Monday, September 28, 2009

Mocanita din Viseu - Part 1

Mocanita din Viseu

In the northern part of Romania lies Maramures county, part of the international Maramures region. It's a land of exceptional natural beauty, with lots of mountains and thick forests. As a consequence many of the locals work in the wood processing industry. In the northeastern part of the county, close to the Ukranian border, at the confluence of the Viseu and Vaser rivers, you can find the small town of Viseu de Sus. One may find many interesting things in this small town, but for the railway enthusiasts the most important place to visit is the mocanita station found here (address: str. Cerbului nr. 5.):

The mocanita term denotes the small Romanian narrow gauge (760 mm) forest railway which runs trough the Vaser Valley. It is named after the locals, in Romanian language the people who inhabit these mountain regions are called "mocan" (mocanita means something like "little mocan railway").
The mocanita of the Vaser Valley is said to be the last remaining real forest railway in the world which still regurarely operates steam trains for the purpose of wood transportation and is the last Romanian narrow gauge forest railway which was not disaffected. It is definitely a tourist attraction that is worth visiting. The Vaser Valley is part of the "Muntii Maramuresului" protected natural park.

Mocanita din Viseu

The narrow gauge railway of the Vaser Valley spans a distance of nearly 60 kilometers from Viseu de Sus to Coman end station, close to the the Ukranian border. The small steam locomotives make use of the local resources: they burn wood to generate steam so that they can pull the train cars through the beautiful wild valley. They travel through tunnels and over small bridges, very close both to the river and to the rocks, traversing a land where humans can go only by this train (there are no roads), a land where no people live, just bears and wolves (the map is available here).

The explotation of the forests began in the first part of the 18th century, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austrian settlers transported the wood down the river by rafts. In 1932 the construction of the narrow gauge Vaser Valley railway was initiated and by 1935 the line was complete. It represented an enormous technological progress compared to rafting. The line had to follow the river's course, this is why narrow gauge was used. The 760 mm model was chosen because it was the gauge used throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The locomotives did not need to be very strong because they only pulled empty train cars and workers up the hill, where the cars were loaded with wood and the train went back to Viseu de Sus using only the brakes. The tracks were partially destroyed by German troops during the Second World War, but they had quickly been rebuilt.

Mocanita din Viseu

After 1950 the forest railways were gradually replaced in the whole world by forest roads, but in Romania they withstood the test of time. In 1970 Romania still had a network of over 3000 kilometers of narrow gauge forest railways and in 1986 steam locomotives were still built for these lines. In the late 80s more than 15 forest railways existed in the country. Unfortunately, since then, due to lack of money and poor administration, they were disaffected, all, except theVaser Valley forest railway, the mocanita from Viseu de Sus.
Today this little railway has become a private railway. It is operated by R.G. Holz Company SRL for the purpose of transporting wood, but since 2005 it has been open to tourists. The locomotives are mostly owned by the company, while track is the property of the state. Since the year 2000 the railway is being helped by the Swiss non-profit foundation "Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn" by restoring damaged locomotives, bringing new wagons and renewing the station.
In the summer of 2008 the tracks were washed away by a great flood but, again, the line has been quickly rebuilt. By the spring of 2009 the mocanita was up and running again.


Google search for "Mocanita" pages

Monday, September 21, 2009

CFR 150.1105 at Sibiu Steam Locomotive Museum

CFR 150.1105 is a steam locomotive of type 1E-h2, which is part of the German DR-52 series. Some locos from the DR-52 series (including CFR 150.1105, former DR 52.196) were given to Romania by the Soviet Union after the Second World War (between 1949 and 1950) as war damage compensation. Built by BMAG Schwartzkopf, it is the strongest locomotive used in Romania for pulling heavy trains on steep grades. Retired from regular service only in 1988, it was used many years after for pulling nostalgic trains. Today it is out of service, because the boiler's usage certification has expired. It is being displayed at the Sibiu steam locomotive museum. The locomotive has a special boat-shaped tender made of steel. It was created this way so that the bullets would glance off it and the water supplies would remain intact. Most of the 150.1000 series locomotives were rented by CFR from DR (Deutsche Reischbahn). They were a bit different from the original locos of the series because they had to be built fast and they were required to be serviceable easily.

