The International Steam Pages

Steam in Bosnia, 2017

This page covers a trip from 19th to 23rd September 2017, the main body is from Rob Pritchard, if you are familiar with the area, then the original short report from Steve Newman may suffice.

It updates that of  Rob Pritchard in May 2016.

I visited Bosnia for four days during September with Steve Newman (party leader) and Andy Freyne. Terry Wallace helped with the arrangements but he was unable to join us.

It has never been easier to reach Europe's last outpost of traditional working steam. Wizz Air now flies directly from London Luton Airport to Tuzla International Airport. The latter is a former military airfield which is located less than 5km from the nearest action. The 19.15 departure from Luton on Tuesday 19/9/2017 was exacerbated by a 1hr time difference so were just too late to claim our Enterprise hire car without incurring a post-23.00 overtime penalty. Distances from the airport were 4.2km to Dubrave coal mine, 21km further to Oskova separation plant and 7km up a side valley along the former Konjuh forestry railway to the Hotel Zlača where we arrived just after midnight.

Wednesday 20th September 2017

The day started with pouring rain so we opted for an outside inspection of the three remaining steam locations. The narrow gauge shunt at Oskova did not seem to be steam but that must have been because the locomotive was hidden by buildings. A Kriegslok 2-10-0 was working at the far end of at ikulje opencast coal mine where we were shocked to discover that the road leading to the headshunt has been blocked to the public at the river bridge, even though it leads to a station on the parallel FBH line. We did see a tractor and cart allowed through. There is still some photographic access to the other end of this mine and although walking along the FBH from there is probably officially forbidden, that remains an option. Dubrave opencast mine was greatly superior with plenty of accessible steam activity at both ends in stark contrast to last year when we saw none. Today we watched 33-236 shunting empties between 16.05 and 16.26. Mainline Class 661 diesels work into both mines where the Class 33 (ex-DRB Class 52) 2-10-0s are used to spilt or assemble trains, propel the empties under the loader and shunt the fulls.

Thursday 21st September 2017

It was dull but dry so we decided to ride the 10.20 train from Tuzla to Doboj. This is the second of three daily trains from Bosnia's third-largest city, all to the same destination which is in the Republika Srpska autonomous area. They are actually worked from that end by RS, normally using a 2-car DMU but on this occasion locomotive-hauled by 643-002 with two corridor coaches. It must have taken ten minutes to secure a handwritten return ticket for three at a total fare of 34.80KM (5.46 each). During the outward journey we passed Tuzla power station where a small yellow diesel, presumably 797 820, was protruding from the rear of the shed. The coal trains are unloaded there without its assistance. The Kriegslok at ikulje mine was in steam at its stabling point. Doboj is on the Banja Luka - Sarajevo main line and it has a small, attractive station next to a traditional freight yard with tracks numbered up to 37, all spanned by a public footbridge. The depot yard is partially visible and it contained mainly Class 661 diesels and Class 441 electrics. The latter could be seen dumped, on freight, on local passenger and even heading a complete train of new low-slung Talgo articulated stock which stopped for about an hour in the station. We returned on the 15.28 to Tuzla and were amazed when 33-064 passed us light engine between ikulje and Lukavac. Where else in the world can you lean out of the window of a mainline train and photograph "real" steam coming the other way?

On our way back from Tuzla we called at Bukinje Works where the Kriegsloks are maintained. It had closed for the day so we viewed from the adjoining road. 33-504 was spare outside and the usual row of withdrawn locomotives was below the bank (62-123, 62-376, 62-637, 62-368 and a Kriegslok hulk thought to be 33-216). Presumably 33-248 and 33-503 were inside and the 12-wheel Metalna diesel was round the back.

