© Text by Peter Lindop, Pictures by Tom Chaffin
2nd to 9th September 2001
Owing to privatisation of some overnight services on the continent and the subsequent loss of free and reduced rate travel on these services, the decision was made at council to fly to Berlin and then by train to Prague. However the option for members to make their own way was left open.
Sunday 2nd September:
The main body of the party met at Liverpool Street station, in plenty of time for the 09.30 train to Stanstead Airport. In fact we caught the 09.15, which gave us plenty of time at Stanstead to book in and dispose of our luggage and to be greeted by the news that our plane will be delayed, not by a significant amount at first, but this grew to 45 minutes late by the time we left the ground. This was worrying as it made our connection time into our train at Berlin Schoenfeld very tight.
Percy Drummond, who had retired two days earlier as a driver from Watford after 50 years service, was flying for the first time and was treated royally by the flight crew. Percy will certainly never forget his first ever flight.
Time was made up during our flight, to such an extent that we no longer had to worry about missing our connecting train.
Our train rolled into Berlin Schoenfeld station 10 minutes late and we duly made ourselves comfortable in our booked seats for the five-
At Dresden we were joined by three of our German members, Rainer Schulenburg, Uwe Degenhardt and Gunnar Heyde. We had also been joined in Berlin by a new member to the Institution Reece Jones who had travelled from Aberystwyth to be with us on this visit.
There was a dramatic change in the scenery after Dresden as we ran alongside the Elbe River for many miles through high hills and picturesque riverside towns and villages. We also saw one of the Dresden-
Our problems had not quite finished though, as we could not find the mini bus, which was supposed to take us to our hotels. I did some searching whilst Alan Spencer phoned the hotel. We found the bus together. Everybody was packed off to the hotels Andel and Bonaparte, our rooms allocated and after a brief wash and brush up a fair number of us went in search of refreshment (food and drink) which we found in a nearby all-
Monday 3rd September:
Monday morning at 09.30 saw the main body of our party (still two missing who would arrive later) meet with our guide/interpreter to go to the Prague tram museum, our agenda I thought was for a tour of the Prague tram system on a vintage tram.
We arrived at the museum, which is located in a former depot some way out of the centre of Prague. After walking all the way round the museum to find a way in, we were invited to take seats in the refreshment rooms because the museum staff did not appear to be ready for us.
After much waiting and sorting out of tram hire fee, our visit commenced with a tour of the museum, which is housed in a former tram depot. The Prague tram system opened with horse-
Tuesday 4th September:
18 people, along with our city guide/interpreter, gathered outside our hotels at 09.30 before the short walk to the local Metro station. We caught the B line train to Náměstí Republiky, then walked through the city to the main station of Nádraží Holešovice. Here we were met by, our 2 railway guides, who took us up to the control room for an introduction talk.
Until 1990 signal control was by electro-
In summer, 500 trains run through the station a day. There are 8 cameras positioned around the station, although some low ones on the platforms have been stolen! Up to six outputs can be viewed at one time, on the bottom right corner of the main screen. The split second, rather than continuous output, gives an unusual view (but you get used to it).
Some signal boxes are still operating to a small degree around the station. A control room dispatcher sets up most routes, but the old box actually pulls the points and gives the signal. The station is unbalanced, in that there are 6 approach tracks on one side, but only 2 on the other. Signal heads have 6 single aspects in a vertical row, 5 operating with 1 spare. They operate in a complicated order. Out on the main lines, normal signal spacing was 700 metres; this has been increased to 1.3km (plus ATP). There was a rule that to pass some red signals you had to wait three minutes. This was brought down to two. then one. Now they can be passed With caution, but the signal repeated on a display in the cab, this should reduce the risk of accidents. The system is a form of advanced AWS, rather than full ATP. Track circuit failures occur because thieves keep stealing the copper wires!
After some questions, we then left the control room and went out to the platform. At the end, we paused for some more questions, and then walked straight out to a signal box. While we checked there were no trains moving in the area, nobody was wearing any, form of high visibility clothing, but not a problem here-
The box, a brick built, three storey high building, was in need of a repaint. But with a shortage of funds, and overdue replacement, understandable. The frame is still original, although the levers have been removed, and some electric switch boxes added on. These currently, only work the signals, the points changed by the control room. Staff will be redeployed, rather than made redundant, when the box closes and is demolished.
