The surviving Sibiu - Agnita railway is actually only half of the original railway, and the second half, at that. The Sighisoara - Sibiu Local Railways Company (SCFL) as it was then known, began construction from Sighisoara, which was then in Hungary, in 1895, and despite delays caused by severe flooding, had reached the 48km to Agnita by the end of 1898. It did not reach Sibiu, 62km further, until 1910, passing through the middle of Agnita. This gave the line a total length, including its 13km branch from Cornatel to Vurpar, of 123km, the longest narrow gauge railway in present day Romania at that time. Click here for a map of the railway.
In September 1908 the Hungarian state railway company, MÁV, took over operation of the line, although its owner remained the SCFL.
In 1912 plans were made to further extend the railway from south of Agnita towards the extensive military base near Cincu and on across the Olt river to meet the standard gauge railway at Voila. Unfortunately the First World War put an end to these plans.
In December 1918, after the war, Transylvania became part of Romania, so in 1919 operation of the SSR was transferred from MÁV to the Romanian Railways - CFR. It remained under the private ownership of SCFL until 1948, when it was purchased by the Romanian Ministry of Public Works and the SCFL disappeared.
In 1965 the original Sighisoara - Agnita section was closed and dismantled, due to its steep slopes and sharp curves, which made it difficult and expensive to operate. It was replaced by a new road that linked Sighisoara to Agnita.
The line was also lifted from the streets of Agnita and a new terminus built 3 km outside Agnita, towards Sibiu. The remaining Agnita - Sibiu railway, including the Vurpar branch, was modernised to the standards of the day, with an emphasis on freight handling.
The branch line from Cornățel to Vurpăr was closed in 1997 following the collapse of all Romanian railways, while the main line from Agnita to Sibiu survived until September 1st 2001, when it was closed ostensibly due to lack of funds for engine maintenance.
The Sighisoara - Agnita line was operated by 3 new 0-6-0 locomotives of the 388 series from 15 November 1896 until the line closed on 1 June, 1965. They could pull passenger trains of 60 tons or freight trains of 180 tons, at an average speed of 10kph.
On the Agnita - Sibiu section mixed trains were operated from 1914, with three round trips in the first years, between 1940 and 1960 and between 1980 and 1990. From 1990 until 1995 there were two round-trips and from 1995 until closure only one round trip operated between Sibiu and Agnita daily.
The first 5 locomotives that ran on this section, namely the 389 and 399 series, were similar to the Sighisoara - Agnita locomotives and were brought from the Maramures Salt Mines Railway and the Teresva - Ust Corna Railway (now in Ukraine) respectively. Various types of tank engines, manufactured by Maffei, Borsig Schwartzkopf or in Budapest, as well as several Romanian Resita 0-8-0 tank engines, were brought in from other narrow gauge railways and sometimes regauged (like the Alba Iulia - Turda Railway), to help the small 0-6-0s, while in the 1960s the railway received 5 powerful Romanian Resita tender locomotives of class 764.20x to pull the heavy freight trains.
The 1970s brought the Romanian L45H diesel locomotives, resulting in many of the old steam locomotives being scrapped or taken elsewhere, with those that remained used for winter train heating. However some of them remained "preserved" outside in Sibiu, waiting for better days. What remained of the 388, 389 and 399 series were taken to the Sibiu museum and to Brasov, while at the end of the 1990s two fortunate Resita locomotives (764.155 and 764.205) were restored for tourist trains, which have yet to materialise.
Since its closure in 2001, the line was effectively abandoned. In 6 years the station buildings have deteriorated and some even collapsed, with others becoming shelters for gipsy families. Numerous telephone poles have fallen and some portions of the track have been stolen.
In some places where the line runs close to the Hartibaciu River the trackbed has washed out. Most of the track is overgrown and in some places completely hidden under sand and weeds. However the infrastructure remains generally sound, and the bridges are in good condition still.
After the break-up of the Romanian railway company CFR, ownership of the SAR was split between two companies, SFT, the Railway Tourism Company, which now owns the railway's rolling stock and some of the buildings, and SAAF, the company which took over CFR's unused assets, which owns the track, infrastructure and most of the buildings.
Though the SFT reportedly had plans to reopen the railway for tourism purposes, SAAF was not able to repair the line sufficiently to permit operation. Indeed in 2006, SAAF expressed their wish to lift the tracks, to realise their scrap value, thus ending any plans to reopen this railway.
This caused the many people who cared about the railway to work together to try to save and even revive this important part of Transylvania's history. A combination of local people, local authorities and even international organisations like the Mihai Eminescu Trust have been making their feelings felt, and endeavouring to put pressure on the owners of the assets to behave responsibly.
Their efforts were rewarded in the Spring of 2008 when the whole railway, including buildings, bridges and any static equipment was listed as a historical monument, thus saving it from being dismantled.
Agnita's old station