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!

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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Saturdays 8th July to 30th September 2017: Portuguese metre-gauge Alsthom haulage

I have previously posted about haulage opportunities for haulage by Spanish metre-gauge Alsthom no.1003 on the outskirts of Barcelona this summer here.  However, one of the six such machines sold to Portugal in 1974 will also be working regularly for the next few months.

CP 9004 (ex-1025) will work each Saturday from 8th July to 30th September on a historical train on the Vouga metre-gauge line, situated approximately half an hour south of Porto.

The historical train will depart from Aveiro at 13:40, running approximately 90 minutes to Macinhata do Vouga.  After just over an hour there, it returns to Aveiro – including a 75-minute break at Águeda – arriving back at Aveiro at 19:08.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user EDUARDO BALEIZÃO showing 9004 at work on the Vouga line in May.

The metre-gauge station is on the same site as the “main line” station at Aveiro, which is on the Porto to Lisboa route, the Intercity trains on which see haulage by class 5600 electric locos.  The Porto area also sees sporadic haulage by English Electric class 1400 diesels (based effectively on BR class 20) on IR services to Valença, but is largely unpredictable.

A second Portuguese heritage train operates through the summer – on the Iberian gauge Douro route, between Régua and Tua, with steam loco no.0186 (built 1925 by Henschel in Kassel, Germany), and combined tickets for the two are available that apply a little bit of a discount.

Many thanks again to Charles Hinton for his help with this information.

Paris …In A Day

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7603 at Vanves Malakoff, 22/05/17 (JW)

I woke up in my own bed in Birmingham, travelled behind 18 mainline electric locomotives and 1 diesel, and returned to my own bed that same night. All for less than the price of your average enthusiast railtour.

This is the second in my occasional series of “…In A Day” articles, focusing on day trips that can be made to experience continental railways without spending too much money or too much time away from home.  In March we visited København, this time we visit Paris.

France’s capital is frequently cited as one of the best places in the world to visit for a romantic city break, however its appeal from a railway point of view is perhaps lesser known!  However, it is an interesting destination nonetheless – although it’s fair to say that visiting Paris for its railways will take you away from the tourist trail.

Getting There

Most obviously, Paris is one of two European capitals currently accessible directly by train from the UK; via Eurostar from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford.  The city centre-to-city centre journey time from London is in region of 2hr 20min, which once travel to and from airports, check in and security time etc is taken into account, is faster than air.

If you do wish to make a day trip by air, though, you do have numerous options.  Paris has two main airports – Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY) which are served by frequent flights from numerous British airports throughout the day.  There’s also Beauvais (BVA) airport, to the north of the city, which doesn’t currently see flights from the UK.

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27302 at Clamart, 22/05/17 (JW)

Loco Hauled Suburban Passenger Trains

Paris may not sit in the mind alongside Brussel, Zürich, Wien, Warszawa etc as one of the “great” European cities where large numbers of locomotives can/could be travelled behind in small amounts of time, but with numerous suburban routes served by intensive loco-hauled stopping trains, Paris will still give you a good return on this.

Much like London, Paris is served by multiple termini (seven – clockwise from the top: Nord, Est, Lyon, Bercy, Austerlitz, Montparnasse and St Lazare) each of which have a distinct character.

For the purposes of this article, I will only give a brief outline of loco haulage on suburban services, as “intercity” long distance services are far less easy to cover on a day trip, particularly when long distances (and consequently, expensive fares) are required to travel even just to the first stop.

Paris Nord, probably the first termini that most visiting Paris will arrive at (either directly on the Eurostar or on the unit from CDG airport) sees BB15000 electrics working regional services (roughly one an hour) towards Creil, Compiègne and St Quentin.  However, these are generally non-stop to Orry-la-Ville-Coye – only about 20 minutes out of the capital, but which sits outside the area of validity of the tickets that I’ll tell you about slightly further on in this article.

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15024 at Paris Nord on a sleeper from Hamburg, 02/09/07 (JW)

Since the high-speed line to Strasbourg (the “LGV Est”) opened, the amount of loco haulage at Paris Est has been much reduced, with TGVs via the new line replacing loco and stock via the “classic” line almost completely.  Local services are also mainly in the hands of multiple units.

