1st - 4th November 2002
Portugese Traction Group
Portugese Class 50 Farewell
|Locos Used||CP : 1175, 1810, 2556 & 9004|
|01/11||1810||Lisboa St. Apolonia - Porto Campanhã|
|01/11||unit (2)||Porto Campanhã - Porto São Bento|
|02/11||1810||Porto São Bento - Porto Campanhã - Ermesinde - Régua - Pocinho|
|02/11||1810||Pocinho - Régua|
|02/11||9004||Régua - Vila Real|
|02/11||9004||Vila Real - Régua|
|02/11||1810||Régua - Ermesinde - Porto Campanhã - Porto São Bento|
|03/11||1810||Porto São Bento - Porto Campanhã - Ermesinde - Nine - Viana Do Castelo - Valenca Do Minho|
|03/11||1810||Valenca Do Minho - (reverse of outward route) - Porto São Bento|
|03/11||1810||Porto São Bento - Porto Campanhã|
|03/11||1810||Porto Campanhã - Coimbra B|
|03/11||EMU (2)||Coimbra B - Coimbra A|
|04/11||EMU (2)||Coimbra A - Coimbra B|
|04/11||1810||Coimbra B - Pombal - Entroncamento|
|04/11||1175||Entroncamento - Entroncamento works|
|04/11||1175||Entroncamento works - Entroncamento|
|04/11||2556||Entroncamento - Lisboa St. Apolonia|
(1) Route confirmation required.
(2) Transfer by service train.
Source : "Foghorn" (on the tour throughout)
Friday 1st November
Having flown out from Heathrow on the group flight, the main body of the party was met at Lisbon Airport by a Portuguese Traction Group (PTG) member who pointed us in the direction of our waiting coach. The transfer to Lisbon Santa Apalonia (SA) took around 15 minutes, and our train was already in the platform. Having deposited the bags, it was up to the sharp end to survey the hardware.
The Portuguese Class 1801 is a basic version of a Class 50. I suppose that really makes it more like DP2. They are slightly derated to 2300 hp to reduce their tendency to flash over. Like my favourite locos of all time, they are of 1960’s Vulcan Foundry construction. All the remaining operational machines were switched off at Barreiro in early March this year, and our machine, 1810, had received nothing more than a V4 (B in British parlance) exam prior to being sent out for our benefit. Would it survive the weekend with it’s dignity intact?
A new subspecies of human was also to be seen, the previously unseen Portuguese trainspotter. Word had obviously spread then. Several more were encountered during the tour, including sharing a table with a chap for dinner on Saturday evening. On time at 1630 we got away from SA and powered north to Porto. This section of line is double track throughout which is a rarity in Portugal. Dinner was taken en route and the wine bottles danced a lively jig on the table as we tore through Coimbra. Enthusiastic driving is always preferable to defensive.
We arrived at Porto Campnha station a little before 2030 and transferred to a local service (unit 0619) down the hill to Porto Sao Bento (PSB). The approach to Porto from the Lisbon main line affords a fantastic view of the city. The group was divided between two hotels, and I was allocated a room in the infamous Peninsular. This hotel is just outside PSB station and is very convenient, especially as Porto is built entirely on a hill, and the other hotel is a 10 minute uphill toil. A quick shower ensued and then back to the station to cover the 2140 PSB - Regua which is also booked for English Electric traction. Several of us enjoyed 1413 (an up-rated Class 20 clone) to Ermesinde on load 5. The noise up the hill, through the tunnels was not diminished by the fact that the doors were wide open as we stood in the vestibule.
With 30 minutes to kill before the return working a beer was considered the best option. We all reported to Pedro’s Sporting Bar ("sporting"= fitted with a tv and two dart boards) where some good soul got a round in. "Sixteen beers and a Coke please". My Lords! By the time Pedro had dispensed the necessary, it was almost time to be leaving. I purchased a piece back to PSB, E0.85 (£0.53ish) and was rewarded for my honesty with the arrival of a pair on the 2232 departure, 1448 + 1408, the latter being one of the ten examples built at Vulcan Foundry. Mention of 1448, a freight sector engine, whipped some people up into using terrible words next morning. After a couple more beers in a nearby bar, it was time to call it a night.
