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 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 7 Dec 2011, 20:47
One of our offspring was posted to Prague for a six month stint so it was inevitable that mother would blag a week's free accommodation during that period. A couple of days were set aside for a trip to Vienna. Prague main station is an impressive affair boasting many platforms and some interesting looking double decker commuter trains such as this one:-



The train to Vienna was made up of Czech railways coaches hauled by an OBB Taurus. The trip takes about four and a half hours which is not particularly fast but the line follows several river valleys on its way to Brno before crossing the border just beyond Brecslav. In the Czech Republic, the train travels on the right hand line and in Austria it's on the left. The service stops at several outlying stations in Vienna, with Wien Miedling being the one with the metro link into the centre.

After a couple of good days sight seeing a night at the Volksopera, a lot cheaper than the State opera, we returned in good time for our return trip of four and a half hours. During the thirty minutes or so of waiting, a wide variety of trains passed through. These are some of them.

The OBB seems to have a very large number of Siemens Taurus locos. This one is on a suburban shuttle service


where the shuttle has been named "Wiesel"


This non Taurus hauled train is heading for Maribor in Slovenia


And this service originated in Warsaw and consists of Polish railways coaches behind an OBB Taurus. The last coach in this train was also OBB stock.


The tail end of a departing Wiesel.


The station also hosts Railjet services. This one was bound for Budapest


And a video of three trains. The first and third capture the characteristic Taurus start up sound. The second was our train to Prague complete with Czech Railways coaches.




 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 15 Nov 2011, 23:12
My new Nikon D5100 saves movies in a format (MOV) that the bundled Windows Movie maker doesn't like, so I finally splashed out on Adobe Premier Elements and this video is the result.



David

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 31 Oct 2011, 22:03
Here are some more railway photos taken during our summer holiday in the Graubunden, eastern Switzerland

A turntable at the south eastern end of the standard gauge side of Chur station



A view of the south eastern end of Chur station.



The standard gauge track is on the left; the metre gauge RhB is on the right. Chur is the end of the line for standard gauge passenger trains. The standard gauge track does extend to the Donat / Ems where there is significant industry with rail access.

It's always worth popping into to Zurich Hbf to find out what's in. This summer lunchtime, it's SBB (no surprise), SNCF and FS. There was no DB ICE or OBB Railjet this time sad.gif



Fancy liveries are not as common on the Re460s as they were a few years ago, but they are still a few about.



I wasn't quick enough to get a good shot of this double headed oil tanker train arriving in Landquaart as I was on a bicycle at the time. Seeing the VTG logo reminds me that I've seen two others last week - one in the Czech Republic and one on the way home from Heathrow...



We also had a trip up to the north east to visit the Rheinfall, Europe's largest waterfall. We then went on to visit Schaffhausen and caught a glimpse of this local service crossing the Rhine.



Back at the Rheinfall itself, there are lines on both sides. On the southern side there's a railway viaduct just upstream from the falls. I was just lucky enough to capture this train as it crossed.



The line on the northern side is quite some way up the side of the valley. The train is the black thing in the centre of the photo




 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 19 Sep 2011, 20:52
The RhB line from Chur to Arosa runs as an almost self contained entity within the RhB network. It is on the standard gauge side of Chur station with the platforms on the street outside. This shiny red EMU arriving from Arosa looks very new:



The three coaches are not enough for summer traffic, so additional coaches are added starting with an open sided gondola wagon



and then the famous blue "Arosa" coach following by some more mundane "little red ones". There is no driving trailer, so the EMU set runs around the train at each end of the line.



The line climbs steeply up the northern side of a river valley until it reaches Langwies where there is yet another station which looks like an oversized musical box



At Langwies the railway takes a sharp turn right and crosses the river valley on this splendid viaduct:



For the final part of the journey, the train skirts the Untersee before climbing a steep incline through a tunnel into the station.



The station is on the far side of the Obersee, where the red flash of colour betrays the presence of a train.



And finally, to give you a flavour of what it looks and sounds like in motion, a short video....



David

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 23 Aug 2011, 21:16
We last visited the Landwasser viaduct on the Rhaetia Bahn line from Thusis to Filisur four years ago in the summer of 2007. I described that visit in this blog entry. It was an enjoyable day out, so it was inevitable that we would go again during this summer's holiday in the Graubunden.

