A Brief Baltic Visit 2010 - 3: American GEs in Estonia I, August 17 (50 p.)

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Proud Earthling

We have reached my first and top railfanning day in the Baltic States this summer, August 17 2010. The night before I had landed at Tallinn airport with Estonian Air flight #157 from Berlin via Hamburg and arrived at my hotel well after midnight. At the airport I discovered this creative ad for recycling on a bin, even with pun! ;-)

From the airport I took a cab for the short ride into the city, you just have to be careful to catch one with a meter. I only had a few hours for sleeping, and they were disrupted by the horrible cries of an obviously psychologically deranged person staying in one of the rooms next door (luckily only that one night). Before 6 a.m. I left the hotel again to catch the first train leaving from Tallinn towards the east.

On my first walk accross the old town the sun had already reached the rooftops.

View along the town hall arcade.

My modernized ER2 EMU of Elektriraudtee, it ran on route ELR1 to Aegviidu departing at 6:30 a.m. as one of two accelerated train pairs per day stopping at fewer halts. The train to the left is an Edelaraudtee DR1A as service EDR6A to Valga on the border to Latvia, with a departure at 6:49 it would have been my second choice.

I frequently spotted cyclists on Estonian trains.

The sun had just made it to the top of the train, the display was not set correctly yet.

Now the destination had been corrected, and with the departure only a few minutes away I took my seat inside the train.

Seats were modernized and provided plenty of space but were hardly cushioned. As usual on broad gauge, each row could take 2+3 people. This train was sparsely frequented, no wonder, it was rather an empty coach service for a later commuter train towards the city. Tickets could only be purchased inside the Elektri- and Edelaraudtee trains, the mostly female conductors wielded small portable computers for that purpose. The 53 minute / 60 km ride Tallinn - Aegviidu cost 28 Eesti Krooni (EEK), about $ 2.50. We started to move punctually, first we slowly passed the junction of the lines going south and west of Tallinn. Our first stop was Ülemiste, close to the airport. Stations were announced by Estonian female computerized voice, also the type of platform, as different doors had to be used for higher or lower versions. Some smaller halts even only had platforms the length of a single coach, but my semi-fast train didn't stop there. At Lagedi freight yard, also home of a depot, we passed a train that had just arrived and at Lagedi station we overtook an empty oil train pulled by 2TE116 double loco. From time to time we slowed down to pass some construction work and finally arrived at Aegviidu with a delay of 10 minutes, which was kept up by most passenger trains on this line during the day.

The reason for my early arrival: only that way I could catch the GORail Moskva-Ekspress from Moscow to Tallinn, together with a waiting tank car train you had a complete Baltic line-up at Aegviidu station.

The loco hauling it was TEP70-238, same as next day. Soon afterwards the ER2 left for Tallinn. Unlike Latvia, drivers in Estonia always nicely switched on the main headlights before entering the mainline.

Now I was faced with the dilemma if I should take the train to Valga towards Tapa, or stay here and wait for the freight train departure. Electrification ended here in Aegviidu, the mainline was double track to Tapa, junction of single track mainlines east and south. I wouldn't have another connection east stopping at Aegviidu until the afternoon. The frequency of freight traffic still was unclear, recent reports had not been very uncouraging, and the volume of the "pipeline on wheels" from Russia to the port of Tallinn had also reportedly decreased since 2007 because of tensions between Russia and the EU. But finally the beautiful old Aegviidu station built in the founding year 1870 of the first Estonian railroad line Paldiski - Tallinn - Tapa - Narva tipped the balance towards staying here. Even if catenary masts were standing, photo opportunities were good, one of the few landmarks along the line, and traffic more dense with the suburban EMUs.

So, I stayed next to the station building and took this photo of DR1B-3714 as Edelaraudtee EDR6A to Valga.

A few people got out, then my last connection east for the next few hours left from the Soviet era concrete platforms.

I expected the freight train to depart, but first a DMU from Tartu formed of DR1B-3718 und -3120 raced by, these express services only stopped at Tapa, Ülemiste and Balti Jaam terminal in Tallinn.

The next ELR1-service from Tallinn arrived as unrefurbished class ER2.

The freight train still waited for the EMU to reverse until 8:29 a.m., because of the construction work delay this took shorter than scheduled.

At last at 8:34 a.m. the train finally departed, hauled by Luganskteplovoz-built 2TE116-795 of Transoil, one of several private companies in charge of the oil transports. The crew greeted me cheerfully as the loco thundered by.

I hardly had time to breath, because only 5 minutes later the train I had overtaken previously rolled into the station, pulled by 2TE116-1050. A couple of weird guys were in charge of this engine, but all other drivers were more or less enthusiastic about railroad photographers.

The train had stopped on the outermost, unelectrified siding of the station, so I hurried to get to the other end. Reason for the stop was the overtaking by the next express to Tartu headed by DR1BJ-3710.

