General Electric 4036 – under restoration in France

Those of us who attended my haulage event at the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin (CFTR) in north-east France on Sunday 9th September 2018 did so primarily to enjoy haulage from ex-SNCF loco A1AA1A 62029, built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania in 1946.

However, this was not the only American-built diesel on the site.  During the visit, we were treated to a tour of their depot, in which we were shown and told about another very interesting locomotive from the USA.  I would like to share its story with a wider audience here.

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4036 under restoration at Volgelsheim, 09/09/18 (JW)

To give a bit of historical background, the Second World War was in full swing when the decision to undertake an invasion across the English Channel was taken by the Allies at the Trident Conference in Washington DC in May 1943.  This invasion was to be the largest by sea that the world had ever seen, and would occur via the northern coast of France, in the region of Normandy.  Of course, we are familiar today with the D-Day Landings of 6th June 1944.

The year between conception and realisation of the plans allowed an enormous deal of planning to occur.  Railways were to form an integral part of the invasion, initially in terms of transportation of troops and equipment, and indeed since 1942 the USA had been shipping rolling stock to the UK for such an eventuality; this was stepped up a gear after the Trident Conference.  However the focus was not so much on the invasion itself but what came after; in an attempt to disrupt the invasion, the Germans rendered much of the French railway network entirely unusable, both in terms of infrastructure and rolling stock.  It was clear that whatever was provided to work in France after the invasion would need to be durable and able to operate in harsh conditions.

Among the American rolling stock was a fleet of 10 twin-engined diesel-electric “dropcab” switching locomotives manufactured by General Electric between March and May 1944, with works numbers 27528 to 27537, and given the running numbers 7228 to 7237 by the USATC.  As built, the locos had two 6-cylinder Cummins power units; these were later replaced by 8-cylinder veeform Baudouin DP8s.

The locos passed in 1947 to the SE (Société générale des chemins de fer économiques) for use on their Gironde network as 4028 to 4037.

Preservation of 4036

4036 was retired by the Chemin de Fer de Blaise et Der (CFBD) in 2011, when the operation was ended the locomotive was redundant.  It was saved by a member of the CFTR in 2014 who transported it to its new home shortly afterwards.

The future and how you can help

4036 is in the midst of a comprehensive restoration, and has already been started and moved under its own power.  However, there is plenty of work left to do before it can once again haul trains and form a mobile memorial to the events of 1944.

As with any other restoration project, the speed of its progress is dictated by the volunteers and funds available.  Although I am fairly sure that most reading this will be UK or USA-based and therefore unable to help with the former problem, we are able to help financially by making a donation into the project’s PayPal account at sebastien.kieffer(AT)evolutive.org.

If you do choose to do this, please select the “send to friends and family” option and ensure that “4036” is included as a note/reference so that he can identify the transfer.  If you do not “do” PayPal, but would still like to help out, please get in touch with me and I can try to assist.

Additionally, as I know we have some supremely knowledgeable and well-connected people here – does anyone happen to know of any sources from where we might be able to obtain some (any) GE documentation about these machines for the team – particularly regarding, but not limited to, electrical wiring?  The lack of this is another thing that is hampering the progress of the restoration.  If so, please do let me know – I don’t mind following up even the most tenuous of leads myself.

33 years since the Sud-Express disaster

When I was a Class 50-mad kid taken to Portugal to experience their Iberian cousins by my Dad, I took in as much detail from my Portuguese crossing-off book (Fearless Publications’ excellent tome from 1991 – who else has that on their shelves?) as possible. One of the things that stuck out was the reference to both 1439 and 1961 having been written off in a horrific accident involving the Sud-Express.

In later life I learnt that this accident occurred between Nelas and Mangualde exactly 33 years ago this evening, on 11th September 1985, with the big Bombardier loco on the “Sud-Express” colliding head-on at speed with the EE/Sorefame machine which was on a regional train. The result indeed truly was horrific, with many of those who survived the impact killed by burning or asphyxiation in the resulting inferno.

On this worldwide day of remembrance, I’m also taking a minute to remember the 56 (officially, but estimated to be up to 150) people who perished in this accident. There are some truly shocking photos online of the accident, but instead I’m choosing to share this rare image of 1439 in happier days to accompany this little note.

Tarnów station – where World War 2 began?

This relatively unassuming junction station in south-east Poland is definitely not on the tourist trail.  But it was the scene of one of the most significant events in 20th century history.

