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Published by membersonly, 2018-04-10 06:02:42

1290iExtra31

7th October 2017

October 2017 BLNI Extra No. 31 – Slovakia
[C74] Slovakia - Summer seasonal services sampled
Trencianska Tepla - Trencianske Teplice
As part of an Interrail trip to visit lines in central and eastern European countries with summer dated services,
a Saturday was spent crossing Slovakia in order to visit three of them. The first target was the interurban
tram line from Trencianska Tepla to Trencianske Teplice, which was operated by ZSSK until passenger
services were withdrawn in 2011. After a period where only occasional services ran, the line now sees four
return trips a day on summer weekends. The first service of the day, the 10.00 departure from Trencianska
Tepla, consisted of a lightly loaded pair of trams, which picked up and dropped off the odd passenger along
the way. The line is a typical inter urban roadside tramway with some very awkward unguarded level
crossings over busy roads, where local drivers seem happy to play chicken. The station at the branch terminal
is a substantial concrete building with two platforms. Trencianske Teplice is a prosperous looking spa town
with some nice restaurants and coffee shops, so a pleasant 40 minutes was spent here before catching the
return service. Your reporter presented his Slovakian senior railcard, which on the state system gives free
travel, and was charged the princely sum of 20 cents for a single journey, an absolute bargain for a 6
kilometre trip.

View from tram on the outskirts of Trencianske Tepla showing roadside running typical of the line.

Tram at Trencianske Teplice terminus.

Spisska Nove Ves - Levoca
Travelling east, the second target was the Levoca branch, which only has scheduled services on the first
weekend in July. The reason for this is that there is a basilica just outside the town, to which there is an
annual pilgrimage undertaken by many thousands of people. Your reporter arrived mid-afternoon to find
that the service he was catching, consisting of a pair of modern two car DMU‘s, was already packed full with
people and luggage. The line runs along a shallow valley and crosses the main road a couple of times on two
ungated crossings so it was interesting to see that a police car followed the train and positioned itself
prominently, presumably as a warning to locals who weren’t used to having to stop. On arrival at Levoca it
was noted that the station was staffed (maybe for this weekend only), although there was no evidence of
any freight. The return service was, unsurprisingly, nowhere near as busy although it still carried a
reasonable load.

Modern ZSSK unit on arrival at Levoca

Spisske Vlachy – Spisske Podhradie
Your reporter only became aware of the summer service on this branch shortly before he was due to depart
from the UK but, as it was only a few kilometres east of the Levoca branch, it seemed a shame not to include
it. Unfortunately, he was only able to get to the main line junction station of Spisske Vlachy in time for the
last train of the day and, since the service is operated from the branch end, it meant that he would have to
find another way of returning. He had already established that there were no buses, so was resigned to
either a taxi or a 9 kilometre walk which, given that the weather was dry and not too hot, was a realistic
possibility. The branch service was provided by a former ZSSK railcar repainted into the operating company’s
smart red livery. Before making a final decision on whether to travel, your reporter was hoping to find out if
a taxi was a realistic possibility. The guard didn’t speak English, but fortunately the one other passenger did,
so once he’d made it clear what he wanted to do, a discussion between these two established that the
chances of a taxi were pretty much zero. He decided to go anyway but, soon after setting off, the guard
announced that it wouldn’t be safe to walk back as there was a village on the road which was full of
undesirables! At this point your reporter decided that it would be the sensible decision get off at the first
stop but, just before the train arrived there, he was told that the driver had offered to give him a lift back.
Having sorted this out he then settled back to enjoy the very pleasant scenery in this hilly and sparsely
populated part of the country. His enjoyment was rather rudely interrupted when, less than a kilometre
from its destination, the train came to an abrupt halt when the engine cut out. The driver tried everything
to restart the train, and eventually your reporter was told that the unit had in fact run out of fuel but, rather
surprisingly, that we’d be on our way in 10 minutes or so. The driver, who had been on his phone, walked
around 200 metres up the line to a level crossing to meet a colleague, who had driven down from the station.
They both then returned to the train carrying two large jerry cans, the contents of which they then
proceeded to pour into the fuel tank.

