Archive for August 16th, 2008

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.