The 76cm gauge railways of Yugoslavia

Uskotracne (76-centimetarske) pruge bivse Jugoslavije

An Introduction to Yugoslavia

The former state of Yugoslavia had a vast network of narrow gauge lines, most of which were laid to 76 cm (2 foot 6 inches) gauge.  Taken as a whole they formed what was arguably the finest narrow gauge system in Europe.  The origins of this network lay in the Austrian occupation from the 1870's on and the Austrian heritage of a lot of the locos is clear.  Much of the mountainous western side of Yugoslavia was only accessible on the 76 cm gauge particularly in Bosnia and Hercegovina.  At one time through trains ran from Belgrade to the Adriatic coast on the 76 cm gauge - a journey of over 700 Km.  In British terms think of London to Stirling on a narrow gauge train!

The backbone of the motive power fleet were the mixed traffic Class 83 0-8-2's of which 185 were built.  However, over the years many interesting and unique locomotives of all shapes and sizes were in use - these ranged from tiny 0-4-0 tank engines, rack equipped 0-6-4T's and Klose articulation locos to the huge Class 92 2-6-6-2 Mallet compounds.

During the 1960's there had been quite substantial investment in modernisation, which seemed to indicate that some of the narrow gauge lines had a secure future.  In 1968 twenty five diesel hydraulic Bo-Bo diesels were built by Djuro Djakovic as Class 740-0 followed by a further fifteen modified locos of Class 740-1 in 1970.  A couple of these locos are still in traffic at the Banovici coal mine complex north of Sarajevo as are a few of the venerable Class 83 0-8-2 steam locos.  For passenger services twelve 4-car DMU's of Class 802 were built between 1966 and 1968.  Ten of these sets saw further service in Portugal after the Yugoslav lines were closed.  These were not the first narrow gauge DMU's as Ganz of Hungary had supplied seven 3 car units to work an accelerated service over the Belgrade to Sarajevo line as early as 1939.  The speed of these units was such that the service they worked was known as "The Mad Sarajevan"!

A copy of a Yugoslav Railways timetable from 1968/69 shows the following 76 cm lines with a passenger service:

Bosanski Brod - Derventa  28 Km
 Zavidovici - Olovo 
 85 Km
 Bijelina - Bosanska Mezgraja
35 Km
 Zajecar - Boljevac 
42 Km
 Prijedor - Licka Kaldrma
228 Km
 Mliniste - Srnetica
53 Km
7 Lasva - Sipovo  134 Km
8 Donji Vakuf - Gornji Vakuf 34 Km
9 Sarajevo - Lajkovac 355 Km
10 Lajkovac - Mladenovac 75 Km
11 Ustipraca - Miljevina 66 Km
12 Medjedja - Priboj 54 Km
13 Capljina - Dubrovnik  131 Km
14 Uskoplje  - Zeleneka  78 Km
15 Hum - Niksic  161 Km
TOTAL 1559  Km.

There was also a metre gauge line from Osijek to Donji Miholjac of 51 Km.  In addition to the list above there were also many quite lengthy forestry and mineral lines, each with their own unique collection of locos.

At one time most of these lines were linked together as a network and even at this late stage quite respectable lengths of track, based on the lines from Prijedor (5,6,7,8), Sarajevo (9,10,11,12),  and Capljina (13,14 and 15), still functioned as distinct systems.

What really caused the narrow gauge to wither and die was the construction of a brand new standard gauge line from Sarajevo to Ploce on the Adriatic completed in 1966 and since electrified.  This new line superseded the 76 cm Narentabahn from Sarajevo to the coast and had the effect of isolating the narrow gauge system which was left and based on Capljina.  With the demise of a connecting network all the other remaining narrow gauge lines were then at risk and restricted to local traffic.  Goods and passengers having all the inconvenience and expense of a change of gauge.

 When the end came for the 76 cm lines it came with indecent haste.  The system based on Capljina closed in 1975 and the incredible descent to Dubrovnik can now only be made on foot.   By 1978 all the Bosnian lines had closed except Bijeljina - Bosanska Mezgraja which closed in May 1979.  In Serbia the last lines were Zajecar - Boljevac (closed 1980)  and Lajkovac - Mladenovac (1983).  As regards preservation, the ambitious project to restore the line over the Sargan Mountain - the Sargan 8 - continues to progress.

Next page: 1968/1969 narrow gauge timetables

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