Transport for Romania's carpathian forests: Improved accessibility through technological change

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  • GeoJournal 22.4 409-428 1990 (December) by Kluwer Academic Publishers


    Transport for Romania's Carpathian Forests: Improved Accessibility through Technological Change Turnock, D., Dr., University of Leicester, Dept. of Geogr., Leicester LE1 7RH, England

    Extractive industries must frequently face the chall- enge of exploiting natural resources which are found in relatively inaccessible areas. Even when a transport system already exists it may be inadequate to cope with the volume of material which the new industry will generate, thereby restricting output or necessitating investment to improve the facility. But where there is no existing transport service then an entirely new infrastruc- ture will be needed and its cost may well be critical in determining whether the proposed industry can be pro- fitable. Mining ventures provide many examples of local transport systems geared exclusively to the conveyance of minerals to the main lines of communication (railways or seaways) with ample capacity to handle the additional traffic. Some of the more dramatic instances relate to economically backward areas with particularly poor transport provision: for example peripheral parts of the Habsburg Empire where the minerals of the Banat Car- pathians were opened up in the 18th century as part of Maria Theresa's defence policy against Ottoman press- ure in the Balkans. The foundations were laid for what is the oldest heavy industrial complex of the present Romanian state, with post-war interest in uranium and bituminous schists adding to the established workings for coal and ore. And, while the district is now fully inte- grated into the national system of roads, railways and air services, the landscape still shows the legacy of canals, funiculars and inclines (as well as roads and railways) which transported the riches of the Banat to the river Danube. These installations were also useful for the transport of timber which was taken progressively from virtually all parts of the Carpathians by the end of the 19th century. Moving raw material with high weight and volume in relation to value from a mountain belt which had for centuries comprised an imperial borderland posed serious problems. So the theme of forest transport

    in Romania deserves investigation. The least-cost solu- tion has been sought for each mountain district but the system has been subject to radical change becauses of changes in technology. Improvements in wood process- ing (Fig 1) have brought all the major tree species within the sphere of commercial operations while changes in transport technology have widened the choice of modes available. The study is divided into two periods with nationalisation of the forests and processing units in 1948 marking the watershed.

    Pre-Nationalisation: Floating Timber down River

    Large scale woodcutting dates back to era of Turkish suzerainty over the Romanian principalities. Tribute demands included wood, for shipbuilding and other constructional purposes, carried to Istanbul from the ports of BrNla and Gala[i. Considerable pressure was exerted on the nearest oakwoods on the hills of Covurlui and Tutova (also Dobrogea, then an integral part of the Ottoman Empire) which lay within carting distance. Oakwood was also cut in Wallachia and barrel staves were sent to the Danube from forests in Arge~ (for example Poiana Lacului) and Olt (Topana). The long wooden cart for carrying tree trunks (car de pddure) with solid construction, small wheels and strong axles is still much used today and sledges also constitute basic equip- ment in the winter months (known by various local names such as catarga and huristea in the villages of Tfilmacel and Gura Riului respectively). However such modes of transport have never been very satisfactory for long distances and the most intense exploitation of Carpathian forests occurred where fir and spruce wood could be floated by river to Gala[i (Antonescu-Romusi 1882). The river Siret maintained a discharge adequate

  • 410 GeoJournal 22.4/1990

    Production 1975 (million lei)


    Typ Furnitur

    Pape cellulos


    Proce acces


    - - - - F ]

    ~ C

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    ~\ \~ Statistical area with ~, ,~ more than 70% woodland

    Ot Kilornet res

    1 ARAD [cl 34 Boldesti 2 BACAU (C) 35 Borsa ~ 3 BAIAMARE 36 Bre~oi 4 BISTRITA(C) 37 Busteni 5 BR~ILA'(C) 38 Caansebes (C) 6 BRASQV (C) 39 Carei 7 BUCHAREST (C) 40 Cehu Silvaniei (Cb)


  • Geo,Joumal 22.4/1990 411


    I1.t. Poiana Stampei


    Vatra Dornei

    [ Mainly spruce ]Beech~fir~spruce ~:i!!::: Reservoir


    Rivers suitable for f loat ing/raf t ing t imber

    with standard gauge rai lway

    ,, ,. ,, ~ ,, ,, ,, wi th narrow gauge railway

    watershed crossing

    Raft ing/ f loat ing base [ ] Raft ing/f loat ing base

    wi th population centre



    .............. Rivers not suitable for transport ing t imber

    - -~ Limit of Bistrita catchment

    Tirgu Neam~

    Topli Tarc,~u~.


    eamt \ -


    0 Kilometres 30 L

    Gheorgheni I

    Fig 2 Timber transport in the Bistrita valley

    \ ~'J@......

    Sources: Atlas RSR; Anania 1900 and Vlad-Popovici 1942

    using the traditional controlled method (flotaj dirijaO involving the construction of an articulated raft (plutd mladioasd) with three sections: the more slender logs were placed in the leading section and the longest were laid on the outside. Quantities varying from 60 to 170 m3 were taken down the narrow defile.

    The annual traffic on the Bistri~a varied between 0.3 and 0.5 million tonnes during the first half of the 20th century but after the First World War only small amounts of timber were taken by water beyond Bac~u all the way to Cosme~ti and Gala~i, involving a ten day journey. River transport became a more localised phenomenon, but one that persisted into the post-war period when the construction of a dam and power station at Bicaz imposed a new downstream limit. Nevertheless since the standard gauge railway stopped short of the

    dam (with an extension of the Piatra Neaml branch to the new town of Bicaz in 1951) it was considered desirable to float timber as far as the dam where a mechanised terminal was built (at Potoci in 1959) to transfer timber to lorries for the journey to the Piatra Neam~ mills or (in the case of wood destined for more distant factories) to the railway station just S of the dam. Up to one million m3 was handled in this way each year during the 1950s falling progressively to 200,000 tonnes during the 1960s. After c. 1970 road transport was used throughout, but the fuel crisis has led to a restoration of the traditional system and the Potoci terminal is again active, providing a thread of continuity running through the entire history of commercial timber working in Romania. No further change is likely in the immediate future and the rafting of timber is now being encouraged as a tourist attraction. Although standard gauge railways

  • 412 GeoJournal 22.4 /1990

    . . . . . Frontier : : : . : : :Spruce forest

    ~ Lowland area

    ............. Rivers


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    . . . . . Forest - - Forest- Projected

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  • GeoJournal 22.4/1990 413

    Carpathians, including the Arge~, Bisca, Dimbovi~a and Olt, as well as the Bistri~a in the Eastern Carpathians noted above.

