INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1226 7 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
 Austria - Another four track section of the Westbahn opens
The Ybbs to Amstetten four track section opened on 14 December 2014, meaning that Linz to Wien is
now four track apart from the St. Pölten freight bypass which is expected to open in 2017, and
Kleinmünchen to Linz Hauptbahnhof which is expected to be completed in 2018.
 Bulgaria/Greece - The railtour of three alphabets (part 1)
This Railway Touring Company tour in Bulgaria and Greece in September 2014 was for a party of 28,
with a three coach train including a 1960s kitchen car for on-train basic catering. Bulgarian State
Railways (BDZ) being almost bankrupt, has withdrawn all its restaurant cars as it cannot afford to run
them. And indeed, the tour passed sidings full of stored restaurant cars at one particular station. The
other two coaches were from the pre-war former Royal Train of Tsar Boris III. One of these, number
10051, was Queen Giovanna’s day coach cum dining saloon, complete with a dining table laden with
cutlery and crockery bearing Tsar Boris’ monogram. The other coach, number 10055, was of even
more exotic provenance, as it was built in Germany in 1939 to the order of Reza Shab, the –then
Shah of Persia, for the Persian Royal train. Due to the outbreak of WW2 it was trapped in Bulgaria in
the course of its delivery journey and King Boris added it to his own Royal Train. Obviously an eye to
the main chance there! Our member did not get an answer to his question – had the Persians
actually paid for it?
Out and return travel to Sofia was by air – the outward flight passing sufficiently low over Sofia’s
main station that the plinthed BDZ 0-6-0T No. 47.05 could be seen. Sofia’s main station, a huge 1960s
Communist era concrete monolith, is currently the subject of a major rebuild. In consequence, the
station’s other plinthed steam loco, the 60cm gauge ex-Deutsche Feldbahn ‘Brigadelok’ 0-6-0T No.
47960 and its coach have been temporarily located out of harm’s way on the entrance drive to
Sofia’s main locomotive depot, where they were seen at the end of the tour.
Arrival at Sofia was on 11 September, and that day’s rail-borne activity was a tram tour on part of the
city’s very large system of tramways. The great majority of the network is laid to the odd gauge of
1009mm. Metre gauge was intended, but evidently someone got their measurements wrong back in
1901 when the system began running and they have been stuck with this gauge ever since. About
1988 one (or two?) route(s) underwent conversion to standard gauge, but the cost of further
conversions proved prohibitive, so now Sofia’s tram network runs on two gauges. The standard
gauge trams are generally second-hand ex-Germany, while most of the 1009mm gauge cars are
single, or two or three section articulated cars from the communist era, but there are also two or
three dozen new, high quality five section articulated cars built by PESA, in Poland circa 2013. The
tram network is complemented by a large trolleybus network. In comparison BDZ operate a very
limited suburban service – Sofia’s main station has a distinctly unbusy atmosphere, which is a fair
reflection of the post-communist BDZ network generally, serving a country in which much of the
industrial base has collapsed, with much post-communist industrial dereliction to be seen. The city
tram tour, in communist-era two section No. 702 began in Hristo Botev street and ran south
westwards to Bokar, the terminus of route 7, then retraced its route through the city centre,
following route 3 to the junction with Tsar Simeon street, thence following route 19 to the end of
that route at the turning loop at Sofia-Sever (Sever=North) BDZ station and returning to the starting
point following route 6 via the front of Sofia main station. The rather limited Metro system was not
sampled. It is due to be extended to Sofia Airport in 2015.
 France – Bordeaux light rail network extended
Two extensions to Bordeaux’s light rail network were inaugurated on 24 January. Line A has been
extended 3.6km west from Mérignac Centre to Le Hallain Rostand with four new stations. The
extension includes two park-and-ride stations providing over 600 parking spaces. The 2.8km three
station northern extension of Line C from Berges du Lac to Parc des Expositions serves the city's
convention centre and the New Bordeaux Stadium, which is due to be completed later this year. The
extension included construction of a new depot at La Jallére, which accommodates up to 26 LRVs.
The two extensions are part of the €1.05bn Phase 3 expansion of the network, which will add 33km
of new lines to the 44km already in operation, including a new Line D and the Tram-Train du Médoc
 Germany - Diversion due to engineering work between Berlin and Dresden
A new bridge and cutting are being built at Elsterwerda-Biehla. The Berlin – Dresden line (strecke
6135) will move 28 metres to the east removing an existing 60 km/h permanent speed restriction and
will be in a new 420 metre long concrete walled cutting enabling 160kmh operation. Three new
bridges will replace the existing ones used by the Rosslau – Horka line (strecke 6207) which passes
west to east above the main line.
