Reports from Bosnia September 2014
Bosnia Exploratory Tour September 2014
Linesiding with John
On several recent trips to China, Terry Wallace and John Athersuch have both pointed out that Bosnia, the third country with real, working steam after China and Java, Indonesia, is well worth a look and that I would enjoy a visit. I've finally taken their advice and this upcoming trip with a small group of friends will visit the Tuzla area to see the 3-4 coal mine companies that still use steam to take coal to the state railway interchange or for shunting. Information before the start of this tour suggests that in the only other area with real, working steam until recently both Zenica and Breza (along with Kakanj in the same area) about 2 hours from Tuzla have no working steam so we plan to concentrate on the Tuzla - Banovici area. Good news from Sikulje (near Tuzla) is that limited work has restarted following the floods in spring and we should see the German kriegslok (Bosnia Class 33) in action there as well as at Dubrave. If we are lucky, we may find a locally-made USA tank working at Durdevik and on the narrow gauge at Oskova which is part of the Banovici system, we hope to see one or both of the available classes (25 and 83) in action.
Some photos of the trip can be seen here. Click to view. I am updating these when I can.
Copyright John Athersuch, 2012
Page started 5 September, reports will not start until after 14 September and will depend on wi-fi internet access at cafes and restaurants along the way. Our hotel has no public internet access and mobile wi-fi is more expensive in Bosni than almost anywhere else that I am likely to want to visit. Photos will be added later, probably when I am back in the UK.

Updated 23 September - Hotel Eco Garten, Slavonski Brod. Page complete.
The Bosnia report is live

Owing to limited access to the internet, these reports will start out as text only and photos will be added later when possible. I hope to be able to upload the 15 September report on 16 September.

15 September

A leisurely start from Hotel Slaca after our late arrival on Sunday evening; to Banovici to see the manager of railway operations (a steam fan) to arrange permissions for visits during our stay and to decide on two charters with a class 83 and a class 55 ng loco. Despite the focus of the trip being on real steam, with the cancellation of our visit (1 day, 2 nights) to Zenica (where we are told the steam loco is broken and won't be fixed), it appealed to add something extra in the Tuzla area.

With the weather forecast for the week in mind, we have gone for a Wednesday class 83 charter and a next Monday class 55 charter. In both cases, an attempt will be made to find at least 3 coal wagons with handbrakes and brakeman platforms so we can stand on those and not need to take a flat wagon to ride on for these trips.

Weather was showery with occasional breaks so after visiting the workshops we had lunch in the company restaurant in Banovici and then spend the afternoon at Oskova where the weather gradually improved until we got a bit of late afternoon glint. There were 3 locos in action (2 diesel, one steam) with another diesel spare for the linework from the mine. On the coal washery shunt were steam 25 30 and diesel 720 003. Working to the mine was 740 108 with 740 107 spare.

For anyone who doesn't know, this section of,the line is double track. The line work diesels leave their trains at the exchange point and go to the washery to pick up the empties. The washery locos pick up the loads from the exchange point and take them to the washery unloading area (where the side doors of the wagons are manually opened and closed to unload the coal), pull the whole train through and clear of the unloader and then back them through the unloader on the return track where they are collected by the line diesel. The washery shunt loco (steam and diesel in turn) follow the empties train to the exchange point and collects the next fulls to head to the washery and so the cycle goes begins again. On some returns to the exchange point, the steam loco coals and waters.

This pleasant little operation sees something happening somewhere most of the time and it takes 20 - 40 minutes for a complete cycle. We arrived at 14:30 for shift change. The line operates 3 shifts so the other shift changes are roughly 22:30 and 06:30.

We have time to go back and see this again, hopefully with good weather and possibly for a longer session. With our charters, we will see classes 25, 55 and 83 operating on the Banovici ng system but we would like to see a class 83 perform on the washery shunt as well.

