Reflections on Wolsztyn Loco Show

by

Hungarian visitor – ex Austrian Sudbahn 4-6-0 109 109

PKP Cargo announces on its new website

PKP CARGO S.A. plays an important role as a guardian of Poland’s railway technology heritage. Many rare steam locomotives, wagons and other railway equipment are gathered in three live museums of steam traction.

…and the three day “Locomotive Show”, that finished today at the Wolsztyn Motive Power Depot, is a worthy example of how PKP Cargo at its best can fulfil this role. Purists may grumble that Wolsztyn has cannibalised steam engines to harvest spares for its working locomotives and then cut the latter up for scrap when they were worn out, but its important to see the Wolsztyn operation in a wider context. Poland is a country that has done little to preserve the machines of its industrial heritage. When it comes to making hard pragmatic decisions regarding whether to cut up or scrap, Poland should be compared not to Britain today, but to Britain in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Examples of British heritage locomotive scrapping

1906 GWR, broad gauge Iron Duke, Lord of the Isles
1954 Festiniog Railway, single Fairlie, Moel Tryfan
1963 BR, 8P Standard pacific, Duke of Gloucester,
(sent to scrapyard, rebuilt by 71000 Locomotive Trust)
1964 BR, GWR County, County of Glamorgan
1965 BR, GWR Grange, Tidmarsh Grange, Toddington
Grange, Walton Grange, Crawley Grange

1966 BR, LNER-designed 8P6F A1 Peppercorn pacific,
Saint Mungo
1970 Severn Valley Railway, BR WR 15xx, 1502, 1509

The Wolsztyn Show was good news for Poland’s fledgling heritage railway movement. (The country’s first heritage railway, the Bieszczady Forest Railway, was only saved in 1997 and many people still associate railways in general, and steam engines in particular with the bad days of communism.) National radio and TV carried regular news items throughout the Show and these will do a great deal to build public awareness about the potential of railway heritage and make life easier for promoters of other projects. The PR aspect of the event was a triumph for PKP Cargo’s press officer, Jacek Wnukowski.

There was much else that was good. There was entertainment for all the family. The PKP employees were helpful and even the railway police stewarding the crowds were remarkably polite and restrained. Mirek Szymanski, Fundacja Era Parowozow‘s management team chairman, worked hard behind the scenes and on stage to make sure that all who visited the show had a really memorable experience.

BTWT would not be BTWT if we did not have one or two minor niggles. Given that this is the largest gathering of its kind in Poland, and that it attracts enthusiast from all around the world, why were  more representatives of Poland’s 30 or so railway societies not encouraged to have their own information stands? Why was there so little information about the actual steam trains running during the 3 days? Why, given that PKP Cargo moved 2 steam engines and two sets of vintage carriages from Chabowka, was there no connecting special train from Cracow? Why was there no connecting special train from Warsaw other than the VIP charter? Why, given the high public profile of the event, didn’t Wojciech Balczun, PKP Cargo Chairman attend the event. Or, if he was too busy working on the sale of PKP Cargo to Deutsche Bahn, why did he not send Witold Bawor, his Operations Director and the Chairman of the Trustees of Fundacja Era Parowozow, in his place?

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