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67481 at Boulogne Ville, 19/10/14 (JW)
On a Sunday in October 2014 I made a flying visit to Northern France, to spend a little bit of time travelling around the Paris area behind a small variety of electric loco classes and then enjoy some time with the BB67400 diesel-electrics on the route between Amiens and Boulogne.
In hindsight it was probably a silly thing to do – I spent the Saturday travelling from home to the Downpatrick & County Down Railway in Northern Ireland for their diesel gala, before returning home for a few hours sleep, then out to Birmingham airport at the crack of dawn on Sunday to catch the 06:25 flight to Paris. The plan was then to spend the Sunday night in a hotel in Boulogne, before waking up on Monday in time to catch the 05:01 to Paris, a quick connection out to the airport for the plane back to Birmingham, home to get changed, then into work for a late shift.
Ticket-wise, I would be using the last bit of a FIP coupon that I had lying around, which in truth had more to do with my decision to make the train than the traction on offer. However, I was to have an enjoyable little adventure.
7613 at Chaville Rive Gauche, 19/10/14. (JW)
My plane landed at Paris Charles de Gaulle on time, but after a journey on the bus and the transit, a long queue at passport control and then a long walk through the airport complex, I wasn’t on the move on my RER until 09:37.
Another factor that didn’t help – which may be worth knowing if you’re considering using rail staff travel privileges over there – is that there is nothing on a FIP coupon that opens the unmanned ticket barriers on the RER. As I had a bit of time in hand, I sought out someone from the booking office to help me, but if you’re in a rush, you may not have that option. Something to bear in mind.
27303 departs Bellevue, 19/10/14. (JW)
Anyway, I was off, rattling towards the city centre. The RER, or “Réseau Express Régional”, is Paris’s overground rapid transit system – effectively, something that sits between its Metro and its bona fide suburban trains. It serves routes radiating from the capital, however, rather than terminating in any of the numerous termini that grace the city, it burrows underground, providing a viable alternative to the Metro for inner-city journeys as well as cross-city travel options. It is very much a product of the 1970s and 1980s, and very much has the look and feel of that era, and this extends to the trains on this route – Z8100 type EMUs from the early 1980s that show their age even after refurbishment.
Much like London, Paris has a large number of termini – seven, in fact; Nord, Est, Lyon, Bercy, Austerlitz, Montparnasse and St Lazare. Rather than make a beeline for one of these, I was to make a cross-city journey – changing from one RER line to another at St Michel-Notre Dame amongst all the tourists, then passing almost directly beneath the Eiffel Tower on a run out into the suburbs to the station of Viroflay Rive Gauche.
8588 and 27313, Paris Montparnasse, 19/10/14. (JW)
Here, the RER meets the route out of Montparnasse. The 10-mile section out of the terminus as far as Versailles Chantiers has nine stations and a frequent loco-hauled service of stopping trains, so quite a few “lines in the book” can be achieved in a fairly short time (admittedly, none of them for much mileage!).
Three of the stations on this section of line have the suffix “Rive Gauche”; this translates to “Left Bank”; the towns in question also have stations on another line which have the suffix “Rive Droite”… “Right Bank”, predictably! However, intriguingly, there is no river between them, and if viewed on a map, “Left” and “Right” are the wrong way round. The reason is that the “Rive Gauche” stations are on the route into Montparnasse terminus, which is on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris, whereas route with the “Rive Droite” stations runs into St Lazare, on the right bank of the Seine. Just a bit of trivia for you, in case you were wondering!
7613 snakes into Versailles Chantiers, 19/10/14. (JW)
My targets were the stopping trains from Montparnasse to Mantes la Jolie, Rambouillet and Plaisir Grignon. These run at a 15-minute frequency in both directions and are of double-deck stock worked in push-pull mode and powered by electric locos of classes BB7600 and BB27300.
The 14-strong fleet of BB7600s actually replaced EMUs on these workings, entering traffic about four years ago. However, they are locos of some vintage – being built in the early 1980s as class BB7200 and converted – one of a number of classes to benefit from the truly classic design of Paul Arzens, being nicknamed “nez cassés” (“broken noses”) due to the cab shape. These are 1500 v d.c. machines, and therefore can only work the services to Rambouillet and Plaisir-Grignon – the route beyond the latter to Mantes le Jolie is wired at a different voltage.
The BB27300s are far more modern locos – 67 Alstom “Primas” built between 2005 and 2010. These are used on commuter traffic out of both Montparnasse and St Lazare stations. They are dual-voltage, being able to work on 1500 v d.c. and 25000 v a.c., and therefore these work all of the Mantes la Jolie services as well as some of the short workings to Plaisir-Grignon and some of those to Rambouillet.
Both classes are expected to disappear from this work in the next few years as new EMUs enter traffic – the BB7600s withdrawn and the BB27300s cascaded to freight work.
8588 departs Versailles Chantiers, 19/10/14. (JW)
In 50 minutes or so, and without breaking a sweat, I succeeded in travelling behind 5 locos (2 x BB7600 and 3 x BB27300), but made sure that I was at Montparnasse in time to cover two trains of particular interest. These were both semi-fasts – the 12:09 to Chartres, which could be caught to its first stop of Versailles Chantiers and then, after a 15-minute wait, the 12:38 return (11:34 ex-Chartres). Both were booked for BB8500 power – elderly (1964-1974 vintage) d.c. electric locos – and both duly produced (8588 outwards for 8620 return). These have sadly now been superseded on these trains by modern multiple units, and I expect the charge back through the suburbs into Montparnasse with 8620 will transpire to my last ever run with one.
