INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1227 21 FEBRUARY 2015
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
 Baltic States – Baltic Railway Magazine
A member reports that the nominally quarterly illustrated Baltic Railway Magazine is becoming
harder to source and no longer seems to be available at newsagents etc. It is in Lithuanian and
English, but if you want a challenge a Lithuanian and Russian version is printed! It needs more sales
to ensure its survival. Contents include significant railway news items about Lithuania, Latvia,
Estonia and Russia (Kaliningrad region), also equipment, infrastructure and history. See:
www.railbaltic.eu/en. The Baltic States railways are very different from ours, until 1991 part of the
Soviet Union they run BIG trains, standard gauge is 1520mm (nearly 5ft) and 'narrow' is 750mm (2ft
5½in). It WAS available from London Waterloo and Manchester Ian Allan bookshops but still is by
post from Tony Olsson, Flat 2, 10 Oxford Grove, Ilfracombe, EX34 9HQ. £6 per issue (including P&P);
reductions for multiple copies/back numbers. Cheques to 'J.A. Olsson', queries:
 Bulgaria/Greece - The railtour of three alphabets (part 2)
On 12 September the tour started from Sofia main station formed by BDZ 2-8-2 No. 01-23 and three
coaches. The loco was built by Schweizerische Lokomotiv u-Maschinenfabrik, Winterthur, in 1935. A
Swiss railway enthusiast on the tour informed our member that in Switzerland these were known as
the ‘tobacco locomotives’. Evidently pre-war Bulgaria did not have much money, and paid for these
locomotives with tobacco. Comfortably ensconced in the Shah of Persia’s carriage the route out of
Sofia was by the electrified (but not busy) main line via Sofia Sever, Kourilo, Mezra, Roman, Pleven
and Levski to Gorna Oryakhovitsa, with servicing (and thus photo) stops at Pleven-Zapad
(Zapad=West) and Levski. Note: a Bulgarian linguistic curiousity. Official transcriptions of place
names etc., into Roman script from the original Cyrillic are quite often non-standard, and may not
exactly match the dictionary transcriptions of Cyrillic-Roman equivalents. Similarly, in Greece, Greek
to Roman script transcriptions tend to often produce visible inconsistencies on signs. Our member
has stuck to Roman transcriptions of what the names are in the original Cyrillic and Greek versions.
From Gorna Oryakhovitsa the group travelled by coach to Veliko Tarnovo, the starting point for
travel the following day.
 France – Developments on the train du Bas-Berry
The Train du Bas-Berry is a tourist railway operated by SABA (Société pour l'Animation du Blanc
Argent) between Argy and Luçay-le-Mâle on a section of the old metre gauge ligne du Blanc Argent.
This was constructed by the compagnie du Chemin de fer de Paris à Orléans from 1893 to 1906,
then operated by the Chemin de fer du Blanc-Argent until SABA took over in 1995 though it was
2003 before the first train ran and 2005 before the whole 27km of line was opened. According to
the latest Voie Etroite, SABA started work in November on making fit the line into Luçay-le-Mâle
station. At present the trains terminate at the rather distant La Foulquetièr but they hope to be
running into the station itself this year. There are plans to run through to Valençay by 2016 or 2017.
 France – Ligne des Causses threatened
This line running through the Massif Central for 277 km between Béziers and Neussargues was
opened in stages between 1858 and 1888. It is a tough line through spectacular mountain scenery.
There are 40 tunnels and 37 viaducts, along with gradients as steep as 3.33% (1 in 30) and curves of
270 m radius. A notable feature of this line is the Garabit viaduct across the Truyère valley 33 km
south of Neussargues. In recent years this line has had a skeleton service, with only one daily train
each way between St-Chély-d’Apcher and Neussargues. It was thought to be at risk in 2013 (see
BLNI 1184.182). Now, according to 'Massif Central Ferroviaire', the "Comité Pluraliste" (an ad-hoc
group created some years ago to defend the line) says that complete closure of at least the
northern half of this magnificent line is planned for January 2016. It is thought that Sévérac to Rodez
and Le Monastier to Mende will also close as a consequence. It is possible that the southern end of
the line may be retained between Béziers and Bedarieux or possibly Millau. Anyone who has not
done this spectacular railway should hasten there this year.