    Several general points may be made in connection with this local river transport of timber. First, due to the shortness of the journey and the constraints imposed by the rivers themselves (shallow depth, winding channels and occasional rapids) individual tree trunks were des- patched downstream in preference to the formation of rafts. This relatively crude system is referred to by the Romanians as the rood salbatic to differentiate it from the more controlled method of flotaj dirigat. Another verbal distinction is made by the reference to transport prin plutit (by floating) as opposed to prin plut~rit (by rafting). An exception was the Olt where the first rail links were provided downstream at Caracal (for Stoe- ne~ti), Slatina and Turnu Mfigurele. From c. 1890 timber was taken in rafts down the Olt (and the Lotru and Sadu tributaries) with the help of rafting specialists (~iptaH) from Austria and Bohemia (also Italy in the case of the Sadu). Second, a number of installations were needed to operate the system efficiently. At the downstream end it would be necessary to divert the logs into a channel (canal de plutire) from which they could be taken to the sawmill deposit but more importantly at the upstream end it was often necessary to install wooden dams (opu- sturi) so that a consignment of timber could be sent on its way with the assistance of a considerable head of water. Further dams might be needed at intermediate points where the river usually had insufficient depth. Opusturi were installed before the railway age for there were three dams reported on the upper Tisa in the 1780s and four more by 1812. And in the Banat, which supp- lied some timber to the Danube along the Birzava and Nera rivers, there were greble installed at Re~i~a, Clinic and Boc~a (on the Birzava) when timber was first taken from the Semenic Mountains in 1785 (though the system was not successful and had to be given up in favour of horse traction in 1803). But most dams date to the rail- way age: for example those on the Lapusnicul Mare, headwater of the Riul Mare, at Gura Bucurei and Zlaton, the Sebe~ at Bistra and Oa~a; and the Some~ at R~cStfiu. New dams were being built as recently as the Second World War: the opusturi at Galbena and Lfipu~, on the Arie~ above the Cimpeni sawmills were opened in 1941 (with Girda reported as under construction in 1942) (Rosu 1942). Many dams continued to be used well into the post-war period and it is only the development of a comprehensive road system which has brought about the virtual abandonment of this method. Unfortunately no dams have been preserved although a number can still be seen in a derelict condition.

    In some cases even more elaborate arrangements were made. The Re~i~a metallurgical enterprise (owned until the First World War by the Austro-Hungarian company STEG: Staatseisenbahngesellschaft) managed extensive woodlands in the Anina and Semenic Moun- tains. The supply of timber to Rei~a was expedited by

    floating on the Birzava with the aid of the Claus barrage, built in 1865 and repaired in 1894, supplemented by a canal (built 1901-4) extending from Breazova, below VNiug, to Re~iia on a 10 km route which included several aqueducts and tunnels. Althogether there wre five metal aqueducts (total length 700 m) and six tunnels with a combined length of 5 km (Malaesescu 1939). Timber transport was integrated with hydroelectricity production at Breasova and Secu with the canal securing a substantial head of water for the latter station. Sub- sidiary installations were of course needed to divert the timber away from both power stations. But while such sophisticated methods were almost unique in Romania (though the wet canal - canal umed - was occasionally used elsewhere in a rudimentary form) there were many instances where special constructions were needed to bring the timber from the forests to the river bank (Petrescu-Burloiu 1969). In the case of haulage over short distances with easy terrain horses would be used, perhaps with the help of a wooden slipway (drum de tras) and suitable lubrication, usually in the form of paraffin. The goanga (as the slipway was popularly named) was apparently first employed in the Banat in the 1930s and spread to other areas such as Bacfiu and Buzfiu (Ra~canu 1945; Steffinescu-Morei 1957). With such a surface, and the control of a woodman with a pick (lapind) a horse could draw up to 3 m3 of timber and cope with slopes of up to 14%. In the Putna and Solca areas of Bucovina much of the timber was moved out during the winter across ice or hard-packed snow. There were some 650 km of these drumurile de z@ad(l in the area by 1910. Where timber had to be taken down a steep mountainside it was usual to install a dry canal (canal uscaO in the form of a wooden tube (jheab) but more usually a chute or trough, (known variously by Romanians as cuscaielor, iuc, filip, scoc or uluc) so that the trunks would slide down in a controlled fashion (with the assistance of lubricants or water) to a stockpile at the riverside. These installations were temporary or perma- nent depending on the level of production. The scoc running from Prislop in the Semenic Mountains to the Birzava river at Crfiinicel has been in use for many years, forming part of the supply system for the Brea- zova-Re~i~a canal. It is still in place and can now be used in conjunction with the Semenic Canal (bringing water from the Trei Ape storage to the lake at VNiug as part of the post-war expansion of power and water supplies for the Re~ila complex), although the present policy is to bring out all the timber by road.

    All the transport methods discussed so far relate to the movement of timber within a single drainage basin. But it was occasionally desirable to extract timber from an adjacent basin and carry it over the watershed into the valley where transport was available as far as the sawmill. The normal method of carrying timber across the watersheds was the funicular, a cableway supported by wooden columns and capable of carrying a succession of short trunk sections (Burghelea 1941). Although

  • 414 GeoJournal 22.4/1990

    expensive to install and maintain the funicular avoided the need to build an independent transport system in each valley and was particularly appropriate where the more valuable timber (fir and spruce) was found only in the highest part of the basin (above the beech forest which normally occupies the intermediate levels). The first funiculars were not too efficient on account of their low technical standards and the use of wooden pylons did not make for durability but after improvements the system became very common in the first half of the 20th century. The Semenic funicular (1909-1932) was used to bring timber from the Timi~ valley to the Btrzava (deli- vering logs to the Prislop scoc mentioned above), to supplement the flow of timber down the Sebe~ and also to take wood from the very steeply graded upper Lotru valley (difficult to reach from Brezoi) and channel it into the adjacent Sadu valley. But the most impressive ex- amples involve the links between sawmills of Nehoiu, One~ti and Ttrgu Secuiesc and the forests of Vrancea. Since the more valuable fir and spruce timber in Vrancea lay about fifty kilometres away from the main transport corridor running from Adjud to Focani and Rimnicu Sftrat it was more efficient to take the wood from the upper reaches of the Putna and Zfibala valleys to saw- mills in adjacent districts. Nehoiu's catchment extended into the Sl~inic and Z~ibala valleys by virtue of funiculars at Secuiu in the Btsca Micfi valley while One~ti took timber from Lepta in the upper Putna valley by means of a funicular to the Cabin valley. Both installations oper- ated until the early 1960s. In the case of the upper Putna valley there was a prior liaison with Tirgu Secuiesc by means of a funicular of 12 km from Gre~u to Ghelin~a. Although dismissed in some quarters by the end of the 1930s as a crude method of timber extraction (mijloc colonial de exploatare pdna la epuizare) it was well suited to rough terrain and was only superseded when the scale of production justified a road network for each river basin (Vasilovici 1961).

    Pre-Nationalisation: Construction of Forest Railways

    Floating timber on the rivers was cheap but there were limitations. Freezing in winter (December to March) and low water in summer might restrict opera- tions to a small part of the year. On the Mure~ activity was brisk in the period between the spring rains and the onset of dry weather in the middle of June. On the Bistri~a, however, the summer flow was more substan- tial and rafting could continue from March right through to October, although most work was done by the end of July. Dams could be costly to install with further outlays required to cover damage to installations by ice. There was a significant loss of quality when timber was immer- sed in water for a considerable period and a substantial loss of volume was also involved when logs were floated individually. Where rafting was possible it was usually desirable to use this controlled method for the best

    timber and reserve the system of plutit liber for the poorer material. Floating was not suitable at all for beechwood because the timber was too heavy, though this was not a serious problem because there was little market demand for this type of wood until after the Second World War. But more significant was the fact that many rivers were unsuitable for timber transport, even in the context of modest improvement. Naturally the timber companies tended to concentrate dispropor- tionately on the more accessible stands, but as demand grew there was a need for alternative means of transport to open up the remoter forests. Public roads could be used where they were available but most of the valuable timber lay beyond the limits of the network. Special roads were considered a possibility by the Second World War provided that roadstone was available. But since specialised timber lorries were not provided transport would have involved large carts with pneumatic tyres and the draught animals would have required a consi- derable amount of fodder. A compromise was to con- struct very simple roads that would be available during the summer. These '~osile de p~tdure practicabile vargF were prominent on the estates of the Orthodox Church in Bucovina where traffic was not too heavy and where no other means of transport was available (Opletal 1913). Between 1899 and 1918 more substantial roads were built in the Stulpicani area of Bucovina (Lungu 1957). They became particularly important in the more steeply graded valleys where there was no effective alternative (Fig 4).

