28th & 29th April 2016 - Here we are again
Thursday 28th April 2016
This trip started as two separate tours but grew and grew in the planning stage, eventually expanding to nearly three weeks and three tours! Our original aim was to do a PTG tour taking a Slovenian Railways class 664 diesel to Rijeka and Pula in Croatia and Trieste in Italy then the annual RPSI "International Railtour" two weeks later but whilst sorting out annual leave, we decided that it would probably be a lot easier just to fill the gap between the two lots of leave and have the whole lot off. Much searching of flights between Europe and Ireland and discussing other things to do in between eventually led to us heading off to Stansted for a middle of the day flight to Ljubljana with Easy Jet, the first time we had used this particular airport for a few years.
It was bright and sunny, if not particularly warm, when we left the UK but we were rather surprised to break through the clouds approaching Ljubljana and be greeted with a snowy landscape that wouldn't look out of place on a Christmas card; was it really May in three days’ time? We arrived about 20 minutes early giving us hope of catching the 16:00 bus into the city but the hold luggage didn't appear very promptly so that idea was out the window. Normally the bus runs every hour but today it was only running two hourly and for the following two days. We could not fathom out why this should be as although the 27th April is a bank holiday in Slovenia, there did not appear to be a reason for the service to be reduced after the event. Fortunately there is a minibus shuttle service run by Prevozi Markun and the next one was leaving at 16:15 though with only eight seats we might have been fortunate to bag two of these unless there was a second vehicle nearby to take any excess passengers.
It was a flat fare of 9 Euros each which was probably much less than a taxi and we considered it reasonable value for money as it was a door to door service and almost certainly quicker than the bus which goes via Kamnik, calling at various villages en route. The minibus went straight to the city and we marvelled at the amount of snow that had fallen last night. Much of it had melted by now but there must have been at least a couple of inches as the roads looked to have been cleared by a snowplough and the weight of snow had completely snapped many tree branches, including some quite thick specimens.
We arrived at the hotel (City Hotel) with enough time to check in, dump the bags and walk to the station in time to view the 17:25 to Maribor which, as we expected being essentially a Bank Holiday, was hauled by a class 342. There was also engineering work on the line to Koper between Rakek and Prestranek with all passenger trains being replaced by a bus so there should be plenty of units and 342s available without resorting to pinching class 363s from the freight sector. After taking a couple of snaps in the unseasonal weather we made our way to the garage opposite where the lines to Jesenice and Borovnica split only to be met by the sight of a class 643 slowly passing hauling a brand new transformer in one of the purpose built wagons for moving such items around. Although it was only moving slowly there was insufficient time for us to get the camera out and into position for a photograph which was rather annoying but there was no way we could have seen it approaching or known about the move.
The reason for our trip to the garage was that we had been told that anybody wishing to leave the train in Koper docks on Sunday would need to be wearing a HV Vest. We have plenty at home but they were not a lot of use when we only got the message about the requirement after landing at Ljubljana Airport. 9 Euros and two universal size orange HVVs later we made our way into the city and tried out a new place for dinner, the Güjžina , which proved to be very good and featured fresh seasonal produce such as asparagus.
Friday 29th April 2016
Naturally, there was only one train to do today, "Citadella", as it would probably be one of our last chances for class 664 haulage on service trains with the imminent switch over to electric haulage between Pragersko and Hodoš. Of course we made sure that we went out for EN415 about 20 minutes in front and were rewarded with the sight of required 541.009 but just as we were checking our records a further pair of 541s appeared and coupled to 009. A further quick glance through the records revealed that 018 leading was also required and 012 was dud but then the driver and shunter started messing around with the multiple working cables between the three locos with the result that when they had finished, 018 and 009 had their pantographs raised with 012 being dead between them, perfect from our point of view! Turning round to get on the train we then noticed that there were only two coaches, one Serbian and one Slovenian, no sign of any others including the sleeping cars from Zurich. We had heard that the line between Jesenice and Villach, in Austria, had been closed due to snowfall so can only assume that it was still shut though guess that the problem might have more to do with the snow bringing trees down rather than the white stuff on its own. Anyway, whatever had gone on further north we set sail on time with more locos on the train than coaches!
EN415 had a straight run to Zidani Most for a change, most time we have done it recently there had been single line working closing one of the tracks on this stretch of line so we had the full 25 minutes at this picturesque junction station during which time two freights passed heading towards Ljubljana.
As expected we had bumped into a few people who were doing the tour tomorrow and no doubt more would be arriving as the day progressed but we settled down in the restaurant car with a cup of tea to start off with before heading towards the front coach ready for the "main event" from Pragersko. Some attempts had been made to "fix" certain 664s to work "Citadella" either side of the tour and 105 had apparently been asked for yesterday but didn't appear. 664.112 had been the requested "sticky digits" for today, being somebody's last one for haulage and, much to their delight, that was the loco waiting for us at Pragersko.
It was an enjoyable run with good company and we had the same locos for the return journey and it was also 664.112 driver's last day at work so a presentation was made to him on the return to Pragersko, it also probably explained the reason for him wearing a JŽ (Yugoslavian Railways) hat.
With other people arriving for tomorrow’s tour, some “gen” regarding loco hauled turns from Ljubljana was filtering through prompting some of us to get off at Zidani Most for some required class 541s which were following each other east meaning that one could be taken to Sevnica and the second to Krško. Of course the train back to Ljubljana was an EMU but we could hardly complain given that we had “scored” five out of the six locos had today, an excellent result considering the number of times we have been to Slovenia recently.
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