Rumanian Narrow Gauge Steam & Malaxa Railcars

Romania 15.05. - 23./27.05.2010


Until the early 1990s forestry lines were still common in the forestry industry of Romania. But shortly after the political change one after the other, the lines disappeared from map. Of the last three remaining lines only one is still in use and nowadays it is operated by diesels. They have established a steam operated tourist service, but the locomotives and the coaches are strangers on this line. The other two lines are closed, with only some charter trains running over their tracks. The Moldovita line was almost abandoned, and the parallel gravel road was paved in the recent years. Fortunately they have rebuilt a few kilometres of the line. In Covasna and Comadau, formerly connected by an incline, there are still two shorter stretches of track. On those three lines we’ll arrange authentic steam trains, turning back the clock on these fascinating railways.

The best opportunities for good pictures and videos can be found on the 40-plus km long line of Viseu the Sus. The other lines are not half as long as the water valley line from Viseu, but still offer a good variety of opportunities, and a some very interesting situations for pictures.

A feature of this trip will be a night in the mountains. We’ll visit a forestry log cabin and go to where they cut the timber. The logs will be brought to the railway by horses and probably loaded by hand. This is no longer the usual operation, but it’s how it was done decades ago. So our focus is not only on the line and the steam trains, but also we’ll take videos and photographs of the logging activities from the forest to the sawmill.


As all the equipment at Viseu de Sus runs with almost no regular maintenance, so unfortunately the use of a particular steam locomotive cannot be guaranteed. But we can count on the talent and improvisation of the local crew, and we hope to be able to the equipment we want.

We’ll see different types of locomotives in use. In Viseu we’ll use one of the almost “indestructible” Resita locomotives. For Moldovita and Comandau we need to bring a locomotive of our choice to these lines by a low-loader truck. For Moldovita we can’t take the little Krauss built 0-6-0 tank loco 763 193 which is now employed in Viseu de Sus. This locomotive was the backbone of the logging trains in Moldovita for many decades. The local population doesn’t allow us to bring this loco back to Moldovita, they will hinder the transport back to Viseu de Sus. So we’ll bring probably one of the Resita locos to Moldovita. Resita built 764 449 was many decades in use in Moldovita. We’ll re-number the loco to 449 because this particular locomotive is in a museum in Germany now. Along with the locomotives we’ll transfer three trucks from Viseu to Moldovita to create an authentic looking train. For Covasna and Comandau we choose a recently overhauled Budapest-built 0-8-0 tank locomotive 764 243. We’ll not use fancy passenger coaches or open cars with seats on.

Viseu de Sus

We just can’t say for how long such events like ours will be possible in the Romanian forest. Even some of the railway employees in Viseu don’t like our tours. We don’t even know whether we can execute all planned events as planned, but we will do our best to bring all these ideas to fruition. A landslide, a flood or something like that could easily destroy major parts of a railway. That’s why absolutely nothing in this tour can be guaranteed. If you want to see these fascinating railways you should go there earlier rather than later. On the recent tours it has always been worth taking the chance to be there, and we’ve had good results.

In addition to the forestry lines we added the steam operated line Brad – Criscior. Here we’ve chartered an authentic freight train with a Resita locomotive and about five freight cars, just as it used to be some 20 years ago. The few kilometres long line hasn’t see many changes over the last decades. It’s an industrial line, completely different from what we’ll see on the forestry lines.

Malaxa railcar

Many railway enthusiasts tend to overlook the pre-war railcars, which are still in use on the state railway. Some of the railcars are even older than the steam locomotives! Those railcars where built before and after WW II in Bucharest at Malaxa. Although they were modernised in recent years they still have the charm of the 1930s. We’ll visit their last strongholds and even have applied for a permit to visit the two depots, Arad and Timisoara. There are three different types of Malaxa railcars in use, of which the most remarkable is the class 1000. Those racy railcars remind us of the styling of the old German “”Flying Hamburgers”. They were almost extinct, but the Arad depot repaired two sets of them and scheduled one for regular passenger services. Also the smaller, two axle diesel-mechanic railcars of the class 900 are of interest. For more than six decades they have predominated on the services on some branch lines in the Banat region. Although almost all the railcars got a new livery over the last years in silver/wine red instead of the traditional red or blue/red (classes 750 and 1000) or green (class 900) livery, they’re still well worth a visit and a ride. The lines they are operating are partly equipped with semaphore and wooden telegraphic poles along the line. Countryside station buildings and small level crossing posts offer further potential to photographers and video film makers.






