Plank Train and Forestry Steam

Steam on Narrow Gauge State Railway, Industrial and Forestry Lines in Romania 01.10. – 09.10.2016

Viseu de Sus

On this tour we’ll offer even more steam trains than on any previous trip. And thanks to the strong Pound (better say thanks to the weak Euro) the tour is even cheaper than before! The tour programme is very intense and offers nearly everything possible in the Romanian Carpathians, regarding steam.

Romania and the weather ... In previous years the colourful leaf season started at the end of September, but these days it seems the summer is expanding. That’s why we postponed the tour to a week later to have more colourful trees in the mountains. We also hope for better weather, in autumn 2015 it was very wet. Only on the very last day did we have clear blue skies when, fortunately, we had two charters on different lines. We’d like to experience more days of this kind.


The actual reason for running another tour to Romania so shortly after two others (which were both sold out) is the fact, that we have stored some planks in Comandau. In 2015 I wanted to hire some planks to recreate the famous plank train which ran from Comandau to Siclau until the very end of the railway’s operation at the turn of the century. Due to new regulations in Romania, brought about by the discovery a huge scandal in unauthorised cutting of trees, it suddenly became impossible to hire planks or any other wooden product. The only way to see a plank train in Comandau was to actually buy the planks (for much more money than the cost of renting them). The full unbelievable story you can read in the Romania trip report of 2015. As a result, we have some piles of planks stored in Comandau. Before they start to “evaporate” we want to recreate the typical plank train again. In 2013 we helped them rebuild the track over the Basca Mare Bridge, near Comandau, to enable more photo opportunities. This bridge is where the plank train rolled on its way to the incline in Siclau!

Plank train in Comandau

In addition we’ve added a new line to the programme, Sovata to Campul Cetatii. Up until the end of the socialist era in Romania, there was a forestry line here. Today nothing is left, but recently they re-opened the 14 km long scenic stretch of the narrow gauge state railway which runs to the former starting point of the forestry line.

Until the early 1990s, forestry lines were still common in Romania but shortly after the political change, one after the other, the lines gradually disappeared from the map. Of the last three remaining lines, only one, Viseu de Sus, 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 to the line. The other two lines were closed, with only occasional charter trains running over the tracks. The Moldovita line was almost abandoned and the parallel gravel road has been paved in recent years. Fortunately, they have now rebuilt a few miles of the line and offer a regular tourist service during the summer months. In Covasna and Comandau, formerly connected by an inclined plane, there are still two short stretches of track. In Comandau I’ve invested some of my own money to allow them to rebuild part of the line near the village. On all 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 line of Viseu de Sus. The other lines combined are less than half as long as the “water valley line” from Viseu but still offer a good variety of opportunities and some very interesting situations for pictures and videos.

Viseu de Sus derailment

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 probably by horses and loaded by hand. This is no longer the normal operation but it is how it was done decades ago. So our focus is not only on the line and the steam trains but also we can take videos and photographs of traditional logging activities from the forest to the sawmill.

The use of a particular steam locomotive cannot be guaranteed. We can count, however, on the talent and improvisational skills of the local crews.


We’ll see different types of locomotives in use. In Viseu, Moldovita and Brad we’ll use one of the almost “indestructible” Resita locomotives. For Comandau and Covasna we need to bring the locomotive of our choice to these lines on a low-loader truck. Along with the locomotive, we’ll transfer six pairs of wagons to Covasna and Comandau to create an authentic looking train. For Covasna/Comandau and Abrud we’ve chosen the Budapest built 0-8-0 tank locomotive, 764 243. We’ll not use fancy passenger coaches or open cars with seats, instead we’ll have authentic looking wagons.

A landslide, a flood or something like that could easily destroy major parts of a railway in the Carpathian valleys. That’s why absolutely nothing in this tour can be guaranteed. If you want to see these fascinating railways you should accept the risk of destruction by severe weather and/or locomotive failures. On recent tours it has always been worth taking the chance of being there and we’ve had good results.

