1st June 2021 · ‘The Grand Tour’

Presenter: Richard Morris

We welcomed Cheltenham Branch Member Richard Morris for his presentation of ‘The Grand Tour’ which was a VSOE trip to Venice and Part Two for trips to the Low Countries and Germany.

In 2018, with three other RCTS members and some wives, and after three years of planning by Steve Ollive, we made our way from Cheltenham to Paddington viewing 153312 on a Cheltenham to Maesteg train. We departed Didcot on a Class 800 alongside a Class 387 and the latter zoomed ahead of our train – we only caught it up when it slowed for its station stop.

On leaving London with 67021 at the head of the Pullman train to Folkestone West we had a seven course light brunch on coach PHOENIX. We were due to go through the tunnel but there was a big problem, so we set sail to Calais from Dover. We then joined the VSOE being pulled by SNCF BB26163. This is one of the rare locos in the BB26000 series to wear the ‘En Voyage…’ livery. Our coach was No. 3553, and we had a hearty meal in one of the restaurant cars, there are three in all on the train. We had to wear evening dress as befits the occasion. Sleeping overnight we arrived at Basle and continued our journey behind SBB Re4/4 locomotive 11193 pulling 17 coaches weaving through the Swiss countryside, we were in the second carriage and a fine shot of the train rounding a long curve was taken. We bought one bottle of champagne and received another one free, a great BOGOF. Italo 402151 took us from Milan down to Venice where we boarded a water taxi down the Grand Canal to the hotel. There were also many water buses, and these ran with such frequency it seemed like Oxford Street on water.

In Venice for a few days we went sightseeing and started with the Basilica San Marco moving on to the 15th Century Clock Tower before boarding a water bus to the island of Mirano. The next day the ladies went ahead with retail therapy while the boys popped along to Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia for some photography. An Italo Red Arrow EVO train 06 was seen along with Trenord [Trenitalia LeNord (TLN)] locomotives and an E402B taking the return VSOE out, along with some suburban DMUs.

On the canals there are all sorts of boats including rubbish collecting ones, cargo, post office and of course gondolas. More sightseeing followed with the San Georgio Cathedral.

There was a shot of the Venice People Mover train from the causeway that links to the island. More looking around then the return home from Venice via Verona, Innsbruck and onto Vienna where the Transport Museum was visited but only two hours per visit are allowed which was not long enough, six hours would have been fine. We saw an ÖBB Siemens Taurus ES64U2 Nightjet loco 1116 195 with 2016 089 on a freight among others. A trip was taken on a large miniature railway in a public park and some good photos were taken from the high tower and also of the wonderful old Ferris wheel (as featured in the film ‘The Third Man’).

On to Prague where we saw locos from Hungary, Austria and Czechia [formerly Bohemia and Czech Republic]. We visited the Charles Bridge and castle and saw the latest tram, a Škoda 15 T4. We also saw a Class 471 EMU, 971 0674 commonly known as CityElefant, it is a double deck EMU operating on 3 kV DC overhead wires produced by Škoda Vagonka. Quite a few other classes were seen pulling both passenger and cargo. The journey home was via Dresden, Frankfurt, Brussels and St. Pancras.

Here endeth Part One.

Part Two showed various journeys to the Low Countries and Germany over ten years ago and we started with a visit to Utrecht for the Railway Museum where among others were a NB 4-4-0, EE Shunter 512, basically a Class 08, SIK Shunter 345, and WD 2-10-0 73255 LONGMOOR. Next to Arhnhem where a Railion shunter was seen, and at Hook of Holland was a 3-car Sprinter 2969, more shunters at Rotterdam and lots of different types seen in various locations.

Sticking out were a brand new Vossloh G2000BB at Feyenoord Depot which is similar to a Class 58. Railion 232904 a Russian built loco, ERS Railways 6608 which is now running in GB as 66793 and runs from Grain on most journeys, in Antwerp Docks we saw 4 Russian Shunters in a line, a heritage Class 23 in Brussels.

The show was viewed by 55 Zoomers and a big thank you to Richard.

Rob Davidson, Watford Branch Secretary