Orient-Express 6: Trans Anatolia E... (50 p. + 5 scans)

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Proud Earthling

To the previous part of the series:
Orient-Express 5: Dogu Ekspresi (50 p.)

Detailed TCDD rail map (Attention - 12.9 MB):

September 21 2013

We return to the wide steppe south of Sivas, to Bostankaya station hardly serving any human habitation. The more surprised Dg53752, Karabük and I were - just having alighted from Dogu Ekspresi - , when we even saw people waiting after the train had departed. At first we thought of some unknown commuter service to Sivas, then we remembered 4 Eylül Mavi Treni to Malatya actually following an interblock space apart. This express was running less than an hour delayed, regularly it was supposed to follow an hour behind our Dogu, that morning with 1:45 h delay.

Despite obstacles a view into the wide hill country opened, those lampposts clearly did not stand straight...

After the express had been dispatched quickly, we approached the station masters office. Trouble was brewing, the boss was shouting at someone on the phone all the time. A question about the Karma (mixed freight/passenger) Yolcu Divrigi - Sivas confirmed our information. We deducted from the words "dokuz" and "otuz" that the train was about to leave at 9:30 as per our schedule. Our second question proved less successful, obviously the whole of TCDD had received orders recently not to take any luggage under any circumstance. So we had to carry all our belongings with us. With almost three hours until departure I shouldered my backpack while the others pulled their suitcases over more or less paved roads. Three big stray Kangal-dogs noticed us at the goods shed. The experienced Turkey-travellers amongst us already had had bad experiences with these animals and recommended pretending to throw stones as best repulsion strategy. Thanks to a fence we were partly protected, two dogs followed us on the road at some distance, then thankfully stopped.

At the northern end of the station this picturesque derailed goods wagon simply had been left. We steered towards the new road bridge from where you could cover all directions.

The usually dry landscape featured a fantastic, scenic foggy mood due to recent rainfalls. We were lucky, almost immediately a freight train dieseled along from Sivas with a mighty plume of smoke, in the background exhaust steam from a factory.

Somehow this scenery with its structures and landform reminded me strongly of Scottish highlands.

DE24291 (French MTE-license built by Tülomsas with Pielstick engines, 1970 - 1984 in total 418 engines had been constructed and lead to the dieselisation of TCDD) and DE33009 (3300 HP version of GM EMD G26CW-2 built at Tülomsas since 2003) were pulling a block train of covered wagons.

Amidst the vastness it exactly met another train exiting on Sivas freight bypass, maybe that was the reason for the train dispatcher's enragedness.

DE33065 accelerated its loaded ore train loudly out of the station. By the way, at the goods shed part load traffic still was practiced, we later saw freight being loaded from lorries onto covered wagons.

We liked the view along the freight bypass as well, due to the steep grade the departing train still could be heard for at least 15 minutes.


Moods were changing from minute to minute.

Around nine o'clock we returned to the station - just at that moment the first freight came down the bypass line - oh, well it could have always arrived the next minute or none the whole day, we could never have known. Instead I managed to capture the ritual of loading standardised TCDD provision bags into the cab. Dg53752 noticed that he had forgotten his "info-bag" at the photo spot and ran to retrieve it but turned back prematurely not to miss the train - he would not have needed to worry, as it turned out.

The line south of Bostankaya seemed to be occupied almost 100%, in front of our Karma Yolcu a northbound container train hauled by class DE33000 arrived but hid on a yard track in the back. The station had been planned as a colony for railwaymen, by the way, yet the plan obviously never materialised. Two blocks of flats stood completely empty, Dg53752 made it to the balcony of the topmost flat without problems. Our Karma had long been announced, but DE24354 showed up only at 10:22 instead of 9:30. Tickets could not be obtained beforehand in the relatively run-down waiting room, the conductor would sell them to us.


During departure we watched Dg53752's infobag going past the window. We took our seat in the first carriage of three. The conductor gave us one ticket for three but instantly recognized the dilemma of the railway enthusiasts and issued more tickets as souvenirs.

I walked to the next compartment car and took pictures through an open aisle window. Luckily the class DE33000 just had shunted its container train onto the bypass line allowing another highlands-landscape pic complete with village and mosque.

Only just in sunlight we reached the scenic valley near Sivas.

We were pulling a significant freight portion - the photographer was a local by the way, no railway fan. I often detected Turkish people taking photos, also at stations.

With enormous luck I noticed a freight crossing in front of this nice mountain backdrop at Taslidere in time.

Photographing blindly past Karabük I managed an image of DE24359 in the final spotlight of the day with nice old station lamps as props.

