INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1299 24 FEBRUARY 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
Washington’s Union Station was the result of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad agreeing to build a station for
joint use. This would create a station big enough to handle large crowds and impressive enough to befit the city's role as the federal capital. It
is the only railroad station specifically authorised by the U.S. Congress. A monumental approach was adopted and the station, completed in
1908 a year after the first train used it, is considered to be one of the finest examples of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture. World War II was
the busiest period in the station's history in terms of passenger traffic with up to 200,000 people passing through on a single day. Rail services
were taken over by AMTRAK in 1971, but a period of steady decline followed and in 1981 when a leaking roof caused the partial collapse of
plaster from the ceiling in the eastern wing of the building, the National Park Service declared the entire structure unsafe.
The picture shows the Great Hall as it is today, but by the time the Reagan administration found the money to begin repairs and a lengthy
restoration mold was growing in the leaky ceiling and the carpet laid out for an Inauguration Day celebration was full of cigarette-burned
holes. The station reopened in its present form on 29 September 1988 and is today once again one of Washington's busiest and best-known
places, visited by 40 million people each year. For a picture of the Great Hall in 1915, when it was used as a waiting area, go to the end of this
 Austria – Tram line to close in Wien
The section of line in Eichenstraße, used only by the WLB light rail cars running to and from Baden, will
close after traffic on Saturday 31 March 2018. From start of traffic next day the WLB will run via the
city route 62. The Wiener Linien tram depot at Wolfganggasse will also be closed from that weekend.
 Croatia - Passenger service reinstated
On 5 February national passenger operator HŽPP reintroduced services on the 95.9 km Banova Jaruga
– Daruvar – Pčelić line, which links the Zagreb – Vinkovci and Koprivnica – Osijek routes.
The poor state of the infrastructure had led to passenger trains being replaced by buses from 24 April
2014. The bus services carried 60 000 passenger last year, leading to the regional authority working
with HŽPP to reinstate rail services. Rehabilitation of the infrastructure was undertaken by HŽ Infra at
a cost of 70m kuna. A reopening ceremony was held on 4 February, when the regional authority and
HŽPP signed a new subsidy agreement which includes free travel for students and schoolchildren.
 Estonia – Riispere branch to be extended
On 12 September 2017 the Supervisory Board of Eesti Raudtee authorized the management board to
start the activities necessary for the [re]construction of the Riisipere - Turba section.
The last train from Tallinn to Haapsalu (a port on the Baltic coast) ran on 22 September 2004. After
that services from Tallinn only went as far as Riisipere. The remaining 53 km had been sold to a
businessman in 1993 and he went on to form a company to transport freight over the line. In 2004 the
company was wound up and the track lifted and sold as scrap. The 6.3km section from Riispere to
Turba is to be rebuilt, as the present embankment is not wide enough for modern standards. The line
never had granite ballast, so that will also need to be added. According to preliminary estimates, the
extension could be completed by the end of 2019. There are references to this being phase 1 of a
longer term project to reopen all the way to Haapsalu.
 Estonia -Tapa – Tartu modernisation completed
National railway Eesti Raudtee has completed a project to modernise 57 km of the Tapa – Tartu line to
enable passenger trains to run at a maximum speed of 120 km/h and freight trains at 80 km/h. Further
works to permit operation at up to 130 km/h, which would include grade separation of level crossings,
are planned to start next year for completion in 2020 as part of the Estonia 2030+ programme.
 France - Reims trams, but Nancy not trams
A visit was made on 21 October prior to commencing an Interrail pass. A 24 hour ticket, available from
ticket machines at the tram stops, costs €4 and seems to require validation only once, on the first tram
caught. The southern part of the system has two branches, Route A, ending at Hôpital Debre was
visited first. The trams can be driven from each end, so loops are not provided. Returning for two
stations past the junction for route B, brings the traveller to Reims Arago and the less frequent service
on route B allowed time to visit the supermarket across the road before taking a tram to the Bezannes
Champagne Ardenne TGV station. There is only one intermediate station on this line, but a second,
obviously meant to serve a new housing area, has been constructed and awaits opening. From the
terminus it is a five minute walk to the plainly visible TGV station. Our member dropped back one tram
here to try (successfully) to make the journey to the northern terminus of Neufchâtel on a tram
without stippling on the windows. Trams were well patronised, but being a weekend, not excessively
full. The depot, which has a triangular junction and a connection onto the depot loop, is on the
Bezannes Champagne Ardenne TGV section of the tramway.
