Sunday, January 26, 2020

Railroads of Greece 11: east of Tripolis (Greece 2019-07)

In the previous article, I explored the train yard in Tripolis, used by the 1-meter gauge Peloponnesus Railway. Afterwards, I drove east along the country roads that approximately followed the old rail line. The route crosses a plateau with rich agricultural fields and then descends via many turns and bridges towards the coast. The town of Myloi was the main rail junction next to the Gulf of Nauplio (click the link to see Myloi photographs).  
This small work shed is in the town of Steno, a few kilometers east of Tripolis. The tracks were in good condition, but if they are to be used again, gravel and dirt from local roads will need to be cleared, as will brush and trees.

I stopped for lunch at a taverna in Steno. Six Californians were there. They had rented three touring BMW motorcycles in Athens and were on tour around the Peloponnese. They were the only customers, so the proprietor was pleased. He was even more surprised when another American showed up.
1914 country house, Steno
Unoccupied country house, Steno
Steno was on the old road from the coast, and the town had some early-1900s houses in good condition. Notice the nice stonework on the arched windows in the second photograph.
Partheni was my last stop. It really looked like a sleepy little agricultural town that time left behind. Without the train, the only access was by twisty mountain roads. The train platform was in use by a coffee shop. The cicadas chipped in the trees, doves cooed in the trees. Time for a nap.
Railroad outhouse, Partheni, Greece (Moto G5 digital file)
Partheni has some sturdy early 20th century stone buildings. This area looks prosperous; I was pleased.

The black and white photographs are from Fuji Acros 100 film exposed with my Leica M2 camera and 50mm or 35mm Summicron lenses. In Steno, I used a yellow filter to darken the sky. It was a brilliant sunny day and quite contrasty, but the Acros film handles exposure extremes well. The three digital files are from a Moto G5 mobile phone.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Railroads of Greece 10: Tripolis (Greece 2019-06)

Morning coffee, central plaza, Tripolis, Greece (Moto G5 digital file)
In this short article, I want to continue exploring the former train stations of the Piraeus, Athens and Peloponnese Railways (the Chemin de fer du Pirée-Athènes-Peloponése), which was founded in 1882. It owned and operated the 1 m (3 ft 3⅜ in) (metre gauge) railway system connecting Piraeus and Athens to various destinations in the Peloponnese region of Greece. The center of communications in the Peloponnese was Tripolis, the largest town of the nome of Arcadia and a busy agricultural and manufacturing hub. The railway connection with Athens, completed in 1892, was a major boost to trade, and Tripolis experienced rapid development.

Tripolis is a cheerful place, and I stopped for a coffee at a cafe in the main plaza near the cathedral during my summer 2019 trip.
Map of Tripolis from ArcGIS Online
1890 main train station, Al. Soutsou 2, Tripoli 221 00, Greece (Moto G5 digital file)
The handsome 2-story train station was built in 1890. This and other original railroad buildings throughout the Peloponnese shared an architectural design with rock facing, stucco, and clay tile roofs - very appropriate to the locale.
The building is is good condition and is used for something, but there were no occupants the day I was there. The platform was clean and not marred with graffiti. The doves cooed in the trees, all quite sleepy. It looked like the afternoon train from Athens might trundle in any minute.
The water tanks for filling steam locomotives have been preserved. A similar complicated triple tank arrangement is in the coastal town of Myloi.
This little shed shares the same stone facing and arched doorway as the main station.
South of the passenger station, a rail yard contained a lot of rolling stock. Unfortunately, a guard service was on duty and I could not go too far. Note the unused new track on near bundles.
This graveyard (or parking place) for old rail stock was off limits behind a fence. I took this frame while standing on a step leading up to a porch.

The next article will follow the rail line downhill to the east towards the coast. Most of these photographs were from Fuji Acros film exposed in my Leica M2 rangefinder camera. I used a yellow filter on some frames to darken the sky.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Railroads of Greece 9: North Coast of the Peloponnese (Greece 2019-05)

The Piraeus, Athens and Peloponnese Railways (known as S.P.A.P., or in French, the Chemin de fer du Pirée-Athènes-Peloponése) was founded in 1882. It owned and operated the 1 m (3 ft 3⅜ in) (metre gauge) railway system connecting Piraeus and Athens to various destinations in the Peloponnese region of Greece.
Peloponnese system map, from poster in rail museum in Diakofto
Service on the 1-m system was abruptly discontinued in 2011 during the Greek economic crisis. Small towns in the central Peloponnese were abruptly left without train service. My family and I were fortunate to take the old train in 1997 from Kato Achaia to Athens. It was slow and rather smelly, a throwback to an earlier era.

Currently, the Athens Suburban Railroad runs from the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH) through the northern suburbs of Athens, across the Corinth Canal, and as far west as the town of Kiato. This full gauge rail system is being extended to the western seaport of Patras. In mainland Greece, the new rails use a different right-of-way, but along the narrow Peloponnese coastal plain facing the Gulf of Corinth, the new tracks have buried many stretches of the old single-track line.