Exceptions are two weekdays-only peak-hour commuter trains in from La Ferté Milon in the morning peak (06:18 and 07:18 from La Ferté Milon), returning in the evening (17:05 and 18:05 from Paris).  These are booked for BB67400 diesel locos, but there have been a number of recent reports of either of these being substituted by multiple units.  The BB67400s are Pielstick-engined “Type 4” equivalents, the first of which entered traffic in 1969.  In general, their sphere of operation has contracted year-on-year and these are now the last passenger workings that take them in and out of the capital.

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67511 awaits departure from Paris Est, 22/05/17 (JW)

Other diesel action out of Paris is provided by the big six-axle CC72100 machines, again solely out of Est.  These handle some of the Intercity services on the route to Troyes, Culmont-Chalindrey and Belfort, but are in the process of being replaced by bi-mode “Coradia Liner” multiple units and this is expected to have been completed by July, with all of the CC72100s gone by the end of the year.  (Diagrams and recent workings can be found on the excellent European Rail Gen group, to which I encourage you to sign up and post, however do bear in mind that unit substitutions can, and indeed do, occur).  However, for the minute, they represent one of the last places in Europe where you can travel on a “classic” diesel-hauled long-distance Intercity service, with mile after mile at 160km/h and up to 100 miles between station stops.  On the other hand, this does make scratching in many locos quite difficult and time-consuming.  Personally, I’ve tended to only use them for long-distance journeys – over 300 miles to and from Mulhouse, for example; though they now only run the 275 miles to Belfort – still a fair old journey!  (Edit: retained for posterity, but these locos eventually finished on passenger in August 2017).

Paris Est also sees BB15000 action on local services – the fairly infrequent services to St Dizier and Bar le Duc are powered by them – however these are generally non-stop to Chateau Thierry, 45 minutes distant, which again sits outside the area of validity.

7613 arrives at Versailles Chantiers, 19/10/14 (JW)

Moving round to Montparnasse, we find much more loco haulage.  In fact, the corridor between there and Versailles Chantiers – 10 miles containing 7 intermediate stations – sees a 15-minute frequency of loco hauled stopping trains in both directions through the day.  These are all electrics, with duties shared between BB7600 and BB27300 classes hauling double-deck “VB2N” stock.  The former are, like the BB15000s, classic Paul Arzens-styled “broken nose” machines, a 14-strong fleet converted from BB7200s a few years ago purely for these duties.  They are 1,500 v DC locos, meaning that they can only work services to Plaisir Grignon and (primarily) Rambouillet.  The routes beyond Plaisir Grignon are electrified at 25,000 v AC, so are the preserve of dual voltage BB27300 “Alstom Prima” electrics, built about 10 years ago, which do also turn up on some Rambouillet services.

Some “classic” BB7200s can be found on some services between Montparnasse and Le Mans, which are non-stop from Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers, however these in the main seem to now be units.

The rule out of Montparnasse is for the locos to be on the country end working in push-pull fashion, necessitating a walk to the front of the trains from the blocks to see which locos are on them – although there is also a footbridge between some platforms midway down the platform, which makes this a little less awkward.

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27316 passes Clamart on a semi-fast to Dreux, 22/05/17 (JW)

Mention a little while back of Mantes la Jolie brings us nicely onto the next terminus round – St Lazare – as BB27300-powered trains also run from Mantes la Jolie into there.  This means that it’s perfectly possible to travel between Montparnasse and St Lazare entirely loco-hauled, but this will take you several hours as opposed to a quarter of an hour on the Metro!

Although some of the last remnants of the doomed BB17000 class of electrics have been seen working out of St Lazare as recently as earlier this month (May 2017), the general rule now is for all of the loco haulage on suburban services in and out of St Lazare to be BB27300s.