Refuelling unit near Spisske Podhradie

Eventually, after the driver had removed the engine hatch and pumped fuel through the system, the engine
was restarted and the unit completed its journey, arriving 40 minutes late. The driver, who also spoke a little
English, was very apologetic and asked if your reporter would mind waiting another 15 minutes as he had to
put the unit away in its shed. Your reporter of course replied no, but asked if he would take a passenger. The
answer was yes, and the unit then proceeded to the bitter end of the line before reversing and taking the
short branch up to the shed, which was just about big enough to house it.

Unit on arrival at Spisske Podhradie with Spis Castle in the background.

Talking to the driver it became apparent that he and his colleague are part of a small group of ZSSK
employees and enthusiasts (he himself is involved in the running of a main line steam engine as well as
working as a loco driver on the narrow-gauge system at Poprad Tatry) who have got together to run this
service and try to persuade to local authority not to turn the line into a cycle track. This feels like a real hand
to mouth operation as, for example, the staff repainted the unit themselves in their shed.

Same train back in its shed - the main running line can just be seen to the right.

Zohor – Plavecke Podhradie
The following Saturday afternoon saw your reporter in the west of the country to complete his visits to
Slovakian seasonal branches. This line was closed to passengers in 2012, but this year a weekend service of
four return trips has been funded by the local authority. It is effectively an extension of the Zahorska Ves
branch service, so the three-coach train, a two-coach unit and a trailer, departed from the branch platform,
so using the difficult to do main line connection. There was a reasonable sprinkling of passengers, although
nowhere near enough to justify the size of train. A few people joined, and more left, at the intermediate
stations, so only a handful of passengers alighted at Plavecke Podhradie, which is actually the penultimate
station on the branch, the actual terminus being Plavecky Mikulas. All the indications were that this final
stretch of line was closed, but an opportunity to ride on the unit as it ran round the trailer provided a good
view of the track beyond, which was shiny as far as the eye could see.

Awaiting departure from Placvecke Podrhadie after running round.

View from the unit at the reversing point north of Plavecke Podhradie station looking towards the end of the branch at
Plavecky Mikulas - note that the track looks to be in use.

[C75] Slovakia - More Slovakian branches visited
Your reporter joined the last two days of a three-day Steam Story tour of Slovakia. The attraction was that
it was booked to cover a number of former passenger branches as well as some freight only cross border
lines. The first of the two days was an extremely long and intense one, and commenced with an 07.10
departure from Kosice. The train formation included a restaurant car, which provided an excellent breakfast,
and which was needed as no extended stops were scheduled. The first branch to be covered was from
Moldava nad Bodvou to Medzev, which closed to passengers in 2003 but was subsequently reopened a short
distance to Moldava nad Bodvou Mesto, where a rather grand bus/rail interchange has been built. From
here the line winds up a pleasantly wooded valley to Medzev, where it was noted that there was still timber
traffic, typical of this part of Slovakia, and that the station building was intact and still used. Only 10 minutes
was allowed here, but this wasn’t a problem as the train was topped and tailed.

Tour awaiting departure from Medzev.

Returning to the main line, the train carried on westwards to Roznava, where the second branch of the day,
to Dobsina, was taken. Another casualty of the closure programme in 2003, this branch was very similar in
character to Medzev and similarly had timber wagons in the sidings at the terminus.

Tour at Dobsina – view towards line end showing timber wagons.

What was, by now, quite noticeable was that no weed killing trains had ventured up either of these lines in
recent times as much of the track bed was very overgrown, but this didn’t seem to deter the driver who was
happy to keep to the line speed.
At Plešivec one of the locos was dropped so, on arrival at Lenartovce a run round was required to access the
short line to Bánréve, in Hungary. This gave the opportunity to explore the rather grand but now virtually
derelict station buildings, built in the 1990’s on a scale befitting a border station. The cross border line closed
to passengers in 2009, the last service being a single Miskolc Tiszai to Ózd service that ran to Lenartovce and
back. As a result of this closure, as well as its isolated location, services have been cut back to the extent that
it is served by just one eastbound service per day.
The reversal at Bánréve was in the yard, so not giving physical overlap for those that hadn’t done the line
before and were worried about such things. Carrying on westwards, the next stop was Fil’akovo, where a
further reversal proceeded a spirited run up the steeply graded freight only line to Somosköújfalu, just across
the Hungarian border.

