Archive for May, 2008

Demolish or clean up?

Friday, 30 May 2008

Warsawa Centralna (c) INOUE Hirokazu
(more photos here)

I’ve never been a great fan of Warsaw’s main railway station, Warszawa Centralna. It an East European edition of the rabbit hole railway station architectural style, which in Britain produced stations such as the new Birmingham New Street and London’s Euston. After 26 years of planning, the building was put up in a rush between 1972 and 1975. Warsaw’s trams and buses patiently snaked around the enormous building site for three years. A final spurt of activity, and the building was opened with a ceremonial triumph in 1975, just in time for Brehzniev’s visit to Warsaw. For the next 15 years PKP tried the best it could to patch up the worst of the building’s faults.

The large booking hall and marbled underground passages were certainly impressive when the station was built. Although nowadays, the rash of kiosks that have sprung up since 1989, rather ruin the effect. Access to the platforms for able bodied passengers has never been easy, access for disabled customers is appalling. When it rains, water finds its way down to the lowest level. The lighting is harsh and unfriendly, yet the overall impression is dark and dingy. However, fundamentally Warsaw’s public transport masterplan is hugely flawed. The city has four key rail services which run into its centre: the WKD which serves an area to the North West of the City, the PKP suburban and stopping rail services, the PKP main line services and the metro. But instead all services coming together in one central station, their stations are strung out like beads on necklace two and a half kilometres long.

PKP would like to refurbish the station sometime in 2009, the Warsaw City Councillors – like most most local government in Poland no fans of rail – are thinking of moving the main line terminus out of central Warsaw all together. But the station does have its fans, one blogger writes (in Polish). We have a modern underground station in Warsaw – don’t laugh – if only we gave it a good scrub and drove out the drunks, the building again could be the pride of Warsaw.

I was interested to learn that PKP Intercity are opening up the former Government VIP lounge at Warszawa Centralna to certain categories of its first class passengers. Somehow, in the building’s present state, and with the Marriot Hotel just across the road, I can’t see the station becoming a preferred venue for business meetings just yet. As for me, I prefer Stasz Pruszinski’s Radio Cafe, a short walk away in ul. Nowogrodzka, for my serious meetings – great ambiance, good food and amazing customer service. The restaurant is quite small and, although I have never had a problem in finding a seat, please don’t tell anyone else. The place is popular enough as it is!

More problems at jinxed bridge location

Friday, 30 May 2008

The dropped bridge (source Daily Mail)

On Wednesday night a hydraulic jack failed under one corner of a new bridge being installed over a busy UK main line – the London, Liverpool Street line to East Anglia – as part of the East London line extension. One corner of the bridge fell 8 inches and some of its concrete decking broke and fell on the railway tracks below. A National Express East Anglia commuter train, the 7.15pm from Liverpool Street to Southend, hit the broken reinforced concrete debris lying on the tracks ahead of his train. The electric traction current was switched off, another train was stopped midway between stations, and thousands of commuters were led out along the tracks to safety. Services were badly disrupted on Wednesday evening and there were no services into Liverpool Street station this (Thursday) morning. Liverpool Street passengers had already faced massive delays earlier this year, when the demolition of an old bridge in the same area during the New Year period, overran by a week.


South Africa starts to scrap its historic collection of steam locomotives and rolling stock

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Out of steam

The following plea for help has just been received from South Africa. If ever there was a case for establishing a World Heritage Railway Association, the present danger to South Africa’s railway heritage is surely it.

Transnet has — to the dismay of the Heritage Railway Association of South Africa — decided to scrap prized heritage steam locomotives next month. In a letter dated May 15, Transnet gave the heritage association until today to select the locomotives and coaches it wished to keep, either for preservation and restoration or for spare parts. Rail historians said two weeks was not enough time to locate all the historical trains around the country.

Shaun Ackerman of Reefsteamers Association, which champions rail tourism and steam locomotive preservation, said Transnet told them the trains were beyond repair and an “eyesore”, and should be scrapped. “The ultimatum they have given us is not reasonable in terms of time and resources,” said Ackerman. Some trains marked for restoration had ended up at the Millsite train depot in Krugersdorp and were being hacked to pieces.

More information:

A Pole journeys to the Bluebell

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Part 1 – Getting there

Awaiting the “right away”, Kingscote Station, Bluebell Railway

Like many other Poles, I came to England to top up my savings. However, unlike the majority of my compatriots, I am also interested in railways and, after three months living and working in Hertford, I decided it was time to return to my hobby. Where to go? I had heard about the Welsh narrow gauge railways and the ‘Steam’ railway museum in Swindon, but the Bluebell Railway came highly recommended and could easily be accommodated in a day’s outing. So the Bluebell it would have to be.

My journey started at 7 am on 4 May, outside Hertford North Railway Station. My morning ‘train’ was a bus provided by First Capital Connect. Apparently up to 8.30 a.m. all the morning trains are substituted by buses as an economy measure. One and a half hours later I’m at Alexander Palace. The train would have done the journey in one third of the time. Here a real train takes me into Kings Cross. Soon I am walking on a platform steeped in the history of the LNER. I think of the exploits of Mallard and the Flying Scotsman.

