Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Return to Rhymney

37418 powers the 17:01 Cardiff Central - Rhymney towards Pontlottyn on August 19th 2019. This complete blue/grey train definitely looks the part. Even here at Pontlottyn vegetation has grown significantly compared with 2005.
Back on 8th October 2005 'celebrity' 37425 is seen in the same spot as 37418 above at Pontlottyn. The weather was dreadful and I still remember returning to the train with sodden shoes! Vegetation has grown up on both sides of the line in the intervening 13 years! 37425 is currently stored as part of the DRS fleet.

When class 37's finally finished on the Rhymney Valley in South Wales in 2006 I don't think anyone ever imagined that they would be back. 
37421 awaits departure from Carephilly with the 07:24
Rhymney - Cardiff Central on 20th Aguust 2019.
Fast forward 13 years to 2019 and class 37 hauled commuter trains have been re-introduced between Rhymney and Cardiff Central. The reason is shortage of multiple units while Transport for Wales (TfW) sends its existing stock for PRM (Passengers or Reduced Mobility) upgrades as well as delays with the fleets of new trains which will replace the much derided 'Pacer' units in service in Wales. 
Back in the early 2000's EWS provided 3 class 37's which worked a return trip each Monday - Friday from Rhymney to Cardiff (one continuing to Radyr) and returning in the evenings. On Saturdays the locos took charge and ran all the hourly services to Rhymney throughout the day with DMU's supplementing on the shorter services to Bargoed. 

37418 waits to depart Cardiff Queen St on 20th August 2019
working the 17:43 Rymney - Cardiff. 
The operation which has begun in 2019 follows a similar format on weekdays. Two class 37's haul 4 mk2 coaches each between Rhymney and Cardiff on the following trains:
07:24 Rhymney - Cardiff Central (2F15)
07:43 Ryymney - Cardiff Central (2F10)
17:01 Cardiff Central - Rhymney (2R20)
17:46 Cardiff Central - Rhymney (2R24)
Sadly the Saturday 'gala's' of the early 2000's are not being repeated.

Back on 19th March 2005 EWS 37405 is seen in the same
spot at Cardiff Queen St. Little has changed here!
Locomotives are being provided by Colas Rail with 37418 and 37421 expected to work the majority of trains. 37025 is currently based at Cardiff as a standby and has seen some use (top and tail with 37421) on the 07:24 Rhymeny - Cardiff before it then works a top and tailed pair of return trips as driver training runs between Cardiff Canton and Rhymney.

One of my first photos away from the station platform back on 19th March 2005 - 37411 'Scottish Railway Preservation Society' departs from Ystrad Mynach heading south to Cardiff.

37411 is seen again 5 months later on 27th August 2005 after its heritage repaint to mark the end of loco hauled operations to Rhymney. The picture sadly not helped by a patch of shadow that moved across just as the train rounded the corner! 37411 has is no longer extant haveing been scrapped - a cab remains in a pub in Derby!

Finally Ystrad Mynach today (19th August 2019)- vegetation has grown up so much that the signal box can no longer be seen. Aside from the vegetation Ystrad Mynach has changed considerably since the early 2000's - Mechanical signalling has been replaced by colour lights and the station has been almost totally re-built. One positive change is the re-opening of the Cwmbargoed branch which splits from the Rhymney valley just behind this shot and sees coal traffic to an open cast mine. The double heading of class 37's is not routine and was caused by the failure of 37025 with a coolant leak before working its driver training run. Some while later 37421 has run round and is recovering the set to Cardiff Canton.
37025 shuts at Rhymney on 20th August 2019. It will form the 07:24
departure for Cardiff Central the following morning. 37025 celebrated its
58th birthday in 2019- is this the oldest diesel locomotive to work
scheduled passenger trains?
Due to the limited work of the class 37's these trains are very difficult to cover- especially if you don't live in South Wales (Chris Davies, who incidentally, has an excellent set of photos- see his Flickr). With these trains providing such a unique opportunity to see class 37's in use it was too tempting not to re-visit this line which holds such good memories of some of my class 37's and thus I made two trips in August to sample the trains, as well as delving into my photo archives from previous visits in the early 2000's. 

