Archive for August, 2008

11th hour for Folkestone Harbour line

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Folkestone Harbour and its railway,
photo The Remembrance Line

The Folkestone Harbour Company, unhappy with their untidy commercial port, want to carry out a few improvements. Replacing the current facilities with a marina would do wonders for property values. 1,400 waterfront flats should bring in a tidy sum, while the construction of new college would demonstrate the company’s social responsibility credentials. Of course, the harbour railway, currently used by the Venice – Simplon Orient Express, would have to go, but it would be replaced by a new road offering a fast route to the marina.

The Remembrance Line campaign is being launched this Sunday in order to fight for the future of the line. The campaign organisers face a David versus Goliath struggle against developers who will be in very good standing with the local planning authorities. Yet, it is not impossible to win such a battle. Dyspozytor was involved in a similar struggle to save a railway against powerful commercial interests and that line is now one of the most successful heritage lines in the South of England. Do the campaigners understand the magnitude of the battle that they are taking on and are they really prepared to give the forthcoming battle their all? Only time will tell.

From the Remembrance line website:

Once again Folkestone’s history is under threat as developers plan to demolish the Harbour Railway Station, the Station Masters House, Signal Box and Viaduct in order to build a Marina, University and at least 1,400 houses.

Our campaign is seeking to retain this entire unique example of our engineering heritage as an operational entity as well as providing a practical, working link with the Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE) and other train operators around the country through access to Network Rail’s national rail system.

In time we also aim to provide trains from London to link with a cross-channel service from Folkestone, visiting battle-sites and other places of interest in France , linking with Maritime and other Continental Railway Groups.

For over 165 years, the railway and harbour has served many thousands of travellers both to and from the Continent and millions of service personnel in two World Wars. It provided jobs for local people and could still do so. A fully working harbour and railway would definitely promote regeneration of the area and benefit all those who live and work in Folkestone, so removing the divide that currently exists.

Expert views have indicated that there is a potential of 100,000 to 250,000 visitors per annum who would follow in the footsteps of their forefathers, visiting the railway, a major, iconic “Leaving for War” memorial, a “Front-line Folkestone” and crossing the channel museum, the restored canteen and an upgraded Road of Remembrance.

Please join The Association today to save this important part of South Eastern England’s Heritage and history from loss through sweeping development. The early days of steam made Folkestone famous in Queen Victoria’s reign and through two World Wars when thousands of service men and women passed through Folkestone Harbour Station en route for France. We invite you to join the Remembrance Line Association and help us achieve our goal.

The public media and press launch of The Remembrance Line takes place at the Grand Hotel Folkestone, on Sunday 31st August from 2:00 pm.

Further information:

The one that got away

Friday, 29 August 2008

31530 H Class push-pull fitted 0-4-4T
at Westerham station in the 1960s

(Click for original hi-res picture and caption on Pixdaus)

Only a small number of British railway enthusiasts have heard of the The Westerham Valley Railway. Yet, the line very nearly became Britain’s second preserved standard gauge railway. Also interesting is that the original conditions put forward by British Railways would have required the preservationists to run a commuter service!

The line closed in 1961, in spite of a vigorous campaign by local residents to keep it open. A preservation society called the Westerham Valley Railway Society were formed shortly after closure and, in 1962, the society merged with Westerham Branch Railway Passengers’ Association, the local campaigning group. The new Westerham Valley Railway Association planned to operate, both steam hauled heritage trains, and a diesel railcar commuter service. If their proposals had succeeded then the WVR would have established a completely different precedent for British preserved lines. Instead of being tourist carrying ‘Bluebell Railways’ running from nowhere to nowhere, preserved lines could have operated a mixture of community commuter and steam hauled heritage trains linking into the main line railway network. But this was not to be, for the Ministry of Transport, and its successors the Department of Transport and Department for Transport, have carefully conspired to ensure that UK preserved lines, while offering the world’s best heritage railway experience, do not, as a rule, run public transport services.

Recently, it seemed that the concept of independent local railways, owned and operated by their local communities, had come into favour with the ministry mandarins, but behind their sham enthusiasm the concept has become considerably diluted. Instead of acquiring and operating their local railways, community rail partnerships have been guided into repainting their local stations, planting flowers and seeking better integration with local bus services

And the Westerham Valley Railway? In 1963, British Railways were told, by Kent County Council that the railway land was needed, for a new road. They were also told that if the land was not sold to the County Council then it would be seized by compulsory purchase. You can read the whole sad story here on Wikipedia. But remember to read between the lines and that as far as trunk roads and motorways are concerned County Councils act as agents for the transport ministry (under whatever name) in London.

1930s 1 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey
showing the Westerham branch line with a
Google Maps map of the area superimposed

WHR closing the gap

Thursday, 28 August 2008

27 August 2008, sleepers await the delivery of rail
on the Pont Croesor – Traeth Mawr section of the WHR
(the last substantial gap), photo © Alun Evans

(click on photo to go to go to ‘Alun’s Images’ on Fotopic
to see more of Alun’s excellent pictures of the rebuilding
of the WHR in high resolution)

With so much grim news lately, it gives us a great deal of pleasure to report that, as of 27 August 2008, there was only a half kilometre gap between the Welsh Highland Railway track that runs north from Porthmadog and the track that is being relaid southwards from Beddgelert. Tracklaying to fill the gap could be completed this weekend!

Several short sections of track remain to be finished in Porthmadog itself. It is likely that a through route between the Festiniog Railway and the WHR will exist by September. This will be used for works trains and stock transfer. When further improvements in Porthmadog are complete, an official inspection will be held and, after a formal reopening ceremony, passenger services will commence in 2009.

Further information:

The Little Red Book

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Little Red Book
A must read for the S&KLR?

Here are some tips from Dyspozytor’s campaign guide. Will the S&KLR follow his advice?

