The International Steam Pages


Steam on the Třemešná ve Slezsku – Osoblaha Railway

James Waite has sent a report of his visit for a 24th February 2011 charter, I won't call it a flying visit as he spent at least one night in the country!

The 760mm gauge Osoblaha-Tremesna line in the northeast of the Czech Republic, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C5%99eme%C5%A1n%C3%A1_ve_Slezsku_%E2%80%93_Osoblaha_Railway.


James has now added some notes on the railway:

In the closing years of the nineteenth century the sugar factory at Osoblaha, then a town in the far north of the Austrian empire and known to the Austrians as Hotzenplotz, was the prime mover in bringing a railway to the district. From an engineering point of view it would have been a simple matter to build a connection with the standard gauge line between the towns now known as Prudnik and Glubczyce, just a few km away on the other side of what was then the border between the Austrian and Prussian empires. This ran close to the edge of the town and today forms the border between the Czech Republic and Poland. However this connection was forbidden for political reasons and so the route chosen lay westwards away from the relatively flat lands around the town and climbed up the valley of the Osoblaha river and then across hilly country to a main line junction at Třemešná ve Slezsku.

For reasons of economy the line was built to 760mm gauge and followed a sinuous route, hugging the contours so far as this was possible. Its total length is 20km. At Třemešná ve Slezsku the line terminates on the opposite side of the station yard from the main line. Construction began in the Spring of 1898 and the line opened throughout on 14th December the same year.

The line inevitably suffered from the political convulsions which affected this part of central Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. A glance at a map will show that Osoblaha lies at the tip of what is, in effect, a peninsula of Czech territory which projects northwards into Poland. This was a part of the Sudetenland, a hilly region which was inhabited mainly by German-speaking people until 1945. When the Austrian empire was broken up after the First World War there was much opposition locally to the incorporation of the district into the new state of Czechoslovakia. The incorporation of the Sudetenland into Nazi Germany after the Munich crisis in 1938 led to the collapse of the Czechoslovak state and its occupation by Germany a few months before the start of the Second World War the following year.

Soon after the end of the war the majority of the Sudeten Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia. It took many years for the economy of the Osoblaha district to recover and to this day the ruins of abandoned German villages can be seen not far from the railway. Closure of the railway was proposed in the 1950’s and again in the 1970’s but each time it managed to survive. A third closure attempt was made in 1985 on account of the poor state of the track. This too was seen off and in the late 1980’s the line was relaid with heavy-section track and has remained in good physical shape ever since. Freight services came to an end in 1997 although numerous rollbocke trucks are still kept at Třemešná ve Slezsku and the transhipment siding there is intact. Currently five return passenger trains run daily.

When it was opened the line was worked by the familiar Austrian U class 0-6-2T’s which became CSD class U37. There was considerable interchange of these locos between different railways within the Austrian empire and, after 1918, within Czechoslovakia. No. U37.002, one of the locos which had run on the Osoblaha line for a part of its career, survives today on the JHMD at Jindřichův Hradec. Later the line was home to some of the U47 class 0-4-4-0 Mallet tanks acquired from the Serbian railways during the First World War and also to no. U58.001 which arrived from the Zittau system in Germany during the Second World War. Regular steam operation came to an end in 1958 with the arrival of four TU47 (now 705.9) class diesel-electric Bo-Bo locos built by CKD at Sokolov though the line had seen its first diesel railcar as far back as 1928. The last steam train before the preservation era, well decorated for the occasion with garlands and flowers, ran on 16th November 1960, hauled by no. U47.003. 

The first six members of the TU47 class were built in 1954 and were sent to the Jindřichův Hradec system where they spent their working lives. Fifteen more were built in 1958, four for the Osoblaha line, three more for Jindřichův Hradec, four for the Ružomberok- Korytnica line in present-day Slovakia and four, as 750mm gauge locos, for the Frýdlant v Čechách - Heřmanice line in northern Bohemia. Again there’s been a degree of interchange of these locos between the lines on which they worked, particularly after the closure of the Ružomberok line in 1974 and the Frýdlant v Čechách line in 1976 but all four now at Osoblaha, no’s, 013, 014, 016 and 017 are still from this batch. No. 013 has recently been rebuilt with a new design of engine and was the working loco during my visit. Together with six now on the JHMD at Jindřichův Hradec they’re the only survivors of the class in either the Czech Republic or in Slovakia. 

