Gareth David has written of his latest visit to Bosnia, many of the local
arrangements are given in his previous account
from June 2012. Click here for the 2013 account.
First though is Mark Palmer's account - he was with Gareth for part of the
trip. You can read about his previous
visit in February 2012.
Mark Palmer writes:
In September 2013 I made a second visit to Bosnia to see steam activity at the locations where I hadn't seen it before, plus any repeat visits that
could be fitted in. This report is designed to be read in conjunction with previous ones (mine and other people's). To summarise what Gareth David hasn't already said, class 62 0-6-0s are still in use at Breza and Zenica, including trip workings to the main line at Zenica. The loco at Breza appears to be an original American-built example.
Monday 23rd September:
Arrived in Sarajevo by train from Zagreb (replaced by a bus for the first hour or so of the journey due to track upgrading work), arriving about 50 minutes late. I was visiting Sarajevo first after deciding not to risk the 23-minute connection for Tuzla at Doboj, although in fact the train was only about 30 minutes late at that point and the connection appeared to have been held. Two nights at Hotel Grand
(http://www.booking.com/hotel/ba/grand.en-gb.html) -- not as grand as the name would suggest (only 53 marks per night), but quite satisfactory, and convenient for the station (about 10 minutes round by the road, or 2 or 3 minutes by a rough and unlit path). This means it's a bit of a trek from the interesting part of the city, but trams run from outside the station.
Tuesday 24th September.
Breza. 12.00 stopping train to Podlugovi. Station names usually appear only on the station building, so keep a close eye on where you are; it might be useful to sit at the front of the train. To get to Breza on foot, come out of the station, turn right, and turn right again (signpost) just after the level crossing; it's maybe 40 minutes brisk walk. Do be careful, though, as it's a fairly busy road (including lorry traffic), most of it has no pavement and much of it doesn't have much of a verge or shoulder either.
Approaching Breza, you cross the line leading to the mine; if you plan to try and gain entry to the site, you'll come to the entrance further along on the left, but otherwise the best viewpoint can be reached by turning left before that along a small road between houses which brings you to a level crossing with a clear view of the sidings. You have a somewhat distant rear view of the locomotive, but shunting brings it closer at times. If you carry on up the hill a bit and turn right when there's an opportunity, you have a view down over the site from a similar distance, although when I was there the loco was partly hidden by parked wagons. I reached this point by walking anticlockwise round the whole site, but apart from a brief glimpse of the loco between buildings there wasn't much view from anywhere else.
I was at the level crossing from about 13.40 to 16.40. There was a little shunting early on, followed by a long pause. Most of the action
occurred between about 15.15 and 16.00, with the loco passing my vantage point a few times, sometimes with long and heavy rakes of wagons. I didn't see an obvious number, but it was lettered as belonging to Kakanj, and had straight
steam pipes which if Wikipedia is to believed are a sign of an original American-built member of the class -- I presume it was 62-020 as reported by a previous correspondent. It didn't sound very healthy.
I walked back to Podlugovi and got the Zagreb-Sarajevo train (only about 10 minutes late) back to Sarajevo -- this train does stop at Podlugovi notwithstanding what the August Thomas Cook timetable shows. My ticket cost about 3 times as much as the outward journey (there was a supplement for using a fast train and another which I presume was for buying on board), but was still cheap by Western standards.
The timetable in the Sarajevo bus station shows buses to Breza (taking about an hour) at 10.30, 13.30, 14.30, 15.15, 18.30 and 19.30, and back again at 05.45, 06.30, 15.05, 16.30 and 18.30, but this may not be the complete service (Vares, further up the same road, appears to have more buses). There appear to be local buses between Breza and Visoko, but I don't know how often.
Wednesday 25th September.
Zenica. 07.09 stopping train to Zenica. Contrary to what is shown on the Freytag and Berndt map, the station in Zenica is west of the river in the northern part of the town. To reach the mine, come out of the station, turn right for a few hundred yards, and then turn left at a crossroads. This brings you onto the route described in Gareth David's June 2012 report -- this crossroads is the one where he advises motorists entering the town from the north-east to go straight on rather than turning right (NW) towards the steelworks.
According to the Bradt guidebook, Zenica does have a picturesque old quarter, although you wouldn't guess this from the grey concrete which appears to predominate. A few of Zenica's stray dogs are rather bolder than their counterparts elsewhere -- after being barked at fiercely when trying to cross the road near the mine, I was glad that, having spent the first half of my holiday walking in the Austrian Alps, I had a trekking pole handy to wave at any that came too close.