In the intervening years, the Landwasser viaduct has been completely refurbished in a programme that cost CHF 4.6 million. I won't bother converting that to pounds sterling as it will be out of date by the time you read this and probably even more expensive! There is an information board at the foot of the viaduct and another at the viewing point which gives details of the project. I took a photo for future reference.



The principle difference we noticed was how much open the land around the viaduct was compared to last time.

For example, this photo was taken in 2007



and here is a similar shot taken in 2011



The view from the photo point overlooking the viaduct from the northern side is pretty much the same as before, though slightly better sign posted



The other change from our last visit was that I had a new camera - a Nikon D5100 - because it has full HD video capability. Here's a composite video of the footage I took. The Movie Maker programs that comes with Vista don't like the Nikon video format, so I'm trying a trial version of Adobe Premier Elements. The source is full HD but it doesn't seem to make difference when uploaded to YouTube or perhaps I haven't waited long enough for it to be fully processed.


 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 31 Mar 2010, 13:43
The fifth day of our Golden Pass Panoramic tour in winter had us booked on the lunchtime Golden Pass departure for Zweisimmen travelling with the Berne Lotschberg and Simplon railway company. We had hoped to spend the morning in Interlaken revisiting the Bahn Treff large scale model collection but were disappointed to find that the SBB Historic organisation who provided the space for it in one of their buildings at the western end of Interlaken West station had decided that the loss making attraction was not a core business activity and discontinued it. The space previously occupied by a number of large linked models of Swiss narrow gauge railways is now an off license.

Not to be deterred, we considered a ride up Harder Kulm which is located to the north of Interlaken but it was closed for the winter. Instead we walked around the town and down part of the ship canal, taking photos such as these:

An IC2000 set approaching the camera over the western Aare bridge heading for Interlaken West



A BLS push pull set arrives in Interlaken West heading west



We're waiting for a train to take us to Interlaken Ost - it's a long walk especially with cases and when you stay in a local guesthouse, hotel or campsite, you get free transport on trains and buses within the Interlaken area. We got on a similar push pull unit which was having great difficulties with its doors which may explain why it was late...

Once at Interlaken Ost we found the designated platform and waited for our train to arrive and here it is



The video camera was working overtime again. Here's a flavour of the journey to Zweisimmen.


A still taken on the journey up to Zweisimmen



At Zweisimmen we changed trains for Montreux. This leg of the journey is operated by the metre gauge Montreux Oberland Bahn. Their midday Golden Pass Panoramic train has very interesting driving trailers front and rear. Our reservations were for the leading coach but until we boarded, we didn't know where our seats were. Maybe having seats numbered in the 80s should have been a clue. I'll save the answer til later, but as a clue, I ran out of video tape and have selected so many stills to use in the blog that I have held it over for another time. Meanwhile this is a photo of the driving trailer...



David

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 16 Mar 2010, 21:42
Once we had checked into our hotel, we re-acquainted ourselves with Interlaken. Our primary objective was to check that the Die Baeren in Unterseen was still in business and had Rosti on the menu. We also hoped for a pink sunset on Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau but it didn't happen. On our way back down into Interlaken we had to wait at the road crossing by Interlaken West station while this very extended train passed by



If you look very closely, you can count a driving trailer and three coaches attached to the front of an IC2000 push pull set. I've not seen that many carriages added to an IC2000 before. A previous train had just a driving trailer and a single coach. There was a lot of building work going on at the west end of Interlaken West, which suggests that they are lengthening the platforms.

The following morning we arose reasonably early and made our way to Interlaken Ost to catch a Jungfrau Bahn train to Lauterbrunnen. The Golden Pass tour gives you a free day in Interlaken and the suggestion is that you take the train to Jungfraujoch - Europe's highest railway station. Since we had made this trip a few years ago and there is snow there all year round, our plan was to visit Piz Gloria, made famous by the Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

Whilst waiting at Interlaken Ost, I took this photo of a freight train.



