HŽ Class 2044 – GM power in Croatia

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2044 008 at Split, 31/07/14 (JW)

Jugoslavenske Željeznice – the state railway of Yugoslavia – had a successful track record of sourcing diesel traction from General Motors.  One such class of loco was the JŽ class 645 which, following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, became the Croatian class 2044s, many of which are still in traffic.

Between 1981 and 1984, JŽ procured 35 locomotives of class 645, which were 2,330hp A1A-A1A General Motors diesel-electrics built under licence by Đuro Đaković in Slavonski Brod, in modern-day Croatia.  4 of them (645 031, 032, 034 and 035) passed to Železnice Srbije in Serbia and retained their numbers, the other 31 of them to Hrvatske Željeznice, the Croatian railways, becoming class 2044.  This article is about the latter.

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2044 017 worksplate detail.  Note that the word “Jugoslavija” has been crudely removed from the plate.  (JW)

16 of these 31 remain in operational condition – two of these with the private freight operator PPD Transport, a further two in Kosovo, and 12 with HŽ.  The current disposition of operational class members is shown below:-

2044 003 PPD Transport (Skinest Rail)
2044 004 HŽ, Varaždin
2044 005 PPD Transport (Skinest Rail)
2044 006 HŽ, Varaždin – withdrawn in September 2017
2044 007 HŽ, Varaždin
2044 008 HŽ, Varaždin
2044 010 Trainkos, Kosovo – as “2620 016”
2044 011 HŽ, Osijek
2044 013 HŽ, Osijek
2044 015 HŽ, Osijek
2044 016 HŽ, Varaždin – now withdrawn
2044 017 HŽ, Varaždin
2044 020 HŽ, Varaždin
2044 022 HŽ, Varaždin – withdrawn in July 2017
2044 026 HŽ, Osijek
2044 028 HŽ, Varaždin
2044 029 HŽ, Split
2044 030 HŽ, Split
2044 031 Trainkos, Kosovo – as “2620 005”

It is, however, entirely possible that some of the stopped machines may yet be reinstated.

The HŽ locos are nominally allocated to three depots – Split, Osijek, and Varaždin – although can be, and frequently are, loaned between them.  Their use on passenger trains is now concentrated on three routes; Split – Ogulin (on overnight trains only), Osijek to Koprivnica and Varaždin – Zagreb.  These are now the last diesel-hauled passenger trains in Croatia.

2044 routes

Routes that currently see diesel haulage in Croatia (JW)

2044 011 departs Zaprešić on “Table 12”, 01/08/14 (JW)

“Unofficial” diagrams are available on the excellent European Rail Gen e-group, with generally about 9 machines in traffic each weekday, with significantly reduced numbers at weekends.

In short, the overnight trains between Split and Zagreb are 2044-hauled between Split and Ogulin and vice versa.  The solid climb out of the port town of Split into the mountains is a great stretch of railway.  It has to be said that being stood at an open window with a bottle of beer, a red sunset over the water and a wall of GM sound from the front of the train sometimes being brought down to walking pace by the combination of gradient and load is one of the truly great diesel hauled experiences of Europe.

The above is a link to an excellent video uploaded to YouTube by diesellokguru giving an impression of what the route of Split is like.

The second route mentioned is that from Osijek to Koprivnica.  I think it’s fair to say that this route does not have the geographical benefits of the route out of Split!  In the main, the 2044s handle the Zagreb to Osijek trains on the unelectrified section east of Koprivnica – a journey of just over 3 hours each way.  One of these locos also hauls a one-way local train from Križevci to Koprivnica in the early morning.

Koprivnica is also served by a Varaždin-based 2044 on the Varaždin to Zagreb “express” – R771 which departs Varaždin at 05:33, reaching Koprivnica 36 minutes later.  This loco then lays over until the return train, R770, comes back in the evening peak.

The more normal route, however, from Varaždin to Zagreb takes about 45 minutes longer and is that via “Table 12” via Zabok.  It is certainly not the fastest of routes – although it has some quite scenic parts – and the locos are rarely taxed.  Multiple units have now made their presence felt up here, and this former GM stronghold now sees only three weekday 2044 diagrams – two of which are peak hours only.

2044 006 departs Podsused Stajalište on an evening commuter train on “Table 12”, 26/08/10 (JW)

As a rule, however, these venerable locos’ star is falling, with less than half the fleet now active with HŽ – their bread and butter work either covered by multiple units or wiped from the timetable altogether.  With three more due for imminent withdrawal, and with Balkan locos rarely having a future after withdrawal from normal service, I would make plans soon if you wish to experience them.

Kosovo

Two locomotives – the former 2044 010 and 2044 031 – have been “exported” (I use the apostrophes, as they remain in the former Yugoslavia) and are now to be found in Kosovo, forming the backbone of the loco-hauled passenger service there.

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001 (ex-HŽ 2044 031) at Hani i Elizit, Kosovo, 20/09/15 (JW)

These machines have been fully overhauled at TŽV “Gredelj” in Zagreb and are in good condition.  The Kosovar railways have had a historical tendency to obtain second-hand traction from other countries, run it into the ground and then park it up (broken) before finding some more motive power from elsewhere and starting the cycle again.  Hopefully the condition of these machines will mean that they provide some stability and many years’ gainful service.

It’s fair to say that not many railway enthusiasts travel to Kosovo, and therefore operations there are rarely reported.  What is known is that the reliability of their Swedish railcar fleet leaves something to be desired, and most services are currently being loco-hauled.  Services run on two routes (Pristine to Pejë and Pristine to Hani i Elizit, the Macedonian border) and there seems to be one of the 2044s out each day.

Private Use

Last to be mentioned are 2044 003 and 2044 005 which have now passed to the private freight operator PPD Transport and are painted in a striking green and black livery (link to photo here).  It is early days, however they appear to be getting their feet under the table with some container train work between Zagreb and Rijeka – here is a link to a photo of the first working, on 12th April 2017.

2044 005 departs Zagreb Zapadni Kolodvor, 26/08/10 (JW)

Many thanks to Julian Mandeville and Colin Garner for their help with the preparation of this article.

 

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