Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday 16 October - Narrow gauge Palau to Sassari

Pictures were posted on October 26

The shower flooded the bathroom with half an inch of water first thing. Breakfast was a madhouse with three groups trying to get at the food at the same time.

We had to wait quite a long time for the train to arrive at Palau. An old man was asleep on a stool in a phone booth. He was in the sun and out of the wind and could observe everything, ferry boat activity etc. without moving. The train stopped right by him but he only opened an eye.

The ferry terminal was busy.  It had a bar which many used once they realized that you had to buy a ticket at the cash across on the other side of the room.  There were a lot of men watching the motor racing.  Much of the street furniture is carved from solid pieces of rock - planters, benches and even a toilet at one of the stations was fabricated from large pieces of stone. The countryside is strewn with naturally sculpted rocks.
Our train skulked into town.  It had to return in reverse almost as far as the Palau town station.
The two car train finally arrived and we were treated to a wonderful tour of the northern part of the island. There were lots of sheep, goats and cattle as well as vineyards. A hunter was out with his two dogs. There were many dry-stone walls used to keep the animals in. Maquis scrub is everywhere.

I found myself in the cab of the diesel electric locomotive #502 with a male driver and a female helper. It was a great trip and was greatly helped by the fact that both crew spoke English. I gave them both Canada pins as well as a pin for her son and his nephew. He was quite a train enthusiast and talked about the TGV and the Italian high speed trains. The train uses vacuum brakes but the locomotive has been modified so that there is now no independent release. This makes sense bearing in mind that the trains are very short. Movement authorities are handled by the conductor but the engineer is in charge of the actual movement of the train. The locomotive has dual controls so it can be driven from either end of the cab. There was no deadman pedal. The crossings were very much overgrown at some places and the engineer was not happy with many of them. At one time people recognized the sound of the train and waited for it to pass, but many nowadays don't care and take risks.

A runpast over a man-made lake.
There was plenty of activity harvesting cork. A couple of yards were filled with pallets of cork. Not many people live in the country and the small towns were very sleepy with just a few old men present.

Surprisingly we had a meet with another special passenger train – there are no regular trains on this section.
Meet with another passenger train.

We stopped at Tempio Pausania to look at the old, belt driven, machine shop and then found lunch in the town. The prosciuto was very tender and the caprese salad (tomato and boconcini) was flavoured with and fresh basil. Pasta was excellent. The restaurant filled up after us as others from our group found the place and there was a large party in a back room. A cafe provided Mary with coffee while I tried a comparison taste testing of red and white myrtle liqueurs. They were both very good but I think I prefer the red.
A comparison tasting of red and white mirto liqueur.

Tempio Pausania
Murals in the Tempio Pausania station booking office.  Glasses of red and white mirto liqueur are shown bottom left.
After lunch we continued on with a couple of run pasts including one at the spiral at Bortidigiadas. Our progress was delayed at one point by a donkey which didn't want to get out of the way.
Runpast at the spiral tunnel
John Bennett suggested that, by keeping the camera settings the same we could Photoshop an image of the train passing under itself.  The result turned out pretty well.
Good bridge location
We arrived late at Sassari and went straight to the hotel in Alghero. It took a little time to check in but the room is good and the dinner was excellent.
Click below to see all images of this day in slide show format:

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