Plzen to Domazlice

22 - 26 June 2005

Report by Duncan Cotterill


Midsummer is a difficult time for photography. The sun gets far too high in the middle of the day for really satisfactory pictures and is at its best very early morning and in the late afternoon and early evening. To make the most of the photographic opportunities you need to find a north - south line with heavy traffic early and late. The Plzen – Domazlice line was an ideal candidate with a very sparse midday service but more trains in the rush hours, many hauled by Plzen's photogenic blue, white and yellow class 754 diesels. So at the first opportunity, I was Plzen bound.

Details of locos and workings observed can be seen on the sightings page.

Praha - Plzen - Domazlice

Wednesday 22 June 2005

For once the flight was on time into Praha although it didn't really matter on this occasion. In spite of being scrutinised by customs for what seemed an eternity (didn't think that was supposed to happen now we were all in the EU together) I got to Praha hlavni in plenty of time to catch my train to Plzen. The weather was warm but overcast so there was little point in attempting any photography at Praha.

R656 left at 12:20 with 363 081 on the front. Although there was some pleasant scenery en route, particularly between Praha and Beroun, the line was very overgrown and no decent photographic locations were noted. The journey on to Domazlice on Os7416 started behind 754 059 to Stod where the dreaded Autobusy was waiting to transfer passengers to Holysov. 754 060 worked the last leg to Domazlice.

First task was to check into the Hotel Kalous, close to Domazlice station, which wasn't as straightforward as I expected (see conclusions). Then, as the sky was clearing, it was time to return north to Milavce and walk back about 1 km to the passing loop at Radonice to try some pics.

Holysov and Osvracin

Thursday 23 June 2005

A glorious clear sunny morning that was spent at Holysov photographing the early rush. By 08:15 but the morning's action was already over. It would be more than two hours before the next loco hauled train passed through and by then the sun would be too high and too far round for successful photography. There was nothing else to do but head back to Domazlice for breakfast and a midday snooze.

The afternoon was used to investigate some potential photspots out in the countryside between Osvracin and Vranov, the junction south of Stankov where the line to Pobezovice diverges. This section is remote from any roads and only accessible on foot. Fortunately the positions were as good as they looked from the train and the long walk in the sweltering heat was worthwhile.

The bus substitutions between Stod and Holysov had finished the previous day and the 750s had gone back to Plzen leaving the service in the hands of the class 754s. Fortunately, four out of the six covering the diagrams were in blue livery.

Chotesov and Osvracin

Friday 24 June 2005

The good weather continued through Friday with only a few clouds appearing in the evening. A very early start got me to Chotesov in time for the morning trains. After the lunchtime break, another extremely hot, sunny afternoon was spent between Osvracin and Vranov. The day's roster was even better with no less than five blue locos in action.

Klatovy, Zelezna Ruda, Holysov and Blizejov

Saturday 25 June 2005

The weather changed dramatically overnight. Instead of heading out to Milavce as planned, I spent the early morning watching a violent thunderstorm from my hotel window. It continued to drizzle all morning so plan 'B' was invoked, an exploratory trip to Klatovy and Zelezna Ruda.

The line to Zelezna Ruda is worked by a mixture of class 750 and 754 diesels and ancient class 831 railcars. In fact Klatovy has the last concentration of these fast disappearing railcars, which also appear on trains to Horazdovice and some workings to Domazlice. While the Domazlice - Klatovy and Klatovy - Zelezna Ruda lines are extremely scenic, both are extremely overgrown with few obvious photographic opportunities.

Returning to Domazlice at lunchtime the sky began to clear. Back in photo mode, I headed to Holysov first and then to Blizejov to try out some possible locations noted earlier in the trip. The weekend passenger service is far from intense so the afternoon only produced a handful of pictures. Mid-afternoon temperatures reached an almost unbearable 34°C before the day ended with a bang, literally, in the shape of as another thunderstorm and torrential downpour.

Domazlice, Plzen, C Budejovice and Praha

Sunday 26 June 2005

Sunday got off to a cloudy start and that's the way it stayed most of the day. With no photting possible, there was time to take the long route back to Praha via Plzen and Ceske Budejovice. The journey started with a spirited run from Domazlice to Plzen with 754 006 on R265, covering the 59km in 41 minutes and recovering from a 5 minute late start to arrive spot on time.

