Sunday, 19 May 2019

Sunshine for Swanage!

The weekend of 10-12th May marked the 2019 annual diesel gala and beer festival at the Swanage Railway. Always a great event and one that is firmly placed in many enthusiasts diaries, this year was to be no exception- and fortunately the railway was once again blessed with a beautiful weekend which makes this part of the country such a pleasure to be in, and of course pleases the photographer!

D6515 (33012) hauls the second Swanage bound train on Saturday 11th May. Typical Southern Region traction would have been common on lines such as this before their closure. The remains of Corfe Castle stand high above the horizon.

D7535 (25185), visiting from the South Devon Railway and recently re-painted is seen shunting near to the shed at Swanage next to some of the regular steam locos which are being serviced.

A regular at the line and another typical SR scene, 33111 works it's train south into Corfe Castle.

As well as the visiting locos to the railway the first coach from the Swanage 4TC project was also on display at Corfe Castle. The vehicle, DTSO 76275 has been painted in blue/grey liver and is waiting for further overhauled coaches to arrive from restoration in order to form a push/pull set for use on the raiwlay. 76275 is something of a survivor as after it's 4TC was abandoned it lived on re-formed in to South Eastern 4-VEP unit 3582 until the early 2000's- surviving refurbishment and finally being retired into preservation. Cab visits were available and also offered an alternative view of trains arriving from Swanage. The coach looks great in it's blue grey livery and will certainly be a great addition to the fleet at the Swanage Railway once it is complete and operating with class 33 locomotives. For more information on the Swanage 4TC group see here.

Another star attraction at the event was 26007 visiting from Barrow Hill. The loco looks pristine as it arrives into Corfe Castle with a late afternoon service from Swanage complete with the Devon Belle observation car.

One guest visitor that would not have been foreseen just a few years ago was GBRf's 59003. Part of the original build of the class dating from 1985 'Yeoman Highlander' was shipped to Germany in 1997 for use abroad and was not expected to ever return- however in 2014 GBRf secured the loco as part of their expanding fleet and 59003 can now be seen working train in the UK once more.

No Southern Region railway gala would be complete without one of the venerable class 73's. GBRf have regularly supported the Swanage Diesel Gala with one of the class and this year was no exception. Largely used as a brake converter loco for 59003, 73119 'Borough of Eastleigh' also hauled a return trip solo on each day of the gala.

Another view of 73119 returning from Corfe Castle to Swanage.

Another star attraction was 50007 'Hercules', owned by the class 50 alliance and currently wearing the livery of GBRf. The loco, along with classmate 50049 'Defiance' was repainted by Arlington Fleet Services at Eastleigh earlier this year and will be used on an as required basis by GBRf. The painting of heritage traction into new and modern liveries is always controversial but it has been been good to see how well this livery has generally been received, suiting the 50's very well and with a certain throw back to the BR 'Large Logo' colours that have always looked so good on the class.

50007 is seen again tailing a train up to recently re-opened extension to the line up to the River Frome Viaduct (towards Wareham). 50007 was carrying the identity of long scrapped classmate 50014 'Warspite' on one side.

One of the stars of the show was 97205 (31163) visiting from the Chinnor & Princes Risbrough railway. The loco has recently been outshopped in Derby BR Technical Centre colours. While never worn by 31163 itself a number of classmates did wear this livery and the 31 certainly looks the part and has proved very popular on the gala circuit so far this year.

Another view of 50007 with a service from the River Frome Viaduct to Swanage. This year mainline stock was not available and the railway did not operate into Wareham itself, running only to the NR boundary and with a 'rail replacement' bus service providing the connection between Wareham and Norden.

The classic view from Corfe Castle itself looking across the Purbeck landscape towards Poole Harbour as 50007 leads a late afternoon train out of Norden with 26007 on the rear.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Thumping back to Charring Cross

1001 passes through Waterloo East working the Dave Markwick Memorial Tour. Little has changed in this view since the units were in regular service on this line- a stark contrast to London Bridge which would be barely recognisable to the 'Thumper'. 06/04/2019.
One of the more interesting heritage trains running on the national network is the 'Hastings Diesel' 1001, formed up from various DEMU vehicles which worked the Hastings to London Charring Cross service from 1957 to 1986. Since preserved by Hastings Diesels Limited the unit makes several trips each year from its base at St Leonards Depot, usually around London and the South East. The DEMU's, affectionately known as 'Thumpers' due to the sound of their 4-SRKT engines are also distinctive in having flat sides brought about by the narrow 'Hastings' gauge because of the narrow tunnels on the route (these having been single tracked during electrification). 1001 has seen a lot of work since the end of its BR career- the unit is now fitted with all modern safety systems and has more recently had a sympathetic central door locking system fitted to its slam doors.
1001 stands at Charring Cross waiting its departure back to Hastings, a journey which would have been very familiar to the unit during its BR career. 06/05/2019.
The train was captured on Saturday 6th April while working the Dave Markwick Memorial Tour, named in honour of a long standing volunteer of Hastings Diesels Limited who had served the group for 32 years. The train ran from Hastings to London before taking in freight branches to Grain and Angerstein Wharf before returning once again along its old stamping ground from Charring Cross to Hastings.
Further details of Hastings Diesels Limited and upcoming tours can be found on their website.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