    By the end of the 19th century however it was clear that the narrow gauge railway offered the best solution (Fig 3). Various gauges were used ranging from 600 mm through 630, 700, 760, 790, 980 and 1000, but 760 mm was most usual. Building costs were considerable but the railway easily paid for itself where traffic remained heavy for many years. Costs could be kept down by using animals and there are a number of known cases in the Bistri~a area of Transylvania as well as the Orthodox Church estates in Bucovina where animals were used on a number of short branch lines (in the Ascuns, Drago~a, Nisipitu and Sucevei valleys). But on most systems it was more efficient to use steam locomotives which could operate partly if not wholly on wood fuel. Local timber could also be used for sleepers and for the bridges. Forest railways became prominent all over Central Europe during the last two decades of the 19th century. This was a time when narrow gauge lines were being built for public transport in rural areas of the German and Habsburg empires and when firms like Krauss, Maffei, Orenstein und Koppel and Wiener Neustadt were building suitable locomotives. Romania saw considerable railway building although until the First World War most of it involved the Habsburg provinces. There was con- siderable building on the estates of the Orthodox Church in Bucovina between 1898 and 1917 (Dimitrovici 1922, pp. 40-3) in the form of branches which connected with the Lokalbahn lines from R~d~tuli to Izvoarele Sucevei

  • GeoJoumal 22.4/1990 415

    and Suceava to Vatra Dornei, following construction of the main live Lvov-Cernfiu~i-Ia~i (1867) which provided a major stimulus for the opening up of the forests (Opletal 1913). Also, throughout the Mures valley from Lipova to Gheorgheni there were branches connecting with the mainline from Arad to Deva, Alba Iulia, Reghin and Toplila.

    It would appear that the first railways were built in valleys where no floating of timber was possible. Thus on the Staatseisenbahngesellschafi estates in Banat there was no railway building above Re~i~a (apart from the lines to Secu in 1873 and Deline~ti in 1911, primarily for coal and manganese respectively) since the Btrzava river, with the various improvements already noted, was available. On the other hand, around the mining town of Anina, the railways required to serve local mines were extended deep into the forests to Pauleasca in 1908, Gura Golumbului de Jos and Valea Cara~ului in 1911, Mindri~aga in 1915 and finally to Plesiva and Racasdiana in 1925; and there were also short branches worked by horses which connected with the standard gauge Anina- Oravila railway at Gtrli~te and Li~ava. Railway building in the Regat was restrained but the Ti~ita company built a long line up the ~u~i~a valley in c. 1905 from Mfirfi~e~ti to Soveja and then over the watershed to Lepta, through an area where floating was not feasible, while at Brezoi in the Lotru valley the Lotru company first concentrated its railway building in tributary valleys (Pfiscoaia and Vasilat) while floating continued on the Latori~a and the Lotru itself. However the railway built by the Arif company in 1908 from Curtea de Arge~ to Cumpfina may be an exception, explained by the difficulty of floating timber over this section of the valley for much of the year. With the railway available at Cumpgna the Arge~ headwaters could be used to bring timber to the terminal from a rich catchment area for the greater part of the year. Similar considerations may have applied in the Sadu river where forest railways emerged on both sides of the valley. The S bank was used by a line linking the Lotru funicular with a sawmill by the main railway at TNmaciu while a shorter line followed the northern bank to reach a sawmill at the junction of TNmaciu Colon. In other valleys however railway replacements came very late (only after 1948 in the case of Brezoi-Lotru) and in some cases, notably the R~ul Mare in the Retezat Moun- tains, floating did not case until the forest road was built along the valley in the 1960s.

    Some railways were built too cheaply and were diffi- cult, if not dangerous, to operate. Even under the best conditions speed is usually restricted to 30 kmh. The great constraint however was the gradient because even though the loaded wagons were generally working down- valley, with only stores and equipment to be hauled up the gradient, slopes of 12% were the limit. Inclined planes could be installed (or funiculars used) to cope with the problem but the building and operating costs were usually too high; there were substantial practical difficulties concerning the installation of incline

    N" " f bui lding Nat lway r~oao - '~ / 1875 1898 (mainly clear fell) ~ T

    ~ 11 1899-1908 (mainly progress ive - - cutt ing 1st. phase) i r ~ ~ , ~ - - - - m ~ ~ 1~ 1908 1918 (mainly progress ive II I " -- -- cutt ing 2nd. phase) ~ . i l t Oth . . . . . d . . . . . . . Road . . . . . . . ion f . . . . . i lway

    Fig 4 Forest railways and roads in the Frasin/Stulpicani area of Bucovina Source: Lungu 1957

    machinery (breaking mechanism if not stationary steam engines) in remote rugged countryside to say nothing of the problem of getting locomotives and rolling stock into position to work the upper levels of the system. Gene- rally therefore, where terrain was too difficult the forests remained inaccessible until other transport arrangements could be made.

    Incline working on present Romanian territory was first adopted for the mountain section of the Bazia~- Oravi~a-Anina Kohlenbahn between 1853 and 1863. But the system was reintroduced on forest railways at Comand~u near Covasna in Transilvania in 1883, Mfilini near F~lticeni in Moldavia in 1892 and at Retevoi near Bu~teni in Wallachia in 1899 (Popescu 1987). The Comandfiu system was particularly impressive (Turnock 1980). The building of a standard gauge line from Sf. Gheorghe to Bre~cu created a base for commercial forestry operations in a frontier region. There had previously been only limited activity in the area apart from the military command post from which the name of

  • 416 GeoJournal 22.4/1990

    Fig 5 Forest railways (including funiculars and inclines) in the Buzau, Covasna and Vrancea districts

    Sources: as for Fig 3

    the settlement is derived. Livestock were brought up into the hills from the low ground around Covasna and the Tarfi Btrsei generally and some animals were taken further on through the Btsca valley into Vrancea for wintering on the Moldavian Plain. There was also some hunting, leading to the construction of a substantial lodge which still stands in the village, serving as a clinic and hostel. The growth of a substantial settlement began with the arrival of the Budapest-based GrOdl company in 1892 and the construction of a large electrically-powered sawmill. Gradually all the local timber processing was concentrated on the new mill as small water-powered mills (whose modest outputs had previously been taken by cart to Bra~ov) closed down, though some functioned until well into the 20th century. The new mill depended on an adequate transport system in the form of a narrow gauge railway from Covasna which included an inclined plane from the head of Valea Zinelor to Siclfiu, connect- ing the lower level at 686 m with the upper level at 1013. Since the traffic was moving downhill the incline equipment comprised only a braking mechanism, still

    used today after approximately 90 years service (Lacri- ~eanu & Pontremoli 1977). However locomotives to work on the upper level had to be taken up in sections and assembled at workshops adjacent to the sawmill, but the cost was justified through the extensive stands of fir and spruce extending across the frontier into the Regat (Fig 5).