There are actually two routes to Mantes la Jolie from St Lazare – both worked by BB27300s – the quicker, southerly route via Poissy and the slower, more northerly route via Argenteuil and Meulan Hardricourt each seeing 30-minute frequencies.  The latter shares the route as far as Conflans Saint Honorie with the services along the route towards Pontoise, Boissy l’Aillerie and Gisors, which also operate at a 30-minute frequency – so there’s a combined frequency of every 15 minutes between St Lazare and Conflans.

By the way, more helpfully than Montparnasse, locos here are on the blocks end which means waiting at St Lazare for your specific painted number to appear is far less strenuous!

27303 departs Bellevue, 19/10/14 (JW)

One thing you may notice is a discrepancy between the numbers painted on the sides of the locos in the pictures and videos here, and what I refer to them as.  Quite simply, in recent years SNCF has adopted a locomotive numbering convention that reflects its sectorisation, and now has numbers are up to six digits long where the first references that loco’s sector (e.g. “807603” is BB7603 belonging to Transilien (“8”); “115064” is BB15064 belonging to SNCF Voyages (“1”), and so on).  To keep things simple, I’ll refer to these locos by their pre-sectorised numbers here.

In terms of the class numbers of mainline locos themselves, the letters reflect the wheel arrangement (e.g. BB, CC, A1AA1A etc) and classes between 0000-9999 are DC electrics, 10000-19999 are AC electrics, 20000-29999 are dual voltage electrics, 30000-39999 triple voltage electrics, 40000-49999 quadruple voltage electrics, and 60000-79999 diesels.

Route Map

Paris hauled map

A non-exhaustive map showing most of the routes described in this article (JW)

Validity

There are actually a couple of rover-type tickets available for unlimited travel in the Paris area, but the best value is the RATP Mobilis ticket (link in French).  Mobilis tickets are available from RATP ticket machines however these machines oddly tend to take only coins or cards – I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to carry €17.30 in change with me if I can help it!  These tickets can also be purchased over the counter using notes, however, and that is what I did at Paris Nord – it took about two minutes and was a very simple transaction.

Mobilis tickets are priced on a zonal basis, and the official zonal map can be found here.

Zones Price (EUR) Price (GBP) *
1-2 €7.30 £6.33
1-3 €9.70 £8.41
1-4 €12.00 £10.40
1-5 €17.30 £15.00

* Conversion based on 25/05/17 exchange rates

If you wish to travel on the BB67400-hauled commuter trains out of Paris Est, then you will need to purchase a zone 1-5 ticket, purely because the trains’ first stop at Meaux sits within zone 5.

Just a note on the Mobilis ticket – what you aren’t told is that it is only valid once you have written on it – date of use, first name and surname.  Be warned!  (Although I must say that it was not looked at all day, only serving a purpose to get me through barriers).

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15064 at Paris Nord, 22/05/17 (JW)

Safety & Security

I feel I need to add a note on personal safety here.  The November 2015 terror attacks in Paris are still fresh in the memory, as are the “Charlie Hebdo” killings and numerous other terrorist actions in and around the city since 2013.  Additionally, my A-Level French well over 10 years ago contained a solid two months’ work on how dangerous the Paris banlieue (suburbs) are and how they are apparently no-go areas, and the press frequently back this assertion up.

I can honestly say that I’ve never felt unsafe anywhere that I’ve been in Paris, although a degree of caution and “street smarts” (to use an awful Americanism!) are helpful in any capital city – particularly when it comes to beggars, pickpockets etc.

What is true about the suburbs is that unlike certain other capital cities – London, Berlin etc – many suburbs are in effect quite deprived self-contained settlements, rather than dormitories for the city, and consequently they have little in common with the picture-postcard tourist trail around the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, etc.  Bashing the suburban trains – particularly if you follow my itinerary at the bottom of this page – will most likely take you into the suburbs at some point.  Purely through habit in such areas, I wouldn’t tend to show off expensive camera equipment, simply not to draw attention to myself, but this isn’t something I would say is specific to Paris.

By the very nature of this article, it does not cover travel on trains late at night, and from experience the outer parts of the city do take on an edgier character at those times.

My Day

As ever, I would not take the liberty of assuming that all readers would wish to approach their day in the same manner that I did.  However, here is a brief run through of how I chose to approach my day (Monday 22nd May 2017).