CP Trip Report 27 - 29 March 2019

Shot of the trip- 1413 crosses the second viaduct at Pala with two Schindler coaches in tow while working the 10:05 Marco de Canaveses - Régua in the final days of the Douro blockade - 28/03/2019

Inspiration for this trip started way back in late 2018 when the gen was posted to the europeanrail group (thank you to all that found the info and passed it on) that the Douro valley was to be blockaded for three months with CP1400's working trains between Marco de Canaveses and Pocinho. I've wanted to sample the 'Portuguese 20's' for a while and some guaranteed work on this scenic line was clearly going to be the best chance I would have- now the challenge was to find some time amongst the busy Christmas period! At the beginning of February things were looking bleak- the block had just one month yet and I had a pre-booked trip to Switzerland and an aspiration to go skiing. Eventually skiing won and my time for the Douro disappeared, I had consigned the 1400's to the pile of things I had simply not got around to doing. And then the block was extended by a month. Action time! At short notice it wasn't going to be a bit group trip, but a weekend right at the end of March was identified and flights booked just the week before once the leave had all been approved. The Douro was on!

In central Porto the double-decked Lois I bridge spans the Douro river, Modern trams cross the high level.

Wednesday 27th March:
The heritage tram operation in Porto - very much run for tourists! 27/03/2019
I keep saying that I must stop going on these trips straight from night shifts... so I finished my nights and made my way up to London to meet Rob and then down to Gatwick for the 09:40 Easyjet flight to Porto. There was a bit of a hold up at the baggage carousel but it didn't matter as we had several hours to kill before we could make it onto the Douro valley with the limited timetable. The transfer to Porto from the airport is a simple (but not too frequent) tram taking around 30 minutes. Shortly after midday we were by the quayside eating lunch in the beautiful warm weather. It may have been perfect had a pesky seagull not decided to make off with my brioche! A few photos of the heritage tram operation were taken before walking back up the hill to the impressive Porto São Bento station for the 15:10 service to Caide. The bus operation at Caide was slick and we took the non-stop service to Marco de Canaveses arriving to a view of CP orange 1415 waiting to work the 17:05 to Régua. That was in some 45 minutes time so we put our bags on the train and stopped off at the bar across from the station for a Super Bok beer which was unbelievably just €1 a bottle! 
1415 at Régua ready to work the 18:53 to Marco. 27/03/2019

1415 left on time and headed down the hill, I have to be honest, it really wasn't very loud- but the scenery was good and we scouted some locations for the following morning, and also observed some gradients which would definitely be better in the other direction! 
We passed 1455 at Aregos after a short delay and continued to Régua where we checked into the Hotel Imperio while leaving 1415 and 1413 to do what appeared to be an unnecessary amount of shunting in the station. 
Back for the 18:53 to Marco we were expecting 1413 according to the diagrams I had worked out, which would leave 1415 for the overnight Pochino and to be in position for our photo in the morning (excellent!)- but it didn't work out that way with 1415 working back to Marco.
Bedding down for the night- with their duties finished 1415 and 1455 complete
their shunting duties before stabling at Régua for their morning duties. 28/03/19
We met several other enthusiasts on the train, all bailing at Mirão for the last train back to Régua with 1455, which was sounding a lot better. As expected the loco was swapped at Régua for 1413 to continue to Pochino. Across to the local Charcuterie for dinner which was very good and very cheap before returning to the station for some night shots of the demic narrow gauge steam locos and 1415 with the final arrival since we didn't now know where we would see it since the diagrams had gone to pot and our strong suspicion was that it would sit spare at Régua most of the following day!
Relics at Régua- The narrow gauge line here, like all of those along the Douro is now closed. The Corgo line ceased running after 103 years in 2009 and has since been lifted. An abandoned 9700 DMU vehicle and several Mallet locos still occupy the yard at Régua awaiting their eventual fate. Douro Valley trains use the broad gauge track in the foreground. 28/03/2019.

Thursday 28th March:
1415 arrives into Juncal station working the 13:05 from Marco de Canaveses. €2 bottles of wine were available just across from the station! 28/03/2019
The daytime standby loco 1455 basks in the sun at Régua.
After a good breakfast it was across to the station for the 08:38 departure for Marco. We knew this would be 1413 which went down to Pochino last night, but what we weren't so sure of was which loco would be out on the other diagram. Fortunately the presence of 1413 at the station gave us the right answer, it was orange 1415. Not a bad turn out all things considered and 1413 working the train would leave us with all three locos in the book for haulage without having to try too hard (though it would mean 1415 was unlikely to do the overnight Pochino and not therefore be in position for Friday mornings planned photo). The main objective today was to get a few scenic shots, the first on the viaduct at Pala which would involve the return of our train. 1413 was duly photographed here and a celebratory ice cream was well deserved!
For the long midday recess we chose to head to Juncal as the area looked more attractive than Marco (plus the bar there was no longer required!). This proved a good move and we were joined by Andy Flowers which helped to pass away the time with ease, plus the bar near the station sold us bottles of wine for €2!!!. We were also able to get the info from Andy of a place to stay in Pochino for the night (enabling us to cover the full branch tomorrow and avoiding our currently planned super early taxi move!). Before too long we had booked into Taverna da Julliana (booked through the Original Douro Hotel) for the night. When planning the trip we had intended to stay in Pochino but had failed to find any accommodation.

