Famous rack railway (gr. “Οδοντωτος”), connecting seaside Diakopto with Kalavryta, located higher in the mountains, is just 1h driving from Patras to Athens. From Diakopto train goes 750m up within about 1h15min, through the gorge of Vouraikos (gr “Βουραϊκος”). The route is 22,3km long, with about 3.4km of rack sections, where maximum incline is 17,5%. The width of the tracks is only 75cm that makes it narrowest in the world. The rail was built from initiative of Charilaos Trikoupisis, also the idea holder of Rio-Antirio bridge. Construction started in 1889 and was originally planned for only 10 months, to be finally inaugurated after 7 years, on March 10th, 1896. Since then, the train is constantly operating. Visit official web page of the train for more details about history, schedules, prices and news.
First trains to operate were steam locomotives custom designed for this route in 1891. In 1957, first diesel trains (3 rolling stocks) were ordered from French factory BILLARD (later in 1967 additional 3, produced by DECAUVILLE, were added). They were successfully operating not so long ago, before 2009 (some say, that back then, the trip with 40-year-old train was even bigger adventure :-P).
Today's motor is a modern one, Swiss STADLER, that was also custom made for Diakopto-Kalavryta route. Engine is MAN production, 588kW power diesel. New cars are comfortable and air-conditioned, with big windows for better views during the ride, and can fit up to 104 passengers.
I have decided to take a ride on one weekend in September, as it seemed better and cooler month compared to hot summer, without crowds of tourists. The plan was to take the train from Diakopto until Kato Zachlorou only (Mega Spilion station on train’s schedule) and walk down back to Diakopto (about 13km, only descent). All this is a part of International hiking route E4, that passes through the gorge, following exactly railroad tracks. It takes about 7-8h to walk all the distance from Kalavryta to Diakopto, and about 3,5h from Kato Zachlorou down to Diakopto. Believe me, both the ride and later walk are worth an effort. First You can see all the attractions (narrow passes, caves, waterfalls and the river itself) from the window, sitting comfortably in the train. Later You pass them during the walk, having all the time in the world for as many photos as You want.
I specially enjoyed the village of Kato Zachlorou itself (second photo). The train station is also central square for the village, with hotel, restaurants and cafes. Life seems to have stopped here 100y ago – no noise, no people running, no traffic (no cars at all). Perfect place to rest and relax from everyday rush.
I will definitely write something more about Vouraikos gorge itself and the hiking route, in separate post.
Photo1: NIKON D70s, Aperture priority, f 1/7.1, 1/40s, -0.3EV, f=69 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software
Photo2: NIKON D70s, Aperture priority, f 1/7.1, 1/20s, -0.3EV, f=51 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software – grey scale