  1. Involve the local community. All that most politicians care about is making money and being re-elected. If they see that your campaign has won local support – and they may loose votes as a result – it may not convert them overnight, but it may just stop them in their tracks while you seek reinforcements and plot your next move.
  2. Recruit some patrons. Patrons should be important public figures capable of influencing people. You will need local patrons who will guide you as regards the ways of the local community and enhance your local credibility. You will also need national patrons capable of making waves.
  3. Get the media behind you. You will need the support of both the local media and the national media. Brief the local media on every move you make, and also brief them on your opponents moves. The more stupid your opponent’s moves appear the better you will look. Cultivate the national media, carefully nurtured, they will add credibility to your cause.
  4. Find out which local politicians support your cause. Help them to help you.
  5. Your opponents will apply the mushroom technique1. You on the other hand must keep your supporters, the press, your patrons and any friendly politicians well informed. Your approach will be refreshingly transparent in comparison. Publish a frequent and regular campaign bulletin.
  6. Recruit experts to your cause. You need experts prepared to support your cause ‘on the record’ and if need be at public meetings. Experts that are only prepared to give you their views privately are a pain.
  7. Fight bureaucracy with… more bureaucracy. Challenge every bad decision, write letters. Write more letters.
  8. Develop a secretariat. You will need lots of people prepared to write and type.
  9. Do something spectacular. Hold a sit-in2, chain yourself to the tracks, organise a public meeting, hold a local referendum, threaten legal action.
  10. Launch a fighting fund. You will need a strategic reserve for legal and other professional fees.

These ten tips were actually tested in a battle to save a branchline in the South of England and proved to be a winning combination. If you don’t feel confident about applying them yourself, why not appoint a campaign manager? Dyspozytor is currently available, and his rates – if the cause is worthy – are very reasonable.


  1. Keep them in the dark a throw a shovelful of sh*t over them from time to time.
  2. Warning, if you organise an event that breaks the law, such as a sit in, you will be tagged as ‘a threat to Parliamentary democracy’ and monitored by the security services. One of Dyspozytor’s good railway enthusiast friends managed to get himself tagged by both the (Communist) Polish and the British Security Services.

S&KLR only 4 months to go?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway Campaign Poster

(Click on poster to download fullsize copy)

Dyspozytor is old enough to remember this line before it became the S&KLR. Opened in 1908 as the Bowater Paper Mills Railway, this 2ft 6in gauge line became the last industrial railway in the UK to be operated by steam locomotives. It linked the Bowater Paper Mills at the head of Milton Creek with Bowater’s own deep water dock at Ridham. After Bowaters switched over to hauling their raw materials and finished products by lorry in 1969, they generously handed over half the line to the Locomotive Club of Great Britain and the S&KLR was born. For forty years, it has been one of the principal tourist attractions in the area. Now, thanks to the lack of vision of the local council, this unique piece of Britain’s railway history may be destroyed for ever.

Old 1″ to the mile OS map showing the railway shortly after opening

From the SKLR website:

The very last train
to run on Boxing Day ??

On a day when the national rail network is virtually shut down and there will certainly be no main line services through Sittingbourne it is likely that the very last train will run on the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway. Unless circumstances dramatically change the last passenger service on a railway that has run for 102 years will steam out of Sittingbourne Viaduct at 14.00 on Friday 26th December, 2008, just nine months short of the 40th anniversary of the operation of the railway as a heritage line. One later train may run that day but only as a goodbye to the railway and exclusive to members of the railway.

Future trains are very unlikely unless the minds of officers and elected members of Swale Borough Council can be changed. The Council’s officers have recently produced proposals (‘The Green Clusters Report’) that totally exclude the Light Railway which is undoubtedly Sittingbourne’s biggest tourist attraction. In the total shambles of a consultation on the future of the town which Swale Borough Council has carried out, ‘heritage’ has been completely ignored, be it ourselves, the Barge Museum, the town’s Heritage Museum, or any other organisation.

As for the current land owners M-real, perhaps they were running Sittingbourne paper mill at a loss and did need to cease production but did this Finnish company have to have total disregard for the history that they were entrusted with? This history goes back nearly 150 years to the day when Edward Lloyd first started paper production in Sittingbourne and which carried on successfully via Bowater’s and UK Paper.

Sittingbourne’s Steam Railway was given notice to quit the land on which it operates at the beginning of 2008 when their landlords Messrs M-real decided to pull out of Sittingbourne including closing Sittingbourne paper mill, which is currently up for sale. The railways licence to operate on the land expires on 28 th January, 2009. By that date we are supposed to remove all the locomotives, coaches, wagons, buildings and all other paraphernalia. How can a charity that has struggled to survive for most of the 40 years it has operated afford to make such a move and where to?

Following on from an idea from one of the railways junior members a poster/car sticker campaign is being launched, you can download a SOS (Save Our Steam railway) poster here. We are asking the public to display these in their windows, on their cars, everywhere.

Details of how to contribute to the Fighting Fund to pay for legal fees, posters, advertisements etc will appear here soon, in the meantime, please send letters of support to us, either by email to or by post to SKLR, PO Box 300, Sittingbourne, ME10 2DZ .

Only public opinion can save what is South East England’s only preserved former industrial narrow gauge railway. Your opinion counts.

Tomorrow, the battle to save the line.

‘Tinsley Towers’ post mortem

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

In the case of the Tinsley Towers, the three opponents all had there own agendas:

E.ON, having looked at the RIBA competition submissions, saw the value of their development land evaporating if the former power station site was rezoned as an ‘ecological park’. The landmark towers which made the site so special had to be destroyed at all costs.

The Highways Agency, after spending £82 million strengthening Tinsley Viaduct, couldn’t wait to pack the structure full of strain gauges and instruments and observe the effect of the cooling towers fall. After all it’s not every day that you can order up a earthquake at a time and place that is convenient.

Sheffield City Council wanted a modern city as epitomised by Meadowhall Shopping Centre without being reminded about the City’s industrial past.

