Mocanita in Maramures, Riding the last narrow gauge steam train in Europe
Nestled in Roumania’s Carpathian mountains, Mocanita is the last narrow gauge steam train in Europe. The railway line connected Roumania’s Northern regions of Bukovina, Transilvania, and Maramures. Nowadays in addition to its practical function of wood transportation, it has become also one of Maramures most famous attractions. Wanna join the ride? Let’s start an epic journey onboard Mocanita!
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All the photos from this blog post were taken by the amazing award-winning photographer Claudio Sericano. Thank you dad for your precious contribution!
Table of Contents
- Mocanita’s short story
- Everything you need to know about riding the Mocanita
- How to get to Viseu de Sus?
- Where should you stay?
- When is the best time to ride the Mocanita steam train?
- Is it worth riding the Mocanita?
Mocanita’s short story
The term Mocăniță derives from the Romanian word mocan which describes people who live in the mountains. Recently the name has been associated with the Italian coffee machine invented by Alfonso Bialetti, the Moka. The huge steam machine would remind it when in action. And if you have seen the picture you can see why!
In Maramures the Mocanita’s railway line dates back to the early 1930 and was used for logging. Since 2004, the line is now a major touristy attraction and welcomes many local tourists every year, who are willing the enjoy the beauty of Vaser’s valley.
Everything you need to know about riding the Mocanita
Start your trip in Viseus de Sus + buying the tickets
Viseu de Sus is a small town, rather modern compared to other villages in the area. However the moment you will step inside the train station, it would be like going back in time. Old wagons and locomotives are on display like in a steampunk cemetery.
The train station is also where you can buy your tickets. Even though, if you are traveling during Summer months you should book your tickets online, as it gets fully booked easily and you will also skip the long lines.
You can buy a simple ticket for 84 Lei (about 17€), or a ticket with lunch for 137 Lei (about 28€). Lunch consists of grilled meat, a drink, a treat, and coffee. I personally haven’t tried it, but I know that many tourists weren’t happy with their meal for the price. With this in mind, my advice would be to organize yourself for a picnic instead or wait to be back in Viseu de Sus and eat there.
In case you take the lunch option, you will eat at the last stop in Paltin.
The Steam Train wagons
Normally, there are about 5 fully functional steam trains that carry tourists and wood every day, with the first ride starting around 9 AM.
Each train has different compartments: the locomotive with its wagon for the wood (unlike many other steam trains, Mocanita is powered by wood). The passengers wagons, that are adjusted depending on the number of reservations. Some have an enclosed cabin while others are open. And finally there are wagons for wood transport, that are not attached to the train when the tourists are on.
Keep in mind that with the train in motion, the open wagon gets colder, especially in winter months. If you have the choice you should consider sitting inside.
You are now ready for your ride, so what can you expect?
Riding in Vaser Valley
The train’s speed is 10/15 kilometers per hour.
Vaser Valley is incredibly beautiful! The railroad follows the Vaser river along traditional houses, forests, waterfalls, and bridges. You get also to cross a wooden arch that is called “The Maramures Gate”.
Due to the fact it’s steam-powered, the train stops about every 8 kilometers to resource water from the river. That’s when you can get off your wagon and admire the landscape around you.
Additionally, sometimes you will cross some bizarre minivans that run on the railroad. They are mainly used by the rangers or the police to move up in the mountains quickly.
The tourist ride stops in Paltin a small train station, where you can have a short walk in the forest and eat your lunch or picnic. Just remember you will have two hours so don’t venture too much.
Pro-tip for photographers
And that would be all for a “normal” tourist excursion. Unless, if you are passionate about photography, you may be interested in taking part to the preparation stage of the locomotives.
The day starts early for the train drivers who must load the wood for the journey and lubricate the engines. The place and people are wrapped in smoke creating some suggestive and fascinating scenes.
If you are interested head over to the Viseu de Sus train station between 6 and 6.30 AM.
How to get to Viseu de Sus?
The nearest airport is Baia Mare, Maramures’ siege. From there you should rent a car (rentalcars.com is the best!) and drive for about 2 hours (108 kilometers) to Viseu de Sus.
Where should you stay?
Distances aren’t long in Maramures. Therefore, unless you are planning to go early in the morning, you could also consider basing in Barsana or Stramtura, as they are in a central position.
If instead, you want to stay in Viseu de Sus, I can’t recommend enough Vila FAN Confort. Even if it was only for one day, the villa was unforgettable! The icing on the cake? It is just 100 meters away from the train station.
When is the best time to ride the Mocanita steam train?
I’ll go against the trend and say that the best time to ride the Mocanita and visit Maramures, in general, is during Winter. The landscapes are simply magical covered in snow. Not to mention Christmas celebrations in Maramures, from traditional costumes to incredible landscapes. Everything gets more magical.
Otherwise, you can visit in late Spring or early Summer. However, be prepared for local tourism, Maramures gets really crowded in the Summer months!
Is it worth riding the Mocanita?
Yes, it’s indeed a great experience. Especially if you have never been on a steam train before. The experience is unique, just don’t expect a luxurious ride like the magical Nordic or Swiss trains. It’s more for train lovers and old times nostalgic.
And that’s all for our Mocanita steam train ride! If you are planning a trip to Roumania’s Northern counties, you will love our suggestions for the best things to see when traveling in Maramures.
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