5th September 2015 - Sonderzug nach Pilsen
Saturday 5th September 2015
Our original intention for today was to have gone to the annual Meiningen Works open day with one of the numerous specials trains that normally run to this event but, on this occasion, none of them really grabbed our fancy. Whilst mulling over whether to do one of these trips, or not, a link to a trip from Passau to Pilzen run by the Passauer Eisenbahnfreunde on the same day plopped into our e-mail inbox, a new loco and and interesting route over required track persuaded us to make contact and arrange a booking for two seats. As mentioned yesterday, the route was to have been via Bayerisch Eisenstein but engineering work on the Czech side meant that an alternative route via Schwandorf had to be taken.
It was an early start at 6:10 in the morning to allow for a full day out in Pilsen but we were down at the station some time before then to raid Yormas for some takeaway tea and breakfast for later. The train was shown on platform 2 so everyone trooped over there only for a pair of red tail lights to appear from the direction of the shed and head towards platform 1 instead. Confusion reigned amongst the passengers as they appeared to be torn between “it says platform 2 on the board so it must be correct” versus the evidence right in front of their eyes of the train in platform 1! We went to the correct platform as soon as we saw the train heading that way and found the organisers already on the platform who directed us to our seats, in coach 24, right at the front of the train. The seats were in a compartment which was labelled with the names of those sitting in there and where they were from. The centre seat on each side of the compartment had been replaced by a wooden box-cum-table so there were only two others in there, an older couple from Passau who were nice enough people but as we don’t speak much German and they didn’t speak much English we couldn’t really get to know each other.
Off we went, bowling along the main line and stopping to pick up at Vilshofen and Plattling - the 216, as we expected, not being anything to shout about in the noise stakes. As we approached Regensburg, it was right hand down a bit round the avoiding line, a small consolation for missing out on the line via Bayerisch Eisenstein and a “claw back” for us as we had not been able to get over during the recent diversions of booked passenger trains round the curve. Onwards to Schwandorf where the loco had to run round, giving us time to grab another cup of tea from the shop on the platform, then off to Furth-i-Wald where we did wonder if a Czech loco would be provided as CZ was not one of the half dozen countries listed on the side of 216.224. Apart from a brief stop to pick up a Czech crew it was onwards to Pilsen, special permission having been granted for the 216 to work thorough so this was quite a rare working.
We had considered catching the 11:08 towards Prague from Pilsen but the special train arrived four minutes early giving plenty of time to find the 11:02 to Železná Ruda-Alžbětín so we changed our mind and decided to do the other section of line that the special train should have done. The line is electrified as far as Klatovy so the loco was a class 242 electric to start off with and there were 10 minutes to change to the class 754 diesel meaning plenty of time to get a few photos round the station.
The line to Železná Ruda-Alžbětín was a nice enough line though not as scenic as it’s German counterpart and the class 754s look a lot more interesting than they sound; we have had a couple of Slovakian ones in the past but this was our first Czech example. There was plenty of engineering work renewing loops and resignalling at stations in evidence along the route so it was no wonder that the special train could not run this way.
On arriving at Železná Ruda-Alžbětín, 754.009 had to enter Germany to run round and whilst it did this we walked into Germany to the restaurant that we had noticed yesterday in the German half of the station. The restaurant was located in a rather grand room which was previously the first class waiting room and the food was excellent, we chose a pork schnitzel with spätzle (best described as German pasta) covered in mushroom sauce followed by a rather nice cake from a good selection laid out in a cabinet next to the bar.
With a few minutes to spare before the return journey there was time to look at the boards outside the restaurant charting the history of the station. Of particular interest was a picture taken after the Second World War showing a large fence straight along the border and a further picture showing that a smaller fence was still there as late as 1990. Subsequent investigations showed that the border was re-opened for rail traffic in June 1991 and the Czech services extended from Železná Ruda město some three km further north.
754.009 again was the loco for the return journey as we expected, but we did get another new 242 at Klatovy which got us back to Plzeň with 35 minutes to spare before the special departed. This was ample time to get a couple of pictures of the station pilot and a class 730 on an engineers train and grab some snacks for later; four items and two hot drinks costing all of about £2.60! By now our train was in the platform with just enough time to grab a couple of photos before we set off back to Schwandorf, by which time it was dark.
The same route was taken via the Regensburg “avoider” but we did not stop at Plattling this time, presumably the stop on the outwards journey was for operational or crew change reasons only. There was one further unscheduled stop at one station to let the München-bound RE train pass before we arrived back in the bay platform at 22:48 and we did not hang around beyond a couple of swift farewells and thank-yous to the organisers as we had yet another early start in the morning.
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