Still from slide show of FoRM Associates proposal
for the Tinsley Towers (RIBA Competition 2007)

(click on picture to see the whole slide show)

Tinsley Towers are no more. What went wrong? One basic problem is that people interested in preserving industrial heritage are usually far too nice to give the battle sufficient bottle. In Britain it is commonly accepted that such things are done by quiet negotiation or not done at all. The result is that a lot of causes are lost or end up as unsatisfactory compromises. One famous example is the Bluebell Railway which, though originally envisaged as running a community passenger service between two large towns in the South of England, East Grinstead and Lewes, ended up as a heritage railway running from Sheffield Park (a small station in the countryside) to Horstead Keynes (a larger station in the countryside). It’s only now, 48 years after the line reopened as an independent concern, that the railway is slowly digging its way back through a landfill to reconnect with East Grinstead.

In the case of the Tinsley Towers, three powerful opponents all had there own agendas:

E.ON, having looked at the RIBA competition submissions, saw the value of their development land rapidly evaporating if the former power station site was rezoned as an ‘ecological park’. The landmark towers which made the site so special had to be destroyed at all costs.

The Highways Agency, after spending £82 million strengthening Tinsley Viaduct, couldn’t wait to pack the structure full of strain gauges and instruments and observe the effect of the cooling towers fall. After all it’s not every day that you can order up a earthquake at a time and place that is convenient.

Sheffield City Council wanted a modern city as epitomised by Meadowhall Shopping Centre without being reminded about the City’s industrial past.

In such circumstances it useless to hope that polite negotiations by themselves will win the day. There is an alternative, a rarely used ‘plan B’ when quiet negotiations seem to be leading nowhere, and that is to leave Queensbury Rules aside and go head to head with the opposition on a no holds barred basis. Such an approach was used by the famous anti motorway campaigner, John Tyme, and by Britain’s most famous poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, when fighting to save London’s great railway termini. Sir John was very well connected, and many influential people supported his campaigns. He was also generous in lending his name and support to local societies.

So how does a plan B campaign work? A long time ago one of Dyspozytor’s good friends took on British Railways, a major property developer, the local County Council, the District Council and the town Council who were all implacably opposed to the reopening of a branch railway line in the South of England. Six years later, the key decision makers gave the restoration of railway the go ahead. We’ve summed up the strategy in our Little Red Book post. It’s a strategy that has been tested in battle!

The ‘Tinsley Towers’ Trashed

Sunday, 24 August 2008

A still from Smoothe’s film about the ‘Tinsley Towers’

(Click on the picture to see the film)

It’s not ever day that a British industrial heritage icon is dynamited into dust. Yet that’s exactly what took place at 03:00 BST this morning. The demolition of the ‘Tinsley Towers’ by E.ON was the final death blow by the 68€ billion international energy corporation against the plans of local campaigners to retain the cooling towers as a local landmark.

The ‘Tinsley Towers’ were the last two remaining cooling towers from a set of 7 that were once part of Sheffield’s Blackburn Meadows Power Station. Sheffield Corporation’s Electricity Department started building the power station in 1921. The Power Station was developed in stages adding more turbines and increasing boiler capacity. Cooling towers 6 and 7 were constructed in 1937-8 to cope with the additional waste heat output. Britain’s first motorway, the M1, was extended in the late 60s through the outskirts of Sheffield on a 1 km long double deck steel viaduct. It which passed less than 19 yards from the nearest tower which was still in use. The power station was decommissioned in the 70s, and demolished with 5 of the 7 cooling towers in the 80s. The two cooling towers nearest the motorway were left standing for fear that their demolition by explosive charges would set up vibrations in the ground and viaduct which would weaken the structure. The ‘Tinsley Towers’ became a welcome landmark which greeted weary drivers returning home to the Midlands.

In 2005 two local campaigners, Tom James and Tom Keely, came up with the idea of reusing the Towers as an exhibition space and arts centre. The idea quickly caught on and their project was the most popular proposal in Channel 4’s Big Art Project. In 2006 a competition organised by Groundwork Sheffield and the Royal Institute of British Architects looked for imaginative designs for the future of the towers and the former power station site. E.ON countered by announcing that they would demolish the towers and build a ‘carbon neutral power station’ on the site. They also announced a £500,000 donation to help fund a suitable work of art for Sheffield.

The two Toms countered by maintaining their campaign against the demolition of the Towers. In many ways their campaign was a classic example as to how to run a campaign of this sort. They engaged the local community. They manned an information stall cum shop. They organised a petition, and held a demonstration. They worked with the media and obtained good coverage in the press and on TV. They obtained the support of their local MP. They produced an excellent visualisation (click the picture and follow the links) of what their idea might look like in practice.

So what went wrong? The two Tom’s were clearly outgunned by E.ON, but why should the power company have cared so much about demolishing the towers. We’ll be offering some analysis in tomorrow’s post.

Vote, VOTE, V O T E ! for Chabowka

Friday, 22 August 2008

200th post!

Rabka Zdroj to Chabowka Skansen shuttle in 2006
Will Chabowka get your vote?

For our 200th post we thought we would have some fun and also help Chabowka raise its marketing profile. The Internet portal is holding a poll to identify the top ten tourist attractions of Malopolska province.

The results so far are:

1st – A lot of funny shaped rocks
Ciezkowice – Skamieniale Miasto

2nd – A miniature world WITHOUT a model railway!
Inwald – Park Miniatur

3rd – Getting Better, Tarnow Old Town
Tarnów – Stare Miasto

4th – The Castle at Dobczyce
Dobczyce – Zamek

5th – At last! The skansen at Chabowka
Chabowka – skansen taboru kolejowego

To give Chabowka your vote simply click on the Chabowka link above. It will take you to a page which cotains a short paragraph in Polish, below which you will see the text:

Głosow 1xxxx Glosuj

Click on the “Glosuj”, then enter the dotted number into the box provided, press “Enter” and you are done. Hopefully Chabowka will end up with a nice coloured certificate identifying it as one of the top 10 attractions of Malopolska. Given Chabowka’s uncertain status, every little thing which raises its profile helps.

Poland’s secret steam railway

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Hot work in the cab of Ty2-953
photo Michael Dembinski, W-wa Jeziorki blog

We really should have written about the Chabowka-Nowy Sacz line before, as PKP Cargo have been using it this summer to run ‘regular’ steam trains. Usually hauled by a Ty2, the trains run from Chabowka to Dobra-Kolo-Limanowej and back. Two trains ran in June, two in July and five are running in August. Chabowka publish an English language timetable giving details of all of this year’s regular steam workings. Fortunately, our memory was jogged by reading about a journey on the line on W-wa Jeziorki blog.

