FolkestoneJack's Tracks

A slice of rural life

Posted in Abrud, Câmpeni, Romania by folkestonejack on October 3, 2015

Our afternoon run would see us take a short mixed train hauled by 764-243, the Budapest built locomotive that we had used at Comandău earlier in the week, from Câmpeni to Abrud.

Our train awaits us at Câmpeni

Our train awaits us at Câmpeni

The short surviving section line was once part of an astonishing 94km narrow gauge line between Turda and Abrud, passing through the Aries valley and the Apuseni mountain range with a combination of bridges, tunnels and viaducts. It was rarely anything other than spectacular (as we could testify from our bus ride alongside the remains of the line at the end of the day).

The line was built in 1910-12 and offered passenger services from 21 stations in addition to its use for freight, though it was by no means a quick undertaking with services from one end to the other taking six hours! Sadly, it was deemed to be uneconomic after the revolution and the last trains were operated by the former state railway in 1997.

It is hard to avoid the thought that this was quite an astonishing lost opportunity to develop a quite marvellous tourist attraction for the area, but instead the line was lost until Georg Hocevar acquired the short section of line in the beautiful valley from Câmpeni to Abrud and began running occasional tourist trains in 2004. However, the line is not without its challenges as we were fast discovering!

Passing through the occupied station at Câmpeni

Passing through the occupied station at Câmpeni

The station building at Câmpeni has been taken over by gypsies and in the final stretch of line to Abrud it passes through a gypsy camp with buildings right up to the edge of the line. Last night we learnt that the gypsies had bought 30 tons of stones to build an illegal wall at their camp and dumped this on the track. Worse still, they had begun to build the wall and it encroached onto the track.

The City Council were initially reluctant to act because of EU funding for the Roma community, but agreed to bring in the police once things began to escalate. A construction company estimated that it would take four hours to clear the stones and demolish the wall, with the risk that they might damage the track in the process. In the end the standoff was resolved when the police informed the community that they would be charged. The gypsies removed the stones themselves, clearing the track.

Now that the last obstacles were out of the way our loco could be unloaded at Abrud and brought to our start point at Câmpeni, ready for the afternoon’s run up the valley. The crew had encountered a small problem along the way after a low branch hit and broke a pipe, but this was easily fixed before our arrival.

Crossing the bridge at Câmpeni

Crossing the bridge at Câmpeni

We set off on our afternoon charter at 2.15pm with some shots around the bridge and occupied station, then took a rather tight shot at a signal. The only way to take the signal shot was for the group to stand on the track and jump out of the way as the train approached, not a strategy I would recommend repeating anywhere else!

Around 3.30pm we reached a small farmholding at the side of the valley which offered a variety of shots. The delightful owner, an elderly lady, kindly allowed us to enter her fenced enclosure to take photographs of the train with her apple tree in the foreground. It wasn’t long before she was persuaded to appear in the foreground herself, picking some apples. Georg told her that she should have been a cinema star! It was a lovely moment and she very generously offered us some apples afterwards.

Apples anyone?

Apples anyone?

Our prolonged stop had the unintended side effect of delaying our arrival at a traditional wooden church by the lineside, the classic shot on the line. Unfortunately the sun had already dropped too low to make this shot viable, but it was worth it for the utterly charming stop at the farmholding.

The run through the gypsy camp was interesting to put it mildly. The buildings have been built up incredibly close to the line and the carriages all but brush the walls as they pass here. On one side of the line the dirt track runs higher than the track and we could see that quite a crowd had gathered. We had been reassured that the police were at the encampment to ensure that our train would pass through safely, but it was still unnerving to see young men running alongside the train and grabbing on to the sides in an attempt to force their way in. Around seven managed to hang on for a bit, but none made it inside.

The end of the line at Abrud

The end of the line at Abrud

At 5.23pm we made it to the town boundary at Abrud and tried some shots here before our arrival into the station just before 6pm. In spite of the underlying tensions to our visit it had turned out to be a rather splendid afternoon run and the scenic setting here rounded the day off nicely. Once we packed our cameras away the crew set about their preparations to get the loco onto the waiting low loader for its journey home whilst we boarded our bus for the journey in the opposite direction to Cluj-Napoca. The tour was over.

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