The International Steam Pages

Steam in Serbia 2009

James Waite reports on a quick bash to observe what is now the tail end of Serbian steam, albeit remarkable 21st century survivors :

I had a weekend in Serbia with the FarRail group. As I was a last-minute participant and needed to get back to Belgrade airport after leaving the group I hired a car for the weekend. The BA plane from Heathrow on Saturday arrived punctually at noon; I collected the hire car promptly from the hire desk and was away from the airport by 12.40 or so. The weather forecast was gloomy for the whole weekend but in the event it was sunny in Belgrade and I decided to stop at the engine shed by the motorway to see if there were any steam locos there. One 51 class tank loco was parked outside the shed.

Pressed on to Kostolac and arrived about 2.00pm. The boiler certificate of the last locos (no's 9 and 13) expired on 10th April so I wondered whether anything would be on view there. To my great surprise the two locos were in steam and sitting outside the roundhouse enjoying the afternoon sun. Just delightful! Mr. Milosevic, the ever-helpful traffic manager there, was in attendance by the turntable making sure everything was ready for the FarRail visit - he is clearly very keen on the railway and this was the first time I'd seen him away from his desk and enjoying matters on the ground! I gathered that this really was likely to be one of the last steamings, with or without boiler insurance, mainly because work had begun on lifting the track. Crucially the fishplates in the main yard by the tippler have been removed prior to lifting so the locos were only able to go as far as the watering point and not up the line to the pit. Apparently tracklifting was due to start on Monday in earnest and had only been put off for the FarRail trip. Very sad. No 14 is still in the shed, attached to a kind of stationary boiler which is used for softening the rubber components of conveyor belts which have gone brittle and no. 10 was dumped outside where it has been for years. No'10's tender, which also used to be dumped outside, has now disappeared. I was sent off to admire no. 12 which has been repainted and now resides in the park/grassy area opposite the Bar Piccadili in the town centre. It was always a good watering hole and now it's become even better! There's a commemorative plaque saying that it last worked in 2007 and was installed on the plinth in October 2008. All five of these locos are Davenports built in 1945 and are 900mm gauge.

Around 6.00pm we all went off to the hotel at Pozarevac to check in, have supper and then return to Kostolac for some night shots. A spot of bother at Pozarevac as several of the rooms, including mine, were infested with cockroaches but we were all eventually rehoused in an insect-free environment.

Unfortunately it started raining soon after the night shoot began. Bernd had brought some floodlights but they cut out in the rain so the session was brief. Got to bed around 10.30.

Back to Kostolac by 7.30 Sunday morning - Easter Sunday in the Orthodox world. Mr. M had organised two of his staff to turn up in traditional costumes with trayfuls of elaborately decorated eggs and a special Easter bread - really good. It was basically a cloudy morning but the sun came out for half an hour or so and the two locos shunted around the watering point outside the gate - as far as the track would allow. Soon it was time to leave - I guess it really will have been farewell to Kostolac for the last time. I wonder what will happen to the locos. No 14, attached to the rubber-softening contraption, will apparently carry on supplying it with steam for a little longer. The power station by the shed is now half-closed which is why the steam line has finished. The conveyor belt from the big pit to the east is also out of action and only a few trains run on the electric railway to keep it ticking over.

On to Vreoci and arrived there around 1.00pm. The weather was cloudy though it brightened up briefly later on. One Decauville (53-017) was in steam as was 62-635. 53-018, the other Decauville which used to live at Rudovci at the eastern end of the line, now resides on a plinth outside the offices at Vreoci. No. 53-029 was dumped - it appears in the picture below. The narrow gauge locos here are also 900mm gauge and were built in 1953, part of an order for 30 sent to Yugoslavia and the last Decauville steam locos to be built. Left around 6.00pm for the long drive to a hotel near Resavica. Stopped to see the old Swiss electrics at Rudovci and stopped again at Lapovo, near the hotel, to try to track down some plinthed locos there. We found one of them, a 62. A bit of chaos at the hotel as I hadn't been booked in and all the available rooms had been taken by a group of Czech enthusiasts who were following the tour and had arrived before me. Eventually I was allowed to occupy their equivalent of the presidental suite which was very grand but also expensive!

Up at 6.00am Monday morning! Very good breakfast and I set off ahead of the bus for Resavica colliery, a 50-minute drive as it turned out. This was a good move as I was able to watch 126.014 was being prepared - amazingly in yet more sunshine in what was otherwise a cloudy and rainy day. Left at 8.30 for the drive back to the airport and home by early afternoon.

Definitely a successful trip! 




Rob Dickinson