I walk across the road and find myself under the glass roof of St Pancras Station. The restored station is breathtaking and I’m sure that British people must be very proud to have such a gateway to the outside world. I take an escalator to the Victoria line platform. Every time I travel on the London Underground, I am conscious of the enormous amount of work that must have gone into its construction. I am also impressed by the efficiency of the whole enterprise.

Victoria Station seems enormous. The 19 platforms make quite an impression. I have 20 minutes before the departure of my train to explore the station. I notice the third rail electrification and wonder about the lack of standardisation on Britain’s electric railways. The hour-long journey to East Grinstead is interesting. There are numerous junctions along the route and the hilly landscape beyond London necessitates a couple of tunnels. East Grinstead, once an important railway junction, is now a terminus. Sadly, as in the case of many British railway stations, the time of its zenith has long passed. A few hundred metres separate the end of the railway from the start of the Bluebell Railway’s tracks. Unfortunately, to reach the first station on the Bluebell Railway I will have to go by bus. There doesn’t seem to be any coordination between the train timetable and the bus timetable and I waste an hour walking around East Grinstead.

11.10 a.m. approaches, and so does my bus. There are not many passengers on board, but from their conversations I deduce that most of them, like me, are on it in order to visit the Bluebell. We climb and descend some sharp gradients, dive under a railway viaduct and turn into Kingscote Station. The small station has a red-brick building, green cast iron lamp standards, and is very attractive. Inside, it is as if time has stood still. The fire in the fireplace looks ready to light, the walls are covered in old posters, every inch of wall is correct in period detail. Outside, the impression of having travelled back in time, is reinforced. Two old goods wagons stand in a siding, there is a traditional signal box and all the staff are dressed in the correct period uniforms. On the Bluebell Railway – the Beatles are yet to sing, man has not yet landed on the Moon, and most importantly of all, no trains are hauled by diesels – it is still the 1950s.

(to be continued)

Planes vs. trains

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The check in, the first hint of doubt

Do you enjoy flying? I find the whole business of flying between the UK and Poland incredibly wearying. Already at check in, a hint of existential doubt creeps in. Is my floppy bag containing all my belongings going to be passed as ‘hand luggage’? “Do you have any sharp objects in your hand luggage?” Gulp! Does my safety razor count? “Could anyone have packed anything in your luggage?” Well, I did leave my baggage unattended to go to the loo, and I’ve always had my suspicions about my flatmate since he admitted reading Postman Patel’s blog. Having survived check in, the next step is security control. I present my transparent bag containing my Sensodyne toothpaste. Are people who have neglected their teeth seen as a greater security risk? Off come my shoes, belt, jacket… “No, Sir it won’t be necessary for Sir to remove his trousers.” But there’s a metal rivet in my jeans, won’t it set off the alarm? At last, like the seasoned traveller that I am, I pass through without being challenged. I collect my mobile, wallet, dirty paper handkerchiefs from the plastic tray thoughtfully provided and march through to the “duty free”. Well, its duty free no longer, but the airport supposedly pays the tax. All the food here is incredibly expensive. It’s over an hour and a half to the departure of my flight. I buy a small bottle of water for £1-25. That’s 5 zloty! I get myself a book and sit down within eyeshot of a monitor. But I can’t relax. There are large signs informing me that all gates are at least 12 minutes walk away. If that’s 12 minutes for people who regularly jog, how much longer will it take for people who regularly blog? But before, I can enjoy my own joke an announcement comes over the tannoy. “Check in for flight 2269 to Barcelona is now closing!” So if anyone is still in the main departures hall, unless they are an Olympic runner, by the time they get to their gate it will be closed. Better proceed to my gate then. It is a long and surprisingly tiring walk. Have you noticed how most airport walkways smell of rats? This one is no exception.

It seems that 150 fellow travellers have also come to the conclusion that it’s safer to proceed to the gateway than to wait in the main departure hall to be called. I sit near an adjacent gate in an area which is reasonably empty. At least I am only 2 minutes away from my target rather than 15. I drink my water and contemplate going to the loo. What I really need for my flight is a bottle of beer on board the plane, but that’s apparently the favourite weapon of terrorists so, unless I invest 15 euro on the plane, I have to drink my beer now. I buy a bottle of beer for £3-00 and return to my calculations as to when would the be best time to go to the loo. My reverie is broken as a large lady complete with larger daughter and frail mother decides to sit at my table. Our departure time comes and goes, but nothing happens. I make regular little forays to my gate to check that the plane has not flown without me. But there’s no plane and no information. An hour passes, then another half an hour. At last there is an announcement. Passengers who have bought priority boarding and passengers with small children will board first. I’m happy to keep out of the scrum and be one of the last to board. I comment in Polish on the quality of the airline’s customer care to one of the passengers who has a similar boarding philosophy to my own. He answers in perfect Polish, but there is just a touch of accent. Within the next 5 minutes I inform him that he was born in England, brought up in Ealing Broadway, attended Polish school and was awarded a Polish passport because of his father’s military service during WW II. He is duly impressed and we are destined to chat away merrily during the flight.