We’ll meet us at the airport of Cluj Napoca around 13.30 hrs (flights with Malev from Budapest), Lufthansa (from Munich) and Austrian Airlines (from Vienna). We can book the flight for you. Bus transfer to Viseu (about four hours), accommodation in private pensions near the depot of the forest line in Viseu de Sus


In the early morning (ca. 6.30 hrs) we’ll steam uphill into the mountains. Today is Sunday, so we don’t need to care about the regular trains and have all time we need for many photo stops and runpasts. Our train consists of a Resita locomotive, a special tender, passenger coach and several empty trucks, just as the normal train used to be many years ago. Accommodation in a basic guesthouse in the mountains above Faina.


In the morning we’ll go further up with our train, as far as possible. After some more photographs we’ll head for a place where the logs are being cut. We’ll follow the route of the logs from the forest to the railway line where we have planned a loading process by horses and manpower. In the afternoon and evening we’ll return to Viseu de Sus, probably with a loaded train.

Accommodation in private pensions in Viseu de Sus


We’ll follow the regular diesel trains with a steam hauled train into the mountains. According to the wagons needed for loading, we’ll drop trucks at different loading points along the line. Today we need to work around all the scheduled diesel trains and railcars and adjust our running times after them. However, some good pictures will be possible as the train stops several times on the way where we can get off and walk a bit forward and await the train at a nice position. Afternoon/evening return to Viseu de Sus. Accommodation in private pensions in Viseu de Sus


Around 7:00 hrs we’ll board our charter bus to Moldovita. On the way to the forestry line we’ll make a stop at one of the famous monasteries. Then we continue to the depot of the forestry line Moldovita where probably an 0-8-0, Resita built tank loco will be under steam for our group. Together with three trucks, we brought the locomotive on a low-loading truck from Viseu de Sus to Moldovita. We’ll run a charter train on the rebuilt track of the interesting line. In the evening we’ll continue to our hotel in Suceava.


The morning is reserved for pictures of the pre-war built Malaxa railcars. They belong to the oldest standard gauge vehicles in non-tourist use in Europe! In the afternoon we’ll continue to our hotel in Covasna.


Early in the morning we’ll go by charter bus up to Comandau. There a real forest train is waiting for us. Hauled by a Budapest-built locomotive we’ll go with empty truck into the deep forest. At a suitable place we’ll load these trucks with logs from a lorry. While the non-authentic loading process will take place we’ll enjoy a picnic in the forest and wait for the better afternoon light. In the afternoon we’ll return with a loaded logging train to Comandau. Hotel in Covasna.


Ovenight we brought the Budapest loco down to Covasna by road. Our little train will run a very few miles on the flat stretch of the railway. Around 10 hrs we’ll continue by our charter bus to Brad. On the way we’ll stop in Sibiu and visit the local railway museum there. After lunch we’ll make a short city tour through the interesting historic center of Sibiu before we’ll continue to our next hotel in Brad.


In the morning we’ll take a Resita locomotive and about five freight cars from the state railway station in Brad to a factory in Criscior. Many photo stops and run-bys are planned with our truly authentic train. In Criscior we will end our steam program. You can either take the bus to the airport of Timisoara or continue with the Malaxa-railcars, a sight which is overlooked by many rail enthusiasts. We start the railcar part of the tour with a visit to the railcar depot in Arad. In the evening we’ll continue by public train to Timisoara.


