FANS of historical railway equipment were able to admire steam locomotives, ancient gang cars or handcars as well as dispatchers in uniforms and white gloves at the old Bratislava-East depot on June 13. Both steam and diesel motor locomotives were displayed at the 11th Slovak showcase of old railway equipment.
Although some of the trains had been operating as early as the 19th century, they are powerful enough to pull even today’s trains.
“The only problems would be technical support and maintenance, things like cleaning pits for ash or towers to supply water because these are no longer available at railway stations,” Jiří Kubáček, an expert on the history of railways from the Museum-Documentation centre in Bratislava told the ČTK newswire. The operation of such “nostalgia trains” requires getting rid of ashes, taking on water, and oiling the locomotive, he said.
Another old locomotive engine from the 1960s that would be able to pull any current train was part of the exhibition. “It was made for cargo transport and was able to pull trains weighing 2,000 tonnes,” Kubáček said. Another main attraction this year was a hybrid steam and diesel engine locomotive, manufactured in the 1920s.
“Slovak railways ordered four such locomotives during WWII and they really operated here,” Kubáček noted. Another 11 locomotives from the period after WWII were on display.
But the biggest attraction for fans of historical locomotives was undoubtedly the steam engines like the renovated one used for suburban transport dating back to 1955 which had its first presentation here, or a steam engine from 1896 which unfortunately is no longer operational.
The oldest operating steam engine in the Bratislava depot was one from 1915. Steam locomotives stopped operating in Slovakia in 1980. The first train to Slovakia was pulled from the Austrian town of Gaensendorf in 1848 by a steam locomotive called Bihar.
To repair an old locomotive engine and make it functional again takes about 10,000 hours of work, and since this labour is usually provided by volunteers, the repair work can be protracted, taking ten or more years.
The enthusiasts must also buy the parts necessary for repairs by themselves and this may amount to tens of thousands of euros.