I should also point out that, although this trip obviously preceded the horrendous multiple terror attacks in Paris of 13th November 2015, the security situation was still tense. Despite this, I experienced absolutely no trouble whatsoever taking photographs and video of trains, and the only times that railway staff engaged me in conversation were to have a friendly chat about the trains.
8620 on arrival at Paris Montparnasse, 19/10/2014. (JW)
After that, it was a swift journey on Metro Line 4 up to Gare du Nord, at which point I was going to shut the book on short-distance “ned leaps” and settle in for a 157-mile journey to the seaside (and, indeed, within 30 miles of England). Diesel haulage opportunities in France lessen with every timetable change, but the unelectrified route between Amiens and the fishing town of Boulogne retains loco haulage on the through trains to and from Paris, with generally four locos of class BB67400 in use at any one time. These machines were built between 1969 and 1975 and have 16-cylinder Pielstick power units.
I devised a “move” that would easily provide haulage behind all four locos with relative ease. I boarded train 2013, the 14:04 from Paris, which was powered by a BB22200 electric – another type built to the “nez cassé” cab design – which whisked us north to Amiens in a very capable workmanlike fashion. Here it was swapped for the first diesel of the day, BB67604, which took us forward to journey’s end; Boulogne Ville.
BB22228 at Paris Nord, 19/10/14. (JW)
There was no time to look around, however, as BB67481 was sat on another rake of stock ready to depart back to Paris in less than 10 minutes. I took some quick photos and dived back on, this time for the 48-mile journey back as far as Abbeville.
67481 departs Abbeville, 19/10/14. (JW)
I had about 40 minutes to kill at Abbeville before another BB67400 would arrive heading back to Boulogne, so I took the opportunity for a wander around the pretty town before getting back to the station in time for BB67455’s arrival. This train was taken for three stops back towards the coast – to Rang du Fliers Verton Berck.
67455 departs Rang du Fliers Verton Berck, 19/10/14. (JW)
There was nothing of note to see or do here; just as well, therefore, that I didn’t have long to wait before my loco from earlier – BB67604 – arrived to take me back to Abbeville. I’d enjoyed my stop in the town earlier, however in the dark and with much less activity, my second visit was not so exciting. However, the peace was briefly shattered by a freight train heading through towards Amiens, which turned out to be hauled by ex-EWS Class 66 no.66228 – you can’t get away from them!
My last train of the day arrived with BB67606 at the sharp end, which took me back to Boulogne Ville with no hassle. After a few photos, I elected to make a quick exit to my hotel (the Ibis Budget, not too far from the station), as my alarm clock would be going off at 04:00. The hotel was a bizarre experience; Ibis Budgets do not have out-of-hours reception staff – check-in being done by the guest on machines in the lobby, and access to the room being by a key code – so I arrived at the hotel to see no one, saw no one during my stay, and departed on the Monday morning still having not seen a soul!
66228 passes Abbeville, 19/10/14. (JW)
As booked, BB67455 was sat at the head of my train, the 05:01 to Paris Gare du Nord, and as I said in the introduction, my plan was to do this to the blocks (swapping the diesel for another BB22200 at Amiens), for the RER out to Charles de Gaulle in time to catch my flight back to Birmingham at 09:50.
This was the third morning on the trot that my alarm had gone off before 04:00 (at odds with the shifts I was on at work) so it was no surprise that once in the warm of the front coach behind BB67455, I quickly nodded off. I stirred at Amiens, and was vaguely aware of the train filling up with commuters and also that the loco change seemed to be dragging its heels, but I was soon back asleep.
I then woke to find us crawling along in some woods at around 5mph… looking at my watch, we were already meant to be in Paris! This wasn’t good, as the distinctly rural view outside the window was a fairly clear indication that we weren’t close to arriving! The BB22200 quickly wound the train back up to line speed, though, and we drew to a halt at Gare du Nord at 08:14 – four minutes before the last RER that would reliably get me to the airport was due to depart from the low level platforms!
67606 arrives at Abbeville, 19/10/14 (JW)
After a run through the crush of morning rush hour commuters that Usain Bolt would have been proud of, I found myself back at the barriers to get into the RER and with no way of opening them (although, I stress, with a ticket valid for travel on the trains!). With time ticking away, I was forced to “double-up” behind another passenger, and made it onto the platform just as the airport train rushed out of the tunnel into the platform! There was more stress than I would have liked though!
I would certainly recommend a day on the BB67400s on the Amiens to Boulogne Ville route while the opportunity is still there. Whilst not the noisiest, the locos do have style and character, the trains are of considerable loads (generally load 10 in season) and it is a pleasant line on which to travel.
I would also recommend some time spent on the loco-hauled suburban trains out of Paris Montparnasse. Loco haulage on such routes (high-frequency services, stations close together) is not so easy to find these days, and whether your intention is to travel behind as many locos as possible, to photograph loco-hauled trains running to an intensive timetable, or purely to experience a railway operation that will be a thing of the past in the not too distant future, you could certainly do worse!
