Lodz Widzew on 7.11.2011. According to the sign access to platform 2 is either via subway or footbridge, but there is no subway, and the footbridge is closed, Photo BTWT.
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I very nearly missed my train to Krakow, the 09:06 from Lodz Widzew. In hindsight it would have been better if I had. Lodz Widzew is a mess. (See Mike Dembinski’s post on Ww-a Jeziorki.) It is definitely not a place to drive into, tyres screaming, 2 minutes before booked departure time and expect to get into the right train. I had a choice of two. There was a train that looked right for the Krakow run, a nice EU07 electric locomotive and a traditional rake of compartment coaches; there was also a train that looked all wrong, an ED74 electric multiple unit.
I hate the ED74s as I hate no other vehicle. Originally ordered for the Lodz – Warsaw run, they generated so many complaints that PKP IC were forced to swap back most of the Lodz – Warsaw services to loco-hauled trains and disperse the displaced ED74s around the network. But the driver of the ED74 was sitting in the right driving compartment for a run to Krakow, while the EU07 was on the wrong end of its train. So after a long delay (and a very patient guard) while the dreadful truth dawned, I boarded the ED74.
What’s wrong with the ED74s – everything! Designed by PESA of Bydgoszcz, a company better known for its trams rather than its trains, they would make ideal stock for outer suburban services if not for their incredibly uncomfortable seats. Nobody can sit up straight in the seats for long; their profile, surely designed by someone with shares in Polski Bus, will damage the toughest back. Passengers contort themselves into different positions to ease the pain, but there is no escape. After the 2 hour run from Lodz to Krakow, one’s back is out of joint for a week.
The Lodz railway network. From a larger map prepared by PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe S.A., http://www.plk-sa.pl.
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With increasing numbers of ED74s in service since 2007, a survival strategy was needed. I started to manage my rail journeys so as to travel on the locomotive-hauled long distance services that ran via Lodz Kaliska; I travelled during the rush-hour when, after a short hiatus, the inadequate 8 coach twin ED74 sets were switched back to 11 coach loco-hauled trains. If, in spite of all my precautions, I did find myself on an ED74 I sat on the folding seats near the 2nd-class toilets which were marginally more comfortable than the standard seats elsewhere.
5½ hours on an ED74 folding seat is no joke. The journey was punctuated by informing people that the toilet was out of order, but they would find another in the first class compartment at the head of the unit. It was not long before the first class toilet waste tank was full as well! Then a moment of panic; surely that ornamental park is just before Skierniewice? Skierniewice; why are we stopping at Skierniewice? Lodz – Krakow trains do not go via Skierniewice! Had I, after all, boarded the wrong train? Was it bound for Warsaw rather than Krakow?
Just after the Skierniewice PW depot we branched off heading generally to the west leaving the mainline heading south-west-by-west. (See map.) That was marginally better, between Koluszki and Skierniewice the train had actually been running in the opposite direction from Krakow; now at least, even if it was not getting any nearer, at least it was not getting any further away. But now where? There is no West-to-South curve between Grabce and Szeligi; could the train be heading for the legendary Czachowek and the old main line to Krakow via Radom?
Another unscheduled stop, this time at Mszczonow. The driver walks through to the back of the train and tries the toilet door. I’m sorry it’s out of action, I hear myself say. Perhaps the toilet in the first class section is still working? The driver heads off the way he came. After a long wait the he reappears, the train reverses direction and takes the East-to-South curve down to the CMK.
A little research subsequently reveals that the train was originally diagrammed to run from Koluszki via the Tomaszow Mazowiecki – Radom line and to turn South onto the CMK at Zapowiedz, but with the section between Tomaszow and Deba Opoczynska out of action for track repairs, instead of re-routing the train the obvious way – via Piotrkow Trybunalski and Czestochowa – PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe – had sent us on a magical mystery tour.
Krakow market square and Cathedral. Photo BTWT.
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I did get to Krakow eventually, as the photograph of the market square proves, but by then my back was seriously out of kilter and was to go downhill badly during the next few days.
To be continued…