As a result of these works many trains between Berlin and Dresden are diverted via strecke 6133
Falkenberg (Elster) – Röderau – Abzw. Zeithain Bogendreieck – (Glaubitz) until the end of the current
timetable and possibly beyond. Falkenberg (Elster) – Röderau – Riesa is a former passenger line (CP
December 2004) but Röderau to Abzw. Zeithain Bogendreieck will be required by some as it has only
ever been a diversionary route. Diverted trains are as follows:
Southbound - EN 476, EC 178, EC 176, IC 1919 SuO, EC 174, ICE 1574 FO, EC 172
Northbound - EN 457, EC 173, EC 175, EC 379, IC 1918 FO, EN 477, IC 2073 WSO/2077 WO
 Germany - Dresden rare track to close in December
The short section of Strecke 6248 between Abzw. Radebeul Az and Abzw. Radebeul-Naundorf
currently used by all long distance trains not serving Dresden-Neustadt (due to ongoing track work
between Dresden-Neustadt and Radebeul) will lose all passenger trains from December 2015 as the
main route will re-open.
 Germany – Klostermansfeld to Wippra up for sale
BLNI 1216.310 reported that the Klostermansfeld to Wippra service, run by local company Kreisbahn
Mansfelder Land will close on 12 April. As expected, the line is now up for sale with interested parties
needing to reply by 18 March. The local press see no prospect of the line staying open, so if you need
it go soon.
 Germany – The end of the Sinntalbahn?
Between Gemünden (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 – From Ulm to the Weissenhorn branch
The 9.6km branch from Senden, south of Ulm, to Weissenhorn opened 4 September 1877, and closed
to passenger services 25 September 1966. Since then the line has only served freight customers,
primarily in the Weissenhorn Eschach industrial area. Stadtwerke Ulm / Neu-Ulm (SWU
VerkehrGmbH) first leased the line in 2009, then purchased it in 2013. Four platforms were
constructed complete with ticket machine, bus shelter and cycle racks, nine level crossings improved
and the line upgraded to 100km/h operation. Re-opening to passenger services was on 15 December
2013. Services are hourly and operated by single car class 650 railbuses, usually in pairs. Leaving Ulm
the short journey to Neu-Ulm is in concrete sided cutting or lined by sound proofing panels with the
inevitable grafitti. Pretty awful. It is four track and Neu-Ulm has four platforms. The stop here
provided most of the passengers. The non-electrified line to Memmingen goes south and a
connection from the Augsburg line gives access to a short industrial branch. It is not far to
Finningerstrasse with its two offset platforms, one of which is platform 5! The double track ends here
and single track continues south. After a short distance is the former junction of Neu-Ulm
Schwaighofen where the industrial branch mentioned previously once connected to form a through
route. The connection has gone, but wagons attest to continuing use. For some reason the station at
Gerlenhofen is not served and the next stop is the junction station of Senden, where there are no less
than five tracks, three with platforms and two freight sidings, one of which was occupied by a freight.
Distances for the branch start here and from platform 3 the train is almost immediately onto the
branch, initially running parallel with the Memmingen line before diverging east. At this point there
was an automated announcement – in English! The next stations are request stops, so it is necessary
to press the button by the door to stop the train if you wish to alight. The DB limit is at km 0.910,
then the site of the original Wullenstetten station is passed at km 1.37. The new single platform
station is at km 2.092. Witzighausen is at km 4.095 and the old station was a few hundred metres
east at km 4.50. The station of Weissenhorn Eschach is at km 7.806 and by the platform a siding
diverges left to a gate. This was well used, and obviously the source of traffic. A short distance away
another former siding is now just a stub. Weissenhorn station is at km 9.622 and the old station
building not only still exists but is clad in scaffolding and being repaired. An original station
nameboard is still present as well as a run round and the line ends at buffer stops at km 9.737. There
is a siding towards a factory just before the station, but a section of rail is missing. For a mid-day
service on a German holiday, the train was well patronised.
 Italy - Further information on the Gozzano deviation
An interested member has undertaken some research and found that the km distances for this
deviation (see BLNI 1223.432) are as follows: Borgomanero 30.407, deviation point 34.552, Gozzano
new station 35.714 = 36.314, deviation point 37.795. The new route therefore reduces the distance
by exactly 600 metres.
