The International Steam Pages

Steam in Bosnia, 2014

Bill Jamieson writes about an extended visit to Oskova in March 2014. See also the reports by Trevor Maxted, George Shields, Paul Jobber and separately Terry Andrews

Bill was back in October 2015 and adds the following notes to supplement and update his earlier report:

I was back in Bosnia for 10 days recently - Thursday 1st October until Saturday 10th October to be precise (although with very poor weather over the second half of my visit, I didnít actually venture away from Hotel Zlaca on either the 8th or 9th) - again to concentrate on the narrow gauge operation at Oskova. As my visit overlapped with that of John Rabyís group, and the pattern of operations was very similar to my two visits in 2014, I wonít go into too much detail, but there a few points I think are worth mentioning.

Firstly, weekday mornings were generally poor with the separation plant down for maintenance more often than not. On the evidence of what I not only saw but was also told, it seems almost certain that no activity will take place on Fridays until the mid afternoon shift change, and on Mondays it is unlikely there will be any movement before midday. In theory weekends should be best for morning activity, as no maintenance is carried out on the separation plant then, but a couple of developments meant that the level of steam activity was actually much reduced from what I had experienced in 2014. 

Firstly, the work was being shared with 720.003, one of the 4w diesel shunters - last year this loco was also active at Oskova, but only sporadically. Secondly, a steam-worked tourist train is now being operated on Saturdays to Turija (Banovici mining museum siding dep.12:00), and this uses the loco from the separation plant shunt. Presumably this working will cease for the winter, but I didnít actually see any advertising for it. 720.003 coped perfectly well on its own (as indeed can one steam loco) while 83.158 was away from Oskova, so itís not entirely clear why it is now deemed necessary to have two locos there. On Saturday 3rd October, 83.158 returned to Oskova after working the tourist train and took up its normal duties again, but not until 17:00. Presumably something similar happened the following Saturday but with the rain getting heavier I didnít hang about after 83.158 had left for Turija, and returned to the hotel.

PS On the journey from Zagreb to Tuzla on 30th September, train 397 actually made a comfortable connection with the afternoon train to Tuzla at Doboj - just seven minutes late and it would have been on time except for having to wait for late running train 396 (Sarajevo - Zagreb) at Stanari.

Apologies for not writing sooner but as the reports from George, Trevor and Terry (I bumped into all of them on my visit) are all a bit light on detail about what was happening at Oskova, I thought I had better fill in the gaps - the NG operation there is my particular interest and over eight days I concentrated on that to the exclusion of all else in Bosnia!

My method of travel from Scotland was by what has now become my normal route - ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, then train through the Netherlands and Germany, picking up train EC113/213, on this trip at MŁnchen Hbf, to take me through to Zagreb, with arrival there on the evening of 5th March (accompanied, I should add, by my trusty Brompton folding bicycle, which is essential for 'commuting' between Hotel Zlaca and Oskova). The following morning train 397 was used to Doboj, where arrival was at 15:33, about 25 minutes late and five minutes after train 6607 to Tuzla should have left. Fortunately it had been held to make the connection and the conductor on train 397 had no qualms about directing me across the barrow crossing at the north end of Doboj station to make the transfer as fast as possible - no nonsense about having to use the subway! As has been noted before, it is not possible to buy a through ticket from Zagreb to Tuzla and at that point I only had a few KM left over from a previous trip - not enough to cover the 7.10KM single fare to Tuzla. The conductor on train 6607 initially declined to accept Euros (although there was no suggestion that I might be thrown off the train!) but eventually did so, charging 3.60E for a single. That night I had a room reserved at Pansion Kipovi (recommended some years back by one of your correspondents), single room 40KM / 21E - (English is understood there).

Friday 7th March The day dawned damp, grey and cold with rain forecast to continue (definitely not a day for cycling to Hotel Zlaca!) so I elected to get a bus to Banovici in order to obtain a permit for subsequent days. The receptionist at Pansion Kipovi intimated that it was best to go to the bus station but he is obviously not a public transport user as, although there happened to be a convenient departure from the bus station (09:25 to Zavidovici), it is actually far better to get a number 10 bus (as Terry has reported) which passes close to Pansion Kipovi on the main road. Bus stops don't seem to feature timetables but the service is frequent (far more buses than shown in the on-line timetable link given by Paul) with at least two operators involved, Litvatrans of Banovici and Gradski i Prigradski of Tuzla

Having obtained a permit for five days from the 8th (I was able to negotiate five days for the price of four), I walked along the track to Oskova, arriving there at 12:00. All was quiet but 83.159 eventually took a loaded train to the separation plant at about 13:15 and a second load at about 15:00. With the weather not improving much (apart from the rain having stopped) I decided to get a bus back to Tuzla at that point.

