The first rail-line in Croatia


Maps and pictures

Hrvatski jezik - Croatian language

Cakovec Railway Station after opening of the line


Planning and construction of the line

The railway network which was being built in the course of 19th century on the territory of Croatia and Slovenia was intended to connect Vienna and Budapest (the capitals of Austria-Hungary Monarchy) with outskirts of the empire, especially with the harbours. The first railway line to comply this aim was Vienna (Austria) - Maribor (Slovenia) - Pragersko - Zidani Most - Ljubljana - Pivka - Trieste harbour (Italy), built in 1857, operated since 28th June.
On the 17th December of the same year began the construction of railway connection between Pragersko (Slovenia) and Nagykanizsa (Hungary), with the continuation for Budapest. The purpose was to connect Budapest through Croatia and Slovenia to the existing Vienna - Trieste railway line. The project was owned by Southern Railways Company, and was planned to be entirely finished until the end of 1861.
This was actually the first railway line to pass through Croatian territory, more precisely, its northernmost region named Medjimurje. Medjimurje was formally incorporated in Hungary until 1945, when it was assigned to Croatia because of its almost homogeneous Croatian population.
The new railway line made connection between following Croatian localities: Kotoriba, Donji Kraljevec and town of Čakovec (Csaktornya) - the centre of Medjimurje.
The overall length of the first railway line in Croatia is 42389 m, with maximal ascent of 3.0 mils, and practically straight direction, enabling ideal exploitation conditions.
There were only two greater buildings required on the line: the bridges over the Drava near Ptuj (Slovenia) and over the Mura at Croatian-Hungarian border near Kotoriba.

Situation of the 1st Croatian rail-line (red line on green background)


Inauguration of the line

The construction was completed 20 months before the period stated. The first test drive was performed on 1859/10/29 between Čakovec and Kotoriba, most likely with an engine of Austrian Süd 18 series. The next official drive took place on 8th March, 1860, from Ptuj to Nagykanizsa and back to Pragersko. The complete tour lasted five and half hours, after which the traffic permission was issued. The opening ceremony took place on 24th of March, 1860, and the regular traffic started on 1st of May with two pairs of combined (passengers-freight) trains. The traffic between Budapest and Pragersko (with the connection to Vienna - Trieste line) started on 1861/04/01.

Bridges over the Mura

The first railway bridge was finished in 1860. It was 153 m long, with the metal construction lying on six concrete supports. However, it proved soon to be to narrow and to weak to confront the river. In 1905, it was replaced with a new bridge of the same length and on the same bases. This bridge was blown up on 1941/04/06 by Yugoslav army to prevent German invasion heading from Hungary. It was provisionally repaired by Hungarians during the war, but torn down immediately after the war. The third railway bridge was built in 1945 as a temporary solution by Yugoslav army. It was 152.10 m long and laid on 12 supports. In 1975, it was replaced by the present bridge. This is the firmest one, made of steel. Its overall length amounts 170 m, and it is built over 4 concrete posts. It was financed both by Hungary and Croatia. The solemn opening of the bridge took place on 1975/04/08.

Additional rail lines in Medjimurje

Originally, all the railway network in Hungary was owned and planned by the state. However, in 1880 it was made possible by Hungarian Parliament that individuals, cities or companies build rail lines for their own needs. At that time, there were already four new rail lines operated in Croatia. Three of them were directly connected to Vienna - Trieste mainline, namely: Zidani Most (Slovenia) - Zagreb - Sisak, since 1862; Zagreb - Rijeka - Pivka (Slovenia), since 1873; Divača (Slovenia) - Pula, since 1876. The fourth rail line represented an alternative connection between Budapest and the Adriatic sea: Zagreb - Koprivnica - Zákány (Hungary) - Dombovár - Budapest, operated since 1870.
Now, a direct connection between Zagreb and Medjimurje was required. The first private investment was made by Mirko Josipović, who obtained concession for 103 km long Čakovec - Zapreąić (Zagreb) line. It was inaugurated on 1886/12/13. The major building was the bridge over Drava between Varaľdin and Čakovec, 200 m long. Only 8 km of the line (between Čakovec and Varaľdin) are situated in Medjimurje.
The last rail line in Medjimurje was open for traffic on 1890/10/19. It was a part of 148 km Celldömölk - Zalaegerszeg (Hungary) - Lendava (Slovenia) - Čakovec line, initiated by count Lajos Batthyány. The rail map of Medjimurje has remained unchanged ever since. The overall length of the rail network in Medjimurje is about 70 km.

Traction units

The first rolling stock on Nagykanizsa - Čakovec - Pragersko line were steam engines. The first locomotive classes which ran through Medjimurje were presumably Süd 18 and Süd 19 series, constructed between 1859 and 1870 at Florisdorf Locomotive Factory of Austria. The maximum speed amounted about 65 km/h (45 km/h respectively), the overall weight was 29 tons (31 tons respectively), and the length amounted 15.2 m. Afterwards, Süd 29 series (J® 124) was included. This series was manufactured between 1861 and 1882 by G. Sigl Locomotive Factory of Vienna. Total power amounted 320 kW / 416 hp, with the maximum speed of 45 km/h. Until 1924, the following classes were operated: Süd 170 (J® 24), Stb 270 (J® 25), Stb 80 (J® 28). After 1924, additional steam classes were admitted into traffic: J® 01, J® 06, MÁV 342 (J® 17), MÁV 324 (J® 22), MÁV 326 (J® 125). After the World War II, steam series J® 10, J® 11, J® 33 and J® 36 were adopted as well. The steam traction was completely withdrawn until mid 1980-s.
The diesel traction began in 1965 with J® 642 (H® 2041) diesel-electric series, and with motor rail-buses of J® 812/818 (H® 7221 series). Since 1967, J® 643 (H® 2042) diesel-electric series has been operated as well. In 1972, J® 731 (H® 2131) diesel-hydraulic shunters made their first appearance. A more powerful shunter series came in 1977 with the J® 732 (H® 2132) diesel-hydraulic class.
Since the line has been reconstructed in the meanwhile, today it can be operated even with the heaviest diesel-electric classes (2061, 2062 and 2063). For the passenger transport with DMU-s, the 7121 and 7122 series are used.

The rail line today

The first rail line of Croatia has retained its importance up to the present day, especially as a connection between Croatia and Hungary. Kotoriba border station is currently the most important railway container terminal in Croatia. However, it looses a great part of freight traffic with the opening of the first direct connection between Slovenia and Hungary via Hodos in May 2001.
The section between (Varaľdin) - Čakovec - Kotoriba - Murakeresztúr is still frequently operated, with about 25 daily passenger trains, while the other section, Čakovec - Pragersko (Slovenia) has barely retained passenger transport, after the breakdown of Yugoslavia in 1990. There are only four regular pairs of local passenger trains a day. The international IC 244/245 "Drava" Budapest - Murakeresztúr - Čakovec - Pragersko - Zidani Most - Ljubljana - Trieste - Venezia has been detoured to Hodos line with the new timetable 2001/2002.
The rail line could regain its original importance as a part of the second transversal mainline of Croatia: Subotica / Novi Sad (Serbia) - Dalj (Croatia) - Osijek - Koprivnica - Varaľdin - Čakovec - Pragersko (Slovenia) - Vienna, which is parallel to the most important Croatian corridor (V): Vienna - Pragersko - Zidani Most (Slovenia) - Zagreb - Vinkovci - Tovarnik - Belgrade (Serbia). But it still has to be revitalised and modernised.


Special thanks to Mrs. Helena Bunijevac, who kindly granted us permission to make use of her articles.