The International Steam Pages

Autumn Gold - Steam in Romania, October 1998

I have long felt that the Forestry Railways of Romania were my kind of scene and thanks to regular visitor Ian Searle who allowed me to tag along on his recent trip, I finally made it. If you are familiar with these pages you will know that this means working steam locos (preferably on the narrow gauge), friendly locals, minimal hassle with officialdom, no ordinary tourists and, last but definitely not least, good quality cheap beer, all of which were available here.  Despite a third world tendency to dispense misleading and inaccurate information I found the Romanians a pleasure to meet and the trip was far more successful than I could have imagined possible, for which I take only the credit for organising some of the runpasts and the weather which was superb for the first week at least.... Ian had warned me about possible tummy problems which, of course, I ignored as usual and he then promptly set what must be a Romanian all-comers record of 11 visits to the toilet in 24 hours. My only problem was excessively heavy luggage which caused me to pull a shoulder muscle in my rapidly ageing frame, all travel was by public transport unless otherwise stated.

If you are new to the Romanian Foresty scene, you should consider getting the definitive books on the subject.  Contact me and I will put you in touch with the joint author, Hans Hufnagel:

The books "Wälder & Dampf" ( Steam in the forest ) vol. 1 and 2 can be ordered from his address :
Hans Hufnagel
Ackerweg 94
A - 2483 Ebreichsdorf
The price is : ATS (Austrian Schilling) 350.-for one copy, plus ATS 45.-for p&p, (surface mail). He prefers the money as cash (in ATS, U$, DM or Pounds) in a registered letter, ("because all the money transfers by the bank cost too much money for nothing!")

Viseus de Sus before the revolution...

Click here for Greg Howell's report covering a similar period.

Covasna - Comandâu

On arrival in Bucharest on 4th October, the streets were covered in water as the result of days of rain.  However, the morning of Monday 5th October dawned dry but cloudy in Covasna. 

Early morning preparation

Shunting the yard

At 09.30 we found standard gauge N3-404 in steam and narrow gauge 764-405R doing some shunting.  We were 'ordered' onto the brake van for an immediate departure and headed up the line for a couple of kilometres.  The train was then split with half of it being shunted to the sawmill about 500m south.  We took the opportunity to make acquaintance with the loco crew who were as typically friendly as any narrow gauge crew I had ever met although they did firmly insist that a small contribution to the crew's benevolent fund would be a good idea. They then proceeded to give us as many runpasts as we wanted as we rode the loco on the way up to Siclau (and we reciprocated with a refreshment stop), but unfortunately the weather refused to co-operate although there were signs of brighter patches.

Empties near Siiclau

The inclined plane at Siclau was absolutely unbelievable, operated in the same manner as many funiculars.  As soon as it could hear a wagon approaching, the resident horse shunter would appear from its box and with a little bit of persuasion shunt the wagon.  Meanwhile 764-405R took water from a large hose pipe.

Setting out for home

By 12.30, the train was ready to depart again.  For safety reasons, downhill trains travel very slowly and it is not realistic to ask for runpasts.  However, we did stop at the saw mill and by the time the locomotive returned to the man line the sun had come out.  The original load had been runpast the siding by gravity and we tagged the extra wagons on the back. Finally, the entire ensemble was propelled back to Covasna which gave us the chance to photograph the loco facing the 'right way' on a full train.

back from the sawmill branch

Pushing back to Covasna

After a short attempt to photograph N3-404 against the prevailing light, we set off for Comandâu.  This was not trivial as the bus service is intermittent to the point of despair. Eventually a friendly policeman organised a lift and we arrived at 17.00.   All the locomotives were locked in the shed (Krauss 4-6-0T 763.247, Resita 0-8-0T 764.455 and 764.379) and the skeleton staff said that Tuesday would be a 'repair day' and that the next train would run on Wednesday.  We got the distinct impression that none of the branches was still functional and that the only traffic now was cut timber from the saw mill to Covasna.  We then had to wait until 19.00 before we finally got a lift back to Covasna for the night.

