INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1307 7 JULY 2018
BRANCH LINE NEWS
This newsletter covers the World outside the British Isles from information
supplied by members.
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Compilers or of the Society.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS TEAM:-
International Editor (to whom all email and postal contributions should be sent):
Paul Griffin, 7 School Bell Mews, Church Lane, Stoneleigh, COVENTRY, CV8 3ZZ
Email: [email protected]
Deputy International Editor: Derek Woodward, 68 Church Street, Matlock, DERBY, DE4 3BY
How many of the crowds wandering down the San Francisco waterfront pause to look at the impressive Beaux Arts
arch near pier 43? There are no information signs, but the presence of old railway tracks and a ramp obviously
meant for loading and unloading ships gives clues as to its function. This is the Ferry Arch where lumber from giant
redwoods, livestock, grain, wine and dairy products would be off-loaded from coastal schooners onto boxcars for
distribution by rail around the Bay Area. The Arch building housed weights and pulleys that could raise and lower the
100-foot hinged ramp by as much as eight feet, depending on the tides. It was part of the The State Belt Railroad
which saw traffic from both the North Pacific Coast Railroad and the South Pacific Coast Railroad; as both railroads
had different gauges, a majority of the State Belt Railroad's tracks were dual-gauged. At the height of the State Belt
Railroad, 67 miles of track were in its service. Freight services began to dwindle as shipping routes started
terminating in Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay. In 1969, the State sold the waterfront property to San
Francisco, and the State Belt Railroad was promptly renamed the San Francisco Belt Railroad. 1993 saw the railroad
company come to an end, with a majority of tracks already abandoned by this time.
 Austria – Innsbruck avoiding line in use
Owing to a complete blockade of the southern exit from Innsbruck Hbf from 22:00 on 14 July until
05:00 on 3 September 2018, EC services over the Brenner line are being diverted via the avoiding line
and not calling at Innsbruck. This involves use of the 12.756km Inntunnel, which is normally banned to
 Czech Republic – Summer trains on Velké Popovice branch
9 June saw the first public trains for many years from Strančice (south of Praha) to Velké Popovice, in
connection with the annual beer festival at the Kozel brewery. There will also be a regular train on
summer Sundays (from 1 July, end date not quoted) from Praha hlavni to Velké Popovice using a class
810 DMU. Tickets for the regular Sunday trains are expensive though (390 crowns) as they include a
brewery tour ticket. Apparently tickets can be booked in advance off the brewery website
www.kozel.cz/ or at CD ticket offices.
 Germany/Netherlands – Wunderline project awaits new bridge
The EU-backed Wunderline project planned to boost traffic on the regional railway corridor running
east from Groningen in the northern Netherlands to Leer, Oldenburg and Bremen in northwest
Germany. Only passenger services were included as studies revealed little demand for freight.
Unfortunately in December 2015 a freight vessel caused irreparable damage to the Friesen Bridge over
the River Ems, so bus substitution has been in force since.
The bridge is to be replaced and funding of a like for like replacement is straightforward. However a
shipbuilding company upstream is keen for the replacement bridge to have a wider span, enabling it to
build larger cruise ships. The additional cost of this could be considered state aid, raising problems
with European law. Wunderline now hopes that the bridge could be replaced by 2024 and long-term
plans include double-tracking, easing curves and signalling and platform modifications which would
provide a journey time of just over 2 hours between Groningen and Bremen from 2030, including a
change of trains in Leer.
 Germany/France – Cross-border reopening studies
Studies are to commence soon on reopening two cross-border lines between southwestern Germany
and eastern France. The lines would support new services as well as increase operating flexibility in the
event of disruption on the one side of the border, as happened at Rastatt, Germany, last year.
The Pamina Euro-district, which brings together several German local authorities in both Rheinland
Pfalz and Baden Württemberg plus the Grand Est Region, Département Bas-Rhin and town of
Haguenau in France, has agreed to undertake a feasibility study into the re-opening of the railway
between Rastatt, Germany, and Haguenau, France. The line could be used by a new Saarbrücken -
Hagenau - Rastatt - Karlsruhe passenger service as well as a diversionary route for freight traffic.
