A Pomeranc in Praha

23 - 26 June 2006

Report by Duncan Cotterill


Praha is the hub of the Czech rail system and sees a variety of classes working heavy freight and passenger traffic on the electrified main lines radiating from the city. A few less heavily trafficked lines are still diesel worked and see some loco haulage. The capital's main station, Hlavni Nadrazi boasts an impressive overall roof and there are pleasant photographic locations on a number of lines in the greater Praha area. This report describes a photographic trip to the city in late June 2006.

Praha can be an expensive city to visit with restaurants and hotels priced way above the average for the country. I took advantage of an inclusive deal booked via lastminute.com to obtain flights with CSA and reasonably priced accommodation. The hotel was the Duo (****) located in the middle of a housing estate in the north-east suburbs and normally around CK2700 a night. In spite of its location it's only a short bus ride from Ladvi metro station and around 25 minutes from Hlavni Nadrazi. For travel within the capital, a Praha Integrated Transport (PID) 72 hour ticket was used. This allows 3 days unlimited travel on buses, trams and the metro for a bargain 220 CK (less than £6). The ticket is also valid on some local rail services but I splashed out on the usual Sitove Jizdenky to get maximum flexibility.

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

Friday 23 June 2006

The journey out was one of my slowest ever. A combination of inept handling at Heathrow and a long delay in getting the bags at Praha added over an hour to the anticipated travelling time. The weather in Praha was cloudy so it didn't really make much difference in the end.

Saturday 24 June 2006

A dull start to the first day. The gricing started at Masarykovo where 814 001 and 914 001, the prototype refurbished 4-wheel railbus and trailer, were preparing to be inspected by the Czech public. Underneath the fancy paint and brighter interior they still looked like a 4-wheel railbus and trailer to me. Over on platform 4 something much more interesting was happening. 750 326 and 749 251 were top-and-tailing the stock for R1530 (08:14 Praha M - Chomutov) into the station. The train left with the 749 doing all the work and yours truly on board, along with far more people than the two coaches could comfortably hold.

The objective was to photograph a special train, hauled by preserved class 775 "Pomeranc" diesel T678 0012, on the "s" curve west of Revnikov, a spot that I remembered doing on a special in 2000. Judging by the crowds seen at the lineside en-route, the entire Czech enthusiast community were out to photograph the train but most had chosen more accessible locations to see it. After 15 minutes of following very indistinct tracks through the woods and congratulating myself for negotiating the difficult part of the route successfully, I managed to get lost on what should have been the easy bit and only just managed to get to my chosen spot in time. Unfortunately it wasn't the location I expected but, with the sun breaking through, it did produce an acceptable shot.

The light quickly got too harsh for good photography so it was time to go exploring. 854 032 took me back to Kladno on Sp1893 then a superpower 810+010+810 set whisked me down to Kralupy nad Vlatavou. This line sees a fair bit of freight but there looked to be few promising photographic locations. There were no less than 5 OKD Doprava locos at Kladno Dubi including a pair of 753.7s while Kralupy depot held the usual motley collection of scruffy 751s. The Kralupy - Praha locals were being worked by 471 sets and the top deck provided an excellent platform to check for photo positions along the Vltava valley. Very few looked to be worthy of further investigation.

Back in Praha there was time to grab something to eat before heading out to Kamenne Zehrovice, west of Kladno, to photograph the Pomeranc coming back. The power for Os2512 was an 810 and trailer. At Hostivice the prototype class 755s were seen waiting to take the stone train from Nucice to Kadan. These locos are the latest attempt to produce a main line diesel loco for the future by rebuilding class 753s with Caterpillar engines. Hopefully many more will follow.

The Pomeranc turned up on time and looked very nice curving through Kamenne Zehrovice station in perfect light. It didn't sound bad either. Another 810 took me back to Kladno on Os2517. The 755s had arrived and were photographed waiting in the yard there. I didn't wait to see them go as they were booked to fester for an hour and a half before continuing north. An 854 took me back to Praha hl.n. on R833 via the scenic "Prague Semmering" line.

By the time I got back to Hlavni Nadrazi the sky was completely clear. 749 006 arrived on R1441 from Tanvald and, miraculously, it used the sunny side of platform 2, probably the best location in the station for evening pictures. Just to bring the day to a perfect end, 371 201, still in DB red, was paired with a rake of red and white German coaches on R378 to Berlin and left from the sunny side of platform 3.

Sunday 25 June 2006

Sunday dawned bright and clear. First stop was Hlavni Nadrazi where several trains were photographed leaving in good light, including the Pomeranc on another special to Rakovnik. It was surprising how few people had turned out to see the 775 in such an obvious location. The previous day the lineside had been crawling with photographers but there were only 4 of us photographing the departure on the Sunday morning. The Tanvald had 749 006 again.

