FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Whistle while you work

Posted in Burdur, Gümüşgün, Turkey by folkestonejack on October 15, 2014

Our arrival in Burdur after dark gave us little chance to assess the opportunities of this short branch line but this was something that we intended to remedy today. The station itself was neat and tidy, despite the absence of passengers, with a plinthed loco standing on guard outside (57020).

The line no longer sees passenger traffic but that doesn’t mean that it is dead. On our return to the station it was clear that the railway line plays a significant part in the industrial operations here and this must have been a factor in the survival of the line up to now. In contrast, the nearby branch line to Eğirdir has closed despite the great efforts to capitalise on its vast tourist potential. Nevertheless, the writing must be on the wall for branch lines like this as Turkey’s railway modernisation project rolls out across the country.

Burdur in the soft light of morning

Burdur in the soft light of morning

After a little festival of shunting the composition of our train was altered to better reflect the sort of train that you might have expected to see on this branch in the 1970s/80s with the intention of taking three coaches and a single coal wagon up the branch line and on to Isparta. However, the plan was already unravelling…

The door to the engine shed had been altered since the last time our steam locomotive had visited Burdur and when it was backed into the shed the whistle was knocked off. Now, none of us had any great love for the ear-splitting whistel of 56548 but we couldn’t operate without the ability to sound a warning at the numerous crossings up and down the line.

57020 plinthed at Burdur

57020 plinthed at Burdur

The solution to this unexpected problem was right in front of us, as we soon began to appreciate with complete astonishment when a member of the crew clambered up onto the plinthed loco with a wrench. It was a noble sacrifice by 57020 to keep one of her brethen running! It is not the first time that 57020 has made such a donation – the same plinthed locomotive seems to have donated a buffer on a previous trip. Maybe if you come back in a decade, a few more donations on, you might find 56548 on the plinth and 57020 on the rails…

The repairs and adjustments were finally completed by 11am. I had not appreciated just how pleased I would be to hear the ear-splitting sound of a Turkish steam whistle again, but it was a joyous and painful moment all at once! We departed Burdur at 11.06am, just two and a half hours later than planned, and began our run up the line. The locomotive ran tender-first, which was not untypical of the operation here in steam days. After a couple of run pasts we reached Gümüşgün at 12.18pm.

Up the branch to Gümüşgün

Up the branch to Gümüşgün

At Gümüşgün the crew quickly demonstrated that Burdur had alot to learn about shunting festivals, proceeding to shunt the wagon and carriages one by one! Standing on the sidelines it was hard to work out quite what was going on, but it eventually transpired that we were either waiting for a freight to pass us – or that it was waiting two stops down the line for us to pass it. Mexican stand off anyone?

Thankfully, it was a beautiful day to laze around – albeit reluctantly! At 2pm DE36 002 arrived with a westbound freight train, passing a couple of derailed container wagons, followed half an hour later by a Burdur-bound freight in the hands of DE36 005. Yet, still we didn’t move – there was clearly more to this stop than just a case of supremely polite train pathing.

DE 36 005 at Gümüşgün

DE 36 005 at Gümüşgün

It soon became apparent that the cause of our lengthy stop was an erratic air pump which the crew were trying to fix with spare parts from the service car. The work was successfully completed by 3.30pm, but in the meantime we attended a hastily re-located surprise birthday party for a 70 year old railway engineer. It was a delightful occasion that only the most flint-hearted soul could have failed to be warmed by.

56548 back up and running

56548 back up and running

As we no longer had sufficient time to reach Isparta a new plan was hatched – we would head back to Burdur and try some run pasts on the branch line. This proved to be a good call as it delivered up some wonderful opportunities for sunset shots and allowed me to make a couple of attempts at contre-jour shots from the opposite side of the track. In spite of the frustations from earlier in the day, it was a truly glorious final hour.

Against the light

Against the light

Funnily enough, we were still just about in sight of Gümüşgün when the sun finally dipped below the mountains, but as another photographer remarked, it’s not the distance you travel but the work that you deliver in that time which counts. Never has a truer word been spoken.

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