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This is the first in a series of articles that I intend to write that encompass not specifically the traction that can be experienced on the continent, but some of the interesting and noteworthy places that you can visit whilst travelling behind them.  This one isn’t so much to encourage you to specifically make it your destination – as, frankly, there’s not a lot to see! – but purely to inform you of the significance of one of the stations your train may briefly stop at.

Tarnów station lies on the main line from Kraków, through Rzeszów and Przemyśl to the Ukrainian border.  It’s not a major station by any stretch of the imagination and it’s fair to say that many people will pass through it, even call there, without particularly registering the fact.  Yet, at 23:18 on Monday 28th August 1939, something happened there that, it has been argued, led to the deaths of approximately 3% of the world’s population, by triggering World War 2.

The political situation in Europe was worsening by the day, and nowhere more so than Poland.  Its capital, Warszawa, was preparing for war, with defensive measures already being put in place.  The Treaty of Versailles had given Poland access to the Baltic Sea in the form of a corridor through West Prussia, which cut off East Prussia from the rest of Germany.  Hitler had reneged on his word regarding Czechoslovakia, and it was feared that he would do the same regarding the non-aggression pact between Germany and Poland by attempting to take both this corridor and the semi-autonomous city state of Danzig (present day Gdańsk) by force, having asserted that ethnic Germans in Poland were being persecuted.  The German warship SMS Schleswig-Holstein sat just off Danzig, on permanent standby to launch the Nazis’ first attack.  It was still hoped that war could be averted, though.  On the morning of the 28th, Sir Neville Henderson, the British ambassador to Germany, flew to Berlin to hand-deliver a message to Hitler in response to his claims on Danzig and West Prussia.

Meanwhile, a half-German-half-Polish locksmith from Bielsko-Biała by the name of Antoni Guzy was making a journey of his own – to Tarnów station.  Its status as a junction station, on routes that were seeing large-scale movement of troops mobilising for the possibility of war, meant that it had assumed a particular strategic importance.

Guzy, unemployed in his native Poland, had joined the Gewerkschaft Deutscher Arbeiter (“Union of German Workers”) with the aim of finding work within Germany, and it is thought that he had been “groomed” within it to carry out this task.  Certainly, on the day of the attack, he met with a German by the name of “Neumann” who led him to two heavy suitcases in a vault in Kraków and had given him his instructions.  He was to travel to Tarnów, leave the cases, then return to Kraków and report back.  Following “Neumann”‘s instructions, Guzy deposited the two suitcases in the luggage room at the station and went to catch the 23:02 “Luxtorpeda” express railcar back to Kraków.  However, this train was delayed, meaning that he was still at the station when the time bombs in the two cases exploded at 23:18.

20 people died in the blasts, and a further 35 were injured.  About a third of the station building was destroyed.  The dead did not even include many (if any) soldiers, a troop transport having departed a few minutes before.  Guzy was easily identified as the man who had left the cases, apprehended and – it is thought – executed by firing squad shortly after.

That is pretty much the extent of most of the information on this incident that you’ll find online.  What isn’t necessarily explained is “why”, or “what happened next”.

Aside from aiming to disrupt the flow of troops across Poland, the motive is perhaps not entirely clear.  However, it formed part of the Nazi strategy within “Operation Fall Weiss” outlining the process by which Poland would be invaded; the invasion would in fact start before the declaration of war.  This “invasion” was to not merely take the form of boots on the ground but also an invasion of the Polish psyche.  This act was one of several intended to discredit and demoralise the Poles.  It is highly unlikely that “Neumann” would have been waiting for Guzy’s return.  Guzy’s status as a Polish-born man would surely have suppressed the suspicion he was doing the Nazis’ bidding.  More than that, it gave credence to Hitler’s claim that he would be invading to protect the German-born Poles.  In these respects, it was considered a “success”.

At 04:48 on Friday 1st September 1939, the SMS Schleswig-Holstein finally opened fire on Danzig.  Two days later, the British, French, Australians and New Zealanders entered the war.  The rest really is history.

East German “Taigatrommeln” in North Korea

With the Koreas in the news headlines at the moment, I thought I’d take the opportunity to explore a story that has interested me for some time.

Elsewhere on this site I have asserted that the remaining class 143 electrics are the only (standard gauge) locos built for the former East Germany that remain in passenger service – however this is a little disingenuous on my part!  It’s almost certain that there are more.