Friday 22nd September 2017

It started wet but soon turned sunny. We headed straight to Banovići Works where the gatekeeper can spot foreign railway enthusiasts word unspoken. Soon we had paid 30KM (15) each for a permit which also allows access to the narrow gauge at Oskova. A guide was provided for the Works and besides the locomotives he showed us the machine shop, the sheet metal shop and the blacksmith shop where batches of crowbars and pickaxe heads had just been completed. Outside, the hulk of 83-181 remained in the bushes near the medical centre and the derelict MIN rail lorry had been moved to the adjoining track. Next were the three spare steam locomotives 83-159, 25-30 and 55-99, all of which were said to be serviceable so there was nothing under repair inside. 25-32 and 25-29 were derelict on another track and further across were 25-31 and a 0-8-2 hulk presumed to be 83-157. Of the diesel locomotives, 740-108 was standing in the yard, 720-002 was receiving attention in the workshop, the spare Class 740 cab had been repositioned outside as a store for air filters, and the part-frame from articulated 740-201 or 740-202 was dumped nearby, the rest of that pair having been rebuilt into the three smaller 720s. 25-33 is still in the museum compound but the tourist train only runs at the behest of the local mayor. All these items are 760mm gauge but standard gauge 19-12 was due in soon for periodic attention.

Our guide confirmed that 83-158 was working so we returned to the Separajia (separation plant) which is the name given to the unloading, storage and transshipment facilities at Oskova. Its duty there is to take over the loaded coal trains in the main 760mm gauge yard, pull them tender-first to the unloading shed, and then draw forward a wagon length at a time so they can be emptied through the side doors. The 83 then pushes the rake part of the way back to the yard and a Class 740 diesel returns them to the mines. 740-107 and 740-113 were active on the mainly double-track main line (single between the two opencast mines) and 720-001 was the spare shunter. We were told that steam is used for shunting except during the summer when footplate conditions are too hot. Presumably traffic is less during the summer as well, allowing one of the small diesels to cope alone.

On the standard gauge, the regular diesel 732-195 was spotted on several occasions during the week but never close enough to read its worksplate. Two tank locomotives were locked in the shed, one of them presumably 19-12 and the other definitely 62-125 which could be photographed by angling a small camera under the back door. 62-677 was derelict just beyond the shed and 144R 03 likewise in the sidings. 

Having done justice to the morning light, we took a break and drove to the loading point for Grivice mine past Banovići on the narrow gauge main line. Only maintenance work was taking place but it seems to be usual to alternate the opencast mines so the missing diesel 720-003 was probably at Turija which is much harder to reach. Instead we returned to Dubrave where 33-236 was working between 12.43 and 14.11, and then investigated the ivinice - Đurđevik branch which was lightly overgrown leaving 62-111 marooned at the mine. By the time we returned to Oskova, the intermittent sun had moved round nicely. 83-158 took a loaded train for emptying at 16.39, 740-107 departed with empties at 16.48 and reappeared with fulls (presumably from the deep mine loading point in Banovići) at 17.50, and 740-113 departed with more empties at 18.00. This was my fourth visit and I have never seen the narrow gauge so busy. As a bonus, there has been extensive scrap metal and vegetation clearance at multiple locations, giving unobstructed views for photography.

Saturday 23rd September 2017 

This provided a mixture of sunshine and floating clouds. 732-195 was working at Oskova and the steam locomotive was puffing along the high level narrow gauge line. We continued to Banovići for an elevated view from the road in case the 83 was about to undergo routine changeover, but it was not. Visits to ikulje before and after lunch produced no sign of activity from the Kriegslok there, but a red diesel from the Coking Plant was working in Lukavac yard (probably the unnumbered Class 732 CDH ĐĐ 1123/1989) and a green diesel was visible inside the site (probably 2, 4w-4wD Baume et Marpent of 1952). Our holiday concluded at Dubrave where 661-308 departed with a loaded train at 13.53 and the Kriegslok looked to be barely in steam. An hour later we emerged from the nearby caf to find 33-236 propelling the empties towards the loader. At 15.02 we photographed it running through the yard and left for the airport where we were due to meet the car hire representative at 15.15, an appointment we kept to the second despite stopping to top-up with petrol. In 4hr 59min from that last glimpse of steam, we were clear of Passport Control and back in "London Luton".

