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24thIntlFieldRyMeet-TripReport-Baltic Narrow Gauge

November 01, 2014 04:21PM avatar
International Feldbahn treffung - Field Railway Meeting held in Ventspils-LV
540 more pictures and videos about the IFT24 here [www.flickr.com]
This is the 24th International Feldbahntreffung - Field Railway Meeting held in Ventspils-LV 9th-12th Oct.2014. Starting on the the 3rd of Oct. a group of some 30 fans started a Pre-Program trip organized by two members of the Frankfurter Feldbahn Museum (the originator of the yearly meeting) and a member from the neighboring group Gruba Fortuna. The first task included meeting in Frankfurt at the museum, then a train to Dortmund where we boarded the night train to Warshaw from there another train to the first stop at the Polish national narrow gauge museum in Muzeum Kolei Wąskotorowej w Sochaczewie (museum which has trains that use narrow tracks) in the city of Sochaczew. From the English pdf the museum was started in 1986 and has the biggest collection of narrow gauge rolling stock in Poland, 135. It is truly an impressive collection from 1890s to 1960s steam engines, unfortunately there is only one operating narrow gauge steam engine in Poland. But at least they could restore more… There is probably info on the website but so far only seems to be in polish. The Microsoft translator helps. [www.muzkol.pl] [www.muzkol.pl]
IFT24-Day2-5 Oct.2014
Our first night in a Hotel in Poland was in cool Hotel Mlyn water spa which is integrated in a completely restored old water powered mill. Our railroad for day the 750mm ZKD former West Preussische Kleinbahn where we first traveled by rail bus to one end of their operable track and then returned to the station for real mixed freight passenger (just us weirdos). This operation is the remnant of the original 300km narrow gauge network to east and south of Dansik or Gdansk. It was deactivated in 1996 and in 2001 purchased from the national railroad by the local county. Limited tourist service started in 2001 and the local preservation group assuming operations and slowly expanding. The railcars and diesel are all of Romanian origin. The preservation group tell of the difficulties of rebuilding the line and operations even though theoretically the track was never pulled up almost everything else was stripped and removed. Then it appears the national inspectors require almost all the paper work as if it was a mainline including translations of the Romainin locomotive manuals completely in Polish. The highlight was surely the hand operated swinging bridge original from 1903. After the afternoon return of our private train, the plan for the day was a cultural visit to some Church or what and then the Wolfschanz (Wolfs Den) the imflamous Hitler bunker complex. Due to the long trip of the countryside and a big detour we skipped the Church and only arrived at the Bunker complex at 6pm. As the light was fading we hastily toured the grounds with some 39 bunks and I managed some good low light time exposures when you could only see with a flashlight. It was an eery experience almost getting lost there at night, but was somehow a fitting mood for the place that the Nazis used as a control center for some 600 days, interesting enough it was blown up by the German Engineers, the biggest bunker took 9 tons of TNT to crack apart like an egg. That night we stayed at a nice water side beach bungalow and even though the air was cool I took a dip in the water after testing it, still being “refreshing” after a warm autumn.
540 more pictures and videos about the IFT24 here [www.flickr.com]
IFT24-Day3-6 Oct2014
Day three was a special train on the Elk 750mm railway in Poland. “This 47.6 km long network, only 16km in operation was originally built 1910-1918 as meter gauge and was regauged to 750mm in 1951 but liquidated by the PKP in 2001. In 2002, the first train ran on the line under the auspices of the Elk Town Council who concluded an agreement with PKP to take over the line.” It was a gray day but still made for some interesting pictures. The sun peaked out just as we came out of the woods and we promptly did a photo run-by. Actually one our our fearless leaders almost went overboard on the photo run-bys. The grilled lunch and warm wine at the current end was great, even if the coming winter wind let us gladly return to the coach. We really appreciated the catering staff and warm grilled blood sausage. We spent the rest of the afternoon in bus on the way to Panevėžys in Lithuania for a special train the next day on the Aukstaitija Narrow Gauge Railway.
