Winter Narrow Gauge Steam in the Carpathian Mountains

Romania 25.02. - 04.03.2007

They still exist: Narrow gauge logging railroads in Europe. But just one still employs steam locomotives to haul wood from the forests to the mill: Viseu de Sus in Romania. Normally diesel locomotives are used and the steam engines are used as a fallback alternative. But with a little help, a steam loco can be substituted on the regular logging train. So for six days in February/March we will bring back the steam engine to the forests and valleys of Viseu de Sus and its logging lines. By using one of the diesel railcars we will be able to chase the trains and maximize our efforts to get good pictures along the way, on otherwise inaccessible parts of the railway.

Snow plug in the mountains, photo: Sebastian Trolle, 2006

The winter is a very special time for visiting a forestry line in the mountains. Deep snow, sometimes tracks are blocked by broken trees and snow plugs and points which need 20 minutes work to be turned. Experience a very unique line in the hardest season for the railwaymen as well as for the equipment.

As all the equipment at Viseu de Sus is running with almost no regular maintenance, the use of a particular steam locomotive cannot be guaranteed. But we can count on the talent and improvisation of the local crew, and we will probably be able to see all engines running.

Lots of good pictures of one of the last narrow gauge logging lines with steam in the world are waiting to be captured on film, video and SD-Card.


Date Itinerary
25.02. Meeting of the group at the Railway station in Budapest Keleti pu. The trip to Budapest should be organised separately by the participants (If you wish to travel by air, FarRail can arrange the flight). Train trip from Budapest to Mateszalka; from there transfer by Bus to Viseu de Sus. (approx. 4 hrs.). Accommodation in a small pension and Hotel Gabriela in Viseu de Sus.
26.02. We are travelling on board of one of the regular steam powered logging trains. We will make a special photostop at the tunnels near Faina.
For the next three days we will use the diesel railcar either to chase or overtake one of the steam powered logging trains in the forests. This will enable us to take numerous shots of the logging trains and their steam locomotives. We'll attach an additional flat wagon to the railcar. In case we are travelling in front of the steam train our videographers have the chance to film the hard working steam engine from the wagon.
02.03. If our group has more than 8 participants we will use the railcar again as on the days before, otherwise we will travel on the logging train itself.
03.03. We will have a special train available for us. A chartered work train with either 763 193 (Cn2t - Krauss Munich) or one of the other steam engines will run in the Novat-valley towards Ripi. We will travel on the train with lots of photo opportunities at runbys and photo stops.
04.03. Bus transfer to Mateszalka; from there a train trip to Budapest; from there return home individually (If you wish to travel by air, FarRail can arrange the flight tickets). Train tickets from Budapest to the rest of Europe are available at the international ticket counters of the European railway companies.


Line description and tour details

winter in the mountains, photo: Sebastian Trolle, 2006

The narrow gauge forest railway of Viseu de Sus is the last remaining one in Romania. Besides diesel engines, steam locomotives are still employed, mostly the Resita-build 0-8-0T or their Reghin-build counterparts. Besides them two more interesting steam locomotives were in running condition at the beginning of 2006. One of them was the 0-8-0 Orenstein & Koppel-build tank locomotive 764 211, the other one 763 193, is an 0-6-0 tank engine with an inside frame build by Krauss in Munich. It came to Viseu de Sus from the forest railway of Moldovita after it closed.

The main line starts at Viseu de Sus at the sawmill and runs steady uphill for 43 km to Coman at the Ukrainian border. There is also a branch line to the east into the Novat valley. Both lines offer plenty of opportunities for good pictures. On the main line there are, for example, three tunnels just after one another.

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 forest railway CFF (Caile Ferate Forestiere) and was worked by steam locomotives exclusively. For this purpose we will have one of the passenger coaches painted blue again (from its current yellow livery/colour scheme). Therefore we will minimize the danger of having a canary yellow coach in our train. In Spring 2006 only three working passenger coaches existed, with two of them painted blue and one yellow.

On days with high demand for passenger transport, one or two of the so-called sightseeing coaches will be included in the consist, these being painted yellow also. As we have no direct influence on the make up of the consist (these are regularly trains, where we will only substitute the diesel loco with a steam loco), we will try our best to have the "right" coaches in the train. Beside the passenger coaches (from Tuesday to Saturday there is normally just one or two) we will have plenty of the log bogies at the rear of the train. Sometimes even horses or other logging equipment will be transported on the train into the woods.

