schwaben missing my S-Bahn connection back to the Hbf. To make matters worse the next train pulled in which might have got me back in time- only an announcement was made in German followed by most people getting off. I followed, and the train then seemed to depart towards Munich! Oh dear! There was still a small chance of getting back for the 18:33 to Zurich on a +4 off the next S-Bahn but this was thwarted when that failed to turn up! To make matters worse my friend then called me to ask where I was as he was on the train! All I had achieved was a 50 minutes fester in the cold at Markt Schwaben! During the wait 218 463 and 218 419 were seen on the 17:21 Munich - Simbach and 418 438 was seen on the 17:48 to Muhldorf- a few winners in there! Oh well, at least the train I would take back would have a loco, even if a 245. Unfortunately it was 245 009, one of the few I did not require!
The next 50 minute fester was and Munich and not quite so bad, at least netting some photos including 120 114 bringing in NightJet 295 to Rome.
I still had one chance left for a winning loco, the 19:52 to Fussen where we were staying. Alas it was not to be- 218 415 not being remotely required. Possibly my first day of foreign trains without a winning loco...?

Friday 23rd November:
218 429 at Weizern-Hopferau with the 07:52 Munich - Fussen. The weather had dawned beautifully crisp but sunshine soon melted the frost and cloud cover built by afternoon. This image has had some enhancement in photoshop to bring out the frost and also remove a cable which follows the line in many locations. 23/11/2018

It was a dash after breakfast to get to Fussen station for the 08:06 Munich which we would take out for some photos on the branch. The weather forecast had been mixed but the day had dawned perfectly crisp and clear. Less helpfully our chosen train had produced a DMU! At least it wasn't one we would be photographing this morning, but did mean only two 218's would now be working on the branch.

218 446 is nearing journey's end with the 09:52 Munich - Fussen 23/11/2018
My main objective for this trip was to repeat the shot I had taken in a blizard last year at Weizern-Hopferau, but hopefully in more favourable conditions! This was achieved with 218 429 working into Fussen and back out on the 10:06 to Munich. Another fair walk for a picture of 218 446 on the next Munich train 2 hours later. Unfortunately the clouds had already started to encroach by this point and after a couple of photos of this train there was clearly little point staying on the branch (especially with a 4 hour gap until a rabbit assuming the earlier DMU had not been swapped out). The move to get back down to Fussen for our bags surprisingly produced one of the new Bayerische Regiobahn (Transdev) DMU's which are taking over this line at the timetable change on an Augsburg train, presumably the unit crew training and providing the service on behalf of DB. The train was fine (just no rabbit!) but running even later than the 5 minute delay we had become used to. This left us a precarious +3 to run into town, pick up our bags and jump back on the same unit to Munich- I'm pleased to say we made it!

218 446 heads north now through the Bavarian countryside with the 12:06 Fussen - Munich. 23/11/2018

By Biessenhofen the weather was very much cloudy, but the opportunity was still taken to photograph a few more trains here including 218 435 on the Oberstdorf IC and a couple of 223's on ALEX services. We never did work out why some were top and tailed.
223 063 speeds north at Bissenhoffen on a Lindau - Munich Alex. 23/11/2018
Light fading further it was time to head back towards the city and taking a DMU to Buchloe nicely landed us on the EuroCity back to Munich- and time to finally get the red pen out picking up 218 401 and 404 which had been missed so badly the previous day! In Buchloe there was even time to pick up a nice Allgaurer dunkel beer to celebrate. As the EC rolled in there was one of those wonderful moments which still happen several times at Buchloe where multiple 218's converge. From the north a set of lights appeared, and then another as arrivals from both Augsberg and Munich appeared with Rabbits as these pulled into the platform simultaneously the pair of locos on the EC also came into view giving us 4 of the classic diesels all converging- certainly a sight for sore eyes!

