18th August 2016 - Tying up some loose ends
Thursday 18th August 2016
Our last full day in the Debrecen area and the weather had returned to being hot and sunny so we dusted off the plans for yesterday which involved an earlier start on the 7:33 "O" train from Záhony. Breakfast at the hotel didn't start until 7am so we decided to walk to the station and visit the bakers en route instead.
The 7:33 handily produced 431.090 which we had seen on the shed at Záhony yesterday and we took this the comparatively short distance to Püspökladány to catch the diesel hauled IC to Biharkeresztes on the Romanian border; according to the mapper the loco for this should have been 418.321 which was indeed waiting when we arrived. The train itself had started from Budapest-Keleti and was running around 15 minutes late, not a problem for us as there should have been about 30 minutes to have a quick look round before catching a train from Romania back. In fact both trains should have been at Biharkeresztes at the same time with each having half an hour to change locos and perform border checks as Romania was not in the Schengen area.
The IC from Budapest arrived and changed locos but then stood for a few minutes waiting for a DMU on a local train to come off the single line before we could set off. Track condition was poor considering that this was an international route with IC trains and our train bumbled along, unable to make up any time; not that we were particularly bothered as the train had a dining car and we had ensconced ourselves in there and ordered some much needed cups of tea. Although this was an IC train it covered for a local train between Püspökladány and Biharkeresztes so no reservations were required. In the end we only had about 10 minutes to swap trains at the latter so couldn't hang around but the only item of interest there was a Romanian GM engined class 65 diesel which was working the Romanian leg of both services and we managed to grab a photo of it from the door of our return train.
There was a choice of a +5 minute connection at Püspökladány or a +65 and the latter was diagrammed to be 431.090 again so we kept everything crossed that the +5 would make which it did. There was no point in going straight back to Debrecen as we would have over an hour to wait for our next connection and the station was not very good for photos so we decided to hop off at one of the intermediate stations and wait for the train an hour behind. Ebes appeared to be as good a place as any so we got off there and walked down the old goods yard alongside the line and waited for some trains to turn up. As is usual out here, there were no fences to impede the view and the locals were quite happily taking short cuts across the tracks rather than walk down to the distant level crossing, nobody paid us the slightest bit of notice in the hour that we were there and we saw five trains during that time only one of which was a freight.
Back at Debrecen, the 12:45 left 5 minutes late for some reason as seemed usual on this line at the time of our visit but it was on time by the time we reached our next stop-off at Hortobágyi Halastó giving us 17 minutes to do the short walk down the road to the narrow gauge railway terminus. This consisted of an open platform with a small shelter, a generously proportioned shed with the doors closed though we guessed that the loco and coaches in use would take up most of the space inside and a nice new building containing the ticket office.
The train consisted of thee open-sided carriages hauled by a C50 type locomotive so perhaps it was just as well we didn't do it yesterday though the coaches were fitted with drop-down plastic "curtains" to protect the passengers if necessary. It was a pleasant journey, chugging along between a drainage channel and some fish ponds, some of which contained some large fish, with some water buffalo grazing in the adjacent water meadows or cooling off in the ponds. Around halfway along this 4.9km long line, the track switched to the opposite side of the drainage channel and carried on in a straight line until it reached the terminus, next to a couple of large lakes and a viewing platform.
There were 45 minutes to explore before the return journey and we waited until the loco had run round before taking some photos and having a look round ourselves. Everything was nicely laid out with boarded walkways leading to viewing hides and plenty of information boards in Hungarian, German and English explaining the history of the site and with illustrations and descriptions of some of the wildlife that could be seen.
The return journey was booked to arrive at 15:44, just in time to miss the 15:45 to Füzesabony on the main line but our hopes that it would arrive a little early were fulfilled, giving us just the right amount of time to arrive back at the mainline station just as 418.188 propelling it's driving trailer pulled up. As we arrived at Tiszafüred, we noticed that the Bzmot on the service to Karcag appeared to be nowhere near as full as two days ago so we decided to get off and return to Debrecen via Karcag to round off the day. The mainline train suffered a delay here due to the large number of people with bikes who all had to queue to put them into the guards van in the driving trailer; they were still labouriously humping them aboard one by one as we left on our single Bzmot.
Like many such lines in Hungary this line, with only two return services a day, was nothing to write home about, passing through farmland interspersed with the odd village and station. We noticed that one particular station (Pusztakettős) was only served for six months of the year between April and September and found that it was a bar / railway museum with lots of railwayana on display including front of an M41 cab mounted on the wall facing the railway. That proved to be the only bit of excitement en route and we arrived at Karcag with half an hour to spare before the train to Debrecen.
At Debrecen we decided to try somewhere different for dinner but struggled to find anywhere that appealed until we came across a bar that also did food in a busy street off the main throughfare. The menu was all in Hungarian which the waiter kindly assisted us in translating but we did think something had gone awry with the order when only one main course arrived. We had both ordered the steak but only one starter to share (which arrived with two plates) but when only one main course arrived as well we did think something may have got lost in translation though we had asked for the two steaks to be done differently. Just as we were on the verge of going to complain, the second main turned up and the steak was indeed cooked as specified. Food quality was good but we did consider it rather expensive though it was to be expected that steak would cost than pork or chicken and we were in the centre of the city again rather than a few hundred yards away.
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