Rumanian Narrow Gauge Steam & Malaxa Railcars

Steam and Railcars in Romania 01.10. – 08./14.10.2011

1019 Malaxa railcar on it's way to Arad

Until the early 1990s forestry lines were still common in Romania but, shortly after the political change, one after the other, the lines disappeared from the map. Of the last three remaining lines only one is still in use and nowadays it is operated by diesels. They have established a steam operated tourist service but the locomotives and the coaches are strangers to this line. The other two lines are closed, with only occasional charter trains running over the tracks. The Moldovita line was almost abandoned and the parallel gravel road was paved in the recent years. Fortunately, they have now rebuilt a few kilometres of the line. In Covasna and Comandau, formerly connected by an inclined plane, there are still two short stretches of track. On two of those three lines, we’ll arrange authentic steam trains, turning back the clock on these fascinating railways.

The best opportunities for good pictures and videos can be found on the 40-plus km long line of Viseu de Sus. The other lines are not half as long as the water valley line from Viseu but still offer a good variety of opportunities and some very interesting situations for pictures.

A feature of this trip will be a night in the mountains. We’ll visit a forestry log cabin and go to where they cut the timber. The logs will be brought to the railway by horses and probably loaded by hand. This is no longer the normal operation but it is how it was done decades ago. So our focus is not only on the line and the steam trains but also we’ll take videos and photographs of the logging activities from the forest to the sawmill.

Budapest-build loco in Covasna (Siclau sus)

As all the equipment at Viseu de Sus runs with almost no regular maintenance, unfortunately, the use of a particular steam locomotive cannot be guaranteed. We can count, however, on the talent and improvisation of the local crew and we hope to be able to use the equipment we want.

We’ll see different types of locomotives in use. In Viseu we’ll use one of the almost “indestructible” Resita locomotives. For Comandau and Covasna we need to bring the locomotive of our choice to these lines by a low-loader truck. Along with the locomotive we’ll transfer three wagons from Viseu to Covasna and Comandau to create an authentic looking train. For Covasna and Comandau we chose a recently overhauled Budapest-built 0-8-0 tank locomotive 764 243. We’ll not use fancy passenger coaches or open cars with seats on.

We just can’t say for how long such events like ours will be possible in the Romanian forest. Even some of the railway employees in Viseu don’t like our tours. We don’t even know whether we can execute all events as planned but we will do our best to bring all these ideas to fruition. A landslide, a flood or something like that could easily destroy major parts of a railway. That’s why absolutely nothing in this tour can be guaranteed. If you want to see these fascinating railways you should go there sooner rather than later. On recent tours it has always been worth taking the chance to be there and we’ve had good results.

Viseu de Sus

In addition to the forestry lines we’ve added the steam operated line Brad – Criscior and a section of the former state railway operated narrow gauge line, Turda - Abrud. In Brad we’ve chartered an authentic freight train with a Resita locomotive and about five freight cars, just as it used to be some 20 years ago. The few kilometres long line hasn’t seen many changes over the last decades. It’s an industrial line, completely different from the forestry lines. The Abrud line is surrounded by mountains and offers plenty of good opportunities. We’ll run an authentic passenger train here.

Many railway enthusiasts tend to overlook the pre-war railcars, which are still in use on the state railway. Some of the railcars are even older than the steam locomotives! Those railcars where built before and after WW II in Bucharest at Malaxa. Although they were modernised in recent years they still have the charm of the 1930s. We’ll visit their last strongholds and have even applied for a permit to visit the depots in Arad and Timisoara. There are three different types of Malaxa railcars in use, of which the most remarkable is the class 1000. These racy railcars remind us of the styling of the old German “Flying Hamburgers”. They were almost extinct but Arad depot repaired two sets and scheduled one for regular passenger service. Also the smaller, two axle diesel-mechanical railcars of class 900 are of interest. For more than six decades they have predominated on the services on some branch lines in the Banat region. Although almost all the railcars have received a new livery over the last few years, in silver/wine red instead of the traditional red or blue/red (classes 750 and 1000) or green (class 900) livery, they’re still well worth a visit and a ride. The lines they are operating are partly equipped with semaphores and wooden telegraph poles. Countryside station buildings and small level crossing posts offer further potential to photographers and video film makers.

Malaxa railcar class 900






We’ll meet at the airport of Cluj Napoca around 15.45 hrs (flights with Malev from Budapest), Lufthansa (from Munich) and Austrian Airlines (from Vienna). We can book the flight for you if required. Bus transfer to Viseu (about four hours), accommodation in private pensions near the depot of the forest line in Viseu de Sus


In the early morning (ca. 6.30 hrs) we’ll steam uphill into the mountains. Today is Sunday, so we don’t need to worry about regular trains and have all the time we need for many photo stops and runpasts. Our train consists of a Resita locomotive, a special tender, passenger coach and several empty trucks, just as the normal train used to be many years ago. Accommodation in a basic guesthouse in the mountains above Faina.


