Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tuesday 18 October A very long day Arbatax to Aritzo

Pictures were posted on October 28.
Today can only be described as a complete disaster. The plan was for us to take a steam locomotive from Arbatax to Seui and then a diesel to Mandas where the coach would take us to the hotel at Aritzo. This is, in fact what happened but we didn't arrive at the hotel until abut 2230 and then had dinner.
The day started off fine and there was good weather all through. The 2-6-2 tank engine assembled its train of one wagon and a coach and we took off. Many houses in Arbatax are painted different pastel colours which help to brighten things up. There is quite a lot of bamboo growing in the area. It went well until we hit the first grade (we would be climbing almost all of the way until Seui). The engine stalled on the grade and had to stand for a blow up.

There was a second stop for a blow up a short while later but the light was amazing – shining right on to the nose of the engine.
The stand for a blow up was a great opportunity for photos in wonderful light
There was a water (and blow up?)stop at Sella Ellecci.

Another stop for a blow up provided an opportunity for photos but it was apparent that the engine was in very bad condition and would have great difficulty in getting us to Seui. It is evident that the boiler has been altered to run at a lower steam pressure rather than carry out any necessary repairs.

There was a photo stop at km. 202 and another stop at Elini where we took the opportunity to photograph a group of school kids (6 or 7) in their smocks. They were very well behaved although one or two were frightened by the locomotive and were crying. I gave the three teachers a Canada pin each but I didn't have enough to give round to the kids.

Just after Elini we slipped to a stand and despite several attempts the driver was unable to start off. He was either heavy on the throttle or the throttle was very still. He backed down a long way and tried to get away to no avail. It turned out that there were only hand brakes on the coach and the engine. Three whistles was the signal to the conductor to apply the coach brakes and two to release them. One time the conductor was not paying attention and we started to run back at a great rate, past the hospital and near to the main road crossing in Elini. A series of short whistle blasts and then three brought to brakes on and the train was eventually brought under control. We stayed a long while at this spot eating out lunches. There was a railcar following which could possibly provide assistance but the crew put sand on the rails by hand and worked on the sanding gear on the engine. We finally started up again and made it to Lanusei where there was another stop for a blow up and water. There was quite a long stop here for the engine and we enjoyed the bar (red wine) and our group cleared out the freezer of chock ices, cones etc.

By this time it was past lunch time and there were two photo stops before a water stop at Arzana. The water was put in with a garden hose so it took some time. The empty railcar joined us here and followed us into Seui.

At Gairo there was a water/photo/blow up stop after which we encountered a flock of sheep which was being driven by a dog. The sheep ran in front of the train for some way and the dog was doing its best. It even stopped occasionally to bark at the approaching train. We eventually passed the sheep and the dog ran behind us to see us off.

Video of the last run past of the day
We made five more stops before Seui, two for pictures on bridges but all in effect to blow up. We even had to stop a hundred yards or so from Seui. We finally arrived around 1900.

The railway knew the locomotive was in such bad condition and that we would not be able to make the trip as they had promised. I think even more worrying is that the train was controlled by just two handbrakes on severe grades where stopping because of the locomotive could easily snap a coupling. The was an act of crass stupidity on the part of the railway. When I was in Transport Canada Railway Safety I would have had no hesitation in closing down an operation like this immediately.

From Seui we had a long way to go to Mandas and were given the opportunity of taking the bus but there was no real advantage and we stayed on the train. The diesel made a good run and we arrived about half an hour after the bus. It was a trip of over an hour to Aritzo. The hotel was situated at around 850 meters and the road was so winding that several passengers began to feel sick.

The Hotel La Capannina is an excellent family run operation. They kept our food ready for us and the wine flowed freely. It must have been very difficult for the staff, all of whom smiled all the time.

We started with a plate of prosciutto and salami then seadas, deep fried dough with a cheese filling. The next course was home made cheese filled ravioli with s tomato based sauce. The main course was an excellent spit-roasted pork with roast potatoes. Fruit for desert. An excellent finish to a very poor railway day.

We finally got to our room at midnight.

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