Kosovo Train for Life

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Kosovo Train for Life
Class 20 locomotive on arrival carrying "Kosovo Train for Life" headboard
In service17–27 September 1999
Operator(s)79 Railway Squadron RLC
Line(s) servedMR, RT, CT, RFF, SNCB, DB, ČD, ŽSR, MÁV, CFR, BDŽ, , UNMIK Railways
Maximum speed50 to 100 km/h
31 to 62 mph
Weight740 tonnes
AAR wheel arrangementBo'Bo'+Bo'Bo'+Bo'Bo'+…
Braking system(s)Manual railway air brake
Coupling systemBuffers and chain coupler
Multiple working Blue Star (Class 20s)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The Kosovo Train for Life carried aid from the United Kingdom to Pristina, Kosovo, in September 1999 in connection with the United Nations Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping efforts after the Kosovo War.[1]

The train was hauled by British Rail Class 20 diesel locomotives 20903, 20901 and 20902 belonging to Direct Rail Services.[2][3] The route covered 4,500 kilometres (2,800 mi) and the train arrived at Fushë Kosovë railway station in Kosovo Polje, near Pristina, on 27 September 1999 following delays[4][5] —it had originally been intended to arrive on 25 September 1999.[6][7]

The trip had been organised by "Train of Events", a team of UK ex-British Rail personnel,[8] including Neil Howard and John Morris.[9][10] Drivers were provided by 79 Railway Squadron.[11]

Loading took place at the Midland Railway – Butterley near Derby, with a "wave-off" organised at Kensington Olympia railway station. The route continued via the Channel Tunnel, Lille in France, Namur and Leige in Belgium. At Aachen in Germany additional rolling stock was attached with the train proceeding via Hamburg and Berlin-Lichtenberg station, to Dresden Hauptbahnhof.[12] From Děčín the locomotives pulled the train under their own power.[13][14]

The locomotives were subsequently deployed for rail transportation in Kosovo moving trains within Kosovo and to and from Skopje in Macedonia.[15] The German couchette car 51 80 59-40 046-6 that had joined the train in Aachen also stayed in Kosovo.[16] The three Class 20 locomotives were scheduled to stay for three months.[11] After six-months in Kosovo the three locomotives left Kosovo and returned to the United Kingdom by sea.[17][18] The German couchette was scrapped,[when?] as part of DBs removal of ex-Deutsche Reichsbahn coaching stock.[citation needed]

In May 2000 Lima (models) released a limited run of 750 model OO gauge locomotives of 20901 in DRS livery with Kosovo Train for Life etched headboard plates.[19]


