Forest railway in the Vaser Valley (Water Valley), Romania

The Vaser Valley Railway in Romania is the last steam-powered forest railway in Europe. Today it transports not only tree trunks but also tourists through the idyllic forests of the Carpathians.

The forest railway in the Vaser Valley (Water Valley) in northern Romania is the last regularly operated forest railway in the country and the only steam-powered railway in Europe that is still used to transport timber. Since 2010, it has been considered a Romanian cultural asset and is under protection.


PICTURES: Forest railway in the Vaser Valley

Photo gallery: Forest railway in the Vaser Valley

The forest railway in the Vaser Valley, or Wassertalbahn, was built in 1932 for the transport of timber and has been in operation almost continuously since then. It runs from the town of Viseu de Sus (Oberwischau) over a 30km route through the Vaser Valley in the Carpathians to the Ukrainian border. The terminus is Poiana-Novat.

Timber transport to Viseu de Sus

The Vaser Valley Railway in Romania transports tourists as well as logs through the idyllic forests of the Carpathians - © Emily Marie Wilson / Shutterstock
© Emily Marie Wilson / Shutterstock

The Water Valley itself was already used by the Austrian monarchy in the 18th century as a transport route through the dense forests of the Carpathians. At that time, the mined logs were still transported down the river into the valley. As in those days, the terminus of the Water Valley Railway is the wood processing plant in Viseu de Sus. The "Sawmill R.G. Holz Company S.R.L." is also the owner of the historic forest railway.

Six days a week, the Vaser Valley Railway brings in several loads of raw wood, which is further processed in Viseu de Sus. On Mondays, the forest workers travel to their workplaces on the Wassertal railway and back again on Saturdays. Road vehicles and heavy tools for forest work as well as grazing livestock are also transported by rail due to the lack of alternative routes.

On the way with the forest railway

The forest railway in the Vaser Valley runs from the town of Viseu de Sus through the Water Valley to the Ukrainian border, Romania - © Hurghea Constantin / Shutterstock
© Hurghea Constantin / Shutterstock

Stones or fallen tree trunks on the tracks are always the order of the day in the rough terrain of the Carpathians. The 5 brakemen who accompany the trains have their hands full and it happens time and again that wagons derail. To minimise this risk, the Vaser Valley Railway runs at a leisurely speed of only 10km/h. For the 30km to Vise. It therefore takes three hours to cover the 30km to Viseu de Sus.

What sounds like pure madness for transport purposes (after all, the modern trains travel at up to 200km/h) is certainly enough for tourism. Since the "real" wooden trains have no longer been pulled by steam but by diesel locomotives since 2006, the Swiss association "Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn" (Help for the Wassertal Railway) has campaigned for the rustic-romantic steam locomotives to still be used for tourists.

Steam trains for nostalgia lovers

Railway fans can take a trip on the steam trains of the Vaser Valley Railway in spring, summer and autumn, Romania - © Raul Jichici / Shutterstock
© Raul Jichici / Shutterstock

And so, in spring, summer and autumn, railway fans and nostalgia lovers can take a trip themselves on the regularly running steam trains of the Wassertalbahn. The starting station is the sawmill in the north of Viseu de Sus, where a number of tourist facilities have been added.


About half of the existing railway line can be travelled by tourist train, also called Mocănița. The terminus is Paltin station in the Vaser gorge. Here, after a picturesque ride through dense forests, you can sit down in the middle of nature at a barbecue and picnic area and completely surrender to the atmosphere of the forest.

Verein Ostgleis saves the Vaser Valley Railway

The fact that the Wassertalbahn still ticks through Romania's idyllic forests today is largely thanks to the "Ostgleis" association. The Swiss association was founded in 2000 specifically to save Romania's last remaining timber transport railway from decline. In the meantime, the association's objectives have been expanded. In addition to the Wassertalbahn, it also strives to save other endangered railways in Eastern Europe.

Related links:

Timetables and prices of the Wassertalbahn in Romania
Wassertalbahn on the website of the Ostgleis association