37418 approaches Pontlottyn on 30th August 2019 with the 17:01 Cardiff Central - Rhymney. The trains looks great in the landscape but vegetation now leaves only narrow openings to view it!

A similar location from a lower angle is seen on 3rd December 2005 - the day before the 'Rhymney Diesel Gala' to mark the end of loco haulage on the route. The curve is no longer visable from this height. 37419 has continued to see passenger work in 2019, now painted in Intercity Colours working out of Norwich with DRS / Greater Anglia.

37418 waits between duties at Cardiff Canton. The depot
can be seen from passing trains on the Cross City line.
Vegetation has shot up right across the route over the last decade and sadly those wanting to re-create many of the scenes from the early 2000's will be disappointed. Vantage points are now very limited and mostly centred around Cardiff Queen St and the opposite end of the line at Pontlottyn. As comparison with my older photos will show (aside from hopefully an improvement in my photography skills over the last 13 years) many locations have changed dramatically - but some rewarding shots are still possible. 

37418 approaches Cardiff Queen Street seen from a nearby car park while working the 07:43 Rhymney - Cardiff on 30th August 2019.
37418 passes light engine through Cardiff Central on 30th August working
an 0Z37 test run via Radyr. Driver training did not run this day.
For those wanting to ride the trains and enjoy the sights and sounds of the class 37 this is also a lot more difficult that in was back in the carefree days of the early 2000's. Once again the issue of droplight windows has been in the spotlight - especially so since Southern Rail was fined £3 million after a passenger was tragically decapitated from a class 442 in South London. As a result, and also to prevent non-automatic slam-doors being left open TfW employs security staff who man every vestibule on these trains. Certainly leaning out of windows like the old days is not an option! Depending on the nature of the security staff it *may* be possible to stand somewhere near an open window, but in my experience passengers will be ushered into the seating areas (even if full) and all windows will be firmly closed after every stop. Once the train becomes so full that standing in the vestibules is no longer avoidable the problem of people standing there seems to subdue! If you want to stand near a window (and don't even think about touching it!) your best bet is to board the train at Cardiff in the evening when it is already full and hope not to get ushered into the seats once it empties out. Sadly you shouldn't expect the security staff to be enthusiast friendly or particularly trained in customer service! However you shouldn't let this put you off- even from well inside the coach the 37's sound fantastic once again powering up the Rhymney Valley!
The TfW class 37 hauled operation will not be around for long. The current contract runs until the end of December but rumours of a possible extension are rife. If you have the chance go now before the winter closes in as these trains will not be around for long!
The last 37 of the day on 19th August 2019. 37421 heads up the Rhymney Valley at Pontlottyn with the 17:46 Cardiff Central - Rhymney. Even in August the light was beginning to dip behind the trees and hilltops. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The Night Riviera - Overnight from London to Cornwall

GWR sleeper coaches wait to welcome passengers at London Paddington
Paddington's First Class Lounge.
Overnight sleeper services often seem a bit of a secret of the UK's railways. Few notice these trains as they snake across the country overnight providing vital connections between the capital and some of the UK's far reaching limbs. There has been plenty of press recently about the Caledonian Sleeper which connects London with many destinations in Scotland and is investing in a new fleet of coaches fit for the 21st century- however there is one other sleeper service remaining in the UK, also offering an excellent level of service; the Night Riviera running 6 nights a week between London Paddington and Penzance.
Before departure from London Paddington sleeper passengers are entitled to use the First Class lounge adjacent to platform 1 (First class lounge facilities and showers are also available at Penaznce and Truro) to enjoy a complimentary snack or hot drink before departure. On our trip the lounge at Paddington was beginning to wind down as we entered but was still a pleasant place to wait for the trains departure at 23:45. Cabins are available for guests to book in from 22:30. 