UrbanRail shows a tramway at Nancy and the opportunity to view this was also taken. It is in fact a
guided bus taking power from the overhead wires. At some points the guide rail (there is only one)
disappears, and so the ‘tram’ becomes a trolley bus. Our member did the one line system (day ticket
for €4), but got off feeling that he hadn’t actually been on a railway. Operation has not been
satisfactory, and the system is to be replaced by a conventional tramway by 2022.
 Germany - Gotteszell to Viechtach
This remote Bavarian branch was reopened to regular services in September 2016 for a two-year trial,
having been operated as a tourist line for a number of years. On arrival at the junction station of
Gotteszell, your reporter was surprised to see three Wald Bahn units forming a mid-afternoon service,
especially given that there were no more than half a dozen passengers on board. The journey along
this scenic and remote branch was enhanced by mid-winter snow. There was only one significant
centre of population en route, Teisnach, and even there only one passenger got on. At Viechtach the
front two units were detached, even though a number of schoolchildren, as well as other passengers,
got on and as a result virtually every seat had been taken by departure.
The service on arrival at Viechtach.
 Germany - Rottenbach to Katzhütte
The scenic and sparsely populated eastern German state of Thüringen has suffered more than its fair
share of closures since reunification. The Katzhütte branch is an unlikely survivor, having partly closed
in 1999 due to state of track, then closed completely the following year. The line was subsequently
refurbished and reopened in 2002. A major reason why it is still open may be because, at the
intermediate station of Obstfelderschmiede, it provides access to the Oberweissbacher Bergbahn, an
extraordinary ‘branch’ to Cursdorf. The first section of this is a broad-gauge funicular and the second
section a 2.3 km long standard gauge line electrified at 600v dc and operated by two 1960s built
railcars. The whole of this branch is listed as a German national monument.
When your reporter first visited the Katzhütte line, in 2000, it was shut beyond Obstfelderschmiede, so
there was always an intention to revisit. The next time he was in the area, in 2011, the entire branch
was closed (again) for engineering works. In 2017, it appeared on a list of threatened lines, so it went
to the top of his to do list for Germany, and an early 2018 visit provided the opportunity to finally
reach the end of the branch.
On a snowy January morning your reporter alighted from an Erfurter Bahn service at the junction
station of Rottenbach. To his amazement the train waiting in the branch platform was 772.140, an ex
DR railcar, affectionately known as a Ferkeltaxe (piglet taxi). Subsequent investigation revealed that
these units had been withdrawn from regular service in 2004. From what he could gather from the
driver, a shortage of DB class 641 railcars had led to this privately preserved railcar, normally only used
for special excursions, being pressed into regular service for a few days. What made the subsequent
journey more memorable was the fact that he was the only passenger for the whole of the outward
journey and most of the return, and that the recent snow made an already scenic journey even more
so. Furthermore, the driver was happy to pause for him to take photographs at some of the
intermediate stations. The only downside was that a heavy snow storm during the 15 minutes at the
end of the branch curtailed further exploration.
The unit at the junction station of Rottenbach
The unit at the intermediate station of Schwarzburg.
Trains crossing at Sitzendorf-Unterweissbach
The unit on arrival at Katzhütte
 Greece - New alignment opens with the longest railway tunnel in the Balkans
[BLNI 1298.056] The first train ran on the recently-completed 54 km Tithorea – Lianokladi line on 2
February 2018, following the formal handover of the new line on 31 January. The route forms part of a
106 km double track alignment which is being built between Tithorea and Domokos to replace a
122 km single track route with steep grades and sharp curves which formed a bottleneck on the
Athens – Thessaloniki main line. Designed for passenger trains running at up to 200 km/h and freight
trains at up to 160 km/h, the new alignment uses ballasted track on the open sections and slab track in
the tunnels. The line includes the 9 038 m twin-bore Kallidromo tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in
Initially, freight services are using the new line and passenger services the old line while driver training
is completed. Electrification will not be completed until April, so all trains are currently diesel hauled.
