Czech Miscellany

10 - 25 September 2009

Report by Duncan Cotterill


Despite numerous trips to the Czech Republic over the years, there were still lines that I either hadn’t done or hadn’t done as well as I’d like. This trip was designed to mop up a number of these as well as returning to a few old favourites.

I started on the diesel worked freight lines around Kralupy and Kladno before moving on to the Sumperk – Jesenik line for a few days. This was followed by visits to the Olomouc – Unicov and Brno – Veseli nad Moravou lines before spending a weekend on the Tisnov – Zdar nad Sazavou line. The focus then returned to freight with a day on the Kolin – Pardubice main line, two days on the Mlada Boleslav – Nymburk line and finally a couple of days back where I started, on the freight lines around Kralupy and Kladno.

As I was going to be in the Czech Republic for more than two weeks, I decided to take my own car this time, travelling via the Channel Tunnel, Lille, Liege, Köln, Frankfurt, and Nürnberg to the Praha area, with an extended stop at Gemünden for some photography and a night’s sleep. On the way back I stayed near Bad Hersfeld overnight and spent several hours on the Bebra – Fulda line before leaving for the Channel Tunnel. The details of trains seen at Gëmunden and Bad Hersfeld are covered in a separate report.

Praha Area

Th 10 – Fr 11 Sep 2009

The idea behind the visit to the Praha area was to get some photos of the diesel worked freights that operate on the network of non-electrified lines north-west of the capital. Until recently, class 751s from Kralupy nad Vltavou depot had a virtual monopoly of these workings but an influx of CD Cargo class 753.7 rebuilds is changing all that.

I arrived at Hostivice, on the line from Praha to Rakovnik, around 15:20 on Thursday 10 September, with almost an hour and a half to spare before the booked departure of the stone train from Nucice to Kadan Prunerov. The sun was shining and all was well with the world. As I walked to the spot, I heard the rumble of a freight receding into the distance but didn’t think anything of it at the time. By the time I left over two hours later without seeing the stone train, I did wonder whether it had run very early.

The three class 714 hauled passengers booked out of Praha in the afternoon all ran as expected with 714 229 on Sp1886, 714 227 on Sp1890 and 714 215 on Sp1892, so the afternoon wasn’t a complete waste of time. There was also at least one 854+054+954 set running with a 714 and an 020 trailer coupled on the Praha end. 714 228 (+854 009) worked R1295 in from Rakovnik and R1294 back out. An identical formation was seen on R1292 so either there was another 714 out or R1292 swapped with R1295 en-route. The remaining passengers were all class 814s of 2 or 3 car varieties.

I spent the night at the Hotel Astra, out in the country at Srby, near Kamenne-Zehrovice station, west of Kladno.

Friday morning began dull and wet, prompting a severe bout of enthusiasm failure, only cured by the application of a hearty breakfast. My plan was to spend the morning near Zakolany on the Kralupy nad Vltavou – Kladno line, where two uphill and four downhill freights are scheduled to run between 09:30 and 14:00 on Fridays. Even though there was no sun, it made sense to go and find the position for future reference. Of the expected six trains, all I saw were a pair of 751s and a 753.7 going towards Kladno light engine at 10:08 and the 751s coming back with a train at 13:18. I didn’t wait to see if the last train ran.

Having been caught out by the stone train the previous day, I went to Nucice, west of Rudna u Prahy, to see what was happening and found 755 001 and 755 002 coupling up to a rake of stone hoppers. The cloud was thinning rapidly and everything was looking good for a shot. To cut a long story short, the stone left Hostivice just after 15:00 when a unit was due and I was out of position. No shot again.

Rather than repeat the previous days 714 shots, I went to Kamenne Zehrovice for the rest of the afternoon. 714 231 worked Sp1890 and the Rakovnik fast trains seen were just standard 854+054+954 sets. I had hoped that the stone might run early from Kladno but it didn’t.

Hanusovice - Jesenik

Sa 12 – We 16 Sep 2009

It was time to move on and the next target was the Jesenik line. Unlike the diesel lines in the Praha area, this was familiar territory and it was nice to be back on one of the Czech Republic’s best lines. For those who haven’t been there, the line features excellent scenery and long climbs from both sides to a summit at Ramzova, 760m above sea level. This is one of those rare lines where it doesn’t really matter whether you end up taking the same shots several times over, it’s just a pleasure to be there.

The number of loco hauled passenger trains has increased markedly over recent years and now stands at 8 on weekdays and 13 on Saturdays and Sundays. My visit was towards the end of a 3 month engineering possession between Zabreh na Morave and Bludov that prevented trains running through to Olomouc via the normal route and, as a result, there were two additional loco hauled workings a day, taking the totals to 10 and 15 respectively, all booked for Sumperk based class 749 diesels. The diagrams require three locos during the week and five at weekends, four from Sumperk and one from Olomouc.