Only 17 of the 149 class 103s remain extant.
Of these, just two remain active on the main line: 103 222, a former test train loco now used predominantly for stock moves by Railadventure, and 103 245, based at München and occasionally used to haul main line service trains (although it is currently out of traffic). 103 113, which was retired from front line service on 30th March 2017, is now a museum loco based at the DB Museum at Koblenz and will perform on occasional main line railtours – the first occurred on 17th and 18th June 2017.
The other 15 can be found static across Germany, predominantly in museums. Those on display are at locations easily accessed by train, with the sole exception of one of the prototypes, 103 002, which is on display at the “Spatzenpark”, a family attraction at Herrnried, approximately 25 miles north-west of Regensburg. It occasionally comes up for sale on eBay, although nobody has stumped up the €200,000 asking price yet!
|103 001||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 002||Spatzenpark, Herrnried|
|103 004||Bahnbetriebswerk Lichtenfels|
|103 101||DB Museum, at Eisenbahnmuseum Darmstadt-Kranichstein|
|103 113||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 132||DB Museum, stored at Dessau Works|
|103 136||Bayerisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Nördlingen|
|103 167||DB Museum, at Lokwelt Freilassing|
|103 184||DB Museum, at Bahnbetriebswerk Lichtenfels|
|103 197||Privately owned, stored at Altenbeken|
|103 220||Südwestfälisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Siegen for repaint, to return to DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel imminently|
|103 222||In service with Railadventure|
|103 224||DB Museum, Nürnberg|
|103 226||Südwestfälisches Eisenbahnmuseum, Siegen|
|103 233||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 235||DB Museum, Koblenz-Lützel|
|103 245||In service with DB Fernverkehr, München (out of traffic since March 2018 with wheelset issues)|
103 113 at Stuttgart Hbf, 30/05/14 (JW)
Tomorrow, Thursday 30th March 2017, will see the retirement from front-line passenger service of the penultimate DB Class 103, the iconic class of 9,980hp 200km/h electric locomotives synonymous with the golden age of the Deutsche Bundesbahn.
103113 will take ECS at 11:45 from München-Pasing to Ulm Hbf. It will then enter service as IC2518, departing at 13:56 to Stuttgart Hbf, arriving in Platform 9 at 15:00.
Another loco will then back onto the train and take it forward to its destination at Münster (Westf), departing at 15:12. 103113 will then follow light engine, running via Mannheim and Mainz directly into the DB Museum at Koblenz-Lützel, its new home.
103113 is in fact returning home, having been a previous exhibit at the museum at Koblenz. It was returned to the main line effectively as working museum piece in early 2013 as a replacement for 103184, which was retired from traffic due to defective wheelsets. It’s one of a total of four 103s which have enjoyed an often-unpredictable “Indian summer” of front-line passenger work over the last 8 or 9 years, covering a variety of short-term self-contained diagrams, spread literally from the Danish border all the way to Austria. All of this despite initial withdrawal of the entire class as “life-expired” at the end of Summer 2003!
Since early 2015, just two have remained, and 103113’s retirement leaves just the youngest member of the class, 103245, to fly the flag for DB – based out of München but with no specific booked work. Additionally, 103222 can still be seen on the main line, privately owned by Railadventure, and can often be seen on ad-hoc stock moves across Germany.
It is one of 17 survivors of this class of 149 machines.
102 at Belfast Great Victoria Street, 23/03/96 (JW)
21 years ago today (at the time of writing!), I was fortunate enough to be a passenger on one of the most audacious railtours in history!
Formed in 1989, the Irish Traction Group had a long tradition of operating interesting enthusiast railtours in the Emerald Isle. Saturday 23rd March 1996 was to see one of the most exciting.
The premise was simple – and brazen – it would travel from Dublin to Northern Ireland, use all of Northern Ireland Railways’ locomotive fleet – then go back! And it almost succeeded.
I was only 7 years old at the time (hence the dodgy photography on my part!) but had already spent a lot of time on the Irish railways with my Dad and had developed a keen interest bordering on obsession! This tour was therefore not one to be missed, as it fell firmly into the “unrepeatable” category.
102 awaits departure from Belfast Great Victoria Street (Julian Mandeville)
To give a bit of historical context, most of my schoolfriends and – particularly – my teachers were gobsmacked that I was travelling to Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s. Belfast was a place that most people in Worcestershire had only ever seen on the 6 o’clock news, and tended to associate it with guns, bombs and barricades. Indeed, just six weeks before this railtour, an IRA bomb had exploded in London’s Docklands area, ending the ceasefire. However, it really does need saying that in a quarter of a century of visiting the Six Counties, my experience has been only of a beautiful part of the world inhabited by friendly people – and so it proved again on this day.
