Pultusk-Nasielsk RIP


7 more years to go, in 1994, ©Piotr Chylinski

(Click on picture to see it in its in original context and access more of Piotr Chylinski’s photos. WARNING text in Polish)

The demise of a narrow gauge railway is always a matter for regret, but when a narrow gauge railway that has survived until the 21st century is killed off, its death is nothing short of a scandal. The 750 mm gauge Pultusk-Nasielsk Railway, which was opened in July 1950, was one of Poland’s newest narrow gauge lines. Its recent construction was to be its Achilles heel. Regular passenger services continued until February 1986, but special excursions trains were run until the end of freight services in August 2001, when PKP closed down all its narrow gauge railway operations.

Attempts were made by railway enthusiasts to interest one of the local authorities in taking over the line. (This was the usual mechanism by which the small handful of surviving ex PKP lines were saved.) But a couple of local landowners mounted a well organised campaign against the preservation of the railway. They were in an area of rising property values relatively close to Warsaw and had calculated that the value of their land as potential building plots for weekend cottages would be much higher if they were not bisected by a narrow gauge railway. (English readers may remember that the plan to establish a railway heritage centre on the Longmoor Military Railway in Hampshire met with similar opposition.)

The line had been constructed in an atmosphere of post WW II patriotic fervour in an era of strict communist party discipline when the niceties of the law regarding the property rights of landowners were often dealt with in a rather roughshod and ‘informal’ manner. The combination of determined opposition from a group of landowners, and the lack of proper legal title for much of the railway land, was too much for the local authorities and scared them off from taking over the line.

The railway enthusiasts did manage to start the process of getting the line listed as a local monument by the Mazowieckie province’s heritage conservator. The listing did nothing to stop theft of rail and vandalism and in the winter 2005/6 PKP hired contractors to start lifting the line. The railway enthusiasts mounted a legal challenge based on the on-going listing process and the contractors were forced to stop their track lifting. A meeting for all stakeholders was organised in Pultusk ‘Dom Polonii’ and several impassioned please were made to the local authority representatives present for one of them to take over the line, but without any success.

Finally, the author of this article, having obtained assurances from the Ministry of Transport (as it then was) that replacement track material and suitable rolling stock would be made available if a local authority wanted the line, visited the Mayor of Nasielsk and made the case for resurrecting the line. Sadly all our efforts were to no avail. The heritage conservator was sacked, PKP and some of the local authorities appealed against the heritage listing. Now PKP are about to start dismantling the track. The only good news is that some of the line’s concrete sleepers may go to replace rotten wooden sleepers on the Smigiel line. If any BTWT readers need some heavy section FB rail and 750 mm/ 2ft 6in point material do get in touch.

The former general manager of the line remembers a party of British enthusiasts who made a film of the railway. If you know who made the film, we would be very pleased to hear from you.

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2 Responses to “Pultusk-Nasielsk RIP”

  1. korschtal Says:

    I suspect there is also a reaction to the percieved soviet mentality Holiday cottages are a symbol of western prosperity, whereas the line is probably seen as a symbol of the old socialist regime.

    It’s sad though when people are sacked when their bosses don’t want to hear what they are saying.

    I wonder how valuable those will be when we hit peak oil and no-one can afford to drive out from Warsaw.

  2. dyspozytor Says:

    In the eyes of the public, Polish railways and tramways are still strongly associated with the communist regime – slow, standing room only and dirty.

    The lack of grass roots support for preservation bids makes it easy for old lines to be disposed of. It also makes it difficult for local authorities to subsidize such projects from public funds. This is why our own lobbying – as in the case of the Krosniewice closure – is doubly important.

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