On our first day we will use the regular train. This being Monday all forestry workers are travelling by train to their different workplaces in the forest. This train is normally made up with all available coaches including the sightseeing ones, and even then it is filled beyond capacity. We will use the day to get acquainted with the line. At the intermediate stations, with unplanned stops (to raise steam pressure or get one of the log bogies on the right 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 activities can be observed while leaving the log bogies at the loading points.

coupling chains, photo: Sebastian Trolle, 2006

On the following days we will charter one of the diesel railcars (for three days with up to seven participants and for four days with more than eight participants). With the help of the railcar we will follow the regular steam powered train. As there are lots of stops along the line, we will use it to get ahead of the train to a good photo stop and wait there for the train to pass. Afterwards the railcar will collect us and after a short while the steam train will be in sight again. This is possible as on the forest railway the minimum distance between trains is governed by sight not signals. The big advantage of the otherwise rather expensive railcar is that the train doesn't have to stop for us. Stopping the train would delay the journey to such an extent that the return of the loaded logging train would probably be in the dark. Besides, that it is more realistic for all of you taking video shots to have the train disappear into woods rather than have it stop right beside you. After the train with its sounds and sights has passed, there is still time to listen to the quiet sounds of the small river nearby and the faint whistle of the train. The use of the railcar has its advantages also for the photographers. We will have more time to get to the photo spots far away from the tracks (we will be able to get to many more locations than just those at trackside as compared to the time we would have if we were travelling on the train). This is why we choose the more expensive, but by far the most efficient method, of chasing the train.

Although the steam powered trains normally only run as far as Faina, and the diesel powered ones run through to Coman, we will try to get the steam powered trains beyond Faina. On the first day we will use the small Krauss-built steam engine or the O&K veteran to power a work train on the line in the lovely Novat valley. As this train is a special we can stop anywhere we want, as long as the regular trains aren't disturbed. There are some meeting points and beside that, 20 minutes delay for the regular train isn't really a problem.


Small Print

Romania is heading for a membership in the European Union. This brings a lot of change to the country. But in the small villages along the line we can still experience the traditional Romania and its hospitality. Any fear of serious crimes is farfetched; our accommodation is family run and has warm showers and good food.

The normal range of temperatures is in between plus five and minus 12 degrees Centigrade. Anyhow, temperatures can drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius, please be prepared. Railway lines can be blocked by snow, rocks, broken trees etc. In the worst case the traffic can come to a total stop due to the weather conditions. In this case we’re unable to offer trains. Anyhow, this is very unlikely in the end of February.

The use of a specific engine cannot be promised. We will use steam engines for the regular trains depending on their availability. As the company is running the engines and the rest of the rolling stock without proper maintenance, we don't know if in February 2007 there will still be four operable steam engine as was the case in spring 2006. If none of them is in working condition, we reserve the right to cancel the tour on short notice. But this situation is rather unlikely and we will do our best to keep the tour running as planned. The engines build by Resita and Reghin are nearly "indestructible", so the local workshop should be able to solve any problems.

repair on the track, photo: Bernd Seiler

There are sufficient power supplies for charging batteries. There is not cell phone connection in the forests (luckily).

Health: no problems exist concerning your health. The water from the numerous springs along the line can be drunk without a problem, even the small streams just above the first village has clear and drinkable water. The only serious health risk is if you are not careful around this operating railroad. Jumping up or down from moving trains is not allowed in Viseu de Sus. Getting on or off, and travelling on the train is at your own risk, so take care along the railroad.

For this tour you will need a valid passport. A visa for citizens of the European Union is not necessary. For citizens of other countries please ask the local Romanian embassy for details.

Due to inflation Romania has dropped four zeros from its currency, so one Euro equals about 3.7 Lei (the single denomination being one Leu). The old notes are valid until the end of 2006, so beware when changing the currency. The easiest way to change your money is at the border, but you will not need much: a simple warm meal will cost you 2 Pounds and even an opulent dinner with several courses won't cost more than 15 Pounds.

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, not necessarily to sample the local food, bars or nightclubs.

Please remember that the hotels, busses 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 highly recommended. FarRail Tours cannot be responsible for any accidents.

Most of the pictures shown here are made by Sebastian Trolle in the winter season of 2006.

Registration period ends: 25.12.2006



Narrow Gauge Steam in the Carpathian Mountains from 6 participants £775
25.02. - 04.03.2007 Single room supplement £90

Minimum number of participants: 6
Maximum number of participants: 18

The price includes:

Not included are:

in the passenger coach, Viseu de Sus 2006, photo: Sebastian Trolle


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