57604 in heritage 'GWR' colours prepares to haul the Night Riviera from
Paddington to Penzance on the evening of 13th April 2018.
The Night Riviera is hauled by one of GWR's class 57 locomotives, converted from class 47's which previously hauled the train in the early 2000's. These locomotives haul the train of smart green liveried refurbished Mk3 coaches. Unlike the Caledonian Sleeper offering these vehicles are far from brand new- but you would be hard pushed to notice from the inside as a full refurbishment has left the Mk3's with a clean and comfortable interior. Cabins comprise of two bunks which are never shared with other travellers, each cabin containing a small wash basin. Toilets are provided at the ends of each coach. The compartments are sleek and clean with charging facilities and reading lights- the beds are also very comfortable with two pillows and a towel provided for every passenger. Accessible cabins are available for those who require them.

The Night Riviera Lounge car shortly after departure from Paddington
Like the Caledonian sleeper the Night Riviera contains a lounge car in the consists which is the perfect place for sleeper passengers to unwind. The lounge too has been fully refurbished and is one of the smartest Mk3 vehicles currently on the network (though the odd tables for two with seats that don't face each other are very bizzare!). A bar service of drinks and light snacks is available, however given the much later departure from London it is not surprising that the offer is more limited that the Caledonian Sleeper, and it is also noticeable that the lounge car empties out much quicker- after all it is almost midnight by the time the train has departed from London and most sensible passengers will be heading to bed!

Hopefully a good sleep later passengers wake as the train is winding its way through Cornwall to a complimentary continental breakfast served in the cabins. The only problem perhaps is that the journey is, for a sleeper, so short! Arrival in Truro is little over 7 hours after departure from London and Penzance is reached shortly before 8am. This is all in all though a great way to travel between London and Cornwall and wake up relaxed and ready for the day. (Hopefully the loud knocking noise from beneath our coach was a one off and has been fixed by the GWR engineering team!).

Friday, 2 August 2019

A blast from the past

Occasionally I find myself looking back through old photos- Things that you might not have seen on the site before- maybe I never got around to publishing them, writing the piece that I had planned at the time, or maybe the pictures just weren't worth doing anything with.
Today's picture has never appeared here previously as it pre-dates the blog! Yes, back in the dark days of Fotopic my railway musings would appear there. Unlike some when the service ceased I did not loose any of my photos- what I did loose were the captions and the huge amount of time taken to upload everything.
This picture of EP07-356 passing Kraków Łobzów on 10 February 2011 was from my first 'proper' foreign rail trip didn't make the cut then either. It was far too overexposed n its unedited form and besides- it was one of the first photos of the trip and was 'just another' green EP07!
Today EP07-356 is anything but 'just another' loco. Unlike the vast majority of its classmates it still wears green, with yellow fronts and lining as one of the celebrities of the remaining PKP fleet. What it doesn't of course have is the traditionally painted coaches to go with it. Back in 2011 the green locos were far from plentiful - now only a handful of specially kept examples are running in traditional colours.
For those finding the profile of the locomotive familiar, the EP07 is derived from the 20 British Built English Electric EU06 class- effectively a Polish version of the class 83! While the 83 is long gone from British metals its derivatives in Poland continue to ply their trade.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Azuming Service!

In full service 800105 crosses Digswell Viaduct in Hertfordshire with the 06:35 Hull - Kings Cross on 17th May 2019.
800102 is sandwiched by Intercity 225 sets at Kings Cross on
24th April 2019 with a test run prior to entering ECML service. 
The long awaited introduction of the Intercity Express Program trains onto the East Coast Main Line has now come to fruition with the first class 800/1 unit entering service between Hull, Leeds and London Kings Cross on 15th May 2019. Branded 'Azuma' which translates to 'East' in Japaneese the Hitachi train sets will eventually replace the entire East Coast Intercity fleet. The brand was initially the concept of Virgin Trains who should have introduced the new trains, but after financial difficulties the government took over running of the East Coast Franchise (yet again) from June 2018 branding the service as London North Eastern Railway. Azuma's will be introduced at a rate of approximately one train a week until all 65 train sets have entered service sometime in 2020.

