First overseas trip of 2020 was planned with the dual purpose of travelling on the PTG "Alco Holic 5" 4-day railtour starting from Madrid, and visiting my sister who lives near Huelva. As I needed a fair few new sections of line in France and Spain I thought I would also travel overland both ways. That didn't quite go to plan..... the route description is given on each day's summary page.
Each album below corresponds to one day's travel except for the visit to Pont du Gard which gets its own album.
Outward to Nîmes
Outward to Nîmes
Wednesday 22/01/2020. Route: Timperley - tram to Manchester Piccadilly - Pendolino to London Euston - walk to St Pancras - Eurostar to Lille Europe - by TGV via Vémars curve, Charles de Gaulle TGV, Coubert, Moisenay, Lyon Part Dieu, Heyrieux, Valence TGV, Nîmes (Centre)
Nîmes area
Nîmes area
Thursday 23/01/2020. Firstly by train to Alès and back to cover the new curve to that line; last time I was in the area these trains reversed at Courbessac yard. Then a walk around the centre of Nîmes looking at the Roman Amphitheatre - no time to look around inside. Then by No.121 bus to the Pont du Gard, see separate album. On the return from the Pont du Gard I had a look around the station site at Vers-Pont-du-Gard, there appears to still be some freight traffic on this short branch from Remoulins. Finally a further look around Nîmes including the Roman Temple.
During the day I found out that flooding south of Beziers had blocked the line towards Narbonne and Spain, my intended route for the next day - and all trains were cancelled. Needing to be in Madrid by Friday evening I searched for alternatives, and found a sensibly-priced flight from Marseiile to Madrid on the Friday evening.
Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard
I've always wanted to visit the Pont du Gard, finally got an opportunity on this trip. It was built as part of the aqueduct works providing the water supply for the Roman colony of Nemausus (today's Nîmes), which was founded in the first century B.C. The aqueduct was built in 40 - 60 A.D. It crosses the Gardon River near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard in southern France and is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges. Total height is 49 m, present length 275 m. It is accessible from Nîmes by route 121 bus.
Avignon & Marseille area
Avignon & Marseille area
Friday 24/01/2020. My original plan had been to travel from Nîmes to Madrid today by through TGV, which would have been almost all "required track". However very heavy rain the previous day had flooded the line around Narbonne and Perpignan, and SNCF advised me that all such trains would be cancelled. Fortunately I found a reasonably-priced flight from Marseille to Madrid, and being an evening departure I had all day today to get there via a couple of routes I'd not previously travelled over. I would have covered the re-opened line from Avignon to Carpentras but the useful service was a replacement bus due to the ongoing strike action.
Route: Nîmes - Arles - Avignon Centre - Avignon TGV - Avignon Centre - via Cavaillon, Miramas, Roignac to Marseille St Charles - via Arenc-Euroméditerranée to Sausset les Pins - via Arenc-Euroméditerranée to Marseille St Charles then bus to Marseille airport. Finally after the flight from Marseille to Madrid I caught a local service from Madrid Airport to Madrid Charmartín station.
PTG Railtour day 1 - Madrid to Zafra
PTG Railtour day 1 - Madrid to Zafra
Saturday 25/01/2020, day 1 of the PTG Alco Holic 5 Railtour. Route: Madrid Principe Pio – reverse – Delicias – Villaverde Bajo - Aranjuez – Castillejo-Añover - Algodor (reverse) – Villaluenga Yuncler - Talavera de la Reina – Plasencia avoidling line – Cáceres – Mérida (reverse) - Zafra.
PTG Railtour day 2 - Zafra to Huelva and back
PTG Railtour day 2 - Zafra to Huelva and back
Sunday 26/01/2020, day 2 of the PTG Alco Holic 5 Railtour. Route: Zafra - Jabugo-Galaroza - Valdelamusa - Gibraleón - Huelva Mercancías - Huelva (reverse) - Los Rosales - Villanueva del Río y Minas - Cazalla y Constantina - Zafra.