The steward barks the safety announcement at the passengers. “You will all be quiet!” he orders. He clearly loathes everyone of us. Is he working for Ryanair or someone else? We wait on the tarmac for an inordinately long period of time. What is happening? Have they rerun the film of my hand luggage and found my safety razor? Are the engines being repaired? If anyone knows they’re not telling. At last the engines are revved and we taxi to the main runway. I remind myself that take-off and landing are the most dangerous parts of a flight. I say a silent prayer and agonizingly slowly the plane begins to lift off the ground. I immerse myself in my book, emerging occasionally to answer my companion’s questions.

The two hours pass quite quickly, the seat belt signs are turned on and the plane looses hight rapidly. The landscape become suburban then urban. We zip above the roofs of a block of flats and narrowly miss the chimney of a combined power station and district heating plant. The pilot has missed the airport! Is he going to crash the plane into the new shopping centre? The plane executes a sharp-banked jet-fighter turn. Are we going fast enough? Will we stall? We fly back towards Britain for 5 minutes, make a more leisurely turn, and this time manage to hit the runway. Another long walk, an unsmiling welcome from a lady at Polish border control and I’m back in Poland. I’m tired, dirty and stressed out. Why did I go by plane? Because it was only £20. Would I have gone by train if a ticket was available for the same price? You betcha!

Daylight robbery

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

or how to save £180 on a day trip to York

UK, National Rail Railway Museum, The Great Hall

This week, to coincide with the school half-term holiday, the National Railway Museum in York is holding its 1968 and all that special exhibition to commemorate the passing of everyday steam haulage of service trains from the tracks of British Railways. In the good old days, thanks to a special promotion for off peak trips called cheap day returns, day trips to place like York were quite affordable. But alas no longer. Cheap day returns were abolished on 18 May. The UK government is using pricing to discourage people from going by train. If this was not bad enough, the saver returns that have replaced them are often more expensive than buying two single tickets, which will ensure that a lot of people will pay more for their rail journey than they really have to.

To explain how this daylight robbery works, consider a journey from Reading to York on Monday 2 June. Changing trains at Birmingham, the journey should take less than four hours. Services from Reading to Birmingham and Birmingham to York are operated by Cross Country trains so lets start with their website. A standard open return which is valid on all the mornings trains will set me back £224. Gulp! for that sort of money I could travel right across Europe by rail. However, don’t despair the website reveals something called a business saver. This return ticket only costs £139, but is valid only on the 04:40, 06:10 and all morning trains after 10:40. However, if you restrict your train travel to either of the 10:40, 11:29 trains out and return only by the 18.24 you are eligible to use a different standard open return which sounds more expensive, but is actually £2 cheaper than the business saver. So where does the saver return mentioned earlier come in. Well those who ask are more likely to receive, and if you ask for such a saver ticket you will surely get one of these at £89.20. It will be valid for either the 09:10 or 10:10 out, and on all of the return connections in the afternoon. There’s also a weird variant of the saver return which costs £6.60 less than the ticket just mentioned and applies either to the 22:10 and 23:50 departures on the Sunday, and involves travelling overnight for over 10 hours, or allows you to travel out by the 10:10 (arrives 14:29) and later trains, but only allows you to return on the 19:29 limiting your time in York to a maximum of 5 hours. Presumably this variant was introduced to maintain the statistical fiction that the ‘simplification’ of rail fares has not increased the price.

So should one buy a saver return at £89.20? Not on your Nellie, if we click around a bit more we should be able to reduce that fare by about 50%! After exploring the 7 different varieties of single ticket available you might want to plump for the standard advanced single tied to the for the 06:10 (arr. York 10:29) and another standard advanced single for the journey back home by the 19:35 (arr. Reading 23:18). You get 9 hours in York and pay a total of £46 for the two single tickets! For the sake of completeness it’s only fair to point out that if you only want to explore the NRM and are prepared to leave York on the 18:24 the price of the two singles falls to just £44.

A lot of people will, we fear, either be put of from travelling by rail because their journey seems indecently expensive, or will bite the bullet, travel by rail and pay a lot more than they have to. Sadly it will be those people who don’t shop around using the Internet – amongst whom are those living to a tight budget – who will be hardest hit by the fares ‘simplification’.

More ticket tips:

Pioneers’ Railway

Sunday, 25 May 2008

The Szechenyi Hill Children’s Railway

The 760 mm gauge Szechenyi Hill Children’s Railway in Budapest is 60 years old this year and is organising a number of events to mark the anniversary from 17 May until 3 August 2008. On June 7, former and current operators of the railway will serve duty together. On June 23, the Night of Museums, the railway will stay open until midnight. Between July 31 and August 3, a train made up of vintage rolling stock will be in operation every day.

