Ćiro Railroad: Čapljina – Zavala

by Toni Zorić


The historic narrow gauge railway with a steam locomotive passes from Mostar along the Neretva River, through Čapljina, Popovo polje, Ravno, and near Ivanica, crossing the border with Croatia all the way to Dubrovnik. The construction of the railway began in 1898 and ended in 1901. During its existence, Ćiro connected places in Herzegovina and brought them life, and today the railway has been reconstructed into a bicycle path.

The Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which ruled the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, built a network of narrow gauge railways (0.76 m wide). It built the railways primarily as strategic military facilities and they connected the southern Adriatic ports with the hinterland and Central Europe. The railways in Herzegovina were built as part of the Southern Railway, and the first section of the railway from Metković to Mostar, 42.4 km long , was released on the market on June 13, 1885. while the railway from Gabela to Zelenika in the Bay of Kotor (Montenegro), 155.5 km long, with branches from Hum to Trebinje (16.7 km) and Uskoplje to Gruž in Dubrovnik in the Republic of Croatia (16.5 km) , put into operation in 1901. The narrow gauge railway served the people, connecting countries, regions, peoples and cultures. These were the railways of salvation for the peoples of these areas, they enabled them a better life and overall progress, and they left a trace of civilization in the places through which Ciro drove, roared, beat, whistled and let off steam for decades. trains towed by soot steamers were called gemišteri (mixed trains), šnelcug (high-speed trains) and personal (passenger trains). The nickname Ćiro was imposed just before the abolition of narrow-gauge railways, but it has remained recognizable among the people even today.

The narrow gauge railway or the narrow gauge railway Gabela – Zelenika was abolished in 1976. During its existence, the narrow-gauge railway changed five state arrangements.


The excursion starts in Čapljina, followed by a visit to Mogorjelo (Roman Villa Rustica), where you can have your morning coffee or even have breakfast. Within Mogorjelo there is an equestrian club, so if you have enough time you can afford an hour of riding on these noble animals. If you don’t have time to ride, you always have a minute to take photos. 😉
After visiting the cave, we cycle through beautiful sections and the old Ćira bridges over the Neretva, all the way to Dračevo, where we have a separation to the right from the asphalted section to the macadam route. If you are not a road cyclist at heart, we definitely recommend that you ride the macadam section where you will visit many historic Ćira buildings, such as the bridge designed by Eifeel (the engineer who designed the Eifeel Tower in Paris). Riding along the section gives a beautiful view of Hutovo polje, while also passing through 10 Ćira tunnels. We recommend a short break or picnic break at the Brštanica station. from Hutovo selo follows the asphalted and well-marked section all the way to Ravno and further to Zavala, where we end the journey.


In Čapljina there is a branch for the town of Stolac, in whose area is the historic town of Daorson. Daorson (Greek: ΔΑΟΡΣΩΝ) was the capital of the Hellenized Illyrian tribe of Daors who lived from 300 to 50 BC in the Neretva River valley. Three kilometers west of Stolac, in Vidovo polje, is the necropolis of the stećak tombstones of Radimlje. According to the number of specimens, diversity and representation of all basic forms, relatively high artistic quality of workmanship, the necropolis of Radimlje is one of the most valuable monuments of the medieval period in BiH.

By the way, in the center of Čapljina, on the current town square, there was a station building that was demolished in 1998. Only four plane trees remain, which preserve the memory of the narrow-gauge railway. The last Ćiro roared through Čapljina on November 6, 1966. years.

At the exit from the center of Čapljina, the route passes by the old fortified castle of Mogorjelo from the time of Octavian Augustus, which was discovered during the construction of the Metković – Mostar railway (1884-1885). An archeological monument from Roman times was created on the foundations of the late antique villa Rustica, which was built on the ruins of an older suburban villa.

Below Čapljina and Mogorjelo, the trail crosses the river Trebižat and comes to Gabela, which the Mexican historian Robert Salinas claims to be the former location of ancient Troy. The name Gabela comes from the Italian word gabella, meaning customs, since there was once a border between Venetian and Ottoman rule. There are also the mouths of the rivers Trebižat, Bregava and Krupa into the river Neretva.

In Gabela there is an old railway station which was a station for narrow gauge railways (0.76 m) Gabela – Zelenika in the Bay of Kotor (Montenegro), Hum – Trebinje and Uskoplje – Gruž in Dubrovnik (Republic of Croatia). These were railways of primarily military strategic importance that were put into operation in July 1901. It ceased to operate permanently on 31 May 1976, when the Čapljina-Dubrovnik railway in the Republic of Croatia and the Hum-Nikšić railway in the Republic of Montenegro were abolished.

From Gabela, the route separates to the southeast and crosses the Neretva River over the old railway bridge Tresana, continues over the bridge Krupa and the river of the same name, and enters the town of Dračevo where it passes under the main road M-17. In Dračevo, the bicycle route forks into two sections, the asphalt route that ascends from Svitava to Hutovo, and the macadam route that follows the route of the old narrow-gauge railway through high walls, embankments, through deep cuts to 19 kilometers away from the former railway station in Hutovo. The asphalt section across Svitava passes by the village of Sjekose, where the remains of a Roman villa, the summer residence of a rich Italian, were discovered. In the village of Bajovci there is a lake and a spring Desilo which in its depths preserves Illyrian and Roman ships and amphorae, and in Svitava you can find the remains of the Roman villa Dvorišta. The Shrine of the Queen of Peace – Hrasno is also located on this section.

The macadam section of the route from Dračevo runs parallel to the Hutovo Blato Nature Park and the route offers a spectacular view of the largest ornithological park in Europe, which is an oasis of nature with seven lakes and the river Krupa. The macadam route stretches along the “Breg” slopes of Mount Žaba, and connects the former railway stations Sjekose, Hrasno and Hutovo station. On this section there are 10 hand-dug tunnels with a total length of 1441.40 meters and two bridges, the most famous of which is the Stanger Bridge, for which the project was signed by the famous Eiffel, the creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Considering the ascent of 18 per mille, heavier trains pulled two locomotives on this section, and the locomotive pushed the train from behind as a thrust. Upon arrival at the Hrasno station, the locomotives were settled with coal and water from the tank via a feeder (“gran”).

The cistern / tank is a unique railway construction in Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond. It was the largest building of applied reinforced concrete in hydraulic engineering in this part of Europe.



RECOMMENDATION Although the trail mostly takes us through populated areas, on the section from Dračevo to Hutovo selo you drive through an uninhabited area without drinking water, so we recommend that you supply a larger amount of water in a local store in Dračevo. This is especially important on summer days. On the macadam section, there is a sharp stone and the possibility of thorns in some parts, so it is necessary to bring a mini tool and a tool for patching inner tires. Due to the length of the tour, it is recommended to inform family or friends about cycling plans before going for a ride. Helmet required!





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