INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1274 4 FEBRUARY 2017
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
Construction of Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof started in 1883, with Johann Wilhelm Schwedler the chief engineer for the steel-related
works. The platforms were covered by three iron-and-glass halls covering some 50,000 square metres, and these required
extensive replacement and renovation from 2002-2006. A Neo-Renaissance style was adopted for the buildings and the iron
roof supports, one of which is seen in the picture. Rather than being hidden away, the delightfully decorated ironwork is
displayed to the thousands of people each day that join trains at Germany’s busiest station.
 Belgium - Boom to Puurs – a cautionary tale
Your reporter, having many years before travelled to Boom when
it was the terminus for services from Antwerp, decided that it
was about time he completed the line by travelling over the since
reopened section from Boom to Puurs, the latter a station on the
Mechelen to St Niklaas line. Having stayed overnight in Antwerp,
it was his first target of the day, so he caught the 07:12
departure from the magnificent Centraal station. On arrival at
Boom, the train halted for around 10 minutes, at which point an
announcement was made which included the dreaded work
‘autobus’. Immediate enquiries established that the train
wouldn’t be going any further as the lifting bridge just beyond
the station was stuck in the up position (see photo, taken from
Boom station). A replacement bus had been arranged but, 30
minutes later, still hadn’t appeared. Your reporter needed to
reach Mechelen sooner rather than later and fortunately a
service bus was shortly to leave from the adjacent bus station so
he caught that, still losing an hour on his planned schedule. Later in the week it proved possible to
have another try at doing the line, on the way back to Schiphol for a return flight. This time the
attempt was made from the Puurs end, on the basis that, if the service was running then the unit for it
would be in the loop platform but, if not, then your reporter could either stay on his train from
Mechelen to St Niklaas, or change onto the service back to Mechelen which crossed there, and little
time would be lost. The unit was indeed there so he joined it, only for a similar ‘autobus’
announcement to be made once the two main line services had left. At that point a large party of small
schoolchildren who had also joined the train proceeded to get off and slowly make their way to the
other side of the station.
The cancelled Boom service in the loop at Puurs
Once this party had cleared the subway your reporter was able to go across as well and find out what
was happening. It turned out to be the same problem as before but, when quizzed, the station staff
explained that this was a regular, but usually short term problem, caused by ‘loose wiring’ and that
they had no idea when the service would next run. On this occasion there was a replacement coach
waiting but it was already full with the school party so your reporter was obliged to sit on the fold
down seat by the driver. The journey to Boom, which takes 7 minutes by rail for the 6 kilometres, was
excruciatingly slow, and culminated with the elderly driver missing the turning to the station, driving
down a ½ mile long cul-de-sac, and then having to reverse all the way back. The eventual arrival at
Boom station was just in time for the next train from Antwerp. Upon enquiring, the station staff said
that this service would in fact run to Puurs as the bridge problem had been fixed.
By now your reporter was beginning to worry about getting back to Schiphol, but saw no reason not to
take this train. Plan A was to change at Puurs onto the Mechelen train, but this was thwarted as the
train from Antwerp was 10 late and the intended connection could be seen leaving as your reporter’s
train arrived. Plan B was to return to Antwerp on the same train, which ran through to Roosendaal
and, provided a 3 minute connection could be made there, would get him back to Schiphol 2 hours
before flight departure time. Things weren’t looking good when, 5 minutes after the train should have
left Puurs, it still hadn’t, and your reporter had visions of another bridge failure. Fortunately the
elderly unit left 6 late and, despite running through Antwerp at the height of the Friday night rush
hour, lost no further time and indeed arrived at Roosendaal only 3 down, giving your reporter just
enough time for a fast walk from one side of the station to the other and join his onward service just
as it was being whistled off.