The 7km section from Rastatt to Wintersdorf, beside the Rhine, still exists and is owned by Karlsruhe
area tram-train operator AVG. In France a short section remains in use to serve industrial sidings near
the Rhine at Beinheim, but the 21.8km Rœschwoog - Haguenau section is disused and would need to
be completely rebuilt. The old railway bridge across the Rhine is still in use as a road bridge, for cars
and light vans. Two options are possible: reconstruction for rail use or construction of a new bridge.
Pamina also wants to reopen the Freiburg - Breisach - Colmar line around 100km to the south. While
there are lines on both side of the Rhine, the cross-border section no longer exists so a new river
crossing would be required. Pamina plans to seek funding for the studies from the European Union’s
Interreg programme which exists to stimulate cross-border cooperation and is funded by the European
Regional Development Fund.
 Italy - Two new cut-offs to be constructed on Roma to Viterbo line
The Riano to Morlupo section of the Roma – Viterbo railway, owned by Lazio region and operated by
ATAC is to be doubled. Castelnuova station will be rebuilt underground, two major cut-offs
constructed and 11 level crossings closed. The map (e-BLNI only) shows the planned route in blue and
the two cut-offs as a thin black line. The larger of the two includes Morlupo station, which will close.
The 6 km of line will be reduced by 1.3km when the project is complete, 18 months after the contract
is awarded. ATAC has had major issues after safety problems, delays and cancellations which have led
to a large fine.
 Italy - Italy: Heritage operations
There are no heritage railways as such in Italy, but an increasing number of non-passenger lines over
which there are semi-regular tourist operations using historic rolling stock. These usually take the form
of an out and back excursion to a place of cultural interest. In some cases advance reservation is
essential. Even if this is not necessary, it is advisable, because trains can get fully booked. There are
other excursions with heritage rolling stock, but over lines with regular passenger services.
Palazzolo sull'Oglio - Paratico Sarnico: There are excursions over this branch line, mostly from Milano
Centrale, throughout the year, but mostly in spring and autumn. The regular summer weekend service
no longer operates. Paratico Sarnico is located on Lake Iseo and features of interest include the former
train ferry ramp. Website: http://www.ferrovieturistiche.it/en/trenoblu/. A few of the excursions
advertised on this webpage are to Arona or Iseo, not Paratico Sarnico
Ceva – Ormea: The regular passenger service over this branch line ceased in 2012, but tourist trains
have operated since 2016. These are infrequent and most appear not to run the full length of the
branch. Website: http://www.piemontevic.com/viaggi-treno-storico-valle-tanaro.html
Asciano - Monte Antico: There are excursions over this line, mainly during the spring and autumn. A
regular format is for trains to run through from Siena to Monte Antico via Asciano, and then to return
to a station on the line for a cultural activity or festival. Website:
http://www.ferrovieturistiche.it/en/fvo/. Only some of the excursions listed include this line.
Sulmona - Roccaraso - Carpinone – Isernia: Passenger trains are operated over this exceptionally
scenic line by Associazione Culturale Amici Della Ferrovia, generally every 2 - 3 weeks, throughout the
year. Most start from Sulmona and cover only part of the route, typically as far as Roccaraso. The only
dates in 2018 when there are trains over the full length of the line are 25 March and 16 September.
Benevento – Morcone: This is part of the line from Benevento to Bosco Redole, which lost its
passenger service in 2013 because of a landslide. A series of excursions are operated to Morcone, from
Napoli Centrale and from Salerno between July and November. Website:
Moccone – S Nicola-Silvana Mansio: Ferrovie della Calabria does not operate any passenger trains
from Cosenza, but there is a steam service on part of the line to S Giovanni in Fiore. Trains operate
during the winter as well as the summer. Website: http://www.trenodellasila.it/
Agrigento Bassa – Porto Empedocle Succursale: Trains usually run between Porto Empedocle and
Agrigento Centrale in connection with the Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore (almond blossom festival),
which takes place late winter or early spring. From 2016 trains ran 0.7 km further than previously at
Porto Empedocle, to Porto Empedocle Succursale. There were three round trips on 11 March 2018. A
number of trains ran to Porto Empedocle in July and August 2016, but these appear not to have been
Il Trenino Verde della Sardegna services in 2018 have been cut back somewhat and comprise the
following, running from June until early September.