Northern Ireland Railways at the time had six locomotives in their operational fleet: one “Hunslet” 101 Class (no.102), the three machines of the 111 Class (nos.111-113) and two brand new 208 Class locos (208 and 209). The plan was as follows:-
|Unspecified traction||Dublin Heuston – Islandbridge Junction|
|NIR 111 Class||Islandbridge Junction – Bray (reverse) – Portadown|
|2 x NIR 111 Class||Portadown – Lisburn|
|2 x IE 121 Class||Lisburn – Derry (reverse) – Lisburn – Belfast Great Victoria Street|
|NIR 101 Class||Belfast Great Victoria Street – Belfast Central|
|2 x NIR 208 Class||Belfast Central – York Road (reverse) – Portadown|
|NIR 208 Class||Portadown – Dublin Connolly|
|IE 071 Class||Dublin Connolly – Bray (reverse) – Islandbridge Junction|
|Unspecified traction||Islandbridge Junction – Dublin Heuston|
The three 111 Class machines entered traffic in the early 1980s (111 and 112 in 1981, followed by 113 in 1984), to an identical design to the enormously successful 18-strong Córas Iompair Éireann 071 Class which had dated from 1977; 90mph, 2,475hp General Motors Co-Cos with 12-cylinder 645-series engines. These plied their trade relentlessly on the cross-border expresses between Belfast and Dublin, but as of summer 1995, were usurped by the brand new 208 Class and pushed onto freight and civils work.They say in Ireland that it rains for 15 minutes every quarter of an hour, and this day dawned no differently, as 141 Class Bo-Bo GM no.170 performed the short manoeuvre out of the terminus station of Dublin Heuston as far as Islandbridge Junction. From here, Northern Ireland Railways 111 Class loco no.112 took over, running via the then-freight only route through Phoenix Park Tunnel to Dublin Connolly, Dun Laoghaire (to collect a load of bleary-eyed cranks who had arrived on the overnight ferry from Holyhead) and Bray. There it ran round to begin the journey to north.
As a result, 111 Class power across the border was beginning to get quite rare, so was something to be savoured. 112 had always been my favourite Northern Irish loco, so I was pleased that it was doing the distance work on this day, and it noisily but effortlessly did its job, exactly as it had been built to do and exactly as it had done for most of its life.
One of the true highlights of the day was to follow. All of the “traditional” GM diesels in Ireland could work in multiple with each other, but this was banned for any of the six-axle machines south of the border. However, it was permitted in Northern Ireland. Previous ITG railtours both in 1990 had seen the two class leaders, 071 and 111, work together, as well as 111+113, and the “Yankee Explorer” was to repeat the feat – two 111s in multi, admittedly only for the 18 miles from Portadown to Lisburn, but enough to make a lasting impression – what a run it was, with some awesome acceleration!
Unfortunately, 113 was out of traffic for the weekend, under repair at York Road depot in Belfast, so we were thwarted in the attempt to use all of NIR’s traction – just 111 ran light engine to Portadown to pair up with 112, rather than 111+113 to replace it.
On arrival at Lisburn, we said goodbye to the big engines and gained a pair of the elderly single-cab IÉ 121 Class Bo-Bos – 130 and 135 – for a journey via the now-closed line through Crumlin to Antrim, Coleraine and along the stunningly scenic coastal route to Derry. After about three-quarters of an hour in the Maiden City – enough to take some photos of the locos running round but not much else! – we set off, retracing our steps back to Lisburn and then through to the terminus of Belfast Great Victoria Street.
130 and 135 at Lisburn, 23/03/96 (Julian Mandeville)
This station had only reopened 6 months previously, having been closed for 19 years. 1976 had seen Belfast finally gain a cross-city railway line, with the termini of Queens Quay (of the former Belfast & County Down Railway) and Great Victoria Street (of the former Great Northern Railway) being closed in favour of a new route through the newly-built but distinctly un-central Belfast Central station. As such, this was the first time that many of the tour’s participants – including me – had been there.
There was something far more exciting to look at than the brand new station and transport interchange, though – chirping away to itself in Platform 4 was a pristine no.102.
In concept, the 101 Class were essentially the predecessors of the 111s. Again a class of three machines, these 1,350hp English Electric 8CSVT machines were built by Hunslet in Leeds in 1970 to work the “Enterprise” express trains between Belfast and Dublin. Once replaced by the 111s on these duties, they worked push-pull suburban trains and non-passenger work. 103 fell by the wayside in 1989, followed by 101 itself in 1993, leaving 102 as the sole survivor in service – it was clear that it did not have a long future ahead of it.
102 where it resides today – in the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum at Cultra. 30/05/16 (Nicola Elsden)
It’s fair to say that the 1.8-mile canter through the city suburbs did not tax the old girl, which was the exact point, but it allowed the train’s happy participants to say “I was there” for what I believe was the last time a member of this class ever hauled a passenger-carrying train. This video of an earlier ITG railtour on YouTube contains some good quality audio of no.101 at work, which sadly is probably the closest you will come to hearing an NIR Hunslet for the foreseeable future.
Incidentally, we saw all three of the class during the day – 101 was visible stored at Adelaide, and 103 was seen awaiting scrapping at Ballymena. Sadly, we were just two months too late to see Metro-Vick no.107 at Ballymena – it had been scrapped in the January – and the cutter’s torch awaited 103 less than a year later. 102 soldiered on until 1998. Both it and 101 were bought by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland; 101 was scrapped for spares in early 2010, just shy of its 40th birthday, and 102 was sold to the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum in Cultra, to where it was taken in January 2012 and remains on display today.
On arrival at Belfast Central, we lost NIR’s oldest traction and gained its newest! The 208 Class were an oddity – 34 mechanically identical locomotives arrived in the Emerald Isle in 1994/95; nos.201 to 207 and 210 to 234 were painted orange and formed Iarnród Éireann’s 201 Class, whereas nos.208 and 209 were blue and formed Northern Ireland Railways’ 208 Class.