By this box the railway crosses over a road on two steel bridges, which date from 1890. They are examined and repaired as necessary, but the engineers gave a replacement date of the end of this year-
We then walked back to the station, alongside or across tracks, still without any thought to wearing high-
The afternoon was free time; people went off in all directions! 1 went with Percy for some city sightseeing and present buying, and had a snack in the old tramcar cafe in Wenceslas Square. We then headed back to the station to meet up with several others on an early 1960's rounded end single car dmu. (820 057-
The evening started with a mini-
Drinks were ordered, some free, some bought (at a high price, but then you have no alternative!). The extensive buffet lunch was put out, a queue quickly formed, and people started getting their first plate full! The food was a good selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. During the meal the waiters continually came round clearing the tables. A four piece Jazz band played most of the evening. Time quickly came when the boat slowed, and turned round.
Again our table was cleared, this time 1 thought more thoroughly than 1 would have expected, and then suddenly WHAM!! A cake appeared on the table and the band struck up Happy Birthday. Percy's face lit up with surprise as the rest of the crowd joined in with the band. Today was a double celebration, his 65th Birthday and retirement from the railway after FIFTY YEARS OF SERVICE (and all at Watford Depot). Once the singing had died down John Lunn was given the honour of cutting up the cake. This was distributed amongst our group, and duly consumed! Following this Percy was presented with a retirement card signed by everyone with comments, and an ASLE&F Presentation Plate by Alan Spencer. During all this time numerous photos were take to record this happy event. Percy gave a short thank-
To get a breath of fresh air and stretch our legs some of us took a walk on the top deck, as we went through the lock and under the city bridges. By now it had stopped raining so we were able to enjoy the city sights by night. The boat turned again, moored up, our very enjoyable cruise over. The mini bus was waiting for us, but instead of going straight back to the hotel we were given a tour of the old city, including the Jewish quarter. After about 20 minutes we called back at the travel agency office where we said goodbye to our guide who had made the evening a lot more interesting.
Wednesday 5th September:
Wednesday was transfer day, but the transfer to Jindřichův Hradec was to be via České Budějovice and a certain well-
The party regrouped in our reserved seats, we made ourselves comfortable for the journey, which was booked to take 2hrs 44 minutes. Sometime into our journey our Guard/Conductor, who spoke good English declared his interest in railways and a desire to visit the UK, we in turn spoke of the institute and our respective jobs in he UK. It would appear that a new friendship has been formed and a possible Second member in the future.
Our Continental Tour Organiser (Alan Spencer) was invited into the cab from Tabor until the last stop before our destination. In České Budějovice we were meet by my good friend Petr Mercv, many of the arrangements for our weeks visit had been made by Petr, he would remain with us for the rest of our stay in the Czech Republic.
With our luggage stowed safely in the luggage office we went out to the brewery by bus, where after the prelimaries we went for a well earned lunch in a modern building that forms the reception area for the Budva brewery. The restaurant was built to resemble a beer cellar and carried the illusion quite well, there was some problems getting food ordered, but a litre of Budva beer smoothed the way.
The visit itself whilst interesting was done in conveyer belt fashion, being conducted by a young lady who had many facts & figures at her fingertips. The visits started in the bottling hall where 75,000 bottles per hour are filled with beer and pasteurised, pasteurising take about 20 minutes at a temperature of 62 degrees centigrade. A bottle lasts 6 or 7 refills before it either self-
The Brewery produces over 10.000.000 hectolitres of beer per year, water being supplied from two artesian wells, 300 metres deep, and Zatec hops from Northern Bohemia are use along with malt from Southern Moravia. Hop pellets are used rather that whole hops, both malt & hops being delivered by train. There are no addictives or adjectives added to Budvar Beer, just Hops, malt, Yeast and Water are used.