Arrival at Sivas, delayed 1 hour - as you can see, it IS a Karma!

City station Sivas had been ingeniously made barrier-free... ;-)

On the main platform we met part of the group and finally learnt the current situation. Engine of choice for our tour was supposed to be German "Kriegslok" class 52 TCDD 56548, the only operational steamer in Turkey. One problem: the locomotive was stationed at Usak in south-western Turkey requiring a 1500 kms transfer to our location. The story we heard: the steamer had started its journey as part of a regular freight train together with a diesel loco to provide backup inbetween photo runs. Still quite close to Usak a shunting manoeuvre had been performed one night without releasing the brakes of the diesel - this tore a coupling apart, of course exactly between steam loco and tender. Naturally various conspiracy theories around this story formed during the course of the week, propagated by various untrusting and/or superstitious railfans. We still did not know how things would turn out. This meant: Waiting at Sivas, at least until late afternoon when the official meeting of the group was about to take place.

Only few things are more important than water for your cay...

At the spacious main platform of Sivas - sadly the displays were less informative than they looked. At Kayseri you could only find instances showing one line, but every version displayed the same information: all scheduled times of all trains ever stopping here, without regard to the weekday or current delay. Benefit: almost none.

It was noon and we sat down in a snack bar consisting of an old two-axled carriage plinthed on the station square. It would pay off as it turned out to be one of the best meals of the journey featuring Adana-kebab, fresh flatbread and a nice large salad made of tomatoes, onions and fresh parsley.

In front of well-maintained Sivas station stood Henschel 0-6-0 3302 built 1918 as a monument, tank engines were quite rare in Turkey.

Reconvalescent and fatigued I laid down inside the empty waiting room. Only a flatscreen TV was running and produced some noise, but gladly a friendly station employee noticed me soon and asked if he should turn it off. From then on I was only occasionaly wakened by single locos waiting in front of the building which was trembling due to the giant idle engines. An interesting special hauled by DE33072 arrived from the west, the passengers disembarked. A slogan on the first coach read: "Atatürk technical and industrial trade school - rail systems section". Later another gentleman took his seat in my vicinity afterwards turning out to be another group member.

Slowly passengers gathered for the Karma back to Divrigi.

The decision was due, 15 participants of the tour had arrived. Well, there was no chance to transfer the loco here before Thursday, repairs had to be carried out at Usak, so from now on this was our destination. We all could have thrown our infobags out of the train window! Therefore I am proud to announce the full title for this report:
Orient-Express 6: Trans Anatolia E... Otobüs!

We could have taken Dogu overnight to Ankara, but bus tickets leaving Sivas at 6 p.m. back to Kayseri already had been booked, we would meet another tour member there. We hired a taxi of older build and were chauffeured the two kilometres to the bus station. The big, new terminal still was under construction, the current one still exerted proper bazaar atmosphere. We utilized free wifi for a first scout what we could possibly do about our return flights from Erzurum. The busride to Kayseri took about three hours, most of it through darkness.
Returned to the familiar terminal we immediately booked tickets for a service to Ankara departing next morning at 8 operated by well-known Süha, who also offered us an old bus shuttle into the city. But first we had to wait for more passengers from other arriving busses in the dark. In the centre we were dropped off some distance from the reserved hotel. After a short walk we reached Hotel Capari, which recently has been renamed to something different, where I took a single room since my roommate had not arrived yet.

September 22 2013

Next morning many rose early as you had to be at the bus stop by 7 a.m., I was lazy and took a taxi together with someone else. Amusingly we had the same driver who had taken me into the city 1 1/2 days earlier. Only few minutes after seven I reached the terminal - which I never would have wanted to visit every day of the first three - equipped with the newest conspiracy theories...

There was one advantage: time until the rest of the group would arrive, and a level crossing right next to the bus station. I hardly got there when the barriers were closed, and DE22075 hauled Erciyes Ekspresi Kayseri (7:00) - Adana (12:34) past me, having to negotiate Taurus Mountains pass on its route. Its scheduled return was Adana (16:45) - Kayseri (22:33).

I hoped for a train into the other direction or at least a single loco movement to take pictures into the other direction - and 15 minutes later I was not disappointed!

DE22016 once more in proper highlands-mood.

