Rob Pritchard writes of his May 2016 visit
I recently returned from another week in Bosnia with Steve Newman (group leader) and Andy Freyne. We flew by Ryanair from Stansted to Osijek in Croatia on Monday 9th May 2016 and back on Monday 16th for a return fare of Ł68.42. We hired a diesel Skoda Rapid from Vozi Rentacar for a total of €210 and made an initial detour to see the preserved 2-6-2T 51-014 at Osijek depot. Afterwards we had an easy drive via Vukavar, Vinkovci and the border at Orašje to reach Šikulje for steam activity in the evening sun. Money can now be changed at a branch of Sberbank in a new shopping centre on the right-hand side of the road just inside Bosnia. Single occupation of a twin room at the Hotel Zlača cost 45.00 Bosnian marks (Ł17.60) per night including breakfast but there was also the option of half board at KM51.00. We were joined there by Terry Wallace who was travelling alone and provided much useful information. The hotel is owned by the RMU Banovići coalmining company and there is a direction sign on the main road just before Oskova washery. The side road passes under the ŽFBH branch line and runs for 7km along the course of the former Konjuh Forestry Railway including the river bridges.
The Tuzla area remains the last centre for “real” steam in Europe but the amount has fallen considerably since our previous visit in September 2015. Šikulje and Dubrave coal mines both use a Class 33 2-10-0 for internal shunting but 100% availability of the seven diesels (of both gauges) on the Banovići system meant even narrow gauge steam shunting there had ceased. That might be temporary and a dirty Class 83 0-8-2 is still used for the occasional tourist train. Of course there is more to the area than just steam and the double-track narrow gauge coal railway worked by bogie diesels is a major attraction in itself. Sarajevo and the Zenica area are easily reached as side trips.
Our first day was hot but there was light rain for most of the rest of the week.
Tuzla power station has now been taken over by Kreka Mines as “JP Elektroprivreda BiH dd - Sarajevo, Subsidiary of Mines "Kreka" doo – Tuzla”. Dubrave and Šikulje opencast mines remain with the parent which is now Rudnici Kreka DOO. It seems the power station and the coal mine at Kakanj are similarly involved. The status of Breza and Zenica mines is uncertain. The Banovići mines and nearby Đurđevik remain separate.
Here is a summary for the principal sites that we visited. An asterik [*] indicates numbers supplied to me by another member of the party, usually obtained with binoculars.
Class 33 = Kriegslok 2-10-0. Class 62 = USA 0-6-0T or local (Đuro Đaković) development. Class 71 = 760mm gauge 0-6-0T. Class 83 = 760mm gauge 0-8-2. Steam classes 19 (standard gauge 0-6-0T or 760mm gauge 0-10-0), 25 (760mm gauge 0-6-0T) and 55 (760mm gauge 0-8-0T) are stylised renditions of their Škoda, ČKD and MÁVAG works numbers. 144R 03 is a Fives Lille 0-8-0T. Apart from preserved locomotives, all other classes are diesel.
Bukinje Locomotive Works (10th May)
This now comes under another Electroprivreda establishment. Permits are no longer available at Bukinje but a guide was provided to us take to the offices of a mining machinery works closer to Tuzla where we paid the usual €25 each. The contact there is
firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr Halilčević does not speak English so it would helpful to write in both English and Bosnian, using cut-and-paste in Google Translate for the conversion.
Mr Merim, the Engineer at Bukinje, was his usual welcoming self and conversed in reasonable English during our official one hour visit. He explained that Bukinje is now only a works facility for the steam locomotives but this includes regular maintenance as well as overhauls. Šikulje and Dubrave mines are operationally independent of the
works and apparently of each other. If we understood correctly, the 33s run light engine from Bukinje to Tuzla power station (most or all of the route being privately owned) and are coupled inside the mainline diesel on a train of empties to get them from there to the coal mine or vice versa.