The Children’s Railway was built between 1948 and 1950 connecting Huvosvolgy (Cool Valley) and Szechenyi Hill. At that time, and indeed until 1990, it bore the name Pioneers’ Railway. The Pioneers was the only children’s organisation permitted in the Communist era.

Although the railway is often called ‘the greatest childeren’s toy of the world, the youngsters don’t get to drive the trains. Apart from that, children operate the switches and signals, print tickets and keep passengers informed. They are supervised by adults and the line is operated according to regulations of the State Railways of Hungary (MAV Rt).

Railways are conservative and the Children’s Railway is no exception. The regulations relating to fares are as still complex and unintelligible as they were in Soviet times. The following extract gives a flavour.

Budapest Card
The holder of the valid Budapest Card and his companion aged between six and fourteen can travel along the entire line of the Children’s Railway using section tickets instead of line tickets. The holder of the card is eligible to an adult section ticket, his companion to a children’s section ticket.

The Children’s Railway is a point of acceptance of Budapest Cards but they cannot be bought there.

Validity of tickets
The journey must be completed on the day of issue. The journey must be started at the station where the ticket was issued. Return tickets are valid to the terminal station on the returning leg of the journey.

Suspending the journey and travelling on
The journey cannot be suspended and continued using the same ticket. Family daily tickets excepted. Other types of tickets lose their validity upon the suspension of the journey. Therefore a new ticket must be bought in case of travelling on.

Still, its ticket regulations notwithstanding, the Children’s Railway has survived the transformation of The Hungarian economy and has become a major tourist attraction in its own right. We recommend paying a visit.

Further information:

… to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive…

Saturday, 24 May 2008


PKP Intercity train from Zakopane to Cracow (Michael Dembinski)

My old friend Mike, who occasionally posts on rail topics on Wwa Jeziorki, takes PKP to task for its Cracow – Zakopane service, ‘147 km in 3 hrs 45 min’. His post leaves me in something of a dilemma.

I could adopt a contrarywise position and defend PKP, pointing out that that: most fast trains take about 3 hrs 30 min to do the 150 km journey; the fastest journey of the day (by a slow osobowy service) takes only 3 hrs 15 min; 10 minutes is a reasonable time for a driver to stop at a station, uncouple all his connections between his engine and the train, run round his train, recouple the engine to the train, check the braking system, establish that it’s safe to do so and then start off again; a thirty minute wait at Plaszow (a combination of 20 minutes recovery time for the train coming in from the Ukraine plus 10 minutes additional waiting that day to hold the connection) is quite reasonable; and that if he was in such a flaming hurry why didn’t he hop out at Plaszow and take the next train to Krakow Glowny?

But to do so, so my conscience tells me, would be skipping over everything that is wrong with PKP. And there is much that needs to be put right. Should I then agree with Michael, adding for good measure that PKP management culture is Neanderthal and that the customer feedback mechanism dates back from when the Polish railways were an extension of the Soviet military control system that held half of Europe in its grip – freight trains had priority and long distance passenger trains travelled at night.

But either approach would be nerdish and miss the whole point of traveling by train. Travelling by train across Poland is an experience to be savoured. Like a good wine or a good woman, Polish trains are not to be hurried. Polish express trains have compartments which once upon a time all proper trains used to have. The PKP Intercity restaurant cars have helpful attendants who make smashing scrambled eggs and always have some illicit bottles of beer or ‘something stronger’ for their special customers. Guards will, if there not to busy, happily talk to you and pour out their hearts on what is wrong with the Polish railway system. So, if you want to relax, forget any question of ‘How long does it take?’ Take a good book, be prepared to talk to learn about Poland from some interesting companions, and enjoy the Polish countryside rolling past your window.

On the other hand if you like being stressed, you could do your long distance travel across Poland by bus or car, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

‘The destination may be the goal, but the journey is the reward’

W-wa Jeziorki

Monday, 19 May 200

Also, it takes much longer to get up north, the slow way*

Zakopane to Krakow. By road or by rail? By road, traffic jams. The road between the two, the Zakopianka, where 100 km can take 10 hours on a Sunday evening, is one alternative. The other is the railway. The romantic in me quite fancies a picturesque railway journey. Surely the train must be the better bet?

As it happens – no. The train winds its way, without undue hurry, taking three hours and 45 minutes to cover 147 km. Average speed less than 25 mph. Three times along the way (at Chabowka, Sucha Beskidska and Krakow Plaszow), the engine uncouples from the front of the train, attaches to the rear of the train, and proceeds out of the station the same way it came in.

The train leaves Zakopane at 12:00 and arrives, on schedule, at Krakow Glowny, at 15:45. At least it was cheap – the ticket cost me 13 zlotys (three quid). Five zlotys less than the bus, which, on the way out on Friday lunchtime cost 18 zlotys (just over four quid) and took two and half hours.

