Chabowka, Poland’s other steam locomotive depot
Our favourite cleaning lady, who empties the waste paper bins at the Polish Ministry of Transport, tells us that Under Secretary of State for Rail, Juliusz Engelhard, and the Chief Executive of Malopolska province, Marek Nawara, will meet on Tuesday 17 June to discuss the future of the Chabowka Open Air Railway Museum. Apparently Mr Nawara is intending to create a company to take over the museum from PKP Cargo. Cynics are saying that the creation of a company rather than a ‘Foundation for Public Benefit’ (the Polish equivalent of an English Charity) bodes ill for the future of Chabowka’s collection of historic steam locomotives and rolling stock.
Our foxy friend points out that perhaps it is no coincidence that the crisis at Wolsztyn and this development at Chabowka are both occurring at about the same time. About two years ago, PKP Cargo launched a special foundation, Fundacja Era Parowozow, to take over its historic collection of locomotives and rolling stock. The plan was a good idea. A foundation can apply for local authority grants and EU finding in a way that a commercial company cannot. There was also a lot of potential synergy between Chabowka and Wolsztyn. Chabowka employs 30 people, maintains its working engines in top notch order, has just passed out 15 new steam drivers, but its engines hardly do any work. Wolsztyn lacks good fitters and drivers, its engines are poorly maintained, but up to the 1 June was running scheduled steam services daily.
However, it seems that some sort of deal was concluded in the corridors of power in Warsaw which stopped Fundacja Era Parowozow in its tracks. Instead of taking over custody of those items of Poland’s railway heritage which were set aside for preservation, the Foundation has been pushed aside to become no more than a marketing agent for PKP Cargo. A tour operator from Germany or the UK now has to first submit his requirements to FEP who then forward the request to PKP Cargo who then submit an (enormously inflated) estimate to FEP, who then send it on to the client. By the time the process is complete the prospective customer has gone elsewhere. Meanwhile FEP, which was set up to look after Poland’s railway heritage, now finds itself in opposition to any intentions that PKP may having to simply sell off Poland;s railway heritage to the highest bidder.