The mash is boiled for about 4 hours, there being 8 brews per day, with 4 brewing kettles in use at any one time. Fermentation takes place in Stainless Steel conical Fermenters lasts for 20 days in total, and at 2 different temperatures. This process is computer controlled Laagering at 2 degrees C takes 80 days, there being 672 laagering tanks In 20 sections. After maturation beer is run off to either be bottled or to fill barrels for draught beer. This concluded our tour of the Brewery; all that remained was to visit the Brewery shop before returning to the station by trolley bus. After collecting our luggage, there was time for a beer (Budvar of course) before joining our train to Jindřichův Hradec and the Pension Perle (6.50 per person/per night B&B). After sorting the rooms out we opted to stay in for our evening meal, however this posed a problem, the menu was in Czech, but with the help of Gunner Hayde one of our German Members we managed to order.
Although we finished eating rather late, a goodly number of us decided to take a look at the town, to see the sights & perhaps a nightcap before turning in.
Czech Electric Loco
Thursday 6th September:
A rainy start to the day saw us assemble at Jindřichův Hradec railway station, on the narrow gauge side, the Jindřichohradecké Railway has a 760mm gauge. The normal service is diesel hauled, although steam does regularly operate, both on service trains and specials. Branches go north 46 kilometres (2 8. 5 miles) to Obratah (opened 2 5 December 1906), and south 3 3 km (20.5 miles) to Nova Bystrice (opened 1 November 1897). This is South-
We started our day on the railway with a visit to the locomotive depot. Here we were introduced to our guide for the day Petra Vochozkova, who does some office work for the company as well as some public duties, She gave us some history and background of the company. As well as operating trains, the railway prints cardboard tickets from presses at two stations. These are printed not just for the RIMD, but also for at least four Europe railways. The tour inside started with us seeing diesel loco 705 906, which had the engine removed as part of its overhaul. At a bench in front of the loco a fitter was electric welding, with no screens, ignoring the fact of us walking around -
At the back of the shed is the diesel refuelling point, and alongside is the interchange siding. Here standard gauge coaches and wagons are put on special narrow gauge wagons, to allow onward movement around the system. The line doesn't have any freight vehicles of it's own.
We then walked back through the shed, and then out to the station to join our special train. Sidings alongside the station held brake vans used as barrier vehicles for freight trains, coaches, and a class 705 on accommodation bogies. Our special was made up of five four-
Most passengers got off, tramped across the grass, and formed an orderly curve to take their photos. The loco crew got a large wooden handled screwdriver and began pushing the brush gear on the generator, after a bit of flickering the three marker lights became bright (with a round of applause from us)! The train then backed up out of sight, whistled, and then came roaring past -
The first station stop was at Střížovice. By now refreshments were being served in the brake van by Petra; beer and lovely sausages, done on a small calor-
Two hours after leaving Jindřichův Hradec, we came to end of this branch -
The crew apparently wanted a quick return, so we were told the photo stops on the return had been cancelled. Therefore there we were unsure what was happening when the train stopped at the forest halt at Kaproum. It then became clear that it was a photo stop after all! A quick five min stop allowed some scenic photos to be taken in the pine forest. Then it was back on board until Střížovice station, when we stopped again -
A quick freshen up, and then everyone went in groups walking around the town sightseeing, passing from time to time! The Castle, lake and some fine old buildings were seen. Dinner was taken at various places around the town.
Friday 7th September:
The account of this day, which included a visit to the ŽOS České Velenice works and a steam railway in Austria is currently missing from our archives, though photographs are available, see below. We will endeavour to find the missing text and add it to the page.
Saturday 8th September
The journey home started with a ride on a four-
We made our way by Metro across to Holešovice Station, and at 15.00 train number EC 172 pulled out of Prague, hauled by 3 71015. This train is a Wien (Austria) to Hamburg (Germany) cross-
We arrived at Dresden about 18. 00. Two of our German members, Rainer Schulenburg and ? went and got their cars, and ferried us to our Hotel. This occupied a couple of floors in a modern office block style building in the southern part of the City.
For an evening drink and meal, some decided to return to a restaurant the Institution had visited on a previous holiday. However when we got there, we found it fully booked. Across the road was a bar, serving meals, so we went in. Food and drink was ordered, and we settled back for the evening. After some time the food started arriving. While almost everything ordered came from the kitchen, it took a long time, and was not necessarily in the right order! The food was good, and certainly became a talking point of the holiday!