The International Steam Pages

Steam in Bosnia, June 2012

Gareth David writes of another independent bash including local details. See also Mark Palmer's account of a February visit which gives public transport advice. Both have now been back in September 2013 and you can read their update.

These notes cover a self-organised visit to the Tuzla area and to Zenica between 2nd-8th June 2012, and give an update on the most recent reports. In summary, the Class 33 action at Sikulje and Dubrave continues as previously reported, there is one narrow gauge loco used at the Oskowa washery on the Banovici system. At the Zenica mine, 62-633 is undergoing a major overhaul, so there was no steam action here, although its overhaul (62-650 was also undergoing attention in the works) suggests that steam will once again work at this location.

Travel to Bosnia

I travelled with Lufthansa from Heathrow via Munich to Sarajevo. My return flight cost 247 and was booked several months in advance. Cheaper fares may be available, but bookings nearer the date of departure are significantly more expensive.I then had a hire car (costing around 200 for the week) and drove to Lukavac in two hours 20 minutes (it is about 75 miles and a fairly straightforward though tortuous drive on the M18 trunk road). Petrol in Bosnia is significantly cheaper than in England (currently BM2.45/litre = 1.05) and there are petrol stations everywhere, all charging the same price.

The excellent freytag & berndt ( map of Bosnia-Hercegovina is essential for this trip - I had bought mine at the Sandfords bookshop in Long Acre, Covent Garden, London.

I stayed at the Hotel Hayat in Lukavac, which is at the traffic lights on the M4 Tuzla-Doboj trunk road, at the junction for Lukavac. The hotel is modern and comfortable, but rather soulless, and cost BM57 B&B per night - it worked out at about 40 a night including a very adequate dinner with drinks. For a more attractive place to stay, you could head south from this junction for a couple of miles to find one of the hotels on the edge of Lake Modrac.


There is very little English spoken and I relied heavily on my schoolboy German to talk to railway staff and those at the hotels. Two exceptions were Alicic Merim at Bukinje works and a driver on the Dubrave line called Alen, both of whom had good English.

If staying in Lukavac, a friendly watering hole is a bar called Bambino which faces Lukavac Tvornica station - in the centre of town and about a mile south-east of Lukavac station, where the steam loco from Sikulje works to. It seems that around 99% of Bosnian males smoke and there are no restrictions on smoking in bars and restaurants, although smoking restrictions on trains do seem to be observed!

If faced with a day of dismal weather - as I was in a week of otherwise unbroken sunshine - there is a pleasant trip to be had on the Doboj-Tuzla line, which is currently worked by a 643 Class diesel hauling one coach. There are two return trips each day - I travelled into Tuzla from Lukavac on one evening (16.43 ex-Lukavac Tvornica - back by 17.30) and then on the day of heavy rain 10.43 ex-Lukavac Tvornica - Doboj 11.52 / 15.28 - Lukavac Tvornica 16.43).


As previously reported, there are permits available at Bukinje (25.00) and at Banovici (15 or BM30.00). While at Bukinje I was given directions to the Kreka mines HQ nearby in Tuzla, where I was told I might get a permit for Dubrave and Sikulje. However, when I got there I was told that the Director was too busy, and settled for a piece of paper which an English speaking person wrote for me, stating that I was an amateur photographer wanting to photograph steam locomotives. In the event - as mentioned below re. access to Dubrave - I never tested its use with security at the mine!

Lukavac (Sikulje mine)

33-236 was the working locomotive all week. Access to the mine area for photographs was fine on Saturday, when there was no activity, and no evident security presence, but a return later in the week led to a security guard turning me away and saying I needed a permit to enter. On 6 June the loco arrived at Lukavac station at 15.25 with a loaded train and returned to the mine 15 minutes later with a train of empties. All the staff I met at Lukavac station during the week were very friendly, and gave advice on when the steam might appear. There is a good shot to be had from S of the line half-way to the mine - but the loco is just drifting down to the mine here, so don't expect much clag!


