Thursday 5 July 2012

21 (Part I): From Trams to Trabants

Welcome to Railwaymedia Blog number 21 which will, like number 19, be in two parts covering my 6 day long trip to Hungary, with quick visits to Austria and Slovakia.

The things I will do to visit Wetherspoons I've not done before: I worked out that to get to Hungary I could fly via Vienna using an Easyjet flight from Gatwick where, in the South Terminal, there is a Wetherspoons you can only visit if you have a boarding card. Quite suprisingly for the south of England they were serving a really nice beer from Roosters of Knaresborough in Yorkshire.There's also two in the North Terminal, so I'm going to have to find an excuse to fly from there too!

So it was off to Vienna, a first visit for me to the city. I timed the local train in from the airport perfectly, the advantage of just having handluggage, and met up with Tim Blazey at Wien Mitte station. We had a couple of hours for sightseeing and found a half decent spot to get some pictures of the trains heading into Mitte. It was mainly blue and white OBB units on the S-bahn, but there are also workings with push-pull rakes of double deck stock hauled by Taurus Electric locos.

Around the city itself there is a quite large tram network using a mix of old trams (seen above), dating from as far back as 1966, and more modern articulated ones. The trip to Hungary was onboard one of OBBs flagship trains known as Railjet. These are Taurus hauled push-pull rakes of 7 coaches and, in common with most European trains, are much more comfortable than anything built for Britain in the past 20 years. We did actually see a pair of ex British class 86s, two of the six that Hungarian operator Floyd currently owns, at the border station of Hegyeshalom. Unfortunately though it was the only two we did see all week despite much time spent by the mainline.

Our hotel in Györ was straight across the road from the station and the restaurant adjoining it, branded as a Belgium Beer Café, was a good place to end the day. Especially as its drinks menu lived up to the restaurant's name! The hotel itself is a reasonable place to be based and we were able, after a leisurely breakfast, to get out the next day at 0830 to catch the local train along the mainline towards Budapest. A little research had shown that Ács might be a reasonable place to get off at, and indeed the level crossing to the west of the station is a good morning location for stuff heading east.

Tuesday was the only day when clouds were a real problem with about 50/50 cloud cover and, needless to say, 80% of trains arrived when the sun had disappeared. There is a good variety of trains on this route, with stoppers every hour, usually formed of modern units, and one or two expresses as well. Freight trains probably totalled on average at least 2 per hour in each direction, and we spent the whole day on or near the line, our next port of call being the next station west at Nagyszent János.

In common with most Eastern European countries, walking around the tracks is just accepted as there are no fences. They seem to use the common sense we in Britain have lost in that if someone gets themselves killed it's their fault. With the light becoming head on at this location we went another stop nearer to Györ where a 15 minute walk took us to a farm track running alongside the line where we could wait for the sun to set. This location for anyone who wants to retrace our footsteps is east of Györszentiván, and all the pictures from this day can be found HERE. Still no 86s though...

Wednesday it was decided we would go down the diesel operated line south from Györ towards Celldömölk. This has pretty much an hourly service, a mixture of semi-fasts from Budapest and stopping trains shuttling between the two towns. Only a couple of trains are operated by railbuses, the rest are hauled by the interesting Hungarian class M41 diesels (now renumbered class 418).

Our usual policy is to jump off at a station where there seems to be a good view just before and, preferably, another train stops at somepoint later in the day. Richard who was with us had got himself stranded on his previous visit to the line and had missed his flight home so we tried to check the timetable properly. A little walk from Szerecsezvy station brought us to a half decent location. As we walked across the field to it we heard a rumbling approaching so a mad dash, and a grab shot, captured a class M62 on an unexpected freight train. Shame it wasn't 2 minutes later.

This was the first time I'd managed to see one of these classic Russian built engines. We could have got another shot of it later in the day too but we were in a pub at the time. We spent the next few hours on this section of the route before heading back towards Györ and jumping off at Gyömöre-Tét. Richard had told us there was a bar next to the station and, with an hourly passenger service, we could have a few beers and just nip out whenever a train was due. Unfortunatley the pub is on the wrong side of the line for the sun, hence why we missed the return of the M62.

It is though a really good place to get some pictures mid to late afternoon with a nice view from by the level crossing at the station and also from the smaller crossing to the north. I went up there for one of the shots and was lucky to be able to include in the picture a resident's Trabant. Another piece of classic (if somewhat lacking in quality) Eastern European engineering.

The day was finished off back at the previous days haunt of Nagyszent János on the mainline, in the folorn hope of an 86 appearing. We actually made the time on the return to the hotel to have a quick look round the town of Györ, and nice it is too, waking about half way over the bridge over the Danube before we gave up. Spain and Portugal were playing in the European Championship that night so there were big screens up and all the bars were full, leaving us no choice but to return to the Belgium Beer Café. On the up side, it meant Tim could have another bottle of 8% Kwak.

I'm half way through processing the pictures from the trip, 3 days down with 3 to go, so therefore part 2 of this edition of the blog will have to wait a few more days. I'll leave you with a team picture from the nice bar next to Gyömöre-Tét station. The crossing barriers are behind us but just not quite visible from where we were sat, hence why we missed the M62 hauled freight! Bye for now.

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