FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam to Višegrad

Posted in Bosnia, Dobrun, Vardište, Višegrad by folkestonejack on October 22, 2011

The scenery on the line from the border to Višegrad turned out to be much more striking than anything we had seen on the loops through the mountains yesterday. The wonderful mixture of karst gorge, bridges and monasteries were a photographer’s delight – or would have been had the weather co-operated!

83-173 emerges from a tunnel on the line between Vardište and Dobrun

83-173 crosses the road to Dobrun

In order to get the most out of this stretch of line we travelled partway by train then re-boarded our bus so that we could grab some impressive shots looking down from the road to the railway. Finally, we re-boarded our train for the final section of the line into Višegrad which we reached at around 4pm.

83-173 at the gates of the monastery at Dobrun

As our train was the first train since the inaugural run in September there was a fair degree of interest in the trip, with Serbian journalists/press photographers joining us and a welcoming committee of locals waiting for us at our final stop. Indeed, all along the route we had seen people coming out of their houses or waving from their back gardens which told us everything we needed to know about the relative rarity of a steam locomotive here.

The local welcoming committee consisted of some locals in regional dress offering schnapps and a cake to dip in salt. A number of stalls with local produce had been set up around the station though I suspect that we were the wrong group to pitch knitwear at. Hopefully that business will come their way in the near future once the railway starts operating to Višegrad on a regular basis.

Višegrad

The railway station certainly looked like it had seen better days, but it was at least still standing – unlike others on the line which had been completely razed. In fact, the place had a second life after being converted into a bus station so the transformation back to a railway station is quite remarkable. I can think of plenty of places in the UK where there has been no way back from the conversion of station buildings to a new purpose so at least they have a good basis to build from here.

Fire truck at Višegrad

An unexpected last photo opportunity of the day came from the vintage fire truck which turned up to supply 83-173 with water for her return trip. Finally, we re-boarded our coach at 4.50pm for the drive to Sarajevo.

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Cross border steam

Posted in Bosnia, Serbia, Vardište by folkestonejack on October 22, 2011

The narrow gauge line between Mokra Gora and Višegrad holds the distinction of being the world’s only international preserved railway line, crossing the border from Serbia into Bosnia. At the time of our visit there had only been one passenger train to make this trip – the inaugural train in September 2011 – so there was still plenty of novelty to the appearance of a steam locomotive on the line.

Our non-stop run to the border with 83-173 departed from Mokra Gora at 12.30pm and we were all reminded to have our passports to hand for the border crossing. The road runs parallel to the railway line at the border so the plan seemed to be that the officials would walk out from their post to the line to check our passports as we left Serbia, but in the event we were waved through.

After this point the train ran through a tunnel (complete with a sculpture of a Serbian soldier atop the exit) and we emerged at the Vardište border point at around 1pm. A border patrol van and police car (a yugo!) had been parked up by the lineside and the Bosnian border officials were waiting to board our train. It was a slightly surreal experience to be on a narrow gauge steam train with border officials wandering through the carriage checking passports. If it was strange to us, it must have been even stranger for the officials used to dealing with border traffic with fewer wheels!

The border scene

Cross-border steam

The officials and drivers heading up the road to the border were also ever so slightly bemused by the sudden appeal of their vintage police car (parked up alongside the loco) but it was an irresistible photo opportunity for most of us.

Heritage appeal - Steam locomotive and Yugo

Once all the formalities were complete we resumed our journey towards Višegrad with the intention of making a few photostops along the way – in spite of the fairly miserable conditions.