The International Steam Pages

Narrow Gauge in Slovakia (and Hungary) 2010, Part 1

James Waite reports on his Summer visit which actually included a Hungarian element, click here for Part 2 (Cierny Balog):

My first port of call was at Presov station, about 30 minutes drive north of Kosice in the east of the country where I was based. Presov is home to 760mm gauge Mallet 0-4-4-0T no. U47.002 (Hohenzollern 2788/1911). Itís a loco with a long and somewhat chequered history. It was one of several of these locos which started out life in central Serbia and were removed by the Austrians during their occupation of Serbia in the First World War. Between 1921 and 1959 it ran on the Jindrichuv Hradec narrow gauge system in the south of the Czech Republic (todayís preserved JHMD line where sister loco U47.001 is now based). It ended up at the old Presov childrenís railway which has now disappeared and has been preserved at Presov station since 1971. Before leaving Presov I drove to Velky Saris in the northern outskirts of the town where standard gauge 0-4-0T (Krauss Munich 1082/1882) is preserved. Velky Saris's main feature is a huge brewery whose products figure prominently in the Slovakian beer trade.

I moved on to the Pribylina open air museum near Liptovsky Hradok whose main function is the preservation of many old wooden buildings which would otherwise have disappeared when a large reservoir was created nearby in the 1960ís. Itís also home to a large collection of rolling stock from the 760mm gauge Povazska Forestry Railway which ran eastwards from Liptovsky Hradok until its closure in 1971. At the time of the closure the line used three of the classic Budapest-type 0-8-0Tís (two with Stephenson's valve gear, noís. U45.902 Budapest 4279/1916 and U45.903 Budapest 4280/1916 and one more modern version with Walschaert's gear, no. U46.902 Budapest 5278/1942) and a large O&K 0-8-0T (no. U45.905 O&K 5855/1912). At the time of the closure the line was also home to 0-8-0 tender loco no. Kch4-199 (Skoda 2698/1952), one of the numerous PT4-type locos built by Skoda for the Soviet Union. Kch4-199 is one of four of these locos which remained in the country and were never delivered there. It's thought that their numbering may well have duplicated those of four other locos which were delivered to the Soviet Union, perhaps due to confusion of some kind. This one moved to the Povazska line after a working life at the large steelworks at Podbrezova near the northern end of the Cierny Balog forestry line but seems never to have worked there. The loco has been in working order since the move to Pribylina and may still be now. There are also two Hungarian MK48-type Bo-Bo diesel hydraulics, several 4-wheeled diesel shunters, several carriages and wagons and a Skoda car converted into an rail inspection vehicle.

After the closure the Povazska line was the subject of a preservation scheme based at the old depot in Liptovsky Hradok which ultimately succumbed to effects of obstruction during the communist era and more recently to official indifference and extensive vandalism but which ensured the survival of all the locos. In 2001 the preservation society abandoned the Liptovsky Hradok site and moved to the Pribylina museum. No. U45.903 has moved on to the Cierny Balog line and has recently been restored to working order but the four other surviving locos are now at Pribylina along with an obviously elderly 0-6-0T about which I could find out nothing at all. Incidentally the open air museum is well worth a visit quite apart from the Povazska collection. Many of the buildings were rescued and moved there from the site what is now a large reservoir nearby. Mostly they're of old rough-hewn log construction and are well presented without too much in the way of prettying up.

I spent the best part of two days at the Cierny Balog line about 45 minutes drive south from Pribylina and this is covered separately in Part 2. From Cierny Balog I moved on to Viglas, another 45 minutesí drive to the south and the home of another extensive 760mm gauge forestry system. Info about it is sketchy but it's believed to have closed in 1975. The railwayís 0-6-0T no. 2 (CKD 2609/1948) is preserved at the old station where part of the trackwork is intact along with one of the line's coaches and several logging wagons. The loco is one of a series of eighteen similar locos built by CKD after the Second World War. Ten went to the USSR and eight remained in Czechoslovakia. Of these several ended up at Cierny Balog including this one. They're a smaller version of the ten 0-6-0T locos built by CKD for the Banovici colliery system in Bosnia in 1949 where five of them still are.