33-248 was inside the main building nearing the end of a general overhaul and repaint. 33-504 was on the other road undergoing monthly maintenance. 33-064 was dead in front of the building but we
forgot to enquire about its wheel repair. 62-123, 62-376, 62-637 and 62-368 were out of use in a line between the building and the road with 33-216 (identity presumed) derelict at the end. A small blue locomotive with twelve wheels was out of use at the other side of the building. This carries the name Metalna which is a specialist crane builder in Maribor (Slovenia).
Šikulje Opencast Coal Mine (9th,12th and 15th May)
Traffic is no longer exchanged in the yard at Lukavac. The ŽFBH diesel takes the incoming empties all the way to the mine loading point and uncouples about halfway past. The resident Kriegslok then draws them chimney-first to a long headshunt and pushes them back to await loading. There are two loading tracks but further movement is by rope-powered beetle. Is is possible that the steam locomotive also shunts loaded half-rakes into a complete train at the other end but we did not see that. The diesel-hauled departure is too fast for the pilferers who used to leap on board and it seems to pass Lukavac without stopping. 33-503 shunted empties for about half an hour from 18.25 on 9th May and 15.10 on 12th. On 15th we were too late but it was briefly active at the other end around 14.45. Further visits outside these hours found it stabled. The locomotive crews did not ask for beer or money but one man tried to demand €40 for photography from a semi-public area. Our going rate is KM5 per person which we paid with a discount for bad behaviour.
Dubrave Opencast Coal Mine (10 - 12th,14th,15th May)
Numerous visits, sometimes more than one per day, failed to produce any action. The best we can say is that 33-236* moved from one stabling track to another during the week. If the present arrangement is the same as at Šikulje, then it should be possible to photograph tender-first shunting of empties from public access points near the headshunt and perhaps the chimney-first combining of portions from the conveyor belt bridge at the other end. The locomotive stabling point is inaccessible behind private houses and is invisible from the official entrance. The small group of shops near the lane to the headshunt includes a post office and a good restaurant which quickly cooks omelette and chips.
Đurđevik Coal Mine (10th May)
The weeds across the branch line from Živinice Gornje prove there is currently no rail traffic. 62-111 is out of use but intact at the mine.
RMU Banovići system (9th -15th May)
A permit for a morning visit is available on spec at Banovići Works for €15 or KM30 each. The gatemen and office staff do not speak English but they know what is required. The diesel depot and open-air steam depot are on the same site. Everything is locked up about 14.00 but the permit also gives access to the narrow gauge facilities at Oskova.
On 11th May, 25-30 was still under repair in the main building with an overhauled brake pump fitted and its old paint partially rubbed-down. 83-158 was in steam for a schoolchildren’s special the next day and left light engine for Oskova at 11.08, not to shunt there but for overnight stabling. 720-001 and 740-108 were initially in the diesel shed but soon emerged for work. 83-159 was dead in the open. 83-181 was dumped near the medical centre. 25-29 and 25-32 were dumped in the middle of the yard, and the MIN draisine, 25-31 and 83-157 (presumed) were dumped at the other side. A cab which might have come from 740-106 (sold for spares) was near the diesel shed and a frame, believed to be part of articulated 740-201 or 740-202, was in the bushes (the other parts having been used in the construction of the 720s). There was some rolling stock present, this also being the wagon works.
The museum compound at Banovići contained a Kramatorsk (Ukraine) dragline, a P&H (Milwaukee) shovel, a dump car, a coal wagon, 25-33, 55-99 and the three new tourist coaches G-PV1, G-PV2 and G-PV3.
An afternoon walk from the first opencast loading point at Grivice back past Banovići to Oskova took three hours and encountered only one train of empties. Activity seems to pick up at teatime. The double track has right-hand running with a few colour light signals to protect the main level crossing at Banovići. These are controlled from a cabin next to the side road.
All narrow gauge shunting at Oskova was performed by a 720 class diesel, 720-002 and 720-003 being noted during the week. Even in the mild weather they had their bonnet doors open for extra cooling so they might not be suitable in midsummer. The third one handles wagons coming downhill through the loader at Grivice, 720-001 having been seen the previous day.