In order to apply some structure to the 8 hours or so that I had in Paris, I elected to first head over to St Lazare station to travel behind as many electric locos as possible on the routes out of there; then to Montparnasse for more of the same; and finally over to Est to have a slower-paced look at the diesels, before a meal and then my Eurostar home.

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3014 at London St Pancras, 06/04/14 (JW)

The journey to Paris was uneventful; I arrived at St Pancras with far more than the minimum 30 minutes check in time required, and my Eurostar rolled into Paris Gare du Nord spot on time at 11:47; local time.

Having purchased my ticket at the RER ticket office down the stairs to the left-hand side of the blocks, I continued through the passageway to reach Magenta station, where I stepped straight onto one of the frequent EMUs through to the terminus of Haussmann-St Lazare, which sits beneath the terminus station of Paris St Lazare.

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Ferrotract Vossloh G1206 no.1552 (276038), Paris St Lazare, 22/05/17 (JW)

In the spirit of riding behind as many locos as possible, I chose to ignore the Mantes la Jolie via Poissy services, and focus on the 15-minute-frequency corridor through Argenteuil and Conflans Sainte Honorie.  I chose two stations – Val d’Argenteuil and Cormeilles en Parisis – 2.2 miles apart, which allowed me to spin up and down between them travelling on every service in both directions, until the BB27300s that I’d had heading into town started to reappear coming back out.  Neither of these stations are “good for a fast leap” with lengthy subways between platforms, meaning that you do rely on good punctuality to be able to continue to do this, but I had no problems.

In all, I was out of St Lazare for 1hr 43min, and in that time made 10 separate moves resulting in 9 individual locos for haulage.

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27350 at Cormeilles en Parisis, 22/05/17 (JW)

Apart from the BB27300s themselves, there were a couple of other items of interest to be seen.  First up was orange centre-cab Vossloh G1206 (1552 / 276038) leased to Ferrotract which was sat in the sun in one of the platforms at St Lazare (photo above).

Also, on the left-hand side of the train between Argenteuil and Val d’Argenteuil was a small engineer’s yard which contained another Ferrotract G1206 (1573) and, notably, two ex-Deutsche Bundesbahn V100 diesel-hydraulics, both now with Eurovia Travaux Ferroviaires (ETF) – “512-3” (211164) and “524-8” (211136).

Here’s a very rushed photo of the latter!

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Ex-DB V100 diesel-hydraulic no.211136, Val d’Argenteuil, 22/05/17 (JW)

Additionally, perhaps of interest to some UK enthusiasts, was a Euro Cargo Rail EWS-liveried Class 66 GM diesel which passed Val d’Argenteuil at approximately 13:40 with a long freight train heading away from Paris.

Having arrived back at St Lazare, I wasted no time in heading down to the Metro to catch line 12 directly to Montparnasse – or, rather to Montparnasse Bienvenue station, which purports to serve Montparnasse terminus, but it’s quite a long walk through the underground passageways to reach it!

From Montparnasse, the first stopping train departure was the 14:50 to Mantes la Jolie which was headed by 27309, which I required for haulage, so that set the tone for the next hour or so.  Again, the stations along this route are served by loco-hauled trains at 15-minute intervals in both directions, so again I picked two stations (Vanves Malakoff and Clamart, 0.9 miles apart) that allowed me to travel up and down between them on every one of them.

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To refute the myth I didn’t do any sightseeing…….!  The view from Clamart station.

This was achieved at a marginally better pace as the trains at these stations stopped either side of island platforms – no subways or footbridges to contend with!

Again, I made 10 separate moves and travelled behind 9 different locomotives – 7 of them BB27300s again, but the highlights were two BB7600s (admittedly only for very short runs).

I could have continued with my “scratching spree” – I’m confident that 30 or even 35 different locos for the day would have been very achievable in the time I had, if high volumes of locos was my only aim – but having spent the first half of my time on very short runs with relatively new, relatively unexciting traction, I decided that I would now like a longer run with something older and louder.