    The sawmill was situated in the uppermost reaches of the Bisca Mare valley and during the 1890s the railway from the Siclgm incline was extended down the valley towards Iancfiu. The railway station in Comandfm became a major focus of activity and continues to be so today: the present wooden building is the third that has occupied the site and it includes a licenced grocery business which, until recently, also operated a mobile shop on the railway system. The railway network became more complex with the construction of a branch running east to cross the Btsca Mare-Btsca Mica water- shed at Halom (c. 1200 m) and descend into the Btscfi Mica valley at Benedic, with branches to Giurgiu, Manicica and Mu~a. Rails manufactured at Re~i~a in

  • GeoJournal 22.4/1990 417

    1897 are still in place. Meanwhile the arrival of the standard gauge railway in Nehoia~u, following the Buz~u valley from the town of that name on the main line from Bucharest and Ploie~ti to Bac~u and Suceava sparked off a sawmilling project by GOtz whose railways reached up both the Bfsca Mare and B~sca Mic~ valleys to form end- on junctions with the GrOdl lines in the Darnfiu and Mu~a areas. Precise dating is difficult but it seems that a railway ran from Nehoiu as far as Lunca Frumoas~ in 1907 and logs floated down the river were taken out at this point. Destruction of dams (built to facilitate the floating of timber) in the floods of 1910 led to further railway building to effect the first link with GrOdl whose interests already extended across the international frontier into the Regat. The extent of through running between Comand~u and Nehoia~u before nationalisation has not been clearly established but during the 1950s some timber from Comand~u was sent to Nehoiu mill when the latter's local supplies were inadequate. The connection has now been severed and the judeI boundary between Buz~u and Covasna now delimits the extent of the two timber collecting areas far more effectively than the old international frontier!

    More impressive however was the Gr6dl company's interest in the fir and spruce forests of Vrancea which were accessible from the railway at Halom, by means of a branch which climbed through Murdan to Colmea P~i~elor (1516 m) with an inclined plane at Goru. From this remarkable mountain railway contact could be made with the Naruja and Z~bala valleys with further inclined planes at Gociu and Murdan respectively. It would appear that separate companies operated in Vrancea (FraIia in the N~ruja valley and Arif in the Zfibala) but they cooperated closely with GrOdl over transport and processing since distances from the upper reaches of these valleys, where the best timber was to be found, were much shorter in the westerly direction towards Halom and Comand~u than to the Romanian railways at Foc~ani. Like GrOdl, Gdtz had interests in other valleys and funiculars were used to obtain timber from the Jitia area of the R~mnicu S~rat valley and the Lop~tari area of the Slfinic valley as already noted. In both cases contact was made with the B~sca Mica valley between Varlaam and Secuiu although precise locations are uncertain. It is also uncertain how the short sections of railway built along the upper reaches of the R~mnicu S~rat and Slanic valleys were equipped. Subsequently a funicular was built between Secuiu and the Z~bala valley to provide a cheaper outlet for local timber than the railway to Halom which did not long survice the First World War. Comandfiu remains a very active centre of woodcutting and sawmilling with railways to Giurgiu/ Manicica (via Halom) and Darn~u as well as the trunk line to Covasna via the Siclfm incline which carries the sawn timber from Comand~u and raw wood for the new combine at Covasna.

    The history of forest railways between 1914 and 1948 is difficult to summarise accurately because few details

    have been published. Most of the existing lines survived although some had only a short life, like the railway from Cimpulung Mu~cel to Voina built by the occupying powers during the First World War. The railway from Mfir~%sti to Soveja and Lepta was closed by 1935, presumably because all the best timber in the Soveja area had been taken and reserves in the Lepta area could be transported more efficiently by funiculars to One~ti and Tirgu Secuiesc. Likewise some of the railways radiating out of Comand~u were replaced by funiculars as already noted. However some existing systems were extended. For example the Nehoiu system was developed with a line from Gura Biscii past Siriu to Cheile Buz~ului, where the old station building bears the inscription 1934, with branches along the Siriu and Zabratau valleys. On the other hand there was some new construction, encouraged by the availability of processing equipment for beechwood. A new state organisation: Casa autonom(~ a p(tdurilor statului (CAPS) built several railways into forests which had previously attracted only a modest commercial value. For example, in 1932-5 a line was built from StHpeni on the Gole~ti- Cimpulung branch along the Bratia valley to the forests beyond Berevoe~ti on the S slopes of the F~g~ra moun- tains. The old GrOdl territory of Comand~u was invaded by a company interested in beechwood furniture: a new railway was built from Brate~ (on the Bre~cu branch S of Covasna) following an extremely winding course to reach Comand~u without the need for an incline. Another aspect of new railway construction was the provision of lines in valleys where timber had previously been taken out by floating. The Vi~eu de Sus sawmill (on the Bor~a branch) was endowed with a railway of more than 40 km along the Vaser valley. Railways certainly appeared to represent the optimum arrangement for forest transport (Demetrescu 1937; Lungu 1937; Manole 1937; Moldovan-Junior 1937) and there was also an appreciation of the possibilities for public transport by forest railways, involving local people and tourists (Peto 1937). For instance the railway from Z~voi to Poiana M~rului sustained a modest tourist industry in the 1930s. A sanatorium was built (on the site of the present Scorilo hotel) and outlying villas were dispersed around the settlement. An old tram was brought from Timi~oara and converted into a petrol- engined railcar, which could however work by gravity down-valley to Z~voi.

    The precise extent of the network is difficult to establish however. Topographical maps published in Germany at the scale of 1:200,000 such as the General- karte yon Mitteleuropa issued during the Second World War usually show the forest railways accurately, along with roads and funiculars. But they are not up to date and railways built after 1918 do not usually appear. Working backwards from more recent times is difficult because no comparable maps are available but it is pos- sible to piece together from various sources (discussed later) the probable extent of the forest railway network

  • 418 GeoJournal 22.4/1990

    at its maximum around 1960 and to infer from infor- mation on construction before 1918 and after 1945 what probably happened in the intervening period. Also help- ful is information supplied by M. Murray about forest railways supplied with locomotives by Orenstein und Koppel. Since it is almost certain that the relevant orders would have related to the period before nationalisation the information provides an indication of railway build- ing in the late 1030s and early 1940s when the lines cannot be found on early topographical maps (or in statements of postnationalisation achievements). Prob- able developments during the period, apart from those already mentioned, include Leordina and R~dfiu[i from the Eastern Carpathians, Bfibeni, Drajna, Turnu Severin and Zfirne~ti from the Southern Carpathians; and Armenia, Berzasca, Cugir, Cru~ov~[ and Voislova from the Western Carpathians.

    Post-Nationalisation: The" Changing Role of the Railways

    Despite the improvements of the 1930s it seems that when all the woodlands were nationalised in 1948 45% of the timber was still being handled by water transport, animal haulage and funiculars. The first task was there- fore to provide more modern transport to increase effi- ciency and reduce losses. By 1955 less than a fifth of the output depended on traditional means of transport. There were also many forests that remained inaccessible because transport was altogether lacking (Sburlan 1938). It would appear that by the end of the 1930s, following the German example, there was a growing appreciation that the future lay with road transport rather than rail. In 1941 I. Lungu argued strongly for forest roads and noted an emphasis on road building in the CAPS budget for 1939-40 and 1940-1. Investment for the following decade anticipated 500 km of new roads and a motor vehicle fleet of 100. Rural development surveys also {ndicate an awareness of the importance of roads, with railways very much a secondary issue (Nicoara 1943). However the coup of 1944 introduced an entirely new situation. Romania was cut off from German technology and forced to participate in a number of joint companies with the Soviet Union. One of these was Sovromlemn endowed with substantial areas of spruce forest in the Eastern Carpathians. Although some of the land may have been identical to the areas covered by previous Romano-German joint arrangements there was a sharp technological break in continuity (Cristea 1946). The situation was complicated by the damaged state of the oil fields and the heavy Soviet reparation demands which earmarked the bulk of the country's oil production.