In the morning we’ll go further up with our train, as far as possible. After some more photographs we’ll head for a place where the logs are being cut. We’ll follow the route of the logs from the forest to the railway line where we have planned a loading process by horse and manpower. In the afternoon and evening we’ll return to Viseu de Sus, probably with a loaded train. Accommodation in private pensions in Viseu de Sus


We’ll follow the regular diesel trains with a steam hauled train into the mountains. According to the wagons needed for loading, we’ll drop trucks at different loading points along the line. Today we need to work around all the scheduled diesel trains and railcars and adjust our running times after them. However, some good pictures will be possible as the train stops several times on the way where we can get off and walk a bit forward and wait for the train at a good position. We’ll probably use the Orenstein & Koppel locomotive. Because we need to be back in Viseu de Sus early we’ll only go to the lowest loading point, Delta Novat. In the evening we’ll go by charter bus to Viseu de Jos. Overnight train A1644 to Brasov (Kronstadt), departure 19.12 hrs


03.47 hrs arrival in Brasov. Early in the morning we’ll go by charter bus up to Comandau, from Covasna with mini buses. In Comandau a real forest train is waiting for us. Hauled by a Budapest-built locomotive we’ll go with empty trucks into the deep forest. At a suitable place we’ll load these trucks with logs from a lorry. While the non-authentic loading process will take place we’ll enjoy a picnic in the forest and wait for the better afternoon light. In the afternoon we’ll return with a loaded logging train to Comandau. Hotel in Covasna.


Overnight we’ll have brought the Budapest loco down to Covasna by road. Our little train will run a very few miles on the flat stretch of the railway. Around 10.30 hrs we’ll continue by our charter bus to Brad. If our times permit we’ll stop in Sibiu and visit the local railway museum there. Hotel in Brad.


In the morning we’ll take a Resita locomotive and about five freight cars from the state railway station in Brad to a factory in Criscior. Many photo stops and run-bys are planned with our truly authentic train.

About 11.00 hrs we’ll continue to Campeni, where another narrow gauge steam train is waiting for us. Our Budapest locomotive will haul three authentic passenger coaches. We’ll go though a beautiful valley up to Abrud. In the late afternoon, when the shadows have reached the bottom of the valley we’ll go by charter bus to Timisoara. Hotel in Timisoara.


Today the tour for railcar enthusiasts starts. The pre-war built Malaxa railcars are amongst the oldest standard gauge vehicles in non-tourist use in Europe! Individual flight to Timisoara. Flight can be booked by FarRail Tours.


The steam-enthusiasts only will leave us today and take an individual flight home. Flights can be booked by FarRail Tours.

We start the railcar part of the tour. Today we’ll focus on the two-axle railcars, class 900, on their line in the Banat. The area is rather flat but offers dozens of nice positions with wooden telegraph poles along the line, semaphores, old country station buildings etc. Hotel in Timisoara


In the Banat there are still many lesser lines which see some passenger trains, many of them are these little, anachronistic diesel-mechanical railcars. Hence we’ll spend another day along these lines and enjoy the rural scenery. In the afternoon we’ll visit the railcar depot in Timisoara. Hotel in Timisoara


Today we’ll focus on line shots of railcars, more than half a century old, from the depot at Arad. Arad is still using the round shaped, racy railcars of class 1000. They look a bit like the 1930s German “Flying Hamburger“. It’s almost impossible to chase these railcars by bus but we’ll get several pictures because we will have got the complete roster and operating schedule for Arad’s railcars the evening before. In the evening we’ll take an overnight train to the east of the country. Train A 1822 from Arad to Medgidia, departure 19.00 hrs


09.13 arrival in Medgidia. The depot of Medgidia has several railcars allocated. Among them are the nicely shaped class 750 bogie railcars. Although the lines are rather flat the traditional infrastructure will offer plenty of photographic opportunities. In the evening we’ll go by charter bus to Tecuci. Hotel in Tecuci


Tecuci has a large allocation of Malaxa railcars of classes 700, 750 and one 1000. These are used on a line which passes through many villages. Besides the Malaxas, they use many ex-East German railcars of class 79. Hotel in Tecuci


Because Tecuci has so many nice railcars we’ll spend another day here. Hotel in Tecuci


In the morning we’ll go by charter bus to the airport of Bucuresti (Bucharest) where our tour ends. FarRail Tours can book your flight home.


