1st May 2016 - Who took the Sun out of Sunday?
Sunday 1st May 2016
This morning was payback time for the beautiful weather yesterday; it wasn’t just dull, it was chucking it down with rain as well and forecast to be like that for most of the day. Breakfast was served from 6:15 so we made sure to be there promptly and have a leisurely breakfast before going out to the coach which was booked to leave at 7:15 except there was just one problem, the coach was conspicuous by its absence. Phone calls were made to the agency that the coach was booked through, the coach company itself and even the driver but to no avail so, with the aid of the hotel, a fleet of taxis were summonsed and turned up commendably quickly for a Sunday morning.
The three of us in our taxi were charged 110 HZK (between £10 and £11), exactly the amount we were advised it would be, a receipt was obtained and re-imbursement in Euros of the equivalent amount was quickly forthcoming from the tour organizer before we crossed the border back into Slovenia. On the downside the lack of coach cost us a small section of track as the plan had been to set the train back around 500 metres to the end of the line at Pula Obale but it was fortunate that we got to the station in time to leave only 13 minutes late, grabbing a quick photo of the two DMUs stabled outside the shed as we passed.
There were stops at Buzet and Rakitovec for passport / customs, a passport stamp was asked for and willingly provided at the former but, other than a police car, there was no sign of anybody at the latter so we just took some more photos in the rain though it had eased a lot since leaving Pula.
The loco had to run round at Hrpelje-Kozina for the next leg of the tour to Koper, a freight train was already here heading towards Ljubljana with a class 363 on the rear and as our loco ran round, 363.029 came up the hill from Koper with a container train but there was no chance of getting a picture as we had been herded back onto the train which departed as soon as the freight had cleared the points; we didn’t want to cause any delays on this very busy route.
Instead of going to the passenger station at Koper we turned right into the large freight yard and kept going out the far end and towards a container terminal where an LTE class 2016 was stabled. There was an area of hard standing just beyond here with one railway track set into the tarmac and a few minutes after arriving we were allowed out with no apparent requirement for the HV vests that we had been told were necessary two days ago. As we had gone to the trouble of getting some we did wear ours but many others were not and there were no issues. It was still raining slightly when we first got out of the train but it soon cleared up as we waited for the shunting locomotive that was allegedly being sent to drag the train back to the main line, there being no run round loop at this location.
We had been there for the best part of an hour before something was heard approaching but it was one of the Ports own locomotives, a grey and blue Vossloh G6 type loco which was propelling some containers into the far side of the terminal. Not far behind it was SŽ 643.009 which was attached to the rear of our train then the Port’s loco re-appeared behind it, were we going to have a bonus of two locomotives? No such luck as the Vossloh diverged off into another siding but at least it was in a good position for photographs.
643.009 dragged our train back the couple of kilometers to the main line and was detached as we stood behind the signal, ready to head back into the freight yard once we had gone towards the passenger station where there was nearly an hour to stretch our legs and get some refreshments though there was not a lot open bearing in mind it was a Bank Holiday Sunday. McDonalds was open of course and the two of us avoided the queues (and the burgers!) by using the McCafe section as usual and made use of the wi-fi to catch up on a few things.
The next part of the tour was one of the highlights for us, a 664 up the steep gradients out of Koper. 664.116 did not disappoint and a seriously noisy 20 minutes were enjoyed as well as the views including the sight of a top and tailed oil tank train following us a couple of sections further back down the hill. A small section of new track was done as we went round the Divača avoiding curve before we had a stop at Sežana to attach 644.005 to the rear for the trip across the Italian border to Villa Opicina, at least we could do the border crossing here even if Italian Railways had refused the request to take the class 664 to Trieste. Photos were taken to mark the occasion although the train wasn’t in the best position, sandwiched between the station buildings and a rake of grain hoppers in the opposite platform.
A quarter of an hour was quite long enough here before returning to Sežana where we bade farewell to 664.116 which had given us so much entertainment over the last couple of days, the rest of the tour would now be in the hands of the smaller class 644 locos though that wasn’t an issue as they are no slouch in the noise department themselves.
As we headed downhill along the Bohinj line towards Nova Gorica, it was noted that the connection from Kreplje to Villa Opicina was very rusty and had not been used for some time which probably explained why our train hadn’t been booked to cover it. Onwards to Prvačina where the loco had to run round to cover the 15 kilometre long line to Ajdovščina, a required branch line for us as it had an extremely sparse service of two trains a day which we hadn’t got round to doing before they ceased altogether in December 2014. The rails on the branch were surprisingly shiny and the track was in good condition for what thought might have been a disused line but there were some log wagons at the end so there was still a freight service down here. The weather here was very windy and rather cold, a phenomenon that can occur in the end of a valley at the foot of a mountain range but at least it wasn’t raining.
It was ten to five when we left Ajdovščina but there was more to come today, starting with a journey of just over an hour to Most na Soči where the tour coaches were to be combined with the booked “Avtovlak” train departing at 18:34. This train was in its usual position next to the loading dock at Most na Soči, complete with 644.020 which seemed to have semi-permanently allocated to the train recently and we had around half an hour to theorize as to how they would combine the two trains. Some people who hadn’t managed to get 644.020 for haulage during the many months it had spent working the Avtovlak hoped that both locos would be put on the front and work in tandem (644s are not fitted with multiple working) but the train’s staff went for the simple option; shunt the Avtovlak in the usual manner but straight onto the south end of our train, leaving 644.020 on the rear.
The line climbs more-or-less the whole way from Most na Soči to the summit in the Wocheiner Tunnel so we set off with some “maximum power” from 644.005 and it sounded absolutely outstanding when it reached the steepest part of the bank. Savouring the performance from an open window in the front coach a feeling of “déjà vu” washed over us and the years rolled back to Southern Ireland 25 to 30 years ago when we spent a lot of time chasing the 001 or “A” class. The two classes share the same General Motors 12 cylinder 645E type engine and although there were minor differences in horsepower and exhaust arrangements the end result was remarkably similar and a real blast from the past for us.
All too soon, we reached Podbrdo where there is a booked stop though no more cars or passengers were picked up and there was one final blast to the summit in the tunnel before rolling down the other side to Bohinjska Bistrica where the train terminates. We had been told that the train would stop in the platform where we were asked to get off as quickly as possible before it was moved up to the goods dock for the cars to be unloaded but we actually went straight to the latter which was quite sensible as the higher platform was level with the coach floor so we could all alight a lot more quickly than clambering down one by one to track level.
Our hotel for the night was the Bohinj Eco Hotel, a short walk from the station. We had planned to eat at a local restaurant which had been recommended to us but the hotel had an “all you can eat” buffet for €19 which had a decent selection of food and very good it was too, especially the “cream of cottage cheese” soup.
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