 Italy – Two new lines opened
The Parma to La Spezia line is known as the Pontremolese Railway, and there has been a program of
upgrading and doubling in progress for some years. The latest part of this opened 30 November 2014
between km 24.944 and km 36.984 and is a deviation replacing the Solignano tunnel. The new double
track variante starts at P d M Osteriazza and goes through a short tunnel (with parallel road tunnel), a
new 275m viaduct over the River Galganna, a new 440 metre viaduct over the River Taro and a new
single bore twin track tunnel 4180 metres long called the Galleria Marta Giulia which ends just north
of Solignano station. The work should have been completed in Spring 2012. Details of the 2005
variante further south may be found at http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrovia_Pontremolese .
The second scheme is south of Rimini on the coastal route to Ancona and is between Cattólica and
Pésaro. Here the 1km long Cattólica tunnel has long proved an obstacle to container movement on
this important freight artery due to its restricted loading gauge. A new 1198 m (note that different
articles give different lengths!) long single track tunnel has been built alongside, the new line starting
at km 135.963 and ending at km 138.206. This opened on 8 December 2014.
The plan is for southbound trains to use the new tunnel and northbound trains the old tunnel, but
before this can be fully realised the old tunnel must be single tracked and the track centred to
increase the loading gauge, a task that is meant to be completed in 2015, but given the Italian
inability to meet any sort of deadline will probably be 2016.
 Netherlands – Dates for new Rotterdam Centraal - Hoek van Holland metro
BLNI 1206.140 announced conversion of this line to metro and also the extension of the line from
Hoek van Holland Strand for 1.6 km towards a new terminus near the beach. More information was
supplied in BLNI 1215.294. Dates for the works are as follows:
1 April 2017: suspension of current rail service Rotterdam Centraal – Hoek van Holland.
April 2017 - late 2017: substitute services
Late 2017: reopening as metro service line B, Hoek van Holland to Nesseland, connecting at Schiedam
Centrum with the current line B.
The extension of the line to the new beach terminus will open in early 2018.
 Slovenia - Ajdovščina branch bus substituted
The Bohinj railway today runs from Jesenice to Sežana via Nova Gorica, to the south of which a 15.1
km branch runs from Prvačina up the Vipava valley to the town of Ajdovščina. The original service
was from what is now Gorizia Centrale in Italy eastwards to join the southbound Bohinj railway via a
now removed curve. The railway opened in 1902 as the Wippachtalbahn – all this is the days of the
Austro-Hungarian empire when Ajdovščina was known as Haidenschaft.
In recent years the branch has survived due to its convenience for conveyance of schoolchildren, with
all trains being geared to this function. From the start of the present timetable all trains were
withdrawn and replaced by buses. With no freight traffic the future of the line looks bleak.
 Spain – Huesca to Canfranc
This truncated line, which formed an international route to France until a freight train accident on the
French side closed the route in the early 1970s, still sees two single car DMUS make their way from
Zaragoza twice daily over about 4 hours via reversal at Huesca. There is an avoiding line at Huesca
which did look fairly shiny and must be polished by what appeared to be the lines only freight in the
form of mineral traffic from a terminal at Canfranc itself. It was noted that two of the large bogie
wagons carrying this traffic lay beside the line in a remote spot and were probably abandoned there,
so clearly freight train movement is not without incident even in more recent times! The massive
station at Canfranc, the second largest in Europe when opened in 1928 is well known, and is now
largely fenced off, but tours of the interior are advertised and the single railcars terminate at what
looks like a loading dock rather than a station so dwarfed is it by its silent neighbour. The diminutive
station lies adjacent to the main road on the west side of the layout, but what is not really mentioned
is the vast hinterland of abandoned and tree strewn sidings, sheds, locomotive roundhouse/turntable
that occupies the whole valley floor! Even a cursory wander around took an hour as the whole site is
quite accessible and dog walkers as well as the curious roam freely despite some tracks still being
running lines. No-one seems to mind!
It must be one of the largest extant but abandoned railway sites in Europe if not the World!
Canfranc station (right) was opened in 1928, a vast edifice straddling the Franco:Spanish break of gauge on the
route via Pau, which was closed abruptly in 1971 after a freight train demolished a bridge on the French side. The
station accommodated customs facilities for both countries as well as the logistic facilities for all the goods and
passenger traffic transferring between the standard and Iberian gauge systems. The building is 240 metres long
and reputedly has a window for every day of the year, including stained glass examples which would not be out of
place in a cathedral.