Today we’ll focus on line shots of the more than half a century old railcars of the depot at Arad. Arad is still using the roundly shaped, racy railcars of class 1000. They look a bit like the 1930s German “Flying Hamburger“. It’s almost impossible to chase these railcars by bus, but we’ll get several pictures because we will have got the complete roster and operating schedule for Arad’s railcars the evening before. In the evening we’ll return to our hotel in Timisoara.


From today we’ll focus on the two-axle railcars, class 900, on their line in the Banat. The area is rather flat but offers dozens of nice positions with wooden telegraph pools along the line, semaphores, old country station buildings and so on. Hotel in Timisoara


In the Banat there are still many lesser lines, which see some passenger trains, many of them are these little, anachronistic diesel-mechanic railcars. Hence we’ll spend another day along their lines and enjoy the rural scenery. Hotel in Timisoara


In the morning we’ll visit the railcar depot of Timisoara. Afterwards you still have time for a tour through the historic city centre (which is well worth the visit) before we’ll take our charter bus for a transfer to the airport, where we’ll finish out tour.


Line description and tour details

On this tour we’ll visit a place where logs come from. This requires some walking through the forest or recently deforested areas. At this time it is not possible to say where this will be or how far we need to walk to get to the logging site. Just be prepared for a walk of perhaps up to two miles. If you don’t want to see the cutting in the forest you can also wait at the railway line where the cut logs will be probably brought by horses.

Viseu de Sus, Suligu

The narrow gauge forest railway of Viseu de Sus is the last remaining one in operation in Romania. Besides diesel engines, steam locomotives are still serviceable, mostly the Resita-build 0-8-0T or their Reghin-build counterparts. Besides them two more interesting steam locomotives are in running condition. One of them is the 0-8-0 Orenstein & Koppel-built tank locomotive 764 211 and the other is 763 193, an 0-6-0 tank engine with an inside frame build by Krauss in Munich. It came to Viseu de Sus from the forest railway at Moldovita after it closed. Steam is not used on a regular basis any more, but still kept as spare to diesel.

The main line starts in Viseu de Sus at the large sawmill and runs steadily uphill for 43 km to Coman at the Ukrainian border. There was also a branch line to the east into the Novat valley of which only a small part is still usable. Both lines offer plenty of opportunities for good pictures. On the main line there are three tunnels very close together.

forestry line Viseu de Sus

Not only is the landscape something special, the trains in themselves are also noteworthy. We will try to make up authentic trains, as they ran in the eighties, when the line belonged to the state run forestry railway CFF (Caile Ferate Forestiere) and when it was worked by steam locomotives exclusively. In 2009 only two conventional working passenger coaches existed, both painted blue. We needed to pay for the overhaul of one of the coaches to have it available for our trains in 2009. It cannot be guaranteed that we can get one of these original coaches for our train, but we’ll try. Beside locomotive, tender and passenger coach we’ll carry several empty trucks for the logs uphill to the loading points. Sometimes there are forestry tractors or other machinery that needs to brought up into the forest. This equipment will be carried by the railway as well. We don’t have a direct influence on the train dispatching, but our chances to get an authentic train behind the locomotive are rather good on the Sunday and Monday. The next day we’ll take what’s available which has been in most cases on our previous trips, authentic as well.

loading logs

At the intermediate stations, with unplanned stops (to raise steam pressure or get one of the log bogies on the track again) and stops for taking on water, we will have the opportunity to take pictures of the train and its surroundings. Lots of shunting activity can be seen as they leave the log bogies at the loading points. In addition we’ve planned some runpasts along the line.

But remember, everything about the tour is unpredictable. Please expect delays, shortages of wagons and couplings for the wagons, derailments, inaccurate or no information and so on. We’ll try to sort all these things out in advance, but experience tells us to expect nothing to be ready for the unexpected. However things usually work out in a very satisfactory way. So it will be the same as on our last trips: we’ll need to arrange things on the spot, try to get the wagons we want and find the best opportunities together with the local railway staff, who will be has helpful as they can be.