Of the standard gauge stock at Oskova, 732-195 was shunting, 144R 03 was dumped in the sidings, 19-12 (presumed) was locked inside the shed with 62-125 behind it, and 62-677 with parts recently removed was under the inter-gauge transfer gantry beyond the end of the shed. The narrow gauge branch past the shed still ends with a dual-gauge section in the main yard. Last September that seemed to be new but it does not appear to have been used. However the well wagon for carrying standard gauge locomotives to Banovići has been rescued from its previous overgrown spot in the narrow gauge yard and is now quite presentable.
On the following day, 12th May, there was a schoolchildren’s special from the museum compound at Banovići. 83-158 had returned from Oskova and was on the front with 720-002 pushing hard at the back. The train left around 12.10 and reached Grivice level crossing at 12.26. It must have continued to the other opencast mine mine at Turjia but the local roads defeated us.
There is also a deep mine at Omazići. This seems to supply the loading point at Banovići via an underground conveyor belt.
We were not alone in expecting to ride the tourist train on Saturday 14th
May but it did not run. There is no notice or timetable at the museum compound so perhaps it is just available for hire.
Breza Coal Mine (13th May)
This was viewed from the surrounding roads. 62-363 was at the side furthest from the main road and 62-672 (presumed) was near the screens, both out of use. The new diesel 797 825-7 (presumed) and the old one (allegedly ĐĐ 13/1958) were also present. Can anyone comment on the identity of the latter? Đuro Đaković steam locomotive works numbers had reached 648 by 1956, so perhaps it is really ĐĐ 713/1958.
Rudstroj Kakanj (13th May)
62-015 is still plinthed under cover with its mis-painted Porter 7537 worksplate.
Kakanj Coal Mine, Čatići loading point (13th May)
62-020 and 62-366, both out of use, face each other outside the shed. Two diesels were shunting loaded wagons. Of these, 797 824-0 was previously seen in 2015 but not 724 720-8 which seems to be a Bo-BoDE. According to
http://rail.phototrans.eu/24,906,0,JP_Elektroprivreda_Sarajevo.html, both diesels belong to Elektroprivreda. This suggests that either Kakanj power station provides the locomotives for Kakanj mine, or the mine is also now part of Electroprivreda. The website describes the smaller locomotive as a CZ Loko 797 and the larger as a ČKD T 448. However IRS Bulletin 973/4 recently mentioned a new CZ Loko 522kW locomotive 723 701 of which “The design retains the underframe and bogies of the ČKD-built Class 740 locomotive”. This suggests the frame and bogies are second-hand.
We only got a glimpse of the narrow gauge system.
Sarajevo (13th May)
71-022, a former Banovići loco, is preserved on the station platform as an undersized reminder of the once nationwide narrow gauge network. 62-634 is plinthed at Grbavica football stadium which lies on one of the city’s trolleybus routes. It has been lovingly painted in the “Maniacs” team blue and can easily be photographed from a side road. A small steam locomotive, presumably 760mm gauge 0-6-0WT Krauss (Linz) 7498/1918, was visible at Sarajevo depot which contained much stored stock including German V60 diesels, an electric locomotive in TCDD livery returned after hire, and a ten-car Talgo train which
says should enter service in July.
Other plinthies (15th May)
After the no-show of the Banovići tourist train we spent the afternoon looking for plinthies. 25-26* was in its usual place near the main road at Tuzla, 55-98 was beside the river at Gračanici and 19-37 was outside the railway offices in Doboj. A 760mm gauge 0-8-0T, believed to be Krauss (Linz) 6702/1912 without a smokebox door, was doubling as a litter bin in the centre of Blatnica village. At the other end of the preservation spectrum, 1 DD (Krauss (Linz) 3581/1897) was displayed in a memorial garden with a selection of old firefighting equipment just beyond the gatehouse at Teslić “Destilacija” (wood distillation plant). This classic Austrian T class 0-6-2T
(below) has been there since it was new almost 120 years ago and has seen out the Austro-Hungarian Empire, two world wars, Tito’s You-no-go-slavia and a bloody civil war. Long may it remain!