Following the withdrawal of the final examples by the nascent Deutsche Bahn in the mid-1990s, 31 class 220 diesel-electrics – Russian-built “M62” locos formerly known as Deutsche Reichsbahn class 120, not to be confused with the former Deutsche Bundesbahn class 220 diesel-hydraulics – were exported to North Korea, where by all accounts they remain in front-line service.

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An ex-DR M62, now numbered 내연 706 at Pyongyang on 05/10/13 (Photo: Clay Gilliland from Wikipedia used under Creative Commons licence)

North Korea

The country known as North Korea – officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – came into existence as a result of Japan’s surrender at the end of the Second World War; when the USA occupied the southern half of the Korean peninsula and the USSR the north.  Separate governments were established in 1948, with North Korea under the leadership of Kim Il-Sung – although it is still not universally recognised as a state, notably by France.  Korean hostilities have continued ever since, but if the headlines are to be believed, a peace treaty can be looked forward to later in 2018.

We in the West have an image of the “hermit kingdom” as a very secretive and possibly even paranoid land, but really we know very little about it, and that certainly fuels a great deal of interest in it.  The UK government currently advise against “all but essential” travel there – although accompanied guided tours do occur, including ones tailored to a railway interest.

North Korea does have a fairly extensive railway network, a lot of which was constructed during the years of Japanese occupation.  It certainly suffered in the same way as Poland, East Germany et al in terms of the Russians dismantling infrastructure to transport it back to the USSR to use it there.  On top of that, extreme damage was caused to what remained during the Korean War.  Although the Russians did not play an active role in that conflict, they played a very major one in North Korea’s post-war reconstruction, and this included its railways.

M62s in North Korea

As briefly touched on in this article (ostensibly about the Swedish-built NoHABs supplied to Hungary in 1963), the standard Russian medium-power diesel locomotive from the early 1960s was its “M62” type – 2,000 hp diesel-electrics with Kolomna power units.  Comecon rules dictated that this rugged, spartan design was to be a “one size fits all” solution for any of the Comecon nations’ railway administrations that wanted a diesel loco in that power bracket.  Consequently, they were supplied to Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Mongolia and Cuba as well as domestically.  North Korea was not a Comecon member, but it did hold official “observer” status, and as part of the Russian effort to help rebuild the North Korean railways, they had a fleet built too.

Between 1967 and 1974, 64 class “K62” (the Korean version of the M62) locos were built in Voroshilovgrad for North Korea – 59 standard gauge, and 5 broad gauge to be used on the routes around Tumanggang at the Chinese border.  The Koreans named these new locos “Sinsŏng”.

In the 1970s, the North Koreans reverse engineered one of the K62s, and then set about building their own “ersatz” version, the Kŭmsŏng class.

In the late 1990s, as a result of severe economic problems (brought about in no small part by the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe) partly restricting the availability of fuel for diesels and partly also prohibiting the repair of some of the diesels in the poorest condition, some members of both the Russian and North Korean-built fleets were converted to electric locos – the Kanghaenggun class (see photo here).

European Exports

With a requirement for diesel locomotives, but the economic situation prohibiting the construction of new ones, North Korea employed a creative solution.  With the post-1989 age seeing many of the Eastern European M62s laid up in favour of newer traction, and this type being the existing basic diesel traction of North Korea, they looked to import some of the recently-withdrawn machines.

Between 1996 and 1998, 31 class 220s were sent from Germany to North Korea (220 008 / 043 / 048 / 086 / 087 / 114 / 119 / 159 / 180 / 211219 / 234289 / 290292 / 296 / 305 / 317318 / 319322 / 332 / 334 / 335 / 342 / 345 / 362 / 367 / 371 / 372 / 375).

In 2000, 13 Polish class ST44s followed – (ST44 72 / 103152325518 / 549649673 / 840 / 929 / 937 / 947 / 999).

These locos have been renumbered into the 내연 7xx series, although I haven’t (yet) seen any details of how their new identities correspond to their old ones.

In addition, nine Slovakian class 781s made the move in 2000, which along with some ex-Russian machines are numbered in he 내연 8xx series.

Although travelling to experience these locos is not the easiest or even perhaps the wisest thing to do, it is at least nice to think that they are continuing to ply their trade long after they would otherwise have been cut up.

 

Have you ever been to North Korea?  (Even better, have you travelled on any of the trains over there, or have any further information on these locos?).  Please do leave me a comment below!

Halle (Saale) route S7 – East German nostalgia

Loco haulage on this route finally ended on 11th April 2018, but I’ll keep the article on the website for posterity as it has been popular – even though the S7 is now worked solely by EMUs, you may still like to visit this interesting corner of the former DDR!