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27310 rolls into Vanves Malakoff, 22/05/17 (JW)

As a result, I headed over to Est on Metro line 4, again a direct journey (for reference, this route also links these two termini with Nord, making it quite a useful one for our purposes).  However, “direct” does not necessarily equate to “fast”, especially in the rush hour.  Less than 4 miles as the crow flies, there are 13 stations to call at, and this took 26 minutes.

I still arrived in good time for the 17:05 to La Ferté Milon, with 1971-built 67511 at its head, which I caught to its first stop of Meaux, a distance of 27.4 miles.  This was a really enjoyable journey – I was able to sit about 10 feet behind the loco, which was hauling two five-car “RIB” sets, with the window pulled down to forehead level even in a seated position.  The loco was worked fairly hard, with the 120km/h top speed of the stock being exploited fully, and the scenery further out as the route criss-crosses the Marne river is quite pretty.  And all this on a really sunny afternoon to boot – definitely the highlight of my day.  (Check out this link for a bashing report of a trip in 2014 which includes some videos of BB67400s).

In a classic case of “after the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dustcart”, my loco haulage for the day was now over, and an EMU soon shuffled in to take me non-stop back to Paris.

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67522 passes outside Paris Est, getting into its stride with the 18:05 to La Ferté Milon, 22/05/17 (JW)

Just outside Est station, 67522 stormed past with the 18:05 departure.  This is not timed to make at Est, it’s a minus 4 – if you wish to travel on both the 17:05 and 18:05, you need to stay east of Meaux.

You may wonder, then, why I didn’t do this myself, especially as 67522 was also required for haulage.  There were two reasons; one was the fact that if you travel on the 18:05 beyond Meaux – even just to its next stop of Trilport, 6 minutes later – you wouldn’t get back to Paris in time for the 20:13 Eurostar, my train home on this day.

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Just in time to see 72189 depart with the 18:12 to Culmont-Chalindrey, 22/05/17 (JW)

The other reason was that I hoped to get back to Paris in time to witness the departure of IC11743, the 18:12 to Culmont-Chalindrey, which is still booked for haulage by one of the popular big CC72100 class diesels.  I managed this, just about (as you can see, the photo wouldn’t win any awards!) but I was pleased to stand and enjoy watching it leave, as I suspect this will be the last time I see one here.  I’ve got great memories of long distance blasts with these engines to and from Belfort and Mulhouse from days gone by, and I will miss them.

As IC11743’s tail light disappeared into the distance, I had just two hours until my Eurostar departed (so, 90 minutes until check in for it closed).  Rather than head off elsewhere looking for more loco haulage – and risk making it tight for my train home – I went for some food and a beer and then had a look at the electrics sat on the blocks at Nord before finding my train back to England.

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22321 and 22342 sit at the buffer stops at Paris Nord, 22/05/17 (JW)

The 19 different locos that I travelled behind during the day was nowhere near my personal record of 56 in a day trip (Birmingham to Brussel and back when I was 18 and had considerably more stamina!) but I was still entirely happy with a varied and interesting day.