During an early morning visit to the works/depot early on 6 June 33-248 left at around 08.20 to replace 33-503 at Dubrave. There was a great shot to be had of the locomotive leaving the depot area and heading towards the level crossing 100 yards south of the depot gates, where the road to the depot crosses the line. In the works were 33-504 for routine maintenance and 33-064 undergoing a major overhaul, which is expected to take another three months. This should mean it then gets a new 3-year boiler certificate, according to my English speaking guide, Alicic Merim.

Alicic says the mines company would like to buy a diesel to work the Dubrave line, as previously reported, but at 2 million for a powerful enough second-hand machine, they cannot afford it, so steam looks assured of a future for the time being! He also mentioned that there was interest from a buyer in the Czech Republic for two of the operational but redundant 0-6-0s (62-123/368/376/637) which stand outside the shed.


To drive to the station here, head S from Tuzla on the main road towards Zivinice (M18), and just after the level crossing on the Dubrave branch, take the first right turn. Head down here for a short distance until you cross the line from Zivinice, then immediately turn right up an un-made road and head up it for about 400 yards, parallel to the Zivinice line until just after its junction with the Dubrave branch. There is space to park here and a path leading down to the railway line.

After a few false predictions of its arrival time by staff in the station, 33-503 arrived with a loaded coal train from Dubrave at 15.45 on 4 June and departed around 15 minutes later. The brief shunting action saw a 661-class diesel loco move of a train of empty wagon at the E end of the station area, then enter a loop to allow the steam loco to couple up to this train of empties before the diesel reversed onto the loaded train from Dubrave and drew it forward to allow the steam loco to leave and return to Dubrave. Waiting here for several hours gives a good impression of the importance of coal traffic supplying the huge Tuzla plant, with a steady procession of trains hauled by 661 class diesels.


In view of the seeming impossibility of being able to obtain the permit which a security guard here (and previously at Sikulje) demanded, it is worth noting that the best vantage point to view steam action is to park under a bridge carrying a coal conveyor belt, about 400 yards west of the mine entrance, then climb up a muddy path and walk down a track alongside the conveyor belt. Workers attending to the conveyor belt are friendly and seem to take it for granted that you are there to take pictures!

A mid-morning visit on 6 June was well rewarded with the sight of both 33-503 and 33-248 in the sidings complex. 33-503 left light engine to return to Bukinje at 10.55 and 33-248 then shunted extensively in the complex of sidings W of the mine.


The only items in the works were the newly-repaired and repainted tender of 83-159 and the frames of a Class 720 diesel. In the yard and all out of use were 83-158/9/181; 25-29/31/32/33 and 55-99. I then went to the Oskova washery, where 25-30 was in steam, and in return for some beer money (10) the loco was moved for me through the washery and shunted up and down the yard - I was also given a cab ride. The standard gauge locos (62-125/677) were both stored out of use.


I stayed at the Motel Almy on the M17 trunk road just north of the town centre. It cost 32 a night B&B but be warned - it is a temperance hotel, so smuggle in your own booze! To find the mine, take the right turn off the main road N of the town, cross the railway line and go straight on at a set of traffic lights where there is a right turn marked "CMK" - which is the Mittal steel works. Continue on for a mile or so, past a big industrial building with the letters ITC at the top of it. You will then pass the two dumped locos (62-003/648 on your right and the mine entrance is a road leading to the right (there is a car park here). The staff are friendly - I had to leave my passport at the security gate - and was later taken to the workshops where 62-633 is undergoing a major overhaul and 62-650 is also under repair.

Faced with a day of no steam action, I took a stopping train from Zenica to Sarajewo which cost just BM9.30 (about 3.70) return. To reach the station, turn left at the traffic lights mentioned above and it is a short distance down this road on the left, with ample free parking in front of the station. Travelling on one of the ancient EMUs is quite an experience. There are very few trains on this line - the one I took was 11.42 ex-Zenica - Sarajewo 13.33 / 19.27 - Zenica 21.09. Be careful at Sarajewo as there are 'No Photography' signs in the station area and I was reprimanded for taking a photo of a tram outside the station!

Rob Dickinson