The International Steam Pages

The Burgas Salt Pans Railway 2019  

Rod Smith reports on a 16th September 2019 visit. The Burgas salt pans are on the southern side of Lake Atanasovsko to the north of the city which lies on the Black Sea on Bulgaria's east coast. The railway is also covered (but not much) in Steve Thomason's Industrial Narrow Gauge Railways (of Europe), specifically Google Maps marks Burgas Saltworks as being south of the point mentioned below but what looks like an industrial building is even further south (42°31'30.6"N 27°29'17.1"E). There is a 3 year old (very dark) picture of number 1 on Wikimpai The main entry is shown here.

I am sure Rod would agree that this visit would have been more satisfactory if he had had time to research it before departure! However, that would have been no good reason to decline the invitation. I have appended some links at the end of his text.

During a recent RTC trip to Bulgaria there was a “free day” in Burgas and a couple of the other participants asked if I would care to join them in a visit to the salt railway nearby.

Accordingly the three of us and the local guide from the tour took a taxi out to the site of the operations. These are sited to the North of the city close to the International airport and on the banks of Lake Atanasovsko, in an area that is well known to “birders” and there are several hides close by.

The railway of 600mm gauge, or thereabouts, is used to carry the salt that has been extracted from the various lagoons to a central processing plant and when we arrived a train of five wagons was in the process of being filled. An “access fee” was paid and we were allowed to wander freely but because the embankments upon which the railway runs are relatively narrow and the wagons quite wide it is not advisable to venture out from the “main land”. Google Maps gives the Grid Reference of where we got out of the taxi as 42 33’31.29”N 27 29’12.77”E

In due course the train came towards us and the intention was to follow it along the road that parallels the line towards the works. However, about a couple of hundred yards after passing us the rear bogie of one of the wagons became badly derailed and that effectively put paid to the action.

Nevertheless we followed the line south to a point just beyond where it and a disused standard gauge line cross a small river. At this point there is a barrier across the road although the immediate seaward side is busy with bicycles and pedestrians. After some discussion we were allowed through and followed the line further south until the road expired and we were obliged to turn around. (It appears that the pedestrian and bicycle access continues into Burgas but road access is only possible via the longer route that we took.) We saw no sign of any other trains, locos or where the salt is unloaded from the wagons but there is quite a large complex of buildings and all such activity must have been in that area. 

Within this area beyond the barrier there is a specific section given over to a mud-bathing and many people were using this and applying the black mud liberally. We continued our wait in a beachside café and as still nothing happened we then returned towards the loading area in the hope of meeting the re-railed train. However, there was no sign of activity and in order to prevent the taxi bill becoming too great we returned to the city.

The only loco we saw carried the number 5, and was an otherwise completely anonymous 0-4-0D. 

There would be numerous photographic possibilities if the train had run, though of limited variety. 

Pictures on the web suggest the railway operates tourist trains specifically for 'birders' who flock here because vast numbers of migrants stop off according to the season, for example and Try searching Gogle images for "Burgas Salt Railway" which will throw up a fair number. However, there's no sign the average tourist has any interest in the 'real railway' the track of which they are riding on. An honourable exception is this picture

Rob Dickinson