 France – More on the Fécamp branch
The decaying rolling stock noted at Les Ifs by the correspondent of BLNI1220.380 has been there
since 1997, when the sidings were seen as the basis for a heritage railway operation forced to
relocate from elsewhere. The group behind the plan had originated in 1991 as the Chemin de Fer de
la Forêt de la Londe, based at Elbeuf, south of Rouen. Their depot was at Elbeuf Ville station, on a
line originally part of a through route from Rouen to Orléans but by then closed completely south of
Elbeuf for 16km towards Rouen as far as Petit-Couronne, beyond which there was, and still is, much
greater SNCF freight activity in Rouen’s port area. Various difficulties with SNCF, local councils and
residents resulted in passenger services last running in the summer of 1996, followed by the
transfer to Les Ifs, but activities there never seem to have taken off. Les Ifs was also the junction of
a line to Étretat, and Train Touristique Étretat-Pays de Caux operated the 5km from the
intermediate station of Les Loges to that seaside town in the early years of this century: apparently
a separate group, and also seems to have faded.
 France – Tours to Loches branch to receive €40M investment
From Tours to Loches currently takes an hour due to several speed restrictions and this has
adversely affected the competitiveness of the service. But now approval has been given for €40M
to be spent on the lines infrastructure with a goal of 80km/h average speed and a 40 minute
journey time. No timescales have yet been announced.
 Germany – The end of the Sinntalbahn?
Between Gemunden (Main) and Fulda is Jossa, from where a 30.7 km branch service ran to
Wildflecken. This was the Sinntalbahn (strecke 5211) and it CP 27 May 1988 and CA 4 February
2002. Since then there have been attempts at preservation but in July 2014 the preservation group
failed to agree a contract with DB Netz and the line is now up for total closure with the regional
government wanting to demolish the trackbed to create a cycle route.
 Germany - The railway delights of Cottbus
South-east of Berlin, close to the border with Poland, is the sizeable town of Cottbus where no less
than six lines come together. To the west lines arrive from Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden, while to the
east there are lines from Frankfurt (Oder), Forst and Görlitz, the latter two non-electrified. The
station, which is on an east-west axis, is geographically divided into two sections, platforms 1-6
forming a southern and central group and platforms 7-10 a northern group. In railway terms they
actually form three groups as the southern group (1-4), central group (5-6) and northern group (7-
10) each have two different approaches from the three lines coming in from the west, giving rise to
three different PSULs in EGTRE and a complex railway layout. There is a large yard opposite the
northern platforms and locomotives from many different companies stabled everywhere. The line
to Forst is especially interesting as it continues into Poland, and was until recently used by the
Wawel service which ran Hamburg- Berlin- Wrocław. A few local cross-border trains still run.
Two subways run north to south under the platforms, the southern one connecting the station
building with the extensive concourse between platforms 6 and 7/8 from where a 100 metre walk
west is needed to access the northern subway to platforms 9 and 10 and the long brick lined tunnel
which gives pedestrian access from the city centre direction, emerging opposite the wonderfully
well preserved Spreewaldbahnhof station building, still in use as offices by DB. This was once the
southern terminus of the metre gauge Lübben-Cottbusser Kreisbahn which divided into a network
of three branches, all long closed. Turning left at the Spreewaldbahnhof one can follow the road to a
sign saying DB Werk Tor Sud and by turning left here the visitor soon finds the locomotives outside
Cottbus locomotive works, served by a number of short lines from the Goods Yard.
The station building has shops and a travel centre and outside there are tram lines, part of a
network of four lines covering 20.1km serving the city. They date from 18 July 1903 and are metre
gauge, electrified at 600V DC. Our correspondent was visiting Cottbus with two main objectives.
The first was line 6202, which is a long curve connecting platforms 1-4 with the Dresden line. His
inward train the previous evening which was supposed to use this curve failed to do so, using the
‘normal’ route under two of the western approach lines to terminate at platform 6. However the
following day he was confident of getting the curve as the electronic station departure board clearly
showed his train as leaving from platform 1, and so it proved. The second reason was to visit the
Parkeisenbahn Cottbus. This 3.2km long 600 mm gauge park railway opened in June 1954 and is
most easily reached by taking a train for the three minute journey from Cottbus Hauptbahnhof to
Cottbus-Sandow. Otherwise it is a 30 minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof. The Parkeisenbahn
depot, ticket office and main station are opposite Cottbus-Sandow station, a two minute walk away.