 Estonia – Tallinn trams
Tallinn tram lines 3 and 4 were closed in the first half of 2016 for re-building. From 1 June the parts of
lines 1 and 2, which do not overlap with lines 3 and 4, were closed for re-building. The provisionally
shortened line 2 re-started on 1 September but Line 1 is only scheduled for re-opening in Autumn
2017. The OLE has been removed for renewal, including from Kolpi depot; stranding some trams there
during the works. This work is in addition to the largely EU funded new 700 metre extension to the
 France – New services around Bordeaux
Pessac is on the outskirts of Bordeaux on the line to Bayonne. From 11 December a new service
started from Pessac to Macau, which is on the line from Bordeaux to Point-de-Grave. This starts from a
new platform at Pessac and runs parallel (with, it is believed no connections) to the line to Bordeaux
for 900 metres before taking a 500 metre-long reinstated curve (part of the Triangle des Echoppes, not
used for 50 years) to join the Ceinture de Bordeaux, and proceed along the Point-le Grave line. Nine
TER train pairs run between Pessac and Macau daily. At Pessac passengers from the Arcachon or
Bayonne lines can change to tram line B for the city centre, or the new service to reach Blanquefort
and Macau for stations to Point-de-Grave. There is also interchange from the new service to tram line
A. On 17 December 2016 another new service started. This is the so-called ‘Train tram de Medoc’ and
is an extension of tram line C north from Cracovie (near the old St. Louis station) to join SNCF metals to
Blanquefort. Train trams run every 15 minutes.
 France - The remains of the CDHV at Oradour-sur-Glane
The Chemins de fer Départementaux de la Haute-Vienne (CDHV) was an electrified metre gauge
network totalling 345 km in length around the French city of Limoges. It operated from 1908 to 1949.
Few traces remain today, except in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane where 642 men, women and
children were massacred by a German SS company on 10 June 1944. After the war, it was decided to
preserve the ruins of the village buildings as a memorial, and when the railway closed about 700
metres of track and overhead within the village were left in situ. The track runs along the main street
of the village, and the scene is one which must once have been typical of French inter-urban
tramways. The station area include a short passing loop and a siding, with a small station building and
a goods shed. There is free access to village area from 0900-1700 every day. There is also a visitor
centre with paid admission, but this was not open on the day our member visited.
Oradour-sur-Glane station Oradour-sur-Glane street scene
 France - Weekend closure of Paris Gare de Lyon and Bercy on 18 and 19 March
It may surprise readers to learn that all the signals and points at Paris Gare de Lyon are still operated
with a system designed by the PLM and installed in 1930. The tall signal box at the end of platform 5
was erected for the extension of the station 86 years ago and creation of the "numbered" platforms on
the east side (3 - 21). It is soon to be replaced. During the last five years, SNCF has prepared for the
changeover to a brand new signalling centre at Vigneux-sur-Seine (between Villeneuve-St-Georges and
Juvisy) that will, initially, control all traffic (800 trains a day) at Gare de Lyon, Gare de Bercy and along
10 km of approach tracks. The switch-over will take place during the week end of 18/19 March, 2017.
In 48 hours, round the clock, from midnight 17 March, 400 staff will be deployed to re-connect all the
points and signals in the area to the new control centre (Commande centralisée du Réseau) at Vigneux.
The total cost of the project is 200M€. The existing electro-mechanical system is unusual in that the
points are operated by cables. It was as a result of incorrect maintenance to the system that an empty
Lyria TGV derailed in January 2015. The report into the incident recommended modernisation of the
system as soon as possible. During the week end, no trains will operate to or from Gare de Lyon, Gare
de Bercy or between Châtelet and Villeneuve St Georges on RER D.
TGV services will be diverted as follows:
TGVs to/from Marseilles and Côte d'Azur will start and terminate at Roissy CDG Airport TGV station.
TGV Lyria services to Switzerland (Basel, Lausanne, Genève) will use Gare de l'Est.
TGV services to Lyon will use Marne la Vallée, TGVs to Lyon will use Versailles Chantier
TGVs to Languedoc (Occitanie) wlll leave from Gare Montparnasse.
Intercités and TER services to Dijon, Bourgogne and Clermont-Ferrand will use Gare d'Austerlitz.
Transilien R to Montargis and RER D services will terminate at Villeneuve-St Georges or Juvisy.
Courtesy of the SNCF Society.
 Germany - Feldbahn Plaußig
This privately owned Feldbahn near Delitzsch is mainly 500mm gauge, but there is 90 metres of
600mm gauge track as well. In the summer of 2016 the circuit size was increased to 1000 metres.