IFT24-Day4- 7 Oct2014
When we arrived at the station in the morning it looked like they had just finished the statin yesterday, after looking at the excellent website, it turns out that the “retro” Station building was inaugurated first on the 29th of Sept.2014, the attention to detail with wood work and the light fixtures supplied by old fashion exposed cables, they hadn’t even had a chance to remove the price tags from the light fixtures. No operational Steam locomotives yet, but the old Russian diesels are so ugly that they have a distinct charm and grow on you, even if they smoke more than a badly fired steam engine and leak oil everywhere, continuously. They railway was extremely friendly, especially our blonde female conductor that enjoyed flirting with our cameras and they created a welcome atmosphere and enjoyed stopping mostly at the well restored station buildings. This line is complete in it’s historic infrastructure dating back to 1891 and still maintains daily, non-tourist operations along the Panevėžys – Rubikiai (68.4 km) line. Our train stopped close to the end at Anyksciai station , just before the high bridge crossing of the river and where they have a nice little museum with yet again another friendly female tour guide speaking for my American ears a British English direct from the BBC, actually from her University exchange semester in England. It is still not clear to me if they new about our yearly IFT before we visited but the Railroad decided to apply to host the to host the IFT26 in 2016. Hopefully it was due to our charm and eccentric enthusiasm for all things of narrow gauge that caused them to want us to come back…They have promised program which will include some of the history of 60cm field railways in Lithuania started mostly during WW1. Maybe they will be able to invite a steam engine from the Bantis railway. There bar car was put to good use even if we had to provide the supplies ourselves, but then we were by then a well oil team and during the day everyone packed out what they had to share. At the end of the day after crossing the border into Lativia we stopped to watch a few broad gauge trains headed for the coast and I must say my European railfan colleagues are rather easily impressed by a “long” train with one Russian double engine and 57 freight cars. They should go see some of the 140 car unit coal trains struggling up the Rocky Mountains in my home Colorado with four units in front, two mid-train helpers and three pushers on the end…[www.siaurukas.eu]
After arriving the night before at the city of Baltapils, lv and staying in the wonderfully restored old military academy of stone buildings turned into the 4 Vecgulbenes Muiza star spa, hotel and cafe, we practically got to sleep in as we only had a ½ hour ride to the Gulbene train station, on the Gulbene-Aluksne banitis railway, where we spotted a broad gauge Russian 2-10-0 on display but by the time we got to it our interest was diverted by steam clouds and a a 75cm gleaming black steam engine making up our private train, yeah finally steam and what a treat.
According to Tony Olsson from Baltic Railways Magazine as reported in Narrow Gauge World Oct.2014 is the 0-8-0 Road Nr. Vr 319, SN15416 from 1951 Babelsberg formerly O&K. Is one of 423 locomotive of this class produced in German as war reparations. It was preserved by the Lavassaare Museum Railway in Estonia it was moved to Gulbene in 2007 and the 6 year restoration was first completed in June 2014 and entered service in August. It is projected to remain until 2018 until possibly returning to Estonia. After the inspection of myself and 30 other railfans with much expert knowledge, the restoration was completed to the best standards and included straitening the frame and building a new tender with rivet work on the frame. For such a new locomotive there were the usual signs of working in including leaking valve and piston packings and running adjustment of the brakes. But she pulled well on pure wood fire. Interestingly there were no signs of cinders and the exhaust not of the engine was very muffled which could indicate a complicated netting in the smokebox. Which with all the burnable material along the right of way will be direly necessary for the next summer’s operation during dry periods.