Tour at Somosköújfalu in Hungary.

After a further pause, this time the train carried on into Hungary along the lengthy branch to Hatvan, then a
short distance on the Miskolc to Budapest main line, before branching off at Aszód and heading for
Balassagyarmat. Until now timekeeping had been exemplary, but we had been warned earlier in the day
that speed restrictions that had been imposed on this section of the tour very late on, and therefore not
reflected in the timings, would cause delays. This became clear as we crawled along, arriving at
Balassagyarmat around 20 minutes late. This wasn’t too alarming, but unfortunately our 10 minute pause
here was to become much longer when it was announced that, in order not to disrupt the normal passenger
service, we wouldn’t be able to leave until after the final train of the day had departed. This effectively meant
a 20.00 departure time, and put us 75 minutes down. Daylight was now very much an issue as the final
branch, and highlight of the tour for your reporter, was still to come. This was the line to Vel’ký Krtiš, which
is notable for the fact, although the branch terminus is in Slovakia, it can only be accessed through Hungary.
Furthermore, it had been reported that the line fell out of use in 2015 when freight traffic ceased.
At 20.00 the tour finally departed and made its way north to the junction station Nógrádszakál, where it was
still light enough to take reasonable photographs.

Tour at Nógrádszakál, junction for the Vel’ký Krtiš branch, at dusk.

After running round the tour proceeded towards Vel’ký Krtiš in fading light, crossing the border before
reaching the intermediate station of Malé Straciny, where a coal mine had provided the final regular freight
traffic. Unfortunately there was a further delay while the staff opened up the station and went through the
procedures required to allow the train to go further. Eventually it did set off, in twilight, and when they
finally arrived at Vel’ký Krtiš there was just enough light to make out the station and surrounding
countryside, but not enough for photos.
By this time we were nearly 90 minutes late, so arrival at Zvolen, the day’s journey end, which was originally
booked for 22.51, was now likely to be well past midnight. Worse was to come, however, as a points failure
prevented the loco from being able to run round. In the UK this would have been catastrophic and we would
have ended up on a bus, but the enterprising Slovakian crew attached a searchlight (presumably brought
along for this purpose) to the tail of the train and we propelled back to Malé Straciny, where the loco was
able to run round. All this took time, although the one bonus was that the crew were happy to allow
passengers into the operational part of the station, where it was noted from the register that the last train
to have reached here was an engineers’ train on 15 May 2017, which explained why the line didn’t look as
out of use as had been expected. Finally the tour left around 2 hours late, so the remaining journey, through
the Hungarian passenger terminus of Ipolytarnóc, and on across the freight only cross-border line to
Lučenec, was done in complete darkness, although a clear sky and bright moon provided some consolation.
No more time was lost but it was still nearing 01.00 when Zvolen was reached and most passengers were
able to make their weary way to their hotels, although some just slept on the train! In your reporter’s case,
his hotel fortunately had a 24-hour reception which lived up to its name.

The third and final day of the tour saw a relatively civilised start time of 08.30, so it was possible to have
breakfast at the hotel before leaving. Immediately upon leaving Zvolen, the train branched onto the long
through line to Šahy, the day’s highlight for your reporter. This line, another which closed to passengers in
2003, still seems busy with freight, and at one intermediate station the military were busy loading tanks on
to a rake of carrier wagons.
From Šahy, it was a long run south to Štúrovo then west, leaving via the yard south of the main line, to Nové
Zámky and finally north to Nitra where, after nearly three hours of pretty much non-stop running,
passengers could stretch their legs whilst the train waited for a southbound service train. After this much
appreciated pause, the train finally reached the second target of the day, the branch from Zbehy to Radošina,
yet another 2003 closure, which appears to see no regular use.

View from tour on Radošina branch showing state of track (i.e. none visible!)

Train on arrival at Radošina.