Here is my “move” for the day:-

Birmingham Intl. 0540 EMU 1R00 05:00 Wolverhampton – Euston
London Euston 0705
London St Pancras 0831 EMU 9010 08:31 St Pancras – Paris Nord
Paris Nord 1147
Magenta 1205 EMU 19176 11:34 V. sur Marne  – H. St Lazare
Haussmann St Lazare 1209
Paris St Lazare 1227 27334 31071 1227 St Lazare – Boissy l’Aillerie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1245 1251 27357 36862 1152 Mantes la Jolie – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1254 1257 27340 36873 1242 St Lazare – Mantes la Jolie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1301 1306 27338 37064 1156 Gisors – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1309 1312 27350 31073 1257 St Lazare – Boissy l’Aillerie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1315 1321 27332 36870 1222 Mantes la Jolie – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1324 1327 27364 36881 1312 St Lazare – Mantes la Jolie
Cormeilles en Parisis 1331 1336 27341 31080 1305 Boissy l’Aillerie – St Lazare
Val d’Argenteuil 1339 1342 27357 37083 1327 St Lazare – Gisors
Cormeilles en Parisis 1346 1351 27326 36874 1252 Mantes la Jolie – St Lazare
Paris St Lazare 1410 1422 Metro Line 12
Paris Montparnasse 1436 1450 27309 65623 1450 M’parnasse – Mantes la J.
Meudon 1500 1501 27307 65626 1355 Mantes la J. – M’parnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1506 1510 27314 65425 1505 M’parnasse – Rambouillet
Clamart 1512 1519 7603 65428 1422 Rambouillet – M’parnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1521 1525 27310 65527 1520 Montparnasse – P. Grignon
Clamart 1527 1534 27304 65530 1456 P. Grignon – Montparnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1536 1540 27302 65429 1535 M’parnasse – Rambouillet
Clamart 1542 1549 7614 65432 1452 Rambouillet – M’parnasse
Vanves Malakoff 1551 1555 27307 65631 1550 M’parnasse – Mantes la J.
Clamart 1557 1604 27311 65634 1455 Mantes la J. – M’parnasse
Paris Montparnasse  1611 1625 Metro Line 4
Paris Est 1651 1705 67511 17255 1705 Paris Est – La Ferté Milon
Meaux 1733 1744 EMU 17160 1704 Chateau Thierry – Paris Est
Paris Est 1809
Paris Nord 2013 EMU 9059 2013 Paris Nord – St Pancras
London St Pancras 2139
London Euston 2230 EMU 9G48 2230 Euston – Wolverhampton
Birmingham Intl. 0021

Finances

I introduced this article by asserting that it was a relatively cheap day out (in comparison to a railtour) and here are the numbers to support that.

Virgin Trains ticket Birmingham Intl to Euston = £6.00

Outward Eurostar ticket = £19.00

Rover ticket = £15.00

Return Eurostar ticket = £19.00

Virgin Trains ticket Euston to Birmingham Intl = £6.00

Total = £65.00

The £19.00 each way Eurostar tickets were obtained as part of a limited-time online special offer, but these are worth keeping an eye out for as they make cross-Channel travel much more affordable.  Additionally, my Virgin Trains tickets were both purchased in advance online and considerably cheaper than the equivalent walk-up fares.

Again, 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, but even with those taken into account, I’m sure you’ll agree it was still a good value day out.

 

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The 230km/h Trabant!

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One of Europe’s fastest locomotives wears a unique livery prominently featuring the unmistakable shape of the infamous 23hp East German “Trabant” car.  What’s it all about?

182 509 is a Siemens ES64U2-type loco, built in 2002 for their own spot-hire business, “Dispolok”, which was bought out by MRCE in 2006.

It was one of two such machines (182 509 and 182 560) to get unique specially-designed liveries – different on each side – in summer 2014, to mark the impending 25th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Europe.  182 560’s was dedicated to the fall of the Berlin Wall, whereas 182 509’s was on the theme of the “Pan-European Picnic”, arguably a lesser-known event.

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182 509 livery detail, seen on 05/05/17 (JW)

So, what was the “Pan-European Picnic” and what is the livery all about?  As I described in my article on the Flüchtlingszüge from Prague, 1989 saw burgeoning unrest through the Communist states behind the Iron Curtain, and history tells us that this resulted in the systematic collapse of the regimes in each of these countries by the end of the year.  It was a watershed year but these momentous events were characterised not by shows of aggression (except in Romania) but by demonstrations of peace.

One of the main characteristics of Eastern Europe in 1989 was the gathering pace of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika, of not interfering in the internal affairs of the Communist states.  It was in this climate that the Hungarian Minister of State Imre Pozsgay and the Austrian Otto von Habsburg, an MEP and President of the International Pan-European Union, sponsored an event to be held near Sopron, a Hungarian town near to the Austrian border, on Saturday 19th August 1989.

The theory was that the border between Hungary and Austria would be opened for a few hours, allowing people from both sides of the Iron Curtain to mingle, eat together (i.e. the picnic) and generally show that despite decades of propaganda to the contrary, those on both sides of the previously impregnable border between ideologies were not so different.