Palau – Tempio: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Palau and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays
and Sundays from Tempio.
Bosa Marina – Sindia: There are no trains from Macomer and most services are short workings from
Bosa Marina on Saturdays. The last train of the day runs as far as Sindia and is the only one to do so.
Mandas – Laconi: There are no trains to Sorgono this year, but there is a return trip to Laconi on
There continue to be no through trains to Arbatax, and the service from Mandas is cut back from Seui
to Sadali. There is a return trip Arbatax – Gairo Thursdays to Sundays, and a return trip Mandas –
Sadali on Mondays and Tuesdays. There are currently no passenger trains on the following Ferrovie
della Sardegna lines: Sassari – Tempio, Macomer – Sindia, Laconi - Sorgono and Sadali – Gairo.
 Italy – Cosenza to Paola reopens
According to this report the railway between Cosenza and Paola re-opened on 6 May.
 Italy - Maddaloni-Marcianise Smistamento opportunity
There is an opportunity to travel the freight line via Maddaloni-Marcianise Smistamento in daylight
and via the curve from Bivio Maddaloni (which is not used by the overnight trains) on 31 August to 2
September and 1 to 4 November. Various IC trains, listed on the EGTRE site (IT18/139), between Roma
and Napoli are diverted via Cassino, Caserta, Maddaloni-Marcianise and Aversa.
 Latvia - A journey from Riga to Sigulda
Sigulda is an attractive town in Latvia on the Gauja River. Whereas most of the country is very flat,
Sigulda overlooks a deep river valley and there is actually a cable car service across the river. The town
enjoys a regular (but not fixed-interval) rail service from Riga which a member used on 29 May, on a
baking hot day. The train passes through flat, often forested countryside with several stops before
arriving in just over an hour at the impressive and well-maintained station, which houses the town's
excellent tourist office.
Sigulda railway station
Train at Sigulda
 Latvia - A steep descent by a single rail at Tarzans Adventure Park
Sigulda is known as the adventure sports centre of Latvia and, close to the town centre, the "Tarzans
Adventure Park" provides a range of adventure-based rides and features for young people, including
zipwires and a giant catapult. Of possible interest to BLS members who wander off the mainstream is
the toboggan track, which involves climbing gingerly into a small torpedo shaped toboggan running on
a single rail down a steep hill. There is a brake enabling you to control the speed of your descent. From
observation, children seem to enjoy zipping down as fast as they dare, adults are more cautious
especially where a steep section is combined with a tight camber! You can ride back up more sedately
in a chairlift at a round-trip price of 3 Euros.
 Serbia – Beograd Terminus closes
Beograd Terminus closed permanently from 30 June 2018, with the last scheduled departure being
train B340 at 21:40 that evening. Traffic is diverted to Beograd Centar, which finally appears to have
been finished, and apparently a few weeks previously trains on the Bar line were running to and from
Topcider. So it’s farewell to the fine old open air station conveniently placed for the city centre, and
hello to a modern concrete box away from the centre with no facilities nearby.
One consequence of the change is that car-carrying trains (which need a ramp) will not be able to load
at Terminus, and there is no facility at Centar. There is a suitable ramp at Topcider and this has been
repaired to take on the duty.
 Poland – No trains to Wegorzewo this year
For the last few years SKPL have been contracted to run tourist trains between Kętrzyn and
Wegorzewo in north-east Poland, but this year SKPL advise there will not be a service.
 Poland - Closure of Gdynia to Koscierzyna line raises interesting alternatives
With Gdynia – Koscierzyna closing in the spring of 2020 for doubling and electrification works at least
until the end of 2022 (although it is said that they may drag on to 2023), an article suggests there are
serious proposals to reopen to passengers the almost 20km freight only line from podg Glincz south of
Borkowo to Gdansk Kokoszki. There is also talk of reopening a further 1.7 km beyond Gdansk Kokoszki
to Gdańsk Kiełpinkiem, with an aspiration to extend/reopen further to Gdansk Wrzeszcz. The through
route created would be used by a service from Gdansk to/from Kartuzy, with buses to/from
Koscierzyna. The Pomorskie Voivodeship have offered to finance the reconstruction of just Gdansk
Kokoszki to Gdańsk Kiełpinkiem. The remainder would have to be carried out by PKP PLK.