PTG Railtour day 3 - Zafra to Madrid
PTG Railtour day 3 - Zafra to Madrid
Monday 27/01/2020, day 3 of the PTG Alco Holic 5 Railtour. Route: Zafra - Mérida - Almorchón - Almadenejos-Almaden - Puertellano (lunch break) - Ciudad Real avoiding line - Manzanares - Alcazár de San Juan - Aranjuez - Villaverde Bajo - Vallecas - Vicálvaro Mercancías - Hortaleza - Madrid Charmartín
PTG Railtour day 4 - around Madrid
PTG Railtour day 4 - around Madrid
Tuesday 28/01/2020, day 4 of the PTG Alco Holic 5 Railtour. Route: Madrid Principe Pio – Pinar - via diveunder lines past the Talgo depot - Las Matas (reverse) - Pitis - Fuencarral (reverse) - Colmenar-Viejo (reverse) - Fuencarral - Alcala Henares - Guadalajara (reverse) - Alcala Henares - Vicálvaro Mercancías - Vallecas - Villaverde Bajo (reverse) - Madrid Delicias Railway Museum where we had a ride on the miniature railway and a look around the museum. On the way back to the hotel I spent some time in Madrid Atocha station having a look around (the old station area is now cafes and a garden) as I would have to get up early next morning and wouldn't have time to search for the correct departure area.
Madrid to Huelva
Madrid to Huelva
29/01/2020. After the PTG tour I had arranged to visit my sister who lives in a Finca near Sanlúcar de Guadiana, some 55 km north-west of the nearest railhead at Huelva. Travel from Madrid was by standard gauge AVE train from Madrid Puerta de Atocha to Sevilla Santa Justa, then by Media Distancia train to Huelva. Using my sister's car we visited three areas of disused railway interest in the Huelva area, with my sister's dogs also enjoying the walking.
Alcoutim day
Alcoutim day
As today was pleasantly warm and promised a bit of sunshine, my sister and I drove the few km into Sanlúcar de Guadiana then crossed the River Guadiana on the ferry (which I forgot to take a photograph of - it's not very large) from Spain into Portugal. There's a one hour time difference which can be very confusing! After lunch at the beach-side cafe my niece works at, we took the dogs Jak and Fay for a walk up the hill to the reservoir above Alcoutim. Later we went back to my sister's Finca.
Sanlúcar de Guadiana to Zaragoza
Sanlúcar de Guadiana to Zaragoza
Now returning overland from my sister's place near Huelva to my home near Manchester, over three days. My sister has joined me for this trip to see a bit more of Spain and France. First day takes us to Zaragoza, starting with a bus from Sanlúcar de Guadiana village to Huelva, where the bus station is close to the former railway station on the original line from Zafra. We caught three trains: Huelva - Madrid - Tudela de Navarra - Zaragoza, and each train changed gauge (and overhead supply voltage) once on its journey. The gauge changing is done at about 10 km/h and is generally very smooth.
Zaragoza to Bordeaux
Zaragoza to Bordeaux
From Zaragoza to Bordeaux to cover a threatened route in Spain and a line in France that has reopened since I was last in the area. Starting in Zaragoza Delicias on a single diesel railcar via reversal at Huesca and on to the splendid famous station at Canfranc; then by SNCF bus through the tunnel into France and on to Bedous; then by local train to Pau and then TGV to Bordeaux. Time in Pau to go and do the funicular near the station.
Bordeaux to Manchester
Bordeaux to Manchester
The last day of the journey home to Manchester started with a morning trip around a couple of the tram route termini. We were booked on the 12:59 TGV to Lille Europe but the inward working was running 3+ hours late due to overhead supply problems south of Paris. We were advised to catch a local train to Angoulême, where we picked up the TGV working. This then ran as booked via the high speed line but calling at Poitiers; then via the high speed line and calling at St Pierre des Corps; again on the high speed line to Massy TGV; and finally on the high speed line via Valenton and Coubert to Marne-la-Vallee-Chessy and Aeroport Charles de Gaulle. All this was 80 to 90 minutes late with the result that we missed our booked Eurostar train at Lille Europe (18:35) and also the following 19:35. We changed our tickets for free without any problems onto the 21:00 Eurostar, which was one of the newer an less comfortable Siemens Class 374 type. A quick dash along the Euston Road saw us catch the 22:00 Euston to Crewe then the 00:44 Crewe to Manchester Airport from where we got a taxi home - arriving at 01:07 instead of about 23:00.