We’ll try to get a loaded train to bring it down to the sawmill in Viseu de Sus. However, there is a remarkable resistance to do this and only if all the required people will work together we’ll have a chance to get a loaded train. It also depends on the convincing skills of Michael Schneeberger who is arranging everything in Viseu. We have no real influence on the decisions of the railway.


Moldovita was a really nice forestry line. In its last years of operation they used a Resita (764 449, now in a railway exhibition in Augsburg/Germany) and the 0-6-0 inside frame 763 193 locomotive from Krauss/Munich. The small engine was not only the main attraction of the line, it also was amazing what this little, 50 hp engine was able to pull and push uphill over the steep gradients of this line. It’s a little miracle that this unique engine survived and is still serviceable. The forestry line was closed and abandoned under doubtful conditions. Only because of a few railway enthusiasts, in particular Georg Hocevar, that the remains could be preserved, and with the help of other railway enthusiasts a part of the lower section of the line could be refurbished. The length of the line was reduced to two kilometres just before they started to save and preserve it. Now they have rebuilt the first six kilometres and there are hopes that there will be eight kilometre available in 2010.

We’ll make a visit to the depot where our loco will get fired. Along the line we’ll pass several old-style wooden houses. The parallel road was partly paved in the recent years, only on the last kilometres is still the once so typical gravel road beside the line. The pictures next to this text however, are from “better times”, I mean photographically better times.

Moldovita in Autumn 1993

We’ll use the Resita loco, renumbered to the once Moldovita-based 764 449 and the three trucks we brought from Viseu to make our train a nice, authentic looking one.

Covasna and Comandau were part of a forestry line, connected by an incline in Siclau. In Comandau several lines headed into the forest. One of them was used until ten years ago. But after the sawmill in Comandau was closed, the railway lost its major contractor and was closed as well.

Comandau, departure Benedec

What remained is a seven kilometre long track into the forests from  Comandau (Komandó) on the way to the pass at Holomu (Halom). The line ends near the old loading point at Cumpana. On this section you will find many nice positions for pictures, especially in the chilly morning air. The altitude u is about 1000 metres above sea level, so there might be even a residue of snow in mid-May. Close to the current terminus of the railway we’ve arranged trucks, which will load their logs on our wagons. During the loading process we’ll enjoy a picnic in the forest and later return with a real logging train to Comandau.

Our locomotive will be probably the Budapest-built 0-8-0 764 243.


Overnight we’ll transfer our locomotive by a low-loader truck from Comandau to Covasna (Kovaszna). There we’ll use the loco on the remaining bit of the line for a short charter train with logging trucks.

Brad – Criscior is a short industrial line from the state railway station in Brad to an industrial complex for repairing and construction of railway and mining equipment and railway vehicles in Criscior. The line leaves the state railway in a curve, passes a river bridge and follows along a small road in a populous area. In some places, a large industrial pipe is parallels the line, as was the situation 25 years ago. The scenery in this part is really ugly, so ugly, that it becomes photogenic again! But in the first part of the line you can make some nice countryside shots, so don’t worry too much. We formed a train out of about five coal hoppers and the local Resita locomotive. This train composition was used for many years in regular service.

Brad - Criscior, photo: Hans Hufnagel

Although the state railway purchased new railcars and lost some of the branch line operation to competitors, the fantastic Malaxa railcars are still active. In the last few years some of them have been overhauled or got new diesel engines, and virtually all of them got a new livery in dark read/silver. This hints of a planned longer use of these veterans. The Malaxas are spread all over the country in minor numbers, but there are two centres of operation: Timisoara and Arad. Both depots serve lines in the Banat in the south-western part of the country. The railcars of Arad also approach the Carpathians. Shortly before our tour we’ll get the current timetable for the railcars and will adjust our daily schedule according to it. For both depots we have requested a permit.

Malaxa railcar in Finis

The landscape in the Banat is flat, but there are many interesting spots some featuring old wooden telegraphic poles along the line or semaphores on small gentries.