I've not seen a freight train in Interlaken Ost before. Although it is a terminus for standard gauge passenger trains, the line does extend to Bonigen on Lake Brienz, where there must be some industry which makes use of the tankers seen in the picture.

Almost as soon as I had taken the photo of the freight train it was obscured by a push pull set made up of a motley collection of rolling stock and powered by the rather old looking red loco seen in this photo.



Our train was soon under way and headed for Wilderswil where we were joined by a lot of skiers. The train then entered the narrow valley which leads to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. At Zweilutschinen the train divides with one portion going to Grindelwald and the other to Lauterbrunnen. The journey is often rack assisted and the final approach to the station is particularly steep. Our arrival would have looked something like this.



On arrival most of the passengers crossed the platform to board the Wengernalpbahn train to Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg



A few of us headed for the cable car station which would take us up to Grutschalp. This cable car run was opened in late 2006 and replaced a funicular railway. On our trip a large amount of freight was loaded onto a platform below the passenger cabin. The old funicular railway shared the same gauge as the Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Murren and freight wagons could be transferred back and forth. The new cable car system retains the freight link which is probably the only way goods can be delivered easily to Murren. You can read more here on Wikipedia.

When we reached Grutschalp, we transferred to the BLM for the 4.2 km journey to Murren. The freight palette which had come up with us from Lauterbrunnen was loaded onto an open wagon at the rear of the train. The route of the BLM follows the twists and turns of the valley sides offering fantastic views down to Lauterbrunnen and Wengen. Unfortunately the weather was overcast, so we did not get any views of Eiger, Monch or Jungfrau.



There is a passing loop at Winteregg which seems to be little more than the start of a ski lift and the end of several ski runs.



The BLM station at Murren is at the northern end of the village. The cable car to Brig and thence to Schilthorn / Piz Gloria is at the southern end. Since Murren is 1650 metres above sea level (~5,400 feet) and there are no private cars, the streets are covered in packed snow, so it was time to attach our crampons for a brisk walk in the crisp mountain air. It's like walking through a Christmas card.





A couple of cable car rides and we arrived at the top of the Schilthorn which is topped by Piz Gloria. The weather still had not cleared, so there were no views to be had. The temperature was about -4 C but the wind made it feel a lot colder.



The restaurant was open and is instantly recognisable if you have seen OHMSS.



The outer ring of tables rotates so that you get the chance to see all the views.

Once we had had our lunch we made our way back down to Lauterbrunnen to catch a train to Kleine Scheidegg. We had some time to wait for a train and then three arrived at once, including this one which had a truck for carrying skies attached.



Our train was quite full and at Wengen a large number of people with sledges got on for a lift to the start of a sledging trail. It was quite cold and snowing at the terminus in Kleine Scheidegg (2061m, ~6700ft), so there aren't too many photos. This is one of the trains which goes to Jungfraujoch via a tunnel through the Eiger.



We went for a short walk along one of the hiking trails but it was getting close to 5pm when the pistes close and patrols end, so we returned to the station to catch a train down the other side of the mountain to Grindelwald. There is a depot at Grindelwald Grund but by this time it was too dark to take photos. We stopped in Grindelwald for something to eat and a demi litre of Rugenbrau before catching a train back down the valley to Interlaken and our hotel for the night.

The following day we would set off on the second leg of the Golden Pass Panoramic journey, travelling to Zweisimmen with the Bernese Lotschberg Simplon and then to Montreux with the Montreux Overland Bahn. Each of these has panoramic coaches but little did we know quite how panoramic one of them turned out to be. Come back in about a week's time to find out more....

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 6 Mar 2010, 15:15
The Golden Pass Panoramic train from Lucerne to Interlaken is run over the narrow gauge lines of the ZentralBahn. Our tickets were for the lunchtime departure, so we spent the morning wandering around Lucerne taking photos. We also had time for a short walk along the northern shore of Lake Lucerne but we didn't quite get as far as the transport museum which is some way out of town. The weather was quite overcast, so our photos came out rather dull.