Another view of 800102 on test at Kings Cross 24/04/2019.

The existing stock of 'Intercity 125' HST's and 'Intercity 225' Class 91 hauled Mk4 sets face an uncertain future with the first Mk4 sets already transferring to store. Some are earmarked to be used diesel-hauled by Transport for Wales while and open access operator has also bid to use the trains between London Paddington and Cardiff.
LNER are the second operator to introduce the Hitachi Intercity Express Trains after GWR which finished replacing it's HST's just days after the LNER launch on 18th May. While the editor has not yet travelled on one of the LNER 'Azumas' it is amazing how different they look just from the livery- and how much better in his opinion, with their clear bright lines and bird like nose compared to the dull grey of the GWR sets.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Boulogne Diesel - SNCF Trip Report 29-30th June 2019

The highlight of the trip - BB67471 works the 14:45 Boulogne - Paris (to Amiens) on 30th June 2019 at Larronville.

As you may recall from my previous reports France just has this habit of  never being easy. Tackling the SNCF always seems to be a challenge- one route though had almost always been good to me; the Boulogne line and the diesels which continue to maintain the Intercity trains from Boulogne to Amiens. How this trip was to prove that not to be true!

One of the remaining Sud-Est TGV's #13 near Bergues. 29/06
Starting on the Saturday morning it was an early start for the 09:36 Shuttle across to Calais. The trip got off to a good start with us making our booked shuttle possibly for the first time and the added bonus of not even being delayed! Before heading to the Boulogne line there were a couple of other targets which first brought us to the pretty town of Bergues just outside Dunkirk. The plan was to pick up a couple of the Lens based BB22200's which operate out of Lille. I didn't expect these push-pull trains to be particularly reliable and the first working disappointingly produced an EMU. To rub salt into the wound we then drove past a long freight one we were back in the car.
No Push-Pull passenger locos but BB27070's appearance at Cassel means we don't go home empty handed. 29/06/2019

One of many fine AGC shots! The 18:31 Amiens - Boulogne
passes Larronville- if only it had been a loco! 29/06/2019.
Heading down the line to the next spot near Zuytpeene things looked a little better. We got lucky and got a good shot of a short freight near a level crossing and then settled on a rather nice vista to wait for our next BB22200. It wasn't to be with a Regiolis unit turning up in it's place- but we did at least catch a classic (all be it Vermillion) Sud-Est TGV and another Prima hauled freight.
Unfortunately our luck was no better with the diesels. We set up in a great location north of Rue and waited for our first shot, the one train each week booked for a pair of locos. It was a unit. This wasn't a massive shock as I knew weekend diesel reliability of late had been poor with a vice or two not uncommon. Maybe the heat wasn't helping with very high temperatures across the country- no doubt a factor in the reason that almost all trains seemed to be running about 40 minutes late.
66203 is our only Boulogne line loco of the day! We need not
have crossed the border to see these! 29/06/2019.

What I had not anticipated was ALL of the trains being DMU's with not a loco hauled Corail set in sight. Indeed the only loco I saw all afternoon was a small shunter Y.6471 located in a concrete works near Conchil-le-Temple. With all the diagrams viewed as locos there was no point sticking around, and best use was made of a gorgeous evening by dining in Le Crotoy. Everyone else had the same idea and by the time we had paid the bill it was going to be a race down the A26 to make 23:00 check in at our hotel! We made it... but not quite by 23:00!

BB22338 in the 'Ghost' non-livery is our only loco of three potentials at Dommartin. 30/06/2019.
After a very warm night Sunday dawned somewhat more cloudy. Feeling that our chances with the diesels were looking poor we headed before breakfast down to Dommartin for a couple of electrics. The first, naturally, was a ghost BB22338 - what we really needed was a 'concrete' on the train up to Amiens. This wasn't a line where we were expecting a unit vice, but it came. As did another on what should have been the first BB15000 due to work out of Amiens. With no more trains due it was time to bury our sorrows in breakfast!