1413 is seen in the valley landscape between Caldas de Moledo and Rede. 28/03/2019

Returning after our wine break on 1415 down to Rede for our next photos (and more wine). Google maps directed us to the Quinto de S.Tiago winery where I was hoping there might be some wine tasting on offer- but we arrived to find just a burnt out building. Fearing the worst I was poking around in the yard of the building behind when two women appeared and Rob indicated to them 'Wine!?'. Next thing two bottles and two glasses were presented and we were sitting by a pool in the shade looking over the Douro valley with a board of ham and cheese! Result! Funnily enough after photographing 1413 on the 14:53 Régua - Marco we returned for another bottle! 
1415 arrives into Rede working the 08:05 from Marco de Canaveses- our
trains would pass here with 1413 already in the platform. 28/03/2019.
Taking 1413 back to Régua it was then time to check out of our hotel and get some emergency food supplies before taking 1415 on the 'usual' move up to Mirão, this time taking the return all the way through to Pochino. Tonight this involved a complete stock change as well as the loco at Régua, and I'll admit with darkness now fallen and still recovering from my night shifts I slept for a fair bit of the run. We didn't attempt photos at Pochino, electing sensibly to seek out our accommodation. We needn't have tried too hard as the proprietors with a paper note reading 'JAMEF' tracked us down in their car near to the station. We were shown to our rooms and asked if we were hungry. Of course we were, but the restaurant was closed. No worry though, we were shown in anyway and food was produced, an excellent steak and I'm fairly sure that the port was compulsory. I'm sure our host was going to have one whether we did or not. Either way it was all delicious!

Friday 29th March:
The further reaches of the Douro valley are undoubtedly the most scenic. With a mirror-like reflection in the river the rolling hills and vineyards are seen in the early morning light from the train down the valley. 29/03/2019

1455 waits to leave Pocinho with the 07:07 to Marco de Canaveses. 29/03/19
After all that wine my head didn't hurt as much as I had feared! We got up early enough to explore the bridge and station at Pochino (oh how wonderful would it have been to see this area before all the narrow gauge finished!?) before boarding 1455 which would take us up the line. We met one of the ‘no open windows’ guards, though to be fair to him it was pretty chilly on the train. We also soon learned that there was no problem to stand with the door open in the vestibule.

1415 approaches Rede with the 10:38 departure from Régua 29/03/2019
Passing trains at Rede. 29/03/2019
The photo plan today was to try a shot on the causeway at Aregos, which would be the return of our train with 1455, but I really wanted a shot of the orange one! Passing Régua the standby loco was 1413 which meant that orange 1415 had done the early diagram. I bailed out at Caldas de Moledo for a quickly hatched plan to photograph it prior to passing the train at Rede, leaving Rob to do the sensible thing and go for the shot we had planned alone. Fortunately bailing paid off and I managed to find a good view to catch 1415 on the 08:05 Marco - Régua. This then left me a good couple of hours to explore the area and walk up to Rede to photograph both trains arriving there with their next services. 1415 was traction again for the 10:38 Régua - Marco de Canaveses and our final ride behind a 'Portuguese 20'. After finding our way around camera crews at Marco who were filming a piece on the blockade we got onto the express bus again to Caide. The bus was quick enough that there was a long wait at Caide for a connecting train to Porto- certainly time for a final Super Bok with Andy.

A SOREFRAME built class 2240 EMU waits its next duty.

We spent a short while at Porto Campanhã hoping to photograph a loco hauled intercity and maybe some freight, but it wasn't to be- the Lisbon train producing a Pendolino. Back to the city it was then for a final wander round before making our way to the airport again on the 'slug' tram for the 18:00 to Stanstead with Ryanair. 

