FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Searching for sunshine

Posted in Romania, Vișeu de Sus by folkestonejack on September 29, 2015

A wet and miserable morning greeted us when we awoke, dashing any hopes of brighter weather for our last day at Vișeu de Sus. Nevertheless, a new day with a new loco (the 0-8-0T 764-211 named “Mariuta” minus her nameplate for the day). Although new is probably the last word that should be attached to such a venerable locomotive, now over 100 years (she was built by Orenstein & Koppel in 1910).

Orenstein & Koppel loco 764-211 at Viseu de Sus

Early morning preparations with 764-211

A drab stop at Valea Scradei turned into an inspired choice when someone suggested a posed shot of the locals with some props as the steam locomotive charged up the line. Our brakeman demonstrated a hidden talent for comedy as he posed with a bottle of tuică that no-one could resist smiling at, in spite of the conditions.

I quite liked a shot across a field a little farther up the line which captured some of the charm of the valley. Other stops saw us taking in the delights of bridges, rocky outcrops and a saw mill with the occasional pause to let more of those wonderful homemade railcars pass. We reached Paltin just after 1pm and took our lunch stop there before returning back down the line in the afternoon.

It’s hard to know what the future will hold for this line. It is an amazing survivor, given how many other forestry railways have fallen by the wayside, but it still faces many challenges in the yeats ahead. The line is currently operated by a private Romanian company, but the infrastructure and forest still belong to the state.

According to some accounts the quality of the wood coming out of here is pretty poor and even this production is being challenged by new operations that are not reliant on the rail system. Even today we had seen loggers from with hefty tractors dragging logs from one side of the river to the road-connected side of the river. There’s no doubting the appeal that the valley holds for tourists and photographers, but is that enough?

Our loco, 764-211, passes through the well watered Vaser Valley

Our loco, 764-211, passes through the well watered Vaser Valley

I’m not sure I would come back again, at the risk of another wet week but then again I said I would only visit China once and ended up making four trips to see real steam there! Nevertheless, I take my hat off to the tormented souls that have been back time and time again with only a handful of sunny days to show for it. When it is good, it is clearly very good… quite a lure.

Our day on the line finished with our arrival back in Vișeu de Sus at 4pm with what we understood to be a three and a half hour drive between us and our pensions in Moldoviţa in Suceava County. In fact, our journey didn’t take as long as that because our driver treated it as an open audition for Top Gear.

To achieve a shorter time involved driving through villages at way over the minimum speed (on one occasion topping 95km per hour where the speed limit was 45 km per hour) and some hair raising passes of logging trucks on the zig-zagging mountain roads. Our tour leader, Bernd, was spot on when he said that it was better to sleep and not see what was happening on the road!


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