CKD built forty five similar locos in 1957 and 1958 for service in the USSR where they became class TU3. These locos saw extensive use on the Soviet narrow gauge, particularly on the Panevežys system in Lithuania where to some extent they replaced the familiar TU2’s which had arrived there previously. No fewer than fourteen of the class were allocated to the large depot at Panevežys which survives today more or less intact as the headquarters of what is now the ASG tourist railway. They were widely liked by the Lithuanian railwaymen who worked with them though ultimately they were withdrawn and the TU2’s returned, as Soviet-built locos spare parts were more readily available for them. Out of the Soviet locos only no. TU3-039 at the Lviv Children’s Railway remains in service today. The only other surviving TU3 is no. TU3-002, currently a static exhibit at the Lavassaare museum in Estonia. 

Today the railway is the last narrow gauge line still operated by CD, the country’s equivalent of British Rail. Since the early 2000’s it’s also been the home of the Slezské Zemské Dráhy (“SZD”), an enthusiasts society which now operates steam and diesel trains on the line. Their first steam loco was one of the earliest standard post-war Romanian forestry 0-8-0T’s, Resita 946/1951 ex-CFF no. 764.368. It arrived early in 2004 and after restoration at an engineering plant in Krnov entered service in November the same year numbered U46.002 under the Czech numbering system. It’s presently away for heavy overhaul. Their current working steam loco is Skoda 1932/1949, one of a class of six 0-10-0 tender locos built for the Steinbeisbahn in Bosnia. This is a large and most imposing loco which was rescued from Bosnia for preservation by the Austrian Club 760 group. It’s now the subject of a 15-year loan to the Osoblaha society, one of whose members paid for its restoration to working order which was completed in 2009. It’s now numbered U57.001. 

It's good to see a Czech-built loco returning home after more than 60 years abroad. The design was similar, if not identical, to the P5 class 0-10-0’s which Skoda built in 1934 for the Panevežys system in Lithuania for which the firm also built the K4 class 2-8-2’s for passenger services in 1939. The K4’s were even larger machines and were particularly stylish. The PT-4 and Gr 0-8-0’s which were allocated to Panevežys depot during the Soviet era must have been humdrum machines in comparison. Sadly all the Lithuanian Skoda locos disappeared many years ago.

The society also has one of the Romanian-built Lyd2 diesels which came from Kruszwica sugar factory in central Poland and is now numbered TU38-001. The CD’s trains on the Osoblaha line are composed exclusively of bogie carriages built in 1966. Generally just one of them suffices for the small number of passengers usually carried. 

Like may fledgling preservation operations the society has had to overcome a lack of authentic rolling stock. It now has two open coaches which were reconstructed from Romanian bogie wagons originally built in 1990. They are fitted out to a high standard and since last summer have been painted in a red and cream livery to match the CD’s carriages on the line – much preferable, I’d have thought, to the multicoloured tourist coaches which operate on many central European preserved lines. No doubt the society’s passengers appreciate riding in open carriages during the hot summer months when the railway runs most of its services though of course they aren’t as photogenic as more historic vehicles would be.

There are also two covered freight vans acquired from Poland. One of them has been converted into a bar car - very attractively fitted out. I can’t vouch for the quality of the product on offer as I wasn’t riding on the train but the beer in the hotel (Krusovice, brewed just down the road from the main Czech railway museum at Lužná u Rakovník near Prague) was well up to the usual Czech standard! The other van is used for carrying bikes during the summer. There’s also a passenger brake van built in 1963, one of six which operated on the line for many years until the late 1990’s and which fortunately had been placed in store at Krnov depot after it was withdrawn. Its paint scheme also matches the CD’s carriages and it’s been fitted out with a generator. Its main function appears to be to keep the beer cool in the bar car – not that this was necessary when I was there as the temperature was as low as -13C for much of the day!