Spot the train! A class 3400 EMU navigates the cliffs above the Douro river as it makes its final approach to Porto São Bento station. Further down the cliff is the trackbed which remains from the former narrow gauge railway into Porto. The concrete bridge in the background carries the main Porto - Lisbon railway. The clouds above were the first we had seen in the entirety of our visit! 29/03/2019

A quick re-plan of my itinerary produced a very pleasing shot of 1415 departing from Caldas de Moledo with the 08:05 Marco de Canaveses - Régua. The CP liveried loco definitely being my favourite photographically. The characteristics of this wine growing region are very apparent with wineries hugging both sides of the Douro valley. 29/03/2019.
My fainal sighting of 1415 at Marco de Canaveses. Will we
meet again one day? Quite likely not. 29/03/2019
All in all an excellent trip- and thank you to all those who have provided gen during the block (and also of course to CP for allowing it to overrun long enough for us to get out there!!!). The weather was perfect ('emergency shorts' were in use!) and the sun just that little bit higher at the end of March to allow most of the shots we wanted to achieve. After some disappointing thrash the first day the 1400's proved to be great entertainment, especially when combined with the stunning scenery of the Douro and the opening windows and doors of the Schindler stock. We learned on our return to Porto that after the blockade was due to finish on the Sunday the coaches had already been sold to an alternative operator, with rumours that the 1400's would be stored, the tourist train on the Douro Valley are due to run with A/C Spanish DMU's this year. Maybe this really was the last swansong of the 1400's? I'm glad I was there to enjoy it.

Not the hoped-for loco, Pendolino 4007 pauses at Porto Campanhã with a
Lisbon bound service. 29/03/2019

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Southern Snow

70006 leads a very lightly loaded Freighliner south at Worting Junction. Weekend engineering works which should have seen the train diverted via Andover had been cancelled due to the cold weather. 02/02/2019.
Repatriated from Germany by GBRf, 59003 crosses Battledown
Flyover heading from Eastleigh to Westbury. 02/02/2019
Conditions of snow and sunshine are rare in the UK, but these are the conditions that much of the country woke to on 2nd February 2019. Heavy snow had fallen across much of the UK over the previous 24 hours- including a blanket over much of the south of England. Many locations saw up to 5cm of snow settle but in some spots local accumulations were much larger. One area which saw more than its fair share of snowfall was Basingstoke which saw around 30cm of snow falling the previous day. This caused local transport chaos with roads blocked and cars abandoned- main routes including the M3 motorway became virtually impassable.

The railway was not unaffected either with a number of snow-laden trees falling onto the line between Basingstoke and Eastleigh rendering the route blocked. Over the weekend the route was scheduled to be blocked for engineering work, however the low temperatures resulted in the work being postponed. Freight services due to divert via Andover were able to continue running down the mainline however the planned diverted passenger services could not be altered back at such short notice.
Conditions were a photographers paradise and I was certainly not alone trekking out into the freezing conditions. Thanks also to those who got together to get our cars out of the car park at Worting Junciton!

159007 in the first variation of South Western Railway livery passes under Battledown Flyover with a West of England service. 02/02/2019
A 9 car class 159 formation wears a variety of liveries typifying the transition
from South West Trains to South Western Railway as it crosses Worting
Junction with an Exeter bound service. 02/02/2019

After a successful few hours at Worting there was one more target for the camera- A4 Pacific 60009 Union of South Africa working the Bellmond Surrey Hills Pullman. Unfortunately the snow diminished as I drove towards Guildford and by the time I reached Gomshall bank there were only remnants of the previous snow- however as the train appeared, a little late, the sky cleared to perfect sunshine for what may be the last appearance of 60009 on the Pullmans before it is retired as a static exhibit later in 2019. A cracking day of photography all in all and definitely a good day not to have been in the office!
60009 'Union of South Africa' makes a fine sight as it hammers up Gomshall bank with the VSOE Surrey Hills Luncheon. The Gresley Pacific was standing in for the usual traction, Merchant Navy 35028 which was on winter maintenance. 02/02/2019

Saturday, 9 March 2019

SNCF SBB RhB Trip Report 14 - 20 February 2018

Ge4/4ii 623 passes through Rabius-Surrein with the Glacier Express from St Moritz to Zermatt on 17 Feb 2019.

Thursday 14th February:
Paris metro line 6 awaits departure from Nation.
I am sure I keep telling myself that it is a bad idea to go straight into one of these trips off a night shift- yet that doesn't seem to stop me from doing it! I didn't actually feel too bad as I made my way up to St Pancras for the 09:42 departure for Paris with an e320 set. My plan to sleep on the train didn't come to much either and around midday I was in Paris. I had a couple of hours to kill and after photographing a very shabby looking BB22321 on the blocks at Nord I made my way, complete with suitcase into the city for a bit of sightseeing. It was a beautiful day and I do love this city- it would have been rude not to. Having walked down to Notre Dame and along the Seine towards the Place de la concorde I then made my way to the backwater of Paris termini at Bercy.
BB7248 passes Laroche Migennes with a Lyon - Paris TER 15/02/2019.
My move was to Lyon and I was pleased to see required BB7244 on the blocks for the mammoth run of over 5 hours to Lyon.

BB7244 paues at Laroche Migennes while pushing the
15:34 Paris Bercy - Lyon Perrache.
The run out of Paris was very pleasant in the late afternoon sunshine and the Corails were, of course, comfortable. The clenliness of the windows was however a problem with the view out of the sunny side being so obscured by dirt that it barely existed at all! BB7248 was passed at Laroche Migennes with a service from Lyon to Paris and after this it as darkness began to descend it was time for some sleep; first however I had to move as the A/C at my set of seats had begun making a most annoying squeaking noise. These Corails are still comfortable but could definitely do with some TLC (and some water in the toilets). Arrival into Lyon Perrache was around 21:00 and I was in need of some food and an early night. Fortunately my hotel recommended a very good bar which also served an excellent burger. As I was finishing a French group approached me and questioned why I was sitting in the bar alone with my burger. Soon I wasn't and the idea of an early night also went out of the window!

