|Track gauge||760 mm (2 ft 5+15⁄16 in)|
The Šargan Eight (Serbian: Шарганска осмица, romanized: Šarganska osmica) is a narrow-gauge heritage railway in Serbia, running from the village of Mokra Gora to Šargan Vitasi station. An extension to Višegrad in the Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was finished on 28 August 2010. It was planned to extend the railway to the village of Kremna by the end of 2011, and in 2013 to extend to the city of Užice.
Construction began during World War I and the plan was to connect Serbia with Austro-Hungary, which occupied both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time. Šargan was located 9 km (5.6 mi) away from the pre-war border. The Austrians hastily piled the materials needed for the construction and enlisted numerous Russian and Italian prisoners of war in order to speed up the construction as they were in the hurry. Plans were drafted in 1916 and the original, Austrian route differed from the later finished one. They were planning to connect the final station on the Bosnian side, Donje Vardište, to Užice, final station on the Serbian side, which was reached by the railway in 1912. The originally projected route went through the upstream depression, gorges and defiles, or roughly where today the Užice-Višegrad road goes today. It was to swirl along the Kamešina river almost to the top of Šargan.
Digging was extremely hard. Despite so many water sources, the slopes of the Šargan were barren and infested with snakes. The local population called the mountain rocks kremenjak (flint) as it sparks when hit by the pickaxe. Originally, works started along the river, and was several meters above the present route, as evident by the remaining bridge across the Beli Rzav at Kotroman. The original, higher bridge, was built by the Austrians and demolished when the railway was finished after the war and the lower bridge was built, leaving the concrete foundation of its right section. The lower bridge was demolished by the occupational German forces during their withdrawal in the late 1944.
From the station in Mokra Gora, the Austrians conducted the railway across the village cemetery in Markovo Polje. Despite begging from the local population to leave the cemetery alone, Austrian engineers and technicians were marking the route by digging wooden sticks next to the graves and tombstones. They were followed by the workers who were then digging the remains out of the graves. The cemetery is split in two, and remained so to this day, though the tracks were never operational.
From the cemetery, tracks continue to lead along the valley of the Kamešina river and then disappear. Next to this ending are walls, which were used to dam the river. Tracks resurface later, continuing up the Šargan, reaching the Budim hill. In 1916, after an explosion during the digging of the "Budim" tunnel, the ceiling collapsed killing the entire shift of workers. Between 150 and 200 Italian and Russian prisoners were killed. After this, the Austrians quit further works on the construction of the railway. They placed a small memorial to mark the disaster.
The works were halted and were only continued in 1921, in the newly formed Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. They officially continued on 1 March 1921. This is when the "eight" was designed and built, as an attractive and practical example of mastering the major attitude changes on short tracks. A descent of 300 m (980 ft) was surmounted with the tracks which curve in the shape of 8, hence the name. The track is 15.44 km (9.59 mi) long and due to the curvature, on some sections the train passes twice through the same points. An operational center was set, which hosted the workers. Three temporary cableways were constructed, for lifting the materials needed during the construction. Surrounding villages blossomed. Aside from wages received by the locals who were employed by the construction companies, the farmers were able to sell all of its products, including meat, milk or timber and money "splashed the villages".
The construction of the railway was to be finished in April 1924. However, due to the problems with the constructors, which had to be changed, the first train to Vardište passed through on 25 January 1925. Additional number of bridges, tunnels and supporting walls than originally planned had to be built. At the portal of the Vardište tunnel, which was to be a border one before the war, there is a sculpture of Serbian soldier crushing the crown of the Austria-Hungary with his foot. In total, there are 22 tunnels on the route. The entire area is abundant in water, which gave name to the village Mokra Gora ("Wet Mountain"). There are 365 known water springs along the route. The water is literally dripping down the tunnel walls.
The former East Bosnian railway with a gauge of 760 mm (2 ft 5+15⁄16 in) was an important part of the former narrow-gauge main line from Sarajevo to Belgrade and closed in 1974. In the mid-1990s, the Homeland Society of Mokra Gora, founded a board to promote the reconstruction of the railway. They inspected the route and reported that some of the tunnels deteriorated a lot. The state reconstructed one of the tunnels and then added the entire route to its reconstruction plans. Already in 1999, the first train passed through. Between 1999 and 2003 the section over the Šargan pass was rebuilt by the Serbian Ministry of Tourism and the Yugoslav state railway JŽ, now the Serbian railways (Železnice Srbije).
After taking the route in the restored "Ćira" train in 2001, prime minister Zoran Điniđić said This is Switzerland. Emir Kusturica, a famous film director who had the town of Drvengrad (near the Šargan Eight station on Mokra Gora) built for one of his movies, is known for publicly promoting the route.
As of 2017, the train popularly named "Ćira" but officially called "Nostalgia", still runs only on the route Mokra Gora-Šargan Vitasi-Mokra Gora, with occasionally running to Višegrad. During the snowy periods, it runs only from Mokra Gora to Jatare. In 2017 season it had 75,000 visitors, out of which 25,000 were foreign tourists. Attractions include the restaurant carved into the rock at Šargan and a rock named "crazy stone" (Serbian colloquialism for getting married) at Golubići, which "invokes love". In the 2019 season, number of visitors grew to 88,000.
The area surrounding the railway was placed under the preliminary protection by the government in 2005. In 2008. the area was officially protected as the "Šargan-Mokra Gora" nature park. It covers an area of 108.13 km2 (41.75 sq mi) and includes the whole of the Mokra Gora basin, part of the Kremna basin, southeast slopes of the Tara, northwest slopes of the Zlatibor, and the Šargan pass, which divides these two mountains. The preservation of Šargan Eight was specifically named as one of the reasons for protection in government's decree.
- Goran Volf (12 July 2019). Обнова пруге кроз једно село на три планине [Reconstruction of the railroad through one village on three mountains]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 13.
- Branko Pejović (15 February 2020). Окупатор правио пругу преко српског гробља [Occupational forces built railway across Serbian cemetery]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 20.
- Branko Pejović (31 December 2020). "Vek od graditeljskog podviga na Šarganu [izvodi iz knjige Pecajući starom prugom od Užica do Višegrada Dragana R. Filipovića" [A century from the construction feat at Šargan [excerpts from the book Fishing along the old rail from Užice to Višegrad by Dragan R. Filipović]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 20.
- Branko Pejović (31 October 2017), ""Ćira" na "osmici" ove sezone prevezao 75.000 putnika" ["Ćira" on "Šargan Eight" transported 75,000 travelers this season], Politika (in Serbian)
- Branko Pejović (26 November 2019). Рекордна сезона на "Шарганској осмици" [Record season at "Šargan Eight"]. Politika (in Serbian).
- Slavica Stuparušić (26 January 2021). "Čari Mokre Gore" [Charms of Mokra Gora]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 34.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Šargan Eight.|
- Official information on Serbian Railways Site
- The 'Šargan Eight' Narrow Gauge Railroad Tour
- Šargan Eight gallery
- Šargan Photo Gallery