The little steam train, known in the area under the name of “mocanita” (“the shepherdess”), has been used since 1932 for transporting timber, this being the last forestry railway in Europe. Nowadays the train no longer carries timber, but instead is taking tourists through the Wasser Valley, on the Northern Romanian border, through a barely accessible area (hence the small dimensions of the railroad). The steam locomotive pulls the train along the banks of a mountain river, through an untamed landscape, where there are no hints of modern life.
“ABOARD THE MOCANITA – NOSTALGIA TRAIN OF YESTERYEARS”
A train ride in the little town of Vișeul de Sus in Maramures is quite an adventure. But then this is not just any train. Located in the northern part of Romania, Maramureș is mostly famous for its tranquil villages and well-preserved wooden churches. But if you want to experience something unique, you must go to Vișeul de Sus to ride the Mocanița. Mocanița simply means “Coffee Machine”, and is a term of endearment applied by Romanians to any narrow-gauge steam engine locomotive, whose driving gear is reminiscent of an italian-style espresso machine.
There may be still a few steam locomotives running in the world, but Mocanița is the only narrow gauge lumber train left in Europe, of the many that were constructed in the 1930s to transport timber from the remote forests of the Carpathian Mountains. And almost 90 years later, this train still crosses the bridges and tunnels that take it into the gorges of the Vaser Valley to haul wood. But the Mocanița also hauls nostalgic tourists who love revisiting the steam engine trains, or young folks who may have never seen what a steam engine looks like.
The train station is located in the middle of the town, at the end of a little bumpy road. As you pass by the metal gates of the train depot, you find yourself in the middle of a big yard which looks more like an open-air museum, with a colorful display of steam powered locomotives and old wagons. The old, charming building of the train station serves now as the main office. Here you can buy your train tickets and some souvenirs. To the right side of the station there is a little café that sells snacks, coffee and drinks.
The train ride starts in front of the station and climbs up for about 30 kilometers into the mountains, following the roadless Vaser River Valley. Before going into the forest, the Mocanița passes by a small village with colorful houses. You can see men working their yards, women doing their laundry, children going to school, railway workers by the side of the road. They all seem to be part of the landscape, like if they weren’t there you’d miss them. Some wave at the moving train as if it’s an event. Others don’t even seem to notice it. After all, the train passing is business as usual.
Mocanița provides the only access to the settlements up the valley. On the way back, the train halts a couple of times for the passengers to get off and take pictures or stretch their legs.
Source: rolandia.eu & travelnotesandbeyond.com