ID: CFR 150.1105
Wheel arrangement: 2-10-0
Built: 1943
Builder: BMAG - Schwartzkopf
Top speed: 80 km/h
Gauge: Standard (1435 mm)
Location: Sibiu, Romania (steam locomotive museum)

The locomotive was completely retired from service only a few years ago and is in a fairly good shape.


CFR 389.001 at Sibiu Steam Locomotive Museum

This is the oldest steam locomotive in the Sibiu steam locomotive museum and one of the oldest narrow gauge steam locomotives that ever functioned in Transylvania. It was built a long time ago, in 1885, by the Wiener-Neustadt factories for the Taracz Valley Railway (Taracz Völgyi Vasút, located in the present Ukraine). During its first years of existance the locomotive had only a name ("Taraczvölgy", hungarian name), it received a number ID only when it was taken over by MAV in 1911 as part of the 389.000 series. After the First World War the locomotive was given to CFR and assigned to the Sighet depot. It hauled trains on the Sighet-Sugatag and Sighet-Costiui lines until the fifities, when it was transfered to the Sibiu depot. In its final years of service (until 1973) one could see it working on the Sibiu-Agnita line. Finally it was retired and is now being displayed in the Sibiu steam locomotive museum.
The locomotive ran on narrow gauge (760 mm) track. Its type is C-n2 and it has a top speed of 30 km/h.

ID: CFR 389.001
Wheel arrangement: 0-6-0
Built: 1885
Builder: Wiener-Neustadt
Top speed: 30 km/h
Gauge: 760 mm
Location: Sibiu, Romania (steam locomotive museum)

The little locomotive has definitely seen better days during its long life. For example you can see pictures of it when it was beautifuly painted in the standard CFR color scheme here or here. As you can see, nowdays it's in a museum but is not really taken care of. Hidden in the bushes, it has not seen fresh paint for a long time ago.


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.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

CFR 375.032 at Sibiu Steam Locomotive Museum

The steam locomotives of the 375.000 series were used by CFR on short length secondary lines to pull all kinds of trains. The reason for running these locos on shorter lines is that they had no tender, so the amount of coal they could carry was limited.
CFR 375.032 was built in 1911 by MAVAG (Royal Hungarian Railway Machine Factories) at Budapest. It is a locomotive of type 1C1t-n2 with a top speed of 60 km/h. Its history is pretty interesting. Along with several other locos of this type it ended up in the inventory of CFR after the First World War. It was given to Romania as war prey. In 1940 it was captured by the soviet trupes along with the occupation of Basarabia and given back to Romania in 1945. Here it was used in several regions of the country until 1977, when it was finally retired. It was given to the Romanian Train Club and taken to Bucharest. After being restored in 1994, it was donated to the Sibiu steam locomotive museum in 1997 and is being displayed there ever since.

ID: CFR 375.032
Wheel Arrangement: 2-6-2T
Built: 1919
Builder: MAVAG (Budapest)
Top speed: 60 km/h
Gauge: Standard (1435 mm)
Location: Sibiu, Romania (steam locomotive museum)

The locomotive is on display, unfortunately crowded between other steam locomotives. It's not in a bad shape, but it could use some paint.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

CFR 1493 at Sibiu Steam Locomotive Museum

In 1894 Henshel & Sohn delivered the first 20 steam locomotives of this type to CFR. A total of 59 locomotives (numbered 1441-1499) were bought by CFR and they were used to pull passenger, freight and mixed trains.
The loco currently numbered 1493 (its original ID was 1497) is on display at the Sibiu steam locomotive museum. It was built in 1894 and had a top speed of 73 km/h.

ID: CFR 1493
Wheel arrangement: 0-6-0
Built: 1894
Builder: Henchel & Sohn
Top speed: 73 km/h
Gauge: Standard (1435 mm)
Location: Sibiu, Romania (steam locomotive museum)

The locomotive is in a fairly good shape, not being used anymore.