These 100mph, 3,200hp GM machines essentially replaced the 111s on the cross-border expresses and were less than a year old at the time that this tour ran. These were able to work in multi with members of same class; therefore, obviously this tour was going to use that capability!
As an aside, the fact that agreement had been reached that both 208s could be on the railtour at the same time meant that something else would have to be found for the evening Belfast-Dublin service train. Step forward 130 and 135! Many railtour participants therefore alighted to travel back to Dublin with them, and by all accounts, they experienced a blistering run with the pair of little engines. However, they missed a treat the with pair of big ones.
It must be said that the 201s/208s were fairly unpopular with enthusiasts at the time – perhaps predictably, as they were replacing well-loved machines on the crack expresses and neither looked or sounded anywhere near as good – but also with railwaymen and, apparently, GM themselves, all of whom would have preferred another 34 “071s” instead. However, these fresh-out-of-the-box machines absolutely stormed back up the main line to Portadown; with 6,400hp through one handle, it was always going to be brisk! Indeed, I’m not sure the carriages liked it very much, and indeed this has not been repeated. 208 took us forward on its own to Dublin.
Back in Éire, we lost the blue engines for the day and gained 071 Class machine no.081, which took us to Bray and back to Islandbridge and, after the usual Bo-Bo drag back into Heuston, the end of a fantastic, never-to-be-repeated day out.
Incidentally, I did travel behind no.113 in 1996 – thereby completing my own personal “set” for the year – but I had to wait until 28th December, and the MRSI’s “Three Loughs” railtour, to do it! That, however, is a story for another day…
I remain indebted to the ITG for operating some of the finest railtours that I have travelled on. Although they ran their last charter (to date) in 2010, their work continues in earnest in the field of preservation. They own a total of 13 locomotives, 4 of which are operational at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway in Northern Ireland. I can wholeheartedly recommend a trip there when the diesels are running; although it will never be the same as experiencing these machines on the main line, we are lucky that they are still here for us to enjoy at all.
My sincere thanks to Julian for the use of two of his excellent photos, which are far better than anything I could have managed!
Fans of the 1963 movie The Great Escape may find a little of extra interest to see whilst exploring southern Germany with 218 power. An astonishing number of seemingly disparate scenes were filmed in and around the pretty town of Füssen, and the station itself was where the scene involving the death of David McCallum’s character Ashley-Pitt was filmed.
However, the true story on which the film was largely based also has links to the region, and specifically to routes and areas that the 218s have been synonymous with throughout their careers. Although the camp, Stalag Luft III, was situated about 500 miles away – in the now-Polish town of Żagań, east of Cottbus and south of Poznań – two of the escapees actually made it all the way by rail to Bavaria.
Four days after the escape, on 29th March 1944, South African airmen Johannes Gouws and Rupert Stevens had almost made it to their destination – neutral Switzerland. But they could not evade the Gestapo for long. One was apprehended on a Lindau-bound express at Kaufbeuren, the other on a local train between Mühldorf and Rosenheim; history seems unclear which was which. That they had dodged capture for so far and for so long was clearly against all odds, and it is tragic to consider that had the first managed to remain unidentified for just a little while longer on his train, then he would have reached Lindau, and actually been within clear sight of Switzerland and safety.
218415 at Füssen. In the film, the character of Ashley-Pitt collapsed in a heap about halfway down the length of the train, whereas one of the real escapees was apprehended just 25 miles away in Kaufbeuren. 17/01/15 (JW)
Of the 76 men who escaped the camp, 73 were recaptured, of which 50 were executed on Hitler’s direct orders. Gouws and Stevens were to be among them. Little is definitively known about their capture and what happened next, other than the fact that the Nazis are thought to have taken the cost of their cremation out of the money found on them when they were captured. Urns containing their ashes were sent back to Stalag Luft III with only the date of 29th March 1944 and the location of München noted upon them. Both men are buried in the Old Garrison Cemetery in Poznań.
If you are flying between the UK and continental Europe – particularly if you are taking advantage of low cost flights – the chances are that you will be travelling on one of a fairly small number of narrow-body aircraft types.
However, if you know where to look, there are numerous opportunities to fly short-haul on bigger aircraft types, including those that are usually only to be found on much longer (and more expensive) routes.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most useful for those of us travelling to, from and around the Continent for rail-related reasons. Some only run on certain days of the week, these are shown in brackets.
