Starachowice Railway has a new operator

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Early days – iron ore hoppers rattle through a housing estate in Starachowice. Note the brakeman riding in the last of the two coal wagons at the back of the train. (source)

On 22 April, a contract was formally signed at the offices of the District Council in Starachowice between the Starachowice District Council and the Zulawy Railway Society appointing the later as the new operator of the narrow gauge railway. The contract was signed on behalf of the Council by Andrzej Matynia, the Chief Executive, and Waldemar Wrona, a Council member. Dariusz Gliniecki, the Chairman of the Zulawskiej Local Railway Society, signed on behalf of the Society. An inaugural train was run on the northern section of line, Ilza – Marcule on 2 May. Some photos of the train are available on the SKW website. (WARNING, Polish text)

Where it all began – the Starachowice Blast Furnaces, now a museum (source)

A brief history

The railway has its origins in the 750mm gauge railways that were constructed to carry ironstone from the numerous quarries to the Starachowice furnaces. It’s not clear when a railway was first to used to carry the iron ore, but there are records of iron ore being quarried in the area as as far back as 1547! Certainly by the inter-war period a network of lines existed to the north of the town connecting the new blast furnace. More photos showing the remains of the railway at the blast furnace site available here. (WARNING – Polish text) A separate system was established to the south of the town to serve the forestry industry. These railways are shown as white dots on this map prepared by the FPKP. In 1945 the plan to build a modern narrow gauge railway connecting Ilza to Starchowice was first mooted and by 1950 the new line, which used parts of the earlier ironstone railway formation and completed.

Locomotives and rolling stock

When the line was first opened the basic motive power was several Px2 and Tx28 steam locomotives. Passengers were carried in dual purpose freight/passenger wagons. In 1955 the first Px48 and Px49 locomotives arrived from Chrzanow. The railway also received 2 Pxu UNRRA engines. Several Px29 locomotives built by the Warszawska Spolke Akcyjna Budowy Parowozow completed the loco roster. In 1956 the railway received 7 second-hand passenger carriages from the Jablonowska Kolei Dojazdowa, and 4 brand new 1Aw passenger carriages built in Swidnicy. By 1965 the railway had 10 1Aw carriages. The railway received its first diesel locomotives, Lyd1 type built in Chrzanow, in 1978 and, during the period 1987-90, the railway received 3 Lxd2 large diesel locomotives built in Romania

Run down and closure

Freight traffic declined dramatically when one of the largest factories served by the line, the “Zebiec” works in Lubieni were connected to the standard gauge in the 1960s. Passenger services, with the exception of occasional specials, were withdrawn in 1986. Freight carryings improved substantially after the introduction of transporter wagons which could carry normal standard gauge wagons in piggy-back fashion. Nevertheless, in 1994 the line was closed, and all the rolling stock was transferred to the Jedrzejow Kolej Dojazdowa.

The engine shed and workshops during the line’s closure. Click on the picture to see the same scene after the line had been taken over by the FPKW.

Rescue and termination

The line was added to the register of monuments in Swietokrzyskie Province. Thanks to the efforts of the Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation the Swietokryskie District council were persuaded to acquire the line. In 2003, they successfully concluded their negotiations with PKP and granted the society an operator’s licence. But time and scrap metal thieves had taken their toll. 8 kilometres of track had been stolen and the workshops stripped of machinery. In spite of having an operator’s licence, during the first few years that the railway was in the care of the FPKW, the Foundation could not use the engine sheds and workshops because the council had leased them to a road haulage company. Any rolling stock stored in the open was immediately vandalised and the inspection pits in the engine sheds were filled in with rubble! In spite of these setbacks, FPKW volunteers reopened a section of line to tourist traffic as far as Lipie, carried out work on the isolated northern section (Ilza Marcule) and built several covered ‘open’ carriages. On 21 November the Starchowice Council issued a notice terminating the Foundation’s operating agreement from 1 January, 2008. Council representatives cited ‘lack of progress’ as the reason for the termination, but it is known that there was a rebel group of volunteers unhappy with the management style of FPKW president, Pawel Szwed, and we suspect that they ‘lobbied’ their dissatisfaction at the district council offices.

New operator

The new operator is the Zulawy Railway Society headquartered at Nowy Dwor Gdanski. By a strange coincidence we wrote about the Starachowice Railway and the Zulawy Railway in the same post at the end of March!

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