Traveling from Asia to Europe on a train is a comfortable journey for thousands but few know the people who make it possible. Armed with ice-breaking drills, shovels and pickaxes, workers of Turkey's railway authority, Turkish State Railways (TCDD), make winter trips to various destinations a reality.
On a 217-kilometer stretch of railroad between the eastern provinces of Erzurum and Kars, the crew braves the chilling temperatures for five months every year to clear snow and ice from the rails. Their tireless work keeps freight trains and the popular Eastern Express running.
One of the most challenging spots requiring maintenance is Aşıt, a 2,070-meter-long tunnel at an altitude of 2,270 meters. The crew gets on snow-piercing trucks to reach Aşıt between Sarıkamış and other stations located on mountain tops. They often move broken ice and piles of snow outside the tunnel in sub-zero temperatures.
Masses of ice reach up to 6 meters high in the tunnel as temperatures fall to minus 25 degrees and sometimes a bulldozer is needed to help the workers using pickaxes and electric drills.
Evren Aksaç, chief of railroad maintenance at TCDD, says it is a popular line especially for freight trains perusing the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the Eastern and Touristic Eastern Express that allow tourists to travel along a scenic route in eastern Turkey.
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