The Sad Tale of the PKD

by

P.K.D. former H.Q.

The P.K.D. former headquarters at Piotrkow

The sad tale of the Piotrkow narrow gauge railway, the Piotrkowska Kolej Dojazdowa, should be carefully studied by the management of all of Poland’s heritage railways. This narrow gauge line was built in 1904 to connect the small town of Sulejow to the city of Piotrkow Trybunalski. For most of its life it carried commuters from Sulejow and lineside villages to work in the factories of Piotrkow. Passenger trains called at 7 intermediate stations and took 59 minutes to cover the 17 km from Sulejow Pilica to Piotrkow Wask. After WW II the line had a major renaissance carrying lime from Sulejow in standard gauge wagons mounted on 750 mm transporter wagons. The lime was used in the sulphur dioxide filters at the gigantic Belchatow Power Station.

Luciazy Viaduct

The viaduct across the River Luciazy

Time passed, someone decided that cleaning the suphur emissions from Belchatow was an unnecessary complication, then in 2001, someone else decided that PKP should rid itself of all of its narrow gauge railways. A preservation society, Towarzystwo Przyjaciol Kolejki Waskotorowej Piotrkow-Sulejow, took over the line and ran occasional tourist trains within the Piotrkow city limits. The line was featured in a catalogue of Poland’s industrial heritage attractions published by the Polish Tourist Organisation.

tourist train in Piotrkow

One of TKPW’s occasional trains

Just over 10 miles long, and running from Piotrkow, with its mainline connection, to Sulejow, with its many tourist attractions, (including a 20 km long artificial lake popular with sailors and fishermen) the line seemed an ideal candidate for preservation. But the Society failed to gain the support of the local authorities along the route, who had other plans. Whether this was the fault of the Society, the local authorities, or both, is a moot point! The Society lost much of its credibility when it acquired an Ol49 steam engine from PLP Cargo for a nominal price which is then promptly sold for scrap.

rails in the tarmac

The longest bit of track left outside Piotrkow

This episode lead to a huge row within the Society itself. Threats of a police investigation and court action lead to the Society’s implosion. The track between the Piotrkow city limits and Sulejow was lifted in 2005. The remainder of the track within the city limits was lifted in 2006, leaving just the Piotrkow Wask yard and a few bits of rail imbeded in the tarmac at former level crossings. The rump of the Society still meet at weekends at its Piotrkow base to drink vodka and talk about how things might have been. They talk about a possible skansen and dream of EU grants.

Engine shed and standard gauge wagon transporter

The engine shed still houses two Lxd2 diesel locomotives and a Px48 steam locomotive. Various items of rolling stock can be seen in the yard, but for how much longer?

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7 Responses to “The Sad Tale of the PKD”

  1. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    Very interesting! I remember visiting Piotrkow in 1998 during PKP days and thinking that the railway had potential as a preserved line. It was not surprising that a preservation society was formed and I heard about the acquisition of rolling stock and the running of some tourist trains on a short length of the line.

    However, it is far more difficult to find out what is going on in the background. As someone who does not speak Polish it has been very difficult to understand the politics of what has been happening at Piotrkow. Thanks for explaining it all.

    It would be great if you could, from time to time, tell us about the successes and problems of other narrow gauge lines. Reports in English and German magazines and websites can provide useful descriptions of what locomotives and rolling stock were present at a railway on a certain date and may report about trains being run. They are usually of limited use when it comes to understanding the relationship of an operating company or preservation group with the local authority and similar “political” matters

  2. dyspozytor Says:

    Thank you for your comment, Geoff. The Piotrkow line is for me a rather special case. At a key time in its fortunes I was in a position (both geographically and professionally) to make a difference. But to my everlasting regret I DID NOT GET INVOLVED! In fact, although I was in Poland at the time, I let the end of PKP’s narrow gauge operations pass by without visiting the lines or talking to the people trying to save them. Today, only about 400 km of narrow gauge track remains in operation for ordinary passenger and freight services (not counting tourist railways) and I’m determined not to make the same mistake again. This is why I am supporting the campaign to defend the Krosniewice railway.

    I’m glad that you like my approach of trying to get behind the trains and taking a look at the people and politics involved. (I wonder whether a book about the people and politics behind the UK heritage railway movement would sell?) There’s a lot of in-fighting in the railway heritage movement and Poland is no exception. What you hear depends on who you talk to. However, I’ve been around a long time, I usually have more than one source for a story and I’ve learned to read between the lines. I try to make my posts as objective as possible.

    Are there any particular narrow gauge railways that you are particularly interested in? If so let me know and I’ll see what I can dig up for you.

    Best wishes

    Dyspozytor

  3. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    There are a number of narrow gauge lines lines that are of interest. Obviously, Krosniewice is a major concern at the moment. I understand that a few more letters are heading from Britain to the Mayor of Krosniewice. It would also be interesting to know more about the situation at Starachowice. This seems to be another case where the local authority and the operating organisation have had a disagreement.

    Do you know what has happened at Nw Dwor Gdanski? When I visited it a few years ago the preservation group seemed to be very ambitious about opening up as much of the system as possible and had restored some equipment to a very high standard. However, I have been told that the local authority was more interested in developing the railway near the coast rather than reopening towards Malbork. As I mentioned in my previous message, it can be difficult for someone who does not speak Polish to understand what is happening. Any information about what is happening at these lines would be appreciated.

    Finally, on a more historic note, what happened to the preservation attempt at Opalenica?

    There are a lot of questions here but if you could dig up some information about them when you get the time I am sure that it will be of interest to a number of people. We can’t all make sense of pl.misc.kolej.

  4. dyspozytor Says:

    You’ll find the answers in my latest post here. Any more questions?

  5. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    Thanks for providing such detailed answers to my questions. I now understand a great deal more about what has been happening at these railways and it helps me to make sense of some of the things that I have seen.

    I have no more questions at the moment but sooner or later there is bound to be something that it would be useful to have an explanation about. It is going to be very interesting to watch what happens at Krosniewice and I hope that you will keep us informed. I have seen the railway at Krosniewice come back from the dead once before. Will it happen again?

  6. dyspozytor Says:

    Geoff, It was a pleasure. Sometimes. I have a mental block – so many possible things to write about – then. having a definitive list of questions to answer, can help to gett the fingers typing. If you and other readers keep on asking the questions, I’ll keep on trying to answer them!

  7. Dave Topgood Says:

    Has all the track been removed? Could a rebirth of the line be launched? You say there is a couple of diesels in the shed how difficult would it be to reopen at least part of the line and I wonder if a support group based in the uk like the group for a certain 2 foot line in India would help. Please contact me via dave.topgood@transecocentre.com

    Dave

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