If you travel to Viseu de Sus to visit the Mocanita train, you will most likely need a place to sleep. There are plenty of hotels and pensions in town for that, but recently a much more interesting possibility has become available: to spend your night(s) on the Carpatia Express. In case you wonder what that is, its the name of the standard gauge train found in the yard of the Mocanita train station, here:
Carpatia Express is a train made up of the CFR 150.216 locomotive and 3 passnger cars, in which tourists can sleep. Well, actually, to be more specific, only two of the train cars are for sleeping, the third one is a restaurant car. It is the first ever hotel train in Romania and it is open since the spring of 2011.
Carpatia Express has a total of 20 compartments, each with two beds and toilet. The price for one night is 59 RON (13-14 Euro) for one bed or 75 RON (about 17 euro) for the whole compartment (and breakfast is included). The hotel train has heating, so it is open all year.
The locomotive of the Carpatia Express is CFR 150.216, one of the 282 steam locomotives of the CFR 150.000 series built by Uzinele Domeniilor Resita and Uzinele Nicolae Malaxa (Uzinele "23 August") Bucuresti between 1946 and 1960. These were powerful locomotives built after the Second World War for the purpose of pulling heavy freight trains. They were designed almost entirely based on the German BR 50 locomotives, with some modifications like the Cosmovici double fueling system (they could burn both coal and crude oil). The locomotives of the 150.000 series were the last type of standard gauge steam locomotive produced in Romania. Although not so many were built (282), quite a few have survived and some of them can even be seen exhibited today (others have not been so lucky and are slowly being eaten by rust somewhere).
CFR 150.216 was built by Uzinele Domeniilor Resita in 1958. It served at Targu Mures when it was active. A few years ago it was moved to Razboieni. Some pictures from that time show it in a really bad shape, but since then it has been restored and nicely repainted, so now it's the pride of the Carpatia Express train.
Facts: ID: CFR 150.216 Wheel arrangement: 2-10-0 Leading Wheel diamater: 850 mm Driving wheel diameter: 1400 mm Axle load: 15.3 t Weight (without tender): 86.9 t Length over buffers: 22940 mm Power: 1723 HP Top speed: 80 km/h Built: 1958 Builder: Uzinele Domeniilor Resita Gauge: Standard (1435 mm) Location: Viseu De Sus, Romania (CFF Viseu de Sus Mocanita Train Station)
The three train cars of Carpatia Express have been restored recently too, repainted in their original colors, so on the outside they look the same way as when they were produced in the German Democratic Republic. On the inside, however, they are more comfortable than they were during their service time.
Only one special cog railway (rack railway) line ever existed in Romania, between Caransebeş and Subcetate (in Hunedoara county). It was built in 1908 to connect the Petroşani region of the country, where coal existed, to the Resiţa region, rich in metals. The part of the line stretching from Boutari (Băuţar) to Zeicani was too steep for conventional locomotives, so it was fitted with a rack running between the tracks and special cog locomotives were bought for transporting the raw materials on it.
These locomotives were considered to be very advanced technologically at the time when they were built. They possessed two 4-cylinder engines, one for the normal, adhesive wheels and one for the cog-wheels. These two engines could operate simultaneously and the non-cog engine could also work by itself.They always rode in the front of the train, so they needed to be turned around at the ends of the line. for this purpose two manual turntables were used, so the heavy machines were turned using human power. you can see an example of this in the movie "Steam in Roumania 1969". The top speed of the rack locos was 40 km/h on normal sections and 12 km/h on rack sections.
ID: CFR 40.005
Wheel arrangement: 2-8-2cog
Builder: Wiener Lokomotivfabriks AG (Floridsdorf)
Top speed: 40 km/h on normal sections, 12 km/h on cog sections
Finding a good place to spend the New Year's Eve is never easy... and this year was no exception. I had no idea where I will spend it for just a month before the end of the year, when a clever person came up with a great idea: let's spend the New Year's Eve on the Mocanita train, at Viseu de Sus! And so we did...
This was not the first time I visited the Mocanita of Viseu de Sus. I've been on it before, in 2009, as I have wrote about it here. Mocanita is a nickname for the small narrow gauge (760 mm) Romanian forest railway. The one at Viseu de Sus, in the Vaser Valley, to be more specific, is said to be the last remaining forest railway which operates steam trains regularly for the purpose of transporting logs. It is also the only steam line in Romania on which people can travel a reasonable distance (about 21 kilometers). Recently, as a result of some people's noble effort to rehabilitate some of Romania's Mocanita lines, small portions of other Romanian narrow gauge lines have been restored. I heard that it's possible to travel with the Mocanita between Brad and Criscior and also at Moldovita. Still, the Mocanita of the Vaser Valley remains the most important one in the country. It runs from the station at Viseu de Sus to Paltin and back with tourists and further into the thick forest for the purpose of transporting raw wood, in places where man can go only by the means of this train, as there are no roads in the wild forest. The steam locomotives employed on the line belong to the once wide-spread 764.000 series. The little steam route received quite a blow in 2008, when an unexpected flood devastated the tracks, even trapping some tourists in the woods. But, with the work of locals and with the help of the Swiss foundation "Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn", the line was quickly restored and visitors can enjoy it again.