The place we stayed, an agroturystyka in a large village/small town called Dobra (between Nowy Sacz and Wadowice) was run by really lovely people, great cooking, flexibility at meal times and – at 50 zlotys (around 11 quid) for bed, breakfast, lunch and supper (40 zlotys for children) – a snip. Eddie noted that there was a railway station in Dobra, and given that the weather on Saturday morning was dismal, we thought it would be a good idea to stroll down there to take a look.

The walk through the village (small town really) was long; we got lost, had to ask the way, neared the station (up the hill) and as we neared it… the sound of a steam whistle! Eddie and I simultaneously broke into a jog (I’m delighted to say that this 50 year-old burdened with camera bag can still out-run his 12 year-old son up a steep hill). The whistling continued. Would we catch the train? We made it up to the station – and there it was – a 2-10-0 Kriegslok steam locomotive, manoeuvring around a rake of five two-axle coaches.

To our delight, it transpired that we were in good time for a steam train excursion from Dobra to Chabowka railway museum. A quick glance at the timetable showed that we were up for a three-hour steam-hauled trip with an hour’s museum visit all for the equivalent of ten quid! The line is spectacular (by Polish standards) for its mountain scenery. It was here that scenes from Schindler’s List were shot – both engine and coaches are 100% authentic for the period.

Chabowka itself for me was a sorry sight – lots of interesting exhibits resting and rusting, the owners (PKP Cargo) treating the whole thing as a bit of an embarrassment rather than a potential tourist goldmine (as heritage railways are run in the UK). I did not feel disposed to spend twice the price of adult museum admission to buy a film-and-photography ticket, so put my camera away during the hour’s (rainy) visit at Chabowka

Clicking on the photo on the top of this post will take you straight to the original article with all five of Michael Dembinski’s superb photographs accompanied by some well-researched captions. The extract is just a taster. I enjoyed reading this account of his steam trip, but we feel that his last paragraph (too many beers? too late at night?) lacks the accuracy and fair play that I have grown accustomed to on Michael’s blog. So, without any further ado, here is our redress.

Chabowka’s engines are looked after better than most of Poland’s steam engines. The steam centre carries out its own overhauls and boiler repairs, and Grazyna Sysiak, the General Manager, is justifiably proud of the standard of work achieved. Of course, the engines and rolling stock would be much better of under cover, but the lack of covered accommodation is a problem all over Poland, not just in Chabowka. In the meantime, the engines are protected as far as is possible with paint and thick grease. The ‘rusting’ exhibits are not Chabowka’s own, but are National Railway Museum engines, that have been recently towed to Chabowka from the infamous ‘skansen’ at Kreszowice. Until ownership or licensing issues are sorted out there is not much that Chabowka can do with them.

UK heritage railway volunteers will pull a wry smile at Michael’s comment that their lines are “tourist goldmines”. Yes, the biggest UK heritage lines have a £ million annual turnover from ticket sales and the all important ancillaries, but they also have a £ million annual expenditure and, if it wasn’t for a massive input of volunteer labour and donations from the members of their support societies, very few of them would last long. To put things in perspective, there are something like 2 million railway enthusiasts in the UK and around a hundred thousand are members of railway societies. In Poland there are a few thousand railway enthusiasts and only 200 or so are actively involved with any heritage railway.

Last of all, Michael jibes at having ‘to spend twice the price of adult museum admission to buy a film-and-photography ticket’ and decides to put his camera away while he visits the steam centre. I looked up Chabowka’s charges and compared them to those at Didcot, the nearest similar location to London.

Admission charges
Didcot Railway Centre Chabowka Skansen
Adult non-steam day
Adult ordinary day
4 PLN (£1-00)
Adult special event
Adult Parowozjazda
Child non-steam day
Child ordinary day
2 PLN (£0-50)
Child special event
Child Parowozjazda
Photography non-steam day
Photography ordinary day
10 PLN (£2-50)
Videoing non-steam day
Videoing ordinary day
25 PLN (£6-25)
Videoing & Photography
special event
Videoing & Photography

I have no doubt whatsoever that, even with the extra charges mentioned by Michael, the Chabowka Skansen offers excellent value for money. It does rather seem that Chabowka’s charging policy is aimed at making the steam centre as accessible as possible for Poles, while trying to get Western railway enthusiasts to pay a little bit more through the videoing and photography charges.

Incidentally, although no charges at all are made during the Parowozjazda steam gala, I have over the last two years always left a donation of several hundred zloty in return for the excellent hospitality received at Chabowka by members of UK heritage railways that I have taken to the event.

This year, I am guiding another trip organised under the aegis of the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership. We meet at Cracow airport on Friday afternoon 5 September, spend two days riding trains and photographing engines at Parowozjazda, visit a couple of narrow gauge railways and the steam centres at Jaworzyna Slask and Pyskowice and say our fond farewells at Cracow airport on the afternoon of Thursday 11 September. There are a couple of places spare, if you would like to join us do contact me at:

Competition results

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

In the earliest days of Behind the Water Tower we started THE COMPETITION. The idea was to promote feedback from BTWT readers and make the blog more interactive. Well in one sense we achieved our objective! We have published 197 posts and received 127 comments. We also received 1,035 spam comments trying to sell motor insurance and less savoury products! The spam has all been filtered out by WordPress’s clever spam filters. With one comment coming in for every 1.5 posts we publish, we do feel that we are ‘interactive’. There’s only one problem, our competition only brought us TWO entries. So either the competition was too difficult, or BTWT readers don’t like competitions, or… Do write to us and tell us what you think. Meanwhile here are the results.

Mystery object

On 7 March we asked Question 1, “What is it and how did it get there?”

Answer. It is all that remains of Poland’s oldest steam locomotive. Tkh 5, a Henschel 0-6-0 well tank built in 1885. We wrote about this locomotive on 6 August here. At the time we took the photograph it had just been moved from the closed ‘skansen’ at Krzeszowice and transported with a number of other National Railway Museum steam locomotives to Chabowka.

