Some of the very last steam locomotives in regular service in Europe can be found in the Balkans, in two states of the former Republic of Yugoslavia: Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. After many years of open hostility towards photographers, especially those from Western countries, it is now possible to arrange visits in these countries to industrial railways still using steam. How much longer steam will survive in the Balkans is uncertain and an early visit is advised.
Visits are based on groups of 20 - 50 people, but individual tours are available on request.
Our offer includes not only Serbia and Bosnia but all others former Yugoslav Republics, now independent states: Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia. We can use all available railway vehicles in these countries, as well as museum trains, industrial locomotives, service vehicles on all railway lines. All journeys are provided with permissions for taking photos as well as permissions for visiting all industrial locations and depots. We also organize visiting and renting tramway vehicles in Belgrade, Zagreb, Osijek and Sarajevo. All tours are organised with Astra travel agency from Belgrade that is specialized in such tours, and they include all hotels, transfers, meals and other non railway/tramway services.
1. Visas Serbia: A visa is not necessary for most visitors. However, it should be obtained in advance if your country is not on the free entry list. An official invitation is required and “Astra Travel” and “Balkan Steam” will arrange this for visiting groups. Bosnia & Herzegovina: normally no visa is required, but check first with your local embassy.
2. Photographic permits: The photograph permit covers state railways and all other industrial locations.
3. Bus, mini-bus and car hire: luxury air-conditioned buses are available. Hire cars or mini-bus are also available per day (with driver and petrol included).
4. Hotels: en suite twin rooms; bed and breakfast in three, four or five star hotels.
5. Meals: we use good restaurants near locations or hotels.
6. Guide: A local English- or German-speaking guide accompanies all tours.
7. Money: Yugoslav Dinar, Bosnian Mark, Croatian Kuna, Macedonian Denar - money can be exchanged in banks. In Slovenia and Montenegro Euro is in use.
In Slovenia we use museum train of the Slovenian railways: two ex-JDZ steam locomotives, SZ 33-037 (Henschel 27934/1944) and SZ 25-026 (Florisdorf 2656/1920) and two sets of museum wagons, two-axle and four-axle wagons. Trains can be used on most of the Slovenian network but we regularly use them on the Ljubljana-Zidani Most-Sevnica-Grosuplje-Ljubljana circle line , on the Jesenice-Nova Gorica-Ljubljana line and Ljubljana-Kocevlje lines. Our tours also include visits to the railway museum in Ljubljana-Siska, the best in former Yugoslavia with a large collection of narrow and standard gauge steam locomotives. All steam specials have pre-arrange photo stops on the most attractive places as well stop for lunch in Slovenian national restaurants along the line. There is a possibility to rent this train from Vila Oppicina in Italy near Trieste and along the most scenic Sezana-Jesenice-Ljubljana line. Tour can be started in Trieste (visiting the railway museum and using the Trieste-Villa Opicina tramway and then continue with steam specials).
Unfortunately the Croatian Railways do not have a museum train or working steam loco and do not allow other steam locos to be use on their network so in this country our main interest is the railway museum in Zagreb, the Zagreb tramway system (1000mm) which is the biggest in former Yugoslavia, with two types of museum tramways (type M 24 and T 101) as well as another 6 types of tramways used for regular traffic. There are two depots: Dubrava and Tresnjevka.
We use regular train lines to Bosnia and Herzegovina: Zagreb-Banjaluka-Sarajevo or Zagreb-Vinkovci to reach our mayor attractions - real working steam in the Tuzla and Sarajevo cantons. Among other interesting things to see there is a tramway in Osijek with a museum tramway no. 8 dating from 1922, as well as second-hand tramways from Germany on a small two-line 1000mm network gauge.
Bosnia and Herzegovina are today the best places to see steam locomotives still working the way they did in Europe 40 years ago. Our tours include visiting 760mm and standard gauge coal mine railways around Banovici and Tuzla, that offer an interesting variety of locomotives: narrow gauge class 83, 0-8-0 and the very last “Kriegslocs” in normal service in the world. Steam locomotives, mostly class 62, can be found in the central part of Bosnia in Zenica, Breza & Kakanj (near Kakanj there is also the last 600mm colliery line with two-axle diesel locos in use). Our museum trains are made of KREKA colliery steam locos class 33 (ex-DRB class 52, 2-10-0) or Skoda 19-12 (0-6-0T Skoda 1912/1948) on the Tuzla-Brcko-Tuzla, Tuzla-Kalesija-Tuzla, Tuzla-Banovici and Tuzla-Doboj lines with state railways coaches. There are photo stops during the journey. Bosnia has two companies, one in the Serbian part in Doboj (Railways of Republic of Serpska) and the other in Sarajevo in the Muslim-Croat Federation (Federation Railways of Bosnia and Herzegovina) so our tours include visiting both depots. On the Sarajevo-Vares line, the most scenic non-electrified line in Bosnia, we use special trains with American built GM diesel class 661. The Sarajevo-Ploce line is the most scenic in Bosnia and passengers can experience crossing the mighty Ivan Mountain with spirals. The last part of the journey leads to port Ploce, in Croatia, where there is an opportunity to see some of Croatian rolling stock there. On that line we usually stop at Mostar to visit the old Turkish part of town with its famous bridge.