1st Offical Day of the 24th International Feldbahnmeeting of Ventspils. The day started by meeting at the Riga Railway Museum. Which has a great location on the banks of the river and luckily established because the property is surely now to desirable for other development. Not many countries have the foresight to develop a national RR museum in the capital where 55% of the population of Lettland lives. The highlights of the museum from narrow gauge side are the nicely restored Brigadelok ML 657 - HF 2305 Esslingen 3887/1918 and the old HF Water Tankcar turned into a wedge snowplow, there was also a restored narrow gauge passenger car based on standard WWI ambulance wagon. The most interesting wide gauge examples outside were the German 2-10-0 war engine where you can see how they pressed the wheel outward on the axles and then welded them to regauge from 4ft8 1/2in to 5ft gauge. Also cool was the only preserved prison car.
From Riga the bus took us to the peat museum railway in Balozi city, Kekava municipality within 12km of center of Riga. These guys are only 2 years old and have just won the support of the Peat Industry and local peat company that donated some kms of original 30km old line but it will have to be completely renovated, so far they have just managed to restore a speeder and are working on a diesel locomotive. They have a good concept to tell the story of the peat industry and history and provide a good tourist experience.
Then in the afternoon the Excursion was to Lielsalu peat factory (Talsi municipality, Valdgale parish). I was never really that excited by peat field railroads but I have to say it was an impressive experience why the still earn money with a narrow gauge railroad. Take a look at the videos the old underpowered locomotives that were rebuild with old Scania trucks are cool. In the evening we finally arrived at the [muzejs.ventspils.lv]

IFT24-7Day-10 Oct2014 VentspilsCity the cleanest city outside of Switzerland.
On this Saturday the participants where split into two groups which included excursions to Irbene a deserted Russian Radio astronomy center with exciting climb into the dish and an long underground tunnel. Then a visit to the Ovīši lighthouse. Also included was a harbor tour of Ventspils by boat, the harbor employs 5000 and is the real money maker of the city since it is the nearest harbor for Russians to export grain, oil, wood and other goods. We also visited the city old city center and the Castle of the Livonian order, which houses Ventspils City Museum and dates from 1290.
But the real highlight of the day was finally getting to see the visiting locomotive, and not a restored locomotive as good as new but a “brand spanking new” 60cm steam engine! Two weeks old! The “First Cologne Locomotive Company” [www.1loco.eu] brought their demonstrator, their No.001 and it will surely not be their last. They are not new to Ventspils as they restored the two Brigade Loks ML611 und ML631 there. Now they have moved from restoration to scratch building in 1ft=12”scale, they built everything new except the water glasses, injectors and steam gauge, just because they ran out of time. There work is truly first rate, a company of 8 people founded by two brothers, the younger brother seems to be the wonder kid that restored his first steam locomotive at 13. I spent time talking with his older brother, Radek Bednar. They made a nice presentation in the evening where they explain that they do this out of passion and it has just been a natural progression from their expanding experience of storing various; locomotives, steam engines, petrol and diesel engines, traction engines, Skoda Sentinal steam truck, some are for customers, some for friends and the most for their own growing museum which is based in the old factory that they bought for their workshop, museum and residence. There workmanship is excellent, riveted frame and cab instead of welded, improvements on the old O&K designs where possible; cast steel wheel centers for example. They were honest in explaining that they had to learn a lot and like machining the first cylinder took 10 days and the 2nd took only 4 days. These guys will build you a new locomotive for around €200,000, depending on number of wheels, gauge and such, batteries not included of course, but service and spare parts are guaranteed. If you consider such a locomotive for a tourist operation, to have a new locomotive with all the certifications and a knowledgeable company standing behind their product born of passion but based in reality, the price is very reasonable and they will surely find a niche market for their product. I wish them the best success.
Further presentations in the evening included one passionate presentation by a young lady named “Anija” for a small village museum in Viesite that has the Brigadelok ML635 - BMAG 6799/1918 HF 2484 and a form of original parlor car. It appears that the “little train” means a great deal to the small village that really celebrates their original railroaders. I think more than one “old” railroader was ready to go there and restore the locomotive for the young lady…
The presentation that opened the evening by the hosting Ventspils Open Air Museum was started by a little too much Lativian folk music without explanation, but it was a nice try. The speech by the originator of the idea for the train as transport for the redevelopment of the coast erosion protection with water park, camping area and good funding through the EU an city funds. They have a completely integrated park complex that is worth a visit if you are in the area.