Tomorrow we head to Bukinje and are promised at least one loco exchange from the workshops to Dubrava and possibly also one to Sekulje as well. If we are lucky, we could see 4 class 33 kriegsloks in action.
Double tap to edit
16 September 2014

Today was a day of considerable variety. We started with an appointment at Bukinje workshops to see class 33 503 head off to Dubrave where it was to become the second loco there. We were able to catch the loco which operated under its own steam light engine over the national railway network at 3 locations on its way to Dubrave before we had to head to Sikulje where there were two locos, 33 064 preparing to head over to Bukinje works and 33 248 which had come out from Bukinje in a loco rotations (probably earlier today) which had taken over the work to the exchange sidings. Loco moves had been delayed as they were widening the main road near Bukinje and the rail track was out of use for several days. The line was restored late yesterday. After the two moves at Sikulje including the return of 33 248 with the empties, it was all over there for the day so we headed for lunch in Lukavac and then had to go smartly back to Bukinje as the workshop was closing at 15:00. As well as the line up of disused Slavonski Brod 'USA' tanks and one kriegslok boiler and frames, 33 064was outside the shed cooling down before minor repairs tomorrow and 33 504 was undergoing a full 10-year overhaul. This was the cleanest and most logical layout of loco bits for an overhaul I have ever seen with all the parts cleaned and stored neatly and the workshop road arranged from back to front with wheels, frames and boiler and tender. The cab was outside the shed. The frames and boiler looked in excellent condition for an 70 year old loco. When the workshop closed at 15:00, we did some supermarket shopping for tomorrow and then had a look at Oskova washery where 83 158 was already in position for the charter tomorrow. There had been a change of diesel with 740 113 replacing 740 107 from yesterday on line work. Unfortunately, 25 30 had failed near the unloading point with a broken rod of some sort. It will probably be back in action tomorrow but if they are desperate for a loco, we will be happy to let them use our charter loco instead and do the charter another day.

We were back at the hotel by 17:30 after a very decent day.
19 September

Today we found real steam action at Dubrave and Sikulje. A 7:30 phone call established that after 8:30, just like yesterday, a train would run from Dubrave to the exchange siding. We caught this both ways at the mid-way village. A call to Sikulje elicited a train 'in 10 minutes'. Of course, you can't get there in that time but we drove over anyway to see the train arriving at the exchange station. It returned light engine as there were no empties. There were also no full left at the washery, so we photted the diesels on the main line and had lunch hoping for some empties to arrive. In the early afternoon, these arrived and the 33 came back to Lukavac to collect these. After shift change at 15:00, thee was a bit of shunting but then the loco was due to stable after coaling. The next train of fulls is due tomorrow, probably in the morning. We headed for Oskova to our fallback location to see one cycle at the unloader with 25 30 in charge.

Having done all the systems at least once, we are now trying to return to Dubrave and Sikuje at the appropriate moments for the infrequent trains so we (video people that is) can put together a nice sequence from washery to exchange sidings for both lines. Chasing is not practical so it needs to be one location per train and the trains are roughly daily!

Unfortunately, after 30 degrees today and sunshine and clouds, we face a weekend of cloud and rain which is predicted to extend to Monday when we have our second charter on the Banovici system. Let's hope they have got it wrong!
18 September

The day started with a phone call to establish that there was a train after 08:30 from Dubrave to the exchange sidings. We drove there and gained access to the loading area and found 2 kriegsloks, one in steam and one in reserve not in steam. The second was the loco we had seen transferred from the workshops on the first day. The loco in steam was 33 236. After shunting, it took a long rake of coal wagons to Ljubace exchange sidings. We estimate about 100 wagons went down. It returned after 30-40 minutes with 48 empties. At that point, no more transfers were expected for the day. All of the open cast mines seem to have limited production post the floods so one train in daylight hours may be the best you can expect. It is extremely useful to have someone who can phone to find out when and where it will happen. A later phone call to Sekulje established that their next train would be 19:00.

We then explored the Dubrave line and would like to return for photographs in the village mid-way and at Ljubace. That will probably take another two trains over two days. Luckily, we have time.

Moving on to Durdevik, we found 62 111 had last worked in May. The line to Zivince was unused and in need of attention before another train can be run. The rail yard at Durdevik was half covered with coal spoil and there were no wagons there. They do have a short 600mm push system with 2 sliding plate turntables and 2 skips. One is a traditional 'Hudson' frame and the other a more modern outside wheel version.

We then explored the Dubrave line and would like to return for photographs in the village mid-way and at Ljubace. That will probably take another two trains over two days. Luckily, we have time.