Ironically, “Ostalgia” is big business.  Nearly 30 years after German reunification, nostalgia for communist East Germany has never been more popular. 

It seems that, with almost as much haste as the traces of the former country were wiped away following the fall of the Berlin Wall, people are now scrambling to experience what life was like behind it.  You can drive a Trabant car in convoy around East Berlin on an innovative sightseeing tour, then stay at painstakingly-styled themed hotels.  You can purchase clothes, food and all manner of other items of “reborn” Communist brands, recreated by popular demand.  You can have your photo taken at Checkpoint Charlie in front of a replica border hut, with men dressed up as border guards.

Yet all of these experiences are in some way synthetic. This part of the world has experienced so many changes since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, that it is nigh on impossible to recreate “everyday life” in any setting.  After all, this was a country where you could realistically expect your intercity train to be powered by steam right up until the late 1980s.  Today you can flash through the Sachsen-Anhalt countryside on some of the world’s most modern trains at speeds of up to 300 km/h.

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143 043 arrives at Halle Silberhöhe, 30/09/13 (JW)

A small, but nonetheless very interesting exception exists in the vicinity of Halle (Saale), approximately 20 miles west of the city of Leipzig.  Halle (Saale) is a city with a history visibly stretching back centuries, and there is plenty for the tourist to see there.

The area around Halle is known as big centre for the chemical industry, with both the famous Leuna and Buna plants a short distance away.  These two gained particular importance in the post-war period when they were expropriated, expanded as part of the 1958 “Chemieprogramm” and used to supply the Soviet Union, jointly employing up to 50,000 people between them (equating to 1 in 350 of all the citizens of East Germany).

The mushrooming of industry here, the need for people to work there and the poor quality of housing elsewhere (much of it badly damaged by war) led to a fascinating East German project – the conception of a completely new and thoroughly modern city, known initially as the “Chemiearbeiterstadt West” (“Chemical Workers’ City – West”).  Later refined to “Halle-Neustadt”, this was to be a short distance to the west of the existing city.  Construction began on 15th July 1964 under the watchful eye of the architect Richard Paulick who oversaw the project.

“The laying of the foundation stone of Neustadt in 1964 was also that of the Halle S-Bahn network” Ralf Jacob, Halle city archivist

In stark contrast to the 700-year-old buildings of Halle, Neustadt was a futuristic (for the time) settlement consisting largely of grey concrete tower blocks known as “Plattenbauten”, synonymous with East Germany, designed to home over 90,000 people in total in nine Wohnkomplexe (“living complexes”).  Perhaps bizarrely, none of Halle-Neustadt’s streets apart from the main drag (the “Magistrale”) had any names – each block was identified by a number only – although this is one thing that has since changed.  Each Wohnkomplexe was intended to be pretty self-sufficient, featuring shops, restaurants etc, but the city’s primary function of a dormitory for the chemical workers was very close to the surface.

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Basher’s eye view of 143 871 on the S7, 30/09/13 (JW)

Key to this was the creation of a public transport infrastructure to link the residential districts with each other, the chemical plants and also the original city of Halle.  The centrepiece of this was the S-Bahn, the first part of which opened in 1967.

Halle S-Bahn

It may perhaps be a little odd to the 2017 observer to consider that this S-Bahn – a term we now largely associate with rapid transit operated by electric multiple units – was initially operated with Deutsche Reichsbahn V180-type diesel-hydraulic locos (later class 118, and DB class 228 after reunification) with up to 12 double-decker carriages in push-pull formation.  These ran from the station now known as Halle Zscherbener Straße to Merseburg, Luna and Beuna and were supplemented by VT2.09 “pig taxis” to Halle (Saale) Hbf.

Electrification was soon to follow, along with new stations in the south of Halle-Neustadt as the city sprawled ever outwards and an extension through the Halle-Neustadt station (situated underground beneath the centre of the new city) through to Halle-Nietleben and Halle-Dölau.  This allowed an electric S-Bahn service to be operated in an inverted “S” shape through the adjacent cities, beginning at Halle-Trotha and ending at Halle-Dölau – a distance of 22.8 km by rail, but less than 7 km as the crow flies.  Traction for this was initially classes E11 and E42 (later DB class 109 and 142) electrics – as seen here in a rather impressive photo from after the fall of the Wall – and later the once-ubiquitous class 143 electric locos.