I was woken at 07.15 to be told there was not a cloud in the sky.  We raced to the station and found both locos in steam as a slight mist cleared.  We had been told the previous day that there would be no train to Siclau but fortunately the plan had changed.   First N3-404 ran to and fro with some wagons and then 764-405R set off in perfect autumn light, repeating Monday's action. Again the crew were totally co-operative and I found that after just a day and a half of a 12 day trip I had consumed over 25% of my film supply.  It was simply that good!

Romania's last standard gauge working steam loco

On Wednesday, I was dragged out of bed at 05.45 into a car run by one of the shed staff and we got to Comandâu at dawn to find the Krauss preparing a train.  We shot off for a cup of much needed coffee and returned to find it had left. We soon caught it up although it was really too early as the sun was still behind the hills.

Dawn departure

Roadside action

Down through the forest

However, we bagged a couple of shots and then rode the train to the top of the incline.  Along the way we went through the area devastated by the storm which was still being cleared and which gave us an impromptu runpast as the track had to be cleared of tractor mud. We then took a trip on the Siclau incline before moving on to Viseu de Sus on the overnight train. There was no train on the lower section today.

Viseu de Sus

I had been given glowing reports of this railway. Would it live up to its reputation?   Initial impressions were not good.  On Thursday October 8th, Resita 0-8-0T 764.436 was in steam shunting the yard, 764.484 was under serious repair, 764.452 was dead on shed along with another dumped loco (possibly 764.457 from an earlier report?) and there were two more outside - one of which was much older as it had slide valves and Stephenson or Heusinger valve gear (another loco {764.469?} is said to be away in Cluj for major overhaul). Some time after 08.00 a decrepit diesel railcar left along with half a dozen empties.  It was 10.00 before 764.436 got its act together and set off with its load of empties. After a few minutes Ian took me off the train at the first station and pointed down the line.  I  walked for several minutes while the train did its business, but it was soon apparent that in October the sun did not sufficiently penetrate the valley.  The train came past us and we set off for the nearby water stop to rejoin it only to discover it was not in use.  It seemed we had lost our train, but we walked on and some 3km later we found it just short of Novat having taken water and ready to depart. After this, things got much better.  The loco was mercilessly thrashed along the spectacular narrow wooded valley, seen at its best with the Autumn colours. Now and again, particularly when the railway moved to the north side of the river the sun could enter the valley and the crew helped us get some delightful pictures en route to Macirlâu where we picked up our loads of timber. We made it home by 20.00, tired but very satisfied.

Preparing for departure

On Friday, I had a lie in while Ian went off to check on the likely action at Moldavita the following week.  While writing up this report, 764.36 left without us on the empties at 08.45 which smacked of carelessness since this was the second time we had lost it in two days.  However, the diesel railcar left on its end-of-week passenger service at 09.30 so we caught up with the loco at Botizu and missed nothing as the sun had yet to clear the mountains. Thereafter, we did even better than the previous day as the sun angles were better as the train ran some two hours earlier and the loco crew were easily persuaded to perform multiple runpasts in the sun (leaving me to wonder whether it ever rains in Romania).  The journey back took longer than expected as our load of 20 fulls became 19 just before Cozia.  Fortunately, it didn't take long for the log wagons to join the logs in the field.

friendly crewwater stop 1

water stop 2water stop 3

The verdict had to be simply excellent by any standards and unbelievable in 1998.   By now, Ian had run out of film and was living off my cast offs. The pictures will speak for themselves.... On Saturday, there was no train as usual and 764.436 was shunting the yard.  It was now raining.

modern traction?

