December 14, 2017

1406, 3217 ROMANIA (Maramureş) - Vaser Valley Mocăniţa

1406 CFF Vişeu de Sus - Locomotive 764.421 Elveţia (Switzerland),
in Valea Scradei, on July 15, 2008.

Posted on 11.01.2015, 14.12.2017
A mocăniţă is a narrow gauge railway in Romania (most notably in mountainous areas in  Maramureş, Transylvania, and Bukovina), and the locomotives operating on them. The word is a term of endearment, derived from mocan (meaning shepherd or one who lives in the mountains), and suffixed as feminine and diminutive. Many of these forestry railways were built in the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, especially in the Carpathians. They followed the rivers, often necessitating tight curves, and the tracks were constructed so as to enable small locomotives to pull empty logging wagons up into the mountains and to let heavily loaded trains roll down under gravity to the saw mills.

3217 CFF Vişeu de Sus - Locomotive 764.435 Bavaria

The most well-known mocăniţă runs in the Vaser Valley in Maramureş County, in the far north of Romania, close to the border with Ukraine. CFF Vişeu de Sus (CFF is the abbreviation for Căile Ferate Forestiere, meaning Forestry Railway) is the last remaining forestry railway in Europe. The industrial use of timber in the Vaser Valley began in the 18th century, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. German-speaking settlers explored the forest, harvested the timber, and transported it in log rafts down the river to the saw mills of Vişeu de Sus.

This railway was constructed between 1933 and 1935 (under Romanian administration) and uses a gauge of 760mm (the standard for narrow gauge lines within the Austro-Hungarian Empire). It was partially destroyed by German troops during the WWII, but was rebuilt again. While forest roads replaced the railways in most European countries after 1945, the forestry railways in Romania survived much longer. Even as late as 1986 new forestry steam locomotives were being built in Romania, and in 1989 more than 15 forestry railways were still in existence, totalling approximately 1000 kms of line.

The changes commencing in 1990 had a devastating impact on the State-run forestry railways, within a few years almost all being closed. Only Vaser River Railway survived, since 2003 being managed by the private Romanian corporation R.G. Holz Ltd. It is still used for logging, but in 2004 work began on rehabilitating it as a tourist attraction. A Swiss enthusiast helped this greatly by starting an organisation for saving the railway: Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn in Rumänien (Help for the Vaser Valley Railway). The main line is 43 km long, from Vişeu de Sus to Comanu, and runs alongside the Vaser River with numerous curves, bridges and several tunnels, into a wild and romantic valley.

The railway opens up a vast area of isolated forest and mountain, without roads or villages but with plenty bears and wolves instead. This trip usually takes between 3 and 4 hours (details on the official website). Five steam locomotive are in used in 2017: 764-211 (Măriuţa) - built in Berlin by Orenstein & Koppel in 1910; 763-193 (Krauss) - also built in Germany, in 1921; 764.435 (Bavaria) and 764.436 - built by Reşiţa Machine Building Plant (UCM Reşiţa) in 1954, respectively 1955; and 764.408 (Cozia-1) - built by IRUM Reghin in 1986. On the postcard 1406 is the locomotive 764.421 Elveţia (Switzerland), built at UCM Reşiţa in 1954, which was in use in 2008.

About the stamps
On the postcard 1406

The stamp is part of the series Banknote Portraits, designed by Mihai Vămăşescu şi Stan Pelteacu, and issued on February 10, 2012:
• the portrait of Nicolae Iorga (1871-1940), a famous Romanian historian, literary critic, playwright, poet, encyclopaedist, memorialist, minister, professor and academician (1 Leu banknote) (0.80 RON) - it's on other postcard
• the portrait of George Enescu (1881-1955), Romanian composer known worldwide, violinist, pianist and conductor, considered to be the most important Romanian musician (5 Lei banknote) (1.40 RON) - it's on the postcard
• the portrait of Nicolae Grigorescu (1838-1907), the founder of Romanian modern painting, who received the title of Romanian Academy Member in 1899 (10 Lei banknote) (2.10 RON)
• the portrait of Aurel Vlaicu (1882-1913), the pioneer of Romanian and world aviation, builder of flying devices and pilot (50 Lei banknote) (2.40 RON)
• the portrait of Ion Luca Caragiale (1852-1912). He was a descendant of an actors’ family and is recognized as the greatest Romanian playwright. His work is famous due to the comedies he wrote, which continue to be in the pipeline also in present (100 Lei banknote) (3.00 RON).
• the portrait of Lucian Blaga (1895-1961), Romanian philosopher, poet, playwright, translator, journalist, professor and diplomat (200 Lei banknote) (3.10 RON)
• the portrait of Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889), unanimously recognized as the greatest poet of Romanians (500 Lei banknote) (6.00 lei)

On the postcard 3217
The first stamp is part of the series Love Nature! Ceahlău National Park, about which I wrote here. The second stamp, depicting Anthericum ramosum (Anthericum ramosum) (0.50 RON), is part of the series Flowers' Clock II, about which I wrote here

Last of the Carphatian Forestry Railways - Official website of the Mocăniţa Steam Train
Mocăniţă - Wikipedia

Sender: Carmen Jucătoru
Sent from Eforie Sud (Constanţa / Romania), on 08.08.2014
Photo: Michael Schneeberger / 15.07.2008
Sender: Eugen Mihai
Sent from Bucureşti (Bucureşti / Romania), on 11.12.2017
Photo: Eugen Mihai

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