 Slovenia – Divača to Koper to be doubled
Access to the port of Koper is limited by capacity of the single line from Divača. Now funding has been
secured to resolve the problem by provision of a second track. This will involve the construction of
seven tunnels. After completion, capacity on the line will be increased from 90 to 220 trains per day.
 Turkey (European) – Istanbul tram line to be catenary free
Alstom is to supply a full APS ground-level power supply for the Eminönü-Alibeyköy tram line in
Istanbul, which means that the 10km-long line will be entirely catenary-free. Power will be picked up
by contact shoes located under the vehicle on the tram’s central bogie. Conductive segments are
activated when fully covered by the tram, ensuring safety for pedestrians and other road users.
 Turkey (mostly European) – Trains restarting on some routes
The overnight train between Istanbul and Bucharest restarted on 1 June, with the first departure from
Halkali (28 km west of Istanbul Sirkeci). As last year, it will run from June to September. It will allegedly
start from Sirkeci next year, as will trains to to Kapikule and Uzunköprü (the Bulgarian and Greek
borders). However, there seem to be no plans to run classic main line trains between Istanbul and
other cities in Asiatic Turkey, even Ankara. Following completion of the Baskentray (Ankara suburban)
project, some classic long distance trains have resumed from Ankara after a 2 year gap since July 2016,
when they started from Irmak: the Dogu Express (Ankara - Kars) and Güney Kurtalan Express (Ankara -
Kurtalan) from 4 June and the Vangolu Express (Ankara - Tatvan) from 5 June. The Izmir Mavi (Ankara -
Izmir) will resume running from Ankara in lieu of Eskisehir. The suspended 4 Eylul Mavi (Ankara -
Malatya) and Cukurova Express (Ankara - Adana) are expected to restart soon.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Canada – News from British Columbia
Skytrain: Payment of fares by contactless credit card or mobile phone was introduced on trains and
buses from 22 May, but only for adult fares. The unusual left-hand Skytrain running between
Loughheed Town Centre and Burquitlam, intended to facilitate interchange at Lougheed Town Centre
station, has proved vulnerable to points failures, and from 25 June the arrangement will change to
conventional right-hand running. Additional Mark III Skytain car orders have been extended to
fourteen 4-car units, to be delivered by the end of 2019, whilst Canada Line funding has been found
for an additional 24 cars. Looking ahead, a funding package has now been assembled to cover
extension of the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark to Arbutus, largely in subway beneath Broadway,
with a target completion of 2025. Also covered is funding for the Guildford – King George – Newton
light rail project, for 2024 opening, and with cash also available for design work on extension to
Fraser Valley Heritage Railway: Trains operate this season on Saturdays and Sundays 5 May to 30
September, with departures from Cloverdale at 10:15, 11:15, 12:30, 13:45 and 15:00 for a 55-minute
Toronto Transit Corporation: Late delivery of the new Bombardier cars means the bulk of services are
still in the hands of the diminishing fleet of serviceable Hawker-Siddeley LRV cars. The articulated
version has largely disappeared, and large numbers of single cars appear to be dumped in the open at
Russell Carhouse. In consequence, two of the four principal cross-city routes are out of action: the 505
Broadview / Dundas West via Dundas St and the 506 Main / High Park via College St. Also out of use is
the 501 Long Branch west of Humber Loop, which is undergoing a major rebuild (with Roncesvalles
Carhouse serving as a contractors’ base), and the 502 serving McCaul Loop. All track and overhead is
however being maintained, including the many magnificent “grand union” crossings. Kingston Road to
Victoria Park is oddly served by outbound cars showing 503 which return inbound as 504 to Spadina
Loop, partly duplicating the usual 504 Broadview/ Dundas West service. The only derelict trackage in
evidence is in the long-disused downtown Adelaide St, between Victoria and Spadina Avenue, which is
partly lifted and with the overhead removed. TTC is experiencing revenue protection problems; barrier
gates to subway platforms have proved unreliable and are currently out of use pending design of new
motors, whilst the Bombardier trams feature a driver’s cab which means that, unlike on the LRVs, s/he
is unable to check tickets of those boarding.