Finally. it came to presentations for organizations that want to host the 2016 Internation Fieldrailway meeting. Unfortunately, there was only one applicant, 750mm Narrow gauge railway of Aukštaitija, Lithuania that we few had visited 4 days prior. A great preservation and operation but not quite 600mm operation that we hope for. But after a hard negotiation by our fearless Secretary, Udo all voted to accept the invitation. I am sure that they will offer us an interesting program and maybe there will be some visiting equipment from Rumania or Lithuania.
This day was alittle more of the same as the day before. The group picture was posed in the afternoon after rotating groups being given a guided tour around the Seaside Open Air Museum, started originally to preserve the fisher lifestyle with boats houses, black smith and more. Then there was another bus excursion to Talsi, the Museum of Latvian Agriculture which was very complete, just nothing in English, German or any language that I could understand. But they have the Brigadelok ML 629 - O&K 8271/1917 HF-853. Which is in rough condition but now at least under a roof, which is better than the picture from 2008. On the way back we stopped at the only existing narrow gauge station at Pope which is a private residence and in good care. The 80km bus trip was a good chance to catch up on sleep which had been missing the last nights of long personal exchanges with other narrow gauge “experts”. In the evening there were presentations by various groups such as Gruba Fortuna and the Frankfurter Feldbahn museum, Romanian Preservation Group reporting the success of their events and restorations within the last years as well as from railroads hosting the IFT25 next year on the 2nd Weekend of October, Chemin de fer touristique de Pithiviers, l'Association pour la Préservation et l'Entretien du Matériel à Voie Etroite & AECFM - Train Historique du Lac de Rillé.
This was then followed by a night train to the end station and back with an accompanying folk music group, the darkness, fog, music and good friends created a great atmosphere. It was a late night. Sunday the last day I wasn’t able to attend as I had to take the 3 hour bus back to Riga and the airport, fly to Munich and then talk the ICE train back to Stuttgart and home to my wife and young son, can’t wait to take him along soon too. My great thanks to our trip planers Reinhard Schönberger from Gruba Fortuna & and Marcus Schwebel from FFM for planning and organizing everything, it worked absolutely perfect, good German planning. It was a great chance to relax, with no responsibilities beside worrying where the next grocery store is to restock the beer supplies…for me a complete vacation: bus stops you go to;a.) hotel, b.) to eat or c.) to ride trains, no wonder my brothers in the FFM started this 25 years ago. Hey you American narrow gaugers or the England/Wales fractions are you sure you don’t want to host the Internationl Field Railway meet sometime?
Steamy cheers Thor Windbergs Windbergs(at)yahoo.com Ludwigsburg on the 28.Oct2014
540 more pictures and videos about the IFT24 here [www.flickr.com]
PS excuse that some pictures are not perfect the Nikon is new and complex and I don’t yet know how it thinks as good as my Lumix. More HDR pictures coming in the next few weeks. Feel free to pass this on to your friends.

Thor Windbergs
Ludwigsburg, Germany

Facebook: Thor Windbergs
Volunteer G&L RR 86-88
Fireman/Engine Watchman D&S 90-94
Member Frankfurter Feldbahn Musuem, feldbahn-ffm.de
Member IFPPC (Society for Preservation of Perus Pirapora Railroad) Brazil www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/brazil54.htm
Member German Standard gauge Group www.eisenbahnfreunde-zollernbahn.de
open | download - Trip Report-24thAnnual Field Railway Meeting-IFTwopicts.doc (57.5 KB)
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Thor Windbergs November 01, 2014 04:21PM

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