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The Odontotos Rack Railway from Diakopto to Kalavryta is a memorable ride through a canyon of unsurpassed beauty.
The Vouraikos Gorge is one of the most beautiful areas of Greece and has been described as having the most spectacular railway line in the Balkans.
About 120 years ago the Odontotos rack railway started from the seaside town of Diakopto parallel to the river and climbed to Kalavryta through bridges and tunnels.
After travelling a distance of 22,350 metres and within 60 minutes the train arrives in the town of Kalavryta, 750 metres above sea level.
The first engines were steam and water towers were placed at each stop to replenish the water in the train.
The construction of the network started in 1889 and it was inaugurated on 10 march 1896.
About 120 years ago Charilaos Trikoupis, Prime Minister of Greece at the time wanted to create local railway networks starting from areas next to the major railway lines with tracks of 75 cm width.
Trikoupis promoted a small gauge because he could see that a small train was more flexible which was a real advantage for a mountainous country and it was also cheaper to construct. Therefore, in March 1889 his government decided on the construction of the railway track Diakopto to Kalavryta.
The study was assigned to French engineers and it was estimated that the cost of construction would reach 1.000.000 drachmas, would take about 10 months and was assigned to the French contractor Aton. Many others succeeded him and the estimated ten months became 5 years while the 1 million drs became 3.500.000 drs.
The speed of the train ranges between 30 and 40 Km/h on normal rail and 6 - 15 Km/h on cogs.
As Kalavryta is 750 metres above sea level a normal train could not cope with the rise in the ground so beneath the trains there is a mechanism whereby cogs on the train engage with the rack system between the train tracks.
The little cog train known in the past as the 'odontotos' (= tooth train), is well known to train lovers all over the world, because its journey along the gorge, is one of the most spectacular railway rides anywhere.
The narrow gauge tracks follow the stream bed of the Vouriakos river and the little train travels alongside the river, climbing the fantastic narrow gorge up into the mountains, through tunnels, over waterfalls, along cliffs and through forests.
When the incline gets really steep it the train switches from regular track to the cog system.
Often you see people hiking up or down the gorge on the international E4 path and the train has to slow down to a crawl while the walkers hug the walls of the cliffs.
On 19 May 2003, renovation began on the railway and was finished in 2009. The cost of the project amounted to 37million euro.
The renewal of the existing infrastructure involved the construction of new superstructure, new trains, new tracks, new sleepers and ballast.
At the same time there was extensive maintenance carried out on the metal bridges and the purchase of four new trains from a Swiss company.
These trains replace the ones which had been in use for more than forty years.
When you reach Kalavryta, after a stop at the station of Megalo Spilaio, (where there is a monastery built into the rock), you will realize the reason behind the towns well chosen name, since "Kala Vryta" literally translates to "Good Waters". There is certainly an abundance of that!
The views from the train as it travels up and down the gorge are spectacular, you see huge cliffs, the river with its waterfalls, bridges and tunnels. The amazing scenery really cannot be described, it needs to be seen to be believed! And take your camera!!
Kalavryta is very busy in the winter as it is one of the largest ski resorts in Greece.
You can see information, timetable and costs at this site. Visit Odontotos rack railway