Banat Narrow-gauge Railway

Zrenjanin - Jimbolia,

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Zrenjanin - Jimbolia

Banat, Serbia - Romania

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The plan for a narrow-gauge railway Veliki Bečkerek-Žombolj construction was devised in 1894, as evidenced by a document that originated in Veliki Beckerek after a tour taken along the route of the planned railway line. Due to the increasing economic importance of this area, the county’s elite and aristocrats, Jene Ronai, prefect of Torontal County, one of the founders of the Torontal vicinal railways stock company, and Endre Čekonjić, the most influential landowner of the county, and member of the board of directors of the Torontal vicinal railways stock company supported construction.

Reception buildings of railway stations were uniform, as they were built according to a standardized central plan. Buildings of the vicinal railway were designed by re-processing the standardized buildings of Hungarian State Railways, based on the concept of the “growing house”. Standardized buildings are classified into four categories, each containing the same central body and annexe. Accordingly, the ground plan area of the category-4 reception building was the same as that of the main block of the category-1 building. Extensions have been introduced along the side facades, perpendicular to the rails. Only category-4 buildings were ground floor buildings, while the other three categories were one-story buildings. In some cases, the plans of Torontal vicinal railways have deviated from the predefined standard design. Emblematic details, characteristic of all buildings, were the oculus in the gable and stone imitations around the openings and at the corners.

In addition to the reception building, many other buildings of ancillary purpose have also been raised at railway stations: warehouses, workshops, water towers, wells, ovens, toilets, guardhouses, railwaymen flats, with almost every station containing a garden.

Local materials, like bricks, were used for reception buildings at stations. The decoration, mostly stone imitation, was made in plaster. Opposite to reception buildings, auxiliary buildings were often built of wood, although this material was not prevalent in this area.

Projects were made for every building erected along the railway, even for warehouses, ovens, wells, and toilets. Certain recognizable principles have been applied to each building, such as symmetry, harmony, and proportions of parts of the building.

During Second World War, the narrow railway had a military/strategic importance, and then, in the 1950s, it experienced the second golden period. After several years railway traffic was no longer profitable. According to analyses, the income was twice as low as the amount required for the line maintenance. The last passenger train departed on May 25, 1968, while freight trains operated until 1969.

Today, buildings constructed along the former narrow gauge line are unlikely to symbolize the former importance of this railway and its place in the everyday life of the area. While some former stations are empty and devastated, others are reused for a new purpose, such as offices, family houses, or warehouses.

Contemporary gallery

Photos by:

Szilárd Antal, 2021.

Historical gallery

1. Arhiv Vojvodine F 38, F 48 – dokumentacija sa zapisnicima sednica Akcionarskog društva Torontáli HÉV
2. MÁV Szolgáltató Központ Zrt. Központi Irattár 265/a – opise stanica i pripremne dokumentacije
3. Zempléni Múzeum – postcards
4. Országos Széchényi Könyvtár – postcards