Running dates and visit arrangements can be found at Seppelbahn.de.
 Germany – Trains to return to the Friedbergbahn
It is intended that this summer steam trains will run from Schmiedefeld to Schleusingen (both on the
[Erfurt] - Ilmenau to Themar freight line), where the trains will reverse and take the 15.8km line to
Suhl , which is on the Erfurt – Arnstadt – Grimmenthal line, and shown in Schweers and Wall as out of
use. The last passenger train ran on 31 May 1997, and the line closed on 31 October 1999. In recent
years the vegetation has been cleared and in December 2015 the first train since closure ran over the
line. Near Suhl is a former rack section with a maximum gradient of 70.6‰, which should test the
steam locomotives used in 2017.
 Germany Waldeisenbahn Muskau new line opens at Easter
The branch of this heritage railway to Mühlrose closed in 2013 to clear the way for brown coal
opencasting by Vattenfall, who also agreed to fund a new 4km replacement branch (see BLNI 1177.032
and 1246.430). Construction started on 29 October 2013 and work is now complete after successful
test runs. First trains will run at Easter 2017. Other dates are 1 May, 17 June, 15 July, 19 August and 2
September with departures at 10:00 and 14:00 from Weißwasser Teichstraße. Participation is only
after registration at [email protected] or telephone (03576) 207472. The tour takes three
hours and includes the Geopark Muskauer and a look at the expanded brown coal mine at Nochten.
 Italy – Service reinstated on heel of Italy
BLNI 1263.334 reported that Gallipoli to Casarano was bus substituted from 1 July 2016. Services
appear to have been reinstated from 5 January 2017.
 Lithuania – Rail Baltica II funding agreed
An agreement to provide €180m of European Union funding to cover 85% of the costs of the
Lithuanian section of the 728 km Rail Baltica II project was signed on 18 November. The funding
allocated under this agreement is to be used to extend the existing 1435 mm gauge railway 55 km
from Kaunas to the border with Latvia. This is a third funding agreement for Rail Baltica. Nearly €710m
has been allocated from the Connecting Europe Facility, including €310m for Lithuania.
 Luxembourg/Belgium - Rodange CFL - Aubange SNCB reopens to passenger services
The above line was ROP on 12 December having been TCP from June 2016 due to signalling problems
between SNCB signals and CFL stock. The trains shown in EGTRE are still timetabled. Our member
managed the 17:42 from Rodange having gone there in good time from Luxembourg. The 17:15 ex
Luxembourg splits at Rodange; the front unit goes to Longwy, the rear to Virton, however the Virton
portion is not shown on the printed departure sheets at Luxembourg.
 Norway - Electrification around Trondheim to start this year
Electrification of the Trønderbanen (Trondheim to Steinkjer) and Meråkerbanen (Hell to Storlien) is
scheduled to start in spring 2017 and be completed by 2023. Intermediate steps are Stavne - Leangen
(2017-2018), Trondheim - Stjørdal (2018-2019), Stjørdal - Steinkjer and Hell-Storlien (2019-2021).
Considerable infrastructure works are necessary, especially to bridges. Trondheim to Værnes will be
 Poland – Lower Silesia Railtour report
Four hardy members flew out at short notice for a tour organised by two Polish enthusiasts and only
confirmed as running the previous week, leaving little opportunity to find cheap flights. Three met at
Legnica in the evening, enjoyed a meal and retired early in anticipation of the 05:45 departure. The
tour was the third of a series in Lower Silesia, hence the name ‘Dolnośląskie Zakamarki III’. The cost of
the tour, which covered 256 km, was PLN 170 (about £35) for payment on the day, which had been
previously agreed by email. The tour ran fast to Węgliniec, where the fourth member joined the train.
