Spring in the Sumava

29 April - 01 May 2012

Report by Duncan Cotterill


This report covers a short visit to the Ceske Budejovice – Nove Udoli line in the Czech Republic. I was in Germany, photographing freight in the Nürnberg area (German report here), and managed to fit in a three-day visit from 29 April to 1 May when freight activity would have been much reduced due to the May Day holiday.

Travel was by car (I’d driven from the UK) and accommodation was booked as I went around via www.booking.com.

This section of the report summarises what was seen. For train by train details with loco numbers etc, go to the Day by Day pages.

Ceske Budejovice - Nove Udoli

(Sun 29 April - Tue 01 May 2012)

The line runs west from Ceske Budejovice into the Sumava, a beautiful upland area bordering Austria and Germany, and terminates right on the German border in the heart of the Sumava National Park. The Sumava is very popular with walkers and cyclists and CD replaces many of the railbuses with loco hauled trains in summer to cater for the extra demand. This year’s service is particularly good with locos on four out and back workings a day. Loco haulage also started on 28 April this year, earlier than in recent years. The line was one of the last to use class 749 diesels but this year the service was booked to be worked by class 754s.

The first train I saw was hauled by a 754 but 749s still worked half the trains each day with orange liveried 749.252 working four pairs of trains over the three days. 749.051, Ceske Budejovice’s smartest engine, and Praha based 749.121 each worked a pair of trains. Two 754s were in use, 754.022, a nomadic engine that I’d photographed before on the Zdar – Tisnov and Zabreh – Jesenik lines, and 754.039, formerly based at Ostrava. Both carried the standard drab grey/green livery.

All the expected trains were loco hauled with the remaining services operated by class 810 or 814 railbuses. There didn’t seem to be much of a pattern as to which trains would get which class of loco but the picture was confused by engineering work which closed the line between Bousov and Kremze on the Monday. There were still four loco hauled trains in each direction west of the blockade but the 10:07 ex CB was railbus and the 12:07 was loco, instead of the other way round.

The line still sees some freight traffic with timber being loaded at several places and a fair amount of traffic going to the industries near Kajov. 753.771 was seen at Kajov on the Monday, waiting for the blockade to be lifted so it could return to Ceske Budejovice with the daily freight. This train was worked by pairs of class 742s last year.

Volary was still using 751.232 and 751.316 to work the twice daily pick-up freights to Cicenice (over line 197) and the Mo, We, Fr pick-ups to Kajov. Both trains to Cicenice were heard from my hotel room at Prachatice on the Monday, one early morning and the other late evening. The train to Kajov also ran on the Monday but appeared to be a light engine from Volary to Cerna v Posumavi, where it picked up a number of loaded timber wagons and returned to Volary.

Timekeeping was fairly poor overall with delays due to the engineering work on Monday building up to around 30 minutes by the late afternoon. The line is single track with some long sections between loops so any delays are difficult to make up. On Tuesday the delays were due to the failure of 754.039 at the west end of the line. This left me very confused for a while as, by 13:30, I’d seen three trains go west but absolutely nothing had come back. Eventually 754.022 showed up, over an hour late, dragging a dead 754.039 and train behind it. The delays continued through the afternoon with the last loco-hauled train still half an hour down when it left Nove Udoli.

Comments and Conclusions

This was my fourth visit to the Ceske Budejovice – Nove Udoli line but all the other trips had been in August or September, when the weeds had had all summer to grow up. I was very pleasantly surprised to find a number of potential spots that had always been overgrown in the past were completely clear. On the other hand, my favourite shot on the line, the westbound departure from Nova Pec, has been ruined by a line of poles erected since I was last there in September 2011. Thankfully I’ve already got a few good shots there.

The weather was fairly kind with good light on two of the three days and I was very happy with my results and delighted to find so many 749 workings.

Experience suggests that it won’t last and everything will be 754 within a few months. So take advantage of the opportunity to photograph or ride behind 749s in some of the Czech Republic’s most glorious scenery while you can.

(Return to the German report)