PTG ran their third Bulgarian railtour (entitled Magnificent Seven to the Black Sea) featuring some very shiny 87s in May 2010. It featured (in order) 87003, 87020, 87028, 87004, 87008. An excellent week, great traction, superb weather and – as we found out – a fantastic country – it was this tour that got us hooked on Bulgaria! 🙂
87003 took us from Sofia Central station to Pirdop via Iskar and the direct route. Seen here at Bunovo – one of a few photostops on this section of the journey, but probably the most photogenic.
The first loco change was scheduled to take place at Pirdop and sure enough, 87020 was waiting in the station to relieve ‘Patriot. Looking back, it is notable that there were very few stabled locos in the siding to the left – nowadays there are usually one or two stood waiting for work. Perhaps it was just chance, or perhaps the fleet was busier back then? The full fleet never made it out here due to a downturn in work around this time…
After a long distance run with North Briton, the second loco change took place at Razdelna and 87028 was bolted on to take us the relatively short distance to Varna. 87020 seen here waiting to be detached with 87028 looking on. 87004 was in the sidings…ready to appear the next day.
87028 took the train out of Varna the next morning as far as Razdelna – a somewhat shorter run than I would have liked with it but beggars can’t be choosers! On arrival, 87020 was present from our arrival the previous day and had been joined by 87034 overnight. There was nothing in the sidings.
87028 detached from the tour and ran into the stabling siding with 87034 and 87020.
87004 took over at Razdelna, initially for the short journey ’round the corner’ to Varna Ferryboat where there is a station, but no booked passenger trains. Freight traffic does pass regularly, heading down to the gauge changing facility at the end of the line. Once they have passed through, they are loaded onto a rail ferry to head to either Russia or Ukraine.
The route between Varna and Sochi (Russia) is reportedly extremely busy and has been described as “the best economic connection between Bulgaria and Russia” transporting over 50,000 tonnes of goods in both directions in 2011.
87004 ran round at the station and we did not venture any further into the complex.
After a run via Shumen, Gorna Oryhovitsa, Resen and back to Gorna, we arrived at Veliko Turnovo for the night where 87004 was stabled up. Despite looking absolutely pristine, the traincrew (who obviously had great pride in their steed) got out the bucket and brush and gave the front end a clean before Britannia was put to bed for the night.
The next day saw us head up the short distance to Tsareda Livada for a run round and then to Gabrovo (normally a unit only branch line) – so unusual was the visit of a loco hauled train that the local news turned up at the station to witness it all! It was then back to Sofia via a lunch stop at Kazanlak and a loco change at Pirdop (but not before another photostop at Klisura!).
It was somewhat pleasing to see 87008 waiting to drop onto the train when we arrived – and in hindsight probably even more fortuitous given that it was “coppered” a year or so later and has never worked again. The sidings were somewhat fuller than the outward visit; 87012 and 87033 were on rakes of tanks and just to the right of the picture there was a line of locos – 87003 87028 and 87019.
The run back to Sofia was pretty uneventful, until we received a police escort to go round the Sofia avoider, through the “slightly dubious” suburbs of Sofia!
Oh, and there is one foreign piffle picture, during a tour of the depot in Varna, 07087 was sat on the turntable in sun so would have been rude not to take a picture…