    Consequently the opening up of virgin forests required the construction of further forest railways. 186 km of new railway were built before nationalisation of all woodlands in 1948 (46.5 km per annum) but con- struction accelerated to 50.0 km per annum between

    1948 and 1950 and then, under the first Five Year Plan, went ahead at a much more intensive pace of 210 km per year from 1951 to 1955. The tempo was then reduced to 91 km per year between 1956 and 1960 and 2.5 between 1961 and 1965 (Manoliu 1959; Tomulescu 1969). At the same time there was a substantial programme to equip the new railways and modernise existing lines brought together to form the CFF (C~ile Ferate Forestiere). In the ten years after nationalisation 140 new locomotives of 120-150 hp were built by the Re~i[a and 23 August (formerly Malaxa) workshops: the Re~i~a 0-8-0 tank locomotive for 760 mm lines was particularly successful, designed by a collective which took the best of previous practice supplied by foreign builders like Orenstein und Koppel and added ministry specifications (Halliwell 1974). There was a modest programme of light locomo- tive building (25-70 hp) by 23 August and also by Skoda of Czechoslovakia and a massive order for 4000 wagons (vagonetele) built at factories at Piatra NeamL Satu Mare, Tirgovi~te and Tople[ (Sburlan 1931). In 1959 when public transport services were provided on some forty systems a coach building programme was under- taken by the Unio factory at Satu Mare. The professio- nal literature contains a steady flow of papers on various matters relating to CFF quipment and maintenance (Buru 1958; Magyar 1956; Petcu 1962; Tatomir 1950). The railway builders faced the future with confidence and, in the light of the electrification plan of 1950, even envisaged electrified forest railways (Tecovici 1951) following the precedent of 1899 when the Bu~teni paper factory's Retevoi system was supplied with Orenstein und Koppel Bo-Bo locomotives drawing power from a 1.25 MW hydroelectric scheme. Before the large scale introduction of bus services the CFF provided a useful passenger facility and several lines, such as Curtea de Arge~ - Cumpfina, Mineciu - Cheia and Zfirne~ti - Plaiul Foii, were thought to have tourist potential.

    Unfortunately there is little published information on the location of the networks and the details of the layout in each case. E. Balanescu and E. Tatomir (1959) supply some material on location but it is insufficient to account for all the post-war construction. Other articles make incidental references'however (Ionescu & Amzica 1966; Marin 1966) and there are (fortunately) occasional ex- ceptions to the general practice of not showing forest railways on maps drawn up in connection with tourist literature (eg I. Bojoi 1979) and regional handbooks, such as the Jude[ele Patriei series which provides useful detail in the volumes on Brasov (M. Iancu 1971), Gorj (N. Baranovsky & G. Neamu 1971) and Maramure~ (G. Posea et al. 1980). Two other sources may be men- tioned. First, the doctorate thesis of the economist C. G. Mocanu (1970) examines forest transport and includes a number of maps showing railway layouts. Though there is unfortunately little in the way of dating, while some of the layouts appear highly generalised, the coverage is faitly comprehensive. Second, the author has had the benefit of access to lists of CFF locations obtained from

  • GeoJo#rnal 22,4/1990 419

    Fig 6 Forest roads and railways in the Arges district

    Sou[ces: Barco, A.; Nedelcu, E.: Judetul Arges. Ed. Academiei RSR, Bucharest, 1974, and field work

    < uJ


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    Arefu ~[ \' 2, CI'MPULUNG ~" Corbeni~ Br'dule'"~i ? ~Corb,\ \ Riuso, , .~"~'~/" '~ '~) / :1

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    an official source by a transport history colleague researching in c. 1960 (Fig 3). Some of the places are apparently district administrative centres for forestry operations rather than actual railway locations and other entries cannot be found in gazeteers, possibly because they are not recognised settlements. New construction carried out since 1945 may therefore be summarised (partially) as follows. In the Eastern Carpathians there were new lines at Bor~a (Tisla valley), Comfine~ti (Ciobgnu~ valley), FNticeni (Ri~ca valley), Petrova (Frumuseaua valley), Piatra Neam~ (Cuejdiu valley), Roznov (Calu and Iape valleys) and Sovata (Tirnava Micfi headwaters) as well as extensions of the lines from One~ti to Cabin and Tazlfiu to the Hfila~ and Geamfina valleys respectively; and on the Sighetul Marmaliei-Ocna ~ugatag line to the Mara valley. In the Southern Carpathians new systems were installed at Curtea de Arge~ (to the Vilsan and Riul Doamnei valleys) (Fig 6), Orlat (Cibin valley), Telega (Doftana valley), Tirgu Jiu (Bistrita, Motru, Su~eni and Tismana valleys) and

    Zfirne~ti (B[rsa, Birsa-Bucur and Btrsa-Fierului valleys) along with extensions of the Bfibeni-Tomsani line to Vaideeni and the Luncavfit valley; and the Brezoi- Malaia line to Voineasa and the Voine~i~a valley. In the Western Carpathians there are references to construc- tion from the Arie~ valley towards Valea Ierii and, more definitely, from Teregova to the Rece (or Hideg) valley.

    However what is beyond doubt is the demise of the CFF from the high water mark of the early 1960s when the total track length may have been in excess of 3500 km. The main reason for the decline has been the belated switch to road transport discussed below. However the premature abandonment of some lines was precipitated by severe flood damage. In 1969 flooding in the Buzau catchment led to extensive damage to the CFF based on Nehoiu and although there was some restoration of working on the Bfsca Micfi and Ca~oca valleys road transport took over in the B~sca Micfi and Bisca Rozilei valleys (Ielenicz 1972; Popescu 1963). All lines on the Nehoiu system are now dosed. More recent

  • 420 GeoJournal 22.4/1990

    Tab 1 Principal CFF systems operating in the 1980s 5)

    flooding in 1974 has curtailed operations on the CFF at Orfi~tie beyond Coste~ti. A legacy of the flood damage is the abandonment of locomotives and rolling stock at outlying sites like Gura Biscii, Mu~a and Siriu on the Nehoiu system and at Coste~ti S of Orfi~tie. It is likely that every CFF operation would by now have been aban- doned but for the price fluctuations on the world oil market. The sharp rise in prices in the 1970s following the Arab-Israeli war came at precisely the time when Romania was expanding her petrochemical industry beyond the level of domestic oil production. The idea was to import additional crude and then benefit from the higher prices that would be secured through the sub- sequent export of refined products. But the reduced world demand for oil products, caused by the rise in crude oil price, left Romania with excessive petrochemi- cal capacity and the necessity of making profit in world trade by selling competitively-priced products using domestic crude as far as possible. The resulting efforts to limit oil consumption at home have led to the decision by the national woodcutting organisation Centrul explo- atari lemnului: CEL to retain the forest railways that were still in existence in the late 1970s. Although rail- ways are still more expensive, as a rule, than roads, the margin is much smaller than before. Given the continu- ing economic problems in Romania the railways will now be retained indefinitely. Major maintenance work has resumed and one branch of the woodcutting enterprise, the Intreprinderea forestier~ de exploatare ~i transport IFET at Caransebe~ (responsible for operations in much of Cara~-Severin ]udeO has decided not only to repair the Berzasca/Drencova system damaged by floods in 1967, but to completely rebuild two forest railways. These are the lines from Cru~ovfi~ to Mehadica and the Verendin valley and from Voislova to Rusca Montanfi and the Zfivoi valley. They have been identified with ease of construction and the scale of future timber

    cutting in mind. IFET Pitesti also plans a modest extension of the Stilpeni railway system.

