7th March 2016 - Get it while you can
Monday 7th March 2016
It was an even earlier start this morning as the aim of the day was to get to Ljubljana, using the old favourite EC246 “Citadella”. It wasn’t possible to get to Budapest in time for the 8:30 departure but there was a choice of three trains to head it off, leaving Wien Hbf at 6:19, 6:25 or 6:42. The first two were via Sopron with the 6:19 being dismissed as it was booked to be an EMU but the 6:25 EC had a new 1216 on the front so breakfast was purchased, seats found and lid removed from tea. Sitting in comfort and sipping the tea, time ticked by and 6:25 came and went with no sign of movement, then an announcement was made that due to a technical problem the train would be leaving a few minutes late.
This was not very helpful to say the least as the connection at Wiener Neustadt was only 8 minutes with no back-up move so we reluctantly got off and kept everything crossed that the 6:42, an overnight service from München, was on time; fortunately it was. The downside of going this way was a 50 minute wait at both Győr and Celldömölk, not the best time of year to be hanging around draughty stations though at least it allowed plenty of time for any delays.
An empty compartment was found but some minutes after departing Wien Hbf a man came in complaining that he had a first class ticket but couldn’t find any such accommodation (there wasn’t) and had initially got in the front coach. Upon finding it full (and no first class) he had traipsed through three or four sleeping cars looking for seats before finding some space and, despite his initial moans, turned out to be good company and spoke good English.
We were quite happy on our own in the compartment until Mosonmagyaróvár when we were invaded by five people who had seat reservations, EN trains being compulsory reservation within Hungary. As our new found acquaintance was going to Budapest and had a first class ticket it was only right that somebody using a staff pass should allow him to remain seated and it wasn’t that much further to Győr in any case, we could only hope that he didn’t get usurped by somebody getting on there.
Time for a quick wander round at Győr before taking a pew on the 8:40 to Szombathely which was lovely and warm so catching up on some sleep was in order for the next hour or so until it was time to go back out into the cold. It was possible to go to Sárvár and catch the next train from there but as it was single line beyond Celldömölk and the two trains crossed at Sárvár it was not a wise move. A quick walk round and taking some photographs filled the time before the brief 8 minute journey to Boba where we finally caught up with “Citadella”.
EC246 only had three coaches instead of the usual four today and one of those was the dining car but a compartment was found at the rear of the train with only one other passenger in who got off at Zalaegerszeg where the train reversed. It wasn’t very warm in there but that would be rendered rather irrelevant when the main attraction (a class 664 diesel) arrived at Hodoš. This of course was not a required one (don’t seem to have a lot of luck getting new ones of these) but at least it wasn’t one of those that we’d had earlier this year.
It was a nice loud departure from Hodoš but things deteriorated after that, even though this line is relatively flat we have experienced better runs than this one; maybe one coach less than usual really did make a difference. Opening the window was not an option after Ljotomer when we were joined by someone who had been evicted from 1st class (even we can tell 1st and 2nd class apart, the seat colour for a start!) and another guy joined a couple of stops later. By now, the heat did not appear to be working at all though it had been when the 664 was first put on the train so it was a matter of keeping the window shut and attempting to keep warm.
Any disappointment was swept aside at Pragersko when a class 363 electric loco was spotted ready to replace the diesel and it turned out to be required for haulage, a real bonus! As the train headed towards Ljubljana, snow could be seen on top of the mountains and the river Sava in the gorge section around Zidani Most was a raging torrent so a fair amount of snow / rain must have fallen recently. The many primroses in bloom alongside the railway made quite an incongruous sight given the cold weather.
We arrived at Ljubljana on time so had a quick dash down the road to check into the Central Hotel, returning to the station to view the 17:25 IC to Maribor. This was the same loco (363.029) off “Citadella” as expected though it is always worth checking as the loco does occasionally get swapped or an extra one added to the train. With the evening train to Koper being a bus and the identity of the class 342 on the 17:06 from Dobova being unknown there was little point in continuing the “bash” so it was off for a wander round this attractive city and a meal in the Sokol.
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