6th September 2013 - Delayed in Prague
Friday 6th September 2013
04:00?? What sort of time is this? More like going to work than being on holiday; but needs must as we had to catch the 05:25 from Keleti and had a long way to go, over 450 miles and taking in four countries (Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany). EC174 was mostly formed of Hungarian coaches with one German coach at the front and a Slovakian class 350 loco at the sharp end which would work the train through to Praha (Prague) in the Czech Republic. It was still dark when we set off but there a beautiful sunrise as we ran alongside the river Danube after Vác, what a shame that the whole train was formed of air-conditioned coaches which precluded getting any photos without a horrible reflection in the glass.
It was new track for us beyond Szob with the border between the two countries being easily identified by the jointed track on the Slovakian side. The border station here was at Sturovo which was appreciably bigger than Szob in Hungary with a large yard full of wagons and a couple of locos but there was no sign of any movement. As we progressed through Slovakia the track improved but the train, perversely, lost a bit of time and a further problem emerged in that none of the plug sockets in our coach appeared to be working. The guard had a fiddle in the cabinet at the end of the coach but to no avail so it was off down the train only to find that the only other coach which even had plug sockets was the German one right at the front; luckily they were working and there was a tip-up seat in the bike section to perch on whilst the computer was charging.
EC174 arrived 10 minutes late at Praha hlavní nádraží where it reverses but the only loco in sight was another Slovakian class 350 with a luggage van attached and it was unlikely to be that. There was also a distinct lack of shunting staff hanging around to attach the fresh loco and the fact there would be a delay was confirmed a few minutes later when the new conductor made an announcement. There did not appear to be much point in remaining seated in a stuffy coach on a nice sunny day so a stroll along the platform reaped results when a class 721 diesel went past with some empty coaches.
It turned out that EC174 was waiting for the loco off EC171 in the opposite direction and that was running about an hour late so eventually 371 004 (one of the only two we have had previously for haulage) appeared and attached to our train.
Departure was 30 late and we promptly lost a further five minutes due to single line working in the Praha suburbs. The new (Czech) conductor was a bit more technically minded than his Slovakian counterpart as he manage to reset whatever was preventing the plug sockets working much to the relief of the numerous passengers who wanted to plug in various electronic gizmos.
It was a pleasant and interesting journey through the remainder of the Czech Republic and we changed crew, but not the loco, just over the German border at Bad Schandau. Those of you familiar with Global InterRail tickets will know that these come in two parts; the actual ticket showing all the necessary details and a travel report where you enter all your journeys which the on-train staff check; they are meant to, but often don’t bother, stamp this section – not the actual ticket as it could become unreadable after three weeks of “gripping”. Conductors in Germany tend to be quite keen at gripping things and the inevitable happened after 13 days in six different countries. We had guessed that the ticket would get stamped at some stage in Germany but not on the first trip! Of course now the ticket had one stamp it would no doubt attract some more.
There was a further bout of single line working alongside the river Elbe and we arrived in Dresden 48 minutes late; bang goes the 65 minutes to relax and have a nice cup of tea so it was straight onto the RE to Ruhland which was, thankfully, hauled. We couldn’t relax just yet as the train stopped in a heap accompanied by the pungent smell of warm brakes at the first station of Friedrichstraße; but the driver soon resolved the problem and we arrived at Ruhland on time to connect into a brand new class 442 EMU. Despite being so new that it had that “new train” odour about it, the air-conditioning was not functioning very well in this hot weather and we can’t say that we were very impressed with it.
Cottbus was reached just over 12 hours after departing Budapest and we were grateful that the Radisson Blu hotel was just across the road from the station, even more so that Friday night was “steak night” meaning that two juicy rib-eye steaks, beautifully presented were on offer at a special price – just the thing to round off a long day.
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