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143 871 at Halle (Saale) Hbf, 30/09/13 (JW)

Halle-Neustadt Today

Halle-Neustadt’s initial strength has also proved to be its downfall.  Conceived to home chemical workers, the plants are now shadows of their former selves, and this has had the predictable knock-on effect.

Home to 93,000 people at its peak, the turn of the century had seen Halle-Neustadt’s population reduce to 60,000, and now barely 40,000 live there.  A startlingly high ratio of those people are the old people who were the young target market of the project 50 years ago.  Many of the Plattenbauten lie empty, including those originally built for the families of the Soviet soldiers who built them.  Consequently, some have even been demolished.  Doubtless more will follow as the population gets older.  Some modernisation has occurred – including to Halle-Neustadt’s S-Bahn station which retained this dilapidated throwback as late as 2009 – but generally, its East German character can still be very clearly seen.

Neither the direct link from Halle-Neustadt to Merseburg (2007), nor the section of line beyond Halle-Nietleben to Halle-Dölau (2002) retain a train service – although part of the latter saw its first train in 15 years in April 2017 when the Freunde der Halle-Hattstedter Eisenbahn ran a track machine along it (see news article here).  For the meantime, though, the S7 route through Halle-Neustadt remains a little picture of a lost country.

The above is a link to a 9-minute YouTube video uploaded by user Berger Max neatly showing life on the S7 route in 2017.  The deplorable state of Neustadt station can clearly be seen.

Halle S7 today – loco-hauled

The S7 is the remainder of the Trotha to Dölau route, now cut back to serve only Halle (Saale) Hbf to Halle-Nietleben.  The section from the Hbf to Trotha has now been subsumed into an EMU-worked S-Bahn route from Leipzig.

Using East German traction (class 143) and East German-built double deck rolling stock, and running through as East German an environment as you are likely to find in 2018, this is probably as authentic as “Ostalgic” experience as any you could have.

Halle retains an allocation of five class 143s (143 034143 276, 143 810143 871 and 143 903) and the S7 represents 100% of their remaining booked work.  This is now an oasis in a desert of suburban loco haulage – modern class 442 “Talent” EMUs having recently replaced locos on all but this route – although January 2018 has seen a couple of impromptu vice-unit appearances by 143s on route S9.

Two sets are employed on the route, operating at 30-minute intervals (xx:20 and xx:50 from both ends).  If you simply wish to travel on both in the shortest time possible, then the “shack of choice” is Halle-Silberhöhe – you can depart from Hbf at xx:20, be at Silberhöhe from xx:28-33.  This +5 is guaranteed to “make”, as Silberhöhe is a single-platform station.  (It does, however, have the appearance of a former island platform – with a second platform face and ballast, but no track – this was never in fact laid, and was part of an uncompleted project to allow a 10-minute frequency along this route in the 1980s, such was the amount of usage that the line was getting).

This will get you back at the Hbf with both machines in your book by xx:41.  (To note, these trains now use the new platform 13a at the Hbf, which is a few minutes’ – signposted – walk from the main station).  However, if you have the time, I really would recommend a little wander into Halle-Neustadt.

Update 31/03/18 – From 18/04/18, the RE9 “Rhein-Sieg-Express” in the Köln area will have two class 442 “Hamster” EMUs replaced by two loco-hauled “Dosto” sets.  It is expected that these will be the two sets from Halle currently used on the S7.  This will mean that the 442s will move to Halle to work the S7, giving a common fleet in that area.  I would not expect the 143s to move with the stock, so if you want to ride behind them, best to move quickly…

10 years ago…

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BB15024, Paris Nord, 02/09/17 (JW)

This relatively unremarkable photo of BB15024 on the blocks at Paris Gare du Nord was taken 10 years ago this week – Saturday 2nd September 2007.

What makes it noteworthy is that I didn’t intend to be there. In fact, I didn’t even intend to be in France. This train was the Hamburg-Paris overnight, which after five consecutive overnights mainly chasing 218s in Germany, I was using as my taxi from Hamburg to Brussels, for my pre-booked Eurostar back to Waterloo, home for a de-rance and then a ticket for Aston Villa v Chelsea… What could go wrong?