218 463 waits departure with the Fridays only
18:05 Munich - Muhldorf 23/11/2018
Back in Munich there was time to play the Muhldorf line a little better and actually pick up some winners- 218 438 on the 17:48 Muhldorf (taken to Ost) before dropping back onto 218 463 on the Fridays only 18:05 Muhldorf. At Dorfen Bahnhof we dropped back onto 245 008 getting us to Munich for a much needed shower and dinner at the usual excellent Augustiner brauhaus.

Saturday 24th November:
114 028 terminates at Bietigheim-Bissigen in a patch of sunshine. 24/11/2018

At the extremities of Ulm station 218 487 arrives ready to
work the next RE service to Aalen. 24/11/2018
This was always expected to the poorest day for weather of the trip and having already largely written it off for photography it was time to go in search of some more locos. The aim for the morning was the vice turn between Ulm and Aalen which had been reported on the europeanrail e-mail group. After a comfortable ICE trip to Ulm we were rewarded with 218 487 on two N-wagens. A good result though now we had finally found some stock with windows we also found what must have been the world's quietest rabbit!!!
At Aalen we should have dropped nicely on onto a 120 to Stuttgart, however interloper 101 047 turned up instead, the only circuit on the Nuremburg - Karlsruhe not to produce a 120! Ah well!
111 137 catches a patch of sunlight at Bad Canstatt. 24/11/2018

101 047 at Aallen on what should be a 120 turn! 24/11/2018
It is fair to say that Stuttgart station has changed a bit in the 10+ years since I last visited. In the main part a large part of it has disappeared into a large hole!!! There are still plenty of locos up for grabs here and after a few photos a quick spin was make with 111 078 and 111 091 to Bad Canstatt. Next it was time for some Trabbis with 112 169 taken up the Necker valley. With the weather improving a bit of photography was considered- before being discounted again when the clouds appeared in full force! 114 032 was picked up onwards to Bad Friedrichshall before 114 028 was taken back towards Stuttgart.

111 087 terminates its train at Neu-Ulm. 24/11/2018

There was just time for another quick spin with the 111's picking up another winner in 111 137 before it was time to think about getting back to Munich. None of the options were ideal, the stopper to Ulm producing a 146 rather than the hoped for 111 and the IC option producing a 101 rather than the 120 we had hoped for. Either way the IC seemed the least painful option and 101 028 was taken to Aalen before 218 487 took us on the vice back to Ulm. Just time for a quick desperate spin to Neu-Ulm with 111 087 before another ICE whisked us back to Munich.
Dinner again was at the Augustiner brauhaus before a dancing establishment was found. It actually turned out to be very good and being less than a 10 minute walk from our hotel it would have been rude not to stay out until 3am!

Sunday 25th November:
218 411 emerges from the rather unwanted fog at Weizern-Hopferau
with the 08:40 Munich - Fussen 25/11/2018
The weather forecast was for fog and that is indeed what we woke up to at a time that was frankly too early. Before going out the previous night we had been intelligent enough to look at the loco diagrams and realised that there was a morning flurry of 218 activity on the Fussen line with 4 locos involved. Since this line was the reason for the trip it seemed a good idea to try a few more photos and hope the fog lifted. 218 446 was our stead once again on the 07:52 Munich - Fussen. A bit of sleep was caught up on heading down the branch and as we neared its conclusion it did start to look as though the fog might actually lift! Incredibly as we arrived into Weizern-Hopferau conditions were almost perfect full sun- we had made the right call!

218 429 approaches Weizern-Hopferau with the 09:52 Munich - Fussen. There is no indication here that most of this route was covered in thick fog into which we would soon return! 25/11/2018

218 466 waits in the fog at Munich Hbf ready for its trip to Fussen. 25/11/2018
Arriving at our first photospot the scene looked great, frost on the ground, fog hanging in the trees and bright sunshine. It wasn't to be as the fog rolled back in ruining our shot of 218 466 returning. Next up was 218 411 which had worked the 08:40 Munich - Fussen. It wasn't the shot we had planned, but emerging from the fog into the sun a striking image was achieved all the same. Finally the shot we had tried for, all be it without the frost which had now melted was achieved of this loco returning. We managed one more nice sunny shot with 218 429 on the 09:52 from Munich before deciding to move further up the line.

