If you are passionate about old railways and steam trains, a small town called Banovići, in the middle of north-eastern Bosnia & Herzegovina is hiding a railroad rarity worth exploring. You can hardly find another place in Europe with such a treasure of narrow-gauge trails and old locomotives. Known as the home of the largest coal mine in the country, the town of Banovići is also a home of one of the last steam trains still used. And those two – the coal and the steamer – have been interlinked historically. One century ago, everywhere in Europe steam trains were transporting the coal to the customers. Nowadays, Banovići is among rare places where this continues. So, for the joy of many train enthusiasts, a ride in old wagons with wooden seats and a steam locomotive is still possible here in Banovići in Europe’s oldest working locomotive called “Ćiro”.
The development of Banovići was very much led by brown coal mining. That was also the main reason for building the narrow-gauge railway Brčko – Banovići, the first in the Balkans, just after the WWII in 1946. This narrow track (only760 mm wide) was built by the Austrian Empire in the early 1900s, and even to this day, the Austrians are calling all narrow-gauge railways as “Bosnien Spur” (Bosnian track). It is served by the steam engine called “Ćiro“, built in the Czech Republic in 1925, that is still transporting coal from the mine to the new and modern railroad on a daily basis. Banovići coalmine is probably the only in the world where steamers are used on the narrow-gauge railroads to carry coal. Elsewhere, those machines are used as exhibits only. What is sure is, that this series 25 locomotive is the only working steamers in Europe and among the last ones in commercial use worldwide.
Those steam locomotives were the exhibit for 35 years, before the municipality of Banovići recognized the tourism potential of the legendary narrow-gauge railroad and the old “Ćiro“. Since then, they became the symbols of this place and an interesting rarity that, on a yearly basis, attracts more than 1000 of steam train enthusiasts. During an hour of a rather slow ride (at a speed of 30-35 km/h), the passengers have a chance not only to go back to the past but also to enjoy the splendid landscapes. Many of those fans return several times to experience this unique and charming ride again and again. They appreciate the fact that riding in Europe’s oldest working locomotive is an extraordinary experience, that they could only see in the movies and on the old postcards.
Currently, there are only two panoramic coaches in use for tourism purposes, but the municipality is planning to restore more of those “iron horses” in the future. Besides the restoration of additional locomotives, a new railway line, for transporting passengers to the top of the Mt. Konjuh, will be built as well. It seems that Europe’s oldest working locomotive in Banovići will keep puffing away up the hillsides for many more years to come. If this story inspired you to pin Bosnia & Herzegovina on your bucket list, you would certainly like to know about another railway attraction, only 150 km away from Banovići. Accompanied by stunning movie-like sceneries in the surroundings of Višegrad, the loveliest town in Bosnia, there is another legendary narrow-gauge train “Ćiro“, where you can feel how the railroad life looked like once upon a time.
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