The Mocanita of the Vasser Valley takes tourists into the forest regularly from May to September, but on special occasions like Christmas, the New Year's Eve and Easter, there are special trains which allows people to visit the Vaser Valley steam line in winter and even at night. This is the combination we aimed for: a train ride in the snow on the last night of 2011. We were very enthusiastic about the idea as soon as we came up with it. I quickly called CFF Viseu de Sus and I received a positive answer: there were still available places. But there was a problem: the trip to and from Viseu de Sus was more than an easy drive, especially when you are tired after being up on the New Year's Eve. So we needed some place to sleep before and after the event itself. I started calling hotels and pensions at Viseu de Sus and around it... but they all gave me the same answer: they were fully booked for that period. I called at least 50 of them, but no luck. The situation was looking bad... it seemed that we will not be able to spend the New Year's Eve on the Mocanita train because we could not find a place to sleep. Others have booked rooms starting from September and we only woke up at the end of November.
When all hope seemed to be lost, a very friendly lady from a hotel directed me to one of her friends, who also owned a hotel. She also had all rooms booked, but she was very kind and she convinced her brother to take us in. I quickly made reservations for the rooms and for the train too and so we were set to go!
The New Year's Eve train was scheduled to leave the station of Viseu de Sus at 19:00. When we arrived there we found out that there were many tourists (150-200 persons according to my count), so not one, but two trains were prepared, pulled by the famous little steamers, CFF Viseu de Sus 764.421 "Elvetia" and CFF Viseu de Sus 764.221 "Mariuta". The first one was scheduled to leave at 19:00 and the second one at 19:10. Most people got on the first one and it became a little crowded, so we chose the second one, pulled by "Mariuta".
The cost of the New Year's Eve train ride was a lot higher than the usual cost of such a trip, 175 RON (about 40 Euro) for a person, but the train ride itself was not the only thing we got for that money: along with the train ticket we received vouchers for warm food, warm drinks and cold drinks and even a Mocanita calendar for 2012 as a small attention from the organizers. But, as we were about to soon find out, the price included even some other "free" food and fireworks!
As Romanian trains usually are, ours was late from start too, we only left the station of Viseu de Sus before 19:30, but it was no problem really, we were all there to relax and enjoy the ride.
The first nice surprise on the train was that the cars were fitted with stoves (burning wood, of course), so it was nice and warm inside. We dressed in thick clothes because we knew that at the end station, at Paltin, it would be cold, but in the train cars we could take off most of them. The second nice surprise, not long after we started moving, was a small shot of palinca (palinka), a strong (about 50-60 degrees) traditional Romanian/Hungarian drink made from prunes.
After about one our of travel we made a 10-20 minutes stop at Novat, were the organizers were already waiting for us with music, a nice cold plate of food (which was "for free") and drinks. So we were all in a good mood already. One more hour on the train and we arrived to Paltin. The train is traveling really slowly, at an average speed of about 10 km/h, for several reasons: the tracks are not in the greatest shape, the locos have a max speed of 15 km/h ("Mariuta") and 30 km/h ("Elvetia") and also because people travel on the train to see the forest, not to rush through it.
When we arrived to Paltin, the party was already starting. There were small torches all around the place, wooden shelters were you could get food and drinks, gas burners to get warm by, music and a huge campfire. The warm food we received was on a plate that contained about 4 different kind of meat, bread and the usual auxiliary stuff. I confess, I was quite afraid of what kind of food they would give us, people in that region are used to fat meat, but I must congratulate the organizers, the chicken, the sausages, the mici, everything was delicious! So we ate and drank, we moved around, we watched the fire and some of us even spent time taking photos with tripods. The only thing the organizers did not pay attention to was to leave the steam locomotives near the campfire so the tourists could take photos of them. Unfortunately they sat in the dark so it was really difficult to get some shots, even with a tripod.
The final nice surprise was the show of fireworks. It was a lot more than we expected. They were many and colorful and beautiful. The forest echoed with the sound of explosions as the amazing lights lit up the sky above us. And so, without even noticing, we slipped into the year 2012. Too bad I did not manage to take some photos of the fireworks, but at that point I was too busy enjoying the whole thing :)
We stayed at Paltin for about two more hours after that. Some people ate stuffed cabbages (also "for free"), some danced. Around 2:00 both trains and the auxiliary rail cars headed back for Viseu de Sus. We arrived there around 4:00 AM, very tired but with some nice memories of the Mocanita ride :)