FolkestoneJack's Tracks

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.

Advertisements

Autumn steam in West Turkey

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

Our tour through the autumnal landscapes of Western Turkey is due to begin in earnest today with a relatively short run from Uşak to Banaz. The tour will eventually take us on to Afyon, Dinar, Burdur and Isparta.

The motive power for the steam hauled elements of the trip will come from one of the thousands of class 52 kriegsloks, or war locomotives, that ended up across Europe during the second world war. Survivors can be found in many countries today, particularly in the East. I have already encountered members of the class in Bosnia, Serbia, Poland and Russia.

TCDD 56548 at Uşak

TCDD 56548 at Uşak

Our kriegslok, TCDD 56 548, was manufactured at Wiener Lokomotivfabrik Floridsdorf, near Vienna, in 1943. It was one of 43 classmates built for the Deutsche Reichsbahn which were initially loaned to Turkish Railways but later purchased outright.

During the tour 56 548 will haul an authentic passenger train formed of four refurbished green coaches (from the Usak Museum Depot) and a series of freight cars/wagons – it is a combination that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the 1970s or 80s. Indeed, TCDD 56 548 was active on the branch lines we will visit until 1989.

TCDD 56548 turned and ready to shunt back onto the carriages for our tour

TCDD 56548 turned and ready to shunt back onto the carriages for our tour

At the rear of the consist we will have a diesel locomotive which will be used to haul us through the longer distance stretches that we will need to cover during the tour. It is a sensible precaution, sparing us from the need to re-coal the steam locomotive en route. The diesel tasked with this job is DE 24 295, one of the 418 strong class that effectively replaced steam.

Uşak Depot Gallery

A Sunday stroll in Uşak

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

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep I headed out for a stroll, having seen almost nothing of Uşak on our arrival. The city is some way off the normal tourist path with a largely agricultural/industrial base, but my short walk soon revealed a couple of sights worthy of attention – a monument to Atatürk and a sixteenth century mosque, whilst also noting other historic buildings undergoing renovation nearby.

Monument to Atatürk

Monument to Atatürk

It sometimes feels as though every village, town or city has a monument to Atatürk, so it was not altogether surprising to find one here. An article in Hürriyet Daily News in 2011 revealed that there are over a thousand such monuments in the country and that their construction has become an industry in itself. However, the monumental sculpture to Atatürk in Uşak is a truly impressive sight and is clearly of quite a different order to most. The work, by Tankut Öktem, features a horseback charge and oxen pulling a wagon full of shells. One of the most significant battles in the Turkish War of Independence (1919-22) took place not so very far from here at Dumlupınar, giving this additional resonance (the city itself was occupied by Greek forces between 1920 and 1922).

The Burmali Camii (mosque) dates to 1570, although its impressive spiralling minaret looks like a much later addition. It appears to have undergone quite a bit of restoration over the years, with substantial repairs following a fire in 1922.

57009 at the head of the line of abandoned locomotives

57009 at the head of the line of abandoned locomotives

After noting these sights I headed up the road to a spot beyond the railway depot where a sadder sight awaited – a line of abandoned locomotives that seem to be destined for the scrapyard. As things stand today, the steam locomotive for our tour is the last operative steam loco in the country.

As there didn’t seem much else to do nearby, I found a spot on the wall overlooking the railway and ate my lunch in the company of the rather talkative depot watch-cat!

A stormy night in Uşak

Posted in Turkey, Uşak by folkestonejack on October 11, 2014

The end to my cultural visit to Istanbul heralded the beginning of the week long photo charter, but first I had to get to Uşak in the Aegean. I met up with a few of the participants outside Sirkeci station, from where we took a couple of taksi to the airport for a flight to Izmir. The frequency of flights between the two cities is rather impressive, demonstrating that air not rail holds the upper hand here. I was a little surprised at the ease with which I could purchase a walk-on ticket and equally impressed by the short flight that followed.

On landing our small party took a taxi to the Otogar (coach station) which was located on the outskirts of town, arriving just before 4pm. Most coaches here run on the hour, or sometimes half hour, so this was good timing. We wandered down the line of departing buses, hoping that we could grab some last minute tickets for our destination. As luck would have it, one of the buses for Ankara was willing to stop at Uşak and had four seats remaining – the exact number that we needed!

Thirty seconds after we boarded, the coach joined the queue of departing services and we headed out into the impressive hilly landscapes of the Aegean. The journey took around 3 hours, including a twenty minute stop at a service station and cafe. A beautiful sunset was followed by a terrific storm as night fell – fork lightning illuminating the rich landscape every now and again. And then came the rain, utterly torrential and hammering down wildly. Naturally, this was the moment we arrived in Uşak!

The coach set us down on the street in Uşak, but we had no idea where we were and even less idea of where our hotel was located. A quick dash to a bus shelter gave us a moment to get ourselves sorted, followed by the miracle of a taxi from out of nowhere! The four of us crammed in, whilst our luggage was precariously tied up in the open boot. Meanwhile, the rain began to fall even harder. Somehow we made it across town intact and a final mad dash from the street got us safely into the hotel. It was a relief to check in and collapse in my room. Not that sleep was an option with the live Turkish rock gig taking place on the floor above me…