State railway PKP is its own worse enemy. It does not know how to communicate with passengers and potential passengers. Everyone knows the bus is better, even though the Zakopianka is one of Poland’s most notorious roads. The train was running nearly empty – I had an eight-seat carriage to myself all the way. Why isn’t the service scheduled better? 10 minute wait at Chabówka to put the engine at the other end, a similar wait at Sucha Beskidska – then half an hour (!) at Krakow Płaszow to attach the train to another, coming from Przemysl… and Kiev (!!). The journey would have been better had someone told me to jump off the train at Krakow Lagiewniki station, 10km/6miles from Krakow Glowny, and taken a taxi or public transport. The last 10km took 50 minutes (!!!).

Much of PKP will disappear because of the uselessness of its management. Here’s a transport problem (getting tens of thousands of people out of Zakopane, through Krakow and onto the outside world) waiting to be solved. And PKP management is asleep at the wheel.

Original post on W-wa Jeziorki blog.

Another Colonel Stephens Railway secure!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Shepherdswell as opened, today’s track layout (click pic) is virtually identical, though laid with heavier section bullhead rail than the original flat bottomed rail employed by Col. Stephens.

The Col. Stephens railways, such as: the East Kent, Kent and East Sussex, Rother Valley, Festiniog and Welsh Highland, Snailbeach, Rye and Camber, and Ashover (click for complete list) had a Emett-like charm all of their own. Most have succumbed to ‘progress’ although – the Kent and East Sussex and Festiniog were taken over by preservationists, the Welsh Highland is being completely rebuilt from scratch, the Rother Valley is acquiring land and laying track, the Snailbeach revival was until recently making cautious progress and the East Kent survives in part as a diesel-operated heritage railway.

Until its closure in the mid-1980s, the East Kent Railway linked Tilmanstone colliery to the main line at Shepherdswell. A preservation scheme was initiated by the former East Kent Railway Society and in 1993 the Society obtained a Light Railway Order. This authorised the British Railways Board to lease or sell the railway to the Society and to transfer to the Society its statutory powers to maintain and operate the railway. However, following the privatisation of British Railways the Society were told that BRB (Residuary) Limited, successors to the British Railways Board, would not be prepared to sell the freehold to an unincorporated body. The East Kent Railway Trust (EKRT) was set up as the successor to the Society, but then needed to apply for an Order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 to authorise the transfer of the railway to EKRT as such an eventuality was not provided for in the 1993 Light Railway Order.

In spite of a number of objections received from local residents, on 10 October 2007 the Secretary of State announced her decision to grant the order. An important consideration was the submission in favour of the order submitted by David Morgan, Chairman of the Heritage Railway Association.

On the 23 April the EKRT was able to announce the purchase of the freehold of its two-mile trackbed from Shepherdswell to Wigmore Lane as well a 16-acre woodland and meadow plot at Shepherdswell, the site of the line’s original locomotive and carriage workshops. The railway wants to rebuild the workshops on the site while preserving the woodland, which is designated as being of nature conservation interest. The £42,000 needed to buy the land at Shepherdwell was raised within an 8 week deadline.


Thirty three free minutes…

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

… steam hauled to Wolsztyn

On 24 May, Fundacja Era Parowozow (Steam Age Foundation) is offering a late afternoon free train ride from Grodzisk Wielkopolski to Wolsztyn Station. There’s no catch, but a voluntary donation towards the cosmetic restoration of Ty43-123 would be appreciated. Details on the Foundation’s website.


Wednesday, 21 May 2008

‘Snow’, Geoffrey Jones, British Transport Films

Do you remember the winter of 1962/63? The South of England was covered by a foot of snow. Overnight, working narrowboats had become frozen fast in the Grand Union Canal. ‘Western’ and ‘Warship’ diesels had invaded the Western Region of British Railways. The ‘Blue Pullman’ was the pride of the line, but steam still reigned supreme on many passenger services and on freight trains…

‘Snow’ is probably the best corporate film ever made. It was Geoffrey Jones’ first film for British Transport Films. In September 1962, Jones began his research for a film about design for the British Railways Board. Armed with a 16mm camera, he travelled throughout the country, shooting film of anything he found particularly interesting.

Viewing the footage, he hit upon the idea of making a second film contrasting the comfort of the passengers with the efforts of the railwaymen to keep the railway tracks open for traffic. On January 31st 1963, Jones met with BTF head Edgar Anstey. Realising that the film would have to be made quickly or delayed until the following winter, Anstey agreed straightaway and shooting commenced the very next day. Jones and his crew chased winter conditions across the country. Though the footage we see is mostly the Western Region. There is also a tantalising glimpse of a Somerset and Dorset freight train as well as some archive pre-WW II shots of Jubilee class locomotive ‘Barbados’.

The powerful musical accompaniment is ‘Teen Beat’ by American Jazz musician Sandy Nelson re-recorded British musician Johnny Hawksworth with special effects by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. ‘Snow’ received at least 14 major awards upon its release, as well an Oscar nomination in 1965. The film marks the first coming of age of Jones’ style, which was further developed in subsequent films such as ‘Rail’ (1966), ‘Trinidad and Tobago’ (1964) and ‘Locomotion’ (1975).