Friday 15th February:
GDe4/4 6003 in 'Train du Chocolate' livery gets underway from Montbovon with a MOB service from Montreaux to Zweisseman. 15/02/2019.

BB22313 dissapears into the carriage sidings at Geneva. 15/02/2019
The original plan for this morning was to get in some BB22000 mileage between Lyon / Chambery / Grenoble before heading across to Geneva. I had taken my diagrams to dinner the previous night and concluded that without a very early start there weren't really any viable moves to get me to Geneva at a good time. Also- I really wanted to see Lyon by daylight, so that was settled, a more leisurely start, breakfast and a wander around the city before the 11:46 Lyon - Geneva. This was booked to be loco hauled (or pushed) and thankfully it was as there was no back-up move. BB22313 was required and took me along the scenic route to Geneva, snow appearing on the mountains as I neared Switzerland (and thankfully clean windows this time - though still no water). This scenery was great but was just a warm up for what was to come.
MBC Re4/4 420 506 stabled at Morges.
I had not really though about segregated platforms at Geneva and it nearly cost me the shot of my French loco as I transferred to the SBB platforms. There were a couple of options to move on from here and the hope was to do it loco-hauled. 460 015 was the answer and was taken to Lausanne, passing a very smart BMC Re4/4 on the way at Morges. Also here were some locos with a set of freight wagons on translator wagons - It was perfectly positioned for a photo and I very nearly bailed off.

The narrow gauge train to Bulle at Montbovon.

At Lausanne I then needed to continue around Lake Geneva to Montreaux- however before my plan to do this had manifested I was surprised to see a top and tail Re4/4 scratch set coming around the corner heading back to Geneva. Not expecting many opportunities to get a ride with these, and with a nice opening window I found myself on the train back to Morges. It might delay my onward plans, but it had to be done! Unfortunately by the time I arrived the narrow gauge freight had gone, but I did find a train onwards to Montreaux with a loco, which the one I should have been on from Laussane was not!
Looking up the train I was now in revealed a very tight (+1) connection at Montreaux for the MOB train which I had planned to take. Being Switzerland, of course, it worked.
Views from the Montreaux - Oberland - Bernois (MOB).
I didn't really get a chance to view what was up front at Montreaux, but it was a loco on panoramic coaches. I would later learn that it was GDe 4/4 6003 in golden 'Train du Chocolate' livery. It turned out that I had inadvertently sat in 1st class during the panic to board, but the gripper happily accepted my FIP regardless. The climb up from Montreaux over lake Geneva is indeed spectacular, shortly after this the train swings further into the mountains and above the snowline. Even Swiss narrowgauge it seems is blighted by passengers who feel the need to put their music on loudspeaker- I'm not sure the guy (clearly a tourist) appreciated me telling him to turn it off, but he did and then fell asleep missing most of the scenery.
Railcars at Bulle
The classic Re4/4 is in decline on passenger SBB passenger workings,
but can still be found without difficulty at Zurich Hbf. 15/02/2019

Around 40 minutes in it was time for me to leave the train at Montbovon, the full journey through to Zweisseman will have to wait for another day. I changed onto a modern unit for a further foray though the snow to Bulle. What began as a sparsely loaded service filled up with schoolchildren  towards the end of the journey and was positively rammed! Luckily they didn't all transfer onto the next train to Fribourg. Here it was back behind locos with a IC2000 set (with added single decks) on to Zurich. Here I met the first of my friends before our whole group converged on Chur. I had arrived just a few minutes astray from them (having arrived from London by way of Strasbourg and Basel)- not bad given that the confluence of our journeys had not been designed. The train to Chur was rammed again it wasn't until Saglians that I swapped my armrest perch for a seat.
An early night was due for all of us- but then we ended up in a beer hall. Again we managed to make friends (or did they decide to make friends with us?), need I add that it was not an early night. A karaoke bar may have featured and most of my CHF's seemed to have disappeared by the morning!

Saturday 16th Feb:
Ge4/4iii 647 pauses at Samedan with a Chur - St Moritz service. Our dining car was on the rear of the train. 16/02/2019

Allegra at Arosa! Sadly not the loco hauled train I had
hoped for, but certainly the snow I wanted. 16/02/2019
Starting just weeks before our visit the first diagram for some years taking a loco hauled passenger train up the RhB Arosa line was announced. The previous week it had produced an Allegra unit. What would it be today? Firstly, would we be up in time!? Feeling very worse for ware I did make it to the station to find out. An Allegra again. Having made the effort to reach the station I jumped on regardless (though the temptation to head back to bed was considerable). I think I slept a lot of the way to Arosa, but did make a point of watching my return trip- an absolutely spectacular line, and snow almost the whole way. Just the outskirts of Chur ware bare from snowcover.