At Sarajevo beside the city tour, we visit the tramway depot with tramways formerly in use in Amsterdam and Vienna, as well as the trolley depot that offers variety of second-hand vehicles from Germany and Holland.
Real steam visits include collieries in Kakanj, Breza, Zenica (all near Sarajevo), in Banovici, Djurdjevik, Bukinje (the last steam depot in use with class 33), Dubrave and Sikulje in Tuzla. At Banovici for our narrow gauge specials we use a classic ex-JZ narrow gauge loco class 83 with a mixed train, as well as a class 25 (CKD 0-6-0T) and a 55-99 (ex MAV-490class) on the 13km Banovici-Grivice-Turija line. At the standard station of Banovici class 62 and Skoda 19-12 are still used for shunting.
Unfortunately the museum steam locos of ROMANTIKA train will not be in working condition until 2011 so we will have to use the train with diesel or electric locos on the most scenic lines in Serbia. Another option is to use the famous luxury BLUE TRAIN, which was used by TITO, for all his railway journeys. He welcomed many foreign politicians and King and Queens' on board. Among them the British Royal family spend two days in this train during their visit to Yugoslavia in 1972. In this train max 85 people can experience not only travelling across Serbia, but also enjoy some of the meals served to President Tito and his guests. Original BLUE TRAIN GM diesel locos class 666 are available for this train.
240km away from Belgrade there is the famous 760mm-gauge Sargan Mountain Railway, a part of the former Belgrade-Sarajevo line, which was restored for tourist purposes. Now the line does not only connect Mokra Gora and Sargan Vitasi and its famous spirals in Serbia but also enters Bosnia towards Dobrun. The line has a total length of 30km and the journey includes full custom and police control in the train at Vardiste. A steam locomotive 83-173 is used for that unique steam special with photo stops. As the tracks end a few km away from the end station Visegrad, we will end that journey by using a coach to visit the most famous bridge in Bosnia, part of UNESCO Heritage - the Bridge over the Drina River in Visegrad. The unique line offers a two days programme that reminds of the old 2500km of 760mm - narrow gauge network of former Yugoslavia, the biggest in the world.
Other interesting sights include an open coal mine Kolubara Vreoci (60km away from Belgrade) with 25km of industrial 900mm line gauge boasting of four types of electric locomotives (the oldest BBC no. 7 , ex Bor, was new in 1942). A French steam 0-6-0T Decauville can be fired for groups as well as four 0-6-0T US tank class 62 on standard gauge. In factory the Zelvoz Smederevo factory, a 62-365 is still working and in Belgrade, an 1000mm tramway network with some tramways coming from Basel is in use.
This is the smallest country that came out from former Yugoslavia. Its railway network is not big, but the Belgrade-Podgorica-Bar line is one of the most spectacular in this part of Europe, with 1/3 of the line in tunnels and bridges (the height of bridge at Mala Rijeka is over 200m) and the line is reached over 1100m shortly after leaving the port of Bar on the Adriatic coast. The main depot of the Montenegro railways is at Podgorica where almost all types of locomotives can be seen. This line offers a unique experience for railway travellers.
It is also a non-steam country but it is very beautiful. In that country we use diesel specials on all lines including a visit to the main depot in Skoplje. We also organize train-coach journeys to the Ohrid lake which is one of the major attractions in Macedonia.
All our tours (since 1998) are organized in partnership with ASTRA Travel agency from Belgrade which has all necessary permissions for such tours.
• ASTRA TRAVEL is licensed by the Serbian Government the licence number is: 185 A
• Astra Travel is also member of Serbian Association of Travel Agencies - YUTA
• Astra Travel is also member of IATA, registration number : 9520186 4
This very well produced English language book tells, in effect, the story of the railways of Serbia up to the end of steam, and what has happened to it subsequently. The history of the area is somewhat complicated, but after a late start there was considerable building of standard and narrow gauge lines, all of which became part of the Yugoslavian State Railways after WW1. The majority of the steam locomotives were either JZ designs, with earlier ones being Hungarian or Austrian; a remarkable number survive, some now in tourist use, and are described here in detail. An excellent book in every way, and especially useful for anyone planning a visit to the area. 204 pages. Around 300 photos, the majority in colour. Hardbound. Royal Railway Society of Serbia…
Steam in Serbia 1882-2007: ISBN 978-86-911587-0-5204 pages, hard cover + extra color cover, with 300 photos, full color print on high quality paper (21x23 cm), editors: Keith Chester, Slobodan Rosic and Zoran Bundalo.