This summer I read in the newspapers that the Montenegrin Railway Company (Željeznica Crne Gore) had purchased three modern trains in Spain and that they would be used on the line from Podgorica to Nikšić. This railway, completed with 760 mm gauge in 1948, was upgraded to standard gauge in 1965. It has been used for freight traffic (bauxite) for some decades, but passenger service was reintroduced after reconstruction and electrification of the line in the 2006-2012 period.
The first new train, a 165-seats unit, was introduced on July 13th, 2013. The Spanish manufacturer, CAF, had planned that the train journey on this 56 km line would last 40 minutes only. All this information made us quite curious and we bought two return tickets (€ 5,60 p.p.) from Podgorica for the afternoon train that leaves at 4.10 PM, as this offered us the possibility to make a short walking tour through Nikšić and to get back in the evening. By the way, there are also two trains in the early morning.
The trip was a very pleasant surprise. The train was clean and the interior was beautiful and comfortable, but the number of passengers departing from Podgorica was disappointing – maybe 25 or 30. We slowly passed through the valley of Bjelopavlići, stopping at each village station, where people entered or left the train.
While climbing uphill to the Ostrog station, the views of the valley were magnificent. It was interesting to see the station buildings on our way: several of them had obviously been built in the period of the old narrow-gauge railway as we also saw such (dilapidated) stone buildings along the road to Trebinje, where such a railway used to run a long time ago.
We really admired the existing railway stations on this line. All of them were reconstructed and situated in an attractive environment with clean platforms, small gardens and wooden benches, although some buildings were obviously not in use. Listening to conversations of passengers, it turned out that many villagers use this line for a visit to the „big city“. This train makes it easy for them to visit family, to go to school or university or to do some shopping!
After one hour and ten minutes we arrived in Nikšić, where we had more than an hour for a walking tour and a cup of coffee. Nikšić is a planned city, still following the urban plan commissoned by King Nicholas (Nikola) in 1883 and designed by Croatian architect Josip Slade. The central roundabout is located behind the station and from there it is easy to see the Orthodox Church at the end of one of the radial streets. We visited the church and then took one of the circumferential streets to the left, with many colorful old single-storey houses among the residential buildings.
Finally we arrived in the central Njegoševa street and on the main square Trg Slobode (Freedom Square). The atmosphere was quite relaxed. The benches around the central fountain were occupied by elder people, while younger people were enojying their drink in one of the numerous pubs along the pedestrian zone. The Freedom Square is dominated by a big sculpture of King Nikola on his horse and I must say that I like this sculpture much better than the one in Podgorica!
We turned left, had a drink on one of the terraces in Njegoševa street (which ends at the roundabout) and got back in time to catch the 6.30 PM train to Podgorica. It was a nice and relaxing trip!