Archive for April, 2008

Bieszczady, just 3,800 metres to go!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Bieszczady Forest Railway
(Map can be scrolled and expanded.)

Further to our recent post about the Bieszczady Forest Railway, we hear through the grapevine that only, 3,800 metres of track remain to be relaid to allow BFR trains to operate from the standard gauge station at Lupkow. The work, which involves replacing 90% of the sleepers, has been budgeted at 100,000 PLN a kilometre, so the railway needs another 380,000 PLN to reach its destination. Already, some 3,200 metres of line has been relaid from Wola Michalowa to just past Smolnika. (If you scroll the map to the West, you will reach a junction where the former BFR main line continued North to the sawmill at Rzepedz. That junction is Smolinka.) If the relaid line can be inspected and certified in time, the BFR hope to extend their services to Smolinka, this summer.

The BFR at its zenith, 3 Kp4 locos at Cisna Shed

The rebuild of the Kp4 locomotive acquired by the railway needs another 150,000 PLN to complete. That’s only £34,000! Is there anybody out there who would like to see regular steam trains return to the BFR and who can afford the price tag.

Our mailbox is here!

Weasle words for Woodhead future

Monday, 28 April 2008

The western portals of the Woodhead Tunnels in 2004

Campaigners for the reopening of the Woodhead tunnel railway route across the Pennines were dealt a blow today, by the response of the the UK, Prime Minister’s office to their petition. The petition. submitted electronically by Catherine Bone, gathered 1,270 signatures. Here is the full text of the petition.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Reopen the railway from Manchester to Sheffield via Woodhead Tunnel.

The former main line railway between Manchester and Sheffield via Woodhead was closed to passengers in 1970 and to freight in 1981. Closure occurred despite electrification in 1954. and journey times between the the two cities are now longer and existing routes are at capacity.

Reopening the Woodhead summit line and introducing through trains Manchester – Woodhead – Penistone – Barnsley – Sheffield – St. Pancras will increase capacity between London and Manchester, and could take a lot of lorries off the road!

The Prime Minister’s office response continued the Blair government policy of avoiding any commitment for a modal shift from road to rail.

No current proposals for tunnels on the Woodhead route stop them from being re-opened for future rail use, if they are needed.

The Rail White Paper, published in July 2007, identified the need for more passenger capacity across the Pennines. It concluded that this could best be met by longer trains and faster journey times on the Manchester to Leeds via Huddersfield route. The White Paper did not identify any need for substantial extra trans-Pennine capacity for freight.

The Minister of State for Transport, Rosie Winterton, proposes to meet National Grid in the next few weeks to confirm that the Government would wish to explore further the option of continuing the inspection and maintenance regime for the Victorian tunnels once National Grid have vacated them.

Following that meeting, she would also like to meet key stakeholders to gain the transport industry and northern economic perspectives on the issue of TransPennine transport and how that will tie in with the process of developing a longer term strategy. This will be conducted as part of the process outlined in the document – Towards a Sustainable Transport System (TaSTS).


The first of the earlier twin tunnels completed by the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway in 1845, engineered by Charles Vignoles and Joseph Locke.

At the time of its completion in 1845, Woodhead was one of the world’s longest railway tunnels at a length of 3 miles 13 yards (4,840 m); it was the first of several trans-Pennine tunnels including the Standedge and Totley tunnels, which are only slightly longer. Although sufficient land had been purchased for two tunnels, only one was built initially. The second bore was completed by the later Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1852.

The twin tunnels saw heavy use by steam trains (250 trains a day each way) and this traffic had a huge effect on the economy of the route well in to the 1950’s. They had a reputation for having a with high maintenance needs, since such heavy usage had never been envisaged by their original constructors. The tunnels were known to train crews as the “hell holes” as they were a very small bore and became full of choking smoke as steam engines passed through. They were unsuitable for electrification and were closed in 1953 when a new double track tunnel, Woodhead, 3 was completed as part of the 1.5 kV DC Manchester – Sheffield – Wath electrification.

An electric loco hauled freight exists the new tunnel

In the 1960s it was proposed that this tunnel should be used as part of a Manchester to Sheffield motorway, but in end only a short section of the M67 motorway was built. Passenger services ceased in 1970 and the last train was on 17th July 1981.

Since 1963 the north tunnel has been used by the National Grid to carry the trans-Pennine 400 kV electricity link below ground under the Peak District National Park. A narrow gauge railway runs into the tunnel to service this link.

The south tunnel is in worse condition, has suffered from collapses and is not currently suitable for cabling or transport.

In 2007, National Grid, the present owners of the tunnels, proposed to relocate electricity cables from the Victorian to the 1953 tunnel some time in 2008. This has sparked controversy as it would mean that it would not be possible to use the newer tunnel for railway traffic in future and there are now various groups advocating keeping it open.

Proposals to re-open the tunnel

In 1999 Central Trains proposed using the Woodhead tunnel as part of an ambitious scheme to connect Liverpool to London.

In 2002 the Trans-Pennine Rail Group, a broadly based group of County Councils, Unitary Authorities, Passenger Transport Executives (PTE) and the Peak District National Park Authority provided evidence to a transport select committee identified interest from bidders for the Transpennine rail franchise in reopening the Woodhead route (in 2007 the Trans-Pennine Rail Group was wound up as its work was now being done by the Northern Way and the North West Rail Campaign.

In 2003 the Greater Manchester Branch of the Institute of Logistics and Transport presented evidence to a Parliamentary Select committee mentioning Arriva’s interest in opening the Woodhead Line and Tunnel as part of their bid for the Trans-Pennine rail franchise.