Then the empty tank car train departed slowly, behind me was construction work going on employing about two dozen people.

Just at that moment it encountered the next Edelaraudtee-DMU towards Tallinn.

The end of the electric line.

A railroad worker - Russian speaker, as all workers I met - came by fetching an empty canister. He had already walked some distance, when he returned, obviously my presence seemed a little dubious to him. He reported to his superiors via radio that an American, no: Australian, no: Austrian (I corrected him every time, amused) had taken pictures of a loco. Obviously the superiors didn't have anything against it, so he continued on his way.

Now it finally was time: I knew that the imported GEs were only rarely to be seen because of the economic crisis, and they also had the drawback that they couldn't operate across the border into Russia because of an excessive axle load. So, I was glad to hear an American horn in the distance and see the yellow-red front of C36-7i ("Dash-7") 1528 approaching me. 58 C36-7i, formerly operating for Missouri Pacific and later Union Pacific, were imported in 2003, as well as 19 C30-7Ai, previously in Conrail, CSX and Norfolk Southern service. In case the livery looks familiar: just as the British EWR colors they derived from Wisconsin Central.
A long freight would have been nice, but it came along with a Latvian LDZ track measurement car - an original American loco inside the European Union operating a "passenger" train on Russian broad gauge - you don't see that every day! As it went past me I was greeted by whistling, an alternative to the horn. By the way, a good method to compare the size to European standard gauge are human dimensions: for example the doors of former Yugoslavian GM export diesels of similar shape are as tall as the whole cab! ;-)

Some more guys were coming by, but I set out to explore the other end of the station.

A good choice, as the station shelter came right in time for a heavy rain shower. The 9:32-train arrived 15 minutes late.

Rainy impressions with ER2-EMU

The weather was getting better after ten minutes and I walked to the station building again to catch the EMU departing when I came across 2TE116-973 of E.R.S. AS ("Estonian Railway Services") with another empty from Tallinn.

The freight passed the station without stopping and met Edelaraudtee train 211 from Valga.

Right afterwards the class ER2 departed as well.

I explored further towards Tallinn and came across a nice curve and this great rollercoaster-like straight. At 11:10 a.m. the next EMU from Tallinn approached, but only very slowly because of the work you can spot in the background.

A few nice houses were standing here, and the sun appeared occasionally.

The train had a scheduled stay before the return trip of over 2:30 h during which it was locked off, even if the driver stayed inside the cab due to lack of local railroad infrastructure (the station was long out of railroad use).

I chose a spot outside the curve where I could conveniently cover both directions, and really, only 20 minutes after the arrival of the EMU I discovered something flickering on the horizon - it was clearly yellow-red! :-D

It also was clear quite soon, that it didn't just pull a single coach!

It took more than five minutes until C36-7i 1534 had made it to my spot, in sunlight!

Again, I was greeted nicely.

The train had hardly passed when a huge smoke cloud from the other direction announced 2TE116-1259 with a long chain of full tank cars.

The drivers at the level crossing had to be patient during the train meeting.

I especially like this shot of the long rake snaking up and down the straight in such lighting.

Now I noticed, that the Dash-7 had stopped - quickly, to the other end of the station! The reason was another train encounter with E.R.S. 2TE116-788 which had been rerouted on the other track.

And so I had my perfect GE departure, the crew turned on all headlights for me and said goodbye by sounding the whistle and waving. To the left you can see the siding where the freights had waited before, and you can also spot the reasons, why they only had left that slowly...

Back at the station, next to the level crossing, I took this photo of 1528 returning with the measurement car during the next rain shower. I only came across locos turned "correctly", didn't see any operating "long hood forward", except for ChME3 heavy shunters.

The water tower had been preserved in an exemplary manner, the pennant with national colors clearly showed Scandinavian influence.

Since I couldn't move forward, I decided to take the train to the next bigger station towards Tallinn, Kehra, where I would be able to stay for 1 1/2 hours.

At Kehra I had spotted a bridge easily reachable from the station, one of very few landscape features along the line. Shortly after I had reached the perfect spot, a Skinest Rail 2TE116 came by and completed the wonderful Scandinavian - Baltic - Russian scenery ensemble.

The panorama in higher resolution can be found here:

I had planned to stay until the next EMU from Tallinn, but only after three minutes ChME3-1328 arrived with a local freight.

Already on the move I sprinted back again as suddenly, ten minutes later, Dash-7 1504 appeared with a mixed freight.

I found a spot on the other side of the Jägala river, just in time for the next eastbound 2TE116. With four freight trains in under half an hour I could reluctantly walk back through the village to the station. More from there and the fantastic evening finale along the unelectrified double track mainline at Lehtse in the next part!

Eastern Railfan

This is such an excellent series Roni. Fantastic photographs with detailed descriptions. The more and more I see pictures of Estonia, the more I want to visit there.

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