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182 509 livery detail, seen on 05/05/17 (JW)

What was not planned for, however, was the additional attendance of 600 enterprising East Germans who had been on their summer holidays in Hungary, had heard about the event and had decided to seize their opportunity to escape to the West.  The border guards turned a blind eye to this and their “Republikflucht” had been successful.

Again, history informs us that the border between Hungary and Austria was finally opened properly on 11th September and East Germans headed there in their droves in an attempt to leave – and (again, as described here) the dominoes had begun to fall that eventually resulted in the breach of the Berlin Wall – hence the liveries on 182509 and 182560 each commemorate events that neatly book-end what are probably the most significant twelve weeks in European history in the second half of the 20th century.

And what of the “230km/h Trabant” in the title?  These little two-stroke cars, manufactured by VEB Sachsenring in Zwickau, were ubiquitous in East Germany.  They were the vehicles that East German families drove in to Hungary in their attempts at escaping, that were left abandoned on the streets of Prague as their owners crammed into the West German Embassy, and that smokily and noisily inched across the Berlin Wall when it was first opened on that landmark night in November 1989.  As a result, Trabants became one of the most instantly-recognisable symbols of the events of 1989, and so it’s entirely appropriate that one is included in this design.  The irony is that a vehicle that struggled to hit 100km/h in real life can now be “seen” flashing through the German countryside at well over double that!

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182 509, Stuttgart Hbf, 05/05/17 (JW)

So, where is the best place to see the “Pan-European Picnic” loco?  As a Dispolok machine, it lives a somewhat nomadic existence, but since it gained its special livery it has worked predominantly for DB (both on regional passenger services for DB Regio, and on Intercity expresses for DB Fernverkehr) but, since January 2017, it has been hired to the Swedish firm of Hector Rail.

Although Hector Rail is based in Sweden, 182 509 is as yet only passed for use in Germany and Austria.  As well as a number of freight flows across the former, Hector Rail have the contract to provide motive power for the crowd-funded open-access train operator Locomore, which have operated a Stuttgart to Berlin and return passenger service since December 2016.  Although 182 517 has worked the lion’s share of these trains to date, 182 509 did have a stint of a several days working this in May 2017, which is when the photos in this article were taken.

15th May 2016 – Maybach MD870 power on the main line

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15th May 2016 saw “Lollo” V160 002 (DB 216 002) work a mainline railtour from Treysa to Klein Mahner and back, to the delight of a large contingent of British enthusiasts on board.

British modern traction enthusiasts have been travelling to foreign shores in significant numbers to feed their interest for over 40 years.  Although – as I hope this website will show you – the decision to make this first trip can be the gateway to an almost infinite number of different railway experiences, the first time that many ventured overseas was in search of things that reminded them of home; exported ex-BR “EM2” electrics in the Netherlands, for example, or Vulcan Foundry-built 8 and 16-cylinder English Electrics in Portugal.  But one of the oldest and most enduring subjects of our attention have been the Maybach-powered diesel-hydraulic locomotives of the former West Germany.

The “Western” class diesel-hydraulics of British Rail were the first modern traction type to gain a significant following, and after D1013 and D1023 drew to a halt at London’s Paddington station at 23:41 on Saturday 26th February 1977, it was assumed that the glorious sound of Maybachs would never again be heard on the front of a train on the main line in the UK (that assumption, by the way, was wrong!).  That was an experience now to be found only overseas, predominantly in West Germany with the Deutsche Bundesbahn V200.0 class of locomotives, which were built with twin MD650 power units and Voith transmissions and were the forerunners of our own “Warship” locos.  These lasted in main line passenger service until 1984; you can still rely on a sizeable British booking on most railtours hauled by preserved machine V200 033 even now.

The V200.0s may have been almost identical to BR’s Swindon-built D800s, not least visually, but they were certainly not the only Maybachs that Deutsche Bundesbahn had had.