The station is called Sandower Dreieck and the tracks run first west parallel with the railway, then
south through parkland past the Messe (Exhibition centre) and Zoo to reach Friedenseiche station
(also known as Park und Schloss Branitz) which is on the start of the balloon loop, used in a
clockwise direction by all trains. Trains run every day from May to the end of August as well as
weekends in mid April and all of September, departing at 10:00, 10:50, 11:40, 12:40, 13:30, 14:20,
15:10, 16:00, 16:50 and 17:40. Diminutive diesel locomotives on four coaches plus a bicycle wagon
are used, all with a 199 prefix, but actually the three working locos are of different makes and ages.
There is a steam engine, currently 99-3301, for special events. In common with many former
communist states this was a children’s railway, and the tradition continues. The guard and his
compatriot on the platform at Sandower Dreieck were both about fifteen. Ticket office staff, driver
and signal box staff (yes, there is a manned signal box controlling a road crossing!) are all adults.
Those familiar with the Severn Valley railway will appreciate the bizarre feeling of sitting on a train
and observing Elephants in an enclosure - in this case as you pass Cottbus Tierpark Zoo! A round trip
A train on the Parkeisenbahn Cottbus.
 Russia (European) - Russian Railways plans Ukraine avoiding line as high speed test track
Russian Railways are developing plans for a new 140 km double-track electrified line which would
avoid the need for trains on the main line to Rostov-na-Donu, Krasnodar and Sochi to pass through a
short section of Ukrainian territory.
The new line connecting Zhuravka in Voronezh oblast with Millerovo in Rostov oblast could form the
first stage of a national programme for the development of fast and high speed lines, as it ‘will meet
all the latest standards’. It would therefore be able to serve as a testing ground for raising the speed
of passenger trains. Construction is expected to start this year, with a view to opening in 2018.
The dissolution of the USSR left a number of railway lines passing through the territory of
neighbouring states but isolated from their own networks, requiring intergovernmental negotiations
to agree terms for their operation.
 Spain - Zaragoza Tramway
Zaragoza had a tram system until the 1960s saw complete bustitution. A new 13km tramway from
Avenida de la Academia in the north to Mago de Oz in the south was opened in two stages in 2011
and 2013. The line’s only intersection with rail is at Goya where it connects with the now
subterranean Cercanias service from Casetas across Zaragoza to Miraflores, Zaragoza's only local
service! The tramway has some connections permitting short workings but none are in regular use,
all services operate over the whole route taking about 40 minutes end to end. Services run at up to
5 minute head ways in peaks but on Christmas Day one had to get by with a tram only every 15
minutes! At Avenida de la Academia trams run out to a headshunt and reverse into the opposite
platform, while at Mage de Oz they simply run around a semicircular loop with s/d and p/u
platforms opposite. Traversal was not permitted in either case. Tickets for each single journey can
be bought at machines on the platforms and validated contactlessly on boarding.
Zaragoza Tramway 3030, a CAF Urbo 3, having arrived at Mago de Oz on 25 December 2014.
 Spain – New high-speed lines to open this year
New lines that will open in North-West Spain include Olmedo - Zamora - Sanabria (210km),
Valladolid - Venta de Baños – León (163km) and the 50km Pajares Base Tunnel. To cut construction
costs, Adif has installed standard-gauge single track on several sections of the first two lines, even
though both have been designed and built to accommodate a double-track formation.
On the Pajares bypass, only one of the two tunnels will open after ten years of construction due to
difficulties in controlling water ingress, and this will only be used by broad-gauge trains.
Adif also hopes to open the 75km Venta de Baños - Burgos route, although this is doubtful as
infrastructure work at two key locations has been severely delayed.
