Archive for August, 2008

Cracow-Prague train crash 7 killed, 67 injured

Friday, 8 August 2008

The crash scene, photo Vladislav Galginek,
AP, Gazeta Wyborcza

(click to see photo in original context and remaining pictures)

Reuters and BBC News reported a serious train accident this morning at Studénka in the Czech republic close to the Polish border. The train involved was the 07:00 Eurocity express from Cracow, which was due to arrive in Prague at 13:59. At around 10:45 it hit a bridge which was being rebuilt.

The train was reported to have been travelling at 80 mph (130 km/h) when the driver noticed parts of the new bridge fouling the loading gauge. He made an emergency brake application and ran into the engine room and lay down on the ground. Six seconds after the driver first noticed the obstruction the engine hit the bridge. The first coach was severely damaged by the momentum of the carriages behind it. The second and third coaches slid past the engine and were also badly damaged. The remaining coaches suffered less damage.

Work at the bridge site had been going on since April. Today, the contractor was attempting to slide out the new steel decking across the railway tracks. It appears that Czech Railways had not been informed that this manoeuvre was to be carried out and no speed restriction was in force.

Preliminary figures released on Friday morning were 10 people killed and 100 injured. The latest figure given by Polish media at midnight on Friday were 7 killed and 67 injured.

Czech Railways map.

A1 driver a TV ‘star’

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Graham Bunker, the driver of new build A1 pacific locomotive Tornado, during her first public run. Still from BBC NEWS video.

No apologies for returning to the subject of Tornado. It’s not every day that a £ 3 million steam locomotive is built from scratch and the Tornado project deserves maximum publicity. The story is particularly pertinent in Poland where steam locomotives are still being dumped and subsequently scrapped because their boilers require overhaul.

We have just come across a great video made by the BBC and available on their One-minute World News Channel. Robert Hall, the presenter, has made a very informative short film about the challenge of building a steam engine at a time when many of the skills and engineering facilities are difficult to find. But the real star is Graham Bunker, Tornado’s driver.

The other challenge has been the engineering. We’ve had to relearn things that have been lost in time. We’ve had to go all round the world. The metal tires on the wheels have come from South Africa. The boiler has come from Germany. Various other parts have come from across Europe.

There is a part of me that would have enjoyed to have seen everything done in Britain, but… the UK gave railways to the world, perhaps it’s not unreasonable that they gave us a little bit back.

I can think of quite a few Polish railway bosses who could learn a few useful TV interview tips from Graham! Just listen to the way he deals with Tornado’s CO2 footprint.

(If you haven’t already done so, do click on the picture on the top of this article to see the BBC video.)

A tale of 3 engines – part 3

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Tkh 5, 1885 built Henschel 0-6-0WT
at Warsaw Odlany MPD, in 1991, © Pawel Mieroslawski

(click to see photo on Fundacja Era Parowozow website)

The story of Poland’s oldest steam locomotive provides a good illustration of the unresolved problems that still endanger the future of Poland’s railway heritage. The tragic ending is typical of the fate that befell many historic items of rolling stock. The engine – the oldest steam locomotive in Poland – was built by the German locomotive builder, Henschel, in their Kassel works in 1885.

The locomotive spent WW II working in the Janikowo Sugar Refinery and when the war ended was transferred to the custody of the National Railway Museum in Warsaw. All seemed well until, towards the end of the 1990s, a new organisation was created to defend Polish railway heritage – Fundacja Ochrony Zabytkow Kolejnictwa (The Foundation for the Preservation of Railway Heritage) – headed by Jerzy Rezigiel. Although a number of senior PKP Directors joined the board of the foundation, it was significant that no representatives of Poland’s fledgling railway heritage movement were involved in this venture.

The Foundation set up a ‘railway museum’ at Krzeszowice near Cracow. In the 1997, Tkh 5 was transported there. Here the locomotive began to vanish piece by piece! The scandal of the ‘railway museum’ at Krzeszowice deserves an article all of its own, and despite BTWT’s considerable investigative abilities, even we haven’t been able to figure out the whole story. Suffice it to say that the ‘museum’ resembled a scrap yard and that over the years a number of locomotives that had been sent their for preservation ended up as scrap.

Tkh 5 still exists, but only just. Its damaged well tank frame and three wheelsets were transported earlier this year to the skansen at Chabowka, where, if you you attend the steam gala on 6 – 7 September, you’ll be able to see them.

The remains of Tkh 5 at Chabowka, BTWT photo

A tale of 3 engines – part 2

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Haydock Foundry 0-6-0WT, built 1874, “Bellerophon”

Bellerophon is one of the world’s oldest working steam locomotives. The locomotive was built in 1874 by the Haydock Foundry, to the design of Josiah Evans, son of Richard Evans who owned the Haydock Collieries. It was one of the third of six similar locomotives built by the Foundry. The modified outside Gooch valve gear looks strange to those familiar with modern steam engines.

Bellerophon’s duties included twice daily runs between Haydock and Northwich in Cheshire and, alternately, twice daily runs between Golborne and Edge Green collieries and the shunting yards at Haydock. This involved running over the mainline railways, as in the 19th century private companies often exercised their running rights in this manner. In the 1880s, Bellerophon and her sister locomotives ran annual passenger excursions to Blackpool for colliery employees and their families. Four trains, each double-headed, made the journey over the lines of the LNWR and LYR.

When the coal mining industry was nationalised in 1947, the Haydock Foundry became the Central Works for the National Coal Board St Helens area and continued repairing colliery locomotives and rolling stock. Bellerophon received its last overhaul at Haydock in 1957. It then worked with little or no maintenance until 1964, by which time it had been at work for 90 years. The five other similar Haydock locomotives were cut up for scrap in the early 1960s leaving only Bellerophon, which was donated to the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in November 1966. It was seen as being of little use for hauling the heavy trains of this popular heritge railway and so became a static exhibit at Haworth.

Then Terry Sykes, a member of the K&WVR, came up with a plan to restore Bellerophon to working order. The Vintage Carriages Trust purchased the locomotive from the K&WVR for a nominal sum and successfully applied for a 50% grant from the Science Museum towards the costs of restoration. Bellerophon steamed for the first time in preservation on 1 May 1985 and hauled its first passenger train in about 100 years that October. In 1986 it won the National Coal Board’s “Steam Heritage Award”, and in 1987 began a tour of many preservation sites around the north of England, including Steamtown, Carnforth, Crewe Heritage Centre and the Embsay and Bolton Abby Steam Railway. It was also deployed on off-peak services on the K&WVR. In 1989 the locomotive’s restoration won the Institution of Mechanical Engineers “Heritage Hallmark Award”.

To enable Bellerophon to be seen working in an authentic colliery railway setting