The Lianokladi – Domokos section is scheduled to open later this year, including the 6 380 m twin-bore
Othris tunnel, reducing the journey time for Athens – Thessaloniki inter-city services to 3½ hours.
Construction of the new route began in 1997. As well as the two long tunnels, it includes 12 double-
track tunnels with a total length of 4 500 m, 18 double track cut-and-cover sections totalling 2 374 m
and 49 bridges with a total length of 6 086 m. There will be stations at Molos, Agios Stefanos, Aggies
 Italy – Páola to Cosenza
The railway between Páola and Castiglione Cosentino, immediately north of Cosenza, has been closed
since 6 December 2017 when the 09:28 Cosenza to Reggio di Calabria derailed in the Santomarco
Tunnel. There is the prospect of the line remaining closed for some time. Three members of railway
staff are reported to be under investigation by the Procura di Páola (public prosecutor) for being
"culpable for a disaster" and omitting safety checks, because the tunnel and track are in poor
condition. Ingress of water is said to be a particular problem.
The first railway to Cosenza was that from Sibari completed in 1879. It was intended that it should be
continued to Nocera Tirinese, on the main line from Napoli to Reggio di Calabria. The railway would
have followed a route similar to that of the A3 autostrada, over the mountains south of Cosenza and
down the valley of the River Savuto to the coast. The plan was abandoned in 1905 in favour of a
railway to Páola. This is a much shorter distance, but involved crossing the Cartena Costiera mountain
range. Work started in 1907, but the railway did not open until 2 August 1915.
The route chosen was via the Crocetto Pass. This is 979 metres above sea level, but the railway went
through a 4 km tunnel, just over 500 metres above sea level. The railway was steeply-graded and had
three sections, totalling 12 km, fitted with Strub rack. The line was unusual, though not unique, for
being a standard-gauge rack railway. SLM, Winterthur built twelve 0-6-0 tank engines which worked
this line and that between Cecina and Volterra. Eight similar locomotives were built in 1922 by Breda,
under licence from SLM.
The railway was about 35 km from Cosenza to Páola, but journey time was between two and three
hours. As well as the slow speed possible, some time was spent shunting at the summit at San Fili,
because the locomotive had to be at the downhill end of the train and a special brake vehicle at the
uphill end. Use of diesel railcars from 1937 avoided this shunting, allowing a journey time of about 90
minutes. Some further acceleration was possible when new railcars were introduced in 1955. Freight
trains remained steam-hauled, as did those including through carriages to and from Napoli and points
north. The last through carriages over the line ran on 30 May 1981.
It was recognised that the service was costly to run and not commercially attractive, so it was decided
to build a new line, with much easier gradients, but a considerably longer tunnel. Construction work
started in 1966, some thirty years after the railway was first proposed, and took 21 years to complete.
The old line closed on 28 April 1987, bringing to an end regular steam working on Italian railways, on
freight trains. No diesel locomotives were equipped for rack working. The 1986 timetable, the last full
year of the old line, shows 13 trains each way daily, with a journey time of about 1 hour 20 minutes.
However, the timetable also included FS buses, with some of these non-stop between Cosenza and
Páola in fifty minutes.
The new line opened on 31 May, reducing journey time between Cosenza and Páola by an hour, to
slightly more than twenty minutes, and allowing reinstatement of inter-regional trains from Napoli and
services from northern cities. The saving in journey time was offset for some by the terminus at
Cosenza Centrale being replaced by a new station on the edge of the town. The new line is 21.6 km
from Páola to Castiglione Cosentino and mostly within the Santomarco Tunnel. Different sources give
the length of the tunnel as 14.958 km and 15.332 km. This appears to be accounted for by there being
a triangular junction south of Páola, with the south- and north-facing spurs diverging inside the tunnel.
