The International Steam Pages

Steam in Bosnia and Kosovo, April 2011

Dave Habraken reports on his latest visit. See also Tim Murray's report of a visit just before this.

With 2 Belgian railway friends, we visited Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo between April 9th and April 25th 2011. It was mostly “business as usual”, but now and then with some maybe interesting details.



This mine was visited on April 9th. Unfortunately, they use a diesel engine now. We asked 2 workers about the possibility of steam coming back in service. They both answered, this is very unlikely because of ecological reasons.


After a temporary closure, this mine is active again with 62-633 in action. The active range of this engine is pretty limited but nevertheless, there are some really beautiful opportunities for pictures. The sun seems to be in its best position in the early morning, but as mentioned before, there is a huge potential for night shots here.


62 363 was “in action” but we had to wait 3 hours, just to see it shunting one time. As we arrived here around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the weather wasn’t really promising, we didn’t attempt to get in and just waited at the gate. Some reasonable shots could be made here but this isn’t the most interesting place in Bosnia as the engine only shunts on mine property…

Tuzla area:


This mine was closed (forever, quoting railway staff at the nearby Živinice national railway station), 62-111 is hoping for better days near the loading facilities.

Lukavac Soda Factory:

This factory wasn’t using steam any more…


83-159 is under heavy overhaul

25-30 received a washout during our visit, so this engine is serviceable

83-158 was shunting at Oskova

We paid the entrance fee (15 Euros each) at the office at Banovici, but nobody asked about it at Oskova. Anyway, for this price, we could visit the workshop as well.


In use was 33-248.

The line from Dubrave to Ljubače is definitely the most scenic line for regular steam in Bosnia, even if chimney first trains go downhill most of the way. As said before, they have about 3 trains every day, but times and frequency vary from day to day. The first day, the engine staff asked us about a permit, but when we offered them some beers, no more questions were asked and we were even invited to have a ride on the engine with them. Every time, we pictured a ride, we drank some beers with them in Ljubače and this seems a much nicer way to hang along with them then to give them money. On these occasions, they gave us info about the next ride which mostly turned out to be correct within a range of an hour.


In use were 33-236 (first 2 days) and 33-504 (next 4 days)

The line from Sikulje to Lukavac is very short, but still has some photographic potential. Traffic was very unpredictable during our visit: one day, there were gaps of more then 12 hours between two trains, the next day they went to Lukavac twice in 3 hours! The signalmen in Lukavac are extremely friendly (and they have discovered 'Facebook'), but they can’t predict when trains come out of the mine. The best way to find out about this is to ask the station staff. Their predictions turned out to be very reliable. As long as you don’t enter the mine, there’s no need to pay for a permit here neither. On 2 occasions, (the same) engine staff made it clear that normally we had to pay a fee, but also here, things were arranged by handing over some beers.


As stated before, this very beautiful mine is closed forever…

62-123, 62-376, 62-637, 62-368 and a wreck of a 33 were waiting for the things to come beside the workshop.

Inside, 33-503 was still receiving its big overhaul (however, during our visit, they were not working on this engine). On the second track, 33-064 was getting some maintenance (replacements of tubes, repairing of superheaters,…). Outside, just arrived 33-504 was “chilling”.

The very kind manager received us with a big smile and he tried to help us wherever possible. The entrance still costed 25 Euros. In our eyes, this was a little bit expensive, but as it was the only permit we had to buy for all the visits at the Kreka-locations, we could live with it.



62-670 in service
62-676 cold but in service at the shed
62-636 out of use at the shed

This less visited location is still using steam to haul coal trains every 2-3 days from the loading facilities to the nearby national railway station.

The sun is in its best position in the late afternoon in the factory. For a departure from the station towards the mine, an early afternoon departure would be perfect.

Against our expectations, we could easily gain access just by asking at the gate. We only had to leave our passports behind at the gate during the visit. One of the guards then showed us where the engine was shunting with its cars, but soon he left us alone. We were lucky as a train was supposed to leave in 3 hours. But then, some typical events showing the difficult working conditions in Kosovo took place… First, the loader got some technical problems. When they found a bulldozer to finish the loading process outside (more shunting!), the engine got some problems which had to be fixed in the shed. In the meantime, the weighing facilities also had a technical problem. This turned out to be a computer problem and so they used the steam locomotive to… search another computer at another building on the property. When this didn’t work, I offered my services (I’m a technical teacher) and together with a local technician, we could solve the problem. In the meanwhile, one of the bigger bosses of the company had showed up, as he was getting nervous because of the big delay of the train. He had quite some fun when he realized, a steam enthusiast from Belgium was helping to fix their computer problems!

Personally, I visited this location while taking pictures of the “Big Nose” diesel engines, still in service in Kosovo. Because of this and the fact that we were there on the right moment, our visit to Obilic was very rewarding. If you are only interested in steam traction, this place might be a little frustrating…

General impression:

It’s difficult to imagine that some 1500km from home, there are still steam engines in use. Not for “semi-museum purposes” but for real freight action. 

However, it was not the use of steam which made the biggest impression on me. The Bosnian people, as well as the Kosovarian citizens are amongst the most sympathetic people I’ve ever met. We had a lot of interesting discussions with them about their political situation and the financial difficulties they have to cope with. I truly hope, after all the problems they faced in the past, these people can enjoy some form of long term stability. They deserve it…

Rob Dickinson