The fog having cleared we got the shot we had lined up with 218 411
heading from Fussen to Augsberg- a 218 turn still existing on this route
on Sundays only. 25/11/2018
It turned out this was to be our last shot as just 10 minutes up the line the fog returned with a vengeance and we never saw the sun again! With our flight home in the evening from Nuremburg the decision was taken to call it a day with the Fussen line, happy with what we had got, and head north. There was one more scoop on the way with 218 411 which was required and now working between Augsburg and Fussen, having taken 218 429 up to Buchloe (for another passing Rabbit moment with it meeting the EuroCity) we then took 218 411 back to Kaufbeuren to get it in the book before our DMU move back to Munich. It was a pleasant surprise to find the DMU from Kempten turn up with Dostso's and 218 497 on the back! Definitely a good move!

143 358 waits at Nuremburg with an S2 service to Roth. 25/11/2018
It was a dash again back at Munich Hbf to pick up our bags and board an ICE to Nuremburg in just 6 minutes, but again made fairly comfortably. Now under darkness there was just enough time for a quick S2 Trabbi move picking up 143 358 and 143 336 before paying some attention to the hired-in Vectrons which are currently working the two hourly regional service between Nuremburg and Sonneburg. These locos are used on the service due to the necessity for ECTS which is used on the high speed part of the route from Bamburg to Sonneburg. By taking the 17:10 to Bamburg the other set could then be picked up on the return netting 4/5 of the locos which work in top-and-tail formation. Performing today were 193 602/4/5/6.
Had we not found a shop with a huge array of Christmas Milka chocolate treats we might have had one more run on the S2 but the chocolate prevented it! A very quick wander into Nuremburg (which was more than we managed in Munich) showed it to be a very nice city. Before too long it was definitely time to jump on the U-bahn to the airport enjoying one of the nice old DT1 sets on the U1 route in the process.
Multiple rabbits at Buchloe! Several times a day several trains arrive together for various destinations. Back in the fog 218429 is headed for Munich, while 218 401 and 218 404 head a Euro City bound for Switzerland. Electrification masts have sprung up here but full wiring has not yet begun. 25/11/2018


Bayerische Regiobahn trains have been testing on the Fussen line in
passenger service (in lieu of DB trians) in preparation for the take over of
services with the December timetable change. These new DMU's will spell
the end of class 218 operations on the Fussen line and reduce the work for
the remaining Kempten based machines considerably. 25/11/2018
I always enjoy this part of the world, though it is fair to say that the weather and short days at this time of year can be somewhat limiting! Fortunately there was enough sunshine to feel that the main objective - photos on the Fussen line, was achieved. Certainly it is sad that just two weeks after our visit these locos would be leaving the route, reducing again the number of 218's operating in Bavaria. What will happen to the 218's displaced from this route remains to be seen but with electrification via Memmingen together with the Sudbahn from Ulm to Lindau it really does feel now that the 218's are well on their way out in this part of the world. Hopefully the peak hour Muhldorf trains and IC work to Oberstdorf might keep a few running for a couple more years yet. Aside from the rabbits it was good to get a few more locos in the book and generally enjoy my favourite brauhaus. Thanks also to Rhys for the company and for 'definitely not' coming out on Saturday night!
218 429 winds its way towards the mountains and the terminus of Fussen. 25/11/2018

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Passenger 37's Swansong

37401 'Mary Queen of Scots' leads 2C45 09:18 Barrow-in-Furness - Carlisle away from St Bees. 15/11/2018.