 Canada – A recent journey on “the Canadian”
Performance of VIA Rail’s prestige “Canadian” Toronto/Vancouver services had been worsening
through the Winter, but from the start of the thrice-weekly Summer service on 29 April things quickly
descended into farce. Of the ten eastbound services in May, lateness on arrival in Toronto varied
between 13 and 27 hours; with a scheduled turnround time of 12½ hours, this inevitably delays the
scheduled 22:00 departure of the westbound train, which in each case was put back to the following
day, VIA incurring the cost of overnight hotel accommodation for waiting passengers.
Personal experience of the departure booked on 15 May was that the train actually left at 14:30 the
next day, already 16½ hours late. Further delays began when needing to cross eastbound freights near
the Ontario/Manitoba border, and were compounded by a points failure outside Winnipeg; after a
lengthy wait, the train reversed and crossed onto a parallel track. The scheduled 3¼-hour station stop,
where the onboard crew changes over, was however much curtailed, enabling our member to resume
his journey “only” 18 hours late, but from here on endless interminable waits in passing loops across
the prairies of Saskatchewan rapidly extended the deficit to 31 hours by Jasper, necessitating an extra,
fifth, night on board. An unusually clear Sunday morning run through the Rockies did at least recover
an hour by Vancouver. The scheduled 19 May Toronto departure, incidentally, had a much worse time
of it, arriving in Vancouver 45 hours late, prompting VIA then to cancel one service in each direction in
an attempt to restore some sanity to the service. Serving no fewer than 67 stations, most of them
“flag” (request) stops, the train does provide a vital lifeline for remote communities, for whom the
chronic unpunctuality must be a real problem. Basically, anyone planning to use “The Canadian”
should allow at least a day or two’s slack in planning for any onward connections or flights!
The trains themselves are of course part of the attraction of the service, being the very last of the
classic North American silver streamliners. Double-headed by a pair of 3000hp F40PH-3 diesels, the 15
May train was formed of 20 coaches, all built by Budd in 1954-55 for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and
including two magnificent dining cars, two Skyline dome cars and the signature rear-end observation
bar-lounge. The train picked up three more coaches at Edmonton, where the train reverses into the
modern terminal station, taking the load to 23 through the mountains.
The service nowadays runs over solely Canadian National tracks, save for the two sections where
parallel unidirectional running applies: Boyne to Parry Sound, ON (where the westbound train uses CP)
and Basque to Mission, BC (where the eastbound uses CP). The basic problem is of course that CN
always gives priority at passing loops to its own freight trains, and with these nowadays being anything
up to two miles long, they take an awfully long time to clear! All the passenger can do is to sit back,
relax and enjoy the hospitality of the onboard staff, the excellent menus, and of course the
magnificent scenery. Even better, for most of the journey there is no mobile phone signal to distract
one. It is, indeed, “the journey of a lifetime”.
 India – No-objection certificate issued for Sikkim’s first railway
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has finally issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) to
Sikkim’s first railway line, the Sevoke- Rangpo railway project. Railway lines are scheduled to reach
Rangpo in Sikkim by 2022. The Railways have agreed to demands for four railway stations in the GTA
area and for no explosives to be used for construction of the 14 tunnels in the project, 80 percent of
which will be underground, including Teesta station. Sevoke to Rangpo will be 44.98 km, of which 90
percent will be in the GTA area, so Sikkim will have a mere 3.44 km of the tracks. Work on the project
is likely to start within six months and is scheduled to be completed within a period of four years. A
survey to extend the rail link between Rangpo and Gangtok has been completed.
 Iran – Electrification project starts in July
The electrification of the 495km Garmsar to Ince Burun railway line will commence in July. This railway
line connects Iran to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and also provides a link to the New Silk Road, on
which Kazakhstan is an important transit country. The four-year project includes the construction of 32
new stations and the widening of 95 tunnels to accommodate the wider rolling stock used on the
former Soviet system.
