Normally trainspotting means that you wait at a certain place and then trains come and you take pictures of them. Our trainspotting in Bosnia and Herzegovina was different as we ourselves moved around a lot, while the locomotives, carriages and trains we were chasing remained motionless – as they did for decades.
Starting point is the Put AVNOJA
But first things first: We, my son who had turned 15 the day before, and I wanted to use a holiday day in Bosnia to look for and photograph traces of the rich railway history of this country. We drove a circular route – plus a detour to Srnetica, a former railway junction, nowadays a lost place in the wilderness. However we strongly advise against going there because of the nature of the route in the deserted area, where wolves and bears sometimes say „good night“ to each other (no joke). We had a flat tyre with our car, which could not be repaired with our new-fangled repair spray and were glad that we had mobile phone reception and that after almost five hours – during which no other car came along the way – a tow truck was with us.
We started in Glamoč, where probably few people go. You can also start – and shorten – the journey from the Put AVNOJ, the main artery connecting the west of Bosnia with the east. Therefore we will describe the journey here as it can be made with detours on a trip from Bihać to Sarajevo. Then the following itinerary is recommended:
In Bihać you should follow the signs to Sarajevo, which lead us to the Put AVNOJA, which we follow until Bosanski Petrovac: There we turn right towards Drvar.
For a certain period the town used to be called „Titov Drvar“ (Titos` Drvar). This because of its importance in the fight of the Tito partisans against the German Wehrmacht, which is also the background of some of the historic railway remains that can be seen in the area.
Trees pay tribute to Tito
On the country road, we first head towards the mountains on a reasonably flat stretch of road. To the right are some hills covered by meadows and small forests. If you look closely, you will notice a tree formation there that looks artificial. It is four clusters of trees, the first and second of which consists of a line that meets a transverse line. The second forms only a straight line, the fourth and last a kind of ellipse.
The trees are no longer regularly trimmed. Moreover, one or two of them have probably been felled, perhaps even to disguise their original purpose.
With a little imagination, however, one can still recognise the lettering TITO, which at this point, like the title in the opening credits of a film, made it known to all those travelling in the direction of Drvar until the early 1990s that one was about to enter a core area of the Tito cult.
We visit Tito’s train later
Afterwards, the road climbs relatively steeply and in serpentines. The pass between the Klekovača and Osječenica mountains at 1198 metres is called Oštrelj.
Despite the sign „Titov voz“ (Tito’s train) we do not stop. We will pass by here again on the way back from this detour from the main route and then there will be an opportunity for a stop.
After a winding route, which first leads down and then up again, we see Drvar lying in the valley from another hill. With moderate speed and the necessary respect for curves (which is recommended on our entire journey) we descend to this town.
Titos‘ grotto also has to wait
At the entrance to the town, right at the end of the downhill stretch, in front of a small bridge with blue railings leading over river Unac, we can again read the word „Tito“ on a sign. This time in the name „Titova Pećina““ (Tito’s grotto).
Since there will be an opportunity to do this on the way back, we literally leave it on the left and continue on, then turn left into the village at the end of the village on the R 408.
The first picturesque locomotive we discovered by chance, although we had passed it dozens of times before from our travels from Germany and back. It was a chance find, thanks solely to my son as an attentive co-driver.
Therefore, when you ask the inhabitants of Drvar for directions, it can happen that even the locals don’t know what you are looking for, because they don’t pay any attention to it. And as soon as they hear the keyword „old locomotive“, they probably point to the top of the pass, to Tito’s train.
Thus, it is best to ask for the R 408, the road that leads to Glamoč via Crni Vrh and Rore, because our first discovery is located shortly before the exit from Drvar that leads into this „country road“ (which is not asphalted in large parts). Once you have found the access road to it at the eastern exit of Drvar, you only have to look out for the next bridge, which again leads to the other side of the Unac River.
When you have found this, you should park the car and look back at the river in the direction from which you came. Then, not a hundred meters downstream, you will notice another old bridge. A little to the right of it, on the other side of the river, you will probably first see a lot of greenery – at least in summer.
If you look closely, however, you will see the rusty wreck of an old steam locomotive as a reddish-brown contrast.
A worthwhile object. But how to get there?
You have two ways to choose from:
- On foot over the road bridge and then left or,
- or, also on foot, first straight ahead and then over the remains of the former railway bridge.
The latter is more romantic. Since the railway bridge is still stable and, despite the holes in the ground, which you should be careful of, it offers enough space for your feet.
Therefore, we walked carefully along this path, which also opens up beautiful front views of the locomotive:
Once arrived, the guesswork begins:
- Which year of construction?
- Which manufacturer?
We ourselves could not solve the riddle, as we did not find any manufacturer’s plate or type number.
Perhaps you will find what some hint ? But be careful: you should not enter the driver’s cab! The floor has rusted to a paper-thin and holey mess.
So the locomotive remains a mystery. But this in no way diminishes its status as a picturesque photo motif.
The combination of decaying technology and nature reclaiming its rights is particularly appealing. A mixture that we should encounter more often on our Bosnian trainspotting tour.
Austrian freight wagon at Titos‘ Grotto
Then we return to the blue bridge, where a sign points to Titos‘ Grotto.
We stop here because we should not miss this important monument from the time of the partisan struggle (which we will present in more detail on another occasion).
There is also an exhibit here for railway fans: the remains of freight wagons from Austrian production, which probably burnt out during the Second World War.
In addition, there are photos from the Second World War in the small museum below the grotto, which also document railway history.
One shows a locomotive used by the partisans. What is special about it is that it was put together from the remains of various locomotives that the partisans had destroyed themselves before, when they were still being used by the Germans.