  • Kennedy, Andy (25 March 2003). Kosovo - A Train for Life. Oakwood Press. Archived from the original (video) on 18 February 2010.
  • "We ride the 'Train for Life'!". The Railway Magazine. 145 (1183). November 1999.
  • "The Kosovo Train For Life". Today's Railways. Platform 5 (47): 6. November 1999.
  • Brown, Lt. Col. Richard H. (2004). "Reconstruction of the Railway System in Kosovo". Journal of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Thomas Telford Limited. 157 (5): 41‒47. doi:10.1680/cien.2004.157.5.41.
  1. ^ Flowers, Andy (4 January 2001). "Class 20s to Kosovo!". Archived from the original on 19 February 2001.
  2. ^ Németh, Zoltán Gábor (20 September 1999). "British engine at Hungary!" (photograph). Retrieved 17 October 2014. on 1999.sept.20 the "Kosovo, Train for Life" train arrived to the Keleti station with class 20/9 diesel locomotives: 20903+20901+20902 on the next day the train left Hungary.
  3. ^ Brodrick, Nick (July 2014). "Four S160s and 'bombed' loco to launch military railway revival" (PDF). The Railway Magazine: 10. ISSN 0033-8923. The Military Railfest will take place on May 6–10 and include war veterans, such as … Class 20 No. 20901, one of a trio of British diesels used on the 1999 Britain-Kosovo Train for Life.
  4. ^ "Kosovo aid train 'held to ransom'". BBC News Online. 26 September 1999. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Kosovo aid train gets through". BBC News Online. 27 September 1999. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Train of Life in Kosovo". BBC World Service. 25 September 1999. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  7. ^ "KOSOVO - A Train For Life The Greatest Ever Railway Journey from Britain". Archived from the original on 18 February 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  8. ^ "About Train of Events". Retrieved 17 October 2014. It remains the record holder for the furthest distance travelled by a UK civilian train on its own wheels.
  9. ^ Milne, Andy (15 July 2014). "RailStaff 200". Railstaff. Retrieved 17 October 2014. Train for Life, a relief train a mile long which took aid to Kosovo ahead of that first desperate winter in 1999, was organised by two railwaymen – Neil Howard and John Morris. Direct Rail Services provided the engines. Despite being held up at gunpoint in Macedonia, the train made it and it is fair to say saved lives of many that winter.
  10. ^ "British volunteers arrive in Pristina with trainload of aid from England". News 5 Tonight. National Archives of Singapore. 28 September 1999. Retrieved 17 October 2014. The idea came from two former British railway workers, John Morris and Neil Howard, who were moved by what they saw on television. … In an important spin-off of the venture, three British locomotives will be left in Kosovo for three months and KFOR soldiers will use the engines to deliver more aid across the war-ravaged territory.
  11. ^ a b Oestern, Grethe; Spark, Graham (October 1999). "A Train for Life". KFOR Chronicle. NATO (02, number 99).
  12. ^ Marsden, Colin (19 September 1999). "20903 UK & German DB UK Class 20/9". Dresden, Germany. Retrieved 17 October 2014. The great train shed at Dresden in for former East Germany. UK Class 20/9 No. 20903 on the left with special to Kosovo. On the right DB Class 180 No. 180-011-9
  13. ^ Woodland, Charles (22 September 1999). "Kosovo : Train For Life 20903 Decin Yard" (photograph). Retrieved 17 October 2014. During September 1999 a train ran across Europe hauled by 3 Ex BR now DRS Class 20 locomotives taking aid to Kosovo. The Class 20s are seen here in Decin Yard being started up on Main Land Europe for the first time.
  14. ^ Marsden, Colin (20 September 1999). "20903 UK DRS UK Class 20/3". Děčín, Czech. Retrieved 17 October 2014. A Very rare view of three English Class 20s, 20903/902/901 in Decin yard on the German/Czech border on a special humanity train to Kosovo
  15. ^ Berardocco, Luca, ed. (17 July 2014). "In Kosovo con il Reggimento Genio Ferrovieri" (in Italian). Retrieved 17 October 2014. BR Class 20 inglese presso Glogovac nel 2000
  16. ^ "DB Bautzener Y/B 70". Kosrail (in German). 25 January 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Aktuell ‒ Nicht mehr im Kosovo vorhandene Triebfahrzeuge". le-rail (in German). 25 June 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014. Ebenfalls drei englische Diesellokomotiven gelangten im Herbst 1999 für die KFOR-Truppen in den Kosovo. Die drei Class 20 Lokomotiven waren zwischen 1959 und 1961 gebaut worden und hatten die Nummern 20901 bis 20903. Die Lokomotiven sind heute ebenfalls nicht mehr vor Ort.
  18. ^ Válóczy, Frank. "Diesel Electric Locomotives & Shunters". Railways of Balkan Europe. Archived from the original on October 2009. HK-KŽ Class 20900 … All three of these units have been returned to England by ship; they were on Kosovo for six months.
  19. ^ "Class 20/9 No. 20901 (DRS blue with red solebar)". Rail Exclusives. Retrieved 6 July 2015. Manufacturer: Lima Models; Issue date: May 2000; Catalogue Number: 205263; Quantity produced: 750