FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam freight: Palilula to Svrljig

Posted in Palilula, Serbia, Svrljig by folkestonejack on October 20, 2011

After walking down the track a little way we came to the mouth of a relatively short tunnel (200m) presenting us with a small dilemma.

The first group had already walked through the tunnel with our tour guide but those of us who had followed behind were a little more cautious, mindful of the fact that that a service train was due (the only one expected in this direction all day). After waiting thirty minutes nothing had appeared so a few guys ventured in to the tunnel but the distant sound of a horn soon sent them scurrying back out. Finally, the late running DMU passed and we continued our walk through the tunnel.

Emerging from the tunnel

Once we had made it to the other end of the tunnel we found ourselves on a bridge across a gorge, between two tunnels. The first group had found spots on the hillside by the second tunnel mouth, looking a little like grazing mountain goats from a distance. I joined them and marvelled at the stunning landscape.

The problem with the spot was that the very dramatic rocky features that made it a stunning location also made it quite tricky to get in full sunlight. Around half of the bridge was reasonably well lit when we arrived, but with no loco in sight it became an excrutiating wait as we watched the shadows slowly creeping across the bridge. Our loco could not set off until the service train had cleared the block and when it eventually reached us the sun had all but disappeared from the bridge. The shot was gone.

Shadows across the line

Nevertheless, I still took a desperate shot of the kriegslok poking out of the tunnel mouth into the slither of sunlight that remained before we walked through the second tunnel for the next shot. It was a relief to see plenty of sunlight when we emerged!

After re-boarding we continued on to another spot on the line between Palilula and Nisevac around 2pm. An arch of rock over the railway line provided the centre point to a stunning vista which we photographed from the hillside with two runpasts – it looked great from almost any angle that you tried. It was certainly the highlight of the day.

33-087 passes under an arch on the line between Palilula and Nisevac

The next stop took us a little further down the line where the only route to the shot involved a bit of impromptu rock-climbing. I’m not the best at that sort of thing and was already contemplating abandoning the effort when one of the other guys got injured by a dislodged rock. I’m always tempted to take a few risks for that perfect photo but for once I reckoned that this would have to be one that I would let get away.

After retracing our route for a little while we made a further two runpasts across a bridge just outside Palilula (around 3pm). This location offered all sorts of photographic opportunities, including a trio of perfectly placed haystacks and a great view down from the hillside. Once this was in the bag we took water at Palilula, reboarding at 3.30pm.

33-087 passes some haystacks on a stretch of line near Palilula

33-087 crosses a bridge near Palilula

Our last planned photo stop of the day found us back in the fields just a quarter of an hour later. Although we had now left the gorges behind we still had the hills as an impressive backdrop. It seemed like a great place to end the day – although as it turned out, chance provided another quick photostop a little later. Our locomotive had certainly wrung the most out of the day – in the last stop the crew had seen that four stays in a row/group had broken and water was coming into the firebox. The problem was gradually getting worse.

Across the fields towards Svrljig

A little battered, but still going...

At 4.50pm we arrived at Svrljig where we said farewell to 33-087 and boarded our bus. Although we hadn’t quite made it as far as Niš we saw the city from the motorway as we headed away. A couple of the guys on the trip left us at this point – it had been arranged that a taxi would meet us on the motorway near Niš but when we reached the junction we saw that the taxi was on a major road crossing the motorway, rather than on the same road. No problem… the taxi just backed down the slip road in the opposite direction to the traffic!

Farewell to 33-087 at Svrljig

Our drive from Svrljig to Mokra Gora took just under six hours and gave us a fleeting view of the illuminated fortress at Stari Grad, Užice along the way. We arrived at Mokra Gora at 11pm, where the hotel staff had stayed up to serve us a rather late evening meal. Indeed, most of us were still finishing the meal as the next day arrived!

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Steam freight: Zaječar to Palilula

Posted in Palilula, Serbia, Zaječar by folkestonejack on October 20, 2011

The plan for today’s run was to take 33-087 through the gorges and tunnels on the line from Zaječar to Nis (via Knjaževac). I don’t think anyone had particularly high hopes for the day but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our train was fully prepared and waiting for departure when we arrived at Zaječar station.

Ready for departure - 33-087 at Zaječar

After setting off at 7.15am we made our first stop at Grljan (around 7.30am) where we photographed two runpasts with the stunning backdrop of a mine and loading facility (Rudnik uglja Grljan) against perfectly blue skies. It was hard not to smile at something going right.

33-087 steams past the loading facility at Grljan

The next stop (around 8am) came at a small station at Vratarnica which was hidden amongst the woods. After taking some shots of 33-087 passing through the station we walked up the line and crossed a girder bridge on foot before plunging down the embankment into the fields for two more runpasts.

Vratarnica Station

33-087 crosses the girder bridge at Vratarnica

Our journey towards Niš continued to make good progress with stops at Mali Izvor (little spring), Knjaževac and Podvis. It seemed like things were looking up, particularly as we were now entering the most scenic stretch of line through hills and gorges.

33-087 seen from the hillside at Podvis

A little after the next tunnel (between Podvis and Surtjeski Miljkovac) we set back to a position where everyone could either clamber down on to a ledge for a view across to the tunnel mouth and bridge or scramble up the hillside for a slightly different perspective. I took the option of the ledge and watched as 33-087 emerged from the tunnel and onto the bridge crossing the gorge. It was a beautiful sight and worth waiting for!

33-087 emerges from a tunnel and onto a bridge across a gorge on the line between Podvis and Surtjeski Miljkovac

The morning had really delivered on some great locations but the afternoon promised much more. As we were now running low on water we had an uninterrupted run to Palilula for a service break which we reached in late morning.

Service stop at Palilula

At Palilula we had a 1km walk up the track against the clock as our loco had to depart within 10 minutes to clear the line for a service train. After making it to a good viewpoint some of the others set about frantically clearing the lineside of clutter and overgrown vegetation to improve the shot.

Once our loco had passed by it carried on to the next station to leave the service train with a clear path. We now had a choice – stay on the hillside and wait for our train to return or walk up the line through a tunnel to the next spot. Initially I thought I would chill out on the hillside, but curiosity got the better of me and I started to walk…