In addition to the forestry lines we’ve added the steam operated industrial narrow gauge line from Brad to Criscior and a section of the former state railway operated narrow gauge line of Turda to Abrud, as well as the former state railway section Baile Sovata to Campul Cetatii. In Brad we’ve chartered an authentic freight train with a Resita locomotive and about five freight cars, just as it used to be some 30 years ago. The few kilometre long line hasn’t seen many changes over the last few decades. It’s an industrial line, completely different from the forestry lines, passing a scenic, traditional village with cobblestone pavement. The Abrud line is surrounded by mountains and offers plenty of good opportunities. We’ll run an authentic short mixed train here.

Brad - Criscior






We’ll meet at the airport of Cluj Napoca around 11.00 hrs. Flights can be booked by FarRail Tours if required. Just in case there is no suitable flight you can also arrive the night before with the late night Lufthansa flight from Munich (arriving 00:50 hrs) and we’ll book an appropriate hotel for you in Cluj. Bus transfer to Campeni, lunch there. From Campeni we’ll go aboard a narrow gauge steam train, probably hauled by Budapest-built locomotive 764 243. With two authentic passenger coaches and a freight wagon we’ll go though a beautiful valley up to Abrud. Accommodation in motels 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. Short visit to the workshop in Criscior. Around 12.30 hrs we’ll continue by charter bus to Comandau, which will be reached over an adventurous serpentine earth road in the evening. Accommodation in a guest house in Comandau, about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level.


In the morning the famous plank train of Comandau is waiting for us. Hauled by our Budapest-built locomotive, which has been brought up by a low-loader, we’ll go a short distance in the direction of Siclau, storming uphill from Comandau over the Basca Mare bridge. Then the train will roll back to Comandau and we’ll go with empty trucks into the deep forest. At a suitable place we’ll load these trucks with logs using a traditional TAF articulated front loader. The logs will be brought to the loading place by truck (all chartered: truck, logs, TAF, train) The loading process will represent the authentic way they did it (and still do it) when machinery was used. While loading the train we’ll enjoy a picnic in the forest. In the afternoon we’ll return with a loaded logging train to Comandau. Accommodation in Comandau.


Two different trains today! After rolling down the serpentines to Covasna we’ll see our Budapest loco plus trucks on the short stretch of forestry line in the lowland. We’ll have brought the Budapest loco and the trucks down to Covasna by road overnight. Around 10.30 hrs we’ll continue by our charter bus to Baile Sovata. Here used to be the terminus of a former state railway narrow gauge line from Targu Mures. The 14 km to Campul Cetatti have been brought back to working order. We’ve arranged a steam charter train on the scenic north-west-bound line. After arrival in Campul Cetatii a long transfer to Moldovita lays ahead of our group. That’s why we’ll let the train roll back tender first unattended while we’re heading for Moldovita by charter bus. Hotels in Moldovita.


In the morning we’ll run a charter train on the rebuilt line as far as possible. We’re using logging trucks and a van. We’ll use a Resita loco. On the way we’ll stop at a forestry house next to the railway line for lunch. Later, afternoon charter bus transfer to different private pensions near the depot of the forest line in Viseu de Sus.


In the morning we’ll steam uphill into the mountains. We expect to start behind the one and probably only logging train, so we will have all the time we need for many photo stops and runpasts. Our train consists of a Resita locomotive (hopefully 764 469, an original loco from Viseu), a special tender, passenger coach and several empty trucks, just as the normal train used to be many years ago. Accommodation in a basic, idyllically located 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 horse and manpower, just as it used to be two decades ago. In the afternoon and evening we’ll return to Viseu de Sus, probably with a loaded train. As this is now a normal production train we don’t expect many photo stops with this train. In the best case we can count on three possible pictures of the loaded train at selected locations. Accommodation in private pensions in Viseu de Sus


We’ll follow the regular diesel trains with a steam hauled train into the mountains. We’ll go to Botizu or, maybe, just to Cozia or Delta Novat to make it back to Viseu de Sus in time. However, some good pictures will be possible. We’ll probably use the Orenstein & Koppel locomotive 764 211. In the late afternoon we’ll go by charter back to Cluj Napoca. Hotel in Cluj.