The route from Lucerne to Interlaken travels south to Hergiswil where it runs through a tunnel to run alongside the Sarner See to the town of Giswil. The rack sections start after Giswil as the ascent of the Brunig pass begins. This first stage carries the lake up the Lungerer See which I think acts as a reservoir for a hydro electric plant. The lake was much emptier than the last time I saw it in summer, and the snow line suggests that it had had more water emptied from it quite recently. The line continues to climb to reach the summit of the Brunig Pass which is 1008 metres above sea level. The line then drops steeply all the way to Meiringen which is known for its Meringues and proximity to the Reichenbach Falls. At Meiringen the locomotive changes ends and takes the train down the valley to Brienz at the head of the Brienzer See. The journey is completed by following the northern lake shore to Interlaken Ost station. Passengers have the option to change to the Jungfrau Bahn for trains to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen or change to the standard gauge for SBB trains to Berne or BLS trains to Brig and Zweisimmen. The journey is scheduled to take about two hours.

The scenery is breathtaking and it was wonderful to get this opportunity to see it in winter. To get some idea of what it is like, have a look at this video.


Here are some of the stills included (i.e. they were taken with a still camera, not the video camera) in the video:-
Bright sunny weather south of Hergiswil


A view of the train on the climb to Brunig-Hasliberg


Two views of Brunig-Hasliberg station





And now my favourites; views of the mountains of the Bernese Oberland. I've uploaded these at a larger size so that they will fill most screens - it's the only way to view them - so I've included them as links instead.

The view south on the descent from Brunig
Lake Brienz looking east - 1
Lake Brienz looking east - 2

And there's still three days of the tour left.... smile.gif

David

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 26 Feb 2010, 21:56
The Swiss Travel Centre in London offer a range of winter rail tours in Switzerland. We decided to try the Golden Pass Panoramic Winter tour (link) which takes you from Zurich to Geneva via the Golden Pass line which runs from Lucerne to Montreux. The package breaks down into three parts: flights to and from London; five nights hotel accommodation including breakfast and four days of rail travel. All this is spread over six days; the extra two days spent in Lucerne and Interlaken offer the opportunity to ascend the mountain peaks in those regions - Pilatus or Titlus near Lucerne, and Jungfrau or Schilthorn near Interlaken.

Our tour began with a local train to Reading to catch the rail air coach to Heathrow terminal 5 where we boarded a flight to Zurich. This landed at around lunchtime. Having cleared immigration and collected our cases, we descended to the railway station to board a train to Zurich. I had not realised when booking the tour that all the rail passes were for first class smile.gif, so we were really pleased to be able to climb to the top deck of our favourite IC2000 first class coach for the 15 minute journey to Zurich Hbf. As we reached the end of the platform we noticed a TGV, IC2000 and DB ICE3 lined up side by side. We only had a moment to catch it, so this photo is a little blurred.



On the other side of the station, there was another TGV and an ICN set.



On our return to the station later in the afternoon for the trip to Lucerne, an OBB Railjet set arrived.





Whilst we seated in our IC2000 double decker waiting to leave an S-Bahn double decked train arrived in the platform to our left. As our train left for Lucerne, a TGV was departing from the other side of the station for some destination unknown. The range of rolling stock and train sets is quite amazing.

On arrival at Lucerne, I had to take a photo of the signal box because it bore a strong resemblance to Birmingham New Street, or so it seemed to me.



We noticed some confetti on the platform as we walked towards the station concourse and a number of people in fancy dress. On checking into our hotel which was a short walk from the station, we learned that we had arrived on the last night of Lucerne's Fasnacht - or carnival which reaches its climax on Shrove Tuesday. Having shared a restaurant with some unusually dressed characters, we took to the streets to watch the marching bands in their garish costumes topped by grotesque masks. As they marched, they played "Guggemusig", which is better heard than described. It consists of a lot of percussion and brass, and is ever so slightly off key. The terminally curious can get a flavour of what it's all about from this video on the Swissinfo website - link. It's not just the bands who dress up. Many of the spectators do too, though they tend not to have the masks.

The next day was set aside for seeing the sights around Lucerne. The suggestion is that you ascend Pilatus or Titlus. The world's steepest cog railway ascends Mount Pilatus from Alpnachstad which is a pleasant boat trip from Lucerne, in the summer months. As the station at Mount Pilatus is at 7000 feet and the line is exposed, there is rather too much snow in the winter, so the train does not run at this time.