The first Fret photo- BB67471 passes a sea of poppies on the
platform at Dreuil les Amiens. Finally a loco! 30/06/2019
Despite knowing there had been no diesels out on Saturday we weren't quite prepared to give up ono our Sunday plans completely and headed over to the station to check if there was any information on the 2014 the 09:33 Amiens - Boulogne (ex Paris). Waiting under the footbridge was Fret BB67471 waiting to back onto the train. Game on. This is what we had come for!
There wasn't anywhere wonderful to photograph the northbound working and time was not on our side so Dreuil les Amiens became the location by default. We would catch the loco again later.

#19 runs around it's train at Cayeaux-sur-Mer on the Baie du
Somme railway. 30/06/2019.

During the middle of Sunday there is a large gap in loco hauled workings. Just about time to visit the Baie du Somme narrow gauge railway where we could at least guarantee to see a loco or two! No19 was working the Cayeaux service and after being photographed there was time to walk to the beach and grab an ice cream. Time was still available to capture #1 at Morlay working the train from Le Crotoy to Noyelles on our way to catch BB67471. The weather had become increasingly cloudy through the day but as the time of the train approached our position north of Rue seemed to clear substantially- Maybe despite all the adversity we were actually going to get the shot we had both come for- a Fret BB67400 - Something I had never seen moving in 8 years of visits to this country.
The barriers came down, and the green front came into view. We had it!- and this may have been celebrated audibly.

#1 gets away from Morlay on the Baie du Somme tourist railway.
There was little hope of much more diesel activity but we got into position just in case. Just before the next southbound train was through a Frenchman approached in his car. The English translation of his remark was along the lines of 'if you have come to see diesel engines, there are no more today'. This confirmed what we already really knew. It was only a few minutes wait for our final photograph of an AGC of the trip and we then headed to Boulogne for dinner- there really was no point waiting for the final train we could have seen.

A final AGC of the trip, vice loco once again on the 17:33 Boulogne - Paris.

Thanks to JH for the company as usual - fortunately we got 'the' shot, so I guess this trip was worthwhile despite being one of the least productive I have ever been on! Looking back though of all the locos that could have worked the train I suppose we were lucky it was a Fret example that was chucked out- plus I do now have even more great shots of AGC units!

The week after our return the first Regiolis unit was introduced on through Paris - Boulogne workings. The end really is neigh for the last Intercity diesels in France. Maybe I'll be back one last time? I really don't know.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Great Western HST Farewell

The stars of the final line up at Paddington are undoubtedly the two 'celebrity' power cars 43002 'Sir Kenneth Grange' and 43185

43093 arrives into Truro with the 09:50 Penzance - Paddington
After 43 years of front line use on Intercity Trains from London's Paddington May 18th 2019 saw the final scheduled use of HST's by Great Western Railway. For the final day four HST's were in use worked by 43188/43093, 43162/43188, 43009/43155, 43002/43198. Notable was the pairing of the final set which saw both the first (002) and last (198) production power cars paired for the final day and also work the final GWR passenger service from Paddington with the 18:30 Paddington - Taunton.

The last full length GWR HST to leave Cornwall crosses Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge over the River Tamar.

43185 at Reading with the 09:29 Swansea - Paddington
My day actually started on the previous Friday night with a positioning move on the Night Riviera Sleeper (worthy of another post in its own right) which would position us (and a handful of other enthusiasts with the same idea) at Truro in time to enjoy the last GWR HST out of Cornwall, 43093 and 43188 on the 06:50 Penzance - Paddington. I have ridden surprisingly few HST's as far as Cornwall and the crossing of the Royal Albert Bridge into Devon was a poignant moment. Similarly provoking of emotions was what could quite possibly be my final run along the Dawlish sea wall beside an opening HST window - having travelled extensively over the scenic railways of the UK the stretch from Newton Abbot to Exeter St Davids is still probably unbeaten as my favourite. The weather forecast had been poor, and indeed was leaving Cornwall however crossing through Devon the sun began to appear and beat down on this final HST from Cornwall to London.