The only BTWT reader to send us the right answer to this question was Marek Cieselski.

Once Poland’s fastest train, now little better than scrap

On 1st May we asked our second question, “What is this railway vehicle, and where is it today?”.

Answer. This is, of course, Italian railcar SD80 which in the 1960s became the fastest train anywhere on the PKP network. Like Tkh 5 (see above) the railcar was donated to the National Railway Museum in Warsaw in first class condition. Today it’s a burnt out shell. At the time it was stored on a siding, as far away from the main line as possible, a little to the East of the main museum site.

No readers got this question right!

The water tower at Woodford Halse

On 18 May we posed our third question, “A water tower but where?”

Answer. This question also stumped everybody. We had mentioned the Great Central Railway before and how its abandoned fast route to the Midlands would make an ideal route for Britain’s North-South high speed line. At Woodford Halse there was a massive brick engine shed and foundry complex capable of carrying out the heaviest locomotive repairs, a concrete water tower and a turning triangle. Everything was blown up by the Royal Engineers in the late 1960s. Only this water tower remains.

Where is this unused siding?

On June 25 we asked our 4th and last question, “On which narrow gauge railway can the above section of unused track be found?

Answer. Much to our amazement TWO readers identified this as being behind the engine shed on the Sroda narrow gauge railway, John Nielsen, from Denmark, and Marek Ciesielski.

Nobody got the bonus question right, “What is the long-term threat to this railway’s future?”

Answer. The concrete bridge taking the narrow gauge railway over the main line is very badly corroded.

So our winner is Marek Ciesielski, though as he only got two out of four questions right he only gets a minature bottle of Zubrowka. John Nielsen as our official runner up is entitled to have a couple of glasses of beer with Dyspozytor on his next trip to Poland.

Pionki Progress

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Pionki Forest Railway renaissance,
October 2007, photo FPKW

One of the most remarkable railway projects in Poland is the plan to rebuild part of the Pionki Forest Railway. The railway was located in the Kozienice Forest, near Radom in Poland’s Mazowosze province about 100 km from Warsaw.

Originally, in 1916 a 750 mm gauge railway was laid down linking Garbatka – Słowiki – Lesna Rzek. This line was lifted and replace by a 600 mm gauge railway between Garbatka and z Cztery Kopce. Meanwhile a 16 km horse drawn 600 mm gauge railway was built between Pionki and Stoki. In the 1940s, both systems were connected. The network was then 30 km long. The rolling stock consisted of 2 steam locomotives, 19 pairs of timber bogies and 10 coal wagons. In the period 1947-50 an engine shed and workshop building was constructed in Pionki. By the mid-1950s the network had grown to 50km. During this period the line was worked by ex German military railway HF 0-8-0T locomotives, including, Tx 1113 i Tx 1124, and Polish built 0-6-0T LAS locomotives including, Ty 1131 and Ty 1155.

During 1962-3, a 7 km section of the line from Garbatka to the main timber store was lifted. Demolition of the remainder commenced in 1981 and was largely completed by 1983. A fragment continued in use in a sawmill until 1986. Steam locomotive Las Ty 1131 survived and went to Zagansk. Two diesel locomotives, Wls50 and V10C-559, survived for a time, but were eventually cut up for scrap. Two passenger carriages lingered on, the frame of one still exists to this day. After 1986, the only substantive remains of the railway were the engine shed and workshops at Pionki and a large concrete viaduct in the forest.

In 2002, Pawel Szwed, the President of FPKW (The Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation) had the idea of converting the derelict shed and workshops into a forestry railway museum or ‘skansen’. The idea rapidly gained support and grew into the current project to rebuild 10 miles (16 km) of railway. The reinstated line would link attractions within the forest to Pionki and Garbatka. The project has gained the support of the local section of the Polish State Forests and the local authorities.

Progress so far has been concentrated in the workshop area. The track around the workshops has been relaid, the roof of the workshops reinforced and the whole building refurbished. Rolling stock from various forestry railways all around Poland has been brought to Pionki and many items have been restored. The whole area around the workshops has been attractively landscaped. A bar car serves soft drinks, beer and some of the best chips available anywhere in Poland. A handcart is available for children who want to try their hand at running trains. The skansen not only attracts railway enthusiasts, but also local residents looking for somewhere unusual to have a drink, play chess or take the kids.

600mm gauge Lyd2 looking for a good home
photo FPKW

The next stage of the project will involve the construction of 6 km of track from the skansen to a picnic area at Kociolki where the former line had a junction and triangle. As always in Poland the main obstacle is money. The FPKW is also looking for a small 1ft 11 5/8in (600 mm) steam locomotive. The FPKW have a 600mm gauge Lyd2 Romanian diesel in good mechanical condition which with its 350 h.p. Maybach engine and 0-8-0 wheel arrangement is a little too large for their needs. They would like to ‘swap’ it for a 600 mm steam locomotive. The deal could be set up to ensure a “win-win” for both sides.

Is there anyone out there with a “Quarry Hunslet” looking to get involved in rebuilding a narrow gauge railway from scratch?

More pictures:

  • Pionki Forest Railway – website (Polish)

Out of box thinking in the cab?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Las 0-6-0T after restoration by the Bieszczady Railway,
October 2006, photo BTWT

The 0-8-0T simmered quietly, a faint hiss of steam escaping from a faulty whistle valve that had failed to seat properly. The pressure rose slowly, 1, 1.5, 2.5, 4.5, 5 … . I rotated the reverser handle anticlockwise till the locomotive was in full backwards gear, kicked open the draincocks, open the regulator a crack, yanked up the weighted arm of the handbrake, yanked the regulator right over and pulled it back and we were off. I eased the regulator as we twisted over some ancient pointwork and then pushed it open again. All too soon it was time to shut off the regulator, apply the steam brake, and the repeat the exercise with the locomotive going forwards. This time I wound the reverse to approximately 20% cut off, gave the regulator a little more bottle and was rewarded with a nice bark to the exhaust.