In 2006 Translink are proposing to open the tunnel and the route for rail freight. This proposal is favoured by some groups opposing the construction of the controversial £180m A57/A628 Mottram in Longdendale, Hollingworth & Tintwistle Bypass).

Only Victorian tunnels available for rail!

One of the Victorian tunnels, the south tunnel, is in a poor condition and is unused. The north tunnel carries electrical cables for the National Grid that are coming to the end of their operational life and the Grid is preparing to install electricity cables in Woodhead 3, which would make it unavailable for rail traffic.

In July 2007 the Peak District National Park formally expressed concern at the plans to place cables in Woodhead 3, observing that it could not then be used for rail traffic. In September 2007 the Government Office for the East Midlands replied indicating that in their view it was unlikely that the route would be used for rail traffic and declined to intervene. On the 4th December 57 MPs signed an early day motion in the commons brought by Manchester Blackley MP, Graham Stringer, expressing concern at laying cables in a viable tunnel for rail traffic. On 18th December a written answer in the Commons stated that laying cables in the tunnel would not preclude opening the route to rail traffic. On the 25th the Department for Transport ‘clarified’ this, saying that that only the older Victorian tunnels, which were in poor condition, would be available.

In December 2007 the Campaign for Better Transport (UK) began campaigning to keep the Woodhead Tunnel available for rail traffic and encouraging people to write to their MP. On 8th January the Northern Way, a collaboration between the three Northern Regional Development Agencies: Yorkshire Forward, Northwest Regional Development Agency and One NorthEast, called for the government to ensure the potential reuse of Woodhead Tunnels for rail use in the future. The Northern Way had previously published that economic benefit could be as much as £10 billion nationally with £3.5 billion of this in the North.

On 15th January 2008 one hundred protesters gathered at the end of the Woodhead tunnel to protest at plans to use it for electricity cables.

On the 24th January 2008, work started to move the electrical cable from the north tunnel to Woodhead 3.

More information:

Wikipedia – Woodhead Tunnel
BBC – “Engines must not enter the potato siding” (RealPlayer or Windows Media Player needed)
Railways of Britain – The Woodhead Route

Middleton celebrates 250th birthday!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

15 April, 2006, the Middleton Railway reopens after
a long closure while a deviation was constructed to
accomodate a new road . Hunslet diesel ‘John Alcock’
hauls the first train.

This week the 250th birthday of the oldest working commercial railway in the world was marked in the UK Parliament. A motion, tabled by Leeds West MP John Battle, congratulated the Middleton Light Railway and thanked the volunteers who keep it operating.

The Middleton Railway was the first railway to be granted powers by Act of Parliament in 1758. It was built to a gauge of 4 ft 1 in to carry coal from the Middleton pits owned by Charles Brandling to Leeds. Not all the land belonged to Brandling and the Act gave him power to obtain wayleaves. The line was privately financed and operated, initially as a wagonway using horse-drawn vehicles. Around 1807, the wooden tracks began to be replaced with iron edge rails.

In 1812 the Middleton Railway became the first commercial railway to successfully use steam locomotives. John Blenkinsop the colliery’s manager, had decided that an engine light enough not to break the cast iron track would not have sufficient adhesion, bearing in mind the heavy load of coal wagons it would have to pull up the steep gradient. He relaid the track with a toothed rail on one side, which he patented in 1811 (the world’s first rack railway) , and approached Matthew Murray of Fenton, Murray and Wood, in Holbeck, to design a locomotive with a pinion which would mesh with it. Murray’s design was based on Richard Trevithick‘s Catch me who can, adapted to use Blenkinsop’s rack and pinion system, and was called The Salamanca. This 1812 locomotive was the first to use two cylinders. These drove the pinions through cranks which were at right angles, so that the engine would start wherever it came to rest. With three more locos built later, the line remained in use for another twenty years. In 1881 the railway was converted to 4 ft 8½ in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.

In June 1960, the Middleton Steam Railway became the first standard-gauge railway to be taken over and operated by unpaid volunteers. Passenger services were initially only operated for one week, using an ex Swansea and Mumbles Railway double deck carriage. However, the volunteers of the Middleton Railway operated a freight service until 1983.

Regular operation of tourist passenger services began in 1969.

More information:

Middleton Today – Middleton Light Railway Receives Parliamentary Recognition
Wikipedia – Middleton Railway
Middleton Railway – Official website

Art in the Age of Steam

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Liverpool Museums – Walker Art Gallery

18 April 2008 – 10 August 2008

Admission free

A woman and child in 19th century French costume with railings and steam in the background
The Railway (The Gare Saint-Lazare) by Edouard Manet

This major exhibition captures the excitement of the steam train in art from the earliest days, through the boom years of Victorian railways to the end of the line in the 1960s.

Art in the Age of Steam is the most wide-ranging exhibition yet held to look at how artists responded to the extraordinary impact that steam trains had on landscape and society. It is one of the major highlights of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year.

Around 100 paintings, photographs, prints and drawings from some of the world’s greatest art collections come together in a dazzling display including:

  • ‘The Railway’ by Edouard Manet (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
  • ‘La Crau from Montmajour, with train’ by Van Gogh (British Museum, London) ‘Lordship Lane Station’ by Camille Pissarro (Courtauld Institute of Art, London)
  • four paintings by Claude Monet – including ‘Gare Saint-Lazare’ (National Gallery, London)
  • ‘Railroad Train’ by Edward Hopper (Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.)
  • ‘The Anxious Journey’ by Giorgio de Chirico (Museum of Modern Art, New York)
  • photographs by Bill Brandt, Alfred Stieglitz and O Winston Link.