Returning to Zbehy before taking the main line north to Prievidza, the train continued on to Nitrianske
Pravno, the final non-passenger line of the tour. Closed more recently, in 2012, there was no obvious sign of
freight traffic here either. From here it was a straightforward run to Zilina, where the tour ended.
[C76] Slovakia - A visit to the Košice narrow gauge line
The KŽC one week railcar tour reported in the IBSE liste (and in BLNI) included a one day tour of the broad
gauge system in Slovakia. This sufficiently excited your reporter that he structured a short visit around this
rather rare event. He flew to Vienna (Wien) and made his way over the course of two days to Košice in
eastern Slovakia, where he planned a visit to the nearby heritage railway. Having purchased a 24 hour ticket
from the ticket machine at the Košice tram terminus he set off on tram 2, although from the display screen
on the tram it was apparent he wasn’t going all the way, as it said Nameste Maratonu mieru rather than
Havlickova on the front. On arrival at Nameste Maratonu mieru the reason was apparent – the track to
Havlickova was being replaced, with gangs of swarthy men swinging pickaxes in a summer heatwave. ME
Maps showed that Havlickova tram terminus was about 10 minutes brisk walk away, and on arrival he quickly
located the bus stop and found a number 14 bus was due within a few minutes. Annoyingly he could have
taken this all the way from the railway station and saved himself a walk! For €1 he travelled for a few minutes
to Čermeľ (formerly Čermeľ-Baránok), and on alighting found the narrow gauge station visible in the
distance. Immaculate little steam engine U29-101 on one coach was at the buffer stops just off the platform
being polished up by some young volunteers, but not in steam. The 09:20 departure having (just) been
missed, a wait was necessary for the 11:20 departure to Alpinka. Refreshments were available and shaded
picnic tables provided a congenial place to wait. The inbound service duly arrived, the diesel loco ran round
and at 11:20 set-off.

TU29-2003 on its two coach train ready to leave Čermeľ station, which is in a wooded valley.

The railway is the Košická dětská historická železnice (KDHŽ) and is metre gauge and 4.2km long. It was the
first pioneer railway on the territory of the former Czechoslovakia (built 1955-56) and now is the only
surviving one, all others having closed. As with other Pioneer railways, they are also Children’s Railways and
children in uniform help to run the railway, checking tickets and flagging the train away. There was however
a break in this tradition between 1990 and 2011.
The line runs alongside the Čermeľský river in a wooded valley, parallel with a road, which it crosses once.
There is an intermediate station, Vpred (formerly Čermeľ-Vodáreň), where considerable quantities of ballast
were stored and after 20 minutes the terminus station of Alpinka (formerly Pionier) is reached.

Ballast stored at Vpred station makes access to the building rather difficult. Trains stop, but few people ever board here.

The station is by a park with interpretation boards (in Slovak only) and the cabs of a number of class
751/752/753 ‘Goggle’ locomotives are scattered about, presumably as a railway themed feature as they
served no useful purpose.
The train returned shortly and our member decided to walk back to the Nameste Maratonu mieru tram stop,
which took about 30 minutes.

Cab of a ‘Goggle’ locomotive at Alpinka. The nickname for the class is easily understood!

[C77] Slovakia – A visit to the broad gauge railway
After the Second World War Czechoslovakia became part of the Soviet bloc and there was an increasing
exchange of goods between the two states. Steel production in Slovakia was dependent on iron ore from
the Soviet Union, and this arrived by transhipment from 1520 to 1435 mm gauge at Čierna nad Tisou.
Capacity was a problem from the start, with problems for the transfer of iron ore in the winter months, when
it had to be defrosted in special tunnels. The problem had to be addressed when it was decided to build the
East Slovak Ironworks (VSŽ) in Košice, and the solution adopted was to build a broad gauge line from
Uzhgorod in what is now Ukraine, to Haniska, south of Košice. Following agreement between ČSD and SŽD
in November 1963, the first construction works on the track with a total length of 95 km, of which 88 km on
Czechoslovak territory, were commenced on 16 March 1964. Testing started in May 1966 and on 11 May 11
a VIP special ran Uzhgorod to Haniska and the first freight ran as well. The track was finally completed in
December of the same year. Construction had been fast – too fast, as poor construction and engineering
would give a legacy of costly remediation work. Initially worked by diesels, further capacity had to be
provided by electrification at 3kV DC, works commencing in spring 1973, and the first section of from Haniska
to Trebišov ŠRT opening 16 December 1976. The whole line was electrified and opened on 1 January 1978.