Here are the main costs for the trip based on an exchange rate of 2.125KM per obtained at the bank in the Bingo supermarket building opposite Lukavac cement works. (The Bosnian mark is fixed at 0.50.) The air fare was 25.98 return with a free under-seat baggage allowance of 42x32x25cm. Car hire was 140.61 paid in the UK plus 46.80KM (22.02) post-23.00 collection surcharge. Single occupation of an en-suite twin room at the Hotel Zlača was 45KM (21.18) per night without an evening meal and 50KM (23.53) with, plus a few chargeable sundries and beer at 2KM (94p) for 500ml. Under the new circumstances at ikulje, we did not encounter the money-grubber there. The three-man crew of driver, fireman and shunter at Dubrave were genuinely welcoming and sought only a token gift in return.

Details of industrial locomotives mentioned above, mostly from other sources (all steam with OC)

19-12 0-6-0T Skoda 1912/1948.
25-29 etc. 760mm gauge 0-6-0T ČKD 2529/1949 etc.
33-064, 33-216, 33-236, 33-248 (all ex-J) 2-10-0 DWM 548/1943, DWM 641/1943, Hen 28142/1944, MBA 13830/1943.
33-503, 33-504 2-10-0 DWM 811/1944, Hen 28113/1943.
55-99 760mm gauge 0-8-0T MVAG 5599/1947.
62-111, 62-123, 62-125 (all ex-J) 0-6-0T ĐĐ/1950s.
62-368, 62-376, 62-637, 62-677 0-6-0T ĐĐ 368, 376, 637, 677/1950s or early 1960s.
83-157, 83-159, 83-159, 83-181 (all ex-J) 760mm gauge 0-8-2 ĐĐ 52/1948, 53/1948, 54/1948, 137/1949.
144R 03 0-8-0T Fives Lille 5254/1948.
720-001, 720-002, 720-003 (all 760mm gauge) BDH Banovići/1992, 1992, 2004.
732-195 (ex-J) CDH ĐĐ/(1980s?).
740-107, 740-108, 740-113 (all ex-J) 760mm gauge B-BDH ĐĐ 892/1971, 893/1971, 899/1971.
740-201 or 740-202 760mm gauge B'BDH MIN/1987.
797-820 BDE CZLoko /c.2010.

This is Steve Newman's original short report.

We traveled out to Bosnia by Wizz Air from Luton to Tuzla Airport, 1915 departure arriving 2250, this will be familiar to regular travelers to Bosnia as the old USA Eagle Airbase, recently reopened as Tuzla International Airport. Return flight was at 1655, arriving in Luton a little after 1900.

Fare was only 5.49p each way plus a 15 administrative charge. Car hire 140 for the four days plus a 20 Euro fee for after hours attendance, as the flight does not arrive in Tuzla until 22:50 and the car hire desks close at 23:00! Dubrave mine is only 4.6km from the Airport, so the last real steam locomotives in Europe are that close! 

Accommodation was in the tried and trusted Zlaca Hotel close to Oskovo, accommodation including meals cost around 22.50p a night. So not an expensive holiday. There are only the three locations left with working steam locomotives, so a four day break is all you need really to see and photograph the working survivors, plus perhaps a day to ride the train to Doboj or visit Sarajevo for the trams and trolleybuses there.

The weather, as always in Bosnia, was changeable, it rained constantly the first day, overcast the second, but then we had mainly sunny weather the last two days. We found steam activity to be far greater this year than last, when we actually visited a week later. However, last year the temperature was around 30C, this year only 15C the first two days.

Below is a summary of what we saw and when, by location.

Sikulji Mine

A big disappointment here is that a security post has been installed at the north end of the mine. Before you were at liberty to walk up to the mine boundary and photograph the shunting activity there, but this is no longer possible.

We visited on 20th when the locomotive, later identified as 33-064, was shunting 12-1230, on 21st when we passed on our outward and return journey on the train from Doboj, and 23rd when there was no activity at all around noon.