Most of the station buildings at Osoblaha are still intact and are at least nominally in use. The buildings at most of the intermediate stations along the route are also intact though some have been boarded up and all look neglected, a sad contrast with the immaculate state of the permanent way. There’s a two-road loco depot at Osoblaha where the CD’s locos are based. The preservation society have a very smart single-road shed at the end of the headshunt at Třemešná ve Slezsku. It’s only just long enough for the Bosnian 0-10-0 and for the time being at least the Resita loco will need to stand out in the open when it returns from its overhaul.

When I visited the line only a handful of passengers travelled on each of the regular trains I saw apart from the one on which all 47 members of the Dutch enthusiasts group which had chartered a steam run from Osoblaha to Třemešná ve Slezsku arrived for their trip. One of the CD carriages was attached to the steam train for their benefit. It was well patronized - unsurprising given the very low temperature! I do wonder how long the CD services will survive now that so many European railway administrations are cutting back on their sparsely used services.

This is a delightful line. It just oozes the kind of atmosphere which you can only find at a narrow gauge railway which still serves the public day in and day out – a rapidly disappearing breed in Europe today. The steam trains of course are a very considerable bonus. The society’s members were all most welcoming and hospitable and had been very helpful in providing me with info about the train's movements in advance. Most of them were also refreshingly young. No danger, it seems, of this line's volunteers heading for early retirement!

Go and enjoy this line while the CD’s trains are still running – it’s just two hours drive from either Brno airport or from Katowice airport across the border in Poland, both of which are served by Ryanair and Wizz Air flights from the UK. There are also good main line connections from Brno and Prague to Třemešná ve Slezsku. The steam trains run on Saturdays between late June and August. The society runs other trains at summer weekends using the Lyd2 diesel in addition, of course, to the CD’s services. The steam locos run chimney-first on the uphill run from Osoblaha to Tremesna.

I stayed at the Penzion Koliba, a very clean, quiet and comfortable place on a hillside amongst woods on the outskirts of Krnov, the nearest large town. They’re at http://www.koliba-krnov.cz. If you’re there it’s worth calling in at the station where there’s a 1955-built CKD 0-4-0T on a plinth in the station approach road. The plaque below it says that it was installed there in 1972 to celebrate the centenary of the main line railway arriving there. It must have had a very short working life.

The society’s website is at http://osoblazsko.com. It’s highly informative but is in Czech only. It includes a full timetable for the CD services as well as its own.

Sources:

  • Walder und Dampf by R. Reichel and H. Hufnagel Vienna 1990
  • Soviet Locomotive Types, the Union Legacy by A.J. Heywood and I.D.C. Button pub. Frank Stenvalls Förlag, Malmö, 1995 ISBN 0-9525202-0-6
  • Czech & Slovak Locomotives by J. Bittner and ors. Pub. Gradis Bohemia, Prague 2004 ISBN 80-902791-9-8
  • Na úzkém rozchodu v Jindřichově Hradci a Gmündu by K. Just pub Litoměřice 2004 ISBN 80-86765-00-8
  • Czech/Slovak Preserved Locomotives and Railcars by. B.J. Garvin pub LCGB 2007
  • Siaurasis Lietuvos Geležinkelis by O. Stasiukaitienė pub Versus Aureus, Vilnius 2010 ISBN 978-9955-34-258-8
  • Dmitry Sutyagin’s website http://railways.id.ru/english/index.html and the SZD website (above)

Tremesna station, the line's main line junction, on the 'night before', hotfoot after a two hours drive from the airport with about 5 minutes in hand! CD diesel no. 705-913-2 waiting to leave Tremesna with the 19.25 train to Osoblaha.

No. 57-001 getting ready for the day's trip outside the preservation society's shed at Třemešná ve Slezsku (upper two). No. 57-001 approaching and at Slezské Rudoltice (lower pair).

No. 57-001 between Třemešná ve Slezsku and Liptaň (left). The leading van is no. 823, built in 1963 specifically for service on the line and it's spent its whole working life there. CD diesel no. 705-913-2 crossing the steam train at Liptaň (right). Instead of the usual single coach this train has two in order to accommodate the large group of Dutch enthusiasts travelling on the return working in order to board the steam train at Osoblaha.

No. 57-001 at Bohušov (left) and waiting to leave Osoblaha (right).

Definitely a case of someone paying the piper when it comes to paint schemes in this shot near Horní Povelice.


Rob Dickinson

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