Mocanita - we love steam, if under pressure!


© Author: Help for the Vaser-Valley-Railway/Rumania, www.ostgleis.ch, Music: Cornelia and Lupu Rednic, www.corneliasilupurednic.com.

The Viseul de Sus forestry railway (MDR-tv-video, 6 min. 50 sec.), located in the far north of Romania close to the border with the Ukraine, is an outstanding example of technical cultural heritage.  The line is known as the “Vaser Valley Railway” - "vaser" comes from the local German word for water, in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today lovingly named "Mocanita" (pronounce "Mokkaneetza"). Travelling over a network of somBilde 60 kilometers of narrow-gauge track, you will still find wood-burning steam locomotives running alongside several diesels and railcars.  CFF Viseul de Sus ("CFF" is the Romanian abbreviation for Caile Ferate Forestiere, meaning "Forestry Railway") is the last remaining forestry railway in Europe.

The track was laid at the gauge of 760 mm (the standard for narrow gauge lines within the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The line runs alongside the Vaser River with numerous curves, bridges and several tunnels, into a wild and romantic valley, high in the Carpathian Mountains.  The railway opens up a vast area of isolated forest and mountain, without roads or villages but with plenty bears and wolves instead!

The industrial use oBildf timber in the Vaser Valley began at the beginning of the 18th century, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  German-speaking settlers explored the forest, harvested the timber, and transported it in log rafts down the river to the saw mills of Viseu de Sus.  In 1932 the forestry railway was built - an enormous technical advance compared with the rafting.

Forestry railways were widespread across Europe, especially in the Carpathian Mountains. The operating principle was very simple: they followed the rivers, often necessitating tight curves - hence the use of the narrow gauge!  The tracks were constructed so as to enable small locomotives to pull empty logging wagons up into the mountains and to let heavily loaded trains roll down under gravity to the saw mills in Viseul de Sus.

While forest roads replaced the railways in most European countries after 1945, the forestry railways in Romania survived much longer - in 1970 the State-run forestry administration still operated more than 3000 kilometres of railway.  Even as late as 1986 new forestry steam locomotives were being built in Romania, and in 1989 more than 15 forestry railways were still in existence, totalling approximately 1000 kms of line.

The economic changes commencing in 1990 had a devastating impact on the State-run forestry railways of the "CFF".  Within a few years almost all were decommissioned and closed, and their lBildocomotives and wagons were scrapped or sold. Only one of them is still operating - the Vaser River Railway.  Importantly, it still serves its priBildmary purpose - as a forestry railway for logging.

Ever since 2003 the railway system has been managed by the private Romanian corporation: "R. G. Holz Ltd", which is also the owner of the depot area and most of the locomotives and wagons.  However the railway infrastructure, along with most of the forest in the valley, are still State-owned.

Since 2000 the forestry railway has been receiving support from abroad, specifically from the Swiss association "Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn" ("Help for the Vaser Valley Railway"). With assistance from Switzerland, some disused locomotives were restored and put back into service, new passenger coaches were purchased, and the depot and the historic station building at Viseu wBildere refurbished.  Around the station yard in Viseul de Sus, infrastructure is being established that takes account of the increasing demands of tourism in the Vaser Valley.

From 2005, regular passenger trains hauled by steam locos have been in operation for visitors and since 2007 the Vaser Valley has been under European protection as part of the Maramureș Mountains Nature Park.

The future of the Vaser Valley forestry railway is not yet fully assured - there are still many problems confronting it and all the people working there. But this wonderful railway has many friends all over the world and the number is constantly growing! Not least because of tourism, it looks very likely that Romania's last forest railway will haBildve a healthy future to look forward to. 

Regular Steam Trains

Since 2000, regular steam trains for tourists have been running in the Vaser Valley. The trains operate from spring to autumn. Details and schedules can be found in the current timetable.

Steam trains run as far as Paltin station, approximately two hours from Viseu de Sus. In Paltin there is a stop of 1-2 hours before the trains return to Viseu de Sus. For train passengers a catering service is available at Paltin. It is also possible to take a short walk into the Carpathian forest, to visit an observation platform from where visitors can get a view over the Vaser Valley.


 The Vaser Valley - with its length of some 60 kms - climbing from Viseul de Sus to the end of line near Comanu, is rather different from other valleys of the Carpathian mountains. WithBild the exception of a few logging camps, the valley covers a vast area devoid of human population. It is accessible only by railway, along with a handful of logging roads that link key points on the line.

Starting from Viseul de Sus you will see a number of individual houses alongside a rough dirt road for a distance of approximately 8 kms.  At the Novăţ Delta trianBildgle junction the railway branches in two directions: to the right the line runs a further 7 kms into the Novat Valley; to the left the main branch continues beside the River Vaser towards Comanu, with the turning point for regular steam trains at Paltin, halfway from Cozia to Bardău.

If you continue on foot you will discover that the railway line passes through the most spectacular landscape of the whole route between Cozia, Bardău, Botizu and Făina: narrow, rock lined canyons; fast-flowing, sparkling mountain brooks; the colourful wildlife of the mixed forests; and no less than three short tunnels before Botizu station. Located above Făina station, you can visit a small church, built by Austrian settlers and dedicated to the famous Empress Elisabeth ("Sissi").

Some 5 kms beyond the camp at Făina, near Măcârlău station, the railway passes the remains of an impressively large retaining wall. At this point the Vaser River was retained by a temporary dam in order to raft the timber down to the saw mills in former times.

Each time we visit the Vaser Valley - whether as a day-trip on the forestry railway or a longer hike with tent and sleeping bag - is always an adventure.  With dense, dark forests, sun-drenched mountain pastures, lonely railway stations, and bustling logging camps you will discover a fascinating and different world.

The Hotel Train "Carpatia-Express"

The "Carpatia-Express" provides unique accommodation for railway enthusiasts and those who are looking for an unusual experience. The train is positioned next to the CFF railway Bildstation in Viseul de Sus. The train consists of a steam locomotive built in Romania, two sleeping cars and a dining car of the former East German Railway.

The "Carpatia Express" offers more than just railway romance! There are 20 sleeper compartments, each with two beds, with a total space for 40 guests. Only 50 meters separate the guests from the morning steam train into the Vaser Valley. The "Carpatia-Express" is located within the fenced and guarded compound which also includes the CFF railway station. Free car parking is available. Attractive special offers for passengers of the Vaser Valley Railway make an overnight stay in Viseu de Sus an unforgettable experience!

The Restaurant

The dining car of the "Carpatia-Express" is also open for guests without accommodation in the hotel train. An early reservation is necessary.Bild

At the front of the "Carpatia-Express" can be found a historic steam locomotive built at the Romanian factory in Resita (pron. Reshita). It is a later development of the German "2-10-0 standard freight locomotive" Class 150 of the former "German State Railway" (Deutsche Reichsbahn). After the end of World War II the Resita Factory built 282 locomotives for the Romanian State Railway (CFR). This engine is therefore not just an impressive jewel in the hotel train crown; Resita 150.216 is also a piece of European railway history

© Source: Help foundation for the water-valley-train, Verein Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn, www.ostgleis.ch


© Images: www.miguschneeberger.ch, Volker Westphal

Nach Oben / Up 
Last Edit: 25. Apr. 2014