    The principal CFF systems known to be operating at present are summarised in Tab 1. This list is based on field work and includes the Topli~a-Borsec industrial railway because although it is used today solely for the conveyance of mineral water it was built originally as a forest railway (Turnock 1976, 1980, 1986). Short lengths of railway, representaing truncated remnants of longer lines now serving small processing units and rail-road exchange points, have been reported at Oituz and Scutaru (Bacau), Rt~ca (Suceava) and Tazlfiu (Neam~). Steam locomotives are retained, although now the fleet consists almost entirely of Resita 0-8-0 tank locomotives built since nationalisation. Construction of these loco- motives (at Reghin) has been resumed since 1983 (Lacri- teanu et al. 1987-8). Meanwhile several older loco- motives remain in store, some of them suitable for use in an emergency. Locomotives burn low grade timber along with bark (tala~) stripped off logs which are destined for the cellulose industry and some lignite where supplies exist locally. Even before the oil crisis diesel locomotives had been rejected on account of a high fuel consumpt- ion, although they are used on the Borsec-Topli~a rail- way. With wood, as well as concrete, a common con- struction material for much of the engineering work on the forest railways there is something of a 'Wild West' atmosphere pervading the scene. In fact the Comandfm system was used by a Romanian film crew some years ago while shooting western scenes and the coaches still carry some of the markings applied to authenticate this unusual project.

    Workings on the forest railways are somewhat irregular but it is usual for early morning departures to the forests to be balanced by afternoon workings back to base. Heavy traffic is usually 'downstream' with logs and firewood taken down to the sawmills and empty wagons

  • GeoJournal 22.4/1990 421

    returned to the forest on the higher ground. This means that it is usually the lightly-loaded trains that have to cope with the adverse gradients, except at Comandgu where some of the wood being sent to the sawmill has to be taken over the Bisca MicS-Bisca Mare watershed at Halom (1200 m) and where all the sawn timber has to cross the Bisca Mare-Covasna watershed at Cumpfina (1068 m) en route to the Siclgu incline. However workers often stay in the forest throughout the week in a chalet (caband rnuncitoresc) and hence the first train out on a Monday morning may be quite heavily loaded, especially if lack of any road access necessitates the use of the railway to carry tractors and other heavy equip- ment back to the forest from the repair shops. A journey made under such circumstances can be a stirring ex- perience with memorable audiovisual effects as the train labours up a thickly-wooded valley. Progress is inevi- tably slow with frequent stops for water (usually pumped out of a mountain stream) and some for sand. The very moderate speed makes it possible for permanent way squads to hitch their trolleys to the train. In the upper- most reaches it is usual for wagons to be propelled by the locomotive to the end of the line and then left for loading and return to a convenient marshalling point by gravity (the wagons of course have a hand-brake mechanism). In the case of the Orlat system wagons would descend by gravity from the extremities of the system (Du~i, Izvorul Comenzii and Izvorul Foltei) and trains would be marshalled for locomotive haulage to Orlat at Pisc (Dunare 1985). Returning down the valley the speed increases considerably and the maximum of 30 km per hour may appear somewhat over-generous on sharply-curved and rough-riding track. Occasionally a formal passenger service operates and tickets can be purchased at stations in the usual way, but most local train services have been replaced by buses which offer a faster and more intensive service. Under such circum- stances there are just occasional mixed trains to cater for forest workers. It should be noted however that in addition to conventional trains there are various motor vehicles (cars, vans and lorries) adapted for use on railways in order to carry workers and light goods. This type of vehicle is known as a dirzina.

    Post-Nationalisation: The Road-Building Programme

    However even the restoration of some former rail- ways shows there is little doubt that the bulk of Romania's timber will continue to be transported by road. There were already some 1150 km of roads in 1948. Some forests were particularly well endowed with roads (Dimitrovici 1922; Pasarica 1935) because the state organisation CAPS started an ambitious programme in the late 1930s. Despite the scarcity of oil there was a significant road building programme after nationalisation involving 800 kin between 1948 and 1955. For although

    railways were preferred, because they consumed fire- wood (and sometimes lignite) rather than oil, they were not feasible where the gradients along the valleys exceeded 12%. The first roads tended to supplement railways in valleys too steep for railway building. Examples have been described in Moldavia (Lungu 1957) and Oltenia (Marin 1966). After 1955 the oil supply situation eased considerably. Domestic produc- tion of crude oil more than doubled from 5.0 million tonnes in 1950 to 10.6 in 1955 and subsequently incre- ased to 12.6 in 1965 and 14.6 in 1975. Meanwhile Soviet reparation claims were terminated and the joint com- panies were wound up. Road building accelerated to 1933 km between 1956 and 1960 (384 km per year) and 14,019 km between 1961 and 1969 (1402 km per year). Road transport was found to be only half to two-thirds the cost of rail and even in difficult situations objective examination of all transport options (canals and funi- culars as well as railways and roads) revealed that road transport was preferable (Lungu 1957; Oprita 1968; Vasilesco 1956). There is no record of any new railway building after 1965 and it is likely that all railway con- struction after 1955 (469 km altogether) was geared to new branches on existing systems. The balance shifted very strongly in favour of roads after the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party in 1957 and plans to carry out major extensions of railway systems, such as the Bfibeni system which could potentially have served the Cerna, Olte~ and Tfirfia valleys as well as the Bistri~a and Luncfivatul were abandoned (Bereziuc 1953; Carare 1962, 1964; Pascovschi & Sburlan 1966). The professio- nal literature indicated the new trend very clearly (Belinschi 1957; Lazar 1956; Lungu 1958; Nestor & Oprita 1958).

    A survey of transport arrangements in 1960-1 revealed that three quarters of the woodlands were accessible thanks to the availability of 11,500 km of forest roads, 15,900 km of public roads, 3,500 km of railways and some 40 km of fixed funiculars. Mechanised methods of construction were introduced to speed up the pro- gramme (Bighea 1961; Bradoschi 1963; Ostahie 1965) and, in order to open up the remaining inaccessible stands and to reduce costs in other forests where the density of roads was inadequate, it was decided that the average of 4.9 m of road per hectare of woodland should increase 7.8 in 1967 and 16.6 in 1980, with 20.0 as the ultimate target. Of course the specifications for roads would vary according to the anticipated traffic. Some main roads (drumuri principale) would carry more than 50,000 tonnes of timber each year while the feeder roads (drumuri de coast~) might average less than 5,000. Roads of the latter type may eventually be built just 1.5 km apart drawing timber over distances of 1 km above the road and 0.5 km below (Amzica 1967, 1969; Bereziuc 1971; Ionescu 1960; Voiculescu 1968). The total network was estimated at 65,000 km in 1975, compared with just 1150 in 1948. The first timber lorry, the 'Bucegi', built in Bra~ov, had a capacity of only five

  • 422 GeoJournal 22.4/1990

    N .e-"

    I" p. .-a I

    t; ,.'Z~ "%,')tL,~t~7:/, F" '~

    O r a d e ~ ~

    ,s ,i

    r "



    "~ l Drobeta- .~.,Turnu Severin


    Fig 7 Road building in the Carpathians

    BaiaMar~"" , o J %


    ~,lba lulia ev


    0 Kilometres 50 n n i n 0 i

    Built before Built after Carpathian zone . . . . . . WWl WWl Main forested areas :i!i~!::.i.iil..!i

    National roads ~ Main towns . . . . . . (Mainly forest roads) Other towns

    Other roads ........... (Mainly strategic roads) International boundary w. m

    Sources: Dragomir, V. et al.: Romania: atlas rutier. Ed. Sport-Turism, Bucharest, 1981; Oancea, D. et al.: Geografia romaniei: Carpatii romanesti. Ed. Academiei RSR, Bucharest, 1987; field work.