Anyway, a DB class 101 powered us south from Hamburg to Dortmund, where I ensured I was awake to see 363 128 shunt our portion onto the coaches from Berlin. We were then 120-powered via Mönchengladbach to Aachen. I again ensured I was awake to see not only our relieving Belgian loco (2705) but also our banker, which was the big Ludmilla 241 805 (ex-232 284) and to walk to the far end of the train to enjoy the Kolomna sounds as it gave us a good shove up to Aachen West. After grabbing a bit of a cat nap, I again made sure I was awake at Liège to see 1954-built 2229 buffer up to the rear of the train to bank us away. I then got my reading book out as we sped west through the darkness, to make sure I was awake to get off at Brussels…

…I woke up to the sound of a loud “clunk”. My book was was on the floor, broad daylight illuminated the compartment and the word “Quévy” was sitting outside the window… Bowled!! The clunk had been the shackle as 2705 was removed at the Belgian/French border – I’d slept completely through Brussels and out the other side. Not stopped at a platform, I was unable to get off, and was then trapped seething on board the train as BB15024 backed on, to take us non-stop the last 150-odd miles to the French capital. My move was in tatters and it was only through the booking office staff taking pity on such gormlessness that I got home via Eurostar with minimal issues.

I missed the Villa win 2-0 though!

In retrospect, it saddens me most that such traction variety that we took entirely for granted is now a thing of the past. In one seat, over the course of only a few hours, I was powered by 7 different locos – from modern high speed electrics, to elderly post-war machines, to 4000hp freight diesels, to shunters. Even some of the route that my overnight traversed is no longer used by passenger trains. Banking and shunting locos remarshalling passenger trains are virtually unheard-of in Western Europe these days.

Locomore – A German Open-Access Operator

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182 517 at Stuttgart Hbf with the Locomore service to Berlin, 11/02/17 (JW)

Today, Thursday 24th August 2017 has seen the recommencement of an interesting loco-hauled service in Germany, which has not run since May.

The instigation of the “Locomore” open-access service from Stuttgart to Berlin and return in December 2016 was especially noteworthy as it was crowdfunded; the first railway operation of this type.

Running via Heidelberg, Darmstadt, Frankfurt-Süd, Kassel, Hannover and Wolfsburg, the operation consists of one out-and-back diagram running Thursdays to Sundays inclusive (LOC1818 06:21 Stuttgart Hbf to Berlin Lichtenberg and LOC1819 14:28 return).

From its introduction on 14th December 2016, the service was notable for being frequently reported as being fantastic from a customer service perspective, but also being quite poorly loaded, although this was improving as the service became better-known.

Motive power has always been provided by Class 182 (Siemens “Taurus”) electric locos from Hector Rail (in turn hired by them from MRCE Dispolok).  The locomotives to work the train were (in numerical order): 182 501, 182 509, 182 517 and 182 534.  182 509 is notable as the loco painted in the “Pan-European Picnic” livery; however, both it and 534 have now left the Hector Rail fleet.  Locos would stay with the train sometimes for months on end!

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182 509 sits on the blocks at Stuttgart Hbf, 05/05/17 (JW)

Unfortunately, in May 2017, Locomore GmbH & Co. KG filed for insolvency and the operation ceased, with the locos going back to Hector Rail and the stock heading for store at Neustrelitz works.

Happily, LEO Express (the Czech open-access operator known for running Stadler FLIRT EMUs mainly between Praha and Bohumín) has acquired the operation, and as of today, the service has restarted – using the same paths, locos and carriages.  The loco on LOC1819 from Berlin to Stuttgart today was, again, 182 517!

Hopefully this interesting service now has a stable and successful future ahead of it.

Kosovo’s locomotives, in photographs (Part 1 – ex-JŽ GM diesels)

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This is a photographic record of the General Motors diesel locomotives of the former JŽ (Jugoslovenske Železnice; Yugoslavian Railways) locomotives in Kosovo, all taken 17-20/09/15.

Ex-JŽ Class 645

2620 005 (ex-645 033/HŽ 2044 031)

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2620 016 (ex-645 018/HŽ 2044 010)

There is no photograph of 2620 016 as this locomotive had yet to be delivered at the time of my visit – although I’m sure I have a picture of it in Croatia that I hope to find soon!

Ex-JŽ Class 661

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661 128

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2640 006 (ex-661 132)

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661 203

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2640 007 (ex-661 228)

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2640 008 (ex-661 231)

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661 254

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661 261

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Ex-JŽ Class 664.0

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…and there’s actually a twelfth…

There are a handful of other GM diesels in Kosovo – four Swedish-built NoHABs acquired from NSB (the Norwegian State Railways) and also a curious, unique device now numbered 2640 010.  This machine was built by TŽV Gredelj in Zagreb in 2010, as a heavy rebuild of withdrawn “Kennedy” 661 203 – although in practice only using the bogies and braking system from the 661.  As the “original” 661 203 still stands largely intact, buried in a clump of trees in the scrap line at Fushë Kosovë, for the purposes of this survey the “rebuild” will feature in a future blog post about the new-build locos that Kosovo has obtained!