At lunchtime before all the crowds arrived 43185 in vinyled 'Intercity Swallow' livery rests at Paddington.

43188 at Paddington ready to depart with the 13:00 to Bristol Temple Meads
We left our first HST at Reading, some delicate planning having taken place that should allow travel on each of the four sets performing on the day. Sure enough, as 43098 was departing, 43185 in it's distinctive InterCity 'Swallow' branding was rolling into the adjacent platform with the 09:29 Swansea - Paddington. This was enjoyed into Paddington where there was time for some photos of the IC powercar under the roof before getting back onto our first set with 43188 now leading on the 13:00 Paddington - Bristol Temple Meads. Here we met some friends and the process of enjoying, and drinking dry, the buffet cars began! By Bristol the buffet was out of cider, prosecco and perhaps wine too! The buffet steward making attempts to over-stock for the return journey must have been disappointed when his customers then disappeared onto a local train across to Cardiff!
43042 and 43097 prove that all is not lost at Newport with a
short 'Castle' working with classic coaches.

The trip through the Severn Tunnel allowed us to be in position for 43002 to lead us back into London partnered with 43198 on the 14:29 Swansea - Paddington, the last HST from South Wales to London. Despite some earlier troubles with 43002 which had seen it shut down for much of the outbound run the 1st built power car ran well for the fast run back down the Great Western, certainly clocking it's top speed of 125mph if various phone GPS trackers were to be believed!

Our arrival at Paddington put is in third position in the well organised line up of the last four trains in platforms 1-4. I was somehow not prepared for quite how popular these trains were or how well patronised this final line up would be - literally hundreds, if not a thousand people had turned up at Paddington wielding cameras to record the historic event. The atmosphere was brilliant with all the enthusiasts and staff displaying all the right attitudes and responsibility paying attention to the rules so that everyone could enjoy the event - though many can't have got anywhere near enough the trains to get decent photographs!

43002 'Sir Kenneth Grange' arrives into Newport with the 14:29 - the last service HST from South Wales to London.

43002 and 43185 together on the blocks at Paddington.
The final run, the 18:30 Paddington - Taunton had been advertised as a reservation only service leaving all those without seats three other options for their final GWR HST fix; the 18:03 to Plymouth, 18:15 to Cheltenham or 18:22 to Hereford. Our chariot was to be 43162 and 43172 with the Cheltenham run, our final of the four sets, which was taken just to Reading (it had already been a long day!) from where the final two HST's were watched passing, before the sad reality that it was actually over finally started to dawn while on board an Intercity Express Train back to London. It just wasn't the same!

A huge number of enthusiasts gathered at Paddington in the poor weather
conditions to witness the last HST arrivals and departures.

Thanks to all those who made the day very special in the end- particularly GWR who really didn't have to organise anything, but actually pulled all the stops out to make quite an event of the day. My only suggestion to improve the offering would be to offer enthusiasts some sort or 'Day Rover' ticket enabling the various trains to be covered. It does become rather expensive otherwise!

The final GWR HST! 43198 leas the 18:30 Paddington -
Plymouth away from Reading bringing down 43 years of HST
Intercity services on the Great Western Mainline.

Of course this isn't the end of HST's just yet. With the exception of a railtour which followed on 1st June the trains will no longer work into Paddington; however GWR is keeping eleven shortened 'Castle' sets to work local traffic between Cornwall, Devon and South Wales. These will be refurbished with retention toilets and slide-plug automatic doors. Elsewhere while HST's are imminently about to start beind displaced on the ECML by LNER and their replacement on the Midland Mainline seems inevitable the sets used by Cross Country are being refurbished, and a large number of sets are beginning to enjoy a second life working Inter7City services for Scotrail. They may not pass the Dawlish sea wall but the HST is far from dead yet!