Cozia 1 above Novat

Line description and tour details

On this tour we’ll visit a place where logs come from. This requires some walking through the forest or recently deforested areas. At this time it is not possible to say where this will be or how far we need to walk to get to the logging site. Just be prepared for a walk of perhaps up to one mile. If you don’t want to see the cutting in the forest you can also wait at the railway line where the cut logs will be probably brought by horses.

The narrow gauge forest railway of Viseu de Sus is the last remaining one in operation in Romania. Besides diesel engines, steam locomotives are still serviceable, mostly the Resita-build 0-8-0T or their Reghin-built counterparts. Besides these, two more interesting steam locomotives are in running condition. One of them is the 0-8-0 Orenstein & Koppel-built tank locomotive 764 211 and the other is 763 193, an 0-6-0 tank engine with an inside frame build by Krauss in Munich. It came to Viseu de Sus from the forest railway at Moldovita after it closed. Steam is not used on a regular basis any more but still kept as spare to diesel.

The main line starts in Viseu de Sus at the large sawmill and runs steadily uphill for 43 km to Coman at the Ukrainian border. There was also a branch line to the east into the Novat valley of which only a small part is still usable. Both lines offer plenty of opportunities for good pictures. On the main line there are three tunnels very close together.

Viseu de Sus

Not only is the landscape something special, the trains in themselves are also noteworthy. We will try to make up authentic trains, as they ran in the eighties, when the line belonged to the state run forestry railway CFF (Caile Ferate Forestiere) and when it was worked by steam locomotives exclusively. In 2009 only two conventional working passenger coaches existed, both painted blue. We needed to pay for the overhaul of one of the coaches to have it available for our trains. It cannot be guaranteed that we can get one of these original coaches for our train, but we’ll try. Besides locomotive, tender and passenger coach we’ll carry several empty trucks for the logs uphill to the loading points. Sometimes there are forestry tractors or other machinery that will have to brought up into the forest. This equipment will be carried by the railway as well. We don’t have a direct influence on the train dispatching but our chances of getting an authentic train behind the locomotive are quite good on the Sunday and Monday. The next day we’ll take what’s available which has been in most cases on our previous trips, authentic as well.

At the intermediate stations, unplanned stops (to raise steam pressure or get one of the log bogies on the track again) and stops for taking on water, we will have the opportunity to take pictures of the train and its surroundings. Lots of shunting activity can be seen as they leave the log bogies at the loading points. In addition we’ve planned some runpasts along the line.

763 193 in Viseu de Sus

But remember, everything about the tour is unpredictable. Please expect delays, shortages of wagons and couplings for the wagons, derailments, inaccurate or no information and so on. We’ll try to sort all these things out in advance but experience tells us to expect nothing and to be ready for the unexpected. However things usually work out in a very satisfactory way. So it will be the same as on our last trips: we’ll need to arrange things on the spot, try to get the wagons we want and find the best opportunities together with the local railway staff, who will be as helpful as they can be.

We’ll try to get a loaded train to bring it down to the sawmill in Viseu de Sus. However, there is a remarkable resistance to do this and only if all the necessary people work together have we a chance to get a loaded train. It also depends on the skills of persuasion of Michael Schneeberger, who is arranging everything for us in Viseu. We have no real influence on the decisions of the railway. 

Covasna and Comandau were part of a forestry line, connected by an inclined plane in Siclau. In Comandau several lines headed into the forest. One of them was used until ten years ago. But after the sawmill in Comandau was closed, the railway lost its major contractor and was closed as well.

forestry line Comandau

What remains is a seven kilometre long track into the forests from Comandau (Komandó) on the way to the pass at Holomu (Halom). The line ends near the old loading point at Cumpana. On this section you will find many nice positions for pictures, especially in the chilly morning air. The altitude is about 1000 metres above sea level, so there might be even a little snow in October. Close to the current terminus of the railway we’ve arranged trucks, which will load their logs on to our wagons. During the loading process we’ll enjoy a picnic in the forest and later return with a real logging train to Comandau. Our locomotive will be probably the Budapest-built 0-8-0 764 243.

Overnight we’ll transfer our locomotive by a low-loader truck from Comandau to Covasna (Kovaszna). There we’ll use the loco on the remaining bit of the line for a short charter train with logging trucks.