“Aboard these great machines, passengers travelled at faster speeds than ever before and notions of time and space were forever changed. Nothing has been done on this scale before – visitors are transported on an exhilarating journey in the company of some of the world’s great artists.” Julian Treuherz, Co-Curator and former Keeper of Galleries at the Walker

The formative years
in Europe

The human drama of
of the railway

Crossing continents –
America and beyond

Impressionism and

States of Mind

The Machine Age

Exhibition organised by the Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. The exhibition will be staged at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art from 13 September 2008 to 18 January 2009.

Daily Telegraph review, 22 April, 2008

The coming of the railways transformed the way people lived – and provided glorious inspiration for artists, photographers and filmmakers. By Richard Dorment

The modern world came into being with a shriek and a rattle and a puff of dirty smoke on the day in 1830 when the first passenger train pulled out of Liverpool on its way to Manchester. The steam engine… changed man’s perception of the world and his place in it.

(complete article – many more pics!)

More on Vivarais closure

Friday, 25 April 2008

Vivarais ‘large’ mallet pulls a mixed train through Clauzel Station

Further to our post about the Vivarais closure, we’ve found this rather nice photo. Click on pic for full size photo and scroll down to the comments section for some more information about the suspension of services.

We couldn’t believe our eyes…

Friday, 25 April 2008

Wolsztyn Parade of Steam Locomotives 2007

Wondering whether it would be worthwhile to visit next weekend’s Wolsztyn Steam Gala? Here’s a flavour of last year’s event courtesy of Steam Railway magazine.

… we couldn’t believe our eyes at Wolsztyn. When it comes to organised chaos Wolsztyn makes Llangollen look like a village fete. Trevor Jones of the Wolsztyn Experience arranged the trip to the Polish steam shed’s 100th birthday and I was glad to see so many STEAM RAILWAY readers on it. Like me, they didn’t know what was about to hit them.

From the moment we landed at a former Russian airbase we knew this would be an unusual day. When Bill Parker’s Prairie No. 5521, waiting to take us from the airbases’ nearest railhead at Babymost to Wolstyn, was passed by the fastest preserved, main line legal, steam locomotive in the world, German ‘Pacific’ 18.201 – ‘unusual’ became stupendously surreal.

Again, the day’s celebrations were unique and spectacular. Every time Bill’s Prairie made its spirited runpasts in front of the (estimated) 10,000 strong crowds, I felt an overwhelming surge of pride. Not just patriotic (although the Prairie was by far the most delightful engine on show), but pride because, as an enthusiast, I am a tiny part of all this. If Bill and Trevor didn’t think anyone would be bothered, they wouldn’t have gone to such extraordinary lengths to make it happen…

(read complete article)

Wolsztyn Steam Gala 2008

Friday, 25 April 2008


Friday, May 2

  • 10:00 – 12:00 Arrival of locomotives from Chabowka and the Czech Republic
  • 16:00 – 17:00 Arrival of locomotives from Hungary
  • 21:30 – 23:00 “Son, vapor et lumiere” – locomotive display on turntable

Saturday, May 3

On this day many steam-hauled trains will arrive and depart at Wolsztyn and the steam parade takes place in the afternoon. There will be a record number of engines in steam. The following Wolsztyn engines will be taking part: Ok1-359, Ok22-31, Tr5-65, Pm36-2, Pt47-112, Ol49-7, Ol49-23, Ol49-69,

The following guest engines will take part:

  • Ty2-911, Tr12-25 (Chabowka)
  • TKt48-18 (PK-Passenger Regional, Wroclaw)
  • GWR “Small Prarie” 5521 (Great Britain)
  • 464.202, 433 002, 423 041 (Czech Republic)
  • 109.109 (Hungary)
  • 18 201, 03 1010, 52 8177, 03 2204 (Germany).
Vintage train Wolsztyn – Stefanowo hauled by steam Ty2-911
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Vintage train Stefanowo – Wolsztyn hauled by steam Ty2-911
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Vintage train Wolsztyn – Nowawies Mochy hauled by steam Tr12-25(?)
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Vintage train Nowawies Mochy – Wolsztyn hauled by steam Tr12-25(?)
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Special train Berlin – Wolsztyn, double-headed03 1010 + 52 8177
+ 13 coaches (Traditionszug Berlin)

p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
Special train “VIP Cargo” from Poznan hauled by steam locomotive Ok22-31
p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
Special train Cottbus – Wolsztyn, hauled by steam 18 201+ 11 coaches
p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
service no. 67501 “Hefajstos” hauled by TKt48-18 + GWR 5521+ 9 coaches + EP07-1051 (Wroclaw Gł 9:14 Oborniki Sl. 9:41 Zmigrod 10:02 Rawicz 10:21 Leszno 10:49 )
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Special train Dresden – Cottbus – Wolsztyn, hauled by steam 03 2204 + 7 coaches
p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
service no. 77503 Poznan – Leszno – Wolsztyn hauled by steam Pt47-112 + 9 coaches (Poznan Gl 9:31 Koscian 10:16/17 Leszno 10:45/11:20)
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
13:00 – 13:20 Formal opening of the steam parade
Departure of locos 18 201, 03 2204, 03 1010 for turning at Leszno
Vintage train Wolsztyn – Stefanowo, hauled by steam locomotive Tr12-25
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Vintage train Stefanowo – Wolsztyn, hauled by steam locomotive Tr12-25
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Special train “VIP Cargo” to Poznan hauled by steam locomotive Pm36-2
p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
Arrival of locos 18 201, 03 2204, 03 1010 after turning at Leszno
Train “Hefajstos” hauled by steam locomotives TKt48-18 + GWR5521 and electric loco EP07-1051(Boszkowo 18:12/14 Leszno 18:40 Rawicz 19:22 Zmigrod 19:38 Oborniki Sl. 19:57 Wroclaw Gł 20:27)
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
service no. 77501 hauled by steam locomotive Ol49 (Grodzisk Wlkp. 18:20/27 Poznan Debiec 19:38 Poznan Gl 19:46)
p u b l i c s e r v i c e
Special train Wolsztyn – Cottbus – Dresden hauled by steam locomotive 18 201
p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
Special train Wolsztyn – Cottbus hauled by steam locomotive 03 2204
p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
Special train hauled by steam locomotives 03 1010 i 52 8177 + 13 coaches(Wolsztyn ZbaszynekRzepin Frankfurt/O Berlin Lichtenberg
p r i v a t e c h a r t e r
!!! Any and all details may be changed by the organisers. Behind the Water Tower accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this programme.