This is British Railways at its best: a 30,000 mile railway network, loads of goods trains and STEAM! Make yourself a mug of hot chocolate, turn the volume on full blast, click on the picture and retire a safe distance from the screen.

Murder on the Orient Express

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Is madame travelling alone?

At the beginning of May, the Hungarian Railway Museum’s Mav Nosztalgia vintage train visited the Wolsztyn Steam Gala, as part of a five-day tour. The train is based in the former Budapest North Depot which has a 1911 roundhouse with 34 bays, an ideal home for the museum’s operational vintage fleet. This includes a steam engine built in 1870 and a 1934 railcar, which in its prime sped from Budapest to Vienna in just under three hours. The gem of the vintage fleet is an elegant teak dining car built for the Orient Express in 1912. Altogether there are fifty locomotives in its care, twelve operational and the remaining thirty-eight cosmetically restored. In addition the museum has a large range of vintage rolling stock: railcars, self-powered rail cars and hand-carts, inspection cars, steam cranes, snow ploughs and other curiosities.o All together there are over a hundred railway vehicles and equipment of varying ages on a site of over 70,000 m2.

The creation of the Hungarian Railway Museum was a joint venture by the Ministry of Transport and Waterways, MAV (Hungarian Railways) and MAV Nosztalgia Ltd, the heritage division of MAV. The museum opened on 14 July 2000. It is marketed as Europe’s ‘first interactive railway museum’. Not only can visitors admire the old machines, they can also try them out. They can drive a steam engine, travel in a car converted for rails, operate a hand-cart, ride on the turntable and on the horse tram. The engine simulator offers a virtual experience of driving the most powerful Hungarian electric railway engine, using the original equipment, while the rail-cycle challenges one’s sense of balance. There is also a model railway that visitors can admire and even operate. From 1 April to 31 October, a vintage diesel shuttle train runs between Budapest’s Nyugati Station and the museum.

The museum, in association with MAV Nosztalgia, runs a comprehensive events programme. This is part of the 2008 programme:

14 February

„Train for Lovers” – Valentine’s Day Candle-lit Express dinner train

5 April

Sesonal opening trip to the Danube Bend

9-10 April

Trip to Szeged and Arad on the 100 year-old ACSEV railcar

19 April

By vintage train to Kosice

25 April

Candle-lit Express dinner train

1-5 May

„The Wolsztyn Express” Poland by steam

23 May

Venice-Simplon Orient Express visits the Museum

24 May

NOHAB photo trip along Lake Balaton

25 May

Children’s Day at the Museum

30 May

Candle-lit Express dinner train

7 June

By DSA train hauled by a 324 class steam engine

7-8 June

Transport Day at the Museum

14 June

To the Slovakian Railways pageant in Bratislava by vintage train hauled by a streamlined steam engine

21 June

Trip to Komarom

24 June –

23 August

Along Lake Balaton on the Centennial Train (Keszthely Badacsony)

27 June

Candle-lit Express dinner train

27-30 June

Svejk train: Budapest – Przemysl (Poland) Royal Hungarian Express

5 July

To the Danube Bend on the Centennial Train

2 August

By the DSA train hauled by a 424 class steam engine

21-24 August

Impressions of Serbia (Royal Hungarian Express)

29 August

Candle-lit Express dinner train

6 Sept

To the Danube Bend on the Centennial Train

13-14 Sept

Budapest Steam Festival

20 Sept

Trip to Oradea

26 Sept

Candle-lit Express dinner train

23-26 Oct


31 Oct

Candle-lit Express dinner train

19 December

Candle-lit Express dinner train

Art or ad?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Not the London Underground – click for HD video

Nice to see someone trying to persuade people to use public transport. Reminds me of those heady days when British Rail used to advertise. Now the UK Government as part of its sustainable travel policy (?) has decided that its ‘modally agnostic‘ and has made UK rail travel the most expensive in Europe.

Relax – those were the days – click for You Tube video

Further reading:

Mystery solved!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Photoreportage by Robert Dylewski

Bierut’s private carriage in Warszawa Główna

The mystery of the Government train’s visit to Warsaw is solved. Yesterday was the Long Night of the Museums, Noc Muzeow. The Warsaw Suburban Railway, WKD, in association with their enthusiasts society, Klub Milosnikow EKD/WKD, needed somewhere to hold a big party. So as the day drew to a close the Government train was moved from its temporary sojourn at the Railway Museum site at Warszawa Glowna to the WKD terminal station Warszawa Srodmiescie. The Warsaw trams, whose 100th anniversary of electric traction was on 5 April also joined in the celebrations.

EN80 type WKD vintage motor carriage from 1927

Vintage trams in Warsaw

So, just out of curiousity, how did the Warsaw Railway Museum celebrate the Long Night of Museums? Answers, as always to our usual address.