I then set off back for Kosice via the Miskolc area in north eastern Hungary, not a long diversion and in fact quite possibly the fastest route as it avoids the mountains in eastern Slovakia, and called at two 760mm gauge ex-forestry tourist lines on the way. The first, at Szilvasvarad, is a flourishing concern with large, purpose-built station and staff welfare buildings alongside the platforms and a three-road engine shed a little distance away, all apparently only a few years old. The everyday trains are worked by at least three MK48 diesels and the shed is home to a short-wheelbase 0-6-0T no. 394 057 (Budapest 5785/1949) and a LKM 4-wheeled diesel. I havenít yet managed to find out anything about their history. The staff clearly understood what I had come for despite not speaking any English and happily unlocked the shed for me. The steam loco is in working order and is supposed to work public trains from time to time but I couldnít find out anything about this and so far havenít managed to find any website for the railway.

Next I moved on to the Lillafured line, about 20km away. This is another highly scenic 760mm gauge ex-forestry line also now worked by MK48 diesels and itís also home to another P24-type loco, no. 447.401 (Budapest 7254/1954) which may well be the only survivor of the Kv4ís, the numerous locos of this type built in Hungary for the Soviet Union and one of only six which stayed in Hungary. It has spent its entire life on the Lillafured line. It's another loco that was in use until two or three years ago and may still be in working order now. The Lillafured line was severely damaged by flooding in May 2010 and several parts of the route, including the stretch passing the depot at Diosgyor, are currently closed. The only other piece of motive power at the depot that I could find was the old car-like inspection vehicle. Getting to see the steam loco was quite a challenge as thereís a stern security presence but eventually the security people agreed to let me stay on the site until the train crew arrived to sign off half an hour or so later. They unlocked the very small shed for me where the loco is kept. The main doors are currently barricaded by several sleepers. Thereís no artificial lighting and the only natural light coming in through a crack at the top of the main door so photography was also quite a challenge. Fortunately the shed faces west and as it was nearly sunset there was just enough light but I suspect that it would be well-nigh impossible even to find your way around the shed without a torch during much of the day.

I was woken up around 6.00 the following morning by an end of the world-type thunderstorm but this cleared by mid-morning after which the sunshine Iíd enjoyed for the rest of the trip returned. I spent the morning at the Kosice Children's Railway, a metre gauge line worked by 4-wheeled diesel no. TU29.2003 (CKD 4742/1960) and a beautiful old 0-6-0T (Hagans 174/1884) which was rescued in 1991 after many years static preservation in a heritage park at Spisska Nove Ves some 40km or so north west of Kosice. I havenít yet found out anything about its previous history but itís an intriguing machine with solid disc wheels and Allan straight link motion.

Very informal children's participation - a couple of lads keen to learn the techniques of driving and looking after a steam loco and a couple of young ladies running the souvenir shop (and with a distinct interest in the young lads!) seemed to be about it. Quite different in this respect from the Russian lines! Unfortunately the morning trains are diesel-hauled (something not disclosed in the timetable) and the steam loco only works the in the afternoon and ones. As a result I was only able to see it brewing up and not actually in action before I had to set off for the airport and home. The driver, Lubomir Lehotsky, was a very keen gricer, a most hospitable person and a veritable fountain of knowledge about the Slovak narrow gauge, past and present. The line is very pretty - about 4km long through woods along a steep-sided valley. Well worth a return visit!

Mallet 0-4-4-0T no. U47.002

0-4-0T (Krauss Munich 1082/1882)

 Pribylina open air museum near Liptovsky Hradok

Kch4-199 (left) and U45.902 (right)

U46.902 (left) and U45.905 (right)

The unidentified 0-6-0T

Viglas's 0-6-0T




Rob Dickinson