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V160 002 at Salzgitter Bad, 15/05/16 (JW)

It’s a commonly-repeated misconception that the Vorserienloks (prototype batch) of Class 216 – the first ten machines of the “V160 family” that eventually totalled 800 locos, some of which are still in use on front-line passenger work today – were the same as BR’s D7000 “Hymeks”.  This is not strictly true – the German machines were indeed built with Maybach MD870 power units, as were as the “Hymeks”, but they had Voith as opposed to Mekydro transmissions, and this does make an appreciable audible difference.

The last of this small batch of 10 machines, nicknamed “Lollos”, worked its last train for DB in 1981.  This was not the end of the story, though, as five examples escaped the cutter’s torch – one for preservation (V160 003, although this has now sadly lost its MD870), and four for private non-passenger use – three of these ended up in Italy, and one, V160 002, in Spain.

This article is not a history of Maybach traction in Germany, however (that will come at a later date).  This is a review of a railtour hauled by a truly hellfire locomotive.

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V160 002 worksplate detail (JW)

A bit of historical scene-setting first, though: V160 002, later numbered 216 002, was repatriated from Spain by a private individual in 2010 and restored in the works at Neustrelitz.  It emerged in 2015 in almost-original condition, and as well as some work on main line freights for RailSystems RP, worked passenger trains at a special event on the Kurhessenbahn in the September 2015, a trip paired with V200 033 in April 2016, and some heritage-themed shuttles between Coesfeld and Dorsten in May 2016. Its first proper solo railtour, however, was scheduled for 15th May 2016, and this was immensely popular with British enthusiasts.  A fair few, like me, had never even had the chance to ride behind a “Hymek” on the main line, so it was a totally new experience.

This was a trip starting at Treysa and running via Kassel, Göttingen, Hildesheim, Oker and Vienenburg to Braunschweig.  The run between Hildesheim and Oker was with the express intention of commemorating the reign of the DB class 218 “rabbit” locos, which had been withdrawn from service on the much-loved Hannover to Bad Harzburg route which used this section of line, at the end of 2014.

The “Lollo” ran round at Braunschweig and headed south the short distance to Salzgitter Bad where, after another reversal, it gained the route to the tour’s nominal destination of Klein Mahner, home and operating base of the Dampflok-Gemeinschaft 41 096 e.V.

Klein Mahner was a familiar destination to those of us who had travelled on the “Stahlstadtexpress” railtour in May 2014, which itself had been operated as a farewell to Braunschweig’s 218 447.

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323479 at a brief photo stop at Werlaburgdorf, 15/05/16 (JW)

However, on that occasion, the 218 had not been permitted to traverse the full line, and it had been the only motive power of the day.  This visit was to prove different.  One of the railtour coaches was uncoupled, and taken forward to the end of the line at the junction of Börßum and back by diminutive class 323 (Köf) diesel shunter, 323 479.  It was perhaps hard to believe that this loco was 82 years old at the time, its entry to traffic having been on 12th October 1933!

Back at Klein Mahner, we regained the V160 and set forth on a brief tour of the freight-only lines threading through the sprawling steelworks complex that sits between Salzgitter and Peine.  Some of us, again, were no strangers to this route – it also having featured on the 218 447 railtour in 2014 – but it was an interesting way to spend an hour or so, nonetheless.  The noise levels were ramped up a notch or several when we regained the main line, however, which was well-received by all!  Although there were to be two further reversals, that was the branch lines dispensed with for the day, and thrash and speed were sustained all the way back to Treysa.

I think it is no exaggeration to say that everybody who travelled on this railtour was very impressed with the loco.  The atmosphere on the train was brilliant, and apart from those with D1015 at the helm, it eclipsed every railtour I’ve travelled on in the UK in recent memory in just about every aspect.

I made a video of the day and uploaded it to YouTube, and it can be seen below.  It’s 24 minutes long, but it gives a good overview of the day, with plenty of MD870 thrash for you to enjoy!

V160 002 has recently re-entered traffic after a period out of service, and is advertised for a sensibly-priced and timed railtour from Piesberg (near Osnabrück) to the Christmas market at Goslar on Saturday 9th December 2017, followed by another on Saturday 3rd February 2018 from Münster Hbf to Willingen and return (link).

If you like your diesel-hydraulics, you will certainly not regret ensuring you are there!