Sunday, May 4

  • 09.45 vintage train hauled by Tr5-65 to Rakoniewice. 10.50 return to Wolsztyn
  • 11:30 – 12:30 Wolsztyn Railway Station – competition for the title of “best locomotive crew”, organised by the Society of the Friends of Wolsztyn Steam Locomotive Depot. Conducted tours of the Depot by members of the Society.
  • 13.15 vintage train hauled by Ok1-359 to Nowawies Moch. 14.30 return to Wolsztyn
  • 18:20 departure of special train to Hungary hauled by MAV 109. 109.

(Programme originally published in Polish on

Never let your left hand know…

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Pt47-106 during ‘cosmetic restoration’ at Wolsztyn

While PKP Nieruchomosci, the Polish State Railways property company, is getting ready to auction its railway relics, Fundacja Era Parowozow, the foundation set up by PKP Cargo, the Polish State Railways freight and motive power company, is getting ready to hold a public collection and aution at the Wolsztyn Steam Parade on May 3rd to preserve items of railway heritage.

As we have already revealed, if the auction plan goes ahead without any changes, many unique items of railway rolling stock will be sacrificied to the scrap merchant’s torch. Meanwhile, PKP Cargo’s special foundation, which is paying its trustees many thousands of zloty ‘consultancy fees’, is collecting money from members of the public to ‘paint and polyfilla’ worn out locomotives at Wolsztyn. Last year’s appeal brought in just under 2,000 zloty.

It’s time that PKP main holding company got its act together and, together with representatives of Poland’s railway heritage societies, drew up a ‘core list’ of historic items which must be saved at all costs. Granted that PKP couldn’t afford to restore everything on such a list, certain items could be to made available to railway societies or bona fide railway museums on a licence or loan basis on the condition that they were well looked after.

PKP car boot sale of locomotives?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The open air museum of steam locomotives and vintage rolling stock at Karsznice was the initiative of the former General Manager of the Karsznice Workshops. The Mayor of Zdunska Wola would like to take over the collection, but if PKP Estate Company has its way locomotives like Ty246-22 will be sold to the highest bidder.

Polish railway enthusiasts are up in arms about PKP Estate Comany’s plans to auction the vast collection of vintage locomotives and rolling stock gathered in different parts of the country. “The only people who can afford market prices are scrap merchants,” said the chairman of one of Poland’s leading railway societies.

Watch this space.

Ealing Community Transport withdraws from rail

Monday, 21 April 2008

All Dartmoor Railway passenger operations halted

Stone train at Okehampton

The stone trains will continue while ECT waits for a buyer.

The Dartmoor Railway is part of the former Southern Railway mainline from London Waterloo to Plymouth and North Cornwall. The line beyond Meldon was closed by British Rail in 1965 as part of the Beeching cuts.

A 15 1/2 mile long stretch of line, running across the northern edge of Dartmoor between Meldon Quarry in the west, and Coleford, near Crediton, was kept open for the transport of railway ballast. The quarry and its connecting railway line were subsequently purchased by Aggregate Industries. AI, Devon County Council, Dartmoor National Park and RMS Locotec created the Dartmoor Railway – a community and tourist railway enabling visitors to enjoy the National Park without the use of a car. In November 2004, the Dartmoor Railway operation was acquired by ECT.

Meldon Viaduct on the section of line closed by Dr Beeching

ECT announces on is website that ECT is a Social Enterprise committed to providing better services for the community. Whatever the sector, from doorstep recycling to public transport, ECT believes in providing sustainable services that always lead the way. However, on 1 April ECT released the following statement. This was reported by the BCC on 18 April from where we picked up the story.


“In recent years, leading social enterprise ECT has created a community rail business based on our ventures; Dartmoor Railway, Weardale Railway and industrial specialists; RMS Locotec. Particularly significant in this process has been the support of communities and local councils in Devon and the North East.

Dartmoor and Weardale railways have a great future as part of the tourism and leisure industry of their areas with the potential to provide wider community rail services in the future. RMS is a small but significant part of the industrial railway sector in the UK. Furthermore we believe that the government’s community rail strategy will provide increased opportunities for small scale community focused rail operations.

However it has proved increasingly difficult for ECT to provide the necessary management focus and investment. Accordingly, following a thorough review of our rail business, ECT has decided to focus on its core activities of providing high quality, environmental and community transport services. ECT is therefore seeking new ownership and investment for its rail business. We believe that they have a great future and we already have a number of parties interested in taking on the challenge and opportunity”

Weardale Railway future uncertain again!

Weardale Railway - Mother's Day Special

Weardale Railway Mother’s Day Special, 2.3.2008

The ECT decision will also effect the Weardale Railway where it was the majority shareholder. The following announcement was posted on the Weardale Railway website on 5 March 2008.


