2018 went by leaving us with the best memories. As a team we feel the need to share these memories with you by briefly presenting you all works performed either on our route or our rolling stock, also featuring some information regarding heritage railways abroad.
Our team had ten, four day long, excursions to Velestino last year, from February to December 2018. Most work was related to the tracks. Let us see in more detail:
- The loading gauge was restored, free of vegetation, from Velestino to Aerino station, over a length of 14 kilometres. This part had not been restored since 2016. This was a really demanding task performed by five members of our team in six days, totally. Spraying during spring will ensure the line stays clear of vegetation
- A number of sleepers were replaced, just before Aerino station, as they had been damaged by a wildfire. Also a very demanding task, requiring a certain expertise, kindly granted to us by professional OSE engineers. Thank you, gentlemen!
- Approximately 200 rail pins were tied to the track at certain locations where they were missing
- Track geometry was restored at a problematic location, near Velestino stop, where the ground under the track had submerged. Once again, many thanks to the professionals of Volos depot!
- A broken rail, measuring 8 metres in length, was replaced on a siding at Velestino station, again with help by a professional
- A pointwas maintained and restored to working order, previously being stuck by rainfall debris. This point makes rolling stock shunting to and from our depot much easier
- An extensive maintenance of all level crossings was performed. Thanks to it, all of them are now in good condition and still remain so
- The level crossing located at the north exit of Aerino station, towards Farsala station, was brought to operating conditions as lots of debris was blocking it. This way, we were able to keep expanding our route, heading towards Halkodonio
However, all of this would not be successful without local people supporting us. The residents of Aerino village amaze us every single time we visit the railway. This was more than evident on March 19th, 2018. On that day, the villages’ primary school visited us. Students had a unique chance to meet us, get to know us and our work, learn about volunteering, the history of Thessaly railway and how it affected the local community in an age long before automobiles, long before even their teachers were born. This was the day when good memories were brought back to the elder and knowledge was gained by the young.
Following all these good memories, we have started setting our goals and schedule for 2019. There is already a schedule on the table, concerning track works and rolling stocks related works. Our aim is to keep visiting at least once every month. More specifically, apart from track inspections and maintenance, spraying will be performed, along with professionals from Volos depot. This will ensure that the track and loading gauge around it stay clear of any wild vegetation. All track faults will also be rectified. As far as rolling stock is concerned, a new member will soon be added to our fleet, a draisinethat is currently undergoing repairs at Volos depot. Moreover, MB 367 draisine will be converted into a trailing vehicle. Works on MB 367 are already in progress.
As mentioned before, a huge effort has started, an effort to extend our line towards Halkodonio, in Kokkina village. The extension will add another 5 kilometres to our route and we can proudly say we are just 1 kilometre from completing it. Once this is complete, our route will be measuring 19 fully operational kilometres in length, with it now being at 14 kilometres. Halkodonio stop will be our temporary terminal for the time being, as we expect more volunteers to join us in order to support this effort. As our team is now consisted of only 15 to 20 people at most times, it is our sincere hope and goal that more people will be inspired and join us in our dream to create the first heritage railway in Greece.
Our new website is now available. Starting in February, creating the website is essentially our effort to reactivate the route and marks the beginning of a serious effort to bring forward the true uniqueness and value of heritage railways in Greece. Of course, heritage railways are in full bloom abroad, attracting visitors from all around the globe. The UK, United States and Germany are only a few of the countries where heritage railways operate, featuring a variety of routes and rare rolling stock, including railcars and steam trains. Let it be noted that these heritage railways are exclusively operated by volunteers, in most occasions, also having the support of railway companies. This way, they can manage to fortify and increase their countries’ financial status and tourism activity, while actively showcasing the local industrial heritage and history.
This is our exact goal and purpose too. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult task, due to our country’s rough social and financial status. We are currently operating with only a handful of members while there are hundreds if not thousands of volunteers operating heritage railways abroad, let alone waiting lists that are in place there. One can attribute our current lack of volunteers to the lack of interest in our field. Heritage railways culture is something new in Greece, with most people ignoring the fact that one doesn’t need to be a professional or a railway enthusiast to join the effort. He or she could just be someone who simply loves travelling or merely loves watching trains go by, as it happens abroad. To put it into another perspective, our work is also a way for us to escape the numerous troubles of everyday routine, offering several mental benefits, as it is something we love doing in the first place. In a country where most people are working in jobs outside their expertise and studies, earning low salaries, working overtime in several occasions, having something to offer them happiness and a way out of their everyday routine is crucial. It may sound like a luxury, yet it is necessary, not only for them but for society in general. We are a team of people that made this possible and we would love for other people to join us in this. By attracting more people to join us, we will surely progress in many ways, aiming to our final goal, to start operating regular heritage trains on or route, making it possible for visitors to get to know Thessaly museum railway.