The total length of tunnel, including both spurs, is the greater distance, but a train would only be
within the tunnel for the shorter distance.
There is also a triangular junction at Castiglione Cosentino, but the north-facing curve there and the
south-facing curve at Páola are no longer used by passenger trains. Since December 2014 trains
between Reggio di Calabria and Cosenza have all reversed at Páola, and the north curve at Castiglione
Cosentino was only used to a limited extent by InterCity trains between Reggio di Calabria and
Taranto. Through trains between Cosenza and Northern Italy dwindled and there were none at all by
2004. The last trains between Cosenza and Roma ran in 2010, since when it has not been possible to
get further than Napoli or Reggio di Calabria by through service. Trains between Cosenza and Páola
were approximately hourly, but with the typical Italian gap in service mid-morning.
While the railway is closed, buses run instead of the trains. In addition to the original, tortuous road
over the Crocetta Pass there is a newer one that passes in a tunnel below the summit, but the journey
is still slow. Trenitalia advertises buses as leaving Cosenza half an hour earlier than the train they
replace, but local media reports suggest that punctuality is poor and connections may be missed.
 Netherlands - Den Haag to Rotterdam upgrade to support a train every 5 min
A €300m infrastructure investment plan which is designed to facilitate the operation of a train every
5 min between Den Haag and Rotterdam from the 2025 timetable change was announced by the
Ministry of Infrastructure on 5 February 2018. The plan includes quadrupling the section of the route
between Rijswijk and Delft Zuid to enable inter-city and local stopping services to be separated, and
remodelling the track layouts at Rotterdam Centraal, Schiedam Centrum and Den Haag Hollands
Spoor. This would include four-tracking the tunnel through Delft which opened in 2015 with two tracks
but was built with provision for a future increase to four.
 Slovakia / Hungary - Bratislava Petržalka to Rajka
This cross-border line reopened to passengers with the December 2017 timetable change. On 12
January 2018 the 08.09 arrival into Bratislava Petržalka, a single GYSEV unit, was met by a film crew
who were keen to interview one of the handful of passengers that alighted, as well as the driver –
perhaps the local TV station had only just found out about it! Your reporter joined four other
passengers, one clearly a local enthusiast, on the 08.49 return departure. No passengers got on or off
at Rusovce, the one reopened station in Slovakia, although the train became busier at Rajka, where the
presence of Class 56 and 86 locos brought back memories of home.
A passenger off the train from Rajka being interviewed at Bratislava
 Spain - L'Orneta Parc Railway: Barcelona
Located about 20 minute all uphill walk from Reina Elisenda, this 650m long convoluted circuit of
combined 7.25/5" has since 1981 provided a splendid journey around this park. Operating dates and
other info can be found on http://www.trenoreneta.com typically Sundays 10.30-13.30 , but note that
they take a summer break so just when all the minor lines are open in UK they are shut! On 24
December 2017 (yes Christmas Eve) there was a healthy queue for €2.00 tickets for a ride behind any
one of three locos in operation. They apparently have 11 operational 7.25" gauge locomotives and
these take quite an elaborate circuit including a viaduct and two separate tunnels.
 Spain -Sabadell Parc de Catalunya Railway
Outside Barcelona but very well connected by a 20 minute frequency FGC line (which runs unaltered
on Christmas Day!) Sabadell is a significant satellite town which also hosts the bank that takes its name
making it a significant financial centre in its own right. About one mile from Sabadell Placa Major
station at the furthest extremity of the extensive Parc de Catalunya resides the 10.25/7.25" railway
that was established in 1997 and is now a long and complex set of lines which form broadly a dumbbell
ride of some 3km. This includes a tall 42m long metal viaduct and no less than 6 tunnels! Details of the
lines operation can be obtained on http://www.cemfes.org but are generally 11-13.45 Sundays with
August off! On 24 December the railway was in festive mood, each well filled departure was
intercepted before departure by a short train conveying no less than 4x Santa Claus who distributed
treats to the children, this then typically ran parallel to the passenger train departure into the
underground shed headshunt before returning underground before the next foray. The ride is €2.00
and a decent queue existed even towards the end of operations.
