FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Never say never again

Posted in Hacikiri, Turkey by folkestonejack on September 10, 2015

Having said that we never wanted to see the Varda Viaduct again after our eight runpasts the other day, we discovered that was precisely where we were headed this morning. I must remember never to say never again (like carelessly remarking how quiet it is at work, which can be guaranteed to herald an avalanche of requests!).

TCDD 56 548 at Belemedik

TCDD 56 548 at Belemedik

Our train headed out of Pozanti at 7.34am and soon took us back into the sequence of impressive tunnels on the way to Hacikiri (tunnel numbers 16-19 lie between Pozanti and Belemedik, followed by numbers 20-31 from Belemedik to Hacikiri). Along the way we were able to squeeze in a couple of runpasts, one on the approach to tunnel 18 and another on a curve in the track not too far from Belemedik.

After arriving at Belemedik (8.37am) we had just over an hour to kill whilst we waited for a clear line to Hacikiri and spent the time photographing the passing freight and passenger services. Finally, we made it to the Varda Viaduct (10.37am) and enjoyed two runpasts from the opposite side (up to 11am). However, that would be it for the next five hours…

The view from the opposite side of the Varda Viaduct

The view from the opposite side of the Varda Viaduct

The skies have once again been very murky, presumably still a combination of heat haze and sand in the air. It was also ridiculously hot (in the 40s once again) so most of us took shelter where we could, drank litres of water and settled in for the wait. I was thankful to have a good novel with me and made myself comfortable in the quiet carriage, followed by lunch in a local restaurant and a long siesta!

A diesel hauled passenger train arrives at Hacikiri during our long pause

A diesel hauled passenger train arrives at Hacikiri during our long pause

At 4pm the action resumed with another eight runpasts at the viaduct (an absurd total of sixteen from this side over our two days at this spot, plus two from the other side in the morning). By the end I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as I saw the wagons rolling back for another attempt! To be fair, it was always an impressive sight and the extra attempts did at least mean that I was able to savour it without photographing it on one run.

You would have to think that is the last time that a steam hauled charter will cross the Varda Viaduct as the line will hold much less appeal once it is modernised. We certainly saw plenty of evident of the preparations for electrification (post holes in place, but no poles in sight yet). If it that really was the last such run, it was at least comprehensively captured by the army of photographers present!

TCDD 56 548 steams over the Varda Viaduct

TCDD 56 548 steams over the Varda Viaduct

Nevertheless, I think everyone was pretty happy to leave the viaduct behind on our departure from Hacikiri at 5.15pm. Thankfully, we had a good run through to Pozanti, arriving at 6.25pm, and were back in the hotel not too long afterwards.

You could say that 18 runpasts at Varda Viaduct was excessive, but at least no-one was left with any desire to go back. I think I will be dreaming of trains crossing the viaduct tonight instead of sheep jumping fences!

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The wedding photographer(s)

Posted in Hacikiri, Turkey by folkestonejack on September 8, 2015

One of the strangest aspects of the day was the unexpected sight of bridal parties arriving to have their pictures taken at Hacikiri and the Varda Viaduct. I am aware that it is customary for couples to have their wedding photos taken before they are married in China, but had not encountered this anywhere else until now.

On our arrival at Hacikiri station we came across a bridal party having their pictures taken in the dirt track beside the railway, climbing onto a dusty diesel for some carefully posed shots. Before you get the wrong impression, this was no amateurish affair – the shoot was organised by a professional photographer with make up assistants and guys on hand to hold the umbrellas to help shape the light from the flash.

A surprising sight - a bridal party at Hacikiri

A surprising sight – a bridal party at Hacikiri

Needless to say, the steam locomotive was a much more promising backdrop and the action soon moved towards us. The photographer got the bride to lift up her bridal train (now fringed with dirty edges) and drop it as if to give the impression that it was floating in the air.

After taking a few shots like this against the locomotive the professional photographer had the rather surreal idea of taking a picture of the couple against a backdrop of forty paparazzi (i.e. us) pointing their cameras at the couple. So, that is how we ended up in a couple’s wedding photographs. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Astonishing as it is to say, they weren’t the only couple around either. At the viaduct we came across another bridal party having their photos taken with the viaduct as a backdrop. This involved the bride climbing the rocks in her bridal gown for one shot and then bravely posing on a ledge with a sheer drop for another (Fabrice got a shot of one of these bridal parties and his shot can be seen on RailPictures.Net). Utter madness…

Varda Viaduct

Posted in Hacikiri, Turkey by folkestonejack on September 8, 2015

After a spot of lunch at Pozanti we had expected to head north to photograph the remaning spots on the line towards Gümüş, but a change of plans saw us head back towards Belemedik. After the less successful trip there in the morning this filled me with some trepidation, but we had a fairly smooth run through here (passing through at 2.33pm) and then on to Hacıkırı (arriving at 3.08pm).

TCDD 56 548 at Belemedik

TCDD 56 548 at Belemedik

In that half hour we seemed to pass through an incredible number of tunnels, including some of considerable length, which struck me as quite a feat of engineering. Indeed, over the full extent of the line from Yenice to Ulukişla there are a total of 37 tunnels which have a cumulative length of 14,4km. I am full of admiration for the enginners and construction workers who delivered this remarkable stretch of line. I should think the engineers of today will have quite a headache trying to electrify this section of the line and the cost of this enterprise cannot be cheap!

The route had taken us into the heart of the Taurus mountains and through the Cilician Gates, the famous pass used by many a soldier and traveller since antiquity. However, an even more impressive sight awaited us at the canyon of Çakıt Deresi – the Varda Viaduct.

The arched masonry viaduct here was constructed between 1907 and 1912 to bridge the deep canyon of Çakıt Deresi, with a height of 99 metres at its centremost point and a length of 172 metres. The line opened in October 1918 and has remained in use to the present day. Today, it is quite a popular tourist attraction its own right after its appearance in the opening sequence of the James Bond film ‘Skyfall’ and a small encampment of charmingly ramshackle tourist shacks lines the approach.

A short walk beyond today’s viaduct takes you to the surviving bridge piers from an earlier viaduct which was built for the 600mm narrow gauge line used to bring construction materials to the either side of the canyon. The narrow gauge line was also used to supply the Mesopotamian front during the latter years of the First World War. It’s a great spot to view passing trains.

The Varda Viaduct with the piers of the narrow gauge line in the foreground

The Varda Viaduct with the piers of the narrow gauge line in the foreground

We must have spent an hour at the viaduct photographing our train with around eight runpasts (I lost count/the plot) before we had to clear the line to allow other freight/passenger trains through. By that point we were all saying, please no more viaduct! It’s a shame that we didn’t have blue skies – instead, we had a somewhat frustrating dusty heat haze. Nevertheless, it was great to be here and to have the opportunity to photograph a steam loco running over such an iconic structure.

Back at Hacıkırı we waited out the passing traffic before we could head home. In the meantime an enterprising fellow had turned up at the station and was selling cold beer out of the back of his car for 8TL a can, quite an impressive mark up. When one chap grumbled about the cost it was pointed out that this could hardly be unexpected as this wasm after all, a beer shop in the desert!

Our two hour long wait for service trains to clear the line ended just before 7pm when the southbound passenger express emerged from the tunnel into the yard at Hacıkırı. We set off soon after and made it back to Pozanti at 8pm and transferred to our bus here for the short journey back to our hotel. It had been a very mixed day, but I think we got lucky in the end. I don’t think the shots are anywhere near my best, but I hope they do the location some justice.

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