A Krosniewice-Ozorkow special in 2006
The campaign to save the Krosniewice Railway is gathering momentum. A number of letters have already been sent to the Mayor of Ozorkow, with a copy to the Minister of Infrastructure and pledges that more letters will be written are coming in as well.
Can my letter make any difference?
Well yes, on the basis of previous experience, we know that letters sent from abroad do carry a great deal of weight with the authorities. Sometimes even a single letter can make all the difference.
The Extraordinary Story of Chabowka
The story of the PKP steam museums is a long and complicated one. Originally in the 1990’s PKP HQ in Warsaw planned three steam centres:
Wolsztyn (see above) – the principal centre
Klocko – for servicing
Jaworzyna Slask (see above) – for storing steam engines.
Elk, a fourth, was added later.
Two more steam museums were initiatives of the regional PKP management:
Another steam museum was established at Karsnice at the private initiative of the manager of the workshops there. By 2000 the senior management of PKP had changed and the cold winds of commercialisation were blowing through the corridors of PKP. It was decided to get rid of all the steam museums with the exception of Wolsztyn and to concentrate the best locomotives there.
An action committee was formed to save Chabowka. A group of experts from Krakow wrote a plan to develop tourism along the Chabowka – Nowy Sacz line, The National Foundation for Promoting Heritage Railway Trails was set up by Ryszarda Leszczynska. (see Papal Train) But all to no avail, by 2003 the Chabowka employees were given notice that the museum was going to close.
Enter the Englishman
It was at this stage that an Englishman called Mike Pease entered the scene. Pease, a director of the Spa Valley Railway and the Secretary of the New Europe Railway Heritage Trust (NERHT), was a descendant of Edward Pease, the banker of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. He had been following the Polish railway scene for some time and was the owner a Slask 0-8-0 shunting locomotive which he keeps at Pyskowice Steam Centre. He decided to write a letter of protest to the chairman of PKP, with a copy to the Minister of Transport. He also copied it for good measure to the chairman of the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce with the suggestion that the BPCC might like to organise a seminar on the tourism potential of Poland’s railway heritage.
At this point Pease struck lucky because the Chamber duly obliged! A seminar, Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage as a Tourist Attraction, held under the auspices of the NERHT and sponsored by the Chamber took place in October 2003. The morning session was held in the British Consulate, the afternoon session in the Warsaw Railway Museum. Nearly every Polish heritage railway sent a delegation. PKP sent a team of three people. NERHT sent three experts from Britain. Not long afterwards, the decision to close Chabowka was rescinded. Today 8 Chabowka engines are in working order and very good mechanical condition. Occasional steam trains are run on the Nowy Sacz line and around Cracow.
And the rest?
And what of the other railway museums? Wolsztyn is flourishing, although it’s reported that the mechanical condition of its locomotives is very poor. Nothing remains of Klocko. Jaworzyna was taken over by the local authority and then privatised. None of its engines are in working order. Elk is closed, but a great deal of rolling stock is still there and deteriorating fast. Recently two of its steam locomotives were transferred to the PSMK railway museum at Skierniewice. Koscierzna is run by PKP Cargo although none of its engines are in working order. The ‘forgotten’ museum at Karsnice lingers on in no man’s land, trapped by the reluctance of the PKP Estate Department to pass the custody of the engines over to the council of Zdunska Wola.
If the story of Chabowka does inspires you to put pen to paper, please write to:
Mrs Julianna Barbara Herman
The Mayor of Krosniewic
and send a copy to:
Mr Cezary Grabarczyk
The Minister of Infrastructure
ul. 4/6 Chalubinskiego