Flight back home


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 half a mile, partly uphill/downhill. 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 - Valea Babei log loading

To demonstrate a manual log loading process I got them to rebuild a loading ramp above Valea Babei some years ago. The ramp is only used during our charter events, but also by other organisers of charter trains on this line. This caused some wear and tear to the loading ramp. No-one is investing anything in this ramp so that it might be impossible to use it in late 2016. Then the question will arise of how much would be the repair (there is no question whether or not others would invest any money in the ramp … the answer is simply that they won’t). Because due to the additional steam charter train the price in Euros is at the limits already (in Pounds it’s roughly £100 less than the last tour’s price) I cannot guarantee the use of this ramp. If you wish to have guarantees, you need to book with people who boastfully promise a maximum programme even in deep snow. As always, I only guarantee that we’ll make the best out of the given opportunities.

night in Viseu de Sus

The narrow gauge forest railway of Viseu de Sus is the last remaining one in operation in Romania. Besides diesels, steam locomotives are still serviceable, mostly the Resita built 0-8-0T or their Reghin built counterparts. Besides these, the 0-8-0 Orenstein & Koppel built tank locomotive 764 211 is serviceable, and we’ll use it on our last day. 763 193, an 0-6-0 tank engine with an inside frame built by Krauss in Munich is now plinthed.

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 not even a small part is usable. The main line offers plenty of opportunities for good pictures. There are three tunnels very close to each other.

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 2015 only two conventional UNIO Satu Mare-built passenger coaches remained in working order, both painted in dark green. There are other authentic, wooden planked passenger coaches, also painted in green. These wooden coaches were in use until the late 1980s. Besides 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 will have to be 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 of getting an authentic train behind the locomotive are quite good.

Viseu de Sus

At the intermediate stations, during 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 many 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 the unexpected. However things usually work out in a very satisfactory way. So it will be the same as on our previous 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 as helpful as they can be.

Viseu de Sus

We’ll try to get a loaded train and bring it down to the sawmill in Viseu de Sus. For this everything needs to fit: loaded wagons need to be available and papers as well. On all previous trips we’ve got some shots of loaded trains rolling tender first downhill, and I’m pretty sure we’ll achieve our target again on this tour.


Moldovita was a really nice forestry line. In its last years of operation they used 764 449, a Resita, and 763 193 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 on a plinth in Viseu de Sus. The forestry line was closed and abandoned under doubtful conditions. However, because of a few railway enthusiasts, in particular Georg Hocevar, the remains were preserved, and with the help of other railway enthusiasts a part of the lower section of the line was refurbished. The length of the line was reduced to two kilometres just before they started to save and preserve it, but now they have rebuilt the line up to Argel.



We’ll make a visit to the depot where our loco will be fired. The depot looks very much like it did in the last years of regular service, virtually nothing has changed here. Along the line we’ll pass several old-style wooden houses with wooden fences and nicely housed private wells. The parallel road has been paved in recent years, but some potholes gave it back an old-style Romanian feeling already. We’ll use a Resita loco in Moldovita. The trucks we’re using will be brought by a road low loader which will also bring them from and to Covasna and Comandau.


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


What remains is a few kilometres of 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. In addition we’ve encouraged (and paid for) them to re-build a part of the line over a bridge across the Basca Mare near Comandau. Over this bridge the plank train used to run on its way to the incline, and so we will too. On this short section you will find several nice positions for pictures, especially in the chilly morning air. The altitude is about 1000 metres above sea level, so there might even be a little snow in October. With an empty train we’ll go into the deep forest. Close to the current terminus of the railway we’ve arranged trucks, which will load their logs on to 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 probably be the Budapest-built 0-8-0, 764 243.