 

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An introduction to Luxembourg

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3006 departs Noertzange, 24/02/17 (JW)

One of Europe’s smallest countries remains a fair hotbed of electric loco haulage, and its entire network can be covered in a day.  Here is a brief introduction to the country.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, landlocked between France, Belgium and Germany, has a landmass of only 999 miles, and is home to approximately 576,000 citizens – roughly the same number as Sheffield.  It is the quintessential European country, with three official administrative languages (French, German and the local dialect of Letzeburgesch).

Its “European-ness” is underlined by the fact that it is home to the village of Schengen, on the banks of the river Mosel, where the territories of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet.  It was at this point on this river on 14th June 1985 where the Schengen Agreement, the European open-borders travel agreement, was signed.  Luxembourg survives and thrives on free movement across the borders that surround it.

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3002 at Luxembourg station, 24/02/17 (JW)

History and Geography

Officially neutral, Luxembourg was overrun by Germany in both world wars; it was actually annexed into Germany from 1942 until its liberation in 1944.  It ended its neutrality in 1948, when the Benelux customs union between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands came into being, and it joined NATO the following year.  Despite its modern alignment with these two countries, Luxembourg has closer ties to France and Germany both historically and culturally.

The country has two distinctive regions – the northern third, known as the “Oesling”, is a part of the Ardennes massif, a sparsely populated, hilly and forested area that was the setting for much of the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and 1945.  The larger, flatter, more populous southern portion of Luxembourg is the “Gutland”, part of the scarplands of Lorraine.  It is relatively urbanised and contains the country’s eponymous capital.

The face of the country has changed dramatically in recent decades.  As late as the 1970s it was virtually dependent on the steel industry, and belying its tiny size, it was the world’s ninth largest producer of steel prior to the 1974 steel crisis.  However, its manufacturing industry has never been great; much of the steel it produced was exported, massively aided by the arrival of the railway in 1859.  The events of the mid-70s meant that its importance as a steel nation has diminished, although the world’s largest steel producer, ArcelorMittal, is based there.

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4004 pauses at Berchem with an evening commuter train out of Luxembourg City.  24/02/17 (JW)

Luxembourg was forced to reinvent itself.  With little else by way of natural resources to fall back on, it has turned to banking and finance, which now comprises of over a third of its GDP.  It is now a formidable financial centre, being home, for example, to the European Investment Bank.  However, you don’t need to look too hard in the Gutland to see evidence that steel-making remains a prominent activity.

The development of Luxembourg is non-stop, and construction of new facilities continues apace – locals apparently joke that Luxembourg’s national bird is the crane!  Luxembourg now has the second highest GDP per capita in the world after only Qatar, but despite this, the country was ranked second unhappiest in the world (second only to the African corruption-riddled failed state of Chad) in the “Happy Planet Index” in 2016.

Railway network

The railways of Luxembourg are operated by the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL).  The majority of its 170-mile network is electrified (including all of its passenger routes), most of which see at least some loco-hauled services.

All routes radiate from Luxembourg City, the station actually being situated over a mile from the city centre itself, with the bus station on its forecourt.

Here is a link to CFL’s online passenger route map.

Rolling stock

An intriguing factor of CFL rolling stock is that it does not possess any truly unique mainline designs – it tagging orders on to bigger ones from neighbouring countries or taking small batches of “off the shelf” designs.

There are two predominant types of electric loco that, between them, handle all of these hauled services.  The older of the two is class 3000, 7,000hp Alstom “Tractis” dual-voltage machines dating from the late 1990s.  20 of these were built – 3001 to 3020 – as part of a joint order with the Belgian Railways for their 60 class 13s, which can themselves be seen operating to Luxembourg on Intercity services from Brussel and Liège, as well as freights.  3001, however, did not last long in service – having entered traffic on 31st July 1998, it was withdrawn with fire damage after only a year’s use, and was finally cut up at the end of 2011.

More recently, CFL has procured a fleet of 20 class 4000 locos (4001-4020), Bombardier TRAXX machines that are a passenger version of DB’s class 185 and SBB’s class 482 designs.