Suceava has a rather small railcar operation. But there can be found a number of good spots along the lines.

Chasing railcars by bus is rather hopeless, road conditions are far from west European standards and the roads are not necessarily parallel to the railways. We’ll be better going from one to another train, using the timetable we have by then. This way we’ll get some good shots over the day.


Small Print

Romania is a new member in the European Union. This has brought a lot of change to the country. But in the small villages along the lines we can still experience the traditional Romania and its hospitality. Serious crime is almost unheard of; our accommodations are either family run or nice basic middle class hotels and all offer a warm shower and reasonable, good food. The night spent in the mountains is in basic accommodation, which is clean with basic cold washing facilities. It’s not certain that the lavatories in the building will be operable, so we may need to use the outside lavatories. We’ll stay in big, simple rooms, there are no single rooms available for this night.

Malaxa railcar

The use of a specific locomotive cannot be promised on any line we’ll visit. In Viseu we will use steam engines for the regular trains depending on their availability. As the company is running the engines and the rest of the rolling stock without proper maintenance, we don’t know which steam locomotives will be operational. The engines build by Resita and Reghin seem to be almost “indestructible”, so the local workshop should be able to solve any problems. For the unique Krauss locomotive in Moldovita and the Budapest in Comandau we’ve no substitution. If one of these locos fails we can’t offer another one. Because of the high costs of  bringing the locomotives to these lines there is also no refund possible if something goes wrong and steam operation can’t be delivered.

On this tour we have planned several events which can’t be guaranteed in any respect. Neither the horses nor the manual loading process, the number of wagons or a specific locomotive can be guaranteed.

Viseu de Sus, near Glimboiaca

In our pensions and hotels are sufficient power supplies for charging batteries. However, in our accommodation in the mountains there is probably no power supply available. In addition, there is no cell phone signal in the forests (luckily).

Health: no problems exist concerning your health. The water from the numerous springs along the line in Viseu can be drunk without a problem, even the small streams just above the first village have clear and drinkable water. The only serious health risk is if you are not careful around an operating railroad. Jumping up or down from moving trains is not allowed in Viseu de Sus. Getting on or off, and travelling on the train is at your own risk, so take care along the railway.  Wear good sturdy shoes.

For this tour you will need a valid passport, EU citizen only a valid ID card. A visa for citizens of the European Union is not necessary. For citizens of other countries please contact your local Romanian embassy for details.

mishap in Comandau

You’ll need little  money in local currency. Food, which is not included, and beverages are rather cheap. For our trains in Viseu you just need £8 if you want to take the opportunity of having coffee and beer aboard the train in Viseu the Sus. This £8 would cover the drinks on the train in Viseu de Sus for all three days. Please expect that there won’t be coffee on the train on every day, especially the second day.

The tour is planned with the dedicated photographer and video filmmaker in mind. The itinerary is designed for those who think it more important to get the perfect shot, not necessarily to sample the local food, bars or nightclubs.

Please remember that the hotels, buses and the forest railway itself do not necessarily conform to current EU-standards. That’s exactly one of the reasons why we are going there. Safety and environmental standards are still not fully developed so a word of warning: Please beware of the dangers in and around the railway and other modes of transportation. An accident and health insurance policy covering foreign countries is absolutely essential. FarRail Tours cannot be held responsible for any accidents, delays etc.

Krauss built loco in Viseu de Sus (Novat valley)



Viseu, Comandau & Moldovita 15 to 26 participants £1,470
15.05.2010 – 23.05.2010 12 to 14 participants £1,580
  Single room surcharge £105
Registration Deadline: 10.02.2010
Malaxa Railcars in Romania 7 to 30 participants £550
23.05.2010 – 27.05.2010 Single room surcharge £60
Registration Deadline: 10.02.2010

The price includes:

Not included are:

Brad - Criscior, Photo: Johann Hufnagel

Morning mist in Comandau


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