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Santa is out of town – these boxes are being delivered by something stronger!

If you need some huge colourful steel boxes or other means of rail cargo transported through Southern Transdanubia, the Class M62 diesels, a.k.a Sergeis are still ready for the action. Until the start of the new millennium, the traditional M62 locomotives dominated the railway network of Transdanubia, where you could only find traces of electrified lines back then. Later, as the overhead wires started enmeshing the main lines, the popular Lugansk diesels recoiled back to Southern Transdanubia, mainly to Pécs and Dombóvár. Day by day it’s easier to bump into private railways in the area, but the Sergeis are still working a lot, freight traffic – especially now that it’s on an upwards trajectory – would be unimaginable without them. Construction is already underway on the Serbian section of the Budapest - Belgrade railway line, and freight trains diverted from there are becoming a usual sight on the Pécs - Magyarbóly - Osijek railway line. Just like anywhere in Central Europe, the railway world is enjoyably diverse here. Besides the top predators – the Sergeis – there are light, four-axled diesel locomotives, neat Siemens Desiro railcars, and also a nascent narrow-gauge tourist railway to discover in the area.

Photos and original text in Hungarian by Endre Barta - English translation by Attila Láber - German, Slovakian, Romanian and Ukrainian translation by Google Translate. All photos were taken in Hungary, all times are given in Central European Time (UTC+1).

Pécsbánya-Rendező, 23 December 2020, 7:03 am CET – The forest of truss pillars is getting denser, the electric transmission lines are converging at the Pécs thermal power plant, operating next to the station. The largest amongst them carries 400 kV of current between Paks and Osijek, via Pécs. The voltage above the rails is only 25 kV, but the catenary already ends here at Pécsbánya Rendező. The main railway line to Osijek is not electrified from here, only diesel vehicles participate in the railway traffic. However, while emitting smoke is forgiven to a power plant or a Desiro motor car, it is resented for passengers standing next to the train. Afterall, the morning Pécs-Magyarbóly passenger train does not wait around seven minutes at the station due to a cigarette break.

Pécsbánya-Rendező, 23 December 2020, 07:09 am CET – The thermal power plant in Pécs, handed over in 1959 was a real carbon-eating monster, but after the abolition of coal mining it had to switch to a vegetarian diet. The wood chip-fired power plant block also expects thrown away Christmas trees from January, but mostly consumes trees from the South Transdanubian forests the rest of the year. In the past, much of the coal came from a nearby transfer station, on a conveyor belt, nowadays the logs are arriving on rails. The wagons will be shunted to the siding by the yard locomotive of Pécsbánya-Rendező, a Class 478 ‘Dacia’.

Pécsbánya-Rendező, 23 December 2020, 7:18 am CET – Power plant on the rails… Sergei 210 moved from Záhony to Székesfehérvár in February 2018, but since the end of April it has been roaming around Southern Transdanubia. Freight traffic around Pécs constantly requires two or three mainline diesel locomotives. A local freight train departs from Pécsbánya-Rendező every working day to Szentlőrinc and three times a week to Villány, but there are also one or two pairs of freight trains a day in international traffic. At dawn, Sergei 215 had already forwarded a train to the border station, but by the time the sun rises this container train will also set off to Magyarbóly, and from there – via Osijek and Belgrade – to Turkey.

Palkonya, 23 December 2020, 8:08 am – ‘Slow down, this is Palkonya!’ shown by the sign to the motorists. This is not visible from the railway, but near the bottom of the slopes of South Baranya, on the railway track following the watercourses, there is not a huge rush anyway. Nothing hindered the route of the container train between Pécsbánya and Villány, but it still only accelerated slightly above 50 km/h. Once inhabited by Croats, Serbs and then German settlers from Württemberg, the village of Palkonya with its historic atmosphere is now only home to barely three hundred people.

Villány, 23 December 2020, 8:35 am – Tracks closed for rail traffic signed by red rectangles, speed restrictions of 20 km/h… Despite the poor state of the infrastructure, the Pécs - Magyarbóly railway line is an important part of the international railway network, which now also serves as a bypass due to the reconstruction of the main line between Belgrade and Kelebia. Immediately after the arrival of the Magyarbóly-Pécs passenger train, the switches were set, and the Turkish container train was able to continue its journey to Magyarbóly with an unmistakable Sergei start.

Palkonya, 23 December 2020, 9:33 am – No free Sergei locomotive remains in Pécsbánya, 210 is already somewhere in Croatia, 215 headed for Szentlőrinc. The shunting freight train is therefore pulled by a Class 478 ‘Dacia’, which is lighter, but also weaker than a Sergei. Having another 628 at disposal would not have made a difference anyways, as the heavy Sergeis cannot roam around the industrial sidings in Mohács, and the towable mass is limited. The five timber-laden wagons are expected by the Kronospan-MOFA fibreboard factory in Mohács.

