Return to the Ohri Valley

02 - 06 October 2007

Report by Duncan Cotterill


The Karlovy Vary - Chomutov line was probably the best diesel worked line in the Czech Republic until electrification work started in 2004. Now that the construction gangs have gone home and the new structures have lost a bit of their gloss, it seemed to be a good time for a return visit to see how the line had changed. I spent 5 days on the line from 2 to 6 October.

The Line

The north-western corner of the Czech Republic is a surreal combination of gorgeous mountain scenery, beautiful old towns and industrial devastation. In between the huge opencast lignite mines at Sokolov and Kadan lie the popular spa town of Karlovy Vary and the superbly scenic line along the valley of the River Ohri. From Karlovy Vary the line climbs to a summit at Hajek then winds its way down through the town of Ostrov to Vojkovice in the Ohri valley. The river is followed in a north-easterly direction for 20km to Klasterec where the Ohri turns to the east. The railway continues in a north-easterly direction to Chomutov, skirting the opencast mine at Kadan en-route. The line is double track throughout and electrified with a changeover from 25kV AC to 3000V DC partway between Klasterec and Kadan Prunerov.

Passenger Services

The line used to host a fast passenger service from Cheb, via Karlovy Vary and Chomutov to a variety of destinations including Praha, Liberec and Brno but recent moves towards regular interval services have seen this standardised to a two-hourly service to Praha via Usti nad Labem with many trains continuing east from the captial to Prerov or beyond. These trains are booked for Brno based dual-system class 362s between Praha and Cheb. Class 363 substitutions have been reported in the past but I didn't see any. The following locos were seen:
362 112/118/120/123/164/171/172/174/175/185.

The local passenger service was never particularly intensive but it is now virtually non-existent for long periods of the day with trains at approximately hourly intervals at busier times. Most services from Karlovy Vary are hauled by class 242 electrics and turn round at Klasterec with a class 810 railbus connection on to Chomutov. Locos seen included the following:
242 202/203/208/209/222/230/239/242/256/279/280


Electrification should have resulted in a big increase in the volume of freight using the line but this wasn't evident. In spite of the construction work on the Cheb - Plzen line, a fair amount of traffic still seemed to be routed that way. A very small pool of class 363s worked freights over the Karlovy Vary - Chomutov line with class 230s assisting a few heavy trains over the banks between Karlovy Vary and Vojkovice. The following locos were noted:
230 055/082
363 044/049/058/075


I stayed at the Hotel Krusnohor in Ostrov. It's cheap, comfortable and convenient for the station although the train times are no longer convenient for anyone staying there or anywhere else on the line. My only real complaint was the Friday night entertainment provided for the coachloads of retired East Germans that now seem to be regular guests there. Vrata Dittrich had the amazing ability to make songs you hoped you would never hear again sound even worse than you remembered them. The regular clientele loved it, of course, but yours truly found it a really unpleasant experience.


The 25,000 volt question was how electrification had affected the photo opportunities on the line. In practice it came out of change reasonably well but it has lost a lot of its character with most stations now unmanned and the semaphore signals removed from Hajek, Vojkovice and Perstejn stations. A number of locations have been opened up but others have been made more difficult by the presence of electrification masts. It's never been the easiest line to do by rail and the current train service makes it even more difficult. Finally, the poor weather turned difficult into impossible with only a couple of hours of sunshine during the entire five days I was there.


This was by far the most disappointing part of the trip, primarily due to the poor weather and the inaccurate weather forecasts that sent me out each morning in the expectation of sunshine that almost never materialised. The class 362s and 363s on most trains also got a bit boring after a while and it was only the class 242s on local passengers and the odd class 230 that kept the interest up.

Apart from the improved fast passenger services, the benefits of electrification aren't entirely clear. In the old days freights arrived at Karlovy Vary behind AC locomotives and changed to diesels. Then at Kadan, the diesels handed over to to DC electrics. The only change seems to be that the diesels have been replaced by dual system electrics. Two loco changes are still required to get a train from Cheb to Usti nad Labem because there aren't enough dual-system machines available for them to work all the way.

The local passenger service hasn't benefitted much either. The 3-coach class 242 hauled locals are more comfortable than the 810s used for the past few years but the gaps in the service make it next to useless for much of the day. For instance, the last morning train from Karlovy Vary into the Ohri valley leaves before 07:00!

Although it's certainly not the wonderful line it used to be, Karlovy Vary - Chomutov does still have reasonable photographic potential. The dire local passenger service means that it's not really a line to do by rail anymore. If there is a next time, it will have to be by car.

Next Section

back to the first page of the report