FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The wrong type of coal

Posted in Brazil, Tubarão, Urussanga by folkestonejack on July 9, 2013

Our day started to unravel around midday, starting with the planned crossing of the two steam locomotives. The crew of the second locomotive (Santa Fe no. 205) had made it from the museum to the junction with the main line but couldn’t go any further. After a while it became clear that they had forgotten the key needed to unlock the points. The only course of action was for someone to bring a key out to them, either by road or on a speeder. After some time a key materialised, but this didn’t appear to be the end of the problems.

The wrong type of coal

The wrong type of coal

It appeared that the crew were afraid to take the loco out onto the line for fear of blocking it. The cause of their concern was the coal they had been given to use. The coal that had been donated to the museum was powerplant grade coal which was not well suited to being fired in a steam locomotive. The powerplant grade coal was heavily crushed and just falling through the grate. The crew on Alco no. 153 (who had been working for 48 hours without a break) had enough experience to get their loco steaming properly with this (although, at times even they too struggled -perhaps explaining the problems we saw with the loco on the gradient earlier today).

The only option for the days ahead was to buy better coal if we were to stand any chance of making it to the other locations in our itinerary. Meanwhile, the plan for today had to be rewritten. One of the Ferrovia Teresa Cristina’s diesels helped to drag Alco no. 153 back in and then detatched, allowing us to grab a shot of the two locomotives crossing. It was a relief to be able to move on after spending far too long at this spot, slowly going ever more crazy and desperately taking naff shots of abandoned farm machinery!

In the little time remaining in the day we headed to the level crossing just outside Tubarão and waited for Santa Fe no. 205 to arrive. First there was a bit of gardening to be done! One of the Japanese guys got his shears out and started wildly chopping down the grass stalks that would interfere with his photograph – a wonderful moment of light relief after so much frustration.

A spot of gardening at the level crossing

A spot of gardening at the level crossing

Finally, we watched the beautiful sight of the Santa Fe coming round the curve and bringing her freight cars over the level crossing. It was well worth waiting for this. Yet again it was a moment that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Santa Fe no. 205 saves the day

Santa Fe no. 205 saves the day

Our day finished at the Capivari bridge with a glorious sunset that glinted perfectly on the locomotive as it crossed. Hopefully the delivery of more suitable coal tomorrow morning will put us in a better position for the remainder of the tour though I think we are all coming to realise that the only certainty is that there will be new problems ahead!

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Return from Urussanga

Posted in Brazil, Esplanada, Morro Grande, Urussanga by folkestonejack on July 9, 2013

The early morning wake-up call was probably the last thing anyone wanted to hear after a late night shoot, but it was just so good to have things finally working smoothly enough that we could start so early. At least we got to sleep in our own beds which is more than could be said for one member of the crew, who stayed with the locomotive all night (in a box car).

Our locomotive, Alco no. 153, had spent the night at Urussanga and the plan was to work this back to Tubarão where it would cross with the second locomotive, Santa Fe no. 205, on its way to Eng. Paz Ferreira. Our day would start with no. 153 and then switch to 205 when they crossed.

Alco no. 153 shunts at Urussanga

Alco no. 153 shunts at Urussanga

The picture we shot at Urassanga with the wooden coal loading facility and a Volkswagen beetle stopped at the crossing could so easily have been a moment in the 1980s when steam was in everyday use here.

In reality, the owner of a VW beetle had been persuaded to join us for a staged scene with the car carefully parked in the optimum position for photographs. The owner assumed this was enough but who abandons a car at a level crossing!? No, we needed a driver… the owner laughed, got back in the car and then showed that he too could add his own touch of authenticity by pointing out that he would put his seatbelt on too!

After the eccentricities of the staged scene at Urussanga we followed our train back down the line, taking shots at a cutting en route to Esplanada and on a fairly uninspiring spot where the road runs parallel to the track (though this did allow me to grab a shot of our VW minibus with the loco passing by).

Tackling the gradient

Tackling the gradient

The final shot of the morning came at a gradient near Morro Grande which provided a great view of 153 approaching from a long way out, although we had to wait a while on the hillside to witness that. The delay suggested that things were not quite as perfect as we had thought, though none of us could understand exactly what the nature of the problem was. I hoped that it was another small but ultimately insignificant problem.

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The way to Urussanga

Posted in Brazil, Esplanada, Jaguaruna, Morro Grande, Tubarão, Urussanga by folkestonejack on July 8, 2013

After a stuttering start to our tour, things started to fall into place today with an attempt to make it to Urussanga, albeit 48 hours later than originally scheduled.