Saturday 8th March The weather was still grey and cold, albeit dry, and the decision was made to use the bus again today. Oskova was reached at about 09:00 and 83.159 was found along at the separation plant waiting to take a loaded through the unloading shed - this didn't actually commence until 09:40. Further loads taken that day departed Oskova yard at 10:54, 11:56, 13:10, 14:15 and 15:47, by which time I had had enough of the damp cold so I walked over to the main road, catching a number 10 bus (Litvatrans) to Tuzla at about 16:20.

Sunday 9th March Although still overcast, it was sufficiently promising to cycle up to Oskova today, the yard being reached at 09:25. 83.159 was along at the separation plant with a train almost unloaded. Further loads were taken from the yard that morning at 10:52 and at about 11:50 (I had been offered a trip up to the loading point at Turija on 740.107 and was away from Oskova for about an hour from 11:45). For whatever reason, the second train took a long time to unload and had still not been fully dealt with by the time of the mid-afternoon shift change. 83.159 came back LE to the yard at 14:30 then returned to the separation plant at 15:35 with the new crew. On completion of unloading, the empties were propelled right through to the yard (rather than a 740 going to collect them), arriving at 15:57. At this point I set off for Hotel Zlaca to get a room for the remainder of my visit, so cannot say what activity took place for the remainder of the Sunday afternoon. Single occupancy of a double room at Zlaca costs 45KM, while a dinner, B&B option costs 50KM - there's probably a limit to the value of the meal that can be chosen but, if so, I never reached it.

Monday 10th March At last the weather had changed, with the sun shining, but the separation plant was out of action this morning and 83.159 left the yard LE at 08:08 for Banovici Works. Here the LH connecting rod was taken down and the big end brasses removed for attention - a protracted process with resort having to be made to the oxyacetylene torch and big hammer. However everything was quickly reassembled so that the loco was able to depart back to Oskova at 11:30. By early afternoon the separation plant was once again up and running and 83.159 took loads from the yard at 13:18 and 14:15. However the sky had now clouded over completely and there was a chilly wind blowing so I decided to retreat to the warmth of the hotel.

Tuesday 11th March A sunny start to the day again, which would turn out to be the beginnings of a protracted settled spell. Unfortunately the separation plant was down again, with no sign of 83.159, which was eventually tracked down at the level crossing in Banovici, heading LE back to Oskova. It would be 11:45, however, before it made any further moves, leaving the yard for the separation plant to finish off unloadng a rake of wagons which had been started earlier that morning. Things then settled down with loads being taken from the yard at 12:38, 13:30, 14:31 and 15:57.

Wednesday 12th March The inactivity of previous mornings was repeated with 83.159 only engaging in some desultory shunting just after 09:00. Things started to pick up at 11:35 when it left the yard to unload a rake of wagons already in position at the separation plant. After that loads were taken from the yard at 13:23, 14:19. 15:57 and 17:05.

Thursday 13th March Today there was a bit more activity in the morning, with 83.159 leaving the yard at 08:05 to finish off a partially unloaded rake of wagons already along at the plant, while another load was taken out of the yard at 10:12. However it should be noted that there were no arrivals from Turija during this time and it would be 12:34 before 740.107 brought in a loaded train. The afternoon was then similar to previous days with 83.159 leaving the yard on loads for the plant at 12:44, 14:04, 15:58 and 17:04.

Friday 14th March Once again, morning activity was minimal although a team of men were engaged in loosening all the caked coal dust in a rake of hoppers along at the separation plant and these were eventually drawn over the unloading bunkers by 83.159 for the loosened material to be shovelled out - this at least enabled some decent photographs to be taken in good light. The pattern in the afternoon was then not dissimilar to previous days, although it was almost two o'clock before anything moved - loads were taken out of the yard at 13:40, 15:18 and 17:04. 83.159 reappeared back at the yard to take water just ten minutes after leaving with the first of these trips - someone had obviously slipped up!

As can be seen, hardly any coal was unloaded during the mornings of that particular week - although I have ascribed this to the separation plant being down, it seems likely that the underlying reason was a lack of demand for coal from Tuzla power station following a mild winter, and the opportunity was being taken to carry out routine maintenance, not just at the plant but also on the track - a track gang was busy on a couple of mornings at Oskova yard and was also seen at Banovici on the Friday.

The Friday was my last day of photography - the following day I had to catch the 10:20 train from Tuzla to Doboj and then train 396 to Zagreb, a protracted journey, so I was reluctant to miss out on breakfast at Zlaca, otherwise I would have accompanied George and his companions to see 62.111 on the Durdevik trip - perhaps not the best decision I've ever made!

I've attached a couple of shots of 83.159 on the Friday - most of my photography is on monochrome film and these haven't been developed yet but I also exposed some colour film on the Friday which has been commercially processed.

On the morning of Friday 14th March, a rake of wagons is being cleaned out and the dislodged caked coal dust shovelled out of the hopper wagons into the unloading bunkers at Oskova - 83.159 has just started to move the train forward a wagon length:

83.159 leaves Oskova yard for the separation plant in glorious late afternoon sunshine on Friday 14th March (this was the trip at 17:04).

Rob Dickinson