FolkestoneJack's Tracks

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!

Gallery

Advertisements

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…

Gallery