The International Steam Pages

Narrow Gauge in Slovakia 2010, Part 2

James Waite reports on his Summer visit to the Cierny Balog railway, click here for Part 1 (Other Railways and Hungary):

The oldest part of the Cierny Balog system, between Hronec and Cierny Balog, opened in 1909 and closed in 1982. This stretch, about 10km long, was always the heart of what became over the years a huge system, well over 100km long altogether, and reopened as a tourist railway in 1992 together with more recent short extensions north from Hronec to the main line junction at Chvatimech and south from Cierny Balog to an open air museum at Vydrovo. The preserved line is now about 14km long.

There are currently two workable steam locos, no. 3, a small 0-6-0WT (Smoschewer 625/1918) converted from 600mm gauge and no. 2 or U45.903 (Budapest 4280/1916), a much larger 0-8-0T loco which spent its working life on the Povazska Forestry Railway. Smoschewer was a small German manufacturer based in Breslau, today's Wroclaw in Poland. This loco was built for the Austrian army and soon entered industrial service after the end of the First World War. I wonder whether any other of the firmís products survive.

In its heyday the line had several of the 1948-built CKD 0-8-0Tís, two of which are still there and for many people they're one of the most distinctive features of the line. Unfortunately no. 5, the only one to have been in working order for many years, was withdrawn in 2008 in need of extensive boiler work. If Iíd known this was going to happen at the time Iíd have visited the line long before now! Three of the Hungarian M48-type Bo-Bo diesels arrived in 1972 and shared the logging work with the last of the steam locos for the last eleven years before the closure of the system. All three are still there though only one is currently in use and one of the others is just a shell and has been stripped of most of its usable parts. There are also several small 4-wheeled diesels together with no. M21 004, a beautifully restored diesel railcar which once ran at Jindrichuv Hradec and later at the Presov Childrenís Railway. Itís also now home to no. 764.407R, one of the Romanian Resita-type 0-8-0Tís built at the Reghin tractor factory in the 1980ís which is currently on view at Cierny Balog station while it waits for its restoration to begin.

The railway runs most of its trains with a Hungarian M48-type diesel loco and three ex-MAV bogie carriages which we're used to in the UK as the Cierny Balog line sold two more of them on the Welshpool & Llanfair in 1999 and they now run there restored to their MAV livery. The steam train runs only in high summer and is advertised as being an authentic logging train with limited passenger accommodation in an old logging coach. On the two days when I was there the weather was gloriously sunny and large numbers of potential passengers were waiting for the steam train. The railway abandoned the logging trucks and substituted some rather non-photogenic open coaches. Excluding these made for a difficult photographic challenge and Iím not sure that I succeeded that well.

On the first day the Smoschewer was running, the green loco in the pictures. It clearly wasn't in good shape as it dropped off its leading coach, unfortunately the old forestry one, at Hronec, only a couple of km into the trip, and then made a long unscheduled stop for adjustments a mile or so further on . At a loop not far from Cierny Balog it gave up altogether and the crew started to throw out the fire after which the train was rescued by a diesel. The loco has a 4 hours or so layover at Cierny Balog before returning by which time its crew had patched it up and it appeared to haul the return train without further incident. Happily the following day the Budapest loco was fired up in its place, painted black and looking very pretty indeed.

The line offers a good ride through first rate scenery and some interesting old industrial surroundings for the first part of the line around Hronec. The extensive transhipment yard is still intact here along with the large overhead cranes for transhipping the logs onto standard gauge wagons. There's a parallel standard gauge branch as far as a sawmill which is still in use - I saw a mainline diesel venturing very slowly along the line on the first day I was there.

I'd written in advance asking for permission to visit the depot and works at Hronec. The staff were looking out for me and couldn't have been more helpful or hospitable. I can't rate the line too highly. It's well worth a visit just to see and to ride on the passenger trains. It's also a line which cries out for someone to charter logging trains and Iím sure there would be a ready market for them amongst Europeís narrow gauge enthusiasts.

The Smoschewer loco approaching Hronec and Railcar no. M21 004 in its shed at Cierny Balog. Itís normally locked away but the helpful staff here were very happy to open it up for me.

CKD no. 5 stored in the works at Hronec.

View from the train window and an old MK48 loco which appears to have been out of use for many years.

The Smoschewer loco returning to the shed at Hronec at the end of the day and Austrian-type 0-6-2T no. U37.006 at Ruzomberok. It ran on the Ruzomberok-Korytnica line and has been preserved here since the lineís closure in 1974.

These pictures all show No. 2

Raising steam in Hronec shed at the start of the following day outside the shed.

Shunting at Hronec and running under the main line at Chvatimech.

Passing a sawmill on the approach to Hronec and between Hronec and Cierny Balog.

Rob Dickinson