We returned overnight from Moldovita on the Monday morning.  While we were having breakfast, 764.436 went off with the empties.  While this was clearly not a good habit to get into, it was once again not a total disaster as the diesel railar was to follow with the Monday passenger train.  In the event, it didn't leave till 10.45 by which time we had decided the weather was none too favourable and elected to take a day off after a night on the train .  In the event the loco was back by 15.30, there had been 30 seconds of sunshine all day and rather more rain. The railcar returned about 18.00.  Talking to the crews gave us the impression that the steam locos no longer worked any of the surviving short branches at the top end owing to the condition of the track.

Autumn Gold

We were woken at 07.30 on Tuesday by the sound of the loco shunting.  Half an hour later we were finishing breakfast when we heard it coming again.  I was at least prepared for departure, but Ian finished his breakfast and tied his boot laces on the train.  It would not have been a good train to miss as we didn't see the diesel until 17.00.  On the other hand it rained all day.  This time we got all the way to Coman and we were going well on the way back until we got to Novat where one of the loco spring hangers fractured.  With no jack available the loco was run forward on to a piece of rail leaning on a sleeper mounted on the track.  This eased the pressure on the spring and allowed a 20 minute repair.  Almost as soon as we had restarted we found a tree down across the track, which caused a further delay so we got back at 19.00.

steam in the hills

Wednesday October 14th was a local religious holiday, so there was no scheduled activity. 764.436 was cold and 764.484 was being prepared for duty on Thursday.  A diesel railcar was doing some shunting during the morning.

time to go home

minor obstruction


We had telephone information that the railway would be operating 'normally', but when we arrived it was clear that all normal operations had ceased some time ago.  It was Sunday and staff at the CFR station said the only trains running were specials for visitors.  The locos were all locked away (of course) but the lines to the saw mill were overgrown, the rest of the rails had a layer of rust on them and of the wagons, only one guards van had any sign of recent use.  Ian found the homes of the two most senior railwaymen, but neither was there, so we were unable to find out directly or discover if there was to be a special in the following week.  The best thing about the weekend was the monastry nearby.


We journeyed overnight on Wednesday to Deva and caught the early morning bus here.   The narrow gauge rails were covered in rust and enough grass was growing over them to suggest that no trains had run for at least a month or so.  We didn't have the means to check out the system properly but one of Ian's local friends confirmed that the trains had stopped running and that trucks were being used instead. I hope later car borne visitors will be able to check this properly.


After Brad, we arrived here at midday. The saw mill was working (but not very hard which Ian says was normal).  The connection to the CFR was rusty but not disused.   We found the serviceable loco at the far end of the mill yard cld, next to a pile of wood.  Four other locos (one minus its boiler) were within 200 metres but we were not permitted in.  However, we were told that the steam loco was not working 'this week' because the driver was 'on holiday'.  Being Romania this merely confirmed the obvious and little credence can be placed on this! Needless to say, with a blank day for activity the sun decided to make a reappearance.

mixed gaue loco

Greg Howell Email: also visited just before us, but using a hire car and the services of local travel agents.   If you would like more information on this please contact him directly.

Viseu de Sus

Monday 28th September: 764-436 operational & 764-484 spare (running as 0-6-2T).   Workers train was cancelled due to 436 being required for a charter. Dresina + empty log wagon (for large objects) + open coach + flat wagon (person carrier) appeared to run to Coman, in lieu of workers' train. 484 dep 09:35 and ran with empties to Bardau, returning LE with van/tender. Edmunson ticket purchased for $11 (printed as lei 370, overwritten by hand as lei 900) Viseu de Sus departures were from LC beyond the shed and not the station.

Covasna - Comandâu

Thursday 1st October:  N3 404 was shunting before sunrise (8am), 131-059 OOU but complete at furniture factory, with 2 diesels. 764-405R moved out of shed at 8:00 and started shunting at 9:00. The sawmill is accessible by dirt road (L off road from station to town) or L off road from town to Tirgu Secuiesc at end of houses). Paid some $s for 1 person to ride the train to Siclau and the crew stopped and performed runpasts to order between Hotel Bradul & the incline. Work appears to cease at 15:00.