Last week ECT announced that due to the poor performance of some of its Group rail businesses it was taking action to improve the situation. ECT is the major shareholder in Weardale Railways.
Under the rescue plan launched in 2005 after Weardale Railways Limited entered administration, the Company membership was reconstituted with ECT taking the majority membership holding. ECT is a Community Interest Company with activities in both recycling and rail transport. Other members were the Weardale Railway Trust, Durham County Council and Wear Valley District Council.

The new Company was formally constituted as Weardale Railways CIC in 2007 and services recommenced in that year and have operated every week since then.
As part of its action plan ECT has appointed a new General Manager of the rail businesses. It is likely that the core rail businesses, which are in activities such as operating charter trains and contract railway engineering work on the main network, will be treated separately from the Heritage railway interests (the Dartmoor and Weardale Railways) and the outcome will be dependent on discussions with ECT and the other members, including the Trust, which will take place in the near future.

The following statement was issued by Ian Gardner, Chairman of the Trust:

“We are very disappointed at this turn of events not only for the Trust and its members, but also for our colleagues within the ECT Group with whom we have worked over these past months. It is important that we recognise that without the participation of ECT in the rescue plan then the Railway would not have been able to exit administration and with the lack of any other buyers would have gone into liquidation and its assets sold off, the purchase of the line from Network Rail cancelled and the line abandoned and probably scrapped.”

“ECT has put in considerable resources of manpower and equipment and has made a substantial financial contribution to maintain and develop the railway in the last two years. This enabled the Trust to organise and operate a sell out season of Christmas Santa trains. We plan to continue to expand and improve our services. These plans include the reintroduction of midweek services in the main holiday periods, the use of steam locos in the summer season and the opening of a station building at Wolsingham and expansion of our catering and retail facilities. We also plan to operate a full programme of special events, the next of which will be over the Easter Holiday weekend”.

“So the Weardale Railway remains open for business. It faces further challenges in the months ahead but with the continued support of our volunteers and the growth in the numbers of our passengers and visitors we believe we can survive these challenges.”

Friends of Dartmoor Railway
The Weardale Railway Project
ECT Group

Some blogs worth visiting

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Behind the Water Tower has a policy of linking to English language pages. There is plenty of material about the Polish railway heritage scene in English. Helping you find such material is part of our mission. So why is Zlapac Motyla (Butterfly Catcher), a very well written and photographed Polish language blog, my first choice?

Of course, I am flattered that this blog includes a map showing how to get to my office (see photo) but that is not the only reason for including it. Oh, no! If you click on the picture you will reach Butterfly’s post of 22 August 2006. This includes photos and text (WARNING text is in Polish) describing a holiday which included visits to: the Wielicza Salt Mine, illegal coal mines in Walbrzych, the German WW II tunnels and bunkers in Miedzyrzecz, the steam shed in Wolsztyn, the inclined plane on the Elblag-Ostroda Canal, the port of Gdansk and the Gdansk shipyard. That’s seven places of railway and industrial heritage interest described in one post. Surely this is a record? BTWT needs correspondents of such calibre. Actually, this is also a more general appeal for assistance. If you enjoy reading our reports and would like to join the BTWT team of correspondents and researchers, do please drop me a line.

Mateusz Malicki, who runs the out ov focus photography blog, has posted some more pics of last year’s Chabowka Gala. (Just click on the photo.) Thanks for letting us see these Mateusz. I would love to see the derelict industrial landscape of Lodz and Katowice through your lens.

Punk Planning is authored By Charles Frith who posts on a wide range of topics from Beijing in China. Somehow he managed to get his blog on the list of WWW sites that are banned by the Chinese government. Reading his blog it’s really difficult to understand why this should be. He linked to our article about bicycles and Gronningen from one of his posts about an electric bike. Click on the photo to link. Does this now mean that the always subversive BTWT will now be banned in China?

Krosniewice at Fedecrail Conference

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Krosniewice-Ozorkow special 1.3.2008 1 month before closure
(click on picture for video)

News has just reached us that the annual Fedcrail Conference has passed a unanimous resolution calling for the reopening of the Krosniewice Railway. Fedecrail, the European Federation of Museum & Tourist Railways, represents the heritage railway movement at European and intergovernmental level. The resolution notes the importance of the Krosniewice Railway as part of Europe’s heritage, a transport facility and a tourist attraction, and in terms of its potential contribution to tourist and economic development. It express suprise and regret at the closure, and calls on the Mayor of Krosiewice and other public authorities to do everything possible to safeguard the line and work towards its reopening.

The resolution is the initiative of Stephen Wiggs, the Chairman of the New Europe Railway Heritage Trust, and a regular reader of Behind the Water Tower, Stephen Wiggs commissioned Andrew Goltz, a member of the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership (BPRIHP), to write a brief report on the current situation of the railway. He then submitted the report together with a draft resolution to the Fedecrail Council.

A copy of the BPRIHP report (pdf download) is available here.

Vivarais closure shock

Friday, 18 April 2008

Happier times – Chemin de fer du Vivarais in the 1960s

The Chemin de fer du Vivarais, arguably France’s premier narrow gauge railway, has announced that it is suspending operations. It seems that the line and its steam locomotives have failed to pass strict railway safety criteria. An attempt to keep services going during 2008 by importing a diesel locomotive from Poland came to nothing, because of the costs involved. The line is in deep financial difficulties. A translation of the official press release posted on the Vivarais website appears below.

PRESS RELEASE – April 10, 2008

The fate of the Vivarais Railway – a discussion with all partners.

