17th August 2016 - To the Ukranian border
Wednesday 17th August 2016
The weather forecast for today was not so good and it was actually raining when we got up so our plans to do the narrow gauge line at Hortobágy were put off until tomorrow when the forecast was a lot better. More new track would be on the menu for today instead so we headed to Mátészalka to carry on where we left off two days ago, the rain had stopped by the time that we'd arrived.
First off was the line to Tiborszállás which, unlike Csenger and Zajta, actually went through to Romania though we would not be able to do it on this occasion as the times were not convenient. The train was formed of a Bzmot and trailer, the state of the track was similar to the other lines though not as much as a totter as Zajta and there were quite a few passengers on board, most of whom got off en route. Tiborszállás appeared to be an unmanned station so the train crew had to run round the trailer themselves including unlocking the moveable barrier at each end of the run round loop and moving it out of the way.
After 20 minutes to have a look round and take photos we went back to Mátészalka for an eight minute connection for a train to Záhony, also worked by a Bzmot but with two trailers this time. It was another fairly tedious line which would not rush to have another trip over until shortly after leaving Tornyospálca where there was a spacious set of sidings which did not appear to have seen much use. We did think that it might have been something to do with the army but rather than joining with the "main" line, the line to the sidings continued on a separate alignment, causing us some head-scratching until we approached Mándok where the proverbial penny dropped when we saw some wagons with Cyrillic script on and one of the lines went straight across our track with no actual connection; it was "Russian" 5 foot broad gauge and the sidings we passed earlier must have been a transhipment area!
We passed under one end of a large yard on the approaches to Záhony where two, presumably broad gauge class 628/5 locos were stabled with a third one engaged in some shunting. There was a small halt (Eperjeske alsó) near the end of the yard and we wondered if it was possible to get off there and walk up to view the yard bearing in mind that the whole area was rather close to the Ukranian border. There were more broad gauge class 628/5s stabled outside a shed as we ran into Záhony and 418.153 was standing in the station on a single coach with a posse of police standing outside the door, the train to Chop in Ukraine. This loco was required and a quick look at the times showed that a return journey was possible but the train's imminent departure and our lack of a ticket deterred us from doing this short journey.
We had about 45 minutes before our train back west so went for a look outside the station and were immediately accosted by a taxi tout offering to take us to Chop. No thanks, we've just let a train to there go so why on earth would we want a taxi instead? He was quite insistent, maybe he thought that we'd missed the train but we eventually managed to fend him off and head towards the Co-Op over the road where we discovered an interesting way of buying bread. One of the border police went to the counter and said something, pointing to a loaf of bread, which the lady serving then picked it up and popped it into a machine which sliced it up. Further words were exchanged with "PC Plod" pointing to one section of it whereupon four slices were put in a plastic bag for him with the rest of the loaf being left on the counter presumably for anyone else who might want a few slices but not a whole loaf; an interesting idea but we did think that the loaf would quickly dry out now that it had been cut.
A new class 431 electric loco took us back towards Debrecen and we decided to stop off at Nyíregyháza to have a quick look round and do a quick move to Görögszállás. As we sat down on the train back from there we were accosted by two young ladies, instantly recognisable as the Hungarian equivalent of Jehova's witnesses by the large black rectangular badges they were wearing. They gibbered something at us in Hungarian to which we (politely) replied that we only spoke English and braced ourselves for a lecture on the merits of following the teachings of the Bible but it turned out that they merely wanted to go to Nyíregyháza. At this point the train started to move and they started to flap and we gained the impression that they had maybe mistaken this small rural junction station for a much larger town and junction. It did occur to us that they might do something stupid like try and get off the moving train or pull the alarm but we did manage to get through to them that their stop was the third one and they couldn't miss it as the train terminated there.
Back at Nyíregyháza we had enough time to have a look round the remains of the once extensive narrow gauge system which closed rather abruptly in 2009 and take a couple of photos before boarding the next "O" train to Debrecen when it should have been dinner time but for the small matter of required 418.135 on the 18:50 to Füzesabony. We knew that it should cross the next inbound working at the first station of Tócóvölgy but there was no guarantee that we would actually be able to catch this train. The line to Füzesabony curved round the west side of Debrecen and there might well be a bus back into town or, worst case scenario, it wasn't beyond reasonable to walk so we got on the train with our cause not being helped by a four minute late departure after waiting for a connection. The other train was already waiting at Tócóvölgy but it was cross-platform so we did make the connection back to the main station.
Now we were running a little later than our original intentions we were on the lookout for somewhere quick to eat but preferably not McDonalds! A bit of advance online searching had thrown up a place called Wok to Box which had a reasonable rating, it was basically a take-away though there were a small number of seats both inside and outside. The food was quite good for what it was but some of the things on their website were no longer available and our first attempts at choosing something from the menu on the wall were met with "we don't do that any more"......
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