Saturday 2nd November
Breakfast was served from 0730, so I arrived at 0727, arms flailing from the antiquated lift. Got to be done. Breakfast was a bleak and meagre offering best forgotten, but it was over soon eclipsed by the joy of 1445 (another freight machine) on load 7 on the 0755 departure for Regua. This was only done to Campanha for a unit back. Bus stop mileage I here you say? Maybe, but the extra coaches made for greater thrash, and the recording sounds excellent on my mini disc player.
The first available unit was done back down to PSB to await the arrival of the tour. 1810 arrived and many jumped on to scoop 1414 on the shunt release, only to be turfed off again. Shunting etc. completed, we departed at 0852, 2 late. Again the mini disc player came in very handy.
Today’s objective was a run to the upper reaches of the Douro valley. The Douro line branches east after Ermesinde, and has recently been upgraded and electrified as far as Cete. After a tunnel the line drops down into the Douro valley, skirting the north side of this mighty river. The valley is the port wine production area, and has been afforded World Heritage Site status. The hillsides soon start to show signs of being terraced to allow a suitable platform for the vines to be cultivated. By the time we get to the upper reaches, almost every spare inch is so employed.
Various photo stops are booked. Some are not booked, but pathing on a single track route leads to us occasionally awaiting a passing oncoming service train. At Ferradosa the line crosses to the south bank by way of the infamous girder bridge. Cue mass exodus whilst 1810 and the stock reverse over the bridge and then draw forward for the benefit of the gallery. Several more desperate types disappear up the hillside for a less crowded vantage point.
We continue to climb towards the head of the valley, passing the famous names painted on the Quintas (port farms). There is a remarkable absence of road traffic through this part of the valley. The road goes via a much more circuitous route, verified by a colleague who once had to do a fast taxi leap. As we stand for more phots to be taken, the only sound seems to be the merry chirping of the 16CSVT up front. This section above Regua is soon to lose the joys of loco haulage, units displaced by the impending electrification of the Braga branch will be substituted.
Pocinho marks the limit of navigation. The line used to run on to Salamanca in Spain, but RENFE shut their section and so the last 28 miles to the border suffered a similar fate. 1810 runs round, and we adjourn to the restaurant car for lunch. The food is always appetising and the service is excellent. Top wine too. Lashings of.
At Regua we bail off for a flail up the metre gauge Corgo valley line to Villa Real. Three wooden bodied coaches behind an Alstom, 9004. We retrace the route back up the valley on dual gauge track for around 1km until we cross the Corgo river and branch hard left. This loco has a Caterpillar engine and only appears to have to have two notches, notch one or full bore. Bizarre! Several drivers seem to take a turn at the controls, some of whom must have been more than a little beyond the bounds of their route knowledge.
The 25kms to Villa Real takes well over an hour. It must have taken half a day to reach the original terminus at Chaves, a further 70kms on. The trip back downhill offers minimal thrash but I take the opportunity to use the ablution facilities, complete with clear glass window and curtains. Oh yes, and the window opens far enough to allow limited arm waving. Got to be done.
The main train is regained at Regua and we set off back for PSB. Again with downhill grades there is limited thrash apart from the almighty noise climbing out of the valley up to the tunnel and then Cete. Shortly after arrival at PSB one of our party is "clipped" by a car outside the station. One of the PTG guides is summoned from the Peninsular and a trip to hospital ensues. We walk down to the riverside area for a meal in one of the many restaurants followed by Chimay in a bar near "Infante" tram stop. Not knowing the condition of one our friends throws a shadow over the evening.
Sunday 3rd November
The most sought after gen reveals that Alan is going to be all right. He arrives from the other hotel by taxi, sporting thirteen stitches to his head and a very sore looking limp. Gan on, geordie gadgie! The area outside PSB hosts a street market on Sunday mornings, and a budgie cage serving as pen for six puppies gives an indication of it’s salubrious delights.
