Every day, steam engines more than 60 years old defy their age and pull wagons of coal from Banovici’s coal mine to nearby towns. In the summer they become the only tourist attraction this impoverished north Bosnian town has to offer, as the mine allows visitors to take a ride on the narrow-gauge (760mm or 30 inches) line.
The coal mine planned to replace the old engines after Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, but the sudden arrival of steam train enthusiasts inspired a change of plans. The company began servicing the steam engines and putting them back to work.
“About a thousand steam train fans come here every year,” said Dzevad Hodzic, the coal mine’s technical director.
Aside from those built in 1948 and still hauling coal, the most popular engine is one built in the Czech Republic in 1925 that stood for 35 years as an exhibit on a side track, until management decided to restore it to service. The little train carries up to 50 tourists in its two carriages, winding 10 kilometers (6 miles) through Bosnian mountains at a maximum speed of 50 kilometers per hour. A ticket costs about 10 euros ($12.40).
The engine is the only one of its type still running in the world, Hodzic said.
He hopes the tourism business will expand so the Banovici coal mine can put several more refurbished steam engines to work next year.