- Posted August 5, 2013 by
Zadni Treban, Czech Republic
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
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The day the Elefant died
Srbsko lies on the train route to Beroun which is main stop for the Eurocity express on its way over to Germany. It's a local route which Prague locals take to escape Prague to go climbing or camping or fishing while tourists take it to go to Karlstejn, the Gothic Castle rebuilt under Charles IV.
The storm hit with violent force with ominous rumblings that came with sudden dark clouds. In Southern Illinois, it looks most seriously like tornado weather. Hail pelted the street as I marched down the hill along the road following the Beroun River to the shack that serves as the railway station. I barely arrived when the train drew in. The black sky opened with vengence. Relieved, I settled for the half-hour journey to Prague.
The winds increased noticeably. Trains don't normally rock, but the gale force winds bent the trees. From Srbsko the train hops from one small rural stop to another: Karlstejn, Zadni Treban, Revnice, Dobrichovice, etc, picking up and depositing people at small towns and villages returning from weekend escapes.
By Karlstejn, a mere 5 kilometers out, the sky had become black. The train slowed to crawl. In Karlstejn, tourists climbed on, happy to start back from their trip to the castle, now safely out of the storm and wind. Wet described everyone.
An explosion rocked the train. A large tree branch sailed across my window. The girl in seat opposite panicked and began quietly crying. Her friends tried to comfort her in Spanish. The train lurched to loud stop with grinding effort. The lights flickered and the train groaned and died. After a while the conductor came through and muttered something in Czech which nobody actually heard or understood. It was obvious that we were stuck and also obvious that a tree strike had killed our Elefant. We asked for English, but he growled back, "Rusky."
The line to Srbsko carries freight traffic, including large chemical shipping containers that look like gluepots on flatbeds, marked with obvious warnings with no needed interpretation. The line also serves the Eurocity which extends over to Germany with making main stops in Beroun, Brno and Cheb. It's chiefly two lane track, but the bed was relaid and in the recent past to accommodate the high speed traffic and express trains. Not long ago it was single track. Spurs and sidings were added at critical rural stops such as Karlstejn and Revnice to relieve additional passenger loads directed to those places. Out of such luck, the tree struck the train at the 26.7 milestone, just a few hundred meters outside of Zadni Treban.
Zadni Treban has no siding or bypasss capacity, particularly with hot line down on the ground. Zadni Treban has no bar, no café and no coffee room for travellers. Not even the toilets were open. The only possibility of emergency transport at Zadni Treban was bus service that might be sent from Prague. Dubious because the station master related that it could be three hours bfore the emergency road crews could cut their way through the trees blocking the main roads.
Much more likely, the CD, Ceske Drahy, Czech Rail System would send out an emergency train to Revnice where there is siding and possibility to reverse a train on the tracks.
The conductor didn't know anything and refused to engage with the passengers. He was busy with his phone as passengers frantically called their friends and neighbors for help. Some small groups organized and hiked off to Revnice where there was a pub, hotel and restaurant and not all of them in the same building. An hour went by and still no reassurance from the conductor who was aloof from the situation. We weren't his problem. As a result the station master was plagued with repeated questions to which he replied in broken English, "Go to Revnice. You can eat there. Is better place in my opinion."
The train had left Srbsko about 5:30. We were evacuated around 7:20 and now already it was almost 9:00. Anxious regarding the dark and shivering in wet clothes, I decided it was better to walk than to remain chilled. I followed the tracks to Revnice, fretting the whole time that maybe the bus would arrive at Zadni Treban to take folks to Prague and I would be left on the road all night. Twenty-seven kilometers is too far to walk home. I arrived in Revnice train station to see a familiar face of an exchange student organizing her group. I borrowed a key for the toilet to be told that the rescue train would be arriving any minute. I told her to tell the conductor to hold the train for me—I had to use the toilet.
The train had arrived when I came out fo the toilet. People were yelling to get aboard. I returned the key to catch up with the rest. Night had fallen, it was close to 9:30. Another long wait as the train personnel tried to sort out who might be missing. There had been no head count and no list of passengers. No control list to check if anyone was still walking on the road. Nobody semed to know anything except that they wanted to get back to Prague. Some were confused because the signs on the cabins were still marked for Eurocity express to Cheb and beyond—Dresden, although we knew for a fact that the rail was dead and with it our blue Elefant, named Nikolka.
At 10:01, the train arrived finally to the next station in Dobrichovice, possibly 4 kilometers away, where two trains sat on tracks headed toward Beroun. One had signs for Germany. They were facing a long night, but we were finally underway. The train stopped and started, with no names of stops announced. For locals, it's counting fingers, but for non-Czechs, it's stress. At 10:38, the train arrived finally into Prague-Smichov where most of the passengers got off. In Smichov there is the convenience of metro and tram connection which saves the savvy commuter extra time on a train.
A tree killed the blue Elefant, named Nikolka, near Zadni Treban. It took down the high voltage cables which got wrapped around the train. What happens when a train runs over its own cable?
I don't know.
I know that CD emergency services responded quickly, got the cables grounded and evacuated the train in relatively short time, but the short return trip of thirty minutes lengthened into more than five hours.
At 9:40 am August 5,2013, CD information replied that the line to Srbsko is still out of service because it is blocked at Zadni Treban. There's a blue Elefant named Nikolka, on the tracks.