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Geoff Jenkins asks –

FPKW open carriages

Close up of two open passenger coaches
built on goods van chassis by the FPKW

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.

The Starachowice Powiat, broadly equivalent to a UK District Council, are backing the plan to restore the Starachowice – Ilza line, but the council were dissatisfied with the rate of progress being achieved by the Fundacja Polikich Kolei Waskotorowych (Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation). A breakaway group of FPKW volunteers approached the Council directly and criticised the FPKW’s President Pawel Szwed. He had been managing three projects: Starachowice, the Pionki Forest Railway and a skansen at Janow Lubelski, so he had little time to watch his back. Things came to a head when a group of FPKW volunteers took out an engine on a trip that was supposed to be a working party, but in fact was a private picnic. Szwed took away their key to the loco shed and the volunteers went bleating to the council. Since breaking with the FPKW the Council have been looking for a new operator to run the line.

Tourist train, Zulawy Railway, 2007

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.

The original preservation society Pomorskie Towarzystwo Milosników Kolei Zelaznych (PTMKZ) considered that the 20km line to Malbork was an essential part of the project to restore some 50km of the Zulawy Railway. Malbork is a tourist hotpot with an amazing 14th C. castle built by the Teutonic knights. In March 2006, the Powiat Nowodworski (Nowodwor District Council) citing internal disagreements within the Society broke with the society, utilised 2.5km of the track formation for road improvements, and appointed a new operator. This left 30km of railway operational. The local authority is however unhappy with the new operator and a rapprochement with the PTMKZ seems increasingly likely.

800px-opalenicka_kd_1920_fot26.jpg

Opalenica Engine Shed, about 1920

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

The line provided the local towns along its route with a useful link to the main line system and carried increasing amounts of freight on transporter wagons until the link was severed with the main line around 1995. This was supposedly only temporary as part of the EU financed Poznan-Slubice main line upgrading works, but in fact the link to the transhipment sidings at Opalenica was never restored. In spite of this PKP built a new locomotive shed in Opalenica! Later that year PKP withdrew the passenger services as well.

A group of railway enthusiasts based in Poznan mounted a preservation attempt. The line was acquired by the local authority and listed by the Province’s Conservator of Monuments. Some special trains were run until 2002. Meanwhile the extension of the A2 motorway was being planned, by-passing Poznan and running on towards the German border. The Design, Build and Operate contract was won by Autostrady Wielkopolskiej SA which is controlled by Jan Kulczyk, Poland’s richest businessman. Mysteriously a key section of the railway — which would have needed an 1expensive motorway bridge — was suddenly removed from the Conservator’s listing. After the de-listing it was not long before the remainder of the rolling stock was removed, the track was lifted and the motorway built across the trackbed without any bridge.But this is not quite yet the end of the story. A group called Stowarzyszenie KOLD partly financed by the EU Leader programme is investigating ways of boosting agrotourism in the area. One of the options being examining is the possibility of using a rebuilt railway to carry tourists!

( 1British readers might like to reflect that when plans were being drawn up to extend the M3 from Popham to Southampton, the promoters of the Mid Hants Railway were promised a ‘fast track’ Light Railway Order if they abandoned the original plan of running through to Winchester. This would have required a bridge to take the M3 over the line!)

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