The International Steam Pages

Steam on the JHMD narrow gauge

James Waite reports on his visit to the Czech Republic in August 2008: Pictures of U 47.001 and U 37.002 in August 2014 have now been added (30th August 2014).

It's an interesting 760mm gauge railway, bought out from the CD in 1998 by 9 enthusiast/financiers whose mission is to preserve it as a working ng rural railway rather than as a tourist-type operation. There are two lines running from the headquarters at Jindřichův Hradec which start with a short section of mixed gauge electrified CD track as far as the outskirts of the town. One runs north to Obratan and the other south to Nova Bystrice, only a couple of km away from the Austrian border and close to Litschau, the northernmost point on the Gmund system. The everyday services on the two lines are subsidised by the regional government. The line to the north has quite a heavy service - 8 trains in each direction all year round which seem to be well patronised. There are several large towns and the stations are mostly well located near the town centres. Several of the stations on the southern line are a long way from the towns they are supposed to serve and the line itself follows a pretty indirect route and so there's not so much local traffic. However it's an area with a growing tourist trade, mostly Czechs from Prague and the industrial cities in northern Czechia rather than foreigners who are thin on the ground. There are 8 trains a day in summer plus two steam runs but only two trains in the winter. The steam runs aren't subsidised but are busy enough to make a worthwhile profit.

I was given an intro to the manager (one of the 9 shareholders) by a Czech friend. He was really good. He took the morning off work to drive me around the line, mainly to see the stored locos (which are locked away) and also to find some phot spots he thought I wouldn't find otherwise as well as buying me lunch. A really kind person and clearly a very knowledgeable enthusiast. One little bit of info he told me was that the railway has been trying to persuade the Banovici colliery company to sell them one of their Czech-built 0-6-0T's but as he put it the colliery is too wealthy and didn't want to sell. However he has recently bought three machine presses from a closed industrial line in the north of the country at their scrap value which is about two more than they actually need. Banovici don't have any but urgently need one and so he's just negotiated a swap - a press for a loco! He did mention also that the railway is about to embark on a major expansion of its workshop facilities so as to be able to carry out full heavy steam overhauls, both for their own locos and for sg locos on a contract basis. Under the CD locos were sent away for heavy overhaul and so they don't yet have all the necessary machinery but are gradually acquiring it as other works etc. are closed.

The railway has two locos in working order. One is a Resita dating from 1958 - the last one to be built. The other is PX-48 1916. The line bought it from Poland 5 years ago. Mr. Satava rates it as much more efficient than the Resita mainly because it's superheated and it onel uses about two thirds the amount of coal. he also reckons its a more suitable loco from the handling point of view as it was designed for passenger use. There are two other locos, U37.002 which is an Austrian-type 0-6-2T (like the ones on the Zillertal) and U47.001 which is a Henschel 0-4-4-0 Mallet tank. They are both original to the line (remember that the area used to be a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire). The 0-6-2T is nearing the end of a heavy overhaul and should be back in traffic by Christmas. They'll need it next summer as the Resita needs major boiler work in a few months' time. The Mallet started life in Serbia, arrived on the line some time during WW1 and never left. It was withdrawn in 1964, the line's last steam loco, and now belongs to the National Technical Museum in Prague. It returned to service in 1992 but has been out of action in need of major boiler work since 2004. The railway has just reached agreement with the NTM for the financing of the work which will begin in about a year's time and will take another year or so to complete.

The service trains are worked by CKD-built diesel electrics which date from the 1950's and are quite venerable machines in their own right. The railway is gradually fitting some of them with new engines. One has been restored to its old CSD livery complete with red star.

Most of the carriages and vans are original except that there are three bogie carriages bought from the MAV. The older ones were built by Ringhoffer of Prague. Some were rescued from use as garden sheds etc. and all needed major reconstruction. There are also some modern bogie vans from the CFR used for carrying tourists' bikes (in which there's visibly big business) and a small business in freight using rollbocke. This doesn't contribute much in financial terms but as Mr Satava said, real railways need to have a freight service and this is a real railway! I saw several service trains with rollbocke attached. The rollbocke themselves aren't fitted with airbrakes but the railway has ten brake compressor wagons built by Czech industry as 1067mm gauge vehicles for the PNKA in Java but never delivered. They have been converted to 760mm gauge and are used with the rollbocke.

The railway has also bought CD's last Edmondson ticket making and printing machinery. They are high capacity machines and they only need them for their own use for about two days each month. They are actively looking for customers in the preservation world. If anyone knows of a line which needs better tickets....! All in all it's an enterprising concern and certainly seems to have a flourishing business. Most of the steam trains were very comfortably full.

The Resita at Cernovice, on the Obratan line.

A post van waits at a level crossing as Px-48 1916 heads towards Nova Bystrice.

 Px-48 1916 at Nova Bystrice.

Px-48 1916 approaching Arber station.

U47-001 in store at Nova Bystrice engine shed.

Px-48 heading back to Jindřichův Hradec.

Px-48 on the electrified mixed gauge section approaching Jindřichův Hradec.

U 47.001 in August 2014:

U 37.002 in August 2014

Rob Dickinson