The line up from the end of the platforms at Paddington: 43188, 43162, 43009 and 43198 wait their final departures.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

SŽ, Slovenia Trip Report 10-12 June 2019

664 106 departs Most na Soči and crosses the Idrijka River with the 10:38 Autovlak to Bohinjska Bistrica. 12/06/2019

In the usual position 664 112 waits at Ljublijana. 661 032 is stabled
behind having arrived during the day. 10/06/2019
It was 2015 in the dying days of class 664 action on the 'Citadella' from Hodos to Pragersko that I had made my previous fleeting visit to Slovenia. At the end of my trip report I concluded that it was a country I would like to come back to, but doubted it would be before the 664's had finished on this route (I also correctly predicted that the electrification would be finished before that of the GWR electrification!). Both predictions would prove to be correct!

363 021 at Zidani Most with a service to Ljublijana.

The big 'Reagan' 664 diesels have indeed finished on the international train however with SŽ announcing a sizeable order for new multiple units to be delivered from 2020 it was time to return. Again a short trip of just two nights was all that could be fitted in with the simple target to pick up one of the big Alsthom Co-Co 363 'broken nose' electrics and also to get a ride on the 'Autovlak' car train which runs between Bhoinjska Bistrica and Most na Soči - Now the last regular diesel hauled train in Slovenia.

Monday 10th June-
363 021 follows the river Sava with a service from Dobova to Ljublijana. 10/06/2019

541 005 waits to depart Ljublijana for Dobova. 10/06/2019
An uneventful flight out to Ljublijana with Wizz Air saw us arrive into the main station shortly after midday. After exploring the station and photographing 664112, which was stabled in the usual spot over at the west side of the station we took the first loco hauled train with 541005 on the 13:45 to Dobova as far as Zidani Most. The plan was then to pick up EC246 'Citadella'- although no longer a bet for a 664 the train did now present a good chance for a 363!

363 015 is in charge of the Citadella at Zagorgi. 10/06/2019

The wait for a 'Zig-Zag' was a lot shorter than expected as the first train to appear along the river was 363021 on a passenger service- Not the 'Citadella' but R5066 inbound from Dobova- a 342 duty. Target number one had been achieved very efficiently! Of course 363021 was taken, but being greedy we then bailed off at Zagorgi in the hope that 'Citadella' might produce another! A couple of freights passed and caught us off guard, both 363 hauled. Surely it would be too good to be true to get a fourth 363 in a row on our train? No- 363015 was in charge of the 'Citadella' and took us forward to Ljublijana, departing 8 minutes late- a lot better than the 50 minute delay of my last trip!
With the weather closing in 363 025 pauses at Borovnika bound for Koper.
Unfortunately the train lost a little more time and arrived into Ljublijana just in time to miss the next train I wanted to cover, the 16:50 to Dobova with a 342 in charge. I had a couple more targets in mine for 363's however, and both produced. 363024 on IC502 'Pohorje' and 363025 on IC509 'Koper'- the later was taken to Borovnica, heading into an electrical storm before returning on a unit. 664112 at the stabling point had been joined by 661032 and these were photographed one more time before heading into town to check into our accommodation and find some dinner content with the day's haul. 363's appeared to be out in abundance. The surprise was the lack of 342's! None covered and none even photographed- something that would require a plan for the morning.

Tuesday 11th June-
Beneath a threatening sky 665 105 waits for it's next Autovlak working from Most na Soči. 11/06/2019

A very shabby 315 207 is bound for Dobova. 11/06/2019.
Up at a sensible time to purchase a meat Burek for breakfast and head to the station. Having passed on a stupidly early start there were few loco hauled moves available before our planned train to Jesenice to head over to the Autovlak. The only option available from the diagrams to net a 342 was a quick leap to Ljublijana Zalog. The outbound run had a late start with one of the elderly Polish (EN57) style 315 EMU's. The return disappointingly was a Desiro- not the hoped for 342. Running late into Ljublijana gave us an unfavourable +0 onto EC212 to Jesinice, fortunately the EC was running a few minutes late also, but less fortunately was powered by 541005 (now not required since yesterday)! Also briefly sighted out of the window was the fireless steam loco used at the Ljublijana power station - this must be one of the last steam locos in regular use in Europe now- maybe worth investigating if I ever have some more time here!