The winter route for tourists is via a gondola bahn from Kriens, ending with a cable car for the last third of the climb. Building materials travel by helicopter!



After some time exploring the accessible parts of the summit, we had lunch and then started the descent. At the cable car base station we discovered that you could use free toboggans to sledge down the rest of the way. All in all, it was a most enjoyable day with the exciting prospect of the first stage of the Golden Pass from Lucerne to Interlaken for the morrow.

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 31 Jan 2009, 21:16
This is the second part of my account of our RhB Alpenrundfahrt. You can read the first part here

As we crossed the platform at Andermatt, a train with a Goschenen destination board arrived in the station. We quickly climbed aboard the last coach and settled down for the short journey to Goschenen. The next thing we knew some staff were backing on the window, saying incomprehensible things in German and gesticulating towards the front of the train. We came to the conclusion that maybe we should move, so we grabbed our stuff and legged it forwards. As we had left our arrival rather late, there were no seats so we had to stand in the end corridor. The compensation for this was the ability to take photos out of an open window rather than through glass. The trip down to Goschenen is quite dramatic. We had driven it the year before but this time I could look at the scenery rather than keep my eyes on the road.

As we dropped out of Andermatt station, we travelled along side these old and new road bridges, known as Teufels Brucke



The tight twists and turns of the line can be guessed at from this photo. The bridge which is apparently at right angles to our direction of travel is one we will cross just before arriving at the terminus in Goschenen



This is what our train probably looked like as it arrived



We had now arrived on Goschenen the location for the northern portal of the famous Gotthard tunnel or as I found out tunnels



I'm guessing that all those sticks you can see in the photo are snow poles. The Gotthard tunnels are a major transit route for freight between northern and southern Europe. Whilst we waited for our train south to Bellinzona, a large number of freight trains passed through. These were invariably double headed and those which had arrived from the south often had a banking engine as well. Here are a few of them.
Southbound intermodal


Southbound with what looks like three part telescopic hood wagons


Northbound - hoppers?


Southbound - not a great shot but the loco's not a venerable red SBB BoBo!


I wasn't particularly impressed with the standard of the interior of our train. It felt like a throwback to the 1970s and was a lot less plush than UK trains I am used to. The tunnel is .... a tunnel and having travelled under the channel to get to the continent, I've been through longer ones. I was struck by the smell of "stale electricity" if you know what I mean as we entered the bore.

After some time rocking around in the gloom of the tunnel we emerged into the valley at the far side of the mountains and began the long gentle descent to Bellinzona. Some while after leaving the tunnel we passed the support works for the construction of the new Basis tunnel which is due to open in a little under 10 years time. Here's a photo of part of it with the motorway heading for the road Gotthard tunnel in the background.



For a long time the motorway was our constant companion and we had many views of its slender bridges as it criss crossed the valley in search for space for its four lanes.


We passed villages which seemed as old as the mountains themselves


At Bellinzona we alighted once again to wait for our connection to Lugano. Although we were a reasonable distance from the tunnels, it seems that Bellinzona has its part to play in providing locomotives for the route. Here's a mixed bag waiting for duty


The freight kept on coming. This one is northbound


Something a little shorter...


Soon our train arrived - a very modern looking multiple unit


As we left the station at Lugano there was just time to catch this shot of the end of a southbound "rolling road" train. These are our favourite type of freight train.


What we didn't know when we arrived at the station in Lugano was how high above the lake it was. We knew our hotel was on the lake front and that it was a little distance from the centre of the town. So we found our way down rather a lot of steps, through the main pedestrianised streets to the lake front and turned in what we thought was the right direction. Just as we started to wonder if we had made a mistake, we saw the hotel and checked in, not a little sticky from the heat and exercise. The brochure had promised a lake view, here's a couple smile.gif




After we had showered and changed we walked back into Lugano for some sight seeing. Don't forget, we're still in Switzerland!


We ate in town and returned to our hotel as dusk was turning to night. The earlier view from the balcony had become this


We closed the shutters and went to sleep in a bed for the first time in a week, all the time knowing that there was another full day's journey ahead of this the next day to complete our Alpenrundfahrt

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