Mon Sep 12th, 2011 at 02:24:14 PM EST
After the death of Pope John Paul II, a group of zealots in southern Poland initiated the project of a special train to carry pilgrims to John Paul II's birthplace, which was then built by Polish manufacturer Newag (also see From byproducts to variable stars: local multiple units) and was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI (seriously!). While its regular pilgrim-carrying service ended two years ago, today (12 September 2011), the Pociąg Papieski (Papal Train) came to Budapest, carrying an audio-visual John Paul II exhibition. Fitting the mannerisms of the local lunatic-right government, already the train's arrival was accompanied with sideshows like a special train of specially painted Hungarian preserved cars, a parallel run on a scenic section along the Danube, and a blessing ceremony with a local bishop. Still, no bad occasion for a photo tour.
The Papal Train (railway designation: PREG EN61-001) in tow of the Hungarian special train (Hungary has an AC electrification system, Poland a DC one)
The Hungarian special train left Budapest for the Slovakian border in the late morning. It was headed by a preserved "Nohab" diesel loco. These locomotives were built under license from American maker EMD (then a division of General Motors) by Norwegian industry conglomerate NOHAB in the fifties-sixties, a circumstance that allowed the export of an American product across the Iron Curtain (to become Hungarian State Railways MÁV's class M61).
There is one unauthentic detail on the loco: the symbol on the middle of the front, which is now Pope John Pail II's personal coat of arms and at other times the NOHAB logo, but in the original livery, there was a communist red star. The red star was banned alongside the swastika and arrow-cross as "authoritarian regime symbol" by Hungary's first freely elected government, because an equation with the non-existent danger of communist gangs was the only way they could acknowledge the existence of skinheads and act against them (how far in the past that is now...).
The end of the special train was a special memento of the communist era, too. For official state visits of top government officials, in the sixties, the local industry delivered a one-of-its-kind three-car diesel multiple unit with appropriate interior – and an extra single-car unit with the same exterior design. The role of this railcar was to run ahead of the government train, and thus 'protect' it from any mines, bomb attacks or derailments: a minesweeper on the rails. (Both the three-car government train and the 'minesweeper' were preserved in working order for nostalgic tours.)
No photographs of the parallel run on the scenic section along the Danube: sorry but I do have a job, too... I caught the train again after work.
Here is the Papal Train again, stopped in a station before being blessed by the local bishop. I didn't climb into it because it was full of people already. The train itself is a prototype: while Newag made several diesel multiple units with the same chassis, this one is electric, a sub-market where Newag's domestic competitor PESA is more successful.
As for the special livery on the Hungarian cars, read the English text on this one:
If you can't guess from the (Slovakian) flag: it says "RESTARE THE MEMORIES OF THE PAPAL TRAIN"... I think they should fire the translator immediately. The text in Hungarian translates to "TO KEEP ALIVE THE MEMORY OF THE POPE".
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A final photo, which is symbolic of the priorities of multiple governments and our austerity times: the local train that took me home after shooting the above-fold photo.
- The grass-infested track on which the railbus nears belongs to a branchline (which curves away from the mainline a kilometre behind what's visible).
- If you look closely, you'll notice that the further-away track of the mainline is partially grown over by creepers. That's because that track is permanently closed between the nearest stations for half a year now, due to track damage from unstable ground at one hundred-metre section. This is an international mainline, but they can't find the funds for essential repair...
- The family of three generations in front, with a grandmother walking slowly with a stick (worse, regularly stopping to gesticulate while talking) and a carefree small kid jumping around, approached the train stop in the preceding five minutes... walking along the track. This says something both about the safety culture of passengers and the state of the approach roads.
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