FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam to Afyon

Posted in Afyon, Banaz, Dumlupinar, Turkey by folkestonejack on October 13, 2014

An old gentleman wandered down the platform at Banaz, shaking the hand of everyone he came across, a broad grin on his face. This might seem odd under any other circumstance, but faced with a steam locomotive stirring into life, particularly the last one left working in the country, who is to say that isn’t the most natural response!? I, for one, never cease to tire of the sight.

Morning steam at Oturak

Morning steam at Oturak

After spending a little while hanging around the station, we began our day’s travel at 9.54am and reached our first stop, Oturak, at 10.24. The sun had broken through by this point and was beginning to deliver a beautiful morning, illuminating our locomotive and the autumnal backdrop wonderfully. It was one of those locations with so many delightful possibilities that our merry band of photographers were soon scrabbling around to get the very best out of the moment. I hope I did it some justice!

The next leg of our journey took us into the countryside around Dumlupinar, a place which holds special significance in Turkish history as it was here that the last, decisive, battle in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) was fought. That victory, on August 30th 1922, is still celebrated as a national holiday to this day. The railway line was the main supply route of the Greek forces and one of the first actions of the Turkish cavalry was to cut this channel of communication. Today, the countryside is so peaceful that it is hard to imagine that so much blood was shed here.

Steam to Dumlupinar

Steam to Dumlupinar

We took our time here, with runpasts around the tunnel and at the summit, before making it to Dumlupinar station itself at 12.04pm. Although it feels like a relatively sleepy line, there are signs of substantial investment in the railways here with huge piles of sleepers and ballast. After getting permission to proceed, we departed at 12.27pm.

Our kriegslok might have be the last operative steam locomotive in Turkey, but it was certainly delivering everything we could have hoped for photographically with a storming run over the summit and a terrific impression of a volcano.

Steam locomotive or volcano!?

Steam locomotive or volcano!?

Our onward journey took us through Kizilcakoy (12.35pm) and on to Yildirim Kemal (12.47pm) where we had an extended stop and a series of four runpasts utilising the scenic station and water column. This must have made a bewildering sight for a couple of locals, who sat watching the madness of all this unfold from their viewpoint on the sidelines.

After leaving Yildirim Kemal at 1.50pm we were treated to a series of runpasts on a rather scenic stretch of track leading up to a grand curve. The last stop in the sequence offered the tempting combination of a flock of sheep in the foreground, but the sheepdogs had other ideas, shepherding the flock away from any viable shot. Nevertheless, the shepherd offered an irresistible alternative for some members of the group. It was one of those locations with an incredible array of possibilities and only one runpast to use them on. How to choose!?

Beyond Yildirim Kemal

Beyond Yildirim Kemal

The afternoon continued to offer some wonderful photographic opportunities, especially when the sun re-appeared to illuminate the autumn foliage. Our onward journey took us through Bal-Mahmoud (4.30pm) and then on to the outskirts of Afyon, where we made the most of the setting sun to capture the glint.

Across golden fields...

Across golden fields…

About twenty minutes after leaving this spot we reached Afyon station (6.12pm), having been treated to a distant view of the fortress rock on the way in. Our merry band of photographers clambered out of the vintage carriages and formed a suitcase wheeling convoy to a nearby hotel, ready for a welcome spot of rest and relaxation. It had been a good day’s work and very satisfying with it!

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Black clouds over Banaz

Posted in Banaz, Turkey, Uşak by folkestonejack on October 12, 2014

Our tour departed from Usak in late afternoon (around 3.30pm) after the final members of the party had arrived on the express from Izmir. The first leg of our tour was to take us a relatively short distance, from Usak to Banaz, in the hope of getting some good sunset shots.

Steaming beautifully

Steaming beautifully

It all started well enough with a couple of good stops in full sun, before the black clouds rolled in – bringing with them thunder and lightning. It would have been possible, with a bit of luck, to get lightning in the background of a shot though I certainly didn’t manage this. Nevertheless, we still managed four or five runpasts before the rain really kicked in at 5.15pm.

Needless to say, there was no glorious sunset to be photographed. If the resulting shots were far from stunning, it was nevertheless a good taster for the tour and got me in the right frame of mind for the photography that lay ahead. I have a habit of taking some really rubbish shots at the start of any tour, so I was relieved to have gotten my rusty moments out of the way!

Steam en route to Banaz

Steam en route to Banaz

Banaz station is not exactly a busy place during daylight – it sees just four passenger trains a day and all of these arrive between midnight and 4am! This left us plenty of time to play with for a night shoot, but first we sought out some food. A restaurant in town somehow managed to cope with an invasion of photographers and served up some pretty tasty lamb/cheese pide with a soft drink (a bargain at 15 Turkish lira apiece) before we returned.

Black clouds over Banaz

Black clouds over Banaz

I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired, so opted to sit this night shoot out and enjoyed the spectacle from a distance. Once the last shots had been fired we boarded a couple of buses for the short run back to Uşak, reaching our hotel at 10pm.