Moving on to Durdevik, we found 62 111 had last worked in May. The line to Zivince was unused and in need of attention before another train can be run. The rail yard at Durdevik was half covered with coal spoil and there were no wagons there. They do have a short 600mm push system with 2 sliding plate turntables and 2 skips. One is a traditional 'Hudson' frame and the other a more modern outside wheel version.

In the afternoon, there was only Oskova with steam so we finished there in brilliant sunshine but limited action from 25 30. The washery here is struggling to cope with the quantity of stone and other non-coal in the material being provided. Post-flood, they seem to be mining poor quality seams as the best seams are still flooded or waterlogged.

In the evening, to Tuzla for a guided tour and dinner at the Tuzla Brewery restaurant. The unfiltered black beer is excellent.

17 September
A charter today with 83 158 from Oskova washery to the mine and back. On our return, the washery was broken but it finally restarted in time for sunset and 25 30 was performing with the diesel 720 003 taken off to the workshops for repair. It appeared that yesterday, news of a loco failure related to diesel 720 003 not steam 25 30 and the washery as well seemed to be struggling with the amount of rock coming in with the coal for washing. A good day but we could have done with a later charter as the sun only burnt off the cloud around 13:00 and our charter was already running back tender first at that point (with run past quota expended). We hope to push back our second charter on Monday to 12:00 or later. If the sun is shining, this will also help with sun angles and the sun getting into the valley.
20 September

A day that started off with promise but clouded over and we had rain by mid morning. Being a Saturday with the managers away (we surmise), nothing was happening fast and the train movements at Dubrave and Sikulje were predicted for 12:00 and 13:00.

We started off at Oskova with 25 30 in action as usual but we were able to try the morning shots looking down on the loco and the washery. This is probably the classic shot of this location. We also secured the key for the standard gauge shed and found 2 locos inside Skoda 19-12 and 62-125 both of which are useable and one of these, probably 19-12 is used roughly once a month when the diesel is serviced. Both are available to charter. Two other locos, a 62 and (what I believe is) a Fives Lille loco are dumped. The old shed, station and other items still stand but a modern shed has been constructed at a distance and the old shed is in danger of collapse.

By this time, we had word that the diesel would first take empties from the power station to Lukavac, take fulls to the power station and then serve Lubace. This would entail first a steam-hauled fulls train from Sikuje and then from Dubrave. We reached Sikulje in heavy rain to witness the departure of the fulls but there were no empties and the loco returned light engine. Over at Lubace, we got news that the transfer from Dubrave was delayed with no specific time due to problems unspecified. We took off to see either Tuzla vs. Railway Workers Sarajevo (Tuzla lost 2-1) or to catch up on wi-fi in a cafe. We later heard that the exchange at Lubace happened at 16:30 and that photographically this is challenging as the diesel delivers the empties and disappears to stable, the steam loco brings the fulls to the junction and cuts off its train to go on the empties and then the diesel takes the fulls away before the steam takes the empties back up the branch. With this pattern and very tight clearances and no width, we have decided to go elsewhere for our next shots on the system.

The weather cleared about 17:30 and we had interesting skies and a good sunset on our return journey to the hotel after the football match around 18:30.
21 September

With the chance of a mid-morning train we headed for Dubrave only to get rained on waiting for a train that didn't run until mid afternoon. Eventually everything kicked into action and the mainline diesel served first Oskova, then Sikulje and finally Dubave with empty wagons and took away the fulls to the power station. We drove over to Sikulje around 12:00f or the full steam sequence and then had time to get back to Dubarve for the same there after 15:30.

The section from the mid-way village on the Dubrave line to the exchange sidings at Lubace features a good climb for the tender-first empties returning to Dubrave and I hope we will have one more chance to explore that area before we leave.

On both Saturday and Sunday, it seems that movements happen in the afternoon rather than in the morning. In contrast, weekday workings at Dubrave were around mid-morning. We could have started off at Oskova this morning but we didn't know that. It's also been suggested that if you have charters on the Oskova - Banovici line, the weekend would be a better time to do this as everything slows down on the standard gauge. Of course, if Sikulje and Dubrave get back to 3 return trains a day in daylight, a gricer's life would be considerably improved even at weekends.
22 September
Today started with a charter at Banovici with Hungarian (I think Magav) 0-8-0T 55-99 to the end of the double track at Banovici and ended with a night shoot at the Oskova washery with the 25.

