FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Pole to pole

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

The electrification programme on the Turkish rail networks has been making rapid progress. Too rapid in fact, with pylons already erected on many stretches of the line from Kayseri to Ulukişla making the line more or less impossible to photograph for a steam tour.

None of us were under any illusions when we booked – we knew this would be a last chance to photograph the line before modernisation disfigured it, but we had our hopes that we would get to the scenic stretches in time. We were lucky yesterday, but not so lucky today.

The section between Niğde and Ulukişla has already been smothered in poles so the opportunity to take shots on the scenic curves on this stretch has been lost. Instead, we will run non-stop to Ulukişla.

A seemingly endless sequence of poles

A seemingly endless sequence of poles on the line ahead of us

Nevertheless, I count myself very lucky to have been able to photograph steam in the canyon yesterday. Dietmar told us that in this section progress has been slowed by the extreme August heat. The workers are carrying the poles by truck and the only way for them to reach the lineside in the difficult terrain we saw yesterday is by making simple dirt roads first. Slow work indeed.

Anyway, enough of that and back to the action. Our loco was awaiting us on our arrival at Niğde’s station, but with the rods off we clearly wouldn’t be setting off too quickly! In any case, we had a slot on the track – two freights had to pass first and then a third would wait for us.

Today’s steam express from Niğde to Ulukışla finally got underway at 10.30am and soon attracted plenty of attention from the track workers, builders on construction sites and mechanics at lineside garages who soon had their mobiles out to take photographs. Infectious smiles and waves all round.

An unplanned stop at Bor

An unplanned stop at Bor

Half an hour later we reached Bor and the rods came off again. It turned out to be a problem with the bearings which had gotten too hot. Fixing this took twenty fix minutes and we couldn’t help but noticed the freight train we were holding up sitting a few hundred metres behind our train. Ho hum!

Our next, brief, stop came at Bereket around midday. Beyond this point the concrete poles really stand out in the flat landscape and it’s not hard to see why photography is an impossibility. Occasionally, in the hiller stretches, you can see gaps – the concrete post holes are ready but no poles have been erected. However, it’s never too long before the poles re-appear.

At 12.35pm we reached the minimalist station at Altay – a small signpost and a small battered blue shelter that looked more like a pretty poor excuse for a bus stop, let alone a station! A brief pause and then on again.

The striking and colourful landscape on the way to Ulukışla

The striking and colourful landscape on the way to Ulukışla

We were soon into the curves on the approach to Ulukışla and it was hard not to feel a little sad that we had not reached here in time. The scenery here looked strikingly different to where we have been and where we are headed – wonderful patterns in the harvested fields and red coloured hills that looked like they belonged to a martian landscape.

We finally made it in to Ulukışla at 1.30pm, having passed workers erecting poles immediately outside the station. Our timing really is very close to the wire…