Brad – Criscior is a short industrial line from the state railway station in Brad to an industrial complex for repairing and construction of railway and mining equipment and railway vehicles in Criscior. The line leaves the state railway in a curve, passes a river bridge and follows along a small road in a populated area. In some places, a large industrial pipe runs parallel to the line, as was the situation 25 years ago. The scenery in this part is really ugly ... so ugly, that it becomes photogenic again! But in the first part of the line you can make some nice countryside shots, so don’t worry too much. We formed a train out of about five coal hoppers and the local Resita locomotive. This train composition was used for many years in regular service.

narrow gauge line Brad - Criscior

Although the state railway purchased new railcars and lost some of the branch line operations to competition, the fantastic Malaxa railcars are still active. In the last few years some of them have been overhauled or have received new diesel engines and virtually all of them have a new livery of dark red/silver or green/yellow. This hints at a long life for these veterans. The Malaxas are spread all over the country in small numbers but there are centres of operation: Timisoara, Arad and Medgidia. The first two depots serve lines in the Banat in the south-western part of the country while Medgidia is the south-eastern outpost of the Malaxas. The railcars at Arad also approach the Carpathians. Shortly before our tour we’ll get the current timetable for the railcars and will adjust our daily schedule according to it. For Timisoara we have requested a permit for a visit to the railcar depot.

class 700 Malaxa railcar

In general the landscape is flat but there are many interesting positions, some featuring old wooden telegraph poles along the line or semaphores on small gantries.

Chasing railcars by bus is hopeless; road conditions are far from west European standards and the roads are not necessarily parallel to the railways. We’ll be better going from one to another train, using the timetable we have by then. This way we’ll get some good shots over the day.


Small Print

Romania is a new member of the European Union. This has brought a lot of change to the country but in the small villages along the lines we can still experience the traditional Romania and its hospitality. Serious crime is almost unheard of; our accommodations are either family run or nice basic middle class hotels and all offer a warm shower and reasonable, good food. The night spent in the mountains is in basic accommodation, which is quite clean with basic cold washing facilities. It’s not certain that the lavatories in the building will be operable, so we may need to use the outside lavatories. We’ll stay in big, simple rooms, there are no single or double rooms available for this night.

class 900 Malaxa from the depot Timisoara leaves Carpinis

The use of a specific locomotive cannot be promised on any line we’ll visit. In Viseu we will use steam engines for the regular trains depending on their availability. As the company is running the engines and the rest of the rolling stock without proper maintenance, we don’t know which steam locomotives will be operational. The engines built by Resita and Reghin seem to be almost “indestructible”, so the local workshop should be able to solve any problems. For the unique Krauss locomotive in Moldovita and the Budapest in Comandau we’ve no substitutes. If one of these locos fails we can’t offer another one. Because of the high costs of bringing the locomotives to these lines there is also no refund possible if something goes wrong and steam operation can’t be delivered.

On this tour we have planned several events which can’t be guaranteed in any respect. Neither the horses, nor the manual loading process, the number of wagons or a specific locomotive can be guaranteed.

forestry line Viseu de Sus

In our pensions and hotels there is sufficient power supplies for charging batteries. However, in our accommodation in the mountains there is probably no power supply available. In addition, there is no cell phone signal in the forests (luckily).

Health: no problems exist concerning your health. The water from the numerous springs along the line in Viseu can be drunk without a problem, even the small streams just above the first village have clear and drinkable water. The only serious health risk is if you are not careful around an operating railway. Jumping up or down from moving trains is not allowed in Viseu de Sus. Getting on or off, and travelling on the train is at your own risk, so take care along the railway. Wear good sturdy shoes.

For this tour you will need a valid passport, EU citizen only a valid ID card. A visa for citizens of the European Union is not necessary. For citizens of other countries please contact your local Romanian embassy for details.

Viseu de Sus: beyond Valea Babei

You’ll need little money in local currency. Food, which is not included, and beverages are quite cheap. For our trains in Viseu you just need £8 if you want to take the opportunity of having coffee and beer aboard the train in Viseu the Sus. This £8 will cover the drinks on the train in Viseu de Sus for all three days. Please expect that there won’t be coffee on the train on every day, especially the second day.

The tour is planned with the dedicated photographer and video filmmaker in mind. The itinerary is designed for those who think it more important to get the perfect shot, not necessarily to sample the local food, bars or nightclubs.

Please remember that the hotels, buses and the forest railway itself do not necessarily conform to current EU-standards. That’s exactly one of the reasons why we are going there. Safety and environmental standards are still not fully developed so a word of warning: Please beware of the dangers in and around the railway and other modes of transportation. An accident and health insurance policy covering foreign countries is absolutely essential. FarRail Tours cannot be held responsible for any accidents, delays etc.



Narrow gauge Steam in Romania 15 to 30 participants £1,470
01.10.2011 – 08.10.2011 12 to 14 participants £1,620
  Single room surcharge £95
Registration Deadline: 01.06.2011
Malaxa Railcars in Romania 9 to 30 participants £770
09.10.2011 – 14.10.2011 Single room surcharge £120
Registration Deadline: 01.06.2011

The price includes:

Not included are:

railcar meeting in Jimbolia, border station to Serbia


© FarRail Tours - e-mail: Bernd Seiler - zurück zu FarRail Tours
Click here to return to FarRail Tours