Narrow Gauge Steam in Latvia

Narrow Gauge railways in Gulbene and Ventspils April 19th – 22nd, 2019

Narrow Gauge Steam in Latvia: Ventspils

Three serviceable narrow gauge steam locomotives are available in Latvia, all three with German roots, and all three have a history in the World Wars. While the “Heeresfeldbahn” locomotives in Ventspils were used widely in the WW I all over Europe, the Gr in Gilbene is one of the reparation locomotives which were delivered to the USSR after WW II.

Ventspils, close to the Baltic sea, have built an additional line with a wooden bridge, so there are more photographic opportunities compared to our last tour to Latvia, which we ran almost ten years ago. Also the number of available wagons has increased which will allow us to run two different trains in Ventspils. Hence, there are several reasons now to run another tour to Latvia with its beautiful capital of Riga!

Gr 319 in Lavassaare

Itinerary

Day

Itinerary

19.4.

The group meets at Riga airport about 13:30 hrs (arrival of Air Baltic flights from Berlin 12:30, from Munich 13:10, Wizz Air from London 12:30), brief city sight seeing tour through Riga and transfer by charter bus to Gulbene. Hotel in Gulbene

20.4.

Steam charter train in Gulbene: morning train from Gulbene to Aluksne with 0-4-0 Gr 319 chimney first. After our arrival the steam loco will go back (light engine) to Gulbene, turned there and return light engine to Aluksne. Afternoon: steam charter train from Aluksne to Gulbene chimney first. Night pictures in Gulbene on the turntable. Hotel in Gulbene

21.4.

Transfer to Ventspils via Jelgava. In the depot at Jelgava, we’ll find two 2-10-0 locomotives of class L and one of the first built batch Kriegsloks called TE (German class 52). Also it’s quite likely that we’ll see the double diesel locomotives of classes 2M62 and 2TE10. In the late afternoon continue to Ventspils. Hotel there.

22.4.

In the morning we’ll see two “Heeresfeldbahn” locomotives from WW I on the 600 mm gauge narrow gauge railway in the fishery museum. They have different freight wagons and green passenger coaches, so we’ll see two different train compositions. Afternoon return to Riga to catch the evening flights (Air Baltic to Berlin 18:05, to Munich 16:25 hrs and Wizz Air to London 19:40 hrs). Arrival home the same evening.

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Line descriptions

The landscape in the Baltic region is mostly flat with some gentle hills, consisting of lakes, rivers, meadows, swamps, forests and wide agricultural areas. That's the reason many narrow gauge lines don't have gradients. However, we can find a lot of interesting smaller and a few larger bridges. Sometimes we’ll see wooden houses or beautiful wooden station buildings along the line. Not to forget the characteristic water towers! It's possible to take pictures in really idyllic countryside. To get an idea about the countryside please have a look at the pictures in the trip report of our tour to the narrow gauge railways in Lithuania in 2005. Of course, at that time, we didn’t see any working steam.

Gr 319 in Gulbene

Latvia's last remaining public narrow gauge railway Gulbene – Aluksne runs two pairs of trains; on Sundays one pair only. These trains are, of course, diesel hauled. The East German built Gr 319 has been overhauled and, after a delay of several years, it can now be used on the line. We will grab one of the very few remaining Polish Pafawag coaches and, if available, some freight wagons to arrange an authentic train from the age of steam.

There is only one station along the line where trains can cross each other. Fortunately, the timetable allows the running of charter trains during the best time of the day for photographers and video film makers. We’ll use the morning and the late afternoon light for our charter trains. At the terminus of the line the loco can’t be turned. That’s why we’re sending it light engine back to Gulbene to turn it and come back to our train, so we are able to run both trains chimney first.

Diesel trains on the line Gulbene - Aluksne:

Gulbene - Aluksne

Narrow Gauge Line Gulbene - Aluksne

Gulbene - Aluksne

In Gulbene we’ve planned some night shots in the depot where we’ll also turn the locomotive.

The third line in Ventspils follows a very circuitous route with a recently opened branch line extension into the pine forests. This 600 mm gauge line within a fishery museum has two serviceable 0-4-0 “Brigade” locomotives from World War I (built in 1914), three green coaches and some freight wagons which suit the age of the locomotive. This nice little train can be photographed under trees and passing meadows as well as on a wooden trestle bridge in the forest. Although everything is within the premises of the museum you’re able to take “real” line shots. We’ll spend about two hours with this interesting train before we return to the airport of Riga.

Gulbene - Aluksne

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Small Print

Latvia is bilingual. The Latvian language is similar to the Lithuanian, however most of the people speak Russian, even though the language is now an unpopular reminder of Soviet times. English and German are popular foreign languages.

Narrow Gauge Steam in Latvia: Ventspils

Infrastructure has almost reached Western European standards but not so with the smaller roads. They are often unpaved and require more time for travelling than a look at the map would suggest. The mobile phone network has nationwide coverage. Local currency can be acquired easily from cash dispensers in every large city. All major credit cards and EC-cards are accepted.

Our hotels in the smaller places are between better than basic and middle standard. All of them are clean and offer a private bathroom.

Narrow Gauge Steam in Latvia: Ventspils

For this tour you need good and strong shoes and waterproof clothing. We’re hoping for sunny weather, but rainy days are also possible. Light conditions are great in the early morning and afternoon because of the low but intense sunlight. Because this tour is designed for photographers and video film makers it’s not appropriate to wear intensely coloured clothes. If someone gets accidentally in a shot he could cause a real upset if wearing a high visibility jacket.

The tour is arranged with half board (breakfast and dinner). We will usually begin the day early in the morning and may have no opportunity for a warm lunch. On demand we can arrange a packed lunch instead.

There is only one serviceable locomotive in Gulbene and two in Ventspils. In the case of derailments, technical problems with the locomotives or the line, there’s no alternative. It’s impossible to guarantee that all locomotives and trains will run as planned. In such an unlikely case we’ll try to arrange something else. Refunds are not possible, neither in full nor in part, if the program can not be executed as planned.

Please bear in mind that the narrow gauge trains we’re using are not to the standard of museum lines in Western Europe. They can offer coaches which would fulfil EU requirements, but we’ve ordered authentic trains, rather than museum like rolling stock with fancy painted bar coaches. The freight cars don’t have proper seats. Always use common sense when crossing roads and railway tracks. Neither the local agency, the railways nor FarRail Tours Club can be held responsible and will not accept any liability whatsoever in the case of any accident, damage or delays. We suggest you take out a comprehensive accident and health insurance policy.

Narrow Gauge Sream: Gr 319

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Price

South Africa
Cape Gauge Steam in the Western Cape Province 40 to 60 participants £3,700
14.06.2019 – 25.06.2019 Single room surcharge £560
Registration Deadline: 26.01.2019
Cape Town, Garden Route and the Addo Elephant Park 15 to 24 participants £2,180
24.06.2019 – 02.07.2019 7 to 14 participants £2,570
  Single room surcharge £540
Registration Deadline: 06.03.2019

The price includes:

Not included are:

Narrow Gauge Steam in Latvia: Ventspils

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