749107,246,248,259 were all seen with 754021 covering the Olomouc working on the Saturday and Sunday. 749107 and 749259 are unsilenced.

As well as the loco hauled R and Sp trains, the local passenger services are worthy of note as most are still worked by class 831 railcars, a design that dates from the late 1940s. This is now the last line where the 831s are in regular use. Another old railcar, this time a class 851, put in an appearance as booked, working a midday service from Sumperk to Branna and back on 14 September. The same train was worked by a class 742 the following day. While I was there, there was only a single daytime passenger service that wasn’t worked by classes 749, 831 or 851, an 810 working that went north in the middle of the day and was easy to ignore.

If the unsilenced 749s sound impressive climbing to Ramzova, the unsilenced 751s on the freights are phenomenal, particularly on the loaded trains coming south in the evening. Around 22:00 one evening, I was inside my room at the Hotel Neubauer at Ramzova, with the windows closed and the TV on. I became aware of a distant rumble when the train was still several miles away and went out onto the balcony to listen. For what seemed like an eternity the noise gradually got louder and louder until the still night air was full of the sound of a pair of 751s slogging their guts out. Then, all of a sudden, it was over, the lead engine reached the summit and throttled back, followed a few seconds later by the banker. All that was left to break the silence was the rumbling of the wagons rolling downhill towards Ostruzna.

The weather was very mixed with some long cloudy periods and also some reasonable sunny spells. I didn’t get that many good shots but there are a few among them that I’m very pleased with and fill gaps in my collection.

Sumperk – Kouty nad Desnou

We 16 Sep 2009

Not a line you hear a lot of in gricing reports. The passenger service is operated by Veolia, formerly Connex and is 100% railbus. I crossed the line on the way from the Jesenik line to Sternberk and was surprised to see that the railbus in use was 814501+914501 in Veolia livery. I hadn’t realised before that anyone other than CD had 814s.

Olomouc – Unicov

We 16 – Fr 18 Sep 2009

This isn’t the world’s most exciting line but it has seen a remarkable increase in the number of loco hauled passengers in recent years. Not long ago the basic service was operated by railcars with a few loco hauled workings in the rush hours. Now it’s the other way round, during the week at least, with loco hauled trains virtually hourly throughout the day and a few railcars on peak hour extras. Weekends see a reduced frequency with less than 50% of services loco hauled. Two Olomouc class 749s are diagrammed to cover the weekday service between Olomouc and Unicov with a Sumperk class 749 working into Olomouc in the morning and returning to Sumperk in the afternoon. On Wednesday afternoon 749257 and Olomouc’s new toy, 754021 were covering the Unicov trains but on Thursday it was all change with 749250 and, rustbucket of the year runner up, 749253 for most of the day. By late afternoon, 749121 had taken over from 749250 but unfortunately didn’t run the following day when the sun finally came out. On Friday, 754021 and 749253 worked everything until I left at 10:40. The Sumperk train was only seen once, on Thursday afternoon, with 749265 on the front.

Freight traffic is normally minimal with a 731 hauled pick up goods working from Olomouc to Unicov and back each morning. While the Zabreh – Bludov line is closed for electrification work there is some through freight to Sumperk and the Jesenik line. 742104 and 742160 went west with a long freight around 09:00 on the Thursday morning, returning east with another long train at midday and then going west light engine at 14:45 (all times between Sternberk and Unicov).

Also seen on Wednesday and Friday was brand new 814084+914084 on test.

The weather was dismal on the Wednesday and Thursday but picked up on the Friday morning when a handful of shots were taken in good light.

Brno – Veseli nad Moravou

Fr 18 Sep 2009

After leaving the Unicov line, I drove south to the Brno – Veseli line. This route does have some very nice scenery but the train service is fiendishly arranged to prevent loco hauled trains passing the scenic spots when the light is right. After getting a couple of reasonable shots in the middle of the day, I searched in vain for a good location to photograph the procession of eastbounds in the afternoon. 754013, 037, 041, 045 were all seen in action.

On the Saturday morning I did have the perfect location lined up for 751001 on a special to Zlin but there was no sun and I decided to go straight to the Tisnov – Zdar nad Sazavou line in the hope of better light.