Competition – question 3

Sunday, 18 May 2008

A railway water tower, but where?

Well, well, nobody is taking away the bottle of Zubrowka just yet, it seems that none of our readers know what the Polish government train was doing today in a siding in the centre of Warsaw. (Confused? See previous post.) However, here at BTWT we are generous folk and the bottle of Zubrowka remains on our editor’s desk unopened and can still be won. All you have to do is answer our 4 questions correctly. Today we post question number 3. Where is this water tower? For an extra point (so you could still get that bottle even if you got one of the other questions wrong) which of our previous posts could this illustrate and what should the caption be?

Mystery train

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Mystery Train at the Warsaw Railway Museum
(Robert Dylewski) Click on photo for close up.

The Polish government train came to the Warsaw today. You didn’t know that the Polish government had their own train? Well, not to worry, the government probably doesn’t know either. The last time it was used as intended was before General Jaruzelski declared martial law in 1981. During the martial law era, the government was too afraid of its own people to risk going around by train and since then the habit of using fast cars and planes has stuck. So the train has languished unloved and forgotten. One carriage has gone to PSMK’s railway museum in Skierniewice, another is in Chabowka, another has been ‘adopted’ by a retired railwayman. Occasionally, the odd coach or two is dusted down and used for some private special excursion.

So what was the train doing in Warsaw? Was the Polish Minister of Transport entertaining his German opposite number prior to the sale of the profitable bits of the PKP empire to Deutsche Bahn? Are Mr and Mrs Peter Philips planning a quiet railway honeymoon in Poland? Is the President entertaining his mother in law?

It hurts us to admit it, but we don’t know! There a bottle of Zubrowka for anyone who manages to find out and tell us before midnight (Polish time) today.

Model railways

Friday, 16 May 2008

High speed ICE in Stuttgart

(photo korchstall)

First a model railway journey from Stuttgart to Northallerton, by fellow wordpress blogger korchstall. Korchstall normally blogs about his tiny model railway based on industrial narrow gauge practice, but this time, it was the journey itself that was a ‘model’ of fast, comfortable and stress free travel.

Well, it turns out that travelling across Europe by train was easier than we dared hope. The bus, tram and trains generally behaved themselves and worked reasonably to schedule, the station staff were friendly, we could carry food and water, go for walks along the train and see the view (except in the tunnel). it was far, far better than flying.

The only slightly stressful part of the journey was the change from the Cologne-Brussels train to the Eurostar. Normally the procedure for changing train was pretty simple: get off train, follow signs to platform, find the approximate place for our coach and wait until the train pulled in. Eurostar insists on shoving its passengers through all manner of checks, and on top of this the British Immigration service checks our passport here, it seems a bit odd to be checking passports for the UK when we have to cross the border to France first, but there we go.

To be fair to National Express, the train left on time, and two hours and twenty minutes later we were in Northallerton. We’d travelled half way across Europe and arrived within two minutes of the planned time- earlier, as it happens.

Try that in a car.

Townscape – Manchester Model Railway Society’s ‘Dewsbury Midland’

Secondly, at this year’s RAILEX 2008 Model Railway Exhibition, you’ll have the chance to see 25 model railway layouts, including the Manchester Model Railway Society’s award winning ‘Dewsbury Midland’. The exhibition is being held on Saturday 24 May (10:30am – 5:30pm) and Sunday 25 May (10am – 5pm) at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Harvey Road, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP21 9PP, England.

Derelict canal – Pendon Museum (photo Robert Silverwood)

Thirdly, a model derelict canal (based on the Wilts and Berks) on arguably the most amazing model railway in the world at Pendon Museum.

Oh you want to see pictures of model trains? Just keep on clicking through the links!

We applaud HRH!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Dyspozytor has been a fan of Prince Charles ever since he had the opportunity to meet HRH on the occasion of the Prince’s visit to the Blackbird Leys Estate in the early 1990s.

The halting of logging in the world’s rainforests is the single greatest solution to climate change, Prince Charles has said. He called for a mechanism to be devised to pay poor countries to prevent them felling their rainforests. The prince told the BBC’s Today programme that the forests provided the earth’s “air conditioning system”. He said it was “crazy” the rainforests were worth more “dead than alive” to some of the world’s poorest people

(complete article)

We applaud the Prince’s courage in ‘joining up the dots’ in a way that the UK government has singularly failed to do. Not all that long ago as part of its overseas aid programme the UK government was actually financing the building of a new road through the Amazonian rain forest. The rate of deforestation is directly proportional to the building of new access roads. We hope that other prominent figures will support the Prince’s call. Now how about somebody equally prominent calling for the Government to abandon its airport expansion programme in favour of the construction of a UK-wide high speed rail network?

more links:

BBC – Amazon’s future in balance
BBC – On the Amazon frontier
World ecological problems blog – Amazon deforestation

Weasley words from Westminster

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Shillingstone Station – The passengers waiting at the up platform will have to be patient a while longer. (Click picture to see the station in its prime.)