Plzen is the heart of class 242 territory and these locos can be seen on most passenger and freight traffic passing through the station area. On the trip to Ceske Budejovice, every train seen on the main line was 242 hauled. Heading north from Ceske Budejovice, class 230 and 240 predominated on secondary workings and freights with dual-system class 363 taking over closer to the AC-DC changeover point south of Benesov u Prahy. A number of class 749 were seen between Plzen and Praha starting with 749 180 at Horazdovice waiting to work R791 back to Praha later that afternoon on R791. 749 218 and 219 were seen at Cercany in the company of rustbucket 141 045, which was waiting to work Os9208 from Svetla nad Sazavou back to the capital.

The sun was trying to break through in Praha but a couple of hours photography at hlavni nadrazi yielded very few decent photos. Then it was back to the airport and home.


On the Plzen - Domazlice line, the published diagrams were being adhered to with a few exceptions. Of course this ignores the changes caused by the closure of the line between Stod and Plzen on Wednesday. All the trains that should have been loco hauled were loco hauled and all of the unit turns produced units. For the record, trains Os7402 / 7408 / 7411 / 7415 / 7428 / 7431/ 7440 / 20188 / 20199 and all the short Domazlice - Furth im Wald trains are booked 810. Additionally 7407 is unit on Sundays and 7427 is similarly afflicted on Saturdays and Sundays. Everything else should be loco hauled.

The most notable exception to the booked 754 workings was that the TS702 day 2 loco did not return to Plzen on freight Pn68855 but went to Furth im Wald along with the TS701 day 1 engine. The pair then returned to Plzen with R267. This was seen on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. On Friday morning 754 024 worked Os7403 instead of the expected 754 059 but 059 reappeared on the next leg of the diagram working Os7406. Os7403 wasn't seen on the other days so it's not clear whether this was a one off or normal practice. The other change seen was the use of the TS702 day 2 loco on R264 instead of the TS 703 day 1 engine on Sunday. This wouldn't be so easy during the week as the loco is diagrammed for the afternoon Nyrany turn, necessitating a very fast run back to Plzen light engine after working R264.

All the freight seen was worked by class 742s, often in pairs. The afternoon southbounds, Mn88154 and Rn44308 seemed reliable but Pn68855, booked for a 754, never turned up.

Klatovy were economising on Saturday but using 750 078 to cover TS740 days 1 and 2. This necessitated very quick turnrounds at Klatovy between trains but the station work was slick enough to achieve this with a minimum of delay. The use of an 831 instead of the diagrammed 810 on trains Os17538 and 17537 on Thursday was the only instance I saw of a turn being covered by the wrong type of traction. The booked 810 worked on Friday and Saturday, much to my disappointment as I travelled back to Domazlice on Os17538.

Photographically, the trip was a moderate success with more than two days sunshine out of a potential maximum of three and a half by the lineside. Luckily they were the two weekdays when traffic was heaviest. Plzen depot obliged by turning out a high proportion of blue 754s. The only green machines to appear were 754 057 and 059 but even they kept a low profile and the former was substituted by a blue beastie after Thursday.

The line isn't half as photogenic as the others I've visited this year but the blue locos stood out a treat against the green landscape, making it easier to get successful pictures. It was still hard work though with long spells of gardening necessary to tame the trackside wilderness before any pictures were possible. In temperatures up to 34°C and high humidity, that's heavy going.

Many thanks once again to those who have made vital information such as diagrams and freight times readily available. Trips like this wouldn't be impossible without them but it would be considerably more difficult to work out what to expect.

The early and late spells by the lineside weren't particularly compatible with the sort of hours hotels like to keep and getting out early enough to be in position for the crack of dawn could have been a problem at some hotels where there's nobody around to unlock the front door at five in the morning. Fortunately, you get a front door key at the Kalous so early starts aren't a problem.

Getting into the hotel in the first place was though. The conversation at the entrance when I arrived went something like this: "We're closed." "The hotel is closed?" "We're full." "But I have a reservation." "Errr . . . ." At this point the manageress appeared and it turned out I was expected after all. Strangely, the hotel did appear to be at least partly closed while the restuarant was being refurbished and there were no other guests to be seen until Saturday night.

The standard of accommodation would best be described as adequate, but the regime was refreshingly flexible. Breakfast at 10:00 after a morning's photography was no problem and on the one day I missed breakfast altogether, a couple of free beers were provided in the evening by way of compensation. Can't complain about that!