The Vivarais Railway, a key element of the identity and heritage of the Ardeche region, is currently in real difficulties. Bearing in mind the importance of the railway in the economy of the region and the possible impact of any decision on the railway’s employees, the General Council – the majority shareholder of this private-public partnership company – invited all concerned stakeholders (local and other shareholders) to discuss the fate of the Vivarais Railway during a round table this April 10 at Privas.

Created in 2003, the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais management board faces a difficult situation:

– a recurring annual deficit because of the investment necessary to maintain the track and infrastructure,

– a considerable quantity of equipment under repair or awaiting movement,

– a new station must be built in the medium term in order to free up the aligment owned Reseau Ferre de France, between Tournon Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, that the SEM must return by 2011.

The General Council, a majority shareholder, has invested more than 2 million euros in the structure.

Despite all these efforts, the Vivarais is experiencing a real crisis.

Taking into account the elements of context and the history of the Vivarais, the chairman of the General Council, Pascal Terrace, wanted to analyse the situation along with the other players involved in the Mastrou (mayors of municipalities in Tournon, Saint-Jean – Muzols, Lamastre and Boucieu-le-Roi and other shareholders). Those present at the meeting reached a number of conclusions. These included:

– That safety is not negotiable and that the state of infrastructure and rolling stock is such that we cannot authorise operations,

– That it is technically impossible to resume the season with steam locomotives (which are the attraction of Vivarais). Operating without steam would be inconsistent with the information provided to customers, undermining the attractiveness, identity and the credibility of the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais,

– The 2008 season is heavily compromised.

It was these observations that lead the the partners who me ton April 10 to conclude that it would be impossibile to run the railway safety and, at the same time, meet customer expectations in full.

They agreed that there should be a pause in the railway’s operations. They also pledged to engage in a process of reflection, study and construction to define the conditions suitable for a subsequent resumption. This should be part of a project involving the various public and private stakeholders of the area so that the railway’s long-term viability and sustainability would be secure.

Vivarais Railway website.

Krosniewice Campaign gets serious

Friday, 18 April 2008

31.3.2008, end the line for the KR? (photo Tilo Rosner)

Our campaign to save the Krosniewice Railway is getting some serious support, with the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership putting their weight behind the campaign and a major article in today’s New Warsaw Express.

Battle to Save Historic Railway

NWE, April 17, 2008

A small group of Brits and their Polish friends are campaigning to save an historic narrow-gauge railway line about 50 kilometres north of Łódź threatened by local government indifference and new development plans. The group, known as British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership, believes the railway is an asset worth preserving, not ballast to be dumped.

“We want to help Polish officials connect the dots,” says Andrew Goltz, the group’s spokesman. “For many Polish officials a narrow gauge railway is just a pile of junk. They have no idea that just over the border in former East Germany or Slovakia local authorities are investing their own money and EU grants to develop such lines into major tourist attractions.”

In Poland a handful of narrow gauge railways struggle to maintain their existence despite the lack of interest, and sometimes active opposition, of Polish officials. Until the end of March, one such survivor was the Krosniewice Railway – a 100 km fragment of a once 1,000-kilometre network of narrow-gauge lines. The Polish State Railways (PKP) had closed their remaining narrow gauge lines in 2001, and they were then handed over to local authorities to decide whether to run them as transport facilities, tourist attractions, or just get rid of them.

Local government elections brought in a new mayor of Krośniewice, Barbara Herman. She did not want a narrow gauge railway with extensive workshops in the centre of her town, being more interested in a new shopping centre and housing estate. SKPL, the line’s operator, pointed out that the workshops had been listed as heritage buildings by the province’s monuments conservator. Faced with this obstacle to her plans, Herman gave notice to SKPL that their operating agreement was terminated.

SKPL ran their last service train on March 31. The end of the line? Not if the BPIRHP have their way.

(Complete NWE article here.)

See also our other posts which will give you the gen on how YOU can join our campaign to save the Krosniewice Railway:

Krosniewice Railway at Fedcrail Conference

Krosniewice the end?

A letter from you, and…

Last train photos

We hit a ton!

Our road map

Bieszczady Railway gets ready for season

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Track on the Wola Michowa – Lupkow section of the BR emerges from the undergrowth after more than 10 years.

The Bieszczady Forest Railaway is Poland’s premier narrow gauge railway. It was the first Polish railway to be preserved and achieves some 100,000 passenger journeys each year. The line has an excellent website with many photographs. The WWW pages sport a competent English translation. The line is one of the few Polish heritage railways that has achieved security of tenure. In 1997, the Fundacja Bieszczadzkiej Kolejki Lesnej (Bieszczady Forestry Railway Foundation) managed to acquire the railway, the associated land and buildings and some – but not all the former rolling stock – from the Polish Forestry Commission.

In some ways the line resembles the Talyllyn Railway in North Wales. Both lines run through an amazingly beautiful landscape, mountainous yet lush and verdant. After over a hundred years of doing without, the TR has only relatively recently fitted its trains with continuous brakes, the BR has yet to do so.

Talyllyn Railway

Bieszczady Railway

Spot the difference – the TR in North Wales and BR in Bieszczady

However, there are differences. The Talyllyn Railway relies heavily on its volunteers, the BR on its – seasonally employed – paid staff. The future of the TR – the first preserved railway in the world – is secure. The BR, like all Polish narrow gauge lines, operates on a financial tightrope. It only needs the Polish government to create one more thoughtless railway regulation – Polish heritage railways are the most regulated in Europe – and the delicate financial balance of the railway would be plunged into crisis.

Revenue from BR’s popular tourists trains covers operating expenses and generate a small surplus which the Foundation invests in repairing the track and rolling stock. In addition the BR, with financial help from the Carpathian Foundation, had started the task of restoring the disused 7km of track from Wola Michowa – to the standard gauge station at Lupkow. But spiralling prices meant that there was not enough money in the kitty to complete the job and the extension has been suspended. The rebuild of the Foundation’s Kp4 0-8-0 steam locomotive, a class which once ran on the line, has also been put on hold for lack of cash.

