FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam in Dracula’s empire

Posted in Romania by folkestonejack on September 25, 2015

Arrived in Cluj-Napoca tonight at the end of a two leg journey to Romania that has taken the best part of a day, beginning with an early morning flight from London Heathrow.

The focus of this trip will be to see the forestry railway at Vișeu de Sus in the northernmost reaches of the country, as well as some of the other restored narrow gauge lines. In 1989 there were over 40 forestry systems in active use, but after the revolution the lines quickly began to disappear. Today, only three lines remain and the system that we are visiting is the only one that is operational in real use (with diesel locomotives used to haul the logging trains).

CFF Vișeu de Sus

CFF Vișeu de Sus

The accelerating decline of steam around the world holds few certainties and Vișeu de Sus has seen plenty to threaten its operation in the recent past, most dramatically with a flood in 2008 which almost completely destroyed the line. The line was rebuilt and now holds the distinction of being the last remaining forestry railway system in Europe.

You would hope that the line has a good future, with up to five tourist trains departing from Vișeu de Sus for the run up to Paltin each day at the peak of the summer holidays. However, knowing that nothing is ever quite that straightforward I decided that now was the time to join a FarRail tour to see a historically accurate forestry train in this wonderful setting.

The lure of Vișeu de Sus

The lure of Vișeu de Sus

The journey so far has been relatively straightforward. The first leg took me from London Heathrow to Bucharest on a British Airways A320, followed by a short domestic flight to Cluj-Napoca in a Romanian Air Transport ATR72 twin-engine turboprop. The two flights kept pretty much to time, which is probably just as well given that I only made it to the gate for my domestic flight with ten minutes to spare! The time allowed for the connection clearly couldn’t have been overly generous…

The last leg of the journey offered up some wonderful views of the countryside and through a gap in the clouds to an impressive mountain peak topped with a cross (possibly the Heroes’ Cross on Caraiman Peak). I was struck by how little of the landscape had been built up, with vast swathes of country hardly looking populated at all.

It had been quite hot and sticky on arrival in Bucharest, but as we descended into Cluj we could see the first signs of wet weather, with moisture streaking across the windows. The forecasts for the weekend have not been at all promising, but conditions look set to improve from Tuesday onwards.

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