In contrast, a single car unit for Zaragoza can be seen at the present station on the left.
 Switzerland - Horse drawn tram in Children’s Zoo
Aficionados of horse drawn trams will doubtless flock to the city of Rapperswil where the Knies
Kinderzoo has a 452 metre long 600mm gauge line which operates from early March to late
October 10:30 to 12:30, 13:30 to 14:30 and 15:00 to 17:00. See http://www.knieskinderzoo.ch
REST OF THE WORLD
 Australia - Notes on the 1600mm gauge lines of Victoria
There is a museum at Seymour with an English Electric shunting loco (BR class 08). Maldon which is
the terminus of the preserved line from Castlemaine, also has an English Electric shunting loco (BR
class 08). Melbourne Southern Cross station (formerly Spencer Street until 13 December 2005)
platforms 1 to 8 are not wired, these are terminal platforms used by V/Line services, platform 15 is a
through line which is not wired and also used by V/Line services. Platform 2 is a dual gauge platform
& there is a dual gauge run round loop between platforms 2 and 3. Platforms 8 south to 14 are wired
through lines and are used by Metro services. All platforms at Southern Cross station are “gated”,
the smart card ticketing system is called MYKI & passengers have to touch on & touch off with this.
V/Line services are a mixture of DMU & diesel loco hauled services, P class & N class diesel loco
classes have bogies that can be swapped between standard or broad gauge.
Burnley – Camberwell – Boxhill is 3 tracks, the centre line is reversible but the down line (left hand
line) beyond Sydenham can only be used when Boxhill signal box is open. At Riversdale on the
Alamein line the tram crosses the railway line at a level crossing. When the barriers are in the upright
position the voltage in the OHL is 750V DC to enable the trams to safely cross the railway, and when
the barriers are down for trains to pass the voltage in the OHL is changed to 1500 volts DC, the
voltage changeover being done by means of a lever in the Signalbox.
The standard gauge line from Broadmeadows to Southern Cross is on a separate alignment/route.
North of Broadmeadows the standard gauge line is single to just north of Seymour running parallel to
the broad gauge lines with some passing loops, the broad gauge line then becomes single for a short
distance and the standard gauge line double before ceasing altogether.
There are 4 standard gauge loco hauled passenger trains each way daily between Melbourne &
Albury, the up line (Melbourne direction) is a new line as far as just south of Albury when it becomes
single into Albury station thence single to Junne. Wangaratta station up line is lower down than the
down line and is in a cutting.
There is a free city circular tram (runs every 10 minutes) which uses old trams. The nearest stop to
Melbourne Southern Cross station is at the junction of Spencer Street & Flinders Street which is
about five minutes walk from Melbourne Southern Cross station – turn left onto Spencer Street
outside the main exit from Southern Cross station. Flinders Street station is well worth a look
particularly the impressive exterior & the city circular tram stops just by it.
A good website to look at is Movingvictoria.vic.gov.au. In New South Wales train timetables are in 24
hour format but the station departure indicators are in 12 hour format. Victoria uses the 12 hour
format in all literature. Also have a look at http://www.3801limited.com.au/cockatoo.htm.
 Canada/USA – Cross border freight diversions continue
Diversion of southbound BNSF cross-border freights via Huntingdon and Sumas was to have ended 15
September but was extended until 15 January, even though the US Customs authorities closed the
border between midnight and 06:00 for staffing reasons. Trains arriving Huntingdon during these
times were stabled in the town. On the main line, meanwhile, Little Campbell River bridge at
MP120.6, south of White Rock, Wa, has been replaced at a cost of USD 2M, whilst the Mud Bay
trestle is being replaced by a concrete structure at a further cost of USD10M. Despite this
investment, White Rock City Council is seeking to invoke legislation to insist that the line is diverted
inland, away from the seashore.