    tonnes (though this was later raised to eight through the introduction of a third axle which could be raised off the road when the vehicle was travelling light). The subse- quent 'Roman' autotren (German-licensed MAN) had a 10-12 t capacity and even larger vehicles are now being introduced

    The road building programme (Fig 7) has not been described in detail but it would appear that priorities in the 1960s were determined by the decision to set up a chain of major wood industrialisation complexes (Ezechil & Romanenco 1971; Patrasescu 1961; Ungur 1968). Some major production units (unitaIi forestiere mari) continued to be exploited by means of railways

    while others were opened up by roads. New areas avai- lable for cutting were determined by each ocol silvic and the higher levels in the silvicultural hierarchy. Planning was usually undertaken five years ahead so that the necessary roads could be constructed if they were not already available. However it soon became inconvenient to transfer timber from railway to road and those lines which did not serve a local sawmill and could easily be replaced by roads were singled out for closure, especially where there were difficulties over maintenance and operation. Local politics also played a part because each administrative region (county after 1968) tried to ensure that its timber went to processing units within the area.

  • GeoJournal 22.4/1990 423

    Transfers across administrative boundaries were con- siderably reduced because whereas the historic import- ance of railway penetration of spruce forests meant that it was frequently appropriate to reach out over water- sheds to exploit the forests on the high ground in adjacent basins the acceptability of beechwood and the availability of a flexible road transport system allowed each basin to be planned as a separate entity.

    Some examples may be appropriate. Extensive beech woods have been opened up to large scale exploitation for the first time (Ionescu 1963; Timi~ 1962; Tomoioagg 1968) and WET Or~ova has been able to take wood from the Cerna valley thanks to a road of some 40 km which runs from Bfiile Herculane to the head of the valley where the Cerna-Motru-Tismana water transfer installations were built. Extensions are being made to connect the Cerna road with Cimpul lui Neag in the Jiu valley and with Clo~ani in the Motru valley. Although there are some restrictions on cutting because of the need to pro- tect the waterworks and the Retezat National Park there has been a steady flow of timber to the factories of Tople~ and Turnu Severin. Further wood has been taken from the rugged countryside of the Mehedin~i plateau through a new road along the Bahna valley to Cire~u and Podeni, with a branch over the main watershed to Toplel. In both cases the steepness of the valleys made railway building impractical, although a narrow gauge railway was built along the valley as far as Bahna in the late 19th century when it seemed that the local coal reserves might be ade- quate to meet the needs of the Romanian Railways.

    In the Semenic Mountains of Cara~-Severin there was already a well-developed railway system (built by Uzinele de Fier ~i Domeniile din Re~ita and previous owners), supplemented by forest roads, funiculars and canals where gradients were too steep for railway building. The road network has been extended and all other means of transport have been gradually abandoned because road offers greater flexibility in supplying wood to local facto- ries (any timber brought in by railway for destinations beyond Anina would have needed transfer to road vehicles to the standard gauge railway) and avoids losses involved with the use of canals and associated funiculars and chutes. The canal system on the B~rzava is no longer used for timber, fixed funiculars have been dismantled and the surviving scoc running down the slopes of the Semenic Mountain from Prislop to VNiug is now little used. Given the difficult terrain it is likely the high maintenance and operating costs for railways contributed to the decision. However at Berzasca in the Danube valley upstream of the Iron Gates the use of river boats for the transport of timber has made it feasible to retain the railway as a unitary transport system for the locality, serving the local sawmill of Drencova built in 1907 and supplying some 150,000 m3 of raw timber to be taken by boat to sawmills lower down the Danube (Panaite 1964). Equally in the N part of Gorj the railway is retained as an efficient means of supplying the factory at T~rgu Jiu (although the branch along the Motru valley from Apfi

    Neagrfi to Clo~ani was closed when a surfaced road was prepared in conjunction with the water transfer scheme referred to above). On the other hand the impossibility of extending the railway from Brezoi any further along the Lotru valley than Voineasa (leading to the decision in the past to take timber from the higher part of the valley by means of a funicular to the Sadu valley to the N) led to the decision to close down the railway altogether (c. 1970) and replace it with a road system which could extend over the entire basin (and serve the Lotru hydroelectric project as well). The main axis runs along the valley from Brezoi to ONr~ie Lotrului and across the watershed to Petrila in the Jiu valley (allowing some wood to be taken to the mining complex around Petro~ani). There are also roads along the tributary valleys, some of which cross the watershed: for example the road along the Latori~a connects at Curmgturfi Olteiului with the road running N along the Olte~ from Polovragi (Bardasu & Simeanu 1973).

    Probably the most radical reorganisation has occurred in Vrancea where the old selective approach to woodcutt- ing resulted in the fir and spruce wood being taken across the watersheds to sawmills in other districts. Although a forest railway was built from Mfirg~e~ti to Soveja and Lepta it was closed before the Second World War and when all the forests were nationalised in 1948 there were only relatively short railways running into the hills from Guge~ti and R~mnicu Sfirat. Early postwar development necessitated some return to traditional arrangements with a new railway in the Z5bala valley (Palcau-Piscul Negru) leading to an 8 km funicular which took the wood over Culmea Monteorului into the B~sca Micfi valley for trans- fer by railway to Nehoiu sawmill. Another railway in the Lepta area gave access to a funicular extending for 9 km to Cabin in direct railway contact with the sawmill at One~ti. However some wood was delivered to Odobe~ti by means of a railway along the Milcov valley to Andrei- a~u and the Tulbure valley. Some thought was given to a further extension of the railways from Guge~ti and Odobe~ti (including the state railway from Odobe~ti to Burca) to connect with the isolated lines that took wood to the funiculars but the terrain was found to be too diffi- cult for a unitary railway plan to be feasible (Stan& Pasoi-Barco 1964; Stefanescu 1968). The existing funicu- lars would have been essential and further installations would have been needed to transport timber from the Milcov valley to the Guge~ti railway. Accordingly the decision to concentrate on road building resulted in the plan of 1962 to improve the public roads and extend the system from 100 to 137 km and also extend the system of forest roads from 98 km to 533 covering the Milcov, Nfiruja, Putna, ~u~i]a and Zfibala valleys. All railways and funiculars have now been closed, the transition being hastened by the authorities of the Gala]i regional admini- stration (responsible for Vrancea until the area became a county or jude~ in 1968) who decided that all timber should be diverted to their own processing units as quickly as possible. The new Foc~ani wood processing

  • 424 Geodoumal 22.4/1990

    8a 8b





    9c 9d

  • GeoJournal 22.4 /1990 425

    10a 10b

    10c lOd

    Fig 8 Installations for forest transport - a) Mixed rail gauge in the woodyard at Orastie - b) A selec- tion of motor vehicles of the dirzina type (adapted for use on forest railways) at Viseu de Sus - c) A box girder bridge installed during the extension of the now-defunct forest railway to Voineasa in the Lotru valley - d) Scoc at Prislop in the Semenic Mountains, used to transport logs to the forest road in the Birzava valley below.

    Fig 9 Forest work: railways - a) A Resita 0-8-0 tank locomotive heads a train of empty wagons on the Comandan system between Halom and Benedic - b) Loading a timber wagon on the Comandau system near Benedic - c) Another Resita 0-8-0 tank locomotive shunts wagon loads of timber for charcoal production at Riusor on the Stilpeni system - d) The Riusor woodyard. The conical heap of timber in the top right corner is ready for burning to produce charcoal.