The station building and platforms remain in poor condition a year after a previous railtour passed
through. It was beginning to get light as the two car DMU headed north towards Żary, until by Jankowa
Żagańska it was light enough to view the tracks and station as the tour took the 11.1km freight only
line to Żagań. This had been in use for a brief period for diversions only a few weeks earlier, so the one
member who needed this track was very grateful for the opportunity to ‘pull it back’, since he had
been committed elsewhere at the time of the diversions. The train now proceeded south east back
towards Legnica as far as the small station of Rokitki. From here line 303 used to go north to
Niegosławice, but the tour was advertised as going as far as the first station – Duninow. This was
something of a surprise as the Mały atlas linii kolejowych Polski 2011 shows the line as closed
throughout. After reversal the train proceeded up the branch through thick forest for 6.63km to a
point a short distance north of the station of Duninow of which nothing remained. The reason for the
retention of the line was now clear. A large Military base was hidden away in the forest, accessed by a
back-shunt through a gate. This was once the beginning of an extensive loop around the site which re-
entered line 303 further south down the line, but no trace of the southern end was evident. Google
Earth reveals a few short branches and a triangle.
The entrance to the Military base at Duninow is on the right. Kilometre post 0.0 is presumably the start of the line through the
base, which used to form a loop back to the ‘main line’ seen on the left.
The next stop was back at Legnica where the tour passed through the station, with its impressive
canopy, to a dead end siding on the south side of the depot where the train reversed so it could visit
the remaining stub of line 362 which used to go north to Ścinawa and ultimately Kobylin. The stub to
Pątnów Legnicki has now been renumbered to line 382. Services on this line could not run into Legnica
directly as the junction faced the wrong way. Instead passengers alighted or departed from Legnica
Północna which was a short walk along a road from the subway connecting the platforms at the main
station. The station building is still present and from here to the end of the old line is about 5km.
Legnica Północna is no longer used for railway purposes, but still sports most of the station name on the building, which is now
used for private accommodation.
A short line diverges off the old line to a headshunt, from where sidings are reached by a backshunt to
receive coal for a large power station. A small shed was suspected to contain a drawback locomotive,
but this could not be verified.
At Legnica station the pre-ordered hot meals were waiting and chicken breast with mashed potatoes
and vegetables seemed the most popular choice. This was quickly eaten, so an early departure was
possible for the remaining highlight of the tour. This was the lengthy branch to Jerzmanice-Zdrój and
its southern extension. This electrified branch was reopened to passenger traffic in 2008-9, but failed
to attract sufficient patronage and was terminated after less than six months. One member who had
managed to miss this period was especially pleased as this represented 24km of track pulled back.
After 7km the short privately owned branch of line 972 was observed trailing in left before Pawłowice
Małe. This serves a copper smelter and was well used. The station at Złotoryja is at 21 km. This is the
major town on the line and had a large station building, now somewhat rundown. The passenger
service ended after 24km at Jerzmanice-Zdrój, which is also the end of line 284 and the electrification
which was completed in November 1988. Jerzmanice-Zdrój was once an important junction with line
284 heading west to Lwówek Śląski, line 312 heading south to Marciszów and line 342 going east a
short distance to a quarry producing aggregates. Line 342 could be seen behind the station building
(still used for railway purposes) and was observed to rise very steeply before curving into woodland
out of sight.
The station buildings at Jerzmanice-Zdrój are on the right, with the through line to Krzeniów on the other side. On the left of the
picture line 342 curves away, visibly rising, towards a quarry a few kilometres away
This line is not electrified, which partly explains the two diesels in the sidings. After a brief pause the
tour continued south down line 312 to Krzeniów, where there is another large yard. Beyond here line
312 is abandoned and overgrown, but a private line diverges south east for over 4 km to a large quarry
owned by PGP Bazalt, who also own the quarry on line 312. The tour got to just beyond a level crossing
about 300 metres from the aggregate loader. This was a very successful conclusion to the day’s gricing
and all that remained was a few photostops on the return journey to Legnica. Another tour by the
same two enthusiasts is rumoured for March 2017.
 Spain – Bilbao funiculars
Funicular de Larreinta: This operates daily (first service 04:50 M-F!) from an obscure suburban street
about 10-15 minutes walk from the halt at Urioste on the line out to Muskiz. The funicular operates to
the diminutive village of Larreineta with bus connections at both ends. Opened in 1926, the vertical
rise is 342 metres over 1.198 km. It runs every 30 minutes, so a wait to get alternate cars/loops at the
top of about 45 minutes can be whiled away in a small bar just up the hill on the right, after which the
traveller will have seen the whole village! The track can be seen on the opposite hill when arriving at
Urioste and a general bearing taken making access pretty easy.
