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Proud Earthling

As I have edited some impressions, I would like to present a collection of photos from the last few months of 2015. The occasional picture never has been published yet.

Alpine peaks "freight traffic" is featured on the Schafberg Rack Railway, where provisions for Hotel Schafbergspitze were not only transported to the top by the early diesel train like us on September 11 2015, but conveyed by funicular from the summit station - or "intermodal terminal" ;-) - at 5682 ft to the hotel at 5849 ft.

The first Swiss new build steamer reached the summit with rare smoke fume emissions - here SLB Z14 (SLM #5688 / built 1995). The panorama stretches from Lake Attersee on the left to Wolfgangsee on the right.

I waited for the third uphill train on a slope near Schafbergspitze I Tunnel. In the morning it was not completely sunny yet, but visibility good with nice contrasts which disappeared once the sun came out. For example you can spot 8900 ft high Watzmann in the second mountain range from the left.

After descending on foot I used the multiple photographic opportunities around the alpine pastures of Schafbergalpe.

On the cooowl Schafbergalpe, Schafbergspitze in the background.

Next day, September 12 2015, I suffered from sore muscles - but only when walking downhill -, so managed to hike the flat bit from Gosau to Hallstatt along the famous lake of same name. On weekends express through coaches to Vienna still can be found on the Salzkammergut Line, here as REX 3427 Stainach-Irdning - Attnang-Puchheim (and back then on to Vienna Western Station, from December 2015 all ÖBB express trains arrive at the new Wien Hauptbahnhof main station instead).

I integrated a well-organized SLB photo charter on September 13 2015 into my holiday plans, featuring JZ 73-019 (MÁVAG - Budapest 3287 / 1913) and Mh.3 (Krauss & Comp./Linz 5433 / 1906) along the Pinzgau Local Railway. The "narrow gauge express steamer" sped past grazing cattle at Lengdorf.

Steaming away from Rosental halt, to the right both Sulzbach Valleys open up a view through the clouds towards Obersulzbachkees ("Kees" = glacier) at the foot of 12000 ft high Großvenediger.

On September 25 2015 I travelled once more towards a narrow gauge charter, on the way with EuroNight 476 "Metropol" Vienna/Budapest - Berlin I fitted in a morning session at Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic. Elbe Valley was shrouded in dense autumn fog providing mystic moods. However, it became fantastic once the fog just lifted in sunshine still concealing the industrial background.

99 3462 (Orenstein & Koppel 12518 / 1934) pulled two different freight trains on September 26 2015 as part of a lovely Tanago photo charter on the narrow gauge forest railway network once serving various industries between Weißwasser, Bad Muskau and Kromlau in Oberlausitz region on the German-Polish border.

In the morning the train rolled downhill from Kromlau past the first pond of the day.

At the "9-times-pond" – so called because of the usual number of photo runs past it - I chose a pan shot already during the second run-past.

Before lunch break our photo charter passed a Communist-era Barkas B 1000 van while entering Weißwasser - shortly afterwards the "GDR" "Volkspolizei" (however, in Western jeans) waited to "check IDs"...

One detail in this scene at Krauschwitz/Baierweiche is giving away that it is no authentic old photo.

Horses near Gora.

Apple tree, same place.

The first coincidental meeting with a Ludmilla diesel on Sunday morning, September 27 2015, as this East West Railways freight continued towards Görlitz while I was walking to the station pulling my suitcase across the bridge.

The second Ludmilla encounter shortly afterwards at Görlitz - without me having to wait for it! :)

I spent the afternoon in Prague city centre ...

... only to return two weeks later on October 9 2015.

477.043 passed the classic semaphore signal phalanx of Jenec, October 10 2015.

During the afternoon the cloud cover above Prague lifted, the sunlight glinted in the floods of Vltava River and the steam of the "Papousek" ("parrot") returning from Luzna.

A Regionova DMU as Sp 1887 Kladno-Ostrovec - Praha Masarykovo nádrazí crossed the approach path of Václav-Havel-Airport on October 11 2015, first autumn colours were not only cropping up in the landscape but also on the various vehicles and crafts. The Easyjet from Stansted came by three minutes earlier, I was not about to use it yet.

On October 24 and 26 2015 I visited the Viennese Prater Liliput-Railway, results can be found here:,7593210

On October 31 2015 I sought a city view above the vineyards of Bratislava Vinohrady, a CD Cargo Laminatka class 240 rolled by with a tanker train from the Czech Republic.

To compensate for services of Slovak engines in Hungary, express trains Bratislava - Prievidza were hauled up to Leopoldov by MÁV class 431 in 2015, here R 725 "Remata".

At the start of November autumn colours still were showing, Railjet 656 from Graz approached its destination Vienna on November 8 2015 through this prealpine lands scenery around the Thallern monastery vineyard estate.

The first weekend of December seemed ideal for a short trip to the High Tatras in Slovakia. Friday, December 4 2015, I crossed half the country often through fog and still had 1 1/2 hours of daylight left once I reached Strba Zastávka ... after a fifteen minute walk across a frozen pasture I arrived at this viewpoint. R 605 "Dargov" Bratislava - Kosice passed the "smallest high mountain range in the world" with ten minutes delay.

The short but cold and windy session could be used efficiently due to several freight trains into both directions aided up the grade by bankers.

Os 7823 was picking me up at the right time to get to my accommodation at Poprad.

Next morning, December 5 2015, a dense foggy mood was dominating, I used it to capture R 602 "Cingov" at the modernized station Poprad-Tatry.

