|IGE Special to Kosovo
21st to 26th August 2009
by Elmar Pfannerstill
The IGE Balkan tour to Kosovo
from 21st to 26th August was advertised as "NOHAB Express" and consisted
of 5 carriages of IGE rolling stock and Diesel My 1125 in "Santa Fe"
It was planned that this loco should pull the train all the way to
Kosove Polje (near the Kosovo capital Pristina), sometimes assisted
by other diesels of the railway companies en route.
As it turned out, this was only partly feasible. Here is the itinerary
and some of the main events:
Day 1: Augsburg - Nürnberg (dep. 11:15h, about 40
mins late) - Passau - Linz - Wien-Hütteldorf - Traiskirchen/Aspangbahn
- Wiener Neustadt - Sopron. Though its maximum speed was "only" 130
km/h the train was allowed on some sections of the new Austrian high-speed
line. Heading south from Wien, the "Aspangbahn" was used, which is
a single track, non-electrified line, where some photo stops were
Day 2: Sopron - Györ - Vasuttörteneti Park (Budapest
Railway Museum) - Kisszalas - Kelebia - Subotica (Hungarian/Serbian
border) - Beograd. The train started double-headed with My 1125 +
Hungarian NOHAB 2761 017 and went directly into the Budapest railway
Here the locos met her "sister" M61 020 giving photo opportunities
in front of the round house. From Budapest a little detour east led
via Cegled and Kecskemet on a single-track, electrified line before
getting back to the main line reaching the Hungarian border station
From here My 1125 was no longer allowed to pull the train, but Hungarian
(to Subotica) and Serbian (to Beograd) electrics came in front. During
a few photo stops the latter one (444 022) was taken off the train
for some "unspoilt" photos with My 1125 only.
Day 3: Beograd - Lapovo - Kragujevac - Kraljevo -
Raska - Lesak (Kosovo border control) - Zvetcan (end of Serbian Railways)
- bus transfer to Mitrovica (beginning of Kosovo Railways) - Kosovo
The train was headed by the aging Serbian GM diesel 661-248. After
Lapovo the line was single-track, non-electrified and the landscape
became more and more of what to expect: "Balkan gorges", traversed
by tunnels and bridges.
A nice event was a "picnic stop" before Raska, with an invitation
from Serbian locals (who had lived in Germany before) offering a free
flow of Slivovic, coffee and blueberry juice in combination with white
bread, butter and honey.
After thus having blocked the line for considerable time we headed
towards Lesak for Kosovo border control (there is no Serbian control
post, because Serbia does not recognize Kosovo).
Obviously a list of names and passport numbers was sufficient for
Kosovo border police and the train consisting of Serbian diesel +
My 1125 and IGE coaches continued on Kosovo territory.
However, as it turned out, some unsolved issues in the wake of Kosovo
independence gave a severe blow to the original plans: Some 30 kilometres
of track in the north of Kosovo are controlled by Serbian railways,
but there is no traffic on a 3 km section of "no-man's land" between
Serbian and Kosovo railways. So the last station of Serbian railways
at Zvecan was also the final destination of the IGE Balkan Express,
because it got no permission to continue any further.
Busses took us to the northern end of Kosovo railways at Mitrovica,
from where we continued with a special consisting of diesel 007 (ex
Di3.641), a goods van (for the luggage) and two Swedish second-hand
coaches (which were a donation by the "Swedish International Cooperation
Agency") to Kosove Polje, the "railway hub" near the capital Pristina.
Day 4: Kosove Polje - Ferizaj - Hani Elezit (Macedonian
border) - Kosove Ploje - Drenas - Kline - Kosove Polje. This covered
the southern and (partly) western branches of the Kosovo rail network
with Kosovo Polje in the center.
The train consisted of the same carriages as the day before, however,
traction force was loco 008 (ex Di3.643) and 006 (ex Di3.633) for
the tour on the southern branch, loco 007 (ex Di3.641) for the western
branch. As a result of financial and physical support from some German
NOHAB enthusiasts 006 and 008 carry a new (though different) red and
yellow livery. Various photo stops and run-pasts were made on the
Day 5: Kosovo Polje - Mitrovica - bus transfer to
Zvecan - Lapovo - Beograd - Subotica - Kelebia - Budapest Nyugaty
pu. A long journey back again in similar manner as before: Kososvo
railways special with diesel 005 to Mitrovica, bus transfer to Zvecan,
where the IGE train was waiting for the group. Serbian diesel and
electric resp. MAV electric locos pulled the train throughout.
Bad luck struck the tour as just that very day Serbian railways had
a line closure north of Beograd due to track works: Near Stare Pazova,
where the line forks between Zagreb and Budapest, a missing switch
prevented the train from going further north directly, but it had
to go round a huge triangle - as many other regular trains, resulting
in congestion and delays. Budapest was reached 3 hours late, which
meant 2:30h at night.
Day 6: Budapest - Hegyeshalom - Wien-Hütteldorf -
Melk - Passau - Nürnberg - Augsburg. The IGE special was headed with
My 1125 all the way, a short photo stop and run past was made at Melk.
After many delays throughout the tour the train reached Nürnberg about
15 mins ahead of schedule at approx.19:15h.
Comment: Obviously a special train to the Balkan is not to be expected
running in a clock-work like "Swiss Travel System" manner - delays
are to be accepted as part of the adventure. Even considering that,
the time schedule proved to be rather ambitious, resulting in late
arrivals at the hotels and some 5-6 hours sleep only for the group
(with the extreme of only 3 hours for the last night in Budapest).
Some participants were reminded of the IGE steam special to Istanbul.
Some advertised events (e.g. industrial steam in Kosovo) were cancelled
or a disappointment (e.g. a "Kosovarian evening").
Even though, thanks and admiration to the organizers, who always did
their very best to solve all sorts of problems and in discrepancies
on this extraordinary tour! A definite advantage was the IGE restaurant
car (in combination with the large storage capacity of the attached
ex-postal van), so food and drink supplies were never a problem! Note
on the places mentioned: Some Kosovo stations carry new Albanian names
instead of the former Serbian ones.
Final remark: If you would like to have the strange sight of a Swedish
train with a Danish NOHAB diesel in original livery on the Balkan
you would have to hurry up: NOHAB enthusiasts plan to support Kosovo
Railways with a new loco painting in next spring!