Thursday/Friday     The incline was OOU due to sleeper replacement above the mid-loop.

Saturday 3rd October:  The incline was operational for SLST's special trains and 6 loads were taken down the incline. The incline boss & riders appear to be based in Covasna - we did not see where the incline brakesman came from. Rough road from bottom of incline to Comandâu was drivable in Escort although all the locals say it is impassable by car! Allow 30-45 minutes to get to Comandâu. Road could be difficult after heavy rain or snow!

Friday 2nd October    The Krauss is the preferred loco & was used chimney first to take workers to the top of incline, dep Comandâu at 7:30 (sunrise at 07:45) and stayed until 15:00 to return them. There were 3 loaded wagons at the top of the incline on Thursday and the Friday train brought 5 more. Paid some $s for 1 person to ride the train from Comandâu to the point where the rail and road diverge. After the divergence, the only position is c2km into the forest at the summit where the trees have been flattened and the train is lit and some width is possible. Just beyond the summit, the train returns into the trees, there is a loop and it drops steeply towards the incline.


Sunday 27th September: Kraus 763-193 0-6-0T in shed following a charter by SLST. The group reported that the 0-8-0T was in a different shed and that there was no sign of timber trains running. The staff reported that they had received a 1 month contract to transport wood towards the end of October.


Wednesday 30th September: Access to the sawmill yard was not possible but the loco shunts into the CFR station car park and so is readily photographable. We arrived at 14:00 (?lunch) and shunting recommenced at 14:30 for 45 minutes. After this the loco returned to the shed for disposal (where 0-8-0T + frames of another 0-8-0T are dumped) and the crews allowed access to the yard from the road bridge until they departed. SG tank loco visible in distance.


Wednesday  30th September :
Contact : Achim Alun, SC Atalierele Centrale, SA Criscior, Str Uzinei Nr 1. Tel : 054 651407/408.

Line OOU as the power station was not operational during the summer and so we hired #8 to Brad and back for $210 with a rake of empties (old style, with low sides). The Marketing Manager rode with us and the railway could not have been more cooperative. The weather was poor and so we delayed everything by taking the crew for coffee in Brad and stopping at a large number of positions. The crew even retreived some high sided wagons from Brad transhipment yard, ran them over the Brad river bridge before returning them to the yard because you can't see that they were empty! Our delaying tactics were rewarded by 10 minutes of sun for the 2 last runpasts approaching Criscior. Return to Criscior was 12:30 after 4 hrs of charter!!

Diesel 764314 acted shunted train on return to the works. In shed were #4 & LD45H-083.

Despite the free coal, the railway appears to prefer to run the diesel. When the power station starts running in the autumn, the railway will be bidding against road haulage and may not reopen. The railway + works keeps going by maintaining the mines' underground stock. Despite reports to the contrary, there are reasonable locations on this line - Brad river bridge and alongside the gold waste tips (which are "landscaped"/grassed and have some trees), from the top of the waste pipes. Access to the lineside "road" and loco shed is from outside the Brad end of Criscior, down the wide dirt track towards the power station. Access to the Brad bridge is by walking down the track from the Peco depot near the CFR station or turn left where the main road from the station into Brad bends right, cross the river bridge (*), past the church and then over the stream before turning left into the stadium car park. Cross the stream by the footbridge and walk down to the river bridge. Access to the line towards Criscior is gained by turning right immediately at (*) , following the line for 1 km and then turning down a dirt just after the line diverges from the road. In the dry this road should be OK in a car all the way to the power stn (- but we bottled out in the dark on the previous evening!). The coal transhipment point for sg/ng in Brad appears to be supplied by road from the coal mine which is c6km out of Brad (- but this was Romanian information!!) The gold mine at Criscior is operating but the copper mine is about to close.

Rob Dickinson