Villány, 23 December 2020, 10:00 am – Direct trains consisting of seventeen Habbinss wagons regularly depart from the Mohács fibreboard works to the Adriatic ports via border station Gyékényes. The empty wagons were brought here from Pécsbánya by a Sergei the previous night, but they only continue their journey to Mohács this morning to be loaded. The ‘Dacia’ connected five sliding sidewalls cars to the five timber-laden wagons from the morning, leaving the remaining twelve cars to reach Mohács with the second, afternoon round.

Magyarbóly, 23 December 2020, 10:38 am – You could mistake this view for a veteran show, but the two elderly Csepel trucks are part of the street scene in Magyarbóly, they are used to take firewood to local houses. They are held in high esteem by their owner, they spend the night in a closed garage, and this is clearly reflected by their great condition. The flatbed truck has a Mercedes engine, but the crane car still has the original Csepel heart beating in it. It is an interesting coincidence that both machines with “green plates” (license plates for slow machinery, starting with the letter M) and C50 locomotives – which were originally also Csepel-powered – have a permitted maximum speed of 25 km / h.

Magyarbóly, 23 December 2020, 10:45 am – Sergei 210, already seen in the morning had meanwhile visited the Croatian side, the container train delivered by it is probably already heading for Osijek with a Croatian locomotive. From Magyarbóly, the second cross-border freight train of the day consists of open, high-sided wagons loaded with logs, tank wagons and empty self-unloading wagons. It will depart around noon, after the arrival of the passenger train from Beli Manastir.

Magyarbóly, 23 December 2020, 11:26 am – A Desiro motor car arrives from Pécs and passes through the bridge of the Karasica stream, before reaching Magyarbóly station. The 27-meter long, open-track, truss steel bridge was built in 1927, slightly modified during its 1974 reinforcement, and it got corrosion protection treatment during the two weeks long full track lock in July 2016.

Magyarbóly, 23 December 2020, 11:34 am – Beautifully trimmed hedge, well-maintained park and benches, wall-mounted cleaning tools… As well as being the most organized station on the whole line, Magyarbóly is also the only place where you can find a wide platform. The flower delivery train was made by one of the traffic managers. The staff of the Desiro motor car are spending their break, only leaving for Pécs as train number 8113 after a three-hour stay.

Magyarbóly, 23 December 2020, 12:02 pm – International passenger services between Hungary and Croatia were not suspended due to the coronavirus. Trains are still running between Pécs and Beli Manastir, but mostly without any passengers. The railway line entered a new era as the old, two-axled Bzmot railbuses were replaced by modern Desiro DMUs. Unit 426,011 on the right arrived recently from Pécs, while unit 426,012 from Beli Manastir, resuming its journey after the border control to Pécs, the chief town of Baranya county.

Magyarbóly, crossing to Lapáncsa, 23 December 2020, 12:33 pm – Shortly after the arrival of the passenger train from Beli Manastir, the second freight train of the day leaves Magyarbóly border station to Croatia. The environmental regulations are probably not that strict abroad either, allowing Class M62 locomotives, these well known, air and soil polluters entering another country. The border crossing freight trains between Magyarbóly and Beli Manastir are usually hauled by Hungarian locomotives.

Villány (hu), 23 December 2020, 12:48 pm – Meanwhile, the Class M47 locomotive returned from Mohács for the second half of its train. In the next turn it will deliver the remaining 12 empty Habbinss sliding-wall wagons to the Kronospan-MOFA siding in Mohács. All other tracks of the station are empty, event though not too long ago Villány was a busy intersection. By now, on the line to Sellye all passenger services have been terminated, and besides a few train replacement buses running on strange routes, only a single pair of passenger trains remain to connect Villány with Mohács.

Villánykövesd, 23 December 2020, 1:08 pm – The train personnel approaching the crossing at Villánykövesd is now welcomed by the cold lights of the train protecting signal, instead of waving flags in the hands of fellow railwaymen. After putting the new automatic level crossing into operation, the small building was emptied and the chance of saving it is low. However, the village of Villánykövesd with its wine cellars is still a lovely place, using the train no one should worry about how to get home after taste-testing all the famous wines of the region.

Villánykövesd, 23 December 2020, 1:14 pm – Cellar key in hand, flashlight in the neck, work in the cellar can resume after lunch. The veteran Wartburg barely covered longer journeys, even after thirty years the counter still only shows 130,000 kilometres.