My whole ‘driver experience’ lasted at the most 20 minutes and would, no doubt be greeted with a hoot of derision by the crews of the Wolsztyn Experience. But it was immensely satisfying and I went around with an enormous grin on my face for the next few days. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who would enjoy a short driving course if it was offered commercially. We don’t all want to take responsibility for racing across level crossings at speed with several hundred passengers behind us. Sadly, only a handful of Poland’s heritage lines still have operational steam engines. Those that do should seriously consider introducing such a product.

5 months – 25,000 hits

Sunday, 17 August 2008

BTWT cumulative daily hits each month

Around 18:30 Central European Summer Time on Saturday 16 August BTWT passed 25,000 hits. We don’t like blowing our own trumpet, but after 5 months of blogging, we think that 25,000 is a milestone worth celebrating. So let’s pause a while, reflect on where we have been, take stock and look ahead to where we are aiming for.

First of all, we see BTWT as a campaigning blog. We are not interested simply in achieving high numbers of readers, but rather in recruiting a special kind of reader. We are looking for people who care enough about the subjects that we write about to be prepared to act to support our campaigns. We are also interested in recruiting readers who are already involved in campaigns to save railways or to safeguard their routes for a return to railway use in the future.

Secondly, we intend that BTWT will be a bridge between supporters of railway transport and heritage railways in Poland and their opposite numbers in the United Kingdom. We will be supporting study visits to Polish railway heritage sites by members of UK railway societies and vice-versa.

Thirdly, we want to deliver concrete projects. Too many Poles regard British enthusiasts as vultures who regard Polish railway heritage as a bargain basement. We would love to prove them wrong. One of our friends owns a 0-8-0T Tkp heavy shunting loco. We want to help him to restore it to running order and to see it running on one of the newly independent, local authority controlled, standard gauge railways that are appearing in Poland.

Fourthly, we see ourselves as a lobby. We would like to help our Polish friends remove some of the legal and fiscal obstacles that have been holding back the development of the Polish railway heritage movement since its birth in 1987.

Finally and fifthly, we are your research tool. We can help you find out more about Polish railways, and when we can’t help ourselves we can usually find someone who knows more than we do.

Do you think that this vision is worthwhile? Would you like to see BTWT develop and grow? We have been developing BTWT on a shoestring for six months. Now we need your help to make it even better. Phone calls, petrol, pints of beer (or bottles of vodka!) to loosen the tongues of our sources all cost money. If you enjoy reading BTWT, please consider making a regular donation. If each of our 200-250 daily readers could spare the price of a pint of beer once a month, we could make BTWT the best railway blog in Europe!

Let’s go for it!

Scheduled steam returns to Wolsztyn

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Ol49-69 at the 2008 Wolsztyn Parade of Steam. The Ol49’s haul the majority of the ordinary steam-hauled passenger workings out of Wolsztyn. Photo BTWT

The haulage of ordinary passenger trains by steam returns to Poland from the beginning of September in the shape of one Wolsztyn-Poznan working and one Wolsztyn-Leszno working . Wolsztyn’s many admirers all around the world will heave an enormous sigh of relief. Meanwhile, the key players in the Wolsztyn operation have yet to sign up to a deal which will guarantee it’s long-term future.

Wolsztyn’s major stakeholders are:

  • The town of Wolsztyn – benefits massively from the tourists visiting Wolsztyn, not currently providing any financial support.
  • The province of Wielkopolska – also benefits from tourists visiting the region, currently subsidising the operation of the scheduled steam services.
  • PKP Cargo – is responsible for running the Wolsztyn MPD. It enjoys PR benefits from Wolsztyn’s international reputation, but while subsidizing the day-to-day running of the depot, is unwilling to make major investments (such as new boilers and fireboxes), or train new employees, without prior long-term financial guarantees
  • PKP Przewozy Regionalne – runs the scheduled passenger trains that are hauled by the Wolsztyn locos. The operations are dependent on subsidies from Wielkopolska province, part of the subsidy is passed on to PKP Cargo to cover the costs of steam haulage. PKP PR would rather be running modern lightweight rail buses. They see Wolsztyn as a distraction from their core business.
  • The Wolsztyn Experience – run the footplate courses which subsidize part of the cost of running the steam hauled services. In addition Wolsztyn Experience finance the running of special steam trains. They need stable long-term agreements in order to run their courses.
  • Wolsztyn Experience customers – claim that the footplate courses are ‘better than sex’. They also need stable long-term agreements in place in order to plan and book their holidays.
  • The Wolsztyn crews – see at first hand the lack of investment by PKP Cargo in the steam locomotives or in the drivers and fitters who are to look after them. They regard their own jobs, and the Wolsztyn operation as a whole, as something which has a strictly short-term future.
  • Jerzy Kriger, the Director of Transport, Wielkopolska – would like to see the province take over the responsibility for operating passenger trains. He would also like to take over Wolsztyn Depot and develop it as a railway museum, taking the UK’s National Railway Museum in York as a model.

Howard Jones did a very professional job in booking additional steam trains in order to keep his customers happy during the unexpected break in scheduled steam operations during July. He had to dig heavily into the WE “warchest” to do so. Monies which had been earmarked for the restoration of further steam locomotives such as the recently restored Tkt in Wroclaw were spent instead on further payments to PKP Cargo.

Sadly, with so many stakeholders all pursuing a separate agenda, unless a sufficiently powerful political personality is prepared to knock some Polish heads together, this year’s Wolsztyn debacle is likely to be a story that will run and run.

Parowozjazda 2008 – first details

Friday, 15 August 2008

Parowozjada 2006 – After returning from Rabka Droj,
enginemen await orders at Chabowka Station,
photo BTWT

Dyspozytor received this e-mail from the Chabowka Skansen. The translation from Polish was done by ourselves.

The railway museum at Chabowka is pleased to invite you to attend attend our fourth Steam Gala. This year it will take place on 6 and 7 September in Sucha Beskidzka and Chabowka.