In South-East Spain Adif plans to inaugurate the Monforte del Cid - Murcia high-speed line, which
extends the Madrid - Alicante corridor south by a further 62km, together with the 100km Antequera
- Granada line which includes a 27km section of conventional line that has been converted to dual-
Major milestones will also be reached this year on two broad-gauge, mixed-traffic corridors which
have been progressively upgraded since the early 2000s. The final upgraded sections of the 145km
Seville - Cadiz line will be completed while on Galicia's 156km Atlantic Axis the remaining new
sections of line and realignments of the Santiago de Compostela – Vigo section will be finished as
Finally, Adif also expects to partially open the Madrid - Portugal high-speed line. Infrastructure has
been completed on the western half and the 165km Plasencia – Badajoz section will be
commissioned with a single broad-gauge track installed, and without electrification. Adif plans to
fully equip the line only when it reaches the outskirts of Madrid and joins the rest of the high-speed
 Switzerland/Germany – Problems with new cross-border tram route
Switzerland-bound trams stop in front of the German customs cabin, so that the numerous Swiss
passengers, who have been shopping in Weil am Rhein, can skip a tram and get their tax-back forms
stamped there. Also the trams have been overcrowded since the first day and the section in
Germany is partly on-street along a busy road. Consequently the Switzerland- bound trams
frequently run late. In this case the late tram will not finish its run to Neuweilerstrasse, but turn
ahead of the line’s end at Basel SBB station. The people living along the Neuweilerstrasse-branch are
not amused about this.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Argentina/Paraguay - Posadas to Encarnación passenger service restored
A passenger service was introduced between Posadas in Argentina and Encarnación in Paraguay on
31 December 2014. It is operated with an ex-Netherlands Railways Class 3200 two-car DMU,
formerly used on international services between Argentina and Uruguay. It crosses the River Paraná
by means of the San Roque González de Santa Cruz bridge, where freight trains had resumed
operating in 2012. Services operate every 30 minutes taking 10 minutes, compared to the 4 hours
that it can take to cross the bridge by car or bus. Passengers complete immigration formalities at
new facilities provided at the terminus in Posadas.
 Australia – South West Rail Link opened in Sydney
The South West Rail Link was officially opened on 8 February 2015 adding a further 11·4 km to the
Sydney Trains suburban network. The new line, which has been under construction since 2011,
diverges from the Sydney – Melbourne main line at Glenfield and heads west to Leppington, serving
one intermediate station at Edmondson Park. There is also an EMU stabling facility at Rossmore,
beyond the new terminus.
The junction station at Glenfield was completely rebuilt in 2011-12, with four tracks serving two
island platforms. Flying junctions have been created at both ends of the station, grade-separating
the lines to East Hills and Liverpool at one end and the SWRL from the main line at the other. A
separate freight bypass was built as part of ARTC’s Southern Sydney Freight Line.
The SWRL is initially served by a half-hourly shuttle from Liverpool, offering connections at Glenfield
into T2 services to and from central Sydney via East Hills and the Airport or via Clyde and Strathfield.
Passengers can also change at Liverpool into T5 services between Campbelltown, Parramatta and
Schofield or T3 services on the Bankstown line.
Work has already started on an extension from Leppington to Badgerys Creek, where Sydney’s
second international airport is being developed.
 Australia - Travelling Queensland’s threatened railways (part 1)
A member finding himself with a surfeit of annual leave due to special train cancellations found his
thoughts turning to a BLNI article about threatened long distance services in Queensland. In
planning the holiday he found the train services very sparse and connections frustratingly difficult,
in particular the Townsville to Mt. Ida service which seemed to delight in not running on the same
day as the main line trains, so a 24 hour wait in Townsville seemed inescapable. Then a timetable
change on 13 October 2014 as a consequence of the phased replacement of the ‘Sunlander’ by the
new tilt train suddenly provided a window of opportunity which lasted only until 31 December when
a third tilt train was introduced. There was now a permutation of trains and connecting services
which would allow coverage of all three outback lines and the Brisbane to Cairns main line. He
proceeded to make arrangements, starting with a Queensland Rail Pass, and reservations by a late
night phone call to Queensland Rail (QR hereafter) for AUS$299 (£186). This was outstanding value
for a pass which lasts a month, even though he only used it for two weeks but nevertheless got 6000
miles out of it!
