2010 Railtour

Class 87. Passenger Coach. Track. Known About. Deal!

“Magnificent Seven to the Black Sea” – Portugese Traction Group, May 2010

To date, this three-day tour has been the only 87-centric Charter operation in Bulgaria.

Saturday 1 May

We started off with a leisurely stroll from the hotel to Sofia, bagging a couple of front coach compos behind 87003 for the 09.40 departure east running as BV3691. We took the usual route to Pirdop via Iskar and before long were commenting that we could live with this – the sun out and a seven doing the business up front as we climbed and twisted up  table 300 which is nestled between the Central Balkan and Stredna Gora mountain ranges. After a few photo stops we were soon arriving into Pirdop where the first loco change was planned. With a surprise that no spare locos were present, 87020 took over which for me was a nice low mileage machine. After going over the summit at Klisura North Briton dropped across the plains to Kazanlak where we had a couple of hours for lunch. Suitably refreshed and now running as BV3693 we were direct to Varna via Karnobat. A short blast of 130km/h running between Tulovo and Dabovo brought balance to what is probablty an average of around 80km/h Bulgarian bolted track. At Razdelna 87028 took over for a run along the heavily industrialised Lake Beloslav then Lake Varna for an arrival at dusk.

Between Sofia and Pirdop, a photo stop for 87003 at Bunovo. BV3691 09.40 Sofia – Kazanlak Charter

87003 comes off the tour with 87020 (left) ready to take over at Pirdop. No raft of spare locos on the siding on the far left that day.

87020 at Kazanlak. For what looks a pretty awful place from the train’s approach the town square was excellent!

Sunday 2 May

After an arranged quick trip around the BZK depot, 87028 was again at the helm for the short run to Razdelna, train number starting as BV2690 today. This piece of line has impressed me ever since, and all too soon it was time for ‘028 to be detached. Here 034 had joined 020 but our power was 87004 looking resplendent in BZK blinged-up BR Blue. First on the agenda was the Varna Ferryboat branch, expect we actually only went to the station which is barely a kilometre round the corner for a run round! Setting off again we staggered past thousands of rusting wagons on the freight line through Trastikovo Yard before getting back onto the mainline at Sindel for a run to Shumen which was todays lunch stop. A big park outside the station contained a bar, job done! Fed and watered we went forward as BV2692 across the Danubian Plain to Gorna along table 201. From Gorna we did some more freight track going the back route to Resen. Reversed for the mainline route back to Gorna (now BV4691), the idea had been being to do the Gorna avoiding curve direct to Veliko but this wasn’t happening so back for another run round at Gorna then down to Veliko. Some phots then the trek into town, eventually found the hotel and another relaxing evening in the sun.

87028 at Radelna about to be detached from BV3691 09.25 Varna – Shumen. Not many kms had off this one!

Pathing stop at Provadiya as 87004 heads west. Do like the rocky ridge high behind which dominates the area.

87004 at Veliko Tarnovo. Despite looking superb the traincrew still produced the ‘004 bucket to wash it!

Monday 3 May:

Today we started as BV4693 and a 09.24 departure with 87004 again heading south, albeit not far to Careda Livada where we ran around to do the Gabrovo branch. A real branch this, single line twisting and climbing away and usually just the home of RVR units. The quality of ‘004 arriving was not lost as the local media turned up en-mass to meet its arrival! After a prolonged run round as the track hadn’t been used for years we headed south again (now BV3690) and it wasn’t long before we were climbing up through the Balkan mountains before dropping back onto table 200 and again to Kazanlak for lunch. To our horror as we dropped back from Bila on a supply run 87012 headed west on a long rake of acid tanks!  After lunch we had turned into BV3692 and recovered Saturday’s route back towards Sofia. At Pirdop it was loco change again and after a quick phot of 87012 on tanks it was 87008 to take us forward in its pointless Cotswold livery. With hindsight the use of ‘008 was certainly a good one as within a year it had been attacked for copper and dumped out of use. I can’t see it working again… We ran via the back route to Sofia into Ilyantsi then swang left onto the Sofia avoider – a police escort provided through this rough part of town – then round onto the mainline at the far end of Poduyane Yard and back into Sofia.

87004 at Gabrovo running round. Locos here certainly few and far between, the traincrew being quite happy learning as they went along with the route map!

87008 at Sarantsi. I believe this is the locos only passenger working in Cotswold Silver, not having done anything in the UK.

So that was that and we bounded back to the hotel in high spirits. The tour had delivered – for a decent PTG price of £99/day – over 1000kms of Bulgarian mileage and five locos across a fascinating country.

Magic. For me at least, that was the seed sown and it wouldn’t be long before my European book was getting more entries than the UK one!

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Posted May 15, 2017 by redcow87015

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