Orient-Express 7: Steam in the Aegean Region (50 p. + 1 v.)

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Proud Earthling

To the video of the trip, taken with Canon EOS 7D (set to 1080p HD):
Turkey 2013 - Steam & Diesel, September 20-28

To the previous part of the series:
Orient-Express 6: Trans Anatolia E... (50 p. + 5 scans)

Detailed TCDD rail map (Attention - 12.9 MB):

September 23 2013

We find ourselves on the first photo day of six, along the line Usak - Dumlupinar (- Afyon). It was about to be a perfect day to "warm up", no spectacular motifs, but nice spots and steep grades.

About the railways of the Ottoman Empire has to be said, that they had been built and operated by various foreign investors right into the first half of the 20th century. This is one of the reasons for the multitude of steam engine classes of TCDD. This week we would mainly be travelling on the former tracks of British "Smyrna and Cassaba Railway", later French "Smyrne Cassaba & Prolongements" (SCP).
More about the history can be learnt here:

I have already shown the first pic of the first photo run near Kapaklar, now follows the second run. I occasionally took videos on this trip, but only about 3 scenes per day. I had dropped my regular video/compact photo camera in Slovakia this winter. Only taking photos without filming was kind of fun during past months. I still wanted to bring back some moving pictures and sound from this trip, so I sometimes filmed with my 7D and meanwhile photographed with a 450D, like the following two images. The resulting movie can be watched via the link above.
The wind was the strongest this morning, also temperatures were low. This produced a nice steam cloud I could stage with one of the omnipresent telegraph masts. Mostly only two wires were left, but at least they had not been replaced by a modern cord.




In the morning the tender usually was full to the brim so it overflowed in some banking curves. Due to the auxiliary diesel no replenishing of water or coal reserves was necessary during the day.


DE24249 was shunting back to the front of the train, it would provide services the whole week. The accompanying shunting workers acted quickly, coupling worked like a charm. In other ways as well things were done fast during photo runs, sometimes too quickly if you had to set up your video, too.

Next stop in the vast landscape of the Anatolian Plateau. Although the area politically belongs to the Aegean Region, Usak is already located at 900 metres above sealevel.

Virtually slightly prolonged freight part of the mixed train in front of Usak town backdrop.



Many areas were fields, by the way, but on one hand most of them already had been harvested, on the other hand it was the peak of the driest season.

We continued past Nohutova station - a name which always left a little doubt if we were not currently on a photo ride through Bohemia... ;-)
At Banaz we took a break, DE24335 was already waiting for departure with a freight towards Usak. Dg53752 and I were the only ones regular-traffic-mad enough to chase the thing. At the end of the station yard I caught the train with one of the typical mosques newly built in this area. They all featured the same blue glass minaret roofs - someone must have made a packet of money building those.

As the train shunted ahead we were met by this great Tofas "Murat" (really called that way, originally a Fiat 124, but still constructed into the 2000s by Lada and Indian car builder Premier under license). Sadly the long snake of goods wagons blocked our path now, which led to my first hand injury of the trip... but I was immediately cared for professionally by my colleagues. However, I did not manage to buy some water at local shops, but was provided with some by fellow rail enthusiasts.

At half past ten the next photo stop took place - obviously we had exchanged Turkey's Wild East for the Wild West!

A new well was being constructed, in the adjacent field chilli peppers were ripening.


Red Hot Chili Pepper


We changed to a meadow full of apple trees.

While apple harvest turned out rather sparse in Central Europe this season, in Asia Minor tree branches were giving way due to the fruit load.



At picturesque Oturak station. The steep ascent to Dumlupinar summit is starting here, in steam- as well as today's diesel times heavy freight trains were being banked.
Everywhere, practically along every line we came across, construction work was carried out. To the left stood a track maintenance train, at almost every station large stacks of concrete sleepers were being stockpiled. Also typical of this area were large goods sheds opposite station buildings, featuring a protruding roof above the loading tracks.

Water towers were also common, this is a more recent standard build.



Departure from Oturak with water standpipe and disused passenger coach in view.

We reached one of the top spots of the climb, a maintenance gang worked on site.

Behind the horseshoe curve you could follow the train departing...

Wouldn't it be time to clear the tracks? - No worry, on that grade the steamer hardly exceeded walking pace.

Finally the loco thundered into a tunnel below us.


Slight autumn colours or withering symptons could be spotted on a few trees, there would be more during the last photo day.

Plenty of haws could be found on both sides of the tunnel.

The others were taking pictures at the tunnel exit, Karabük, Dg53752 and I moved back to the other end and came across the workers who just had spread out their picnic blankets for lunch! Two days later we were about to have an even more interesting culinary railwaymen encounter...


The train climbed the hill, stopped, then rolled back again. At first we thought of another photo opportunity, then we noticed a part of the brushy hillside on fire. Fire on the first day could mean grave consequences, as TCDD managers were always able to cancel the rest of the trip due to fire hazard. During summer months steam operations were completely prohibited. So a few railwaymen but also photographers applied various firefighting techniques with reasonable success. Below in the plain we spotted another fire, but it was already approached by a fire truck. After some time the brave, sooted colleagues scratched by thorns returned to the train.

Memory for granddad's album, Dumlupinar, September 2013

Due to the fire-fighting operation we reached Dumlupinar summit only after 13:30 and had to return to Banaz immediately due to a looming line closure for maintenance. The diesel reversed and soon we were rolling down past a large standing Atatürk-statue on a hilltop. At the location of the fire flames were flickering again. But we stopped only shortly as a fire tuck was already bouncing down the hillside. Everywhere across the plain you could spot fires, some might have been controlled scorching of fields, but overall firefighters must have been very busy. The only good side: we could wash our hands of setting some fires.

At Banaz station outhouse we noticed this palm-sized praying mantis.

We followed the train crew into the town centre and took our seats outside an international-looking restaurant even offering menus in English. I took Iskender kebab, while my roommate could enjoy his favourite, Sac Kavurma, which he would look for in vain the following days. At 16:30 we returned to the station, first I stocked up on supplies at a grocery - almost everywhere German-speaking people could be met. In the meantime the tour organisers had purchased water tanks with sprayers which could be carried on the back, using these we would be able to nip any future fires in the bud.

We returned with the diesel towards Usak, the steamer still facing eastwards. After 17:30 we once more were busy in the curves around Kapaklar, three photo runs were carried out here...




Behind Kapaklar we started our glint / sunset-session at 18:20, the train was always running back and forth.



We spread out along the line, only few made it this far back.

Farm road level crossings were traditionally marked in Turkey by red-white striped steel sleepers planted into the ground.

For the sunset shot I had to hurry to the next curve.

And the final lineside picture of the day, not anymore in golden, but pink glint.

Before 19:30 we returned to Usak station. At first my roommate and I wanted to change our flights. We visited an electric shop on the walk to the hotel, where I purchased a powerstrip for 10 TL as most hotel rooms only featured two wall sockets. Per chance the salesman had a multifunction printer on his desk, so we asked him if he could copy our flight reservations. Of course he did it as usual in this hospitable country without charge, I still left him something to cover the costs. We had managed to do everything we had planned at a stroke, only Efes was missing. At the hotel we learnt about a Turkish Airlines office in the centre and went out again to look for it. However, of course it already was closed at that time of day, as it was habit office hours were not noted anywhere. The problem was, that we never would stay in any larger town during the day...

Next time we will steam down to Alasehir, see you then! :)

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