GE4/4ii is on the rear of the sled train returning from Preda
to Bergun. The sled run is on the left, briefly running uphill! 

Back at the hotel after a little lie down (and purchasing an adaptor for the funny European sockets in these parts) I was ready to go again to meet the rest of our group at Chur (14 of us in total) for our run on the dining train up the Albula line. Ge6/6iii 647 brought in the stock and the two dining coaches were at the rear of the train. Lunch was a very pleasant affair with good food and service, though I really didn't need a beer after the previous night!  The price was pretty good for Switzerland as well, eating from the set menu, and of course the Albula pass in the snow did not disappoint! We left the train at Samedan, it continuing the last few miles to St Mortiz. We were to head back in the opposite direction to Preda in order to risk life and limb on the sled run down to Bergun. Certainly sledding down the Albula is great fun, but with no instruction, very limited steering and next to no ability to stop I think it must also rank as one of the most dangerous things I have done! That didn't stop us having three goes, using the Bergun - Preda shuttle which runs specially for the sledding with Ge4/4ii 630 providing the power. It took until the last run for me to crash off the course altogether (and also clock a top speed of 43kph!).
Sledding over it was time to get the train back to Chur and find an evening meal. It wasn't such a late night, but carnival was in town and a fun evening was had listening to the various brass bands in funny outfits in the Stadthalle.

Sunday 17th Feb:
G 4/5 107 'Albula waits for a regular RhB train to pass the Landquarts - Disentis charter at Trin. 17.02.2019

Today's entertainment involved very little in the way of decision- our group was booked onto the RhB Nostalgic steam trip from Lanquarts to Disentis worked by G 4/5 loco 107 'Albula'. Together with sister locomotive 108 'Engiadina' these locomotives have been in constant employ on the RhB since their delivery in 1906!
107 'Albula' in the sun ahead of its excursion from Landquart.
We had woken to another cloudless morning though the sun did not pop over the tops of the mountains until a few moments before our departure from Landquarts (que everyone piling out to re-take their photos of the train now bathed in light!). After branching from the Arosa line at Rechinau-Tammins the historic train continues along the picturesque Rhine valley before tackling the proper climb up to Disentis, where the RhB meets the Matterhorn Gottard Bahn. There were several stops along the way to pass scheduled passenger trains running in both directions, these provided opportunities to photograph our train, though sadly the light was never really quite right- and no run pasts had been scheduled today. Even so the ride was very pleasant and the loco performed faultlessly (though I was a little offended by the painted on coal bags in the tender- these to hide the actual bags of Welsh coal, which maybe didn't look so traditional coated in plastic!). Riding on the verandas of the heritage coaches was particularly fun- if rather chilly!
Passengers assist in turning the loco at Sumvitig-Cumpadials. 17/02/2019
We stopped in Disentis for lunch in the station bar. The food was very good despite a mild panic when the staff realised that they had a very large group all of whom needed feeding and getting back onto a set train! We made it just- but some people's bills arrived only a few minutes before departure!!!
The run back was downhill, and time to hit the bar coach. With the organises not realising quite how many Brits were on board an extra beer stop became necessary with extra supplies brought on board at Illanz. By Landquarts the bar was fairly dry once again- even all their shots of 'Loco Wasser' had disappeared... can't think how that happened!
Tonight was finally a quieter affair, and it was needed!

Monday 18th Feb:
Ge4/4ii 628 work a St Mortiz - Landquart service across the viaduct between Saas and Kublis. 18/02/2019

A Be4/4 railcar works between Schiers and Razuns heads away from Malans
Along with much of the 'heritage' fleet these units are due to be replaced
in the near future with new EMU's. 17/02/2019.
Our massive group splintered in to several smaller ones today, some also having left right after the steam tour the night before. Today's aim, for my splinter group at least, was some quality snowy photography of the soon to be outgoing Ge4/4ii locos which are due to be replaced starting in 2019 with 3 car fixed formation EMU's. Before heading into the mountains however there was time to get a ride on one of the few 'mixed' trains that runs each day with a Ge6/6ii freight loco.

Ge6/6ii at Domat/Ems with the 'mixed' train from Illans to Chur.

The 07:53 Illanz - Chur which was picked up at Domat/Ems for a slightly later wake up call. 702 produced on this duty with a nice mix of coaches and freight wagons. A miscommunication within the group then led to us hitting the snow a bit later than planned, but this did afford a successful couple of hours at Malans before we headed up to the Klosters area with which we had become familiar last summer.

Ge4/4iii 650 advertising the UNESCO Albula route approaches Klosters with a train for Davos Platz. 17/02/2019.