Tisnov – Zdar nad Sazavou

Sa 19 – Su 20 Sep 2009

The sun wasn’t shining here either when I arrived but it did come out during the Saturday afternoon and also for much of the following day. The attractions here were the additional weekend trains worked by Brno class 750s or 754s. Until the previous December the regular services were worked by class 714 locos throughout the week but from the December 2008 timetable change, class 814 DMUs started to cover the bulk of the weekend services. Fortunately the line is very slow and it was easy to stay occupied by chasing the 754 worked services and ignoring most of the DMUs. 754022 and 754043 worked the weekend extras on both days with 714220 working the only other train seen that wasn’t a DMU.

Kolin – Pardubice

Mo 21 Sep 2009

For a complete change of scene, I spent a few hours near Pardubice-Opocinek on the electrified Kolin – Praha main line. This is a place where you just sit back and let the trains come to you. In less than four hours, 39 trains passed, worked by ten different classes of electric loco, two classes of diesel loco and two types of EMU. Most were passenger trains but there were a number of freights as well. The weather remained sunny all day although the visibility wasn’t particularly good. It doesn’t really matter here as there are no distant mountains to try to get in the picture. Despite the name, Pardubice-Opocinek is well outside the Pardubice built up area in open countryside and the spots are easily reached by walking east from the station along farm tracks on the south side of the line.

Kolin – Nymburk

Mo 21 Sep 2009

After moving on to Nymburk and finding a hotel, I spent the late afternoon north of Velke Zbozi on the electrified Kolin – Nymburk main line. Class 163s predominated here, working Praha – Hradec Kralove and Kolin – Usti nad Labem passengers as well as one of the three freights that passed. A 122 and a 123 worked the other freights.

Nymburk – Mlada Boleslav

Tu 22 – We 23 Sep 2009

This is one of the busiest diesel worked freight routes in the Czech Republic but hardly the most scenic. There are a few decent locations and a couple of stations where semaphore signals add a little interest. Many of the freights serve the huge Skoda car plant at Mlada Boleslav but there are also through trains to Liberec and on to Poland via the Cernousy/Zawidow border crossing. After missing out completely on class 753s north of Liberec in April, I was resigned to not seeing any here despite a set of diagrams still existing. With a large number of class 753.7s now in traffic, there shouldn’t have been any requirement for the old freighters but a pair actually showed up on the 22 September, working train 63411 south in the early afternoon and 64302 north in the early evening. The following day there were no 753s and 63411 and 64302 were worked by a pair of class 742s. There were around ten freights each day with the remaining trains worked by a mixture of class 750s, 753.7s and 742s.

There were no surprises on the passenger front with Class 854s working the Nymburk – Rumburk fast services and Class 810s on the Mlada Boleslav – Nymburk stoppers.

The weather was a bit mixed with high cloud and haze softening the light considerably on the first day. The second day started foggy but cleared up by mid-morning, with much better light than the previous day.

Praha Area

Th 24 – Fr 25 Sep 2009

I spent both mornings near Zakolany on the Kralupy – Kladno line and both afternoons around Hostivice on the Praha – Kladno line, trying to get the shots that had eluded me at the beginning of the trip.

On the Thursday morning two freights ran from Kralupy to Kladno, a CD coal train at 08:15, hauled by 751.089 and 751.228 banked by 751.219 and 751.364, and an OKDD coal train at 13:10 hauled by 740.424 and 740.422 banked by a pair of 753.7s. A CD iron ore train ran on the Friday, this time at 10:17 with 751.219 and 751.364 banked by 751.089 and 751.228. The OKDD 740s went down to Kralupy light engine as before but the OKDD train hadn’t come by the time I left for Hostivice. It was brightish for the ore train on the Friday morning but none of the freights actually ran in sunshine.

The stone train from Hostivice was particularly early on the Thursday afternoon, passing me at 14:45 in poor light. Things were looking similar the following day but the sky cleared around 14:30 and 755.001 and 755.002 passed in bright sunlight at 15:00, again running at a time when the following unit should have been too close behind. This time I stayed rooted to the spot to ensure that I didn’t miss it.

Having got the shot, I decided to get out while the going was good and left Hostivice in the direction of the German border, travelling via Chomutov and Karl Marx Stadt to Bad Hersfeld for the night.

Comments and Conclusions

It was a very mixed trip weather-wise but relatively successful overall. I got many of the shots I was after but some of them took three or four days to get right.

The new CD Cargo livery is starting to appear on more locos with a number of older classes getting the new colours in addition to the rebuilt class 753.7s. The rebuilds may not make a lot of noise but they look really smart and I’m looking forward to photographing them on the scenic Liberec – Zawidow line in due course.

On the passenger side, the biggest surprise was finding 754.021 working out of Olomouc, no doubt the beginning of the end for 749 working out of Olomouc and Sumperk. Still, it was great while it lasted.