The man on the gate at the mine indicated that the steam loco was working but I couldn't come in to see it. There doesn't seem to be much scope for seeing into the site from outside, although I didn't search exhaustively; the level crossing by the dumped locos gives a view of a small part of the yard which the loco might cross when shunting, but after a few minutes there I noticed a railwayman who said that it would be coming over the crossing in a few minutes (it was now about 10.00). 62-633 (facing south) duly appeared propelling a long train northwards and (after a pause a little way up the line) out of sight. Another staff member indicated that it would be coming back in an hour; in fact it was about 90 minutes before it reappeared with empty wagons and stopped a couple of hundred yards away. Staff informed me that it would be staying there for a while; in return for some beer money I was made very welcome and invited to visit the footplate before the train moved on into the mine area at about 12.15, giving me time to walk briskly back to the station and buy a ticket before getting the 12.39 to Doboj and changing there for Tuzla. In Tuzla I stayed in the Pansion Rudar as in 2012.
(The timetable in the Sarajevo bus station indicates buses to Tuzla at 10.00, 10.30, 11.30, 12.30, 13.30, 14.50, 16.00, 18.00 and 18.50, and vice versa at 05.00, 05.30, 06.00, 07.00, 10.00, 11.45, 13.00, 14.30 and 16.00, with a journey time of about 3 and a quarter hours.)
Thursday 26th September.
I visited the tourist office in Tuzla to get bus times; I think the lady on duty was the one who didn;t speak English when I last visited, but she appeared to have learned a little. They don't have timetables to hand out but, at least for the main Tuzla bus company, they can copy out information from a booklet giving the times when the buses leave their starting points. This means that you have to estimate when buses back from Dubrave (route 11) pass there, but at least I had an idea of frequency (roughly hourly with a few extras). For Durdevik, I was advised to get a bus to Zivinice and change there; if I remember rightly the Zivinice bus station is served by local buses (unlike that in Tuzla) and so would presumably have timetable information. Long-distance buses to and from Sarajevo use that road, but I suspect they wouldn't stop at Durdevik.
Sikulje: I then took the 10.20 train to Lukavac, where one of the station staff spoke a little English and said that the steam loco would be coming in about 30 minutes, which proved to be accurate. Once it had arrived and (soon afterwards) departed, I walked westwards; as I'd found previously the south side of the line gave only limited views. The 'coal rustlers' cause no trouble to loitering railway enthusiasts -- I exchanged an amicable 'dobar dan' ('good day') with the one pair I passed close to -- although I suspect they might not wish to be photographed at close quarters. The mine approach road gave a much better view of the sidings, although by this time shunting had ceased and the loco was standing some distance away.
Some time in the early afternoon, while I was wondering whether to wait for more activity (there was a line of loaded wagons in the yard) or walk to Lukavac for a bus to Tuzla, I bumped into fellow internationalsteam.co.uk correspondent Gareth David. We asked the station staff when the loco would be returning and they said that it wouldn't be until 8 p.m., so Gareth gave me a lift back to Tuzla.
Friday 27th September.
Durdevik and Dubrave. Thank you to Gareth for providing transport to these locations, and for the information about the train on the Durdevik line. It's satisfying to make your own way to places without using a car, but I did see more action on this day than I would have done on my own. I won't repeat what Gareth has already said, but I'll add a few more points:
The distance from Zivinice to Durdevik could be walked if necessary. I was doubtful about the safety of walking on the main road, but my impression from being driven along it was that on the whole there was room for pedestrians to keep out of the way of the traffic -- be careful though. I don't think you can see much of the Durdevik site from outside. If you know when there's a train to Zivinice you could just see it at that end (for example at the level crossing near the junction with the Banovici and Zvornik lines), but if you don't know the times you might have a long wait!
There appears to be a bus service on the Zivinice-Dubrave road.
We paid a brief mid-morning visit to Sikulje where the staff said that they expected a train around 14.00 or 15.00.
Saturday 28th September.
Train to Doboj in the morning, and in the afternoon on to Zagreb. Arrival was about 40 minutes late, which would have left about half an hour for the connection into the overnight train to Munich (although I had decided at the planning stage not to risk this). If you need to spend a night in Zagreb, the youth hostel
(http://www.hihostels.com/dba/hostels-Zagreb-021008.en.htm) may be useful; although obviously more basic than a hotel, it's adequate, clean, cheap, and very conveniently located for the station.
Some general points:
The satellite/aerial view in Google Maps is useful for getting an idea of the local geography around the steam locations.
It seems that whether or not you can gain access to premises depends on which individual staff you meet, so it's probably usually worth asking, but not being surprised if the answer is 'no'.
If staff tell you when a steam train is expected, it's probably wise to be ready well before the expected time -- at both Durdevik and Dubrave on 27th September the trains ran significantly earlier (more than an hour in one case) than we had understood them to be due.
Timetables: I used the last-ever Thomas Cook timetable, supplemented by observations of timetable posters at stations. If the Cooks timetable isn't revived in some form as is hoped, and you need to rely on Internet sources, note that the Deutsche Bahn journey planner doesn't cover Bosnia fully -- it appears to show only the international trains to/from Zagreb and Ploce, and doesn't show all the intermediate stops for those. On the ZFBH website at
you can get lists of arrivals and departures (in train number order) for each station in Bosnia -- you'll probably need to look up your departure and arrival stations to get the full picture. Stations in both parts of Bosnia (and some in other countries) are listed, but don't rely on trains being listed if they don't run on ZFBH for at least part of their journey. The Republika Srpska Railways have a similar system (go to
http://www.zrs-rs.com/ and click on 'Red Vozjne'), but it lists only their own stations, doesn't have an English interface and doesn't indicate that any of the trains east from Doboj continue to Tuzla -- the ZFBH site has all the trains likely to be of use for reaching the steam locations.
