This is an excerpt from a June 2009 letter:
This week we started our journalism summer school at Mokra Gora, (wet mountain) in the mountains near the Bosnian border. As part of the program we had arranged an excursion on the narrow gauge railway.
This railroad has fascinated me for more than 35 years. Suzi and I encountered it in 1972 on a drive through Bosnia, the little steam engines pulled trains of logs and passengers along track that sometimes ran beside the rutted road on which we were driving. There was a lot of construction on that road that would, when it was completed two years later, prompt the death of the narrow gauge line. The tracks originally ran from Dubrovnik, through Sarajevo, to Belgrade. At times I’ve looked at my pictures of that train, in fading Agfa Color, wishing I could have ridden on it.
Recently Serbian railroads resurrected a section of the line, the “Sargan 8,” which climbs the mountains around Mokra Gora in a figure eight. The cars are vintage. The railroad rivals other mountain narrow gauge lines I’ve ridden, like the White Pass in Alaska and the Copper Canyon in Mexico. On our excursion we opted for diesel because using a steam engine would have taken 3 tons of coal, having to fire up the boiler at 4 in the morning for a 10 AM run. I just didn’t want to spend the extra 2,000 Euros ($2,800) for steam. Since the whole excursion for the whole summer school cost me a total of $147 adding steam would have added appreciably. (We have, however, seen steam on this line, at a later date, as the pictures prove.)