In fading light 37409 'Lord Hinton' arrives into Seascale
working 2C33 15:31 Barrow - Carlisle. 15/11/2018
In years to come will we look upon autumn 2018 as the swansong of class 37 passenger operation in the UK? Right now there are two areas of passenger operation using veteran class 37/4's; in Cumbrian and in Norfolk. Each weekday four class 37's are available to travel behind on two scenic (but very different) routes. New orders of DMU's are on their way however and by this time next year both of these operations are likely to have finished- potentially also bringing the end of booked mainline passenger trains with the popular class 37's. Both routes offer some stunning journeys and great photographic opportunities but those wishing to enjoy these trains need to act fast!

37401 complete with enthusiastic driver leads 2C59 14:52 Barrow - Carlisle away from Seascale and towards Sellafield. This is the only northbound train (with loco leading) that can be photographed by the sea at this time of year in reasonable light- and then only on the brightest of days. 15/11/2018

In less bright conditions 37409 works 2C59 the following day seen near
Kirby in Furness. The namesake of the locomotive 'Lord Hinton' was a
nuclear scientist and engineer responsible for the construction of Calder
Hall Power Station, the first large-scale commercial Nuclear Power Station
and today part of the complex at Sellafield which provides much trade to
the route and employment in the area. 16/11/2018
In Cumbria class 37's have worked some services between Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness (and previously Preston) over the spectacular Cumbrian Coast line since 2015. For a period this year complaints about the class 37's resulted in one of the two diagrams switching to more modern class 68 operation, but increased loco requirements during autumn have led to the 37's being back firmly in charge for the final months of this operation. In January 2019 the class 37's are scheduled to disappear for good on passenger trains on this line, replaced by DMU's which will be displaced from electrification project and the first deliveries of class 195 DMU's from CAF. I was lucky to spend 3 days on the line during November, with 37401 and 37409, both now resplendent in heritage BR Large Logo blue providing power for the trains. This is certainly not the best time of year for photography, but even on the dullest of days this route has a certain beauty. If you have not yet enjoyed the ride around the coast behind a loud class 37 then time is really running out!

2C46 09:03 Carlisle - Barrow-in-Furness is pushed by 37409 'Lord Hinton' on the approach to St Bees. This is a higher vantage point in the same area as that used for the photo of 37401 at the top of the page. Both 37 hauled trains will pass at St Bees at the end of this single line section. After a brief inland interlude southbound trains again hug the Irish Sea between St Bees and Seascale.

37419 leads the Anglian 'Short Set' into Brundall working 2P20 12:36
Norwich - Great Yarmouth on a beautiful autumn day. The semaphore
signals as well as the manually controlled crossing gates here will be
swept away by the current re-signalling scheme. 13/11/2018.
The loco hauled operation in Norfolk running on the Wherry lines between Norwich and Great Yarmouth / Lowestoft has a little longer left to run than it's northern counterpart. Greater Anglia anticipate using their 'short set' top and tailed by class 37's for the duration of 2019 until new class 755 Bi-mode DMU's arrive to work regional services. These trains have been running on and off for an extended period, originally with class 47's providing the power and covering for poor availability of DMU's. The operation here is very different to that in Cumbria with two locos top and tailing the train instead of the push-pull operation used by Northern. The length of the journey is significantly less and the scenery an awful lot flatter! (No mountains out on the Norfolk Broads!). Like Cumbria this railway has a lot of charm complete semaphore signals controlled from manual signal boxes- though these are due to be swept away in a re-signalling scheme in early 2019. Certainly the Wherry Lines will be changing over the next couple of years- again time is running out to sample this fantastic loco hauled operation, which will certainly be missed by the enthusiasts.

'Heavyweight' 37716 breaks the monopoly of 37/4's on the passenger workings as it leads 2P21 13:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich away from Brundall Gardens. 37/4's are required on all trains for their train supply, however the top and tail set can use one 'no heat' locomotive and 37719 has been modified for these operations accordingly. 13/11/2018