The International Steam Pages

Steam In Kosovo, November 2008

James Waite reports:

I was quite surprised to find anything still working there as there haven't been any reports of operating steam there that I've seen for more than five years. The photos of the Yugoslav 62 class loco in steam are at Obiliq colliery and power station in Kosovo. As you can see, the working engine, 62-670 (лл 670/1960), was not in good shape with lots of steam leaking from all over the place. When it left the depot to return to the power station it was completely covered in steam and wasn't visible at all. It seemed to have considerable difficulty just moving itself along. They used to get their engines overhauled at Zrenjanin works in Serbia but this has been impossible since the Kosovo war in 1999. Their main problem is a lack of spare parts and they now have to rely on home made ones. 62-676 (лл 676/1960) looked as though it had worked fairly recently. 62-636 (лл 636/1955) was definitely out of use and had some parts missing. They have a fourth loco, 62-671 (лл 671/1960) which has been at Zrenjanin since the war and, given the ongoing difficult relations between the two countries, they presumably won't now ever get back. I had hoped to see the 900mm gauge electric line there but it had been closed and lifted, though many of the poles for the overhead plus some of the catenary were still in situ. There's supposed to be a preserved Porter 0-4-0ST there along with the overhead locos and I wonder if they've survived. I didn't get into the power station and I guess they may still be there. Incidentally the SINVOZ company which ran Zrenjanin works has recently gone into administration and the works are closed. Doesn't bode well for the remaining industrial steam in Serbia which was maintained there. They also maintained the locos at the Mokra Gora line though they have quite a well-equipped workshop facility on site now.

Obiliq is in the outskirts of Pristina, Kosovo's capital, a somewhat surreal place full of aid workers, UN officials from the civil assistance organisation and soldiers of several nationalities from the peacekeeping force. There are numerous hotels and even more restaurants, clubs etc. for whom they must be the main customers. As you approach the town by road from the south the first sign of it is as you go over the brow of a hill and see the town spread out below you. In the foreground is a huge replica of the Statue of Liberty mounted on top of a high rise hotel. The two main streets, formerly Marshal Tito Street and Lenin Street are now Mother Teresa Street and Bill Clinton Street, the latter with a huge portrait of the great man painted on the side of another high rise building. All a little unreal and I wonder what will happen when the international community eventually leaves. Very friendly and hospitable people but very poor, especially out in the countryside. 

I had no trouble getting permission to see the locos - though my visit was the excuse for slivovice all round before I could do this, despite the fact that it was only 8.00 in the morning! The depot is out in the countryside, well outside the power station's security fence. It's easy to reach. Set off from Pristina on the main road north to Mitrovica. There's a truning to the left signposted to Obiliq after about 3kms. After perhaps 200m there's another truning to the left signposted to "TC Kosova A". This road is the main access to the power station which is on the right hand side. After about 1km there's a dirt track off to the left with a battered signpost reading "Auto Transporti". The depot is about 200m down this, just beyond what looks like a small fire station. The power station road reaches a level crossing just after the Auto Transporti turning. This is the line out from the power station to the depot and quite by chance the loco was crossing it on its way back to the depot when I got there. I was told it would return to the depot again about midday. The light's best at the depot first thing in the morning and would be pretty useless by midday though it would be good at the level crossing then.

The black JZ 2-6-2 is outside Kosovo Polje station, Kosovo Railways' headquarters, a couple of kms from Obiliq. It's JZ no. 01-043, Schwartzkopff 7953/1922. You can get to Kosovo Polje without the need to return to Pristina, which has horrendous traffic congestion. Carry on along the dirt track beyond the depot. It winds around a bit and after about 1km it reaches a T junction with a road which must once have been properly tarred. Turn left and keep going for another km or so, crossing the Kosovo Polje to Pristina railway en route, and you'll reach the centre of Kosovo Polje. Turn right for the station.

Rob Dickinson