Afterwards I returned to the terminal which could be easily accessed via the bus platform side circumventing security barriers. Luggage was loaded in and labeled. Next we started our 215 mile / 5 hour ride to Ankara, I sat in the rearmost row of the bus. Next to already earlier mentioned snacks, wifi was provided inside working bad or not-so-bad depending on the remoteness of the area we were passing through - mostly very remote. At the known track triangle of Bogazköprü we met a long freight, shortly later the road separated from the mainline to Ankara. About half way we took a break at a rest stop obviously prepared for loads of bus passengers providing ample toilet facilities. Only at Kirikkale near Ankara we joined the railway again. Here - especially around Elmadag - a quite spectacular and well-frequented section of line could be found. Next to freight and express-trains two suburban train pairs Ankara - Kirikkale were on offer, so the line could be considered as starting or end point of an Anatolian round trip. Currently we had another destination and continued to the surreal three-story bus station of Ankara along the motorway ring around the capital past suburban superstores.
Within city limits we crossed the underground line M1 and a central station stabling yard. At first the group assembled on the arrival level of the Otogar, tickets for the rest of the journey were purchased. Since Sunday is absolute travelling day in Turkey - departure levels were hustling and bustling - we 16 people only could get a 4 p.m. departure to Usak. Most of us sat down in a pub, Dg53752, Karabük, another colleague and I decided to take underground line M2 to explore the central station. I left my luggage with the group, the others used the left luggage facilities available here and also at the railway station. Buying tickets proved slightly confusing as it was not clear how many trips could be charged on which type of ticket. Lastly I took a two-journey ticket from the "ticket-machine" consisting of a man behind a desk where all types of tickets laid spread out. More confusion was caused by the signage of the platforms. Somehow we only could find one direction until we realised that this bus station "ASTI" represented one M2 terminal. On the platform we were advised by a friendly, German speaking gentleman who also told us that we should not take pictures in the underground. Later we did of course anyway, one train at least. A trainset entered the station, crowds started pouring out, the reversal was performed almost within a minute or two. It happened so fast we were not sure if it was a driverless EMU or if each cab was manned. On one photo I afterwards noticed a driver behind tinted glasses. Four stations later we got off at Maltepe, with the mission to find an underground market passage to the station. We only partly managed to locate it, accessing it via a side entrance. Before, we had passed a railway organisation ambulance featuring a steam loco pictogram on the side.

First we walked past the suburban train platforms, then entered platform two where a class E23000 (Hyundai-Rotem / 2010) EMU was waiting with destination Polatli.

Nearby on platform 1 stood a class HT65000 YHT high speed train ready for boarding.

We turned to ostentatious platform 1, high speed trains could only be accessed through security barriers. In the background you can spot the stabled test rake named after the medieval navigator "Piri Reis".

On the platform you could find a selection of painted pictures, some showing themes from steam times. Obviously a few well know photographs dating from this era had been repainted. While taking pictures at the station we met some local also carrying a DSLR who returned fire... ;-)

I like the tasteful introduction of modern design while keeping old Art Deco elements at TCDD stations. Central European concrete-modernisers could learn a lot from that.


Atatürk is watching the high speed traffic from his Linke Hoffmann museum pullman car for a few years now.

Not completely up-to-date, but this map is showing the extent of high speed plans, almost the complete country is about to be covered. And they don't mess around here, construction mania of almost Chinese extent predominates.

In the subway we noticed this concept for future international connections, some nowadays probably rather fictional like the line via Aleppo to Mecca. However, the high speed line to Kars with connection to Georgia and Baku definitely will be reality in the not so distant future.

As long as we are dealing with scans, here my train tickets: Dogu Ekspresi Kayseri - Divrigi, underground Ankara (Ankara public transport is called EGO), Karma ticket Bostankaya - Sivas.

Envelope of the long distance ticket, the first slogan: "A train does not get stopped by snow, rail traffic through all four seasons!"

And, if you really are interested, the bus tickets Sivas - Usak.

Subsequently we returned to the underground through the bazaar passage which obviously also had been constructed in the 1930s. The stairs leading to it really are not easily found, from the underground station you have to follow Gazi Mustafa Kemal Boulevard for a short bit northwest. In a rather crammed train we returned to ASTI where we took a - compared to the day before - awful lunch. Additionally, we were slightly cheated during the hectic splitting of the bill. Next we took our seats in a comparatively worn out bus of an Alasehir-based company towards Izmir, which was about to take us another 215 miles to Usak in 5 hours.

Westwards the city stopped quite abruptly, then somehow started again - a topic I could discuss with my British (or not-so-British) seat neighbour. We followed the newly built high speed line, the old route also was sometimes visible. Here YHT-station Polatli, in the middle of emptyness.

Next we passed Duatepe Tüneli above which one of the countrywide omnipresent Atatürk-monumental statues had been planted (see photo on YHT-map scan #1). Soon later we met YHT Konya (16:00) - Ankara (17:45).

