Return to Ramzova


16 - 20 August 2006

Report by Duncan Cotterill

Introduction


This trip seemed fraught with problems until I actually left home. After several weeks the poor weather over Central Europe seemed to be well and truly stuck and showed no sign of clearing. Then the plot to blow up aircraft over the Atlantic came to light, giving our esteemed rulers the chance to do what they enjoy the most, i.e. restricting the rest of us from pursuing our legitimate interests. In this case it was the ban on hand baggage on flights leaving the UK. I really didn’t want to consign my cameras to checked-in baggage so it was a great relief when the blanket ban was relaxed. Then there were the nightmare stories from the airports of cancelled flights, lost baggage and long queues. It would have been so easy to give up and cancel the whole trip but I’m very glad I didn’t.

The Hanusovice – Jesenik line in Northern Moravia is a gem of a railway running over the hills just south of the Polish border. As well as the excellent scenery there are several loco hauled passengers, regular visits by a couple of classes of vintage railcar and one of the most spectacular diesel freight operations it has been my privilege to witness for a long time.

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



Wednesday 16 August 2006


It wasn’t situation normal at Heathrow but it certainly wasn’t the living hell portrayed in the media either. The queues were a bit longer than usual and the security checks a bit more rigorous but that was all. The early CSA flight to Praha got away on time and arrived at Ruznye on time, something it doesn’t usually manage when there isn’t a crisis. Maybe we should have more security scares?

The trip from Ruzyne into the centre by bus and metro was uneventful and left me kicking my heels at Hlavni Nadrazi for 45 minutes waiting for the departure of R241 to Zabreh nad Morave at 12:15. Former Chomutov favourite 749 039 was seen light engine at hl.n. Although it was still clean, it wasn't in the pristine condition that Chomutov used to keep it.

As expected, a 162 hauled R241 from Praha but I didn’t check which one (does anybody care?). At Kolin there was an exotic line up waiting to leave the yard on freights to the west. A pair of Unipetrol 753s sat on the next track to SD 130 050 (also with Viamont logos) with a pair of 122 hauled freights flanking the open-access operators’ trains. Red 750 285 was stabled at Pardubice and a 163 was seen leaving for Praha on the diverted Poznan train.

East of Ceska Trebova the rebuilding work has passed another milestone with the opening of the easternmost pair of tunnels and the abandonment of the last tightly curved section of the original main line. There is currently only a single track open through the new tunnels and a few minor realignments outstanding but the bulk of the work is now approaching completion. At Zabreh 150 026 was seen dragging a dead 162 on R622 from Vsetin to Praha and rebuilt railcars 814 007 & 914 007 arrived ex works from Sumperk bearing DKV Ceska Trebova markings.

The onward journey to Ramzova was by railcar. Firstly a crowded 810 on Os13728 to Bludov then an 843 on Sp1933 for the last leg to Ramzova. 831 110 was seen on Os13731 and 831 182 was on Os3610. 749 265 worked R924.

Hotel


The Hotel Neubauer at Ramzova was my base for the trip and proved to be a good choice. (Tel +420 583 230 063, e-mail : hotel.neubauer@tiscali.cz, web : www.ramzova.net.) Leave the station by walking off the Jesenik end of the platform, turn right over the level crossing and keep straight on until you reach the main road. Turn right on the main road and the hotel is on your left by the bus stop after a couple of hundred metres. Total walking time less than 5 minutes. Prices were incredibly reasonable at Kc450 per night (including breakfast) for a single room. Breakfast doesn't start until 08:00 but you get a key for the front door so early starts aren't a problem. German is spoken but not English.



Wednesday 16 to Sunday 20 August 2006


Photography on the line between Branna and Lipova Lazne fully occupied the daylight hours and a couple of nocturnal visits were made to the lineside to record 751 hauled freights on the climb as well.

As Chris mentioned in his recent report, Branna station is a building site at the moment while the culvert at the north end of the station is being rebuilt. Two of the three through roads have been severed with the third using a temporary bridge over the work area. The remaining track is the nearest of the three to the station and not the best for photography. Trains still cross at Branna as timetabled but one of them has to go into a dead end road and reverse out again after the other has passed.

Some of the best photo positions are between the road crossings on the Branna to Ostruzna section although these are a bit overgrown compared to my last visit in April. The big curve just north of Ostruzna is still largely clear and is an excellent place to photograph afternoon southbounds. At Horni Lipova the horseshoe curve below the station makes a good location for early morning trains but by 10:00 the light is getting a bit harsh.

