The Rhodope narrow gauge- the engineering mastery for slow travel

In 1920, a remarkable technical achievement was accomplished: a 760 mm wide narrow-gauge railway winding its way through the Mesta river gorge. It was built under arduous conditions and without machinery, relying solely on the labour of local volunteers. With a length of 124.7 metres and the highest station in the Balkans at 1267.4 metres, it has become a national symbol.

Over time, neglect took its toll and led to the closure of some lines. But in 2017, a young man, Christian Vaklinov, set out to revitalise the railway. Through his vision of revitalisation and the use of digital and traditional media for storytelling, the slow train experienced a revival and piqued the public’s interest with unique attractions.

A remarkable turnaround came with the idea of restoring one of the historic railway stations, Tsepina, and transforming it into the Rhodope Narrow Gauge Railway Museum. Christian and his friends dedicated themselves to the complete restoration of the railway station on a voluntary basis. The museum now houses a wealth of old photos and historical documents documenting the incredible technical development of the railway.

The Septemvri – Dobrinishte narrow-gauge railway, once hailed as a wonder of its time, is still a marvel today. Seamlessly integrated into the rolling stock and the natural landscape, it is a unique national treasure and an exceptional, sustainable tourist attraction.

Why is it regenerative?

The film is regenerative because it shows the restoration and transformation of an abandoned railway station into a museum and the revival of a national symbol through voluntary efforts and stories.

Project partners met in Aveiro on the 14th and 15th of September 2023. It was the perfect opportunity to visit the destination with regenerative glasses on, to understand its many assets but also some of the challenges the destination is facing. Face to face project meetings always provide the partners with the unique opportunity to learn about the work of the hosting partner and get valuable insights about the destination. In this case partners were hosted by the dedicated team of management and tourism professionals of the University of Aveiro who shared a wealth of insights about a city that was new to many of the participants.

The Enforce project is well on track when it comes to the project work plan, which means that after having completed the Best Practice collection of innovative examples about storytelling for regeneration and also the Storyteller’s Guide, partners used the meeting to discuss the development of the Enforce Training Programme.

For the next few months partners will be working on developing the content in line with guidelines provided by the University of Usak, our project partner from Turkey.
The course should be available for piloting in January/February 2024 and will also be available in the partner languages once all translations are finalised.

The ENFORCE team met in the beautiful city of Luxembourg for its kick-off meeting. It took place at the premises of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg (also known as CCIL), which opened its doors to warmly welcome all partners.

The team was aware of the importance of this first meeting and approached it with the same enthusiasm, as it plays an important role in building strong bonds that will contribute to the success of the entire cooperation. With the common goal of building a solid foundation, the participants discussed in depth the first steps required for the project ENFORCE.

During this visit, the project objectives were discussed in depth to ensure that each partner has a comprehensive understanding of the overarching goals. The outcome of the kick-off meeting was extremely satisfying for all partners and generated enthusiasm among the team. It was a success and left everyone inspired and energised.

The journey of ENFORCE has officially begun and with the collective expertise of the committed partners, there is no doubt that it will thrive and achieve remarkable results.


“The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein”

Project N: 2022-1-LU01-KA220-VET-000089887

© 2024 Enforce Project
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