My main objective for the day was to get some shots of the 749 hauled weekend trains on the line to Cercany. The idea was to spend the middle part of the day checking out locations and then get some shots in the afternoon. I took Os9005, with 749 162 on a rake of double deckers, down to Cercany, returned to Jilove u Prahy on Os9008 behind 749 224 then took Os9009, again hauled by 749 224, back to Krhanice. The first part of the plan went well enough. In spite of the fact that the line runs through impenetrable jungle much of the way, a few potential positions were identified. By the time the sun was low enough to start taking pictures, a bank of cloud had arrived from the west and obviously wasn't going to clear anytime soon. The first shot of the afternoon turned out to be the only shot of the afternoon. Time to give up and head back to town.

My return to Praha involved travelling to Cercany on Os9011, powered by 714 011, then changing to Os9206, the through Svetla nad Sazavou to Praha train that gets loco haulage on Sundays only. This arrived behind 749 081, formerly a regular on the Kadan - Karlovy Vary line, and left for Praha with 150 002 on the front. The weather got progressively duller and there was some rain in the early evening.

Monday 26 June 2006

Another clear start but with the promise of rain reaching Praha from the west by early afternoon. Today's task was to get some morning shots at the north end of Praha hl.n. but virtually every train left from the shadowy side of the platform.

As 9 o'clock approached I was getting quite grumpy. Then a Grumpy turned up... and then another! First 749 251 trundled in from the Vrsovice direction with a single empty bogie trailer and sat in platform 4. Then 749 140, one of Chomutov's finest, arrived on R831 with a dead 854 coupled inside. 749 140 removed the 854 to Vrsovice while 749 251 and it's trailer backed onto the remaining stock to form R942 to Tanvald. It hadn't been a good day for 854s. R941 had previously arrived behind a 742 instead of the booked unit. A few more trains were successfully photographed afterwards before the sun got too high.

The middle of the day was spent travelling to Decin and back just for the ride. 371 201 was in charge of EC370 from Praha and 372 006 did the business on EC173 coming back. There was no sign of the predicted cloud and rain so a location for the afternoon's photography was urgently required. Another look at the section around Roztoky revealed no promising locations but the station at Praha Bubenec looked pleasant. The temperature was a sweltering 35 degrees when I got back to Praha and the short walk from Holesovice to Holesovice zastavka turned into an ordeal in the heat. Going to Bubenec was a good decision as there were some shady trees to shelter under.

During the 90 minutes I was at Bubenec there were eleven westbound trains; two 122 hauled freights, 162 035 on Sp1772 to Decin, 372 006 on EC172 to Hamburg, 141 059 on Os9648 to Kralupy, an 854 on R910 to Chomutov, a 471 and a 452 on locals to Kralupy and three 810 worked Liben - Roztoky shuttles. An hour photographing around the Vltava river bridge north of Masarykovo brought the trip's proceedings to a close. The return journey to Heathrow was uneventful compared with the trip out.


This was a very satisfying and photographically successful trip with only half a day lost to bad weather. The Pomeranc looked great and sounded pretty fine as well. Many thanks to Schwarz for posting the details on CSG and to Chris for reminding me of Kamenne Zehrovice. At the other end of the age range, it was also good to see the 755s for the first time. It has to be hoped that they will be a success and many more 753s will be rebuilt in the future. The same could not be said for the 814+914 unit, which looked fairly gimmicky with its split level trailer, playschool paint scheme and moulded plastic ends. Something needs to be done to bring the unloved 810s into the 21st century but this doesn't appear to be it.

Back on the working railway, the vast majority of trains ran with the booked power and haven't been listed. The exceptions are covered in the main body of the report. The truth is that it took me all my time to record those that I photographed without worrying about the others. A complete list of the trains actually noted can be found on the sightings page.

Compared to last year, far fewer trains were using platforms 1 to 4 under the overall roof at Hlavni Nadrazi. This is probably due to the closure of the ramp down to the Masarykovo - Liben line which could only be accessed from low numbered platforms. In general, trains from Vrsovice or ONJ (carriage depot) used the higher numbered and less photogenic platforms while those from Smichov or the Plzen line used the tracks under the roof. Coupled with the move of a few EC and IC trains to Holesovice, this made it more difficult to get the best shots around the station. Don't get me wrong, it is still very good but it was better. Work on the new ramps from Liben and the north continues although progress doesn't seem to be particularly rapid.

Elsewhere on the system, there is a lot of work going on. Usti nad Labem station is in the middle of a major rebuild with only a single island platform and one bay operational. There is also a major upgrade in progress north of Ricany on the line to Benesov u Prahy and Ceske Budejovice with single track working and consequent delays. Most interesting in many ways is the building of a new rail bridge over the motorway extension just west of Jenec. This will carry line 121, a route that was recently closed to passengers but obviously has a future for freight.

Praha is a great place to photograph Czech rail action with lots of traffic, a great variety of traction and some very pleasant locations. I'm sure this won't be my last trip there.