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

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<ul><li><p>GeoJournal 22.4 409-428 1990 (December) by Kluwer Academic Publishers </p><p>409 </p><p>Transport for Romania's Carpathian Forests: Improved Accessibility through Technological Change Turnock, D., Dr., University of Leicester, Dept. of Geogr., Leicester LE1 7RH, England </p><p>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 </p><p>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. </p><p>Pre-Nationalisation: Floating Timber down River </p><p>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 </p></li><li><p>410 GeoJournal 22.4/1990 </p><p>Production 1975 (million lei) </p><p>( </p><p>Typ Furnitur </p><p>Pape cellulos </p><p> Wood </p><p>Proce acces </p><p>,;:---,: </p><p>- - - - F ] </p><p>~ C </p><p>~,~' Statistical area with extensive stands of spruce forest </p><p>~\ \~ Statistical area with ~, ,~ more than 70% woodland </p><p>Ot Kilornet res </p><p>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) </p><p>8uz~u </p></li><li><p>Geo,Joumal 22.4/1990 411 </p><p>1Rodna </p><p>I1.t. Poiana Stampei </p><p>:Cklibaba </p><p>Vatra Dornei </p><p>[ Mainly spruce ]Beech~fir~spruce ~:i!!::: Reservoir </p><p>Humorului </p><p>Rivers suitable for f loat ing/raf t ing t imber </p><p>with standard gauge rai lway </p><p>,, ,. ,, ~ ,, ,, ,, wi th narrow gauge railway </p><p>watershed crossing </p><p> Raft ing/ f loat ing base [ ] Raft ing/f loat ing base </p><p>wi th population centre </p><p> Dam </p><p> Town </p><p>.............. Rivers not suitable for transport ing t imber </p><p>- -~ Limit of Bistrita catchment </p><p> Tirgu Neam~ </p><p>Topli Tarc,~u~. </p><p>..~N </p><p>eamt \ - </p><p>Reghin </p><p>0 Kilometres 30 L </p><p>Gheorgheni I </p><p>Fig 2 Timber transport in the Bistrita valley </p><p>\ ~'J@...... </p><p>Sources: Atlas RSR; Anania 1900 and Vlad-Popovici 1942 </p><p>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. </p><p>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 </p><p>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 </p></li><li><p>412 GeoJournal 22.4 /1990 </p><p>. . . . . Frontier : : : . : : :Spruce forest </p><p>~ Lowland area </p><p>............. Rivers </p><p>Railways </p><p>State , , , , , , - , Funicular </p><p>. . . . . Forest - - Forest- Projected </p><p>1 Curtea deArges , , , t ~ 2 RlmnmuVdcea 3 Cfmpulung 4 Voineasa " ~ 5 Riusor ~ / \ ~ \ \ </p><p>\MSngstiur Mal </p><p>6 Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej (Onesti) 7 Ctmpulung Moldovenesc . . </p><p>,Oradea " " , ,~ ~"~ U '~[ ," " </p><p>\ ? ~ Zal~ </p><p>,0~0,~m.~_ :_+::: :4 ~ o X~ ~ ...',~t'y:,,....,'::t,....,.~ :....--.. </p><p>/ ,. ~o . ...'.....,.. </p><p>Sebls . .t.. 0~, '.... e ; . ' . </p><p>j \ / /-, " . . . . . . . . . b , - ..:.:Hunedoara/ , J .~ \ ,x " ,~ )~- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _ ! ' , . . ; </p><p>~le , / / ' " ' " J .~ :,Vois,0va 7 </p><p>o / . . * , / ~ : ) . " ~! '~ Bocs~ ~"- '~ , . ,. '. ~ .:::-~:'. ~ C.aranseues&amp;.,Balta SN[atN. ~." { , " : :.: 2.'.~1 :V r </p><p>r, "...v.:~ . '~J'..., .7,,.:.: :.~.~.: ~ ,.: :.:.: : :!~o~2 ~ . . . . . . . ) . . . . </p><p>b~'~</p></li><li><p>GeoJournal 22.4/1990 413 </p><p>Carpathians, including the Arge~, Bisca, Dimbovi~a and Olt, as well as the Bistri~a in the Eastern Carpathians noted above. </p><p>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. </p><p>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 </p><p>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. </p><p>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 </p></li><li><p>414 GeoJournal 22.4/1990 </p><p>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 th...</p></li></ul>