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Edition #187  December 1, 2012

The Roundhouse Breakfast

Photographer: Misko Kranjec

                                                                      Photo by Misko Kranjec

The Roundhouse Breakfast

Saturday, November 11th, 2012 was a special day. After the six years of pausing in the Slovenian Railroad’s museum roundhouse in Ljubljana, #06-018, one of the three existing 2-8-2 Borsig locomotives and the only one still in operational condition, would run again.

She is one of the 110 locomotives Yugoslav Railroads (JZ) received in 1930 as German reparations for the damage caused during the WWI. Built by two German locomotive builders, Borsig and Schwarzkopf, these locomotives came in three types of wheel arrangements: Pacific (4-6-2), JZ class 05, 40 units; Mikado (2-6-2), JZ class 06, 30 units; and Decapod (2-10-0), JZ class 30, again 40 units. Yet in spite of the wheel differences these massive steamers, so very typically German looking, appeared very much to look-alike. That was not surprising as they had many parts in common, including the boilers, cabs, tenders, and, of course, their big, distinctive air deflectors. The only significant difference was that the class 30 Decapods had three cylinders. Before WWII only class 06 Mikados were assigned to Slovenia, but after the war several Decapods joined them to haul freight trains on the mountainous lines in western Slovenia. The Pacifics operated only on the flatland lines in Croatia and Serbia and never came to Slovenia. Both 05 Pacifics and 06 Mikados were regularly assigned to the famous Simplon-Orient Express, the former between Zagreb, Belgrade and Nis, and the latter in Slovenia, between Jesenice on the Austrian border and Zagreb. 

Only four of these locomotives still exit today; all others were scrapped in the 70s. One class 05 Pacific remains preserved inoperable inside the MIN locomotive and car builder's yard at Nis, Serbia and three class 06 Mikados are owned by the Slovenian Railroad’s (SZ) museum in Ljubljana. Of these three, the engine 06-013, cosmetically preserved, has been lent for an undefined period of time to the railroad museum in Augsburg, Germany, to be part of their European collection of locomotives, while No. 06-016 remains on the museum premises and serves as the supply of spare parts for her sister, 06-018. This last one was standing for many years as a monument at the Borovnica station near Ljubljana, until in the 90s she was thoroughly repaired and brought to operating condition. After the overhaul she was the main power for the museum train until her certificate expired in 2004. As the museum had at that time three other steam locomotives in the operating condition, but no money for the repairs needed for 06-018 to pass the inspection, she was stored inside the museum's roundhouse in Ljubljana-Siska. Still, she was fired up and running once again in 2006 for the occasion of the Bohinj or Transalpina line's centennial.

However, as time passed things changed, and this summer the museum remained with only one operating locomotive, No. 33-037, an (in)famous and ubiquitous Deutsche Reichsbahn Kriegslokomotive, class 52  2-10-0, the most produced locomotive of a single type ever. As even this locomotive has to undergo certain repairs to get her boiler certificate extension, to keep the museum train running and meet its obligations the Slovenian Railroads decided to bring back to life the big Borsig as the cheapest solution of the problem. Thus 06-018 got the one-year operational permit, went through the most needed mechanical and cosmetic repairs and made her first test run with flying colors. On this Saturday she was ready for the final test run before the 2013 tourist season. Her route would be the famous Bohinj or Transalpina line connecting Jesenice with Nova Gorica, its 2.5% grades and countless tunnels the most difficult line of them all in the country and her cargo not only the museum train but also No. 33-037 as an additional load and also a backup power.

Her crew worked hard for the better part of the night firing her to bring the steam to the maximum pressure of 12 atm or 176 psi. They oiled all the moving parts and checked and fixed all screws, as well as cleaning her until she looked just as on the first day when she rolled out of her Berlin birthplace. Before leaving the roundhouse and heading toward the Jesenice station, the time came for the crew to take care of themselves, too. What would be more tasteful and more appropriate than the typical meal from the days of steam -- sausages roasted in the locomotive firebox. It didn't take long before the seductive scent of fresh roasted pork meat, caused the mouths of all present to water abundantly, overpowering the smell of the grease, hot oil, and the burning coal. Photographing the fireman while he was preparing the cuts for all of us present, I wondered -- is he clenching the piece of bread between his teeth to soak the excess saliva, or is he just too hungry to wait for a bite of sausage? Whatever, after several hours spent photographing in the cold night in and around the roundhouse, eating the hot sausage and dark bread with my sooted, greasy hands and sipping strong black coffee that came from the engineer's thermos bottle, this roundhouse breakfast tasted better than any fancy five-star restaurant food.

Misko Kranjec

The next edition will be posted on December 15, 2012


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