Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Romanian Narrow Gauge Railways

Not so many years ago Romania had a vast network of narrow gauge railways. Most of them were forest railways (CFF stands for Cale Ferata Forestiera in Romanian) or industrial railways (CFI stands for Cale Ferata Industriala in Romanian) that facilitated the processing of wood or the production of other raw materials and goods. The most commonly used gauge in Romania was the 760 mm model, mostly because the majority of these lines were built at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century and the gauge was matched to the track model existing on the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Romanian narrow gauge lines, especially the forest railways, were called by the locals "Mocanita". The term comes from the name of the romanian people who inhabited the mountain regions of the country. The construction principle of the forest railways was simple: the track followed the river beds because bewteen the rocks and the river there always was just enough space to lay the track. This way the train could climb the mountain up to the places where the wood was gathered from the forest to be loaded into the train cars.

Some of the most famous narrow gauge railway lines in Romania were the following:

- CFF Tismana
- CFF Moldovita
- Turda-Abrud line
- Targu Mures line

Apart from these lines many other smaller narrow gauge railways existed in Romania. Sadly, today almost none of these lines are functional. They have all been destroyed, left to rust or sink into the wildly growing vegetation, mostly at the end of the 20th century. The only real forest railway on which you can still see narrow gauge steam trains every day is the CFF Viseu de Sus. Congratulations to the locals, to the owners of the line and to the Swiss non-profit foundation (Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn) who keep the line functional, open to tourists and wood production.


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