I spent my 2008 summer holiday with a friend traveling through Central Europe. Starting in Poland, we set off for Hungary. After a few warm days in Budapest, we started the return trip, traveling north through Slovakia back to Poland.

We spent a few days in the relatively undiscovered city of Kosice in eastern Slovakia. The city has a wonderful old town, cathedral, and location.

Kosice, Slovakia

Kosice, Slovakia (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

Kosice, Slovakia

Kosice, Slovakia (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

After a day or two in Kosice, on 04 August 2008 it was time to head west to the gateway to the Slovakian Tatry mountains, Poprad-Tatry. We booked seats on one of the many fast trains (possibly train #IC500 “Excelsior”; my notes don’t say) on this route, and departed Kosice shortly in mid afternoon for the trip of just over one hour. The trip was going smoothly, and we enjoyed the picturesque views of Slovakian countryside—meadows, mountains, rivers and tunnels—as we moved along on the electrified cross-Slovakia main line.

As we moved through the mountains, the skies darkened. A torrential storm soon broke out, and rain battered with windows of our carriage. This continued for a short time, and suddenly the train’s emergency brakes came on; outside the window, black cables could be seen right beyond the glass. The train came to a rapid stop, and about the same time the rain let up and the sun came out. Looking outside, something didn’t look right:

ZSSK train interior

The view outside the window, overhead cables within reach! (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train

Downed cables alongside the train (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train

Downed cables alongside the train (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

What could have happened that brought the overhead traction wires down? A short walk along the train revealed the answer:

ZSSK train

The tree that caused it all. (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train

Downed cables alongside the train (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

The storm had brought down a tree, and it fell onto the main line, bringing down some of the overhead catenary. It was quite obvious we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I noticed a number of people outside the train already, so I also got off to have a look.

ZSSK train

Overhead wires hanging over the train (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train

As nothing was going to happen for a while, people started getting off the train. (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

Walking up to the front of the train, it became apparent how serious the accident had been.

ZSSK train after collision with tree

“Hello, Bratislava Control? You aren’t going to believe this!” (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train after collision with a tree

The locomotive driver wasn’t injured. (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

So, at this point, there was nothing to do but wait. We were in the middle of a forest in the mountains. It was a pleasant enough spot, but there wasn’t a grade crossing or other sign of civilization. This didn’t stop some passengers from setting out to find something.

Walkers on track

Off in search of civilisation. (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

During the wait, the restaurant car continued to sell cold beer, and passengers took it all in stride, calmly waiting.

ZSSK train

Passengers waiting for rescue (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

After some time waiting, a work crew showed up.

ZSSK train

Salvation! A line car creeps slowly onto the scene. (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

And it was time to start untangling the big mess.

ZSSK train

Workers removing tangled cables (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train

Workers removing tangled cables (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train

Workers removing tangled cables (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

Finally, about 2 hours after the collision, a small diesel locomotive arrived from Poprad, coupled onto the train, and led us through the twilight the remaining few kilometers to Poprad-Tatry.

ZSSK train

Finally underway again to Poprad, hauled by a diesel. (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

Map of accident site

Upon arrival, passengers inspected the damaged electric locomotive, as railway workers prepared to disconnect it and bring in a replacement.

ZSSK train at Poprad-Tatry

Arrival at Poprad-Tatry (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

ZSSK train

Inspecting the damage at Poprad-Tatry. (Jeffrey Dobek photo)

 

It was time to head to the hotel. It has been an exciting day. Fortunately, no one was hurt, the delay was minor, and we had a story to tell when we got back home.

 

One Comment

  1. Bruce Haddow January 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    This was a great story Jeff. The photos were tremendous. I’ve never heard of this area of the globe but it sure looked fantastic. The passengers all seemed so reserved, would it be that way here, I doubt it. Keep that camera clicking, I would love to see more. Be safe my friend.

     

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