Narrow Gauge Railway Complex
Unique-narrow gauge railway complex of the 20th century has a historical architectural and landscape value.
“Siaurukas” is a railway of the gauge 750 mm, the longest in Europe and one of the most unique objects of our country’s heritage, thus extant sections of the narrow gauge railway are protected as a cultural value. Lithuania has 158.8 km of 750 mm (2 ft 5 1⁄2 in) narrow-gauge railway lines remaining, although only 68.4 km of them (serving five stations) are regularly used, employing 12 locomotives. They are included in the Registry of Immovable Cultural Heritage Sites of Lithuania.
Narrow gauge railway line reached Biržai in 1921-1922, when the railway section Biržai-Gubernija had been extended. This was the first section of the narrow gauge railway built with the Lithuanian state's own funds.
During the Year of Independant Lithuania, 467 km of narrow gauge railway was built. It transported forest material for export, quartz sand, livestock, flax, beets, food supplies. Adults went to work by train and children - to school. On weekends, the train was full of berry pickers and mushroom pickers, and in winter - skiers. Until the Šiauliai City (Gubernija line final stop), the train stopped in 16 train stations.
In 1922, a passenger, for a kilometer traveled in the first class wagon was charged 7.20 Lithuanian auksinas (German ostmarks), and for the third class - 1.80 Lithuanian auksinas.
During the Second World War, narrow gauge railway became militarized. It also was used for taking the "state enemies" in simple livestock wagons, to forced exile in Siberia. After the war, the prospects for the restoration and development of the narrow gauge railway became very vague. The future of Lithuanian railways was determined by the goals of the Soviet economy and politics.
From 1945 to 1980, more than 400 km of 20 narrow gauge railway sections were closed. The Biržai - Joniškėlis and Joniškėlis - Panevėžys sections, which had a slightly higher cargo turnover, remained the longest. There were 3 trains coming to Biržai: 2 freight and 1 passenger trains. With the expansion and development of road transport, the narrow gauge railway became economically unstable. In 1988 passenger transportation stopped. In 1996, in the time of Independent Republic of Lithuania, the narrow gauge railway line to Biržai was completely closed.
Today, Narrow Gauge Railway Complex consists of the depot and station buildings, water-supply tower, and the old railway section. Later, as a testement for its glorious days, a newly repainted locomotive has been brought.
Photo dredit: Remis art photography