The procession of locomotives and the engine crew competitions will take place on 6 September at Sucha Beskidzka station. Each steam locomotive will pass through the station separately to make it easier for enthusiasts to take photographs. On the Sucha Beskidzka – Skawce section there will also be a procession of historic trains. These will include: passenger, goods and mixed goods/passenger. The trains will be hauled by steam locomotives: Ol12-7, Ty2-911, Ty2-953, TKt48-191, as well as three locomotives from Wolsztyn. Historic Polish railcar SN61-168 will be taking part, as will the only other operational member of the class SN161-183, which will be coming from Szczecin. Two steam locomotives and a vintage railcar will be coming from the Slowak Republic in order to take part in the festivities.

This year an additional attraction will be the special vintage trains that will be running to bring visitors to the Gala from Cracow, Lachowice, Mszana Dolna and Zakopane to Sucha Beskidzka. There will be a charge for travelling on these trains.

On Sunday there will be a demonstration of coaling and watering the steam locomotives. There will also be opportunities for cab rides throughout the day. Food and refreshments will be served throughout the day.

The Komarna model railway club will be presenting their 1:120 (TT) scale model railway in one of the vintage coaches.


As a result of many suggestions that we have received we will be running three special vintage trains, with photostops, on the non-electrified railway, line number 104 from Chabowka in the direction of Nowy Sacz. The three workings will be a passenger train, a goods train and mixed goods/passenger train. There will be additional ‘surprises’ on route which we believe will satisfy even the most demanding railway enthusiasts. There will be a charge for travelling on these trains.

Best wishes,

Milosz Mazurek

Krosniewice Railway Smoke and Mirrors

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Lxd2 Romanian Bo-Bo narrow gauge diesel backs onto an excursion train at Ozorkow in the summer of 2006, photo BTWT

At a meeting for local authority representatives at Krosniewice Town Hall on Wednesday 13 August, Krosniewice Mayor, Barbara Herman, unveiled her plans for the line. Instead of one lead local authority taking over the whole line. Mrs Herman envisages that each local authority would take over the section of line running through their administrative area. BTWT believes that this ‘slicing the salami’ approach, which would allow every local authority to develop individual and potentially conflicting plans for each section of the railway land, would put the whole railway at risk. We will be continuing our campaign for one lead local authority to take over the whole line as a public transport undertaking.

Mike Pease, chairman of the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership, a lobby group of Polish and British heritage railway experts, explained that the Partnership will be meeting with local and national government decision makers to press the view that, the railway still had an important transport role to play. Mike continued, “In addition the whole system has an enormous potential in the role of a linear park, offering tourists an exciting public transport alternative to visit the many attractions en route.”

New readers might like to type “Krosniewice” into the search box and read the many article on the subject of the Krosniewice Railway. BTWT has been running a vigorous campaign since 7 March this year to save the Krosniewice Railway from the selfish property development plans of the Mayor of Krosniewice.

Camera latest terror weapon!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Tram and bus photographer Rob McCaffrey
forced to hang up his camera, photo “Daily Mail’

(click to see original photo in and read ‘Daily Mail’ article)

The 1960s were frustrating years for railway buffs in Poland. The railways were part of the Warsaw Pact’s defences against a supposedly imminent attack by the USA and its capitalist allies. Photography of railways, trains and bridges was strictly forbidden. The official photographer of the National Railway museum in Warsaw spent a night in jail while the local police checked out his credentials. A climate of fear ruled. In 1965 the shed master at Szczecin Dabie offered to haul out an ancient 19th century Tkh for me to photograph on the shed turntable, but while thanking him profusely I politely refused his offer. Today I now very much regret not saying yes. What price the risk of a night in jail, for the unique photograph that I might have had?

In 1989 came the historic ‘Round Table’ compromise between Poland’s communist rulers and the Solidarity Trade Union. There was an interim period when the communists and Solidarity ruled the country together. Then on December 9, Lech Walesa became President in Poland’s first free elections since WW II. The transition period had many strange anomalies, for instance General Kiszczak, who had been Head of Military Intelligence during the communist era, then General Jaruzelski’s right hand man during Poland’s year’s under martial law, then briefly Prime Minister, continued in the post of Minister of Home Affairs until 6 July 1990.

All this political background to explain that Poland never had a ‘clean break’ with its communist past. When I took my first standard gauge railway photograph in December 1990, a level crossing keeper ran out and threatened to call the police, my travelling companion shouted back at him that if he was so afraid he should to run back to his mother as the communists were no longer in charge of the country! These days photography is an accepted part of the Polish railway scene particular along the lines operated by the scheduled passenger services hauled by steam locomotives sheded at Wolsztyn.

So it was with considerable amazement that I read the Daily Mail article about the harassment suffered by bus, coach and tram photographer, Rob McCaffrey. After amassing 30,000 photos over 40 years as a bus spotter he is going to hang up his camera because he is fed up with being labelled a paedophile or a terrorist.

“Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a crackdown on security and it seems everyone with a camera is a potential criminal.” Rob explained. “The past two years have absolutely been the worst, I have had the most appalling abuse from the public, drivers and police over-exercising their authority.”

Rob has travelled all over Europe and to former Iron Curtain countries, but the only time he has ever had any trouble is in the UK. His first brush with the long arm of the law was in Pontypridd, last September. A bus driver took exception to being snapped and called the police, who demanded to see what he had on his camera. In a second incident in Monmouth saw a PCSO approached Rob and ran his name and address through police computers after a member of the public complained he had been acting strangely.

It is not illegal to take photos in a public place, but under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, police officers may randomly stop someone without reasonable suspicion, if the area is a likely target for an attack. Railway enthusiasts, amateur photographers and even photo journalists, have been stopped and threatened since the passing of the Act.

Amateur photographer, Austin Mitchell, MP, has tabled an early day motion in the Commons calling on the Home Office and police to educate officers about photographers’ rights after being stopped twice himself.

British railway enthusiasts who have been challenged by police or security staff, or who feel strongly about the issue, might wish to write to their MP.