Iberia – BA522 18:30 Heathrow to Madrid (7 days a week – can be either A330 or A340)
Iberia – IB3166 15:50 Madrid to Heathrow (7 days a week – can be either A330 or A340)
Air China – CA961 06:55 München to Athinai (W/S)
Air China – CA842 11:25 Barcelona to Wien (M/F/Su)
Swissair – LX1574 07:10 Zürich to Wien (F)
Swissair – LX1575 09:40 Wien to Zürich (F)
Swissair – LX1018 12:50 Zürich to Düsseldorf (F)
Swissair – LX1019 14:55 Düsseldorf to Zürich (F)
Swissair – LX1026 17:45 Zürich to Düsseldorf (F)
Swissair – LX1027 19:50 Düsseldorf to Zürich (F)
Finnair – AY832 10:20 Heathrow to Helsinki (M/W/Th/F/Su)
Finnair – AY831 08:00 Helsinki to Heathrow (M/W/Th/F/Su)
British Airways – BA456 06:20 Heathrow to Madrid (7 days a week)
British Airways – BA428 06:45 Heathrow to Amsterdam (7 days a week)
British Airways – BA902 07:05 Heathrow to Frankfurt (M/T/W/Th/Su)
British Airways – BA632 11:55 Heathrow to Athinai (7 days a week)
British Airways – BA780 13:15 Heathrow to Stockholm Arlanda (7 days a week)
British Airways – BA460 13:50 Heathrow to Madrid (M/T/W/Th/F/Su)
British Airways – BA558 18:20 Heathrow to Roma Fiumicino (M/T/Th/F/Su)
British Airways – BA551 08:00 Roma Fiumicino to Heathrow (M/T/Th/F/Su)
British Airways – BA429 10:25 Amsterdam to Heathrow (7 days a week)
British Airways – BA903 10:55 Frankfurt to Heathrow (M/T/W/Th/Su)
British Airways – BA457 11:10 Madrid to Heathrow (7 days a week)
British Airways – BA781 18:00 Stockholm Arlanda to Heathrow (7 days a week)
British Airways – BA461 18:25 Madrid to Heathrow (M/T/W/Th/F/Su)
British Airways – BA633 18:30 Athinai to Heathrow (7 days a week)
There are also a number of domestic UK flights using BA 767s, on the Heathrow to Glasgow and Edinburgh routes. The oldest of these planes dates from 1989 and they are scheduled for imminent withdrawal.
British Airways – BA458 07:25 Heathrow to Madrid (Summer 2017 – details TBC)
British Airways – BA459 11:45 Madrid to Heathrow (Summer 2017 – details TBC)
Korean Air – KE933 18:10 Wien to Zürich (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday)
Air France – AF1681 09:40 Heathrow to Paris CDG (until October 2017, daily except Wednesday)
Air France – AF1680 07:30 Paris CDG to Heathrow (until October 2017, daily except Wednesday)
Ethiopian Airlines – ET725 19:30 Stockholm to Wien (Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday)
LATAM Chile – LA704 15:05 Madrid to Frankfurt (7 days a week)
The situation with aircraft is far more fluid than that with trains. I’ll endeavour to keep this list as up-to-date as possible, but if you’re aware of any amendments that I need to make, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
EA3022 and ME1513, Østerport, 20/03/17 (JW)
I woke up in my own bed in Birmingham, travelled behind 18 mainline diesel locomotives and 1 electric (equating to exactly 50% of a country’s passenger locomotive fleet) and returned to my own bed that same night. All for half the price of your average enthusiast railtour.
København, or Copenhagen, is the capital city of Denmark. It is very much the engine room of the country, containing approximately a quarter of its entire population, and contains some true architectural gems.
The view from København’s Rundetaarn, 15/02/16 (JW)
The city sits on the west side of the Øresund Strait, which separates Denmark from Sweden. Since 2000, the two countries have been connected by a fixed link across the Øresund that is in fact part suspension bridge and part tunnel, carrying both a railway and a motorway. With the journey time by rail between København and the Swedish city of Malmö being just a shade over half an hour, cross-border traffic is heavy.
Aside from via this bridge, Denmark’s only land border is with Germany, although travel between the two countries via this route is time-consuming. A far quicker way of reaching Germany is via the through train (sadly, formed of a DMU these days) to Hamburg which uses one of the last three passenger-carrying train ferries in Europe: that between Rødby and Puttgarden – however construction of a fixed link replacement is expected to commence in 2019.
Loco Haulage on Passenger Trains
To the UK enthusiast, one of the most attractive aspects of the København railway scene is the intensive loco hauled passenger service that it enjoys, and so this will form the core of this article. The Danish state railway operator, Danske Statsbaner (DSB), operates two classes of main line locomotive: one diesel (class “ME”) and one electric (class “EA”).
There are currently four MEs painted in the new “helrød” livery – here, two of them (ME1528 and ME1521) sit side by side at Østerport, 20/03/17 (JW)
The MEs were built by Henschel in Germany and entered traffic between 1981 and 1985. They are six-axle, 175 kph (109 mph), 3,300hp diesel-electrics with 16-cylinder General Motors 645-series power units. 37 were built (numbered ME1501 to ME1537), with 33 remaining in service. ME1502, ME1507 and ME1510 have all been scrapped, and the doyen ME1501 is in the collection of the Danish railway museum at their facility in Randers. Their days are now sadly numbered; DSB announced last year that they will be purchasing 26 new electric locomotives with the express aim of replacing the MEs from 2020. When that sad day comes, it will not only mark the end of the type in DSB service, but also the end of the bond between DSB and GM which dates back to the procurement of the first “MY” class Nohab loco in 1954.
ME1522 departs København H, 20/03/17 (JW)
As someone who spent a lot of his formative years travelling on the railways of Ireland, the MEs immediately bring to my mind the sound of the “traditional” big GMs over there. The booming roar is reminiscent of the 071 Class machines of Iarnrod Eireann and (particularly) their Northern Ireland Railways 111 Class cousins, although the MEs have the 16-cylinder version of the 12-cylinder power units of the Irish machines. If, like me, you are still mourning the loss of regular passenger work by these fine machines, then a trip to Denmark will be very rewarding indeed!