During my 2019 visit to Greece, I tried to follow the old 1-m line and see how many railroad stations and work buildings were still standing. In 2011 and  2018, I photographed the railroad station in Corinth, so there was no need to revisit. For this survey, I started further west, near the town of Nerantza, and drove west along the coast.
This was a workshop or possibly a small station near the town of Nerantza. In 2005, the 1-m track was still in regular use and I was lucky to photograph a diesel work car chugging along the line. In 2019, the building was still standing and still intact, but slowly being covered with vines.
In the main town of Xilokastro, I could not find a depot or rail yard. But further west, in the little resort town of Lycoporia, I stumbled on the former depot. It was clean and well-painted.
Diakofto rail yard, 1998 (Kodak Panatomic-X film, Leica M3 camera, 20mm ƒ/5.6 Russar lens)
Workshops at Diakofto, Greece
Unused water tower for steam locomotives, Diakofto, Greece
The town of Diakofto (Greek: Διακοπτό) is the lower terminus of the popular Diakofto–Kalavryta Railway, an 1880s 750 mm gauge Abt rack system that threads the dramatic Voraikos Gorge and ends at the mountain town of Kalavryta. I wrote about the ride in 2012. The 1950s or 1960s-vintage depot is still in use for the 750 mm tourist train, but much of the rail yard has been dug up and rebuilt to accommodate the new full-gauge railroad.
750mm gauge steam locomotive, mgf. by Cail in 1891, in poor condition, Diakofto, Greece
Workshops with 2009-vintage diesel electric Stadler Rail cars on the left and 1960s Deaucaville trainsets on the right 
One traditional stone workshed at Diakofto was clean and fresh. I found neat little workshops or storage sheds like this throughout the system. Many were freshly maintained before the system shutdown in 2011.
A few miles west of Diakofto, I tried to trace the rail line using Google maps. At the town of Elaion, I found the old depot, but the tracks and bed were completely gone. A dirt road that had once been the railroad right-of-way went off to the west, but it was not suitable for a sedan.

Elaion was my westward limit on this excursion. Below a photograph of the former Patras rail station in 1997, when the 1-meter system was still in use. The station was a bit grungy but active. I have not been there recently.
Patras railroad station, 1997 (Kodak Tri-X Professional film, Rolleiflex 3.5E with Xenotar lens) 
The 2019 photographs are from Fuji Acros 100 film, which I used in my Leica M2 camera with 35mm and 50mm ƒ/2 Summicron lenses. I added green or yellow filters on some frames to lighten foliage or enhance the sky. The photograph of the Patras station was from my old Rolleiflex with a 75mm ƒ/3.5 Xenotar lens.

The next post is about the handsome train station in Tripolis.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

In the Heat of the Day: Summer in Athens (Greece 2019-04)

Athens from Anafiotica, view northwest. Leica 50mm Summicron lens, polarizing filter

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Summer in Athens qualifies as easy living, although there is no cotton as in DuBose Heyward's and George Gershwin's famous lyrics. Summer in Greece means tourists, open-air restaurants, the sea, coffeeshops, and sunshine. Athens can be blazing hot, and I recall a couple of July days when the mercury reached 42° C (108° F). Ouch. But August of 2019 was pretty benign, and with the low humidity, it was comfortable. To escape the heat, you can stop for a cool drink almost anywhere or duck into a shop with air conditioning. As usual, when I visit Athens, I take a quick stroll around the Acropolis and through the Pláka. Here are some black and white frames from my last trip; maybe you can appreciate the summer vibe.

Walking towards the Pláka from the Acropolis Museam, you pass narrow streets, looking like they came from an earlier era. The entry to the Acropolis itself is mobbed with tourist groups, especially hoards of Chinese visitors. Thirty years ago, it was Japanese tourists. In the 1950s, it was Americans. Where do Americans travel now? Do they just take soft and air conditioned river cruises?
Creative graffiti. See my previous article for a color view of this alley.
The Anafiotica District is the cluster of tiny island-like houses clustered beneath the limestone massif of the Acropolis. I posted color pictures of this area in article Greece 2019-02.
Temple of the Winds with Mount Lycabettus in the distance, 2019
Temple of the winds, 1951, Canon rangefinder camera, 50mm ƒ/1.9 Serenar lens
Descending to the north from the Anafiotica area, you pass through narrow streets with souvenir shops and archaeological sites.
Souvenir shops abound. I stepped into one and spoke with some college students from the USA, who spend the summer tending the shop with their grandmother, Mrs. Popi. They let me sit while I changed film in my camera.
Electric scooters have come to Athens (Moto G5 digital file)
Monasteraki is a busy and popular plaza a short distance north of the Acropolis. The entrance to the Athens Flea is marked with a modern sign. In the 1950s, the Flea Market really had old machines, metal, and household junk. Now much of the merchandise is commercial and brand new. My dad took pictures in the Market in 1951, and I wrote about the Flea Market in 2013. Warning, Monasteraki is crowded; beware of pickpockets.
Walk north on Athenas Street, and you see snack bars, coffee shops, hardware and electrical vendors, luggage, plumbing, ecclesiastical supplies, and just about anything else. It is safe for tourists, just watch out and beware of traffic. It is an acoustic and visual overload.
Nut and dry fruit stand, Central Market, Athens Street, Athens (Acros film, Leica M2 camera)
Fresh grilled sardines, Central Market, Athens (Moto G5 digital file)
The Central Market is always fun. Buy some spices, nuts, and Greek coffee. And have a meal in one of the tiny tavernas tucked into the side alleys. The prices are for regular people, not jacked up as at the tourist-oriented tavernas in the Plaka.
Bored in the Metro station
After lunch, some glasses of retsina, and a Greek coffee, it is time to walk to the metro at Omonoia Square (architecturally uninspiring) and head home or to your hotel. You will be tired and grubby, time for a shower and long rest.

I took the black and white photographs above on Fuji Acros 100 film with my Leica M2 camera with 35mm and 50mm Summicron lenses. The two sepia images are from a Moto G5 mobile phone. Click any picture to see it enlarged. Thank you for reading.