Our very sociable 0932 departure sees 1810 heading north for Valenca, not before whipping up the BLS contingent by scoring the new underpass just beyond Campanha. The driver opens the beast up through the tunnel box, awesome. All this is done with the "Tyne Yard On Tour" headboard on display. The Angel leads the way. At Viana Do Castelo we have a break of around 45 minutes during which time the station bar appeares to do good trade.
At 1155 we set off again, skirting the coastline through a very pretty area, before turning inland to follow the Minho river. Across the river lies Spain. This is virgin territory for the Class, and I can confirm that no Portuguese driver has ever taken one there. Arrival at Valenca is at the hands of Iain Munro of Tyne Yard with yours truly standing behind with his back to the throbbing bulkhead. A quick run round, and we retrace our route with a fast run, no photo stops.
Back at PSB, many of us are booked on a vintage tram tour. We walk down to the stop at "Infante" and 191 duly turns up. Our tour covers all the available route and includes a tour of the tram museum. Several familiar faces are seen on service trams, appropriate bellowing ensues. Porto’s tram system is undergoing a revival of fortunes, with much evidence visible of more mileage to be had soon.
We leave PSB for the last time (for now) at 1845, run round at Campanha, and head south for Coimbra enjoying more good food. Why shunt release 1810 at PSB? Surely it would be more efficient to drag us up to Campanha with 1414, then uncouple? Arrival at Coimbra B (main line station) sees us all disembark in favour (not) of an electric unit to Coimbra A (town station). Our hotel is immediately adjacent.
Feeling that a beer might be in order, driver Munro leads the way. After leading us all the way up the hill to find the bar shut, he marches back down again (and he shall henceforth be referred to as "The grand old Duke of Tyne") where we find another shut bar. But it will be opening in 10 minutes at 2200. It proclaims the availability of Belgian beers, so we fester until opening time. Leffe brun is as good as ever. He is finished as he only has four Leffe glasses and there are six of us. Another of the same and we head back to the hotel for doss.
Monday 4th November
Our last morning, and it’s up for breakfast at 0715 and then the 0746 unit from A to B, so to speak. The fitters are on 1810 trying to fix a loose cable that looks like the speedometer drive. We depart on time at 0820 complete with unattached cables. We thrash south to the railway town of Entronconmento for a works visit. An excellent run it was too. Plenty of enthusiasm from the chair. At Entronconmento we are to lose 1810 in favour of a Class 2551 electric for the last leg back to Lisbon.
No time though for engine patting as we are booked for a lightening trip into the works here. This is achieved in an Allen railcar trailer (in a state of advanced decay) with traction provided by 1175, an 0-4-0 shunter of Sentinel descent. Got to get your "Rods" in! As we trundled from the station to the works, we are going to be overtaken by 1810 heading light for Barreiro. As it approaches it is apparent it is slowing down. Only it isn’t slowing down quickly enough and proceeds to overshoot the board by about twenty feet. SPAD! It is interesting to see what happened next. Bang her in reverse, set back behind the peg and within a few seconds it clears and we are deafened by a storming get away. And the cables are still flailing around.
A quick look around reveals all sorts of diesel and electric traction under varying levels of repair. The running shed also contains several of the MLW Class 1551 locos. Beasts! Later gen also reveals that one of these (1563) is on its way down from Covilha and C Guntripp Esq. has last been seen, quite by chance, heading in that direction. Lucky bugger.
1175 rods us back to the station for 2556 (a fix for one of the party) forward to Lisbon SA. Can’t say I am overly inspired by this. Someone describes these as "Portuguese Roarers", but I’m not convinced. Still, it has to be better than one of those awful 5601 things! Arrival at SA is right time and a bus awaits those who need transport to the airport.
The bus is waved at in favour of a walk towards the centre of the city, and a pint sitting outside Galloping Hogan’s bar. The sun is shining and it is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. What better way to conclude an excellent weekend ? A fast taxi gets us safely to the check in desk on time. Thanks Mark and Nigel.
All in all, an excellent weekend that will see making further trips to Portugal. Try it soo for yourself as, like all European rail systems, vintage locos are being replaced at an alarming rate.
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