Baltic Coast Express – A pictorial journey through Germany and Poland to Finland

Presenter: Peter Robins

Physical Meeting at Shenfield Parish Hall

Peter told us that he considered himself to be a lifelong railway enthusiast. He was not really sure how it all started. It could have been trainspotting trips to Taplow where shiny new Westerns and Warships passed through or travelling further afield to see Bulleid Pacific’s in full flight, or attending a school next to the railway where trainspotting at lunchtime was a very popular activity. He started work for British Rail as relief clerk based at Slough in September 1974 and bought an SLR camera as soon as funds permitted. Peter went on to work for Great Western in the Performance section at Swindon until retirement in 2016. He made full use of BR's travel facilities and made many trips at home and abroad to photograph all forms of traction over the following years.

In 1990, Enthusiast Holidays ran a tour called the “Baltic Coast Express” from London via Poland, the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. The return journey was via Finland, Sweden and Denmark. It was only the second major railway tour to Russia and whilst there were a few minor teething problems, the tour was a success.

Peter’s presentation started however with images taken between 1975 and 1985 on previous visits to Germany and Poland and then followed with the tour through Russia to Finland. Peter wasn’t keen on steam, but that changed in an instant when he set eyes on some of the locomotives he encountered, which he vividly described as “very noisy, with plumbing gone mad”. This was very atmospheric, as were his pictures, which were of a very high quality, scanned from 35mm films of various makes. There was a wealth of information about the various types of engines, and this coupled with several anecdotes made for a very interesting and entertaining talk.

Although the welcome was generally friendly in countries that might have been regarded with suspicion, if not hostility, language posed some barriers and planned run pasts for instance didn’t always go as planned!