Rail News


November 23 , 2021

Struggle to save Bulgaria's narrow-gauge railway: Baltic roller coaster

New Zealand Herald 
22 November, 2021 (Bulgaria)

The Rhodope Narrow-Gauge Railway would seem like an esoteric tourist attraction.

Winding between 27 stations between Bulgaria and the borders of the Greek Hinterland, it is one of a kind.

Rolling on narrow-gauge 760 mm, it's even a peculiarity among railways. The thin gauge allow the carriages to take narrow turns and steep mountain tracks, more like a rollercoaster than a passenger train.

Or at least it would be, if it weren't in such bad need of repair.

At the time it was constructed in the early 1920s the train line was a source of pride for the region. It was intended to run as far as the Aegean, connecting Bulgaria to the Mediterranean.

However, as time rolled on, communism came and went, and so did many of the hardy mountain communities it served. Since the 1990s the country's main rail arteries were ripped out and replaced with the European standard of 1435 mm. With direct train links through to Turkey and Serbia, such as the Istanbul-Sofia Express, the mountain trains are a bit of an oddity.

16km of the Varvara-Pazardhik branch was closed in 2002.

Now Septemvri to Dobrinishte is the last hold out of 760 mm gauge. But it is in terrible condition.

There are still four passenger locomotives on the Septemvri–Dobrinishte, taking tourists and the last few hangers on to traverse the mountains.


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