A line up of Ge4/4ii and Ge6/6ii in fading light at Klosters.
Since we were moving accommodation bags needed to be stored before trudging through the snow, and after a bit of a disaster where we discovered that the self-serve lockers did not have enough room we were then saved by the attendant pointing out that there was a staffed luggage storage facility in the station- very quick, efficient and cheaper than the lockers for our three large bags- highly recommended. The timetable where trains all tend to arrive at once and limited daylight were a constraint on the locations we could reach, however some pleasing shots were taken on the double track section between Klosters and Klosters Dorf before heading down the line to Saas to walk to a viaduct which was photographed in the summer. Half way up a steep hill, deep in snow, I remembered how difficult this climb had been *without* the snow! Anyway- we made it and with only about 20 minutes of light to spare the shot we wanted.
Ge4/4ii 628 approahces Klosters. 17/20/2019.
All smiles we chose the road route to walk back town to Kublis before heading back to Klosters to pick the bags up and continue to Davos. There was a welcome distraction from our 30 minute wait here when we discovered 704 in the yard next to the station with a freight train. Dinner tonight was Fondu, with some fairly pricey wine. All very good though. Those of the group who managed to order meat Fondu 'without cheese' however were a little 'cheesed off' (sorry!).

Tuesday 19th Feb:
ABe4/4iii Railcar 55 leads a St Moritz - Tirano service along the frozen shores of Lago Bianco near to the lines summit of 2253m above sea level at Ospizio Bernina. 18/02/2019.

An Allegra set arrives into Ospizio Bernina. 
Today was the turn of the Bernina line. On my very first trip to the RhB I had made it as far as Alp Grum under the cover of darkness and in a snowstorm- but this was a little different. It was daylight and the weather was perfect! From Davos Platz our passage was by way of Fllisur, Samedan and Pontresina where of course all the neatly timed Swiss connections worked close to clockwork. We have hoped to see and travel on some of the older ABe4/4 railcars and were pleased to see a set at Pontresina heading to St Moritz- while not our train it proved that they were in service and working. Just before our own departure on an 'Allegra' set Ge6/6iii 702 pulled in with a freight, we didn't realise quite quickly enough for a decent photo. The Swiss being far too efficient in coupling the loco immediately to it's next train!
An Allegra railcar leads the Bernina Express through the vast snowy
landscape of Ospizio Bernina high on the Bernina Pass. 18/02/2019
Scenery on the Bernina pass is simply stunning. There is no other way to put it. The gradients and curves, all adhesion worked, are frankly astonishing! Everyone jumped off in to the cold day at the highest point on the line, Ospizio Bernina which at 2253m above sea level is not only the highest point on Rhaetian Railways, but the highest rail mountain pass in Europe. The scenery here is quite unlike anything I have seen before on a railway- above the tree line with snow all around and the frozen Lago Bianco sitting next to the railway. We struggle into a position to photograph the Berina Express which is following a few minutes behind our train. With no clear roads and deep snow this is easier said and done- but the rewards worthwhile. Only the more hardy of our group elect to spend much time here, the others sensibly continuing on the train to Tirano for a beer stop. Those of us who do elect to stay however are rewarded with some stunning photos in the near-perfect conditions. Or course we have to struggle through the snow to find the spots which really slows progress. Fortunately we're mostly dressed for it, though even my waterproof shoes become sodden inside. Snow-shoes really are a must for next time as we never know which steps the frozen snow will support us on, or how deep it will let us fall. One thing is for sure- walking across the frozen lake poses no risk of falling through!
ABe4/4iii railcars 54 and 52 work another train towards Tirano, Italy. 18/02/2019
After a couple of the ABe4/4iii railcars have blessed our photos and with our feet cold and wet it is time to head back to the train- there is one more surprise however in the shape of older ABe 4/4ii 23201 which has been converted for departmental use and painted yellow. The vehicle propels a flat wagon loaded with snow which is then churned up and sprayed spectacularly onto the side of the track. A bit of running through deep snow is required to get the shots, but very satisfied with this bonus we then continue our trudge back to the station and our train. Sadly not another railcar (I guess we can't have them all), an Allegra arrives to take us on to Tirano. The scenery doesn't let up with highlights being the descent from Alp Grum and the model railway-esque spiral at Brusio- the photos here will have to wait for another day! This section of line also features some street running and passes an incredible logging operation whereby tree trunks are airlifted by helicopter from the surrounding forest to a loading point. The operation is very slick with the road being temporarily closed as the logs are dropped- the railway, right next to the road, keeps running and gives a great view of the operation!

Departmental vehicle 23201, converted from an ABe4/4ii railcar on snow duties. 19/02/2019.

ABe4/4iii 52 departs from Tirano for St Moritz. 19/02/2019.
There is a tempting leap onto a pair of railcars on arrival at Tirano, just across the border in Italy. However we sensibly choose to join our friends for an ice cream, electing to take our inbound Allegra unit back up the mountain in just under an hours time.