Most of Poland’s narrow gauge railways haul their tourist trains with diesel locos and the BR, which employs Lyd2’s for the purpose, is no exception to the general rule. It’s a pity that a Kp4 in working order was taken by the Warsaw Railway Museum from the BR to work the Sochaczew Museum Railway. It’s an even greater pity that Mr Sankowski, the director of the museum, does not see the mutual benefit which would accrue if the locomotive was allowed to return to the BR. The BR’s diminutive LAS 0-6-0T is not powerful enough to haul regular passenger trains on the line’s steep gradients, although it is sometimes employed on short special trains.

This year’s season on the Bieszczady Railway starts on May 1st. You’ll find the current timetable here. There’s plenty to see, both on the line and in the glorious countryside. The BR is certainly a line that I recommend checking out.

Reflecting on Customer Service

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Eurostar trains at Waterloo International

Can’t say I’d rather take train from UK to Poland rather than plane – no matter how fast the train was (unless you’re talking maglev and 400mph/600kmph). Door-to-door, London to Warsaw is six hours. Even if a train could do it in twelve, I’d pass. Unless it was thruppence ha’penny return.

So commented W-wa Jeziorki blog editor, Mike Dembinski, on reading my recent Eurostar sees a 21% increase in passengers post. It made me reflect on how different people perceive the quality of goods or services.

For jet-setting Mike, hopping between one business meeting and another, time taken from A to B is the deciding factor. But for my friend Jozek – and hundreds of thousands of Poles like him – a decent through train service with a proper luggage van would be just the ticket. Jozek is having to spend tonight (it’s now Wednesday night) in a hotel on the German-Dutch border because his van has bust a half-axle. He drove out from the UK on Friday night with van and trailer to pick up the belongings of a couple that have sold up in Poland and are moving permanently to the UK.

Mike’s comment reminded me of the time I travelled from London to Warsaw by train. It was November 1994 and Eurostar had just launched its public service between London Waterloo International and Brussels or Paris. I had business meetings in Brussels and Munich and then a short project to complete in Warsaw. Travelling by train – rather than flying and booking hotels – was actually a good solution to my travel and accommodation needs.

I left Waterloo on the morning service. A friend that I hadn’t seen for ages was also travelling, in his case just for fun, and we took photographs of each other posing self-consciously against the Eurostar train. We bumped rather than glided across the BR tracks until we reached the Channel Tunnel terminal. Here the train appreciably speeded up, though not as much as it might have done had the UK government not agreed to reduce the specification of the tunnel railway track as a cost cutting measure. Emerging into daylight at the French portal, the sudden burst of acceleration was phenomenal and soon we were flying along at 160 mph. All too soon, we arrived at our stop at Lille and from here the Eurostar bumped its way slowly over orthodox railway tracks till we reached our destination at Brussels. Passport control at the Belgian end was a handful of officials sitting behind folding card tables who just waved us through.

My Brussels meeting over, and replete with supper from one of the excellent Brussels restaurants, I boarded the night sleeper from Brussels to Munich. This was not a good experience. The German sleeping car attendant directed me to the wrong carriage, and then when I finally found my sleeping compartment and dragged my heavy luggage into it, I discovered that there was no water to freshen up. The attendant seemed to find my difficulties amusing. Here was one fellow who had not forgiven the Poles and Brits, for thrashing the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.

I arrived in Munich, hot, sweaty and cross. I did not endear myself to my German hosts by informing them that the quality of customer service on their night sleeper services was crap, and that before I could start the meeting I needed a bathroom and a good wash. The evening journey from Munich to Hannover was a complete contrast. The ICE train (the German equivalent of the French TGV) was clean and efficient. The Swedish style smoked fish platter was delicious. Why was I then not completely satisfied? What was the missing ingredient?

I waited at Hannover station for the Brussels-Moscow train which was to take me to Warsaw. The Polish WARS sleeper carriages looked dowdy and unkept. My expectations were low. I found my compartment. The attendant poked his head round the door, with a broad grin on his face. “Would you like a hot towel sir? Can I get you a snack or a beer?” Suddenly I knew that the rest of the journey would be OK. I was home!

Chabowka Steam Gala – 6-7 September?

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

photo outovfocus blog (click on pic to link to blog)

Don’t book your Eurostar tickets yet, though you could start gently feeding the wife/girlfriend that maybe she’d like to take a Mediterranean break with her friends in early September. We’ve yet to hear officially, but we have received a strong tip that Parowozjazda, the Chabowka Steam Gala, will take place this year on the first weekend in September.

Still no start date for HSL-Zuid

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

I promised in A Ride on the Dark Track – part 3 to have a rant about the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). The official ERTMS website bravely announces that,

ETCS is the new control-command system, GSM-R is the new radio system for voice and data communication. Together, they form ERTMS, the new signalling and management system for Europe, enabling interoperability throughout the European Rail Network.

“Wonderful!”, you may think. “Europe is building a new generation of high speed railways and trains and they will all be equipped with the same control and safety system. A real example of the advantages of European cooperation and integration.” Err… wrong! Today’s Railway Gazette International announced that,

Dutch Transport Minister Camiel Eurlings… had confirmed on January 18 that although testing of the upgraded European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 train control system had ‘generally passed without incident, a few problems remain – notably the crossing of the border with Belgium.’ Although he referred to SRS 2.3.0 minus, ProRail confirmed that this is not the same as the Version 2.3.0 specification that was finally signed off by the European Railway Agency in February. HSL-Zuid is essentially equipped with Version 2.2.2, but with ‘a package of additional functionality’, which is ‘slightly more’ than the changes incorporated in the ETCS Level 2 system that is now handling around 100 trains a week on the Betuwe Route.