One mystery was as we passed on the train back from Doboj on 21st there was no locomotive present in the mine. However, we did pass the locomotive working back to the mine half way along the branch to Lucavac Yard. At first we thought there had been an engine change, as we had assumed it was 33-504 we initially saw on 20th, at some distance with binoculars. However, photographic evidence suggest this is not the case and the locomotive on the 20th was 33-064. So why it had ventured out of the mine area we do not know, perhaps it had banked a departing diesel, or perhaps just dropped a crew member off in the yard. A mystery I guess we will never solve. There was a diesel present 20th so it does look like the state railway still works the branch and the steam ban is still enforced.

It does however appear that to photograph the shunting here in future you will need to apply for a permit in advance, cost 25 Euros for one hour!

Dubrave Mine 

Thankfully no problems encountered here with security. 33-236 was the working locomotive. The mine can be accessed by a public road at the east end, and from the conveyor bridge at the west end. On 20th the locomotive shunted the east end of the yard 1500-1530, then went to shunt the west end. On 22nd, 33-236 shunted the east end again 1245-1300, and after the main line diesel arrived at 1321, shunted the west end 1330-1350.

On the 23rd, the day we departed, we called in on the way to the airport. Again the main line diesel arrived 1329, so perhaps this is now a regular diagram. 33-236 then shunted the east end of the yard 1450-1504, when we departed for Tuzla Airport arriving at 1515 having topped up the fuel. Real working steam is that close to the UK!

Banovici Works & Oskovo Separation Plant

You need to obtain a permit here, but you can get one on the day of your visit, cost 15 Euros. Otherwise security is very tight and you will be escorted off the premises as soon as you arrive. We had a guided tour around the works, which include the capability to do most repairs required to the steam fleet. Some fascinating machinery was observed, with staff busy on wagon and conveyor machinery repairs on the date of our visit. For the first time ever there was no steam locomotive present for repair, however as soon as operationally convenient standard gauge 19-12 is due to be moved in for a periodical inspection (boiler perhaps?).

There are four working steam locomotives available, for the first time since I first visited in 2006. 83-158 was working at Oskovo, and due to be swapped with 83-159 on Saturday 23rd, but this did not happen. They appear to rotate the 83s on a regular basis. 25-30 appears to be the second choice spare, whilst 55-99 has been extracted from the museum and returned to working order for the tourist train. Apparently this operates as required by the town Mayor, sometimes for visiting dignitaries or school parties, but to no set schedule.

Also present are out of use 25-29/31/32, the remains of 83-181 off track and on blocks with no wheels, and derelict 83-157 back from display at the old station in Banovici where it had been neglected for years. It has been replaced of course by 25-33 at the new mining museum near the level crossing in the town centre.

Due to the high temperatures in the summer months, one of the smaller class 720 diesels is used on the shunt at Oskovo as traffic is light and the 720 can cope. Last year it had appeared that the shunt had been dieselised, but this is not the case.

During our visit the narrow gauge was as busy as we have ever seen it. Trains from the mine arriving at Oskovo hourly, and 83-158 constantly in use pulling the fulls through the discharge facility before setting back and repeating the move with the next set.

Other Locations 

Rail traffic appears to have finally ceased at Durdevic Mine. The locomotive 62-111 still present but the yard overgrown. The rail connection to the main line at Zivinici is still in but very overgrown in places and would need considerable time/money to bring it back up to an operational standard.

We viewed Bukinje Works with out of use 62s 123/376/637 & 368 plus the boiler & frame of 33-216 lined up outside. Apparently plans to sell the 62s to preservationists in Europe have come to nothing. 33-504 was the spare locomotive outside the works.


It is quite remarkable that 49 years after steam finished on British Railways it is still in use in Europe just a two hour flight away from London. Even more remarkable perhaps is that so few people bother to visit, it seems. There appears to be no great rush to replace steam operation either. Both operators appear to be self sufficient in terms of maintenance and heavy repairs, and there are no fuel costs as they burn what they mine!

So there is every chance steam will continue on and next August we will be able to travel to Europe and celebrate 50 years since steam operation on British Railways ceased by still watching commercial industrial steam in action on normal activities in 2018. 

Rob Dickinson