 Spain - RENFE launches high speed services to Castelló
Spanish national operator RENFE began operating high speed services between Madrid and Castelló de
la Plana on 23 January. Running over the high speed line from Madrid Atocha to València and then on
the 1 668 mm gauge Mediterranean Corridor to Castelló where a third rail has been laid on one track
to accommodate 1 435 mm gauge trains, the service is initially limited to three trips a day from
Castelló to Madrid and two in the reverse direction. Castelló has previously had a direct service to
Madrid operated by Alvia gauge-changing trainsets, and these continue to run. The fastest AVE timing
is 2 h 32 min by the 09.40 weekday departure from Madrid.
A new double-track alignment has been built over 1 km at Nules-La Vilavella, raising the maximum
speed through this curved section to 170 km/h. As well as converting the second track to dual gauge
between València and Castelló, work will commence in 2019 on construction of a dedicated high speed
line which could be finished by 2022.
RENFE is offering Madrid – Castelló promotional fares of €25 for travel until 11 March. The operator
said that it had sold 4 700 tickets in the first five days after bookings opened.
 Sweden – New docks line being built in Norrköping
A ceremony was held in Norrköping on 13 November to mark the start of construction on the Kardon
Line, a new 7 km electrified rail link to the seaport of Norrköping. The new line is scheduled to open by
2021 and the new freight yard by 2022. This is the first step in the planned relocation of the
Norrköping freight yard, which will free-up space for construction of the new high-speed East Link
railway between Järna and Linköping. Construction on the east Link between Järna and Linköping is
due to begin between 2021 and 2023 and be completed between 2033 and 2035.
 Ukraine – Main line to European Union to be diverted via a new tunnel
Ukraine’s government-run Ukrinform news agency announced on 9 January 2018 that the new double-
track Beskyd tunnel on the line from L’viv to the Hungarian and Slovak borders will open on 25 May,
replacing the existing single-track tunnel.
 UK / Netherlands - Eurostar to launch London – Amsterdam service in April
Direct London to Amsterdam high speed services will begin on 4 April 2018, cross-channel high speed
operator Eurostar announced on 9 February. There will be two trains per day with a journey time of 3
hours 41 minutes. However, there will be no direct Amsterdam to London trains until at least the end
of 2019 because border and security checks will continue to be undertaken in Brussels, requiring
passengers to change trains. The operator confirmed that the UK and Dutch governments had agreed
to introduce so-called ‘juxtaposed’ customs checks in Amsterdam and at Rotterdam Centraal ‘by the
end of 2019’, enabling passengers to pass through security before boarding a direct Eurostar service to
London. Until this happens, Eurostar will operate two Amsterdam to Brussels trains to complement
the existing Thalys high speed service between the two cities. As the London to Amsterdam trains will
not serve Lille Europe, the fastest London to Brussels journey time will fall by 17 min to 1 h 48 min.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Canada - Port of Quebec wharf line to be extended
The Quebec Port Authority has announced plans to build a massive new container terminal. This will
require the Port of Quebec’s wharf line to be extended, as well as new links to the existing network so
the new terminal can be served by Canadian National (CN). The port competes with the St. Lawrence
Seaway whose competitiveness has been reduced by bigger ships following the opening of the
expanded Panama Canal in 2016, as well as a new generation of ships that require deep water ports.
 India – Has rubber tyred monorail re-opened?
[BLNI 1298.065] A member who visited the Indian National Railway Museum in early February 2018
found no obvious indication of the use of this monorail, despite the recent reports of it’s re-opening.
 Israel - Jerusalem A1 fast line opening date announced
It has been announced that the newly built A1 fast line to Jerusalem will open on 30 March 2018. Only
one of the two tracks electrified at 25 kV 50 Hz will be operational at first, limiting services to two
trains per hour in each direction. The previously announced journey time of 28 min on the 57 km route
between Tel Aviv HaHagana and Navon station in Jerusalem is still expected to be achieved.