Overnight we’ll transfer our locomotive using 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. As we don’t have a bus here, we’ll travel in a diesel train with fancy tourist coaches ahead of our steam train.


Brad – Criscior is a short industrial line from the state railway station in Brad to an industrial complex for the repairing and construction of railway and mining equipment and railway vehicles in Criscior (which we’ll visit). The line leaves the state railway on a curve, passes a river bridge and follows a small road in a populated area. In some places, a large industrial pipe runs parallel to the line, as was the situation 30 years ago. The scenery in this part is really ugly … so ugly, that it becomes photogenic again. In the first section of the line you’ll find some really nice photo positions with countryside, a bridge, a typical village with cobblestone pavement and an orthodox church. We will form 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


The former state railway operated narrow gauge line from Turda to Abrud is still serviceable in the short but very scenic section from Campeni to Abrud. This part of the line is surrounded by mountains. Especially photogenic are the little, rural villages along the line which haven’t changed much since 1990. A white painted church is sitting in the valley of the railway – just perfectly placed to be included in the picture. In Autumn the locals cut the meadows to prepare food for their animals in winter. They still pile this up traditionally, so we may find some hay stacks along the line. Something like this is almost extinct in western Europe these days. The classic Romania is – despite the light bulb ban of the European Union – still a very traditional country!

former state railway to Abrud



Targu Mures used to be the centre of a 760 mm gauge system of the state railway. One of the lines leads to the 74 kilometres far away, Baile Sovata. 14 km before it reached the terminus, it passed the forestry line of Campul Cetatii (then written Cimpu Cetatii). This is all history, but the 14 km long stretch between Campul Cetatii and Baile Sovate was recently repaired and is now open for tourist trains. They’ve rebuilt 764 052, a Polish Px48, which was directly delivered to Romania as type „DUNA“ in 1949. They’ve restored it perfectly; the loco looks exactly as it used to look during the state railway times. Wagons, however, are difficult. Depending on the number of bookings I’m thinking about an expensive road transport of one or two wagons to Baile Sovata to extend the train a bit. The line leads from Baile Sovata to the northwest in the beginning and turns west later. It’s almost constantly in an uphill gradient towards Campul Cetatii. Attached is the timetable of the last year of the “conducator” (better to say dictator) Nicolae Ceaucescu, valid from May 1989 to May 1990. Three quarters of an hour for just 14 km (8.7 mi) – the line had no chance of survival in the new age.

Timetable 1989/1990 Targu Mures - Baile Sovata


Small Print

Viseu de Sus, logging train

Romania is a member of 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 lower to 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 quite 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 or double rooms available for this night. It’s likely that this accommodation doesn’t offer electricity all night. Only when the generator is working will we have electricity. Please carry sufficient spare batteries with you. In addition, there is no cell phone signal in the forests (luckily).

Viseu de Sus - O&K loco

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. We don’t know far in advance which steam locomotives will be operational. The engines built by Resita and Reghin seem to be almost “indestructible”, so the local workshop should be able to solve any problems. For unique locomotives like the mentioned O&K, the Budapest loco or the Px48 we’ve no substitutes. 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 cannot be guaranteed in any respect. Neither the horses, nor the manual loading process, the number of wagons or a specific locomotive can be guaranteed.


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 railway. 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, keep your eyes open and use common sense.

For this tour you will need a valid passport, EU citizens 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.

You’ll need little money in local currency. Food, some of which is not included, and beverages are quite cheap.


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 accommodation, 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 be aware 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. Neither FarRail Tours nor the local company who arranges everything on the ground nor the railways can be held responsible for any incidents, accidents, delays etc.

Viseu de Sus



Industrial and Forest Railway Steam in a Golden Autumn 22 to 28 participants £1,595
01.10.2016 – 09.10.2016 14 to 21 participants £1,890
  Single room surcharge £160
Registration Deadline: 01.07.2016

The price includes:

Not included are:

Brad - Criscior


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