Funicular Santurtzi: Returning to Bilbao pleased to have completed his Spanish funiculars your
correspondent then found..... another funicular! Having completed Metro line 2 by visiting the new
terminus at Kabiezes (opened 28 June 2014), our member went back one station to Santurtzi where he
believed there was an inclined lift to the district of Mamariga. His Metro day pass got him through the
gate and turning the corner he was confronted by a fully fledged TWIN TRACK internally flanged
funicular railway operating every 5 minutes or so. This rose entirely in tunnels to the underground
station at Mamariga from where one could get to the surface by lift or steps. Not being pushed for
time a few more trips ensued, not least for the novelty of travelling on a funicular with no passing loop
and passing the alternate car in a big open tunnel. So that's them all done.... probably!
 Spain – Bilbao Metro Line 1 to Plentzia and associated oddities
Our member travelled north on Metro line 1 taking in some recent realignments and tunnelled
sections as far as Sopelana from where it is a bus to Plentzia which surely heralds more realignments
on this section to come. He returned as far as Algorta where there is an inclined lift linking the cliff top
to the promenade. This is about ten minutes from the station with a steep uphill section. The inclined
lift costs €0.20 each way, payable at the bottom station and runs daily 09:30-20:00 with closing time
extended until 22:30 in the June-September period. One stop back towards Bilbao is Aiboa and right
outside the station is a much shorter and free inclined lift linking the station to the local housing
 Spain - Bilbao Tramway
Bilbao’s first tramway operated from 1896-1964, but from 2002 a new tramway system (initially with
only four stops) commenced, and this has now grown to 5.5km. It links the three main railway stations
in Bilbao starting outside the Euskotren station then calling at Abando for RENFE and FEVE and
terminating (probably where the money ran out) at La Casilla. At this terminus the tracks continue a
little further down the avenue, but are actually built over by a single face platform into which trams
veer left. A fleet of 8 Urbos 1 trams easily cope with the service pattern and patronage.
 Spain - Puente Colgante - The Ria de Bilbao Transporter Bridge
Just two stops back up the Metro at Portugalete station a long descent to the river brings the Bilbao
visitor to this UNESCO World Heritage site which is the 164 metre long and 64m high transporter
bridge which operates 24 hours a day every day. Its gondola, or moving bridge section, is a railway
vehicle as it runs on rails very much like GWR Barlow rail, approximately 45 metres above the water
which is an international norm for such structures though the gondola itself "skims" across at
approximately 5 metres above the water. The gondola, the fourth since the bridge’s opening in 1893
weighs up to 50 tons in service and is suspended from 18 cables. The bridge’s designer Alberto Palacio
was something of a visionary and initially designed the gondola to be powered by compressed air, but
the technology of the day meant that this was replaced by steam and eventually electric motors. The
bridge was partially blown up by Republican forces only 5 days before the capitulation of Bilbao which
meant it remained inoperable for 4 years until 1942. After this it has undergone refurbishments and
upgrades in 1964 and the late 1990s when the operator’s cabin moved from the high walkway to
ground level. Not only is it possible to cross the river for €0.40 each way but for €7.00 it possible to
ascend one of the lifts and wander across the upper deck taking in the views and information panels
before descending the other side. To cap it all it is also possible to cross the same river only metres
upstream in a small ferry boat that runs more or less continuously for €0.35c (so undercutting the
bridge!) from approx. 06:00-22:00, notably NOT tying up either side but just holding the boat against
the dock with engine power as the plucky passengers hop on and off! For the connoisseur of unusual
transport systems Bilbao keeps on giving, in that the long ascent back to Portugalete metro station is
assisted by no less than eight inclined travellators that work uphill only.
 Switzerland – Lehnen Viaduct
Correcting BLNI 1272.020, this connection was in fact commissioned on 21 November 2016 and not at
the timetable change as originally intended.
 Switzerland - MOB temporary closure
From 2200 23 April 2017 until start of traffic 07 May 2017 there will be no trains between Zweisimmen
and Lenk or Saanenmöser with buses replacing them. This is not reflected in the SBB journey planner.
