FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The last steam train in the Taurus mountains

Posted in Çiftehan, Turkey by folkestonejack on September 11, 2015

The last few hours of our tour brought us back to the impressively rocky landscape between Pozanti and Gümüş which continued to offer so many different perspectives that we were all kept very busy, with the odd spot of rock climbing to get to a more impressive shot. I was glad to see blue skies and sun make an appearance – a fitting end to what will most likely be the last steam hauled train in the Taurus mountains after around 100 years of steam action here.

TCDD 56 548: Last steam locomotive in the Taurus mountains?

TCDD 56 548: Last steam locomotive in the Taurus mountains?

Quite apart from the fact that this is the last operational steam locomotive on the main line and that the electrification will deter future photographers, it is quite clear that this line is far busier than anyone expected and it is very difficult to fit a steam charter in between all the service trains. I can’t see TCDD agreeing to a repeat in the future even were it desirable! To adapt the familiar saying, the clock has been sat at a minute to midnight throughout our tour…

The crew of twelve railwaymen on our tour have to be applauded for all the hard work they have put in, with some pretty tough working conditions – even on a cold day the footplate can be a fearsomely hot place of work, but in temperatures of 40+ degrees it must be hellish. The crew have come from across the Turkish network and this is a real change from their day jobs (for example driving diesel multiple units on commuter services) and they enjoy this tremendously.

After we leave the crew have the job of getting the train back to Izmir and this will take three days, including one overnight shift (the stretch of track between Konya and Karaman is closed in the daytime for engineering works, but opens at 11pm each night to let freight services through). It certainly puts our more relaxed journeys home into perspective!

TCDD 56 548 steams through the rocky landscape between Çiftehan and Gümüş

TCDD 56 548 steams through the rocky landscape between Çiftehan and Gümüş

Most of the participants on the tour were catching trains from Çiftehan and heading home via Adana and Kayseri respectively. A few guys were sticking around to photograph diesels on the line (quite rightly pointing out that it was the last chance to photograph diesels in the mountains before electrification spoils the beauty of the line). They were sure that no photographers had ever taken shots of diesels between some of these tunnels and were determined to capture this before electrification. It sounded like a brave endeavour and I hope they succeed.

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Gorging on steam

Posted in Çiftehan, Turkey by folkestonejack on September 9, 2015

In the afternoon we returned to Pozanti for our expedition north, departing around 2pm with all the locals waving, honking their horns and taking photos. All very atmospheric and enough to warm the hearts of any photographers still grumbling about the action-free morning!

TCDD 56 548 in the Taurus mountains near Çiftehan

TCDD 56 548 in the Taurus mountains near Çiftehan

The weather was good in one sense, with plenty of sun and a temperature in the high thirties, but the sky was unclear (apparently the result of a distant sand storm in the middle east). Not the greatest conditions for photography, but most of us were just relieved to have something to photograph at all!

We spent the next few hours taking shots at a couple of locations – a traditional signal near Çiftehan and the gorge that we visited on our first day in the Taurus mountains. Confusion reigned over the number of runpasts (perhaps as many as eight) which resulted in the bus filling and emptying at dizzying speed (photographers clambering out in a hurry as they realised another runpast was in progress). It was finally all over just after 5pm.

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The busiest blocked line

Posted in Çiftehan, Turkey by folkestonejack on September 9, 2015

It looked like our meagre supply of luck had run out today with the news that electrification works will close the line in the morning. In the circumstances the only option open to us was steaming the loco and taking it the short distance to the old shed at Pozanti for some static shots. However, once we reached the station we were surprised to see a freight coming through. So much for the line being closed…

A freight train on the supposedly blocked line...

A freight train on the supposedly blocked line…

After seeing two more freight trains pass through before 8am we wondered if something had gotten lost in the translation, thinking that perhaps the line would close after the morning passenger service. But no, there were still more freight trains after this. It is probably the busiest we have seen it!

No doubt some electrification work was taking place, particularly as we had seen workers with machinery on the track between Çiftehan and Pozanti, but this line was clearly far from closed. The side effect of this was that we could not even contemplate shunting our loco for some posed shots. In the end we gave up and drove back to the hotel by bus (with the minor excitement of a stop at a temporary army checkpoint) and headed to the pool.

The upside of the interruption to proceedings was that it gave the crew a break from their heroic efforts on the footplate in incredible heat (it’s bad enough under normal circumstances so I have no idea how anyone copes in temperatures in the low 40s!). However, it was very strange to be in the pool and hear the roar of a diesel locomotive reverberating loudly throughout the valley.

Poolside in Çiftehan

Poolside in Çiftehan

Meanwhile, the situation on the tracks was anything but clear. We were told that the regional control office had indicated that the line would now be closed in the afternoon. Just when it began to look as though the arrangements for our tour to run were falling apart an agreement was reached. We would spend the afternoon on the stretch of line north of Pozanti, whilst work continued on the southern stretch (deepening the ground level in the tunnels to create the necessary headroom for electrification).

Steam in the Taurus mountains

Posted in Çiftehan, Turkey, Ulukişla by folkestonejack on September 7, 2015

Our arrival in Ulukişla put us firmly onto the footprint of the old Berlin-Baghdad Railway and there were plenty of remnants still in situ to remind of this.

TCDD 56 548 on the line between Ulukişla and Çiftehan

TCDD 56 548 on the line between Ulukişla and Çiftehan

The section of the line between Ulukişla and our base at Çiftehan this afternoon opened on 21st December 1912 and brought the Baghdad railway tantalisingly close to completion. However, at the outbreak of war in 1914 the significant challenges of the Taurus and Amanus mountains remained.

We travelled on the line as far as Gümüş then transferred to our coach for the final section as it is far easier to get to photospots from the road. One spot was quite literally on the roadside whilst another involved a tricky climb up a steep slope with a steady flow of moving rocks to contend with. However difficult the climb it was so worthwhile as the view from up top was terrific – it’s one of the classic shots of the line.

A classic shot in the Taurus mountains

A classic shot in the Taurus mountains

Up to now we have seen blue skies everywhere so we were all slightly surprised to see mist hanging over Çiftehan when we finally arrived. I hope this doesn’t spell bad news for the days ahead!

Our base for the remainder of our time in the mountains is the Çiftehan Termal Otel, specialising in thermal and spa treatments. I suspect we make rather odd guests wandering in with our clothes coated in the dust of the lineside whilst the other guests wander around in flip-flops and towels!

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