    Fig 10 Forest work: roads - a) A tractor piles up wood by the roadside high above the Riul Mare valley on the edge of the Retezat Mountains - b) When forest roads are isolated from the rest of the road system railways are used to take vehicles to base for maintenance: a view in the Vaser valley above Visen de Sus - c) A Bucegi lorry with its rear axle raised for economical running while the vehicle is empty and in the distance a tractor drawing logs from the forest: a view on the Latorita-Oltet watershed with the Lotru Moun- tains visible in the distance - d) A Roman lorry carries timber from the head of the Lotru valley past Vidra lake (created by the Lotru hydropower project) en route for the Brezoi factory.

    11a l lb

    Fig 11 The forest today- a) Two foresters wait by the roadside at Closani near Baia de Arama for transport to the forest where they will spend the week in hostel accommodation - b) A new forest road along the Bahna valley near Podeni to improve access into the beechwoods of Mehedinti for the woodcutting enterprise (WET) at Orsova.

  • 426 GeoJournal 22.4/1990

    complex opened in 1960 and within a year the Zfibala-Bts ca Micfi funicular was closed down, the decision accelerated by the availability of ample wind-blow timber from the Btsca and Buzfiu valleys to keep the Nehoiu sawmill fully occupied.

    Although the road system is now well developed the density will increase in future. There will also be a consi- derable improvement in quality as the weight of timber lorries increases. The original autotren had a capacity of just 12 t but the prototype 25-30 t lorry was put on trial by the Reghin factory in 1980. A better road surface will be needed and structures will need improvement (Meiro- vici 1963; Zavoianu 1971). Further sophistication is likely in future with separate vehicles for produse principale (the tree trunks) and produse secondare which includes chips (tocglturii de lemn) and sawdust (rumege~ului din lemn). Much of the secondary material is currently left in the forest for lack of adequate transport and contributes to the substantial amount of waste which is still involved in forestry operations. However the concept of whole- tree harvesting (exploatarea #i transporturilor arborilor fn coroane) will modify this situation once suitable roads and vehicles are available and suitable working methods have been evolved to avoid damaging standing timber in the process of drawing out whole trees. Eventually branches may be brought to primary processing points and con- verted into chips which can then be pumped into container lorries. A road network of optimum density will be another precondition (Pop 1981; Ungur 1985).

    As the quality of the roads improves it will be possible for them to make a greater contribution to the tourist industry (Holan & Patroescu 1967; Morosanu 1967; Pala- dian 1967; Ungur 1967). Already the roads have opened up some little-known mountain districts (including parts of the Ffigfira~ and Retezat) but since the roads are gene- rally unsurfaced and often badly-maintained, (especially the branch roads: drumuri de coast(O it can be hazardous for private cars to use them. Hence the number of visitors is limited, mainly to hunters, fishermen and the more adventurous ramblers. Some areas have benefitted enor- mously from forest roads (Bogdan 1967; Ionescu 1967); and probably none more than the Lotru basin. Here the forest roads have supplemented a number of strategic roads built along the mountain crests before the Second World War and complementing this varied road network is a chain of lakes related to hydroelectric power stations and tourist accommodation, most of it in Voineasa, con- verted out of premises built originally for the construction workers. Forest roads have also helped (as at BNan and Le~ul Ur~ului) in mineral prospecting and in surveying for further hydroelectric works. More generally they assist agriculture through making travel easier between the villages and outlying farmsteads (conace) and summer mountain grazing stations (stfne). In some places former temporary settlements have become permanently inha- bited: for example Cerna Sat where some villagers from Clo~ani have made their homes in a place that was too

    remote for permanent settlement until modern services arrived.

    Humanising the Carpathians

    The opening up of the Romanian forests has involved a number of different transport systems. Technology has been advanced and the problem of inaccessible forests has gradually been solved, but it is the increasing value of the raw material and the feasibility of processing all types of timber that has justified increasingly substantial invest- ments in the provision and maintenance of forest trans- port systems. Methods which were once considered effi- cient have been rejected as symbols of a wasteful 'colo- nialist' approach in the context of a changed political and technological climate. There is no question that a com- prehensive system of roads in each basin provides the best answer to the country's needs, given the demand for all types of wood and a processing industry which requires much of the raw material to be sent to district complexes rather than to local sawmills. Narrow gauge railways could not be built along every valley because of steep gradients and the opening up of the woodlands therefore required supplementary roads or funiculars (Lungu 1958). Furthermore a railway solution led to break of bulk (narrow gauge railway to standard gauge railway, road or ship) unless all the timber was earmarked for a local sawmill served by the narrow gauge railway. This was usually the case when the industry concentrated on fir and spruce, but beechwood required separate machinery, usually installed in the district wood industrialisation complexes which drew on supply areas far more extensive than the catchments of individual forest railway systems. It was not surprising that the decision to establish the complexes went along with the change of emphasis from rail to road transport, with coordinated development of factories and roads during the 1960-65 Six Year Plan. Yet despite the recent emphasis on road buildings a sense of history is still relevant to any interpretation of the present arrangements. For quite apart from derelict installations which have no functional significance for the present system there is selective retention of railways and funiculars which once handled the bulk of the production. And to some extent the past is being brought back to life through touristical interest in rafting on the BistriIa and the development museums like the Muzeu lemnului in C~mpulung Moldovenesc and the Muzeu de locomotive cu aburi at Re~i~a.

    Forest transport in its various forms has assisted in the process of 'humanising' the Carpathians. Many existing communities were able to expand and reach a higher standard of living through the development of sawmills and the construction of standard gauge railways, which were in some cases (like the branch to Bistrila) financed by forestry interests. And in the forests themselves permanent settlements (hamlets as well as individual

  • Geodournal 22.4/1990 427

    houses) as well as temporary camps fol lowed in the wake of the railways and roads. Giurcgneanu (1969, pp. 146- 59) has related local sett lement hierarchies to the forest rai lway morphology, noting the principal nodes where the sawmills and transfer points are situated, the hamlets at the main junctions and collecting points on the rai lway system there and outlying cottages and cabins on the periphery. In the case of the Sti lpeni system there is the village of Sfflpeni with the locomotive depot and the sawmill (turning out barrels, boxes and flooring panels as well as sawn t imber) with urban-type apartment blocks as well as tradit ional housing. Higher up the valley above Berevoe~ti is the junction of Riu~or where the Plaiul Lung and Plaiui ~e~u branches diverge (Fig 6). This is a hamlet sett lement with a bar, canteen and shop; also a forestry store, maize store and fodder store for the animals; houses are of a tradit ional type with gardens, smallholdings and the occasional greenhouse. At the extremities of the system is to be found the canton, the

    home of a silvicultural worker or gamekeeper or the caband muncitoresc where woodmen stay during the week. In the frontier areas the mil itary may be present and, more generally, employment in electricity, water management and tourism may be evident - all in addit ion to agriculture which has brought the peasants from the villages on a purely seasonal basis. The same situation can now be seen on the forest roads, but to a greater extent in the case of tourism because of the improved condit ion of the drumuri principale and the possibil ity of travel at any time instead of the occasional, and usually unadvert ised, workings on the railway. Not that the Carpathians have been entirely civilised, for f looding continues to be a hazard for forest transport. In 1975 floods destroyed roads in the B~sca valleys and contact between Comandfiu and Nehoiu along the Btsca Micg had still not been restored at the end of the following year. Rai lway track also remains vulnerable and some woodland is usually left uncut to protect the lines of communication.


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