Rail Welders at Kozina  Part 1  by  Misko Kranjec
Since I have stricken the deal with the new editor of the Slovenian Railroads' monthly company magazine Nova Proga (New Track) to provide a photo story for the each issue, and after first two issues devoted to US railroad and the impressions I collected during my March visit, time has come to look to my own backyard and find the next theme there.

Having the information that on Friday morning the Koper line will be closed from 9 am till 4 pm for the maintenance works - supposedly the "wire dancers" should be replacing and beefing up the catenary wires - I thought this could be visually interesting subject. I've already visualized myself high up among the wires and insulators, portraying the human "spiders" as they weave the copper net.

Alas the destiny was not on my side. Arriving to Kozina, a center spot of the line and the place where the CTC and dispatchers are located, at 1pm I found the catenary maintenance motorcar already parked on the track 1. I was informed that the line will be closed until 4 pm for other works, still in progress, while they had to carry out just a minor wire replacement and now they are only waiting for the line to reopen.

Disappointed because of the lost opportunity and the ride done in vain, I've already turned toward my car for a ride to the nearby Trieste - Ljubljana line for some evening train shots when the electricians' foreman pointed to another motor just leaving the yard and heading toward Divaca junction.

"They are going to weld the broken rail, if you want to take the pictures of them".

"Sure I do! Where it will be?"

"Somewhere here nearby" was the answer.

I jumped into the car and hit the road that parallels the track to Rodik, the highest point on the Koper line and the place where helpers stop pushing the trains. Almost reaching there and seeing nowhere the motorcar I started to worry again, afraid that I was misinformed and this second opportunity was lost too. Then, reaching the Rodik siding, I spotted the motorcar and the guys next to it. One of them was cutting the piece of rail while others were waiting to load it on the motorcar.

Before I had the chance to grab the camera, climb down the rock cut wall, and take the picture, the rail was cut and the guys were loading it onto the motorcar's step.

"Hi, where are you gonna put it in?", I asked the chunky man with his hands in a pockets - obviously the foreman.

"Back there at the end of the Kozina yard. Why do you ask?"

"I'll take the photos of you doing that"

"What for?"

"For Nova Proga, to show others what are you doing"

"They already know..."

"Not all of them. Those warming their asses in the offices certainly don't"

"OK, if you must..."

So I did. I returned to Kozina and waited for them to arrive with the replacement piece of rail and start working.

The broken rail was the inner rail of the sharp mainline curve, just few yards after the last yard switch and where 2.5% grade begins - definitely the place of the maximum strain and amplified even more because of the steep inclination of the track toward the center of the radius. The crack happened on the place where the two rails were welded together, but it was not the weld itself that cracked; the crack started at the top of one rail, stretched at the right angle across the weld, and ended at the foot of the second rail.

"Typical", said the foreman," It usually happens this way. On this line, with such heavy grades, the strain on the rails is enormous, even more so with those Tauruses and their heavy axle load and enormous power they exert on the rails (10,000 hp each, divided over four axles). Here the rails break four times as often as elsewhere, mostly during the winter period".

The guys started their work, but this time I was ready for them. It was past 2 pm by now and the winter sun was already hovering low above the horizon. For the practical reasons the motorcar was parked very close to the working place, and I had no other choice but to shoot against the sun, if I wanted to avoid its ugly sighting, as well as my own cast shadow on every photo. Shooting into the sun certainly introduced some difficulty into picture taking, and even more later on during the post-processing, but it definitely heightened the visual impact of the photos and I'd do this even if not forced by situation.

I kept shooting until the work was done, well after the sun has set behind the horizon and only the twilight remained. I wanted to photograph the two trains, a hotshot intermodal, and a heavy coal train, already impatiently waiting in the yard, as they will roll over the new welds.

When the first train left the yard and started to approach the first weld, for a moment my thoughts wandered to all those constructors of the bridges from some other era, a century and more ago, who were standing beneath their construction when the first train rolled over. While I was quite sure about the work done, kneeling on the ground with the head only two feet from the moving train, towering high above me and leaning over me still pumped some adrenaline into my veins.

Fortunately the welds didn't give way, the train didn't top over me, I didn't bump with my head into some crooked car steps, and so I got away with a few "dramatic" shots...

So, the next issue photo story is in my pocked way before the deadline (a very rare occasion with me), and can already look around for the theme for the issue after the next one.
Go to Part 2