The railcar diagrams appear to have changed slightly since my last visit. Trains Os3607 and Os3608, which were 851 in April, were worked by 831s every day. The weekend 851 workings, Sp1931 and Sp1932 ran as expected. The other 831 turns, Os3605, Os3609, Os3610, Os3612 and Os3617 always produced the booked units. The 843s seemed to be suffering a bit. Sp1933 and Sp1702 on Saturday were worked by a packed 810 without trailer instead of the booked 843 and R922 and R923 on Sunday were 843 and trailers but hauled by 749 265 in both directions. All the other unit turns were 810 or 843 as diagrammed.

The Brno passengers R925 and R924 were worked by attractive red, blue and white 749 265 every day. The Plzen trains R757 and R756 had 750 162 on Thursday and 749 260 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. R1401, the Saturday only working from Olomouc had 749 246 in charge.

Freights generally ran as booked except that Mn81821 didn’t appear on Saturday but Mn81761, which is nominally Monday to Friday only, did run. This makes sense as Mn81821’s timings clash with those of Sp1931 on Saturdays and Sundays. Three unsilenced 751s and two silenced 749s handled the traffic with 749 246, 751 041 and 751 338 appearing most regularly. 751 141 put in an appearance on Wednesday but wasn’t seen afterwards and 749 248 worked on Saturday only. Southbound traffic, particularly timber, was heavy and every freight seen climbing from Lipova Lazne had a banker to Ramzova. Pn45264 was double headed and banked when seen on Wednesday and Friday but single headed and banked on Saturday.

The weather was remarkably good during my three full days at Ramzova. The air was beautifully clear and there was a fair amount of sun every day, particularly early and late when the light was at its best. Variable amounts of cloud built up in the middle of the day but always melted away well before sunset. Temperatures were warm but not as unpleasantly hot as on some of my recent trips.



Sunday 20 August 2006


The return trip to Praha started with a pleasant surprise. As mentioned above, R922 turned up with 749 265 hauling a dead class 843 and trailers, providing me with loco haulage back to Zabreh nad Morave. At Zabreh the 749 ran around and then worked the stock back to Jesenik as R923. From Zabreh, I travelled west to Kolin on R800 behind 162 043. Little of interest was seen on the journey except at Pardubice where Liberec’s 749 244 was waiting to take R786 back to its home town. The temptation to take the scenic route back to Praha was great but unfortunately R786 misses the connection with R1441 by half an hour and I would have missed my flight home. The final leg from Kolin was on a 471 back to Praha Masarykovo, for no other reason than the top deck gives a splendid view of potential photspots. The sky at Praha was resolutely overcast so the last 2 hours of the trip were spent watching the comings and goings at the south end of Hlavni Nadrazi. Nothing unexpected happened until Os9208 arrived from Svetla nad Sazavou with 151 001 on the front! At that point it was time to leave for the airport.



Conclusions


In spite of the unpromising lead up to the trip it all worked very well in practice.

Whether you enjoy riding the trains or photographing them, the Hanusovice - Jesenik line has a lot to offer with excellent scenery and a good variety of traction. As well as the 749 hauled workings, the old railcars of classes 831 and 851 sound good and look good as well. However, the real stars of the show are the unsilenced red and blue 751s on the freights. There aren't many diesel worked lines in the Czech Republic that see much freight traffic, fewer that are 751 worked and fewer still that use unsilenced machines. Add in fairly heavy traffic and steep gradients and you have the makings of an audio-visual epic.

You can clearly hear the trains from the hotel but a better option is to take a short after-dinner walk down the hill towards Jesenik and then climb up the hillside to one of the fields just below the line to experience the passage of Pn45264. On a still evening you can hear the train all the way from Lipova Lazne to the top. The sound rises and falls as the train curves around the hillsides past Horni Lipova, sometimes dropping to a distant rumble, sometimes remarkably clear in spite of the hills in between. The roar intensifies as the train curves into the main valley and steadily increases to a crescendo when the lead loco thunders past with its exhaust stack glowing red in the semi-darkness. A few seconds later the banker storms by, even louder and spitting fire at the sky. All too soon the train reaches Ramzova and the locos throttle back. For a few seconds the silence seems absolute until your ears become accustomed to the stillness again and pick up the sounds of rustling leaves and chirping crickets.

Listen to a recording of a freight hauled and banked by unsilenced class 751s climbing to Ramzova here.

Experience Ramzova while you can because class 751s, particularly the unsilenced variety, are becoming rare and won't last for ever. Class 749s are also under threat and the Plzen passengers don't appear in the draft for next year's timetable. The class 831 railcars are already extinct on most parts of the Czech system and are unlikely to survive here much longer. I'll certainly be going back before too long.