 China – Hong Kong Trams go the wrong direction
Our member visited Hong Kong, en route to New Zealand, in late October. Due to the ‘Public Action’
as it was described in Hong Kong, part of the tramway was closed as a protest camp had been built
across the tracks in Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay just before the Pennington Street tram stop. As a
result all Eastbound trams were operating to Happy Valley and all Westbound trams were
terminating at Victoria Park and using the unwired crossover from the Westbound platform to return
East. The trolley pole was disconnected from the Westbound wires and reconnected onto the
Eastbound wires by one of the tram team at this stop. A consequence of this was that on every other
trip the tram was travelling in reverse formation i.e. with the seats facing backwards and driven using
the emergency controls at what is usually the rear end of the tram (trams normally run in the same
direction as there are loops at each of the termini). This seemed to totally confuse some of the local
population who couldn’t understand why they were facing backwards! A Pennington Street to
Victoria Park shuttle was also operated on the Eastbound track. The full service resumed on 15
 China – New high speed lines opened
The Changsha – Huaihua Passenger-Dedicated Line in Hunan province opened on 16 December. This
416 km line which has nine stations is designed for 350 km/h operation, but trains are currently
limited to 300 km/h giving an end-to-end journey time of 1 h 41 min. It will form part of the 2066 km
Shanghai – Kunming corridor scheduled for completion in 2017 under the national high speed line
development strategy based on building ‘four vertical and four horizontal’ routes.
The 1223 km eastern section of the Urumqi – Lanzhou Passenger-Dedicated Line between Hami and
Lanzhou was opened for passenger service on 26 December, little more than a month after the
553 km western section between Urumqi and Hami was opened on 17 November. Designed for
250 km/h operation, the 1776 km route serves 21 towns and cities, including Xining, capital of
Qinghai province, Jiayuguan and Turfan. It also provides direct services from Xining to the northwest,
whereas passengers from that city previously had to travel via Lanzhou to the east. The journey time
between the two termini has been cut from 16 h to less than 12 h. Just one pair of trains currently
travels the entire route daily, along with many more shorter-distance services.
The 857 km Guiyang – Guangzhou PDL in southern China has been designed for 300 km/h operation,
reducing the journey time between the capital cities of Guizhou and Guangdong provinces from 21 h
to just over 4 h. This line has 20 stations, and is initially served by 20 trains each way per day.
The 577 km Nanning – Guangzhou PDL connects Guangzhou with the capital of neighbouring Guangxi
province, and is served by 18 trains each way per day. Trains operating at up to 200 km/h have cut
the end to end journey time from 12 h 30 min to 3 h 30 min.
Finally, two lines were opened on 28 December. These were the 299 km Jimo – Rongcheng line built
for 250 km/h operation and the 50 km inter-city line running east from Zhengzhou to Kaifeng. The
latter route is served by a regular shuttle of 200 km/h trains, offering an end-to-end journey time of
just 19 minutes.
 India – Trams to return to Delhi
Tram transport in India was established by the British in the 19th century, but discontinued in most
Indian cities between 1930 and 1960. Today Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) has the only public tram
system in the country. Delhi's tram system opened on 6 March 1908 and at its zenith in 1921 there
were 24 open cars utilising 15 km of track. The system was in operation until about 1963. In its
heyday, trams were considered the most convenient and cheap means of conveyance with tram
tickets priced at half an anna, one anna, two annas and four annas. There are stories that the trams
used to move so slowly that people could easily jump off and buy biryani and snacks and then board
the tram again. The trams connected Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk and Sadar Bazaar. It was
increasing traffic volumes that led to the demise of the trams – there was simply no space for them
on the roads. However, more than half a century later, trams are to make a comeback on the busy
streets of the Walled City as part of the Shahjehanabad Redevelopment Project with trams linking the
Chandni Chowk area with the main railway station at Delhi Junction. Officials from the Delhi Metro
Rail Corporation that will bring trams back to Old Delhi said the project will be completed in three
years and 5,000 people are expected to travel every hour during peak time in each direction of the
4.5km long tram line. “A total of six trams with two coaches, with a capacity of 200 will run in this
loop, three in one direction and three in the opposite direction,” said officials. The Public Works
Department, which is leading the redevelopment work, is currently working to relocate all over-
ground utilities under the surface.
A previous generation of Delhi tram
 USA - Atlanta Streetcar enters service
Tram services in Atlanta started on 30 December following an opening ceremony for the Downtown
Loop circulator at 11:00. Travel will be free for the first three months of service.
The 4·2 km standard gauge street running line with 12 stops links the Martin Luther King Jr National
Historic Site with Centennial Olympic Park. Interchange is provided with MARTA rail services at
Peachtree Center. The depot is on the eastern section of the route, under the I-75/I-85 highway.
Services run at 10 to 15 min frequencies between 06.00 and 23.00 (01.00 on weekends). Breeze
smartcard ticketing is available, in common with MARTA bus and rail services, and children under 10
will be able to ride for free. Ridership is forecast at 2 600 passengers/day.