Both types are also seen on freight work, and using their dual-voltage capability, can be seen operating internationally on such duties – the 3000s into France and Belgium, and the 4000s into Germany.

The rest of CFL’s passenger fleet comprises of multiple units – of three types: class 2000 (based on SNCF’s Z11500s), class 2200 “Coradia Duplex” units (as SNCF Z24500) and class 2300 “Stadler KISS” units (as used in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and further afield).

CFL do retain some diesels – some shunters, as well as slightly bigger MaK 1000BBs and Vossloh G1206s for working freights on the small number of unwired routes and sidings.

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MaK 1100BB, no.1505, shunts some coaches at Luxembourg, 24/02/17 (JW)

Times and fares

Timetables for the Luxembourg railways can be found in PDF form here.  All public transport in Luxembourg is fairly heavily subsidised, and therefore it’s quite cheap to get around.  The day rover (“Dagesbilljee“) valid on all trains and buses is great value for €4/day; Luxembourg using the Euro, as does all of its neighbours.

How to get there

There are a couple of options to get to Luxembourg from the UK.  To do so by rail, it is easiest and quickest to catch the Eurostar to Brussels and then change onto one of the hourly Intercity services direct to Luxembourg – which are generally shared by AM96 EMUs and class 13 electric locos.  Alternatively, it’s about a 4½ hour drive from Calais.

The country has one airport, which is currently served directly from Birmingham, London City, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, and Manchester.  It served as a Luftwaffe base during World War 2, and has now carved a niche as a major European airfreight hub.

The number 16 and number 29 buses both link it to the main station, with a journey time of approximately 25 minutes.  The latter stops at Cents-Hamm station, on the route to Trier, on the way.  Traffic congestion is an increasing problem in Luxembourg, which has the highest car ownership level in the world (661 per 1000 inhabitants), although the new tram system, currently under construction, will eventually serve the airport.

 

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Various dates in 2017: DB V200 class “Warship” railtours

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V200 007 (220 007) at Dagebüll Mole, 05/08/12 (JW)

My recent article regarding the current locations of the remaining ex-Deutsche Bundesbahn V200 class diesel-hydraulics attracted a great deal of interest.  This brief blog post will look at where and when you can travel behind them in 2017.

The two locos in operation this year are V200 033 – which is a “classic” V200 in that it retains its Maybach MD650 power units and Voith transmissions – and also V200 007 which is now Mercedes engined.

These are the tours in the haulage calendar currently advertised for their use during the rest of 2017, along with links to more information about each:-

Saturday 24/06/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), 06:30 Unna via Hagen, Bochum, Recklinghausen to Munster Hbf, for 78.468 (steam) forward to Emden and back, then V200 033 back to the pick-up points but in the same order as the morning, terminating at Munster, €84.  Operated by Eisenbahnfreunde Witten.  Link.

Saturday 19/08/17

V200 033 (ex-DB 220033), Nürnberg area to Chemnitz, details TBC.  Operated by Fränkische Museums-Eisenbahn.  Link.  Update 21/07/17: booking form has come out stating 216 224 to Plauen for 50 3648 forward, no mention of V200 any more.  No traincrew available for the V200.

Saturday 02/09/17

V200 007 (ex DB 220007), Lübeck to Westerland and return.  Operated by Historische Eisenbahnfahrzeuge Lübeck.  Link.

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), Recklinghausen Hbf to Cuxhaven and return, €79.  Operated by Eisenbahnfreunde Witten.  Link.

Saturday 09/09/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), Nürnberg via Bamberg, Gemünden, Aschaffenberg, Frankfurt Ost to Oberwesel and return.  In connection with the “Rhein in Flames” event.  Operated by Eisenbahn Nostalgiefahrten Bebra.  More details awaited.  Some here: Link.  Advised very reliably on 04/09/17 that this is cancelled, but the promoter’s page still carries booking information for it!

Saturday 23/09/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033) and 01.202 (steam), Rosenheim via München and Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Innsbruck, then return via Rosenheim to München.  Operated by Eisenbahn Nostalgiefahrten Bebra. More details awaited.  Some here: Link.

Saturday 30/09/17

V200 033 (ex-DB 220033), 07:45 Stuttgart Hbf to Titisee and return, €85.  Operated by UEF.  Link.

Saturday 09/12/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), Hamm to Bremen and return, €55.  Operated by Museumseisenbahn Hamm.  Link.

There is also to be a Christmas special with V200 007, although details of date or destination have not yet been made public.