Archive for April 2nd, 2008

We hit a ton!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

100.jpg

One hundred hits – 16.15 today!

At 16:15 local time BTWT registered 100 hits for the first time. Of course, some of these hits will be web spiders, bots and other creepy crawlies, but even so reaching a ton is a nice achievement, bearing in mind that just over a month ago we moved the blog from Tooum.net where BTWT was originally hosted. Our previous best ever was 83 hits where we peaked on 8 March this year when we ran the story Skierniewice Success. I guess quite a few members of the Polish Association of Railway Enthusiasts popped in that day to see what we had written about them! On 11 March we had a mini publishing boom carrying three articles, Tribute to Howard Jones, Last Krzeszowice Engines Saved and The Papal train. Our efforts gained us 58 views.

On 18 March when our feature Oxenholme then and now brought us 55 views. Many of our visitors were Arthur Ransome fans for whom Oxenholme is the model for Strickland Junction in the Swallows and Amazons novel Pigeon Post.

So when we hit 100 visitors earlier today we were very pleased. It showed that our campaign to save the Krosniewice line was bringing in interest from outside our usual readership. But then the viewing statistics kept on rising! By 18.50 we had hit 150 visitors with no sign of a slowdown!

At this point we did a little investigation and discovered that someone had posted a link to our letter writing campaign on the Swiat Kolejek Waskotorowych (The World of Narrow Gauge Railways) discussion group. (WARNING – Polish only site) We read through the thread and were disappointed to see a succession of mostly negative posts from MISERABLE MOANERS! (Yes, that’s you if you haven’t yet written to the Mayor of Krosniewice yet!) So we contacted Andrew Goltz, Anglo-Pole and Swanage Railway founder and asked him to give SKW a good kick up the backside. His efforts brought in even more visitors. By 21.30hrs we had passed the 200 mark.

But the graph was still rising! A further check indicated that we were now getting traffic from a German railway discussion forum. Following the links back we found some beautiful photographs taken on the last day by the German visitors that we had written about on Monday. Just click on the picture below to see the rest of these sad and evocative pictures.

krosniewice.jpg

For some hauntingly beautiful pictures of the last
rites on the Krosniewice Railway click on the picture

Meanwhile the graph kept rising. By the time it reached 253 views it was time for bed. Now if everybody who visited BTWT just gave up 15 minutes and wrote a letter to Mrs Herman, the Mayor of Krosniewice – and then spend a quick 5 minutes forwarding details of this blog to their friends – Dyspozytor and Co. would be very happy bunnies indeed!

253.jpg

253 hits 01.59 (23.59 GMT) Time for bed, vertical
scale has been adjusted to match the top graph.

Krosniewice, last train photos

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

dsc03045.jpg

dsc02971.jpg

Just received, I thought you should see them ASAP ‘as is’. I’ll might add captions and a proper commentary later today. Pictures by Tilo Rosner, who travelled all the way from Dresden to catch the last train.

Come to Chabowka! Yes, but when?

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Steam shuttle Rabka Zdroj – Chabowka Skansen, 2006

The Chabowka Steam Gala is the headline event of the Polish heritage rail calendar. Held traditionally on the last weekend in July, it involves not only all the steamable locomotives in Chabowka, but also visiting locomotives from Wolsztyn and abroad. The parade is actually held at at Rabka Zdroj, a little way up the Nowy Sacz line, and involves not just steam locomotives, but vintage passenger and freight trains as well. My mate Neo, at the kolejelist discussion group, has organised two study trips for UK railway societies to visit Poland’s surviving narrow gauge railways and rail heritage sites, and I hear that his British visitors consider the Chabowka Steam Gala to be the highlight of their trip.

So should you tell the wife that she’s taking the kids to Ibiza by herself, and that your company has sent you on a week long team building course at the end of July – and join Neo and his colleagues as they celebrate British-Polish friendship in various engine sheds all around Poland? Well, err… No. We don’t actually know when the Chabowka Gala will take place this year! It should be taking place on Saturday July 26. However, Wojciech Balczun, Chairman of the PKP Management Board, is entertaining some VIPs in September and has asked Zbigniew Gondek, his local Operations and Technical Support Director in Cracow, to consider moving the event to September. Our charming ‘cleaning lady’ friend, who empties the paper bins at PKP Cargo Warsaw HQ in Grojecka Street, has everything in hand and we will let you know just as soon as a definitive date emerges.