We kept on with our peaceful busride, suddenly people in the back row started shouting - indeed, burnt smell was in the air! The driver braked on the service lane, everyone more or less rushed out of the vehicle. However, it was not like flames were already engulfing the cabin. Great, the moral of the troops was low anyway, now we could be stranded in the vastness of Anatolia for hours. Luckily after closer examination of the engine compartment it did not turn out that bad. You could only smell charred rubber of the fanbelt which had to be replaced. It was fixed by the able crew in about 15 minutes.

We came to a standstill right behind the YHT track triangle Eskisehir - Konya - Ankara near Igciler where it passed above the old line. In the background the connection Eskisehir - Konya can be spotted. From here the high speed line to Afyon is supposed to soon branch off.

The old line through the empty Anatolian steppe.

We continued the ride quite punctually passing some nice rock formations here as well. Approaching Afyon at sunset we had to cross a steep pass where obviously a lot of reforestation had been carried out.

At Afyon we passed the new bus terminal on the bypass road. Next we reached the intersection of routes Ankara - Izmir and Istanbul - Antalya - it looked like America! Giant billboards, McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks and more all in a row, plus 5-star thermal spring hotels, one large complex after another, some still under construction. Behind a summit we shortly followed the road to Antalya to finally take the first official break of this section of the trip at 8 p.m. at a rest stop. Also, I was about to remember the place as we would return to its vicinity, albeit by different mode of transport...
It was not far anymore, at Dumlupinar we had made it about halfway between Afyon and Usak and reached our destination around 9 o'clock. From Sivas we had travelled about 560 miles in 12 net hours. And that on a trip where I originally had wanted to avoid the comparatively short busride around Istanbul...
At Usak we were set down near a taxi stand in the town centre, the owner of course did not call other drivers but tried to convey us 16 in several goes himself. Next to it there was a pizza place, we talked to its owner, a Turk who had returned from Europe. He complained that the notion of how a pizza was supposed to look like diverged between continents. Some including me had enough of waiting and walked the 800 metres to our Hotel Sahlan-1 (another existed as well). We crossed the new pedestrian zone which had been introduced only a year ago. Everything could be obtained here, I particularly noticed the large number of ATMs, sometimes 4-5 right next to each other.
At the hotel we were greeted by tour organizer Dietmar and the rest of our with under 25 people not very large group. The replacement program for the following days was announced. Oh well, we would see what was about to happen... Inshallah!
I expected a short night in (still) my room as my roommate, a proper Munich original, had landed at Izmir at 21:00 and had taken the nightbus to Usak departing Izmir at 23:00. I texted to him to give me a short call when he had arrived, and that's the way it happened.

September 23 2013

At about 2:30 a.m. the group finally was complete. ;-)
Breakfast started already at 5:30, but since I am not an early breakfast type I only packed in some sesame bread roll bits, although a proper buffet always had been prepared. I just drank some morning cay, it was provided concentrated in a can accompanied by pure hot water. The ideal ratio turned out to be about 1/3 cay - 2/3 water.
At 6 o'clock we marched to the station, basically the same route as the evening before, just a bit further across the main road. Before reaching the station a small path turning left was leading to the loco shed.

What can I say? Here we go! Vienna loco factory at Floridsdorf (WLF) built 56548 (ex 52 7429 / Flor #16882 / built 1943) expected us!

View along Usak loco shed towards Dumlupinar and Afyon.



Mainly class DE24000 were operating on this line.

DE24249 was about to stay our main auxiliary loco accompanying us on all six photo days.

At about 7 a.m. our train started moving, it would turn out to be one of the most punctual morning departures of the trip. For that day the gradient-rich line to Dumlupinar with return to Usak in the evening was planned. Some of the TCDD crew rode with us in two freshly renewed two-axled coaches. Actually these had already been available the year before but then featured an unfitting light green livery. For this time, however, the railway staff with Ali leading the way had done a first-rate paint job. That way the train consisted of two dark-green passenger carriages and eight authentically brown freight cars.

To set the mood for next time: the first photo stop of the trip in a horseshoe curve near Kapaklar, behind Usak sugar factory. It was the windiest morning of the week, also temperatures were low, plummeting to only 6 degrees during the night and soaring to more than 20 by day in this dry continental climate. At least the wind eliminated the clouds atypical for this region and provided us with perfect weather for the coming days.

More next time! :)


It's a documentary! It's a travelogue! It's a pictorial! It's a riveting experience. Thanks Ronik.


Ronik - As always, great photography and what a story! I always view your strings. Keep posting your work on this forum. Thanks for taking me places I will never see.

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