Traveling with the Steam Train Mocanita in the Carpathians
If you find yourselves feeling nostalgic for simpler times, there’s nothing like a ride with a steam train to take you back to the past. And what could be more special than to take a trip with the steam train Mocanita running on a very narrow gauge track, 760 mm, in one of the most isolated valleys of the Carpathian Mountains?
It’s a unique experience for so many reasons, one of them being that we’re talking about the last remaining forestry railway in Europe. One that’s used for transporting timber down from the mountain as it was used from its first days of existence in 1932. More than 90 years later, the steam train also known as Mocanita still crosses the bridges and tunnels that take it deep in the Vaser Valley for wood. Only this time it takes along curious tourists.
You’ll find Mocanita in the railway station of a small logging town from Maramures, Viseu de Sus. Located at the end of a very bumpy road, the station is more like an open-air museum of train history and wood processing. A charming old building stands as the main office, surrounded by tracks that take the train to the wood depot nearby. In fact, the smell of wood is omnipresent, and it’s probably been like that from the beginning of the 18th century when the industrial exploitation of timber started in the area.
Old wagons and locomotives are laid to rest on the tracks from the huge yard of the station, and exploring them is a great preparation for the steam train experience that begins only after a thorough check-up led by those who have the courage to steer it, day or night, summer or winter.
The train usually departs in the cheering of the enthusiastic tourists it carries. Locals or foreigners, kids or grown-ups, they all lean over the windows to capture the perfect picture. Before going into the forest, Mocanita leaves behind a few colorful houses and their friendly people waving while the train slowly and noisy moves away. From there on, the steam train follows adventurously the narrow gauge tracks that takes it along the curves and rocky canyons of the Vaser Valley.
More than a railway or a train, today ‘Mocanita’ tells the story of its local heritage and culture, of the people who saved it and of its very possible future. One in which tourism might become a more sustainable way of economic development for this local community from the Carpathians.
Book your trip a few days ahead if you want to catch the special Mocanita, fool moon trains, rock and strings concerts, Christmas and New Year trains. Details on www.cffviseu.ro
It’s better to arrive earlier at the train station to choose your seat, and watch the final preparations being done.
Viseu de Sus is a great ending or starting point for a trip in Maramures. While there are several access roads to go further north, we recommend you take the one going through Viseu de Jos.