Meanwhile, somebody please tell Neo!

On yer bike!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

groningen-station.png

Groningen Railway Station just look at all that
space allocated to pedestrians and cyclists!

I’m grateful to Christian Wolmar, Britain’s rail pundit, for giving me the idea for tonight’s post. What with saving the planet on Saturday and trying to save the Krosniewice Railway on Monday, recent posts were going to be a hard act to follow, and I was really stumped. Then I read Christian’s blog about his trip to Holland.

I am in Holland for a ten day speaking tour to local groups of the Anglo-Dutch friendship society and I plan to post regular items on the blog on my thoughts. Whenever I go to Europe and spend a bit of time there, it amazes me just how different each society is from Britain, and indeed from each other. I hope that the growing dominance of the European Union does not change that.

I went for a run this morning in the suburbs of a small town called Hengelo… Just on this short run, it became so apparent the way that life is organised around the bicycle.

I ran along a Fitspad, a bike path, for a couple of miles, and when I ran outwards, there were just a few students and the odd youngster on their bikes, but on the way back, the cycle path was full of kids, parents with kids on bikes, parents with kids on the back, and groups of teenagers. It was cycle rush hour just before school was starting and it was so nice seeing all these children cycling to school… (more… )

11 days later Christian was in Groningen where 57% of the journeys in the city are made by bicycle.

Staying in a small town 10 km from Groningen, I borrowed my host’s bike and rode in to town to see how it managed to become the place with the greatest modal share of cycling in Holland. I had been there five years ago and discovered that it was not just happenstance, but a deliberate result of keeping cars out of the city.

Riding in, it was noticeable how car traffic thinned out as I got closer to the rather badly reconstructed main square, which had been badly damaged by heavy fighting in the war as the Canadians chased out the Germans in 1945. The inner ring road has virtually no cars and, of course, lots of space for cyclists. Inside that ring, there are virtually no cars. Indeed, the crucial decision to encourage cycling rather than cars had been made in the 1970s when that ring had become chock full of traffic.

The reason for the town’s success in achieving a modal share of over 50 per cent for cycling is nothing very complicated. The crucial point is not only being pro-bike but to some extent being anti car. That is the stumbling block for policymakers in this country. You need both the carrot and the stick. (more… )

Christian’s posts got me thinking, maybe we could reduce our CO2 emissions in a way that would actually make our towns more pleasant to live in and would be beneficial for our health? I started Googling ‘Groningen cycle paths’ and discovered another interesting post on the On the Level blog.

Groningen was amazing. I travelled of my own volition– something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, to experience the city with the highest percentage of cycling in Europe. 57% of all trips are made by bicycle in this student town in the North of the Netherlands. It surely did not disappoint. As soon as I arrived, I was a little overwhelmed at the numbers of people on bikes. It was like Critical Mass everyday. The way it should be. Paradise on wheels.

station-bike-park.png

Railway station, cycle park!

The City of Groningen’s 21st century solution to the problem of cycle overcrowding at their railway station – the brand new underground bike park. The station now has room for more than 4000 bicycles, all of them monitored 24 hours a day and many of them valet parked. There is bike repair, rental, and sales, and the facility is linked to other bike stations through a membership scheme. Cycling in Groningen, and indeed much of the Netherlands, is just the norm. By prioritizing cycle traffic over cars, the Dutch engineers have managed to balance the roadway’s playing field and allow a blossoming of bicycle transport as a practical network useable by just about everyone. (more… )

So what has Poland learnt from European mistakes and European best practise? Very little I’m afraid. The country as a whole is still hellbent on ‘catching up’ Western Europe, even if that means copying faithfully all of Western Europe’s stupid mistakes. Warsaw is a mess with motor car traffic snarled up for 12 hours. There are few decent cycle paths and – instead of converting the City’s tram system to a semi-metro, which could be done relatively cheaply and quickly – the city authorities are very slowly building a Russian style classic metro at the rate of one new station every couple of years. (A semi metro goes underground only where it has to, and runs as a fast tram elsewhere.)

Vistula Cycle Path.png

Wawel Castle and Vistula cycle path, Craców

Cracow, which has always been the intellectual capital of Poland is different. Here new cycle paths are an integral part of new road developments and several fast tram routes are being built across the City. But the Warsaw City authorities are too proud to learn from another Polish city. Perhaps someone should arrange a trip for them to go to Holland instead?