Palkonya, 23 December 2020, 1:34 pm – Most of the fishponds have been fished, the carp are waiting for Christmas dinner in the bathtub, or worse, already in the fridge. After the stop in Palkonya, the Pécs - Pélmonostor passenger train no. 8124 soon picks up the pace, reaching speeds up to 80 km / h. Its journey between Palkonya and Villánykövesd guides amidst fishponds and rows of wine cellars. The landscape is also beautiful from the bottom of the valley, but the view is better from the surrounding hills, the TV tower of Pécs can be easily spotted under the clouds.

Palkonya, 23 December 2020, 1:42 pm – Something has been on the ledge for years. At first, they only brought scrapped freight cars here, but then they also got a locomotive, and now the rails are gathering in the yard of the farm. While some narrow-gauge railways (eg Balatonfenyves) are getting rebuilt using new, or used material dismantled from normal-gauge tracks, the dismantled materials of the renewing railways help build new ones, so the atmosphere of economical railways may live on in Gödöllő, or perhaps soon in Palkonya.

Palkonya (hu), 23 December 2020, 1:46 pm -- The C50 in the picture previously served on the Balatonfenyves Economic Railway. The locomotive – which still has its main parts but is overall in a very worn condition – was purchased from MÁV in 2013. Judging by the looks its fate did not take another turn, but according to the news there is another C50 here, the parts of which are already being manufactured at the iron foundry in Mohács. If all goes according to plan, construction of the track will start in Palkonya within a year, creating Hungary's youngest narrow-gauge railway.

Áta, 23 December 2020, 3:01 pm – The small village did not get a train station because of the barely two hundred people living here, but because it is located halfway between the two railway junctions, Pécsbánya-Rendező and Villány. The distance to here from the former is 15.4 km, the latter 15.2 km. According to the 2020/21 schedule in effect since two weeks, passenger trains meet here five times a day, but the relatively significant freight traffic also gives a lot of work to the railwaymen working here. Special attention should be paid to the unified, steam-era architecture of the station, which was adapted not to the needs of passenger traffic, but rather to serve freight traffic. The middle floor of the building used to provide place for a water house, from which steam locomotives could replenish water at the time.

Pécs, 23 December 2020, 4:45 pm – An InterCity train just arrived on the 1st track from Budapest, while from the III. track a passenger train is departing to Dombóvár. On both locomotives you can see a red/white disc indicating the end of the train, the driver controls the locomotive from the control car at the front of the train. In Hungary, only the ICs to Pécs run with a control car, which facilitates the direction change not only at Keleti railway station, but also at Pécs. At more modern stations the setting of switches is controlled centrally, at the touch of a button, but in Pécs, they are being set one by one by switchmen working at both ends of the station.

Pécs, 23 December 2020, 4:54 pm – The bottom of the western sky is still being coloured by the setting sun, but the station is already lit by huge spotlights. They provide daylight-like illumination as far as their glow reaches. “Cirmos” (Tabby) with track number 433,170 has been commuting between Budapest-Keleti and Pécs with InterCity trains in the past couple days, but today it only did a short roundtrip, taking (and bringing) some carriages to (and from) the car maintenance base at Pécsbánya-Rendező. In the evening, a longer trip awaits the engine; it will be forwarding the 811 Sopianae IC to Budapest Keleti railway station.

Pécs, 23 December 2020, 5:21 pm – Desiro motor cars are beautiful, their passenger compartments are pleasant, but in the absence of proper maintenance they can cause a lot of annoyance. Tonight, only the half of the train arrived from Nagykanizsa and Barcs, almost 100 minutes late. Passenger train No. 8914 departed from Nagykanizsa with side-number 013 Desiro motor car, to which 007 would have been coupled at Barcs, and according to the plan, they would have arrived at Pécs together. However, something happened at Barcs, 013 stayed there, and Desiro 007 with that huge delay, started the return journey alone.

Pécs, 23 December 2020, 5:38 pm – The branchline steam locomotives nicknamed Nyalóka (Lollypop) were built at MÁVAG's factory in Budapest. The locomotive with track number 275,022, which has been visible in the garden of the Pécs Railway Directorate since 2013, first moved to Dombóvár on September 7, 1928, then twice during its life, between 1934-47 and 1955-59, it belonged to the railway depot of Pécs. It preserves the memory of long-gone ages, as it is useless to look for steam locomotives in the vicinity of Pécs anymore, let alone coal mines and railway branch lines. But looking at this beautifully decorated locomotive, what else could we say? Merry Christmas…