Friday, September 11, 2009

CFR 620 "Murgeni" at Sibiu Steam Locomotive Museum

The CFR 620 steam locomotive is the last surviving representative of a series of 84 locomotives built more than a century ago, between 1890 and 1893, by different German and Belgian companies for CFR, numbered 597 through 680. These locomotives were used to pull both passenger and freight trains all across the old Romanian Kingdom, but only on sections of track with relatively low grade (on plains). Due to their simple construction they were easy to service and they proved to be both effective and reliable, this is why later CFR ordered more of them. The next locomotives were built between 1899 and 1907 and numbered 688-743. All these locos were used in Romania until around the year 1960 when they were retired from service.
The C-n2 type CFR 620 locomotive, nicknamed "Murgeni", built by the Société Franco-Belge de Matériel de Chemins de Fer in 1890, was used on Moldavian lines until 1950. After that it was taken to the Bucharest marshalling yard and used for another 21 years. Since 1971 it was exhibited in the Bucharest railway museum until the point when it was finally transfered to its current place, the Sibiu steam locomotive museum.

ID: CFR 620 "Murgeni"
Wheel arrangement: 0-6-0
Built: 1890
Builder: Société Franco-Belge de Matériel de Chemins de Fer
Top speed: 55 km/h
Gauge: Standard (1435 mm)
Location: Sibiu, Romania (steam locomotive museum)

The locomotive is looked after in the museum but it's not being used anymore.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Steam Locomotive Museum in Sibiu

The city of Sibiu (Romania) is, without a doubt, worth visiting. The Grand Square and the fortifications are just a few of the places that attract tourists into the city that was designated european capital of culture in the year 2008.
And, if you happen to be a steam locomotive enthusiast, Sibiu will offer an additional nice surprise for you, a museum of steam locomotives.

The museum was first open to the public in 1994 and is located at str. Dorobantilor nr. 22.

According to official sources, the museum displays 35 steam locomotives (a few operational), 2 steam cranes and 2 steam snow ploughs, all built between 1885 and 1959.

A few weeks ago I visited the museum and managed to take photos of the following steamers:

I'll try to describe each locomotive separately in future posts.

My impressions about the steam locomotive museum are both good and bad. The good thing is that the locomotives are preserved and presented to the public and the entrance is free. The bad thing is that they are crowded in a relatively small area and because of that cannot be enjoyed to the maximum. Also, the museum is actually an active train yard, meaning that you cannot walk freely inside it as you wish, beacuse you may be hit by a train.
I wish that the locomotives were repainted more often and offered better maintenance. Also, I think they could be placed in a larger museum which would be more pleasent to visit and could even bring profit to the Romanian Railways (CFR) because people would be willing to pay an entrance fee.
Despite the not-so-professional feeling of the museum, I recommend you to visit it if you like steam locomotives. It's one of the few larger collection of such locos in Romania and a visit to it can be quite pleasent.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rusty Steam Locomotives in Thessaloniki

I recently took a trip to Greece. We traveled by bus and our way to the sunny beach lead through the city of Thessaloniki. As we were exiting the city on the highway, I turned to left and I saw a train yard. I looked carefully and for a fraction of a second a rusty steam locomotive caught my eye. A few days later we went into Thessaloniki by bus again. This time I paid more attention and I managed to count 5 steam locos. Again, a few days have passed and we returned to the city. I went to the train yard to take photos of the locomotives. Unfortunately this was not allowed and the yard was guarded, so I could only take a few instant shots of two steamers:

I do not know anything about the locos, I have no idea what their ID is, when they were built or even what their wheel arrangement is, because the wild vegetation around them makes it impossible to count the wheels on the pictures. However, they must be two of the steam locomotives listed by at Thessaloniki. Also, it's possible that more info about them can be found here.

I tried to determine the location of the train yard and my best guess is that the locos are here:

I wish I could have looked at the locomotives more carefully and try to find the others too, but I only had a few seconds to take the shots, this information is all I could gather.