31st January 2016 - Dampffahrt Engadin
Sunday 31st January 2016
We had to be on the 8:00 train this morning so went down to breakfast about 7:15 and, as we suspected, the stuff had already been laid out so we got stuck in and finished just after the booking office opened at 7:45. Although the trip we had booked on would take up most of the day, we still decided to purchase a Lokdienst, if only to check that 703 hadn’t been resurrected and was on the booked Ge6/6ii turn from Landquart to St Moritz (it wasn’t). Whilst standing on the platform waiting for the train to St Moritz, we idly flicked through the turns to see what Ge4/4iii would be on our train only to find that it was Ge6/6ii 705, a welcome sight in the dull and rainy weather.
The rain turned to snow as we gained height but had more-or-less stopped by the time we arrived at Samedan where we had over an hour to wait before the special departed. We could have caught the train an hour later but chose to get there earlier in the hope that we might get some pictures rather than get there with a few minutes to spare and dive straight onto the train. This proved to be the correct decision as Tm2/2 no. 88 was buzzing around the station area shunting various coaches including a green liveried “heritage” set for the steam special.
The only sign of the steam loco was some smoke issuing forth from the shed but it appeared to be reluctant to emerge in front of its expectant passengers until about 25 minutes before departure time when a whistle was heard from the depths of the shed. We peered into the gloomy interior, expecting to see some lights heading towards us but they appeared one-by one from the side instead; there must be a traverser inside with more roads behind the offices that were at the front on the left hand side of the building.
Our loco for the day was one 29 2-8-0s (G4/5 in Swiss parlance) built for the RhB between 1904 and 1915 of which two (107 and 108) remain on the railway to work special trains such as the one we would be doing today. We had noticed Ge6/6i “krokodil” loco no. 415 on the Lokdienst working a similarly timed train to the steam special and assumed that it would be coming with us in some sort of supporting role but there was no sign of it though a friend of ours who was also on the trip seemed confident that it would appear at some stage during the day.
Comparing the special train’s timings to those of a service train showed that it was going to be a very slow journey and we guessed that there would be some prolonged stops along the way to let other trains overtake or pass. Sure enough, after crossing a train at Zuoz we stopped at S-chanf where there was another train booked to cross and one to overtake us as well. Quite a few of the other passengers crossed the track to get a photo so we decided that when in Rome (Graubünden!) etc and followed suit. Some people clambered up the small bank to a narrow road but as it was rather slippery we chose to stay at track level.
Two stations later and we were at Zernez where the train stopped for an hour for various other trains to cross and overtake and gave us the chance to get some more photos. Whilst there was not the scrum that usually takes place in the UK whenever a steam train runs on the mainline it was still a challenge to get a photo of 108 without anybody standing in the way. We thought that 415 might catch us up here but there was no sign of it nor was there any sign of 108 needing to take water which we also thought might have happened.
Setting off again, we had a brief stop at Susch to cross another train then had the rare experience of passing through Sagliains non-stop before making one final stop at Ardez to cross the two trains that depart Scuol-Tarasp within 10 minutes of each other. On arrival at Scuol-Tarasp, 108 dragged its train up the headshunt before propelling it into a loop opposite the platform before heading off to be serviced and answering our question regarding turning the loco; yes, there is a turntable here.
We photographed the trains arriving from Pontresina and Disentis then went for a lunch break before returning in time for the next two arrivals an hour later. Just before the first of these, a member of staff went across to the station’s shunting loco, started it up and drove it down the siding next to the small goods yard. The train from Landquart arrived first with a refrigerated van on the rear, motor whirring away, which the shunting loco quickly grabbed before the train loco ran round. By now, the train from Pontresina could be seen standing at the home signal but the loco carried on with the shunt which we found slightly puzzling until it headed back towards the station, placing the van on the buffer stops in the bay platform, quickly dropping it off there and scurrying back into the siding. Once this move was completed, the train from Pontresina was allowed into the station, straight on top of the van which was coupled to the rear of the push-pull train ready to drop off at whichever station it was bound for; told you this railway was good when it came to operations!
We were still half expecting “krokodil” no. 415 to turn up but it never did, meaning that 108 would have to tackle the steep climb up to Ardez on its own. It had to work very hard and the sound could be enjoyed by opening the window opposite the toilet in the middle of the coach which was separated from the seats either side by a solid door meaning there were no complaints about draughts.
It was trying to rain / sleet again as we passed non-stop through Sagliains again and we stopped to cross another train at Susch before arriving at Zernez again where we had another wait of around an hour for both service trains to cross here. We got out of the train, expecting it to be shunted into the third platform but it promptly shunted to the opposite main platform, then into a siding beyond the station. It was a good job we had taken our bags with us as it was raining harder now and a lot colder making the idea of catching the 15:20 Landquart to St Moritz train rather tempting even though we knew 703 would not be working it. This would get us back to Filisur an hour earlier and, much as we had enjoyed the ride behind 108, a Ge6/6ii was not to be sniffed at so that and the earlier finish time got our vote.
The driver of 704 was very keen and shot off with gusto, arriving at Samedan with just enough light to take a few final photographs for the day before heading for the “Avec” store for a nice hot drink to warm up. A bit of uncharacteristic late running was in evidence as the combined RE and Glacier Express to St Moritz was running 17 minutes late though it didn’t affect our train which turned up on time with 646 on the front.
The booking office was still open when we arrived at Filisur so we decided to try and get a Lokdienst for tomorrow, having heard from various sources that it is normally published between 4pm an 5pm the previous day. The lady in the booking office greeted us and went straight over to the computer as soon as we walked through the door (think she had us "sussed" by now!) and we were soon leafing through the pages looking for 703 which was still on repairs though it would have given us a rather large dilemma if it was booked out on the one weekday turn which starts at Ilanz at 7:53 and which would mean leaving Filsur long before breakfast to do it.
After suffering a burger last night it was a pleasure to eat in the hotel again with it excellent and beautifully presented food.
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