Winter Fairy Tale in the Carpathians

Narrow Gauge Steam in Romania: 12/02 – 19/02/2022

Powder snow, sun and a steam train, steaming uphill through a fairy tale countryside – that’s what we’re going for to Romania in February. Whether we’ll have luck with the weather or not is unpredictable but it’s always worth the try.

Romania narrow gauge steam

We've planned to visit four narrow gauge lines. Abrud, Brad and the two forestry lines in northern Romania: Vișeu de Sus and Moldovița. If you want to book this tour you should be clear about the challenge of winter time in the Carpathians. The tour could easily fail due to poor weather conditions. Once I was in the Carpathians in April and it was impossible to pass through the snow by train ... However, In Vișeu, the chances are very good that we will manage to run all the way up the mountains because the line is in daily use and, hence, is kept clear. But a flood in October could easily wash away the line, as has happened already twice this century. In Moldovița, we'll need to see how many people we can afford to pay, to clear the line from snow by hand. It all depends on the depth of the winter and how large a group we are, but you should keep in mind that Moldovița may fail. There can be no guarantees, as usual. But if everything comes together as planned, it will be a fantastic opportunity to see and experience steam trains in winter.

We'll try to arrange our trains as authentically as possible – as always. In Vișeu we overhauled (better to say we rebuilt it from scratch) a four wheel tender, and we’ll also have the authentic logging wagons we need for a really nice looking train. The new name plates will be removed from the locomotives we’re using.

Romania narrow gauge steam

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Itinerary

Date

Itinerary

12.02.

We’ll meet at the airport of Cluj Napoca around 14.00 hrs. Bus transfer to Vișeu (about four hours), accommodation in private pensions near the depot of the forest line in Vișeu de Sus

13.02.

In the morning we’ll steam uphill into the mountains. Today is Sunday, so we don’t need to worry about regular trains and have all the time we need for many photo stops and runpasts. Our train consists of a Reșița locomotive (hopefully 764 469, the original loco from Vișeu), the one and only authentic tender (we paid for to rebuild it), a passenger coach and several empty trucks, just as the normal train used to be many years ago. Accommodation in a simple guesthouse in the mountains either in Faina or in Valea Babii.

14.02.

In the morning we’ll go further up with our train, as far as possible. Above Faina the track condition is difficult and we might be unable to continue very far beyond that. After hopefully some more photographs we’ll head for a place where the logs are being cut. We’ll follow the route of the logs from the forest to the railway line where we have planned a loading process by horse and manpower over a loading ramp. It’s rebuilt was arranged and paid by FarRail Tours. The scenery will be just as it used to be two decades ago. In the afternoon and evening we’ll return to Vișeu de Sus, probably with a loaded train. As this is now a normal production train it has to earn money. Hence we don’t expect many photo stops with this train. In the best case we can count on three to four possible pictures of the loaded train. Accommodation in private pensions in Vișeu de Sus.

15.02.

We’ll follow the regular diesel trains with a steam hauled passenger train into the mountains. The passenger train of Vișeu used to run every Monday. With four Unio Satu Mare coaches and the original tender, it is now possible to recreate the passenger train as fully authentic. We’ll go to Novicior or Paltin. Today we need to work around all the scheduled diesel trains and railcars and adjust our running times accordingly. However, some good pictures will be possible as the train stops several times on the way, where we can get off and walk a bit forward and wait for the train at a good position. In the late afternoon we’ll go by charter bus to Moldovița. Accommodation in Moldovița.

16.02.

In the morning (late morning if the weather doesn’t co-operate) we’ll run a charter train on the rebuilt line of Moldovița alongside the traditional houses to the current terminus. We’re using logging trucks, a van and a Reșița-type locomotive. Today our focus lays on the upper section of the line. Accommodation in Moldovița.

17.02.