However, the line remained single track and this continued to limit capacity into the 1980s, but there were
other factors. The line had had no major maintenance since construction, iron ore leakage had covered
sleepers and ballast in places and overloading (often up to 30 tonnes per axle) was causing rail fractures,
damage to locomotive springs and serious accidents. Rather than doubling the BG line it was decided to
construct a standard gauge route as well, partly using existing lines. This allowed a major reconstruction of
the broad gauge line between 1992 and 1996 and a line speed of 65 km/h throughout.
Currently 10 train pairs run daily conveying 54,000 tonnes, making it a very profitable operation. There have
never been passenger services, but railcars were provided for inspection purposes and staff trains. Freights
are worked by double electrics of class 125.8 (formerly E469.5) built by Skoda. A number of diesels are also
used, mainly for works trains and shunting at Haniska and Maťovce.
Czech enthusiast group KŽC had organised a week-long excursion through the Czech Republic and Slovakia,
with one day including a charter along the broad gauge railway. Your correspondent had arranged to join
the train at Trebišov, a convenient point of access as the broad gauge runs between the station building and
the standard gauge lines used for the Košice to Humenne and Michal’any - Trebišov services. The KŽC train
was due to arrive from Michal’any at about nine, and the broad gauge charter train, comprising railcar M131-
1125 had arrived from Haniska in advance of this and was waiting a short distance down the line, pulling
forward into the station shortly after nine to pick-up at the staff crossing.

A class 125.8 double electric passes through Trebišov station on the broad gauge lines, the picture being taken from the
platforms on the standard gauge line. The staff crossing is gated, but these were opened to allow passengers to join the
KŽC special the following day.

After a ‘false start’ because someone had been left behind, the railcar headed east towards Ukraine. Because
the entire railway is single track, extended loops were needed for trains to cross, and these were often
associated with sidings, buildings and other railway infrastructure for use by crews and staff. Trebišov
Širokorozchodná trať (Trebišov ŠRT) commences about a kilometre east of Trebišov station, and a number
of electrification vehicles and other maintenance equipement was stabled near the staff station. Soon the
standard gauge track diverges north east towards Bánovce nad Ondavou. After Bánovce nad Ondavou
station a triangular junction gives access to the standard gauge line to Veľké Kapušany and Mat’ovce which
opened in 1909. This is part of the standard gauge route constructed as an alternative to the broad gauge
railway. There was a passenger service from Bánovce nad Ondavou to Veľké Kapušany, but this closed on 9
December 2012. The only traffic is some bulk liquids and Ukrainian coal, which have to be transhipped at
Mat’ovce.
This line reappears after about 7km and runs alongside the broad gauge railway all the way to Mat’ovce.
After a further 4 km both railways form the south west boundary of the town of Budkovce and the loop at
Budkovce ŠRT. Steady progress is made to Vojany, where the railway geography suddenly gets a little more
complex. The two lines divide, the standard gauge line throwing off a branch southwards which passes under
the broad gauge line and heads for the Vojany power station (Elektrárne Vojany) which is visible in the
distance. A short distance further on a broad gauge line from the power station also trails in from the loop
and yard at Vojany ŠRT, after which the broad gauge crosses the standard gauge by a bridge to enter Veľké

Kapušany, the two lines staying approximately 50 metres apart. From here it is only a couple of kilometres
to Mat’ovce ŠRT where Slovakian and Ukrainian double electric locomotives were present. The tour carried
on a further 2 km to km post 0.1, close to the Ukrainian border, and 8 km from Uzhgorod.

The KŽC tour reached km post 0.1, which is 100 metres from the Ukrainian border. A police vehicle was at hand to prevent
an unauthorised excursion further. The standard gauge track is to the left, but was out of use and overgrown in places.

The standard gauge track from Ukraine to Mat’ovce is not electrified and very obviously not in use.

The tour now returned to Mat’ovce for a short break during which there was insufficient time to investigate
the standard gauge line and transhipment facilities, before retracing the outward route to Trebišov for the
second half of the system.