643 031 pauses in the Ljublijana carriage sidings. 11/06/2019.
There was a little wait at Jesinice for the branch train during which several freights were seen. The DMU to Nova Gorica was then boarded. After around 15 minutes at Bled Jezero we were all chucked off and onto a bus. Not what we had planned and worry quickly set in about how this might affect the Autovlak! As things turned out the line was only shut as far as Bohinjska Bistrica from where a DMU was waiting to take passengers onwards to Nova Gorica, all be it it 35 minutes late.

664 105 runs around its train at Most na Soči. 11/06/2019

After checking into our accommodation for the night it was back to the station for the arrival of the car train, behind 664105 in place of the usual class 644 (I understand 644020 is on maintenance). This was a good result, although it did leave the 644 as a required class! 664105 was taken all the way to Most na Soči, the gripper noticeably bemused that it was then taken back up the hill to Podbrdo! Here we transfered to a DMU to Grahovo. With the clouds now rolling in it was probably inevitable that the viaduct shot was in cloud (if only it had been 5 minutes earlier!) but it was a pleasant beer stop!
Travelling on the Autovlak is a unique and picturesque experience. 11/06/2019
Back to Most na Soči by DMU to pick up the Autovlak for a last run back up the hill, 664105 making a great sight basking in the sun with a threatening sky looming behind. It wasn't until walking back to our accommodation we finally got rained on, before enjoying a good final night meal.

Wednesday 12th June-
A grey morning at Bohinjska Bistrica as 'new' class 664 106 takes it's turn on the Autovlak. 12/06/2019.

Passing the Autovlak at Podbrodo with 664 106. 12/06/2019
There were a couple of options this morning before making our way back to the airport and home (how was it almost over so soon?!). Aware of the potential chaos of the bus replacement and having still not had a 342 option 1 was to head straight back to Ljublijana to try some more moves. Option 2 was to use the local buses to spend the morning on Lake Bled enjoying the sunshine. However hen 664106 was viewed on the arriving Autovlak it was obvious that option 3 would be used - another run to Most na Soči and back with our second 'Reagan' of the trip! The train was taken down the hill before being photographed on the return, the journey back up the hill then being taken by DMU.

813 021 ready to start its train from Bohinjska Bistrica 12/06/2019.

541 021 waites with a freight in the yard at Jesenice. 12/06/2019
Had we not waited 15 minutes en-route for a late running passing train the bus replacement would have got us back to Jesenice in time to make our planned connection onto IC211 back to Kranj (and Ljublijana). As it was we missed the connection by around 8 minutes. Research had already revealed there was a back up train behind, but no chance of picking up another loco now. We left SŽ at Kranj for a taxi I had booked from Jesenice to the airport. This station is actually much closer to the airport than Ljublijana and the 15 minute taxi ride cost 30- perhaps more than I had expected, but it made our flight!

664 105 powers the Autovlak over the impressive viaduct at Grahovo. 11/06/2019.
I always knew the trip would be too short, and it was. But it did also achieve everything I had hoped to despite my worries about actually picking up a 363! The one disappointment perhaps would be the failure to pick up, or even see a 342 - while the bane of the 363 bashers they are still quite nice locos!
363 021 pauses with a freight at Jesenice as the weather closes in. 12/06/2019
Slovenia is a beautiful country but slightly lacking in loco hauled passenger trains, though does seem to have freight in abundance. The Autovlak comes highly recommended- great traction, great scenery and a very interesting operation. If the classic traction sticks I'm sure I'll be back- and maybe get the 644 one day! It remains to be seen how much loco haulage will remain after the new EMU's are delivered- though it is hard to see an outcome where much more than a handful of Euro Cities remain hauled- as a sign of the times just as I returned from the trip it was announced that a Pendolino would replace the loco hauled classic train on IC502/3 'Pohorje'.
Plenty of Alsthom 'Zig-Zag' action at Ljublijana with 363 015 and 363 021 bringing in subsequent arrivals. 10/06/2019