FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Into the forest

Posted in Romania, Vișeu de Sus by folkestonejack on September 28, 2015

The direction to ‘follow the man with the chainsaw into the forest’ sounded like it should have belonged in a dodgy horror movie rather, but it’s not the maddest moment to have occurred in a railtour by a long stretch! In fact, we were going to watch the traditional logging process, beginning with the felling of a tree in the forest and its rather perilous transportation down a steep slope to the lineside, dragged by a pair of horses.

The traditional loading process

The traditional loading process

At the lineside we watch two forestry workers loading wagons from the loading platform which was more interesting than it probably sounds, involving some synchronised movements from the workers to lever the logs onto the ramp and roll them carefully into position (occasionally using axes to even out their passage). An impressive exercise in co-ordination but a skill that is inevitably disappearing.

Yesterday’s journey had brought us most of the way towards the end of the line, but there was still a little further to go this morning so we left our freshly loaded wagon behind and set off for the terminus at Comanu at 9.25am. Our proximity to the Romanian-Ukrainian border was indicated by a rather battered sign for a Politia de Frontiera control post, although there didn’t seem to be any guards present (we had spotted one of their four wheelers a little earlier so they were around somewhere).

Our loco ran around and the brake man followed this by skillfully controlling the descent of the carriage and wagons back down to it, ready for our departure down the line. We set off at 10.50am and by 1pm we had made it to Botizu. Here we dropped the empty logging wagons, replacing them with six loaded wagons. This change turned our charter into a revenue earning production service so the opportunities to photograph this would be limited.

Our revenue-earning logging train

Our revenue-earning logging train

On the way back to Vișeu de Sus we had the opportunity to see some more of the rail vehicles on the system, including a railcar (named the Rossiya 1) and a diesel hauled logging train (using a CFR class 87 diesel-hydraulic loco) which provided an interesting comparison between our train and an authentic logging train of the present day. Other sights included a group of locals distilling on the waterfront using the murky waters of the Vaser (astonishing to think that this is the base for the very clear and potent liquer that is țuică).

A diesel hualed logging train passes our steam hauled logging train

A diesel hualed logging train passes our steam hauled logging train

As we made our way down the line the rain returned and the wind picked up. Not the grimmest of conditions, but not great. At Valea Scradei, the last stop before Vișeu de Sus, we stopped and climbed the hillside to get a shot of our logging train in the landscape but with the wind carelessly blowing the smoke the wrong way there was a danger that we wouldn’t be able to see the train at all. For good measure the rain got heavier at this point too, telling us (if we hadn’t already guessed) that our luck was not in today! The resulting picture says it all…

Smoke everywhere!

Smoke everywhere!

After returning to Vișeu de Sus we made our way to our pensions and the prospect of a lovely home cooked meal – a delicious vegetable soup, sarmale (cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat and vegetables), apple strudel and țuică. A wonderful way to end a challenging day.

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