Part of the office building at Mat’ovce ŠRT. Note that the character over the T is transliterated as T’.

After the station a standard gauge spur goes off to the east side of the Tatravagónka wagon works, but the
broad gauge turns briefly south west, diverges from the standard gauge line, then swings west to go over it.
The standard gauge line continues south towards Michal’any, but the Košice line splits off to go west and
run parallel with, and to the south of the broad gauge line. Before the two lines converge a lengthy
connection from the broad gauge goes to the west side of the wagon works.
The line is now starting to rise and contouring, in the form of an ‘S’ shaped section, is needed to ease the
gradient, but even so normal practice is for two double electrics to work this section on loaded iron ore
trains. Another loop and buildings is passed at Slivnik ŠRT. There is a station on the standard gauge here and
shortly line 190 trails in from Michal’any and Slovenské Nové Mesto. There is a long section of parallel
running now with a standard gauge station and yard at Slanek to maintain interest before Slančík ŠRT is
passed. Now comes a standard gauge yard at Ruskov and then Bohdanovce where the two line separate
with the standard gauge making a wide loop a kilometre further south than the broad gauge before swinging
north and passing under the broad gauge to converge with it briefly near Hornád ŠRT. The broad gauge
heads due west, finally by itself again, goes over the passenger line to Hidasnémeti and Miskolc in Hungary,
then alongside the R4 motorway, on the other side of which is the standard gauge railway from Košice to
Fila’kovo and Zvolen and this passes through the vast yards between the stations of Haniska pri Košiciach
and Hutniky which serve US Steel. A standard gauge chord, several hundred metres long, crosses the
motorway from the NE end of the yard complex and runs alongside the broad gauge to Haniska depot which
caters for locomotives of both gauges. A double shunt was needed to access the depot where the railcar was
stopped at the fuelling point, and the passengers disembarked for a walk around the shed where several
double electrics were under maintenance, and a few withdrawn examples occupied some sidings.

M131-1125 is back at its home depot of Haniska, and parked by the fuelling point. The loco on the right of the picture is
standard gauge, and it is on this track that the KŽC railcar will arrive to continue the tour.

A KŽC class 810 railcar soon arrived on the standard gauge to continue the tour. Initially this involved taking
the previously mentioned chord to the north east end of the yard, then running through the sidings to the
US Steel boundary, before returning by a different route and exiting the yard to take the Košice avoiding line
and proceed down the line towards Michal’any and Slovenské Nové Mesto. With the main interest of the
day having ended, our two members left the train at the little station of Krásna nad Hornádom where a local
train soon appeared to take them to Košice. For one of our members the journey into Košice cost nothing.
This was because, being over the age of 62 he had obtained a preukaz pre zákazníka card earlier in the week
at Bratislava. This entitles anyone over the age of 62 to free travel tickets on ŽSSK trains, irrespective of
citizenship. He was fortunate that he chose Bratislava to obtain the card as there was a photo machine in
the booking hall which supplied the correct size photo for the card. Further details at:
http://www.europetrainsguide.com/Advice/Seniors/Seniors.html

[C78] Slovakia/Austria/Ukraine/Russia -Košice to Wien broad gauge line takes a step forward
A project to extend the present broad gauge (1520mm) line from Uzhgorod (Ukraine) beyond the present
terminus near Košice (Slovakia) was announced in 2010, but now appears to be gaining momentum. At the
beginning of July, ÖBB (Austria), ŽSR (Slovakia), UZ (Ukraine) and RZD (Russia) announced that they would
soon launch the tender for the evaluation of the technical and environmental requirements. The
development of the corridor will require the extension of the infrastructure from Košice by around 450 km

and the construction of a logistics centre in the Wien/Bratislava area. The project is aimed at reducing freight
transport times from the far east by 50% compared to maritime transport.

[C79] Slovakia – More upgrading works for EU corridors
ŽSR has awarded a €365m contract to modernise 16 km of Corridor V between Púchov and Povazská Teplá.
The largest modernisation contract awarded by the infrastructure manager includes construction of 1082
metre and 1861 metre tunnels on a new alignment and conversion from 3 kV DC to 25 kV 50 Hz.


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