EA3022 at København H, 20/03/17 (JW)
Built to a largely identical exterior design as the MEs, the EAs are 5,400hp electric locos and appeared on the scene at roughly the same time, to coincide with Denmark’s first main line electrification project. Initially comprising of a fleet of 22 machines, 16 have been exported (12 to Bulgaria and 4 to Romania) and one has been scrapped, leaving just 5 in service in their home country (EA3004, EA3007, EA3010, EA3020 and EA3022).
EA3022 departs Høje Taastrup, 20/03/17 (JW)
Denmark has had a largely multiple unit-operated railway for many years, the remaining loco haulage being concentrated on a small number of routes radiating from the capital on predominantly commuter-based traffic. There are no longer any hauled overnight services. The MEs handle most of the services on two lines, that from Østerport to Holbæk and Kalundborg, and that from Østerport to Næstved, Nykøbing and Rødby Færge (see map below). The remaining EAs see use on the route from Østerport to Slagelse.
All of these services cover the section of line between Østerport and Roskilde, therefore this route sees a very intensive loco-hauled service. The three easternmost stations – Østerport, Nørreport and København Hovedbanegård (Copenhagen Central, usually shortened to “København H”) – are situated very closely together in the city centre area, with Nørreport being actually underground. Consequently, this section of line is useful to travel behind a large number of locomotives in a short period of time, should that be your primary area of interest.
ME1529 at København H, 20/03/17 (JW)
However, this would not allow you to experience the machines really being put through their paces. The “racing stretch” from København through Valby and Høje Taastrup is excellent for this, with the locos’ maximum speeds being taken full advantage of. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that fuel economy is a key consideration for DSB and, as a result, its drivers do not drive purely in accordance with the linespeed, but also with the guidance of an in-cab computer system that matches a train’s progress to its schedule.
All trains are worked in push-pull mode with the locomotives on the “country” end, and are formed of double-deck Bombardier-built stock of the same type found in Germany, Luxembourg and Israel. This stock is air-conditioned with no opening windows, however it’s still perfectly possible to hear an ME from inside the train, even two or three coaches away!
DSB double-deck stock interior, 20/03/17 (JW)
DSB loco hauled routes, March 2017 (JW)
Before you go
Denmark is not in the Eurozone; it is still using the krone. The exchange rate at the time of writing (March 2017) is £1.00 = DKK 8.58. I found it was certainly worth exchanging my money before I travelled (DKK 300 was more than enough for me, in terms of my travel ticket, snacks and drinks) as cash machines do charge you to withdraw money when you’re there.
The official language spoken is (predictably!) Danish. However – as horrendously “Little Englander” as this sounds – it is not imperative to learn the language to get by. English is widely spoken and understood, particularly around the capital, and the majority of station signs are in both Danish and English. However, as with any foreign travel, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few key words of the local language before you travel.
ME1503 at Østerport, 20/03/17 (JW)
København is very easily accessible by air from the UK, with flights generally taking approximately 1½-2 hours. My criteria of a “day trip” is that it should not be necessary to book any overnight accommodation, and therefore the only airports that would currently provide an early outward and late return service to København are Heathrow, Luton and Stansted. However, there are also direct flights from Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle among others.
The routes from the UK are well served by a number of the low cost carriers (chiefly, easyJet and Ryanair) and, perhaps unusually given this, the airport is very close to the city that it pertains to serve! It takes just 13 minutes on the train from the airport station to København H; trains (all worked by multiple units) depart from platform 2 every 10 minutes or so during the day. Alternatively, the metro station is upstairs and Nørreport can be reached this way in 15 minutes.
Validity in København
For a day trip, the best ticket to use to travel around is a 24-hour all-zone ticket. These are rovers which cost DKK 130 (£15.15 as of March 2017) and are valid from the airport into København, out as far as Roskilde on the loco-hauled route, and on the unit-only lines north of the city. It is also valid on local Metro and bus services in the city area.
The easiest place to purchase them from is from a large bank of red ticket machines immediately outside “Arrivals” at the airport. These take cash (in the form of notes and coins) and also cards. They are touch-screen and handily have an “English” option! It’s literally a 10-second process to get yourself a ticket; you can select the DKK 130 day rover by pressing the buttons on screen as shown below:
Day rovers, easy to purchase! (JW)
Should you wish to travel further out of København than Roskilde, your best bet would still be to purchase one of the rover tickets as above (it works out cheaper than an airport to Roskilde return!) and then rebook from Roskilde, although the price does begin to ramp up – for example, a return from Roskilde to the end of one of the branches at Kalundborg will set you back DKK 200.
If you are lucky enough to be eligible for FIP travel, then one of the boxes on your DSB coupon will cover you on all loco hauled trains mentioned here. However, FIP is not valid on the trains between the airport and the city, nor on the Metro.
I mentioned in the introduction to this article that this was a relatively cheap day trip to make, so here are some numbers to back that up. Flights were booked approximately two weeks prior to travel on the Ryanair website. I travelled on a Monday in March – flights on weekends and in school holidays do tend to be more expensive.