Ge6/6ii pauses between duties at Pontresina. 19/02/2019

Returning with a few 'train beers' and a bottle of Lemoncello we make our way to dinner at the restaurant at Alp Grum. We have booked ahead but the need clearly wasn't too great as there are only a handful of other diners. There deserved to be more as the food, service and views were excellent. Another slight panic to pay as the 5 minute warning light for 'Pontressina' is illuminated. This is Switzerland of course and there never seems to be a problem. The driver pops into the bar for a coffee while the waiter pops onto the train to correct our bill!
The evenings entertainment is a bit of Apre Ski- but my voice won't hold out prompting an early conclusion than I would have liked. I'm sure I would be thankful in the morning.

Wednesday 20th Feb:
Ge6/6ii works between Punt Moragl and Pontresina with a short freight working. The cross country skier seems oblivious to the train, but many did become distracted by our pile of bags at the edge of the run! 20/02/2019.

Ge4/4ii 6XX heads towards Punt Moragl with a train to Scuol-Tarasp.
Our final day on the RhB and an early start as there were a couple of items still to tick off the list. First was to get a decent, well lit shot of a freight in the snow. Over to Fillisur again and up by way of Samedan to Punt Moragl where another fight with the snow ensued to get us into position. Ge6/6iii 705 turned up as our reward and after a brisk walk/run we made it back to the station for the next train back to Pontresina. This brought us the chance to ride the whole way along the Engadine railway to Scuol-Tarasp, thus completing the track of the RhB (with the exception of both the branches to St Moritz which always just seem to take such a long time to travel over!). Observations earlier in the week had unfortunately been confirmed that all of the push-pull trains working between Scuol-Tarasp and Pontresina were the wrong way around for the photo we wanted on the viaduct at Cinuos-chel-Brail. Since this was one of the shots we had come on this trip for we simply had to wait for the 2-hourly train to St Moritz which would have a loco on the front. At least it should have! Having waited for the train several expletives were muttered as the perfect photo of a driving trailer was taken with the loco in the middle of the train!

Ge4/4ii crosses the viaduct at Cinuos-chel-Brail with a train from Landquart to St Mortiz. 20/02/2019

Narrow Gauge Landscapes at Cinuos-chel-Brail. 20/02/2019
Defeated we headed to the hotel restaurant in town for re-fueling. My splinter group had a dilema- it was 2 hours until the next chance to try the shot but we had a flight to catch. Technically it was possible relying on a +2 connection at Sagliains, and then a +9 at Landquarts. It was Switzerland so surely they would work... but we had already decided it was too much of a risk. They *would* work though.... surely? As we watched the preceding train slip down the valley, it was going to have to!
I'm pleased to say it all paid off, 626 meeting grins as it crossed the bridge at the head of the St Moritz train. The freight which 'might' have followed it didn't, but we were going home happy, as long as that connection made- which it did!

SBB Cargo Re4/4's continue to work international trains into Germany.
421 379 waits at Zurich Hbf with a train for Stuttgart Hbf. 20/02/2019

Ge4/4ii 633 was our last loco on the RhB depositing us at Landquarts for a very crowded IC2000 set back to Basel. Swiss Express Re4/4 11108 taunting us with a train for Chur which we definitely could not take! There was just one more drama to befall us on the way home. After a beautiful run along the edge of Lake Zurich once we eventually found ourselves some seats it all nearly went very badly wrong at Zurich Hbf. Our train was through to Basel, fast from Zurich. Only a few minutes before departure I noticed the screens had changed on board; they were now showing Luzern. Presuming this was information about a connection I ignored it... but it didn't change, and wasn't showing any other connections. Our train was surely still going to Basel? No? No. That was now on platform 34 downstairs and leaving in 1 minute!!! Not the slick SBB operation I was used to with an unscheduled stock swap! Fortunately another passenger directed us to platform 16 where a Basel train was due to depart in just enough time for us to get on it. It was hauled and formed of the older style 'opening window' style coaches which are starting to show their age (surely due for withdrawal once the Twindexx sets finally settle down?). It was a stopping service to Basel behind an Re460 which would put us 20 minutes behind where we should have been. Fortunately the 50 bus to the airport was as efficient as always and the bag drop was made with minimum fuss with at least a couple of minutes to spare- we even briefly met our friends flying to Manchester who had left some hours earlier without the tight airport connection stress. EasyJet were on time as well, and thus ended another great trip.

Ge4/4iii 649 heads a Landquart - St Mortiz service as it starts its journey heading towards Malans. 17/02/2019.

Ge4/4ii 627 is stabled at Davos Plats for morning service. 19/02/2019
I still absolutely adore this railway and to say we were lucky with the weather would be an understatement! This trip ticked all the boxes and was in fact so successful that it has greatly reduced our chances of returning again. There are just so many other places to visit! If you like what you see I urge you- get to the RhB this year before it is too late. It will still be stunning as a mostly unit only operation- but it won't ever be the same.
Thanks to Jon, Rhys, Rob, Rabbit, Fatz, Bruce, Lyn, Matty, Nic, Strak, Paul, Ted, John and anyone else I have forgotten for your excellent company, organisation and just a great trip!

Ge4/4iii 651 approaches Malans with a train for Davos Platz. 17/02/2019