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Published by membersonly, 2018-12-05 16:13:54


8th December 2018

BLNI Extra 46 December 2018 – Photographs from a Baltic journey
[D50] Latvia – Photographs of Latvian railway infrastructure

The isolated terminus of the northern route of Rīga suburban services is the station at
Skulte. On 18 April the only other passenger to join the 16:12 back to Rīga was a presumed
staff member who emerged from the station building at the last minute, locking the door
behind her. As with most of the country’s stations, the buildings are kept in immaculate
condition. Behind the photographer, rusty track continues to a headshunt for out-of-use
sidings. Further again, the trackbed continues north, eventually reaching Estonian metals at

No architectural awards for poor Strenči, with its cubist Soviet-era design. Most of the

stations north of Valmiera are built in the same uninspiring style. By contrast, there are
many traditional station buildings further south, with Cēsis being a particularly fine example.
The picture was taken during the stop of the 10:37 Rīga – Valga, one of the two daily trains

to cover the full route. On 19 April this train had departed from the capital well loaded, but

numbers had dwindled to a handful by this point. The photographer was the only one to
venture across the border to Valga, Estonia. It seems that a connecting bus from Lugaži is a

better option for reaching most parts of Valka, the Latvian part of the frontier-straddling

town, as Estonian local bus services tend to remain on their own side of the border.

An isolated section of the LDZ network exists near Valka, serving some factories to the west
of the town (and apparently having once extended further). The junction with the Rīga –
Valga line is about 150 metres into Estonia, facing Valga. It is notable from the photographs
that the ER permanent way is of a much higher standard than LDZ’s, also that there has
been no traffic for some time. The picture on the left looks east, with the junction in the
distance and the main line partly obscured by bushes; the picture on the right is a westward
view. The black and white striped post is a non-railway border marker, the other sign marks
the end of ER infrastructure.

[D51] Estonia – Photographs of Estonian railway infrastructure

Latvian and Estonian services make the cross-platform interchange at Valga on 21 April.
The Soviet-design RVR train contrasts sharply with Elron’s articulated Stadler dmu. Nobody
can complain about dull liveries though! The historic station building is still in passenger use
here, unusually for Estonia. Inside, the RVR departures do not appear on the digital display,
though local bus services are shown.

On 21 April the 13:59 to Tallinn sets off from Valga, while the 14:38 to Rīga awaits
departure on the left. This being a Saturday, the latter “ought” to have been at the weekend
and holiday time of 16:38 – so just as well the writer checked the RVR journey planner and
didn’t rely on printed/PDF timetables! A quick check of the 10-day horizon on the planner

showed a further anomaly: a 16:38 departure on Monday 30 April. The latter could be

explained by this date being sandwiched between a weekend and the 1st May holiday, but

the reason for the 21 April retiming remains a mystery. Timetable alteration notices for the

following week were on display at many stations, mostly showing enhanced services from
Rīga to the coast, but none mentioning the Valga line changes were seen. Moral: don’t
make plans that depend on either departure time, until the day’s service has been put up on

the journey planner 10 days ahead! Although the 16:38 has a very good connection from

Tartu and Tallinn, the 14:38 involves a 3 hour wait.

The station building at Tootsi

Toot, toot, Tootsi, goodbye
Toot, toot, Tootsi, don't cry
The choo choo train that takes me
Away from you, no words can tell how sad it makes me

… or so it will be in December, assuming closure of the Lelle—Pärnu branch goes ahead as
planned. The wooden building at this intermediate station, snapped while the morning
Tallinn— Pärnu service paused at the more modern concrete platform, is typical of rural
stations on the ER network. Most now appear to be in residential use.

(with apologies to Al Jolson … and to the BLNI readership!)

Pärnu, where the 20 April morning service from Tallinn has just disgorged its dozen or so
passengers many of whom joined at intermediate stations along the branch from Lelle. The
4km distance from station to town centre, the sparse twice-daily service and slow speeds
along the branch all account for the low passenger loadings and hence the Estonian
government’s reluctance to continue subsidising the line. Stickers over the branch section of
timetable posters indicate that schedules have been padded (by 6 or possibly 16 minutes,
from trying to squint at the concealed text). This train combines with a Viljandi service
between Tallinn and Lelle. As splitting services are uncommon on the Elron network, there
are multiple on-board announcements to ensure passengers aren’t in the wrong rong (rong
= train).

Pärnu station is situated on the far side of a dual-carriageway by-pass road. The final 1km
or so of line seems to have been relatively recently reconstructed along the route towards
Rīga (the Latvian railhead is seen in the picture of Skulte above), with the bridge over the
Pärnu River north of the station appearing to be contemporary with the adjacent by-pass
bridge, and certainly post-independence. After walking through an underpass below the
road, passengers reach a connecting bus, which meets both the day’s arrivals but only the
morning departure. Other bus services are available a short walk away at the front of a
shopping complex. This picture shows the uninviting access arrangements, as the late
afternoon Tallinn service awaits departure on 20 April. This and the picture above look
towards Lelle.

After arriving at Pärnu, the train departs back empty to the staffed station of Pärnu
Kaubajaam (= Goods Station). This station is even further from the town, being a bleak
expanse of rusting sidings on the fringe of open country, with a rather military-looking
building fronted by an enormous but unoccupied car park. Here the set lays over until
returning to the terminus for the late afternoon departure; presumably the same thing
happens overnight. The Stadler dmu is captured as it slumbers through the sunny but
appropriately “baltic” afternoon of 20 April. The top two pictures look towards Lelle, the
bottom picture faces Pärnu. The 7½ hour stopover on the outskirts of Pärnu for those
making a day visit to the line can be rather challenging in terms of boredom avoidance; after
visiting the Kaubajaam and the remains of some industrial branches, the writer did seriously
toy with the idea of taking a bus back to Tallinn!

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