In the morning we’ll enjoy another charter train in Moldovița. Today our focus lays on the first part of the line. At noon we’ll continue to Brad (a long bus transfer). Accommodation in Brad.

18.02.

In the morning we’ll take a Reșița locomotive and about five freight cars from the state railway station in Brad to a factory in Criscior. Many photo stops and run-bys are planned with our fully authentic train.

About 11.30 hrs we’ll continue to Campeni, where another narrow gauge steam train is waiting for us. 764 243, a Budapest-built locomotive, will haul a short, authentic train. We’ll go though a beautiful valley up to Abrud. In the late afternoon, when the shadows have reached the bottom of the valley we’ll go by charter bus to Cluj Napoca. Hotel in Cluj Napoca.

19.02.

Return flight home.

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Line description and tour details

The narrow gauge forest railway of Vișeu de Sus is the last remaining one in operation in Romania. Besides the diesels, steam locomotives are still serviceable, mostly the Reșița built 0-8-0T or their Reghin built counterparts. Steam is not used for logging trains any more but is still used for tourist trains.

The main line starts in Vișeu de Sus at the large sawmill and runs steadily uphill for 43 km to Coman at the Ukrainian border. There was also a branch line to the east, into the Novaț valley, which is now demolished. The main line offers plenty of opportunities for good pictures, there are three tunnels very close together (always in the shade).

Romania narrow gauge steam

Romania narrow gauge steam

Not only is the landscape something special, the trains in themselves are also noteworthy. We will try to make up authentic trains, as they ran in the eighties, when the line belonged to the state run forestry railway CFF (Caile Ferate Forestiere) and when it was worked by steam locomotives exclusively. Besides locomotive, tender and passenger coach, we’ll carry several empty trucks for the logs uphill to the loading points. Sometimes there are forestry tractors or other machinery that have to be brought up into the forest. This equipment is carried by the railway as well.

Romania narrow gauge steam

At the intermediate stations, during unplanned stops (to raise steam pressure or get one of the log bogies on the track again) and stops for taking on water, we will have the opportunity to take pictures of the train and its surroundings. Lots of shunting activity can be seen as they leave the log bogies at the loading points. In addition we’ve planned some runpasts along the line.

Romania narrow gauge steam

While we try to sort out everything in advance, experience tells us to expect the unexpected. However, things usually work out in a very satisfactory way. So it will be the same as on our previous trips: we’ll need to arrange things on the spot, and work out the best opportunities together with the local railway staff, who will be as helpful as they can be.

Moldovița was a really nice forestry line. In its last years of operation they used a Reșița (764 449) and the 0-6-0 inside frame 763 193 locomotive from Krauss/Munich. The small engine was not only the main attraction of the line, it also was amazing what this little, 50hp engine was able to pull and push uphill over the steep gradients of this line. It’s a little miracle that this unique engine survived as a plinthed loco in Vișeu.

Romania narrow gauge steam

Romania narrow gauge steam

The forestry line was closed and abandoned under doubtful conditions. However, because of a few railway enthusiasts, in particular Georg Hocevar, the remains were preserved and, with the help of other railway enthusiasts, a part of the lower section of the line was refurbished. The length of the line was reduced to two kilometres just before they started to save and preserve it. Now they have rebuilt the first eleven kilometres.

Romania narrow gauge steam

We’ll make a visit to the depot where our loco will be fired. Along the line we’ll pass several old-style wooden houses. The parallel road has been partly paved in recent years, but we hope this sign of modernisation will be hidden by a layer of snow. We’ll use an authentic Reșița loco in Moldovița.

Romania narrow gauge steam

Brad – Crișcior is a short industrial line from the state railway station in Brad to an industrial complex for repairing and construction of railway and mining equipment and railway vehicles, in Crișcior. The line leaves the state railway on a curve, passes a river bridge and follows a small road in a populated area. Close to the terminus, a large industrial pipe runs parallel to the line, as was the situation 30 years ago. The scenery in this part is really ugly … so ugly, that it’s become photogenic again! But in the first section of the line you can take some nice countryside shots. We’ll form a train out of about five coal hoppers and the local Reșița locomotive. This train composition was used for many years in regular service. We’ll travel on the open platforms of the tipper wagons.