Outward flight ticket (Ryanair) = £21.00
Rover ticket = £15.15
Return flight ticker (Ryanair) = £13.00
Total = £49.15
I’ve elected to leave petrol, parking and sustenance out of the equation, as these would be costs associated with most days out regardless of destination. I’m sure you’ll agree that £49.15 compares favourably with a day on a UK railtour!
A day trip to København can cater for a variety of railway interests, and I would certainly not be presumptuous enough to expect that everyone would wish to approach their day in the same way I might.
ME1518, Ringsted, 01/09/07 (JW)
However, my intention on my most recent trip on Monday 20th March 2017 was to spend my time purely in search of loco haulage within the boundary of my rover, and I certainly felt I was successful. In order to give the day some structure, I elected to spend the first half of my time in the city area travelling behind as many different locomotives as possible, and the second half enjoying them at full speed on the “racing stretch” of the main line out of the city.
My total score for the day was 18 different MEs and 1 EA – exactly half of DSB’s 38-strong passenger locomotive fleet – although it’s fair to say that if I’d made my trip on a weekend, these figures would have been significantly lower. Two more MEs (ME1515 and ME1534) were also seen in traffic on the day.
For interest, my “move” and the loco numbers involved is shown below. At the time I travelled, DSB’s fleet of “IC4” multiple units had been taken out of traffic, so there were a number of their usual services which were worked by MEs – some of which I travelled on. However, this did not seem to affect the total number of MEs that were in service.
|Luton Airport||0840||EI-EVJ||FR7404 08:40 Luton – København|
|Københavns Lufthavn||1204||EMU||R1351 12:04 Lufthavn – Nivå|
|Østerport||1228||1234||ME1505||R1549 12:34 Østerport – Kalundborg|
|Nørreport||1236||1246||ME1503||R4549 12:43 Østerport- Holbæk|
|København H||1250||1259||EMU||S 12:10 Frederikksund – Klampenborg|
|Østerport||1305||1314||ME1516||R2553 13:14 Østerport – Holbæk|
|Nørreport||1318||1321||ME1521||R1532 11:46 Kalundborg – Østerport|
|Østerport||1325||1334||ME1528||R1553 13:34 Østerport – Kalundborg|
|Nørreport||1335||1346||ME1511||R4553 13:43 Østerport- Holbæk|
|København H||1350||1355||ME1529||R2232 11:59 Nykøbing – Østerport|
|Nørreport||1357||1403||ME1532||R2253 14:00 Østerport – Nykøbing|
|København H||1407||1418||ME1530||R1536 12:46 Kalundborg – Østerport|
|Nørreport||1420||1426||ME1533||R1257 14:23 Østerport – Nykøbing|
|København H||1430||1438||ME1517||R2536 13:35 Holbæk – Østerport|
|Nørreport||1440||1446||ME1535||R4557 14:43 Østerport – Holbaek|
|København H||1450||1455||ME1509||R2236 12:59 Nykøbing – Østerport|
|Nørreport||1457||1503||ME1521||R2257 15:00 Østerport – Nykøbing|
|København H||1507||1524||ME1513||R1240 13:47 Nykøbing – Østerport|
|Østerport||1531||1543||ME1503||R4561 15:43 Østerport – Holbæk|
|København H||1550||1555||ME1518||R2240 13:59 Nykøbing – Østerport|
|Nørreport||1557||1603||ME1517||R2261 16:00 Østerport – Nykøbing|
|Høje Taastrup||1625||1633||ME1522||R2244 14:59 Nykøbing – Østerport|
|København H||1649||1710||ME1518||R2265 17:00 Østerport – Nykøbing|
|Høje Taastrup||1725||1733||ME1527||R2248 15:59 Nykøbing – Østerport|
|Valby||1743||1757||ME1503||R4548 17:05 Holbæk – Østerport|
|København H||1802||1827||ME1530||R2573 18:14 Østerport – Holbæk|
|Høje Taastrup||1841||1856||EA3022||R4354 18:04 Slagelse – Østerport*|
|*via Hvidovre – Ny Ellebjerg – Sydhavn|
|København H||1913||1918||ME1509||R1556 17:46 Kalundborg – Østerport|
|Nørreport||1920||1941||ME1537||R2556 18:35 Holbæk – Østerport|
|Østerport||1945||2000||ME1532||R2277 20:00 Østerport – Rødby|
|København Airport||2200||EI-DHA||FR7407 22:00 København – Luton|
Note (March 2018): 2018 has not got off to an auspicious start for the class, with the discovery on 26th January of cracks in two ME wheelsets resulting the grounding of all 33 machines and the sending of each axle to the workshop in Aarhus for detailed examination; a process that is taking a long time as there is simply no room for all 198 ME axles to be in Aarhus at the same time. Currently, most of the fleet remain out of traffic and some of the wheelsets have been found to be write-offs, and Bombardier may not be able to supply new ones until September. A number of MEs remain in traffic (those which have been examined and signed off as OK), but currently their availability – and consequently the number that are in use each day – is considerably less than the plan requires. It should be pointed out – although without comment – that the damaged axles found in January are said in various news reports to be from ME 1532, which had failed in some style between Holbæk and Regstrup on 13th September 2017 (with an axle defect) whilst working a passenger train, and was then dumped in Roskilde for some months.