So cutting out the gobbledygook, ECTS fails the interoperability test and its specification is changing every few months. Information Technology buffs will recall that we were here before. In the 1970s and 1980s the European Commission spent billions on developing and marketing the OSI seven layer model which was supposed to facilitate interoperability between different manufacturers’ computer systems. While the experts jetted all around the world attending meetings and conferences, the real world just got on with the job and developed system interconnections around de facto industry standards such as TCP/IP and Ethernet.

OSI was a layered, abstract description for communications and computer network protocol design, that is a description of what functions computer systems and networks should do when working together, not how they should do them. Most of the work was an expensive irrelevance and in some cases observing the OSI standards, rather than defacto industry standards, made interoperability between different systems more difficult. And ECTS? It’s a specification of what train signalling and management systems should do, not a working system that can be installed straight out of a box. In Britain the attempt to utilise ECTS to introduce 140 mph running and moving block signalling during the West Coast Main Line upgrade turned out an expensive fiasco. In Holland, problems with ECTS have been delaying the opening of HSL-Zuid. The Railway Gazette reports,

Challenged to explain the problems besetting HSL-Zuid, Jeroen van Eijk from the ministry’s project office admitted that the fundamental problem was that ETCS Level 2 had not been developed as far as the government had believed when the decision was taken in 1999 not to install back-up signalling. However, he felt that this had forced all parties to focus on development in order to make progress, rather than simply resorting to the back-up.

So when will HSL-Zuid open for fare paying passengers?

Although no-one will publicly commit to a date, and operator NS Hispeed cannot start its marketing campaign, the latest target is to start with an hourly service between Amsterdam and Rotterdam around the beginning of August.

Click here for the complete Railway Gazette article.

Eurostar sees 21% increase in passengers

Monday, 14 April 2008

Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP

The day when we can take a cheap and fast train from England to Poland took another small step in the right direction today as Eurostar announced that its passenger carryings had increased by 21% since the move of its London terminal from Waterloo to St Pancras. The Guardian reported that,

Eurostar said 2.17 million customers travelled between London, Paris and Brussels in the first three months of the year, an increase of more than 21.3% on the same period in 2007.

Nick Mercer, Eurostar’s commercial director, said the service was benefiting from shorter journey times thanks to the high-speed link and more customers from around Britain due to the location of St Pancras, which is better connected to the UK rail network than the train operator’s former base in Waterloo.

“The passenger increase is coming from shorter journey times, better punctuality and improved connectivity, particularly from the UK regions. We have seen a near doubling of passengers from places such as York and the east Midlands,” he said.

Eurostar is embarking on a joint marketing campaign with Virgin Trains, East Midlands Trains and National Express East Coast this summer and will tour stations in cities including Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham to advertise deals such as £77 for a return trip from Sheffield to Paris, via St Pancras.

Mercer said around half the growth in passenger numbers came from new customers based north of London, with the rest taken from rival ferry operators and airlines.

(Complete article here)

What a pity that plans to run through Eurostar services from Scotland and the Midlands were stifled at birth and while the rest of Europe is rapidly rolling out a network of plus 300 km/hr high speed lines, the UK’s Ministry of Transport is still twiddling its thumbs about building any such lines in the UK and planning to increase capacity at Heathrow Airport for more flights between London and the North.

A note for non-railway buffs. Sir Edward Watkin built a high speed railway from London to Manchester in 1899. The Great Central main line, also known as the London Extension of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway was opened in 1899, it was the last main line railway built in Britain until the first part of High Speed 1 opened in 2003. From the start it was intended to be part of a high speed line to France through the original Channel Tunnel. The line was closed in stages between 1966 and 1969 although much of the formation still remains intact, although with typical British short-sightedness, key sections of the line through towns such as Rugby and Nottingham have been sold to property developers.

More engines for Pyskowice

Monday, 14 April 2008

Ty2-1292, Ty42-24, TKp 15347 at Lazy awaiting departure 5.4.2008

The Jakubina brothers have successfully moved three more locomotives to their steam centre at Pyskowice. The locos. a Ty2, Ty42 and TKp had been stored in the open at Lazy for over 30 years. By creating ‘facts on the ground’ the brothers are hoping to strengthen their negotiating position vis-a-vis PKP Property regarding the future of the steam centre at Pyskowice. In December last year, Pawel Olczyk, the director of the PKP Property Company had his local director in Katowice petition the Katowice Province’s Curator of Heritage for permission to demolish the roundhouse at Pyskowice. The roundhouse was damaged in the winter of 2006/2007 when part of the roof collapsed under the weight of accumulated snow.

The Pyskowice Steam Centre is an interesting and worthwhile ‘living museum’ and its lack of long-term security is typical of much of Poland’s preserved railways and museums. One of the key problems is that the Jakubina brothers have been unable to secure the support of the Pyskowice Town Council. (Compare the similar situation at Krosniewice.) There are a number of overseas locomotive owners who keep their locomotives on the site. The key to resolving the problem would seem to be for the brothers to recruit their overseas ‘tenants’ (one of them Rik de Gruyter is the treasurer of Fedecrail) to join the committee that administers the site and to utilise their expertise in the negotiations that still remain to be concluded.

(Warning. Clicking on the picture above leads to more pictures of the Lazy engines and some commentary in Polish. Clicking on the picture below leads to some short You Tube videos of the move.)

You Tube Videos