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European Railroad Discussion > Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?

Date: 11/15/21 12:07
Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: K6XLT

Interesting article in the NYT today "Inside the Struggle to Save Bulgaria’s Last Narrow-Gauge Railroad" 
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/travel/bulgaria-narrow-gauge-railway.html" - caveat - may be behind a paywall.


Date: 11/15/21 13:23
Re: Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: Graybeard1942

Nice photos included...

Date: 11/15/21 13:40
Re: Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: Train29

We rode the full length of the line on a photo charter in 2014. There were frequent service trains that seemed well patronized. A two lane winding road followed the railway much of the way. There appeared to be lots of poverty in the area that depended on the railway for various reasons. Hope the line is saved. 

Date: 11/15/21 18:09
Re: Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: Lackawanna484

Nice article.  The part about the coal fired narrow gauge steam engine was intriguing.

Here's a link to the map of the line mentioned in the article


Date: 11/16/21 04:00
Re: Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: pennengineer

It's a good article with nice photos; hopefully it will inspire some intrepid non-railfan tourists to seek the line out.

Back in 2009 I travelled for the first time by train from Munich via Bucharest to Istanbul along with nine of my collegues from Deutsche Bahn. Retracing the route of the Orient Express had been a dream of mine since childhood, and I couldn't for the life of me understand why half of our group opted to accompany us only as far as Plovdiv, Bulgaria, whereupon they headed west to visit the Rhodopenbahn (as the Germans call it) instead of east and onward to Istanbul (what more alluring destination could there be?) like the rest of us. On my return trip to Munich via Sofia and Belgrade I travelled alone (my collegues had only taken two weeks' time off and therefore had to fly back) and recall seeing the narrow gauge equipment as my mainline train stopped in Septemvri.

Only later did I come to understand how special and revered that little railway actually is. I travelled through Bulgaria to Turkey once more in 2011 but still haven't made it to the Rhodopenbahn. I hope to do so soon -- ideally combining it with a mainline steam trip in Bulgaria (their small collection of operating locomotives are among the handsomest in Europe, in my opinion).

Date: 11/16/21 05:46
Re: Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: Lackawanna484

The Viking river cruises, among others, offer Budapest to Bucharest cruising. This little railroad sounds like a nice add on.

The writer alluded to the need for a native speaking guide in some areas, prob not a bad idea.

Posted from Android

Date: 11/19/21 12:06
Re: Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: gobbl3gook

Interesting!  I'll try to visit if I ever get to that part of Europe.  

A few maps: 

The whole line jumps out nicely on OpenRailwayMaps

On OpenTopoMap that line jumps out clearly.  You can see it runs south out of a valley in the north, up a deep canyon in the mountains, then climbes the canyon walls, with horseshoe curves where it enters, then comes back out of side canyons.  

Then, further up in the mountains, it climbs the face of a mountainside with a set of big switchback loops, with lots of minor horseshoe curves within the larger loops.  
Very impressive when zoomed in... 
Topography shows up better on Opentopomap than mapy... 
Looks very impressive on OpenRailwayMap, too.  But you don't get a sense of the surrounding topography. 

On Mapy the narrow gauge line only shows up when zoomed in pretty far.  
But, once you find the line you can easily follow it.  
Mapy always uploads fast.  Opentopomap usually uploads slow.  

As usual, it is impossible to find or follow the line on Google Maps.  But after you locate the line and its relation to towns and highways on the other maps, you can find Google StreetView images where major roads are within sight of the tracks.  

Train station in Velingrad being renovated in 2012
Grade crossing in Velingrad
Trackside scene

Grade crossing deep in a canyon. (Road looks okay for bicycling, but not great...)

Train station after the big zig-zaggy, loopy climb. 

The tracks and road run parallel for a few kiometres here, but this was the only StreetView image where I could see the tracks... 

Overpass and underpass.  In proximity to two full 360 degree loops. 

Train station in Cherna Mesta, hidden in the trees along the highway

Grade crossing and yard in Yakoruda (nice Lada station wagon, too)

Tracks and road in close proximity in another canyon.  The road looks very narrow,.  And the tracks miniature!  

Southern terminus of the line, Dobronishte 

Edit -- Also -- interchange yard with the mainline.  Lots of Soviet-era cranes -- for changing out trucks?  Seemes unlikely that a 2' guage line could handle standard gauge cars...  Doing something else?  

https://opentopomap.org/#map=17/42.20295/-335.87323 (Narrow gauge and standard gauge lines show in a different width)

Very interesting!  A fun route to ride on way on a train, ride the other way on a bicycle.  Or continue south into Greece by bicycle... 

Ted in OR


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/19/21 21:13 by gobbl3gook.

Date: 11/19/21 13:51
Re: Bulgaria's Last Narrow Gauge?
Author: 86235

It's been on my bucket list for a number of years, I think it needs moving up the priorities.

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