Then and again the sun shone through the ground fog layer at Matejovce pri Poprade, also when 477.013 steamed by on a St. Nicholas' Day special Svit - Poprad - Kezmarok.

However, the fog stayed, and so I waited in the thick of it until noon when a little St. Nicholas' miracle happened: "Papagáj" (Slovak: "parrot") came by on its return trip exactly as the fog lifted and the High Tatras peaks were revealed.

On December 26 2015 I took an Easyjet flight to London Gatwick and reached Brighton seaside exactly as the sun went down.
The best known "direttissima" in England leads to this seaside resort south of London. The lovely terminal is served by various third-rail-powered EMUs. A classic Gatwick Express class 442 "Wessex Electric" rake was ready to depart to Gatwick early morning on December 27 2015. Over the holidays works were done north of Gatwick, so no direct connection to London Victoria was in operation. For this reason I chose Brighton as my first overnight stay on my Christmas trip to England.
1988 produced class 442 had replaced the younger Gatwick Express class 460er in 2012, which now are operated elsewhere converted to class 485/5. This year class 442s are due to be replaced by the new dual mode class 387.

Luckily I had embarked onto my First Great Western service Portsmouth - Cardiff at an early station - Cosham. Soon afterwards it became completely packed, so no one was allowed to get on at a few stops. I checked into my hotel at Bristol Temple Meads and later could follow the post-holiday-masses at the venerable old station without worry.

The HST on the 10 minutes ride to Bath proved to be full to the brinks as well, all trains had to spend several minutes at stations just for passenger exchange.

One of the damned three-part FGWR class 158 DMUs on the way to Portsmouth crossed the River Avon in Bath. However, this is not "Shakespeare's Avon" flowing through Stratford-upon-Avon. The word had been derived from Celtic languages and simply means "river". So, "River Avon" is the "River River".
To the right the Kennet and Avon Canal diverges, climbing steeply in an impressive series of locks. I followed it to the well-known panoramic view across town and later strolled through the centre past the Roman Baths visited by tourists from all across the world.

On December 28 2015 I took the early train to Taunton (a class 150 as local service Bristol - Penzance!) and a bus to Minehead where I left my luggage at the accommodation. As operations at the West Somerset Railway winter steam gala only started at 9:50 a.m., I conveniently reached the first service towards Bishops Lydeard. The weather was supposed to be better later on the next day, so I explored the longest English heritage line in its entirety first.
GWR 4936 "Kinlet Hall" (Swindon / 1929) had already coupled to the second train of the day. The surroundings still look historically accurate - as so often in England...

Reversal of GWR Large Prairie 4160 (Swindon / 1948) at the regular West Somerset Railway terminal up-country. The mainline station Taunton is not reached by museum services, however, the connection is intact and occasional specials from around the country arrive at Minehead. Additionally, a new halt near Norton Fitzwarren - where the GWR-mainline is joined - has been established, sometimes in use.

At Blue Anchor on the coast I got off on the return journey.

At first I walked to this desired view across the lovely green pastures, even the sun shone. 4160 in its final service days before a major overhaul returned with the following service Minehead - Bishops Lydeard.

4936 arriving from Minehead and Dunster just was cleared to enter Blue Anchor station. The Bristol Channel features the greatest tidal range along England's coastline, during low tide walkers are able to venture far out into the sea.

"Blue Anc-Hour" with GWR 7828 "Odney Manor" (Swindon / 1950).

Good morning, Minehead! The sun lit the coastal holiday town on December 29 2015, where GWR Modified Hall Class 6960 "Raveningham Hall" (Swindon / 1944) to the left and 4160 to the right were being prepared for the second gala day.

I took a bus ahead to catch the first train at the gradient finally leading away from the sea. At the appropriately named hamlet Woolston I waited on a road bridge next to an old railway cottage. 6960 punctually steamed uphill past Sampford Brett village church - here the tele lens version, I had to remove a power line.

For the following trains I looked for a panoramic view of the Quantock Hills, 4160 climbed towards Bishops Lydeard.

Near Sampford Brett I awaited the next train at the well-known photo spot Castle Hill featuring the distant home signal of Williton passed by 4936 "Kinlet Hall".

From Watchet steam trains could be spotted far away at Dunster. Dunster Castle is hidden behind the hill, but Conygar Tower on the hill of the same name was in view.

Half an hour later - after a detour inland via Washford - 6960 "Raveningham Hall" climbed the grade from the historical smugglers' harbour past Splash Point. To the right in the distance the Welsh coast was in sight.

Due to an approaching storm in the Southwest I already travelled to Gatwick the same evening. I had planned to spend the following day, December 30 2015, conveniently at the Bluebell Railway anyway. Thanks to the rail replacement traffic to East Grinstead there even was a perfect fast connection.
East Grinstead is new terminal of the Bluebell line south of London since March 23 2013. To re-establish the connection to the national rail network a large viaduct had to be restored.
BR Standard Class 5MT 73082 "Camelot" is a further development of the classic Black 5 and had only been built in 1955 at Derby. Until the end of mainline steam in 1966 it was operating authentically in BR southern region. The beautiful engine is back in operation since October 2015 after a major overhaul.

Never say never in England: even on a stormy day the sun came out at a perfect moment.

With my last steam train of 2015 - hauled by SECR Class H 263 (Ashford / 1905) - I commenced my home trip from Horsted Keynes via East Grinstead, to return to Vienna punctually for New Year's Eve.
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