Language: People have successful visits without knowing any of the local language, but I find it useful and interesting to know a few basics. Anyone who has learned any Polish when looking for steam locomotives there will notice the similarities. It might be useful to have a notepad and pen handy for people to write down answers such as when a train is due. I don't know of any learning materials for Bosnian specifically, but Croatian phrasebooks are easy to find, and a Bosnian-born colleague tells me that they are
essentially the same language (the few significant differences include the words for 'train' and 'toilet', which are 'voz' and 'toalet' respectively in Bosnian rather than 'vlak' and 'zahod' as in Croatian). Useful words not in my phrasebook include 'razgledati', which means something like 'view' or 'sightsee' and is the word I used when asking if I could visit premises, and 'parna lokomotiva' which means 'steam locomotive'.
Gareth David writes:
These notes cover a visit to the Tuzla area between 24th - 28th September 2013, and give an update on previous reports. In summary, the Class 33 action at Sikulje and Dubrave comprises an average of two return trips per day at each location. At Oskowa washery on the Banovici 760mm system, the working loco was 83-159, while at Durdevik 62-111 is working at the mine and makes trips to the interchange at Zivinice on certain days (looks like 2-3 times per week).
Travel to Bosnia
Having discovered that Wizzair had launched a twice-weekly route from Basel To Tuzla earlier this year, I flew easyjet from Gatwick to Basel, spent the day in Basel and then took the Tuesday evening Wizzair flight to Tuzla, where I had arranged a hire car. The return flight (Tuesdays and Saturdays only) is in the evening and requires an overnight stay in Basel before a morning flight back to London. I can recommend the Captain Hotel, only 5 minutes from Basel Airport and with a free shuttle connection to the airport.
Booking well in advance, my two return flights cost a total of £156.00. While in the Tuzla area, I stayed at the excellent Senad od Bosne hotel on the shore of Lake Modrac, around 3 miles south of Lukavac (single room €38.35 bed and breakfast). It is a wonderful location - the rooms are very comfortable, with a view over the Lake, and the restaurant food is excellent.
No change in the price of permits at Bukinje (€25.00) and at Banovici (€15 or BM30.00). I did not try to get a permit to visit the two Kreka mines after my English speaking guide at Bukinje seemed to imply that getting one was not simply a matter of going to the mines HQ nearby in Tuzla, and could take several days.
The two locos in the works were 33-236 undergoing a major overhaul and 33-503 in for minor repairs. 33-064 was the spare locomotive, standing outside the depot. The four redundant 0-6-0s (62-123/368/376/637) also remain outside the shed waiting for interest from any would be buyers.
Lukavac (Sikulje mine)
33-504 was the working locomotive all week, but its operating times seem to vary on a daily basis - I noted it working from the mine to the exchange sidings at Lukavac at 15.45 on 25th September, 11.00 on 26th September and 13.10 on 28th September. Each loaded train arrives with around a dozen coal rustling gypsies on board the wagons, who chuck coal onto the track during the five minute trip from the mine and then wander back untroubled by any security presence to gather it up! Security at the mine did not allow access to photograph the locomotive but, by contrast, the staff at Lukavac station remain very friendly and well-informed about the steam running times.
33-504 heads a train of empty coal wagons from Lukavac to the nearby Sikulje mine:
33-248 was the working loco all week and was noted leaving the mine with a heavy coal train at 12.25 on 25th September and 14.15 on 27th September. As I commented last year, the best vantage point to see shunting/departure from the mine can be gained by walking along the track adjacent to a coal conveyor which crosses the road about 400 yards west of the mine entrance. Security at the mine entrance here would not allow access when asked on 27th September, but the official did advise of the train’s next departure time. The loaded trains take around 20 minutes to travel the three mile branch to
33-248 heads a loaded train from Dubrave mine to Ljubace on 25th September 2013:
Having been given the name of the mine’s technical director while visiting Bukinje, I was admitted to the mine on Wednesday, 25th September, where 62-111 was in steam and shunting. I was also told that it would be making an early morning trip up the 4-mile branch to Zivinice early on Friday morning (27th September). This proved accurate and it made a splendid sight storming south from Zivinice at just before 08.30 on 27th September with a long train of empty coal wagons (the loco faces south, so is chimney first running back to
62-111 shunts at Durdevik mine on 25th September 2013:
Under major overhaul in the works is 83-158. In the yard were 25-30 and 55-99 (out of use) together with 83-181; 25-29/32/33 (all dumped) and 25-31 dumped at the nearby level crossing. At the Oskova washery, 83-159 was in use, but there was no sign of any activity on the standard gauge locos.