The rain held off until the return leg of the charter but then persisted until around 19:00 after which we had a dry spell for the night shots.

Reports to the driver suggest that getting to Slavonski Brod tomorrow could be affected by the recent rains and a river bridge close to the border on the route we used to get to Tuzla has problems. We plan to take a more scenic route within Bosnia heading west but need to cross various river bridges on our route via Doboj. Leaving tomorrow for flights on Wednesday from Zagreb now seems even more sensible. We are still hopeful, however, of seeing something move at Dubrave or Sikulje tomorrow before we leave the area.

Coal production is at a low level post flooding and poorer seams with less coal percentage are being mined which causes problems at the washeries. Seasonal demand for electricity may also be a factor.

One train a day is currently the norm at Sikulje and Dubrave.

One diesel serves Sikulje, Dubrave and Oskova and takes coal to the power station and empties to the exchange sidings (and washery at Oskova). There also appears to be another mine on the line from Zivinice to Oskova with coal wagons to be collected. In theory, you can work out what will happen with the steam at Sikulje and Dubrave based on the diesel pattern of operation. In practice, this doesn't always work especially at Sikulje where the steam loco may take fulls to Lukavacs and return light engine.

One kriegslok is undergoing a full overall at Bukinje.

The Oskova washery loco is 25-30 at the moment. It will be replaced shortly by the green 83 - currently being serviced at Banovici. The black 83 and a class 55 are available to charter. Only wagons are being overhauled at Banovici workshops.

The sg steam loco at Oskova - probably the class 19 - is used once a month while the diesel is serviced.

The USA tank at Durdevik last worked in May (according to mine managers - reported by our guide, or in August - according to Bernd Seiler). The limited amount of coal produced is going out by road truck. The line to Zivinice will need clearing/checking before a train can be run. (Terry Wallace reports the state of track is normal and doesn't stop them running a train even if they have to get down to clear the crossings of dirt before proceeding. Bernd agrees.)

Zenica is confirmed not using steam by a visiting enthusiast. Breza has dieselised.

The sum total of real working steam in Bosnia on any one normal day at the moment is 3 locos:

Oskova ng shunt - 1 steam loco
Dubrave shunt and transfer to exchange yards at Lubace - 1 kriegslok
Sikulje shunt and transfer to exchange yards at Lukavacs - 1 kriegslok

At the Kreka mining operation there 2 kriegsloks in use, 2 more serviceable - one each at Bukinje and Dubrave and one under major overhaul at Bukinje. Thanks to local contacts, we were able to witness the transfer of 2 kriegsloks under their own steam to Dubrave and Sikulje. The loco sent to Dubrave is now stored there and the one to Sikulje replaced one going to the workshop for servicing.

As a result, we saw 5 locos in use that can be classified as real steam and 2 more ng locos in use for charters. We saw 7 different locos in steam on this trip of 4 different classes, 25, 33, 55 and 83. No USA tanks are in use but the one at Durdevik is the one most likely to be steamable for a charter or used if coal output at the mine there increases. (Terry reports that a USA tank is stored at Vares reported to be serviceable and available to charter. Terry and Bernd comment on the large numbers of USA tanks available for spares to,keep others going if necessary. Zenica will have access to these if it needs to repair one of its locos. Bernd reports both 'working' class 62 at Zenica now need repair due to boiler problems.)

23 September

Dubrave was not due to run a train to Ljubace until the afternoon shift and we couldn't confirm Sikulje so we started at Oskova but quickly received word that empties would be brought to Lukavac in an hour so we headed there. The information was reasonably accurate and in the period from 10:45 to 11:15, the diesel arrived with empties, a Tuzla - Doboj passenger passed through and then the kriegslok came to collect the empties and took them to Sikulje. So ended our Bosnian steam workings. After lunch in Tuzla at the brewery beer restaurant, we headed for Slavonski Brod via Doboj with very visible ruined houses, fields returned to scrub, strong visible and lasting evidence of ethnic cleansing in the Serb canton on the way to the border.

My thanks to Terry Wallace and John Athersuch for their advice and help preparing for this trip.

John Raby
September 2014