REST OF THE WORLD
 China – Hong Kong South Island Line opens
After inauguration on 19 December, the South Island line opened on 28 December 2016. The 7km line
from Admiralty to South Horizons extends the MTR network into the Southern District, the only one of
Hong Kong’s 18 districts not currently served by rail. The five-station line will enable passengers from
the Southern District to reach the existing Tsuen Wan Line and Island Line at Admiralty. This station
will also be served by the Shatin Central Link, which is due to open in 2020.
 Israel – Opening of Valley Line and future plans
A ceremony was held at Afula station in Israel on 8 November 2016 to mark the start of commercial
services on the 60km Valley Line between Haifa Lev Hamifratz and Beit Shee'an following three
months of trial operation which has demonstrated the value of the new line as it has already carried
more than 100,000 passengers. Passengers could travel free-of-charge until 6 February 2017, after
which tickets will be sold at half price for the following two years.
Freight services started on the Valley Line on 6 November between the ports of Ashdod and Haifa and
Beit-She'an where a temporary freight terminal has been built until a permanent terminal is ready.
The Israeli Transport Ministry is to promote the construction of a rail link to Jordan, and a revival of the
line between Afula and Janïn in the Palestinian Territory is also proposed.
 New Zealand – Natural disasters disrupt trains in the South Island
The earthquakes in November caused extensive damage to the rail line between Blenheim and
Kaikoura. KiwiRail has now completed the restoration of the Main North Line (MNL) railway between
Picton and Lake Grassmere.
The remaining section, between Lake Grassmere and Kaikoura is the worst affected. KiwiRail is working
with the New Zealand Transport Agency on this section, as the railway and State Highway 1 are both
badly affected and run side-by-side. As a result, the Coastal Pacific will be out of service for the
remainder of the 2017 summer period. It is not yet known when passenger services will be able to
return to the Main North Line, but the Coastal Pacific will not be running until at least September.
The railway between Arthurs Pass and Greymouth was closed from 21 January 2017 due to a landslip
following the recent severe weather in the South Island. Consequently, the TranzAlpine has only been
running between Christchurch and Arthurs Pass.
For the latest information see http://www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz/home/disruption-news/
 Turkey – Ankara Metro line 4 opened
Ankara’s fourth metro line was inaugurated on 5 January 2017.
The 10.6km 11-station Line M4 runs north from Kizilay, where there will be an interchange with the
Ankaray light metro and metro lines M1 and M2, to Gazino, although the 1.4km section between
Kizilay and Atatürk Cultural Centre is not yet operational.
The journey time between Atatürk Cultural Centre and the northern terminus at Sehitler-Gazino is 17
minutes and the line is designed for minimum headways of 90 seconds.
Services are operated by a fleet of 750V dc third-rail trains built by CRRC Zhuzhou at its plant in Sincan
 USA – The 98 year wait for New York’s Second Avenue subway is over
The Second Avenue Subway was first proposed in 1919, the year America gave women the vote and
the Treaty of Versailles was signed, formally ending the First World War. Further attempts in the late
Twenties were killed off by the Great Depression. Another effort failed in the Fifties and it was only in
1972, when Nelson Rockefeller was governor of New York State and John Lindsay was mayor of the
city, that the ground was finally broken. Several stations were built but due to budget concerns the
project stalled. In 2007, construction finally began with a 120ft-long drilling machine that bored
through 50ft of bedrock daily. Because of the location, the stations were built unusually deep at about
100ft. The opening is the first of three proposed phases and is two miles long, meaning that at £1.8
billion a mile it is the world’s most expensive underground line. It is the first major expansion of the
subway system in 50 years.
The subway finally opened at noon on New Year’s Day 2017 and will serve 200,000 riders daily from its
three new stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets, which are an extension of the Q line. It will save
riders an average of 10 minutes each a day and relieve the crammed Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 lines,
the busiest in the United States. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to extend the Q line
further from East Harlem down to 57th Street. A third phase, the T line, will run from East Harlem
down to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan. But with no confirmed budget for either section and no
timetable, it could take another 100 years.