The opening of the second track a few months later would enable services to be increased to three
trains per hour in the peaks, with six trains per hour planned for the longer term.
 Kenya – The end of the Lunatic line?
The first passenger train on Kenya’s new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) between Nairobi and
Mombasa ran on 31 May 2017, with just one return trip, marketed as the Madaraka Express.
The beginning of 2018 will see cargo owners starting to use the SGR, to the detriment of the road
operators. The new service could also be the proverbial final straw that breaks the camel’s back for the
century old Metre Gauge Railway (also referred to as the Lunatic line), as the SGR will probably take all
customers still using the old line. Passenger services on the MGR have been discontinued and freight
may follow. The MGR faces many challenges including capacity constraints as well as employees that
remain unsure of their terms. A recent strike on the Nairobi suburban train system was linked to
wages not being paid as well as an uncertain future. The old railway reverted to Kenya Railways
Corporation (KRC) following the termination of Rift Valley Railways’ (RVR) concession to run the line
for 25 years starting from 2007. KRC has in the past said it would operate the old railway as it weighs
up what options are available including bringing another concessionaire on board. Indications are that
the metre gauge will be adversely affected by the SGR cargo service and probably fall into further
disuse, with the possibility of eventual closure. However, the Government has said it would not let the
line go to waste and that the Ministry of Transport is evaluating the possibility of rehabilitating or
refurbishing it, by commissioning a Chinese firm to do a study on the line. One ray of hope comes from
the many moribund branches of the MGR which reach into parts of the country which the SGR cannot
serve. Apparently the MGR has a network of 2 000 kilometres, of which only 1,000 kilometres are in
use. A lot of the lines that are not in use lead directly or close to premises such as factories and
warehouses, where owners of cargo would have their goods delivered to their places of work. It
certainly looks like crunch time for the MGR. Coincidentally a trip report was posted for a short visit to
sample the metre gauge suburban services around Nairobi, mainly for haulage, but with some
interesting general information. The following is an edited version of their trip report.
‘Next morning we had an early alarm call for a taxi to Embakasi Village, but on arrival found no train. A
quick chat with some locals revealed that the train hadn't come to Embakasi all week due to flooding,
so we got the taxi to Syokimau for the train from there. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very
modern station and some decent if basic stock in the platform. Loco 9324 soon turned up and off we
went. The other stations were also modern and clean - this was not what we expected it all! We bailed
off at Makadara for the train from Ruiru into Nairobi, but when we asked at the ticket office they knew
nothing about it, claiming the Syokimau line is the only line with a service. It transpired that that line is
run by Kenya Railways primarily to connect with the new standard gauge line from Nairobi Terminus to
Mombasa, and the other commuter routes are run by RVR, though RVR has recently returned to KR
operation anyway. RVR trains ran from a separate 'station' just off the end of the KR platform, and was
a lot more like what we'd expected! Loco 9404 soon arrived with a long rake of hanging stock
absolutely wedged... At Nairobi we'd been expecting an 07:30 departure based on a timetable we'd
found on the internet, but that turned out to be either very out of date or just fiction to start with. So
there was nothing to do until the lunchtime return trip to Syokimau. There is a new timetable on the
KR website which is up to date for this line and the Mombasa line. For other commuter routes forget
online information. With time to spare we went in search of commuter timetables. We hadn't
expected any sort of timetable we could take away, but thought we'd be able to find departure times
somewhere. Nope! We managed to get someone in the office to write them down for us, before the
officious security bods kicked us out of the station. We then went to the KR part of the station, where
the facilities manager agreed to show us round the station and then took us to the Central Workshops
where we managed to get a tour.’
 Saudi Arabia - Haramain High Speed Rail opening date in jeopardy
The planned launch in March of commercial services on the Haramain high speed line between
Makkah and Madinah is in doubt following further delays in completing three of the line’s five stations.
The Great Hall of Washington Union Station in 1915