A century-old historic narrow-gauge steam train line in Transylvania that has begun running again after almost two decades has caught the eye of Britain’s Prince Charles, one of the leading global supporters of the picturesque and traditional region.
The railway which runs from Sibiu to Agnita in Romania’s central Transylvanian region is supported by a Romanian non-governmental organization which in turn is backed by a UK group.
Starting in September, the group has managed to run occasional train services along a section of the line which closed in 2001. They recently received a letter of support from the Prince of Wales.
“It is enormously encouraging to know that many of the original locomotives and carriages from the line still exist, as they are clearly essential for the initiative to work as are the original railway buildings,” Charles wrote, adding he was “much relieved” that Romania’s heritage was being preserved.
The chairman of the Friends of Mocanita Association Mihai Blotor said that while “the narrow-gauge railway is registered as a historic monument in Romania, it has been allowed to fall into dereliction since train services ceased in 2001 and locomotives, carriages and wagons which were used on the line were mostly sent for scrap.”
The Mocanita Association works to run occasional trains for tourists and also for the sustainable preservation of the railway as a historic monument which it says has made “just as great a contribution to the culture and landscape of Sibiu …. The ASTRA village museum, the traditional houses and the fortified churches found in many of the villages along the line.”
“The line also continues to provide a corridor for nature through the valley. HRH Prince Charles is well-known for his support for the remarkable environment, both built and natural,” in Romania and for encouraging local communities and traditional skills “which contribute to the preservation of this special environment.”
It said that while some may not view a narrow-gauge railway as being as culturally significant “as a castle or fortified church, we are delighted that HRH Prince Charles supports our volunteer work for the sustainable preservation of the railway as a historic monument.”
The association is planning to attract EU funds and has similar heritage railway projects in the UK and elsewhere. W
It invited Charles and other British supporters to take a ride on the steam train.
The Sibiu –Agnita railway is the surviving part of the Sighișoara – Sibiu narrow-gauge railway was built more than a century ago.
It was nationalized after the communists came to power at the end of WWII and was closed for use in 1965 and then shut in 2001.
It is listed as a historic monument although many of stations, locomotive shed and other buildings are derelict or in some cases have modernized.