Useful links:

British Journal of Photography – restrictions on photography – Re. railway photography – Your MP

Metro fiasco good news for Warsaw!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Proposals for line 2 of Warsaw’s metro

(source Wikipedia Commons, click for larger image and licence)

It’s not every day that BTWT celebrates the cancellation of a planned public transport investment, but the decision on 31 July by Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewica-Waltz to cancel a tender for a 7km section of the proposed central section of the Warsaw Metro line 2 is in our view very good news for Warsaw residents. Not only did the 6,000 million zloty price tag look a little inflated, the line would not be available for traffic until 2013, one year after the 2012 football championships.

So why are we celebrating? Barely one week later, on 6 August Mrs Gronkiewicz-Waltz announced the signing of a 20 year contract between the City of Warsaw and the Warsaw Tramway Company. The agreement envisages a 16 billion zloty investment in the capital’s ailing tramway system over the next two decades.

The investment involves the purchase of 246 ultra-modern trams, the construction of three new tram lines and renewal of much of the existing track network.

Almost all of the existing trams, some of which date back to the 1960s, will be replaced by state-of-the-art low-floored and air-conditioned cars, up to 32 metres in length. The tender for the first 186 vehicles will be issued later this month.

“These trams will be one of the city’s trademarks for the Euro 2012 football championships,” Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz told reporters this week. The whole deal will be funded with bank loans and city money – and is not dependent on cash from the EU.

An investment of this size in the tramway system, coupled with Warsaw’s chronic traffic congestion, really has the potential to change commuting habits. Perhaps, the breathing space that the tram investment gives the City authorities will be put to good use to investigate more cost effective alternatives to ‘heavy metro’ construction such as tram-train and semi-metro.

The ultimate birthday present

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Railways of Great Britain: A Historical Atlas
by Colonel Michael Cobb (Late RE) FRICS, MA, PhD

(click for more details or to purchase at Ian Allan website)

A comprehensive atlas of public, common carrier, railways from 1807 to 1994 in England and Scotland (not Ireland). The Atlas consists of two large bound volumes in a slip case. There are 646 pages of maps across the two volumes. The railways are shown prominently in colour, superimposed on greyed out 1 inch to the mile OS maps of the area. There are separate indexes for stations, junctions, tunnels, water troughs, inclines and a miscellaneous section that includes, for instance, collieries, sidings, wharves and mills.

The year of opening and closing is given for each line or section together with the names of its various owners. There are also a dozen pages of family trees of the railway companies that were grouped in 1923 to become the ‘Big Four’.

The Atlas is the work of Colonel Michael H Cobb who has been studying railways from the 1920s to the present day. After an army career specialising in surveying and the production of maps, Colonel Cobb worked for the Ordnance Survey and latterly for a civilian cartographic company. He began work on this project in 1978 and finally completed the cartographic work in 1996. The task of producing and financing this great project has taken up the intervening years, and the first edition of the Atlas was published in 2004. It has been subsequently revised to include the errors and omissions brought to the author’s attention and was reprinted in 2006.

The second reprint is privately published limited edition. So if you have £150 and are interested in acquiring a copy, don’t delay. If you are feeling exceptionally generous, Dyspozytor would love a copy. If you don’t have £150, the New Adlestrop Railway Atlas is a work in progress showing the railway lines and stations currently open, together with those that have closed in Wales, the Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire and the South of England.

For his research work on the Atlas, Colonel Cobb was awarded a PhD by the University of Cambridge, becoming at the age of 91 the oldest person on record to be awarded a PhD by the University.

Come back for lost narrow gauge railway?

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Glyn Valley Tramway coach on the Talyllyn Railway,
photo Wikipedia Commons

(click to see photo in original context and details of licensing)

From the Glyn Valley Tramway website.

Just beyond Chirk lies the Ceiriog Valley, ‘A little bit of Heaven on Earth’ according to Lloyd George, and visitors to this now idyllic valley may be surprised to discover the area’s rich industrial heritage based on its rock and mineral deposits.

Initially slate was moved by packhorse from Glyn Ceiriog across the hills to Llangollen, and there loaded onto barges for onward carriage, a system that was at best slow and very uneconomical. In 1873 a narrow gauge railway was built, and pack horses gave way to horse power. Industry created the tramway and because the tramway existed it in turn gave birth to other industries. From out of the valley poured a steady stream of slate, to which in the following years was added granite, china stone, tarmacadam and even gunpowder. From the mills came cloth and perhaps the most innovative was the ‘export’ of live trout from the valley’s trout fishery.

With the arrival of steam the whole process accelerated and mixed trains of slate and other mineral products together with passenger coaches became the norm. On the journey passengers would catch glimpses of the River Ceiriog running alongside the track. When the train reached Pontfadog many passengers would take the liberty of expecting the train to wait for them while they enjoyed a drink at the Swan Inn. Often the last customers emerging from the inn would have to dash across the road and would only just manage to clamber aboard in time before the train continued along it’s way to Dolywern and then onto Glyn Ceiriog. A humorous postcard from this time claimed the tramways motto was ‘No hurry, no worry’ and that ‘ten minute stops were made to pick flowers!’

The last train ran through the valley in 1935. The news had gone round, and scores of locals turned out at Glyn to see the “tram” go by, never to return.

Now the Glyn Valley Tramway Trust have been awarded a £38,500 grant to engage external consultants to undertake preliminary work to enable the line to be reconstructed. £30,000 is being provided from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) via the Welsh Assembly Government, and an additional £8,500 is being orovided by Wrexham County Borough Council.

The Grant will be administered through Northern Marches Cymru and . The Grant will pay for the engagement of external Consultants to undertake all the detailed work required before re-construction of the Glyn Valley Tramway can begin at Chirk.

The First Part will be a High Level Study to look in detail at the overall future of the original route of the Glyn Valley tramway and how it might be re-instated in part or in total, either directly through the Trust or other interested bodies. The Second Part will cover all the detailed work required for a First Phase re-instatement at Chirk. This will include all the technical design work including Railway and Buildings, Environmental and other specialist reports. The Final Part will be a Public Exhibition / Event to present the results of the High Level Study and design of Phase 1.

More information:

  • Glyn Valley Tramway Trust website
  • Glyn Valley Tramway blog