Background to the campaign

When the Somerset and Dorset Railway closed in 1966 as part of the plan to give Britain ‘a sensible little railway‘, few would have believed that 42 years later there would still be a sustained campaign to reopen the line. One of the original campaigners was a formidable Shillingstone resident, called Ruth Colyer, who as well as campaigning for the future of the S&D, gave generous support to the fledgling Swanage Railway Society which was set up in 1972 to reopen the the branchline from Wareham to Swanage. This is not a post about the Swanage Railway, but about the campaign to reopen the Somerset and Dorset Railway. But when has being “off topic” ever stopped the Dyspozytor from telling a good story?

Ruth was the local secretary of the Ramblers Association and a doughty fighter in the cause of maintaining local rights of way. Her opponents were wealthy and well-connected landowners who saw the public’s use of footpaths and bridle paths as an unnecessary nuisance. She believed that ‘action speaks louder than words’ and when British Railways responded to the Swanage Railway Society’s plans by commencing track lifting from Swanage to Furzebrook she organised a sit-in on the railway formation. It was thanks to Ruth that Dyspozytor learnt some of his own campaigning skills, was tagged as a possible ‘threat to parliamentary democracy’ by MI5 and had his telephone tapped. (Those BTWT readers wondering why Dyspozytor prefers to post under an alias now have their answer!) Ruth’s activities were something of an embarrassment to her brother, Norman Reddaway, who at the time was Britain’s youngest ambassador, and was serving in Warsaw! It is to Ruth Colyer’s memory that Dyspozytor dedicates today’s post.

Bournemouth bound “Pines Express” The S&D at its best (Ivo Peters)

The campaign today

One of the leaders of the current campaign is Steve Sainsbury, the former finance director of the Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Trust, who runs his own blog, somerset and dorset. He introduces his campaign with a warning that the project may take several generations to realise.

The New Somerset and Dorset Railway will be a huge project, occupying generations to come. All with an interest in the S&D – past, present and future – are welcome to get involved in any way they can. With Peak Oil and Climate Change now firmly upon us the Second Railway Age is just beginning. The New S&D will be in the vanguard of these exiting and challenging developments.

The concept of railbanking, preserving the integrity of railway routes for future railway use, is still not widely known in the UK. When the S&D closed in 1966, Sustrans which campaigns for the conversion of former railway lines into footpaths, had not yet been set up. Much of the line was sold at rock bottom prices to adajacent landowners, other sections were utilised for road building or sold off for property development. The campaign has a long hard battle ahead of them. One of the opening salvoes was organising an e-petition to the Prime Minister’s office:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime to release funds to rebuild the Somerset and Dorset Railway between Bath and Bournemouth.”

Details of Petition:

“The Somerset and Dorset Railway was, and will be again after Peak Oil, a vital sustainable transport link across Wessex. The government should release funds and simplify the planning and construction process to allow local people to build, own and operate the line in preparation for when our oil runs out.”

The Prime Minister’s office reply was carefully crafted in the same mealy mouthed as the response to the petition to reopen the railway route through Woodhead Tunnel:

The Government is committed to the growth and development of the railway. This is reflected in the White Paper Towards a Sustainable Railway (Cm 7176) which was published in July 2007 and commits to £15 billion in total Government support to the railway for the period from 2009 to 2014.

The Government’s priority over this period is to increase rail capacity. This is necessary to allow the network to cater for the steady growth which has seen the number of passenger journeys exceed a billion in each of the last three years. With this in mind, £10 billion out of the £15 billion promised in the White Paper will be devoted to measures designed to increase capacity.

The White Paper commits to a range of specific capacity-increasing measures including 1300 new carriages to be used on the most congested lines in the country and major improvements at a number of individual stations. It does not commit to any line reopening because these are not the most effective way of securing the early capacity increases that are the most pressing need for both passengers and freight operators.

This does not mean that the Government is against the principle of rail reopening. Where local and regional authorities are prepared to take the lead in drawing up a proper business case for reopening a particular line or stations and identifying funding, the Government will carefully consider the case. This applies to the Somerset and Dorset as it does to any other line proposed for reopening.

Having reduced railway capacity systematically since the 1960s in order to reduce costs we are now told the government priority is to increase the capacity of the railways, not reopen closed lines. Perhaps next time the Ministry for Transport plans a new road we should argue that its priority should be to increase capacity not build new roads? Meanwhile volunteers are working on acquiring and restoring various sections of the old S&D. One group has made a start in restoration work Shillingstone Station which is where today’s post originally began!

From little beginnings mighty railways grow. Volunteers at Shillingstone

574.8 km per hour

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Alstom’s record breaking run on 3 April 2007 (click on pic for video)

A year, one month and 12 days ago the French broke the world speed record for a conventional (steel wheel on steel rail) passenger train.

High Speed Railways (line speed at least 150mph/250kmph)

Now which country was it that first introduced railways as a modern form of transport?