The Gulbene - Alūksne narrow gauge railway is a small section, less than 33 km from the 19th - 20th centuries. narrow gauge railway lines Stukmaņi - Vecgulbene - Valka. It is currently the only operating general purpose narrow gauge railway in Latvia. It provides passenger traffic between the centers of Gulbene and Alūksne districts, which are located in the north-eastern part of Latvia.
There have been many events in the history of this railway for 100 years, both successful and difficult. Initially, this line was intended only for the transport of agricultural products and timber. The construction of the largest railway junction was planned in Stāmeriena, the location of the depot was even chosen. It is believed that Baron Wolf of Vecgulbene was richer than Baron Stāmeriena and railway workshops were started to be built in Gulbene. The second story is related to the fact that with the help of a bribe, the baron of Vecgulbene managed to build a railway line on the territory belonging to him, and not through Lejasciems, as was originally intended. A private Vidzeme access road company was established for the construction of the railway with the participation of the local nobility, and the construction project was approved in 1898 in St. Petersburg.
The first construction work began in 1898 and the line was scheduled to be completed in three years, in 1901. The construction work took a long time due to a shortage of labor, so the temporary traffic of goods and passengers from the destinations was opened a year later - on October 13, 1902. The official opening ceremony of the 212 km long Stukmaņi - Valka line took place on August 15, 1903.
The narrow-gauge railway station building was built of red bricks in 1901-1903, it is located opposite the current Gulbene railway station and is used as a residential building.
In the first years of operation of the railway, instead of the expected profit, the loss was greater than the revenue. 1905 the amount of losses reached 138 thousand rubles, but decreased to 20.5 thousand in 1911. The railway used 14 powerful and modern 1900s - 1901s. Four-axle steam locomotives were built in Russia, and the fleet of passenger and freight wagons was quite large. Shortly before the First World War, the Vidzeme access road company went bankrupt, but the railway was badly damaged during the war.
Due to strategic considerations, a wide-track superstructure was laid on the Stukmaņi-Vecgulbene section. With the opening of the line to Abreni, Vecgulbene became an important railway junction. In the 1920s, the first electricity was supplied to Vecgulbene by railway workshops.
During the time of independent Latvia, the damage was restored, but the railway line continued to operate at a loss. In the 1930s, the losses were borne by the state. 1939 a narrow-gauge track was set up at the wide-gauge station to make it easier for passengers to change.
Also in the Second World War, the Gulbene railway junction was badly damaged. The new station was opened in December, the most significant new building of the station in Latvia at that time. After the war, reconstruction works took place, the destination of the train was established in Valga, and no longer in Valka. 1958 the steam locomotives were replaced by a diesel locomotive.
At the end of the sixties, with the development of road transport, traffic was closed in the section from Ape to Valga, but in 1973. Ape - Aluksne. 1987 On March 12, the Baltic Railway Administration also closed the much-needed section Gulbene - Alūksne. With the broad support of the municipalities and the public, the movement was relaunched in June.
In order to preserve the existing railway and light rail, in 2001, with the agreement of the Latvian Railway Association, the municipalities of Gulbene and Alūksne, Stāmeriena parish, the company SIA BO (non-profit organization) "Gulbenes - Alūksnes banitis" was established. An agreement was concluded with the State Joint Stock Company "Latvijas dzelzceļš" on the use of railway infrastructure and lease of the narrow gauge railway complex, as well as with the Ministry of Transport on passenger transportation. 2002 At the beginning of 2007, rolling stock, buildings, structures and inventory were taken over from SJSC Latvijas dzelzceļš.
There are 10 railway stations on the railway line: Gulbene, Birze, Pienakalns, Stāmeriena, Kalniena, Dunduri, Paparde, Umernieki, Vējiņi, Alūksne. Geographically, the railway crosses the Gulbene mound, the Maliena mound and ends in the Alūksne upland.
With the State Inspection for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in 1997. By order of November 3, the railway was taken under state protection and declared a newly discovered cultural monument. 1984 narrow-gauge railway with structures and rolling stock was granted the status of a technical monument, but in 2001. admitted to the European Association of Tourism and Museum Railways.
Freight transport by rail was stopped in 1990. Opportunities are being sought to increase interest in the train as an attractive and interesting tourist attraction. It is an important, for many even the only means of transport. Bānītis is a unique testimony of the past that has not been preserved anywhere else in our country.
2000 On September 9, the first Banitis festival took place along the entire route. September 8 - second, 2002 September 9 - the third, but in 2003. September 6-7 - the fourth - Bānītis 100th anniversary celebration.
Read about the narrow gauge railway: http://www.banitis.lv .