Romania narrow gauge steam

The former state railway operated narrow gauge line from Turda to Abrud is still serviceable in the short but very scenic section from Campeni to Abrud. This part of the line is surrounded by mountains. Especially photogenic are the little, rural villages along the line which haven’t changed much since 1990. A white painted, wooden church is sitting in the valley of the railway – just perfectly placed to include it in the picture. In autumn, the locals cut the meadows to prepare food for their animals in winter. They still pile this up in the traditional style, so we may find some hay stacks along the line. Something like this is almost extinct in Western Europe these days. The classic Romania is still a very traditional country!

Romania narrow gauge steam

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Small Print

Romania is a member of the European Union. This has brought a lot of change to the country but in the small villages along the lines we can still experience the traditional Romania and its hospitality. Serious crime is almost unheard of; our accommodations are either family run or nice basic lower to middle class hotels and all offer a warm shower and reasonable, good food. The night spent in the mountains is in forestry accommodation, which is simple but clean. The quality of the two houses is different. We’ll stay in big, simple rooms with several beds. There are no single or double rooms available for this night. You can charge your batteries here, and in one of the houses occasional hot showers are available. Please carry sufficient spare batteries with you, even if we have the chance to charge them.

Romania narrow gauge steam

The use of a specific locomotive cannot be promised on any line we’ll visit. In Vișeu we'll use steam locomotives for our trains depending on their availability. At this moment we don’t know which steam locomotives will be operational. The engines built by Reșița and Reghin seem to be almost “indestructible”, so the local workshop should be able to solve any problems. We’ll always try to find alternatives if something goes wrong. However, in the case that they can’t deliver what is ordered and paid for, it’s very unlikely that there will be any kind of a refund. This is especially the case if snow prevents us from using a line or a part of it.

Romania narrow gauge steam

There is no cell phone signal in the forests (luckily).

Health: no problems exist concerning your health, just stay away from bears ... The water from the numerous springs along the line in Vișeu can be drunk without a problem. Even the small streams just above the first village have clear and drinkable water. The only serious health risk is if you are not careful around an operating railway. Jumping up or down from moving trains is not allowed. Getting on or off, and travelling on the train is at your own risk, so take care along the railway. Wear good sturdy shoes, suitable for the possibility of snow.

Romania narrow gauge steam

For this tour you will need a valid passport, EU citizens only a valid ID card. A visa for citizens of the European Union is not necessary. For citizens of other countries please contact your local Romanian Embassy for details.

You’ll need little money in local currency. Food, some of which is not included in the tour price already, and beverages are quite cheap.

The tour is planned with the dedicated photographer and video filmmaker in mind. The itinerary is designed for those who think it more important to get the perfect shot than to sample the local food, bars or nightclubs.

Romania narrow gauge steam

Please remember that the accommodation, buses and the forest railway itself do not necessarily conform to current EU-standards. That’s exactly one of the reasons why we are going there. Safety and environmental standards are still not fully developed so a word of warning: Please beware of the dangers in and around the railway and other modes of transportation. An accident and health insurance policy covering foreign countries is absolutely essential. Neither FarRail Tours, the local tour operators nor the railways can be held responsible for any accidents, delays etc.

A flood destroyed parts of the forestry line in Viseu de Sus in June 2021, but we're sure they will rebuild it until the end of the year.

Romania narrow gauge steam

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Price

Romania
Winter Fairy Tale in the Carpathians 0 to 0 participants £0
12.02.2022 – 19.02.2022 Single room surcharge £0
Registration Deadline: 10.11.2021
Price not known yet.

The price includes:

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Narrow Gauge Steam in Romania

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