 Myanmar – Busy times at Yangon
The state-run Myanmar Railways has begun a project of upgrading the Yangon circular railway with the
first section in the 6km western Yangon commuter rail network between Insein and Tanyingone. The
project is expected to be complete by the end of May. The second part of the project, which will
renovate the 8.8 km railway between Insein and Kyeemyindaing stations, will start on 1 October 2018
and should be finished by the end of January 2019. The third part of the project, which renovates the
4.4 km railway between Kyeemyindaing and Yangon stations, will commence on 1 February 2019 and
be completed in March of that year. The entire circular railway should be upgraded by 2020. The time
to complete the full circuit will be reduced by an hour after the upgrading. It currently takes about
Myanmar Railways has just announced that it has chosen a consortium of Myanmar, Chinese and
Singaporean firms to undertake the massive Yangon Central Railway Station redevelopment – one of
the country’s largest property projects to date. The project will be “a mixed development project
comprising a new central transportation hub that integrates rail and mass transit, surrounded by
amenities of housing and commerce” and will cover approximately 25.7 hectares, of which 1.09 million
square metres of floor space will be developed. Occupying one of the largest undeveloped sites in
central Yangon, the project will reshape the northern fringe of the downtown area, bringing high-rise
towers to an area that is presently railway lines and single-storey homes. In the middle of the project is
a futuristic new railway station, which will be built beside the existing, heritage-listed terminal on what
are presently railway lines. An estimated 10,000 people, mostly railways workers and their relatives,
will be resettled with administrative staff moving to Tarmwe Township, and maintenance and other
workers to be relocated to Ywartharygi in East Dagon Township. The transport hub will blend the
heritage and modern development by preserving the historic old railway station main building, dating
back to 1954, and linking it to a new and futuristic station constructed above the rail tracks. The
development will consist of six different zones to include a high-end commercial district, office towers,
condominiums, business hotels and serviced apartments, as well as a green park and a railway
museum. The estimated total construction period is eight years.
And looking further into the future, a local newspaper has reported that Myanmar Railways will start
implementation of an electric train project in the Yangon region in 2020. The plan is for the electric
trains to run from South-North and East-West, connecting with the Yangon circular railway.
 New Zealand – Part of Napier to Gisborne line to reopen for freight
Rehabilitation of the Napier - Wairoa section of the mothballed Napier - Gisborne line started on 1
June funded by a grant from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Once fully operational by the
end of the year the line will be used to transport logs to the port of Napier for export.
 Philippines – A railway revival?
The Department of Transportation has started the first phase of the 106km Manila Tutuban to New
Clark City railway project. The first phase of the project is the 38 km line from Tutuban in Manila to
Malolos in Bulacan. The Tutuban to Malolos section will be completed by 2021 and the Malolos to
Clark section by 2022. Other projects to be completed in the term of the present Government are
Manila to Los Baños, Laguna (72 km), the Mindanao railway project’s Tagum-Davao-Digos phase 1 (102
km) and the Light Rail Transit Line 2 extension in Manila. Private railway projects currently underway
are the LRT-1 extension to Cavite (11.7 km), being built by private concessionaire Light Rail Manila
Corp. and the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 to Bulacan that is being built by San Miguel Corp. The
Philippines once had a network that spanned 900 km in the 1970s, with lines running all the way to La
Union province in the north and to Legazpi City in the Bicol region in the south. Today it is just 77km,
all in Manila.
 USA - Frontrunner closure confirmed
As previously reported, the section of line from Ogden to Pleasant View is now confirmed as closing on
12 August. This is the northernmost extremity of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) route from Provo
through Salt Lake City to Ogden and Pleasant View in the north. Two members visited the line in June
and were two of only four people to get off the train at Pleasant View, which has a very limited rush
hour service. They were joined by just one passenger for the return journey to Ogden where the train
terminated and another set was waiting bound for Salt Lake City. UTA cannot justify the cost of
Positive Train Control for a section of line with so few passengers.