Our convoy of four VW minibuses rolled out of the hotel car park on time at 7.35am and in another part of town our steam locomotive (no. 153) was starting her journey. Our paths met at a level crossing before the Congonhas bridge where we handed over the radios that would be our vital line of communication with the steam crews during the day.

After a few shots on the stretches of line around here, including the Congonhas Bridge itself, our convoy set off in pursuit along the dusty local road, looking for all the world like some latter day re-make of ‘The Italian Job’ and attracting much attention wherever we went. One local said that he had never seen four VW Kombis at one time!

VW-Kombi-Fest

VW-Kombi-Fest

Our lunchtime stop gave us an opportunity to wander round the streets of Jaguaruna, a town of around 15,000 inhabitants set in a fertile landscape of lakes, lagoons and green fields. However, it is the proximity of the town to the atlantic ocean that draws most tourists to the area, with 18 vast beaches along a 37km stretch of coastline and an active surfing scene. Alongside this, the area has some vast sand dunes which are a popular destination for sandboarders.

The town itself has an incredible variety of small shops with not a chain store in sight, selling everything from wool to surfing gear (at least two surf shops can be found on Rua Duque de Caxias). The local car dealership was, rather wonderfully, selling Jaguars.

Sights in the town include the striking church and tower of Nossa Senhora das Dores (our lady of sorrows) which was constructed in 1968, the old railway station (now a tourist information office) and the modest Museu Cidade de Jaguaruna which had an unexpectedly busy day with foreign visitors.

Our chase resumed in early afternoon as we headed out on the road to Morro Grande. A short drive brought us to the spot where 153 failed two days back, but today a different story was being written. We photographed the departure of our train and then hurtled along the road to a busy road bridge which afforded a great view over the line (the picture comprising a work gang repairing a small railway bridge, a couple of houses and a concrete water tower). Alco no. 153 looked quite magnificent as she passed, though not at full steam on account of a speed restriction placed on the bridge while it was under repair.

Alco no. 153 en route to Morro Grande

Alco no. 153 en route to Morro Grande

At Morro Grande the loco took water and attracted a large crowd of fascinated locals who soon became sought after additions to our photographic compositions. A similar story unfolded at our next stop, Esplanada, where a local VW Beetle driver was persuaded to re-park his car in a suitably visible position to add to the local colour for a runpast!

Our luck had held for such a long way, but here we learnt that the line to our intended destination, Urussanga, had just been blocked after a diesel had collided with a car at a level crossing! No-one could believe that we had come so far only to face falling short yet again. Thankfully, this proved to be less of an obstacle than it first sounded and we were able to set off again at about 3.30pm.

Alco no. 153 passes through a cutting not too far out from Urussanga

Alco no. 153 passes through a cutting not too far out from Urussanga

The next stop was a cutting not too far out from Urussanga where we settled down to wait for the sun to make an appearance and prayed that our locomotive would be able to set off when conditions were perfect. Thankfully this all went to plan. I figured that we were due a bit of good luck!

From this point on our train would not be able to stop until it reached Urussanga, but some speedy driving ensured that we were able to take a few more shots – each stop followed by a quick dash back to the minibuses and some speedy driving to overtake the train on the parallel road before repeating the process. The glow of the last light of the day was quite special, particularly as Alco no. 153 steamed through Morro da Fumaça.

Finally, we made it to Urussanga as the sun set. This was by no means the end of the day, merely the signal for a pause – we headed off to a local restaurant whilst the crew were scheduled to turn the loco at Esplanada. Naturally, nothing about this trip could ever be straightforward. The locomotive’s light had failed and this had to be fixed before they could set off, delaying proceedings a little whilst they waited for the repair team to arrive by road.

Night shoot at Urussanga

Night shoot at Urussanga

It wasn’t until 9.45pm that the locomotive returned (after yet another problem on the way back). It took about forty-five minutes for all the lighting to be rigged up for our night shoot and even then the loco ended up on the wrong track. Finally everything was in the right position and I must admit that the wooden loading facility did make a stunning backdrop. The final scene with the locomotive passing undermeath to be loaded with coal was incredibly atmospheric. It has to be said that the crew, the museum’s repair team and the specially arranged night shift deserved medals for their patience and co-operation in all of this madness!

The photographic day finally ended at 11.30pm, though by the time we reached our hotel it was nearly 1am. No chance for a lie in though, as we have to be up again at 5am…

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