He found no evidence that any services are to be withdrawn in the near future and QR’s own travel
magazine still advertises them, specifically mentioning that the ‘Spirit’ of the Outback’ train to
Longreach will continue twice weekly after 1 January 2015 after the M series coaches (as well as the
‘Sunlander’) are withdrawn. Having said that, he found the trains to the outback stunningly devoid
of passengers in economy seating, and while unable to ascertain how many in the (much) more
expensive sleepers, suspects these were too. The subsidy must be phenomenal especially when
there is little (or no?) freight on 500 miles to nowhere. Even the tilt trains were far from full,
especially on the northern section from Townsville to Cairns. He advises travelling sooner rather
than later. Some individual line observations:
The ‘Westlander’ - Brisbane to Charleville. This departed Brisbane Roma Street platform 10 (used by
all long distance trains) northbound through Central and around the Exhibition loop, and ten
minutes later was back 50 metres from where it started taking the avoiding curve onto the Ipswich
line, a pleasingly unexpected bonus. Arriving (but not departing) trains to the north also went via
Exhibition covering the other two curves to complete the track map as provided by BLN dated 2013.
There is a very scenic climb over the mountains from Heliden to Toowoomba only appreciated on
the return journey in daylight. At Toowoomba the Brisbane and Charleville lines form a junction into
the magnificently restored station, which is a terminus with one long platform and three bays, only
one of which now has track. There is an avoiding curve over a modern viaduct which the train takes
before reversing into the station. The trains generally run in the same direction, the whole train
always being turned at termini on triangles, thus always keeping locomotives at the front and the
seats facing direction of travel. Annoyingly the same side of the triangle was used on the return
journey at Toowoomba as well. There is freight traffic here, and beyond as far as Oakey where there
are two coal mines. The entire journey out and back never passed another train. Beyond the
passenger limit at Charleville the line splits into two to Quilpie and Cunnamulla. Faced with the
unpleasant prospect of 6.5 hours in the searing heat of Charleville our member had a brainwave and
got on the connecting minibus to Cunnamulla (Quilpie has a bus also). This was covered by his QR
pass and gave him 5 hours of air conditioned seated comfort to pass the time. The 200km road runs
alongside the railway all the way, allowing him to observe that the line is definitely out of use due to
a bridge collapse, presumably in the devastating floods of three years ago.
 New Zealand - Rainforest Express to remain closed
The Waitakere Tramline Society has announced that it has been advised by Watercare Services that
the Waitakere Tramline has been permanently closed to any passenger train operations as from
Monday 24 November 2014. Watercare has announced the Rainforest Express will remain out of
service indefinitely. The decision will also mean an end to the passenger service previously operated
by the Waitakere Tramline Society. Public use of the Upper Nihotupu and neighbouring Waitakere
tramlines has been suspended since May 2013, when a major landslide caused significant damage to
the Upper Nihotupu tramline. Watercare Chief Executive Raveen Jaduram said he was sad to see
the end of what had become a West Auckland icon during the 15 years Watercare had operated it as
a sightseeing excursion for visitors from far and near.
 Turkey (Asian) – Elazig to Tatvan line diverted
The completion of the dam east of Beyhan has required the construction of an entirely new single-
track alignment at a higher altitude between Beyhan and Hodan. The new alignment runs from km
113.070 to km 140.100 (27.030km), and is 26.64 km in length. Intermediate stopping points are
Gokdere (km120), Ekerek (km123) and Suveren (km135). The first two are simply stop boards next
to a pile of mud, with no station signs or facilities whatsoever. Gokdere halt is situated in the gap
between two tunnel mouths. Suveren has a passing loop and a third line with a loading dock.
There are 12 tunnels on the route, the longest of which is the westernmost one, a couple of kms
from Beyhan. It is a steep climb to the summit, which is 1-2km from the eastern portal of this
The new alignment opened during the second week of January 2015.The original alignment and
stations are already submerged beneath the waters of the reservoir.
Further upstream, more dam works mean another new alignment is being built, high above the
existing one (and on the south side of the river throughout). This starts at km173 (east of Dik) and
currently continues to a location opposite km208. This is a very substantial piece of work, which
appears to be a couple of years from completion. It was not apparent where this new alignment
would rejoin the old one, but another new dam is nearing completion at km212 (Yenibasak) where a
local realignment for construction has been in place for some time.
RAILTOURS AND DIVERSIONS OVER NON-PASSENGER LINES
This is provided as a service to members and details must be checked with the organisers.
 Poland - Summer Sunday trains to Spala
PR Lodz are planning to run tourist trains Lodz Kaliska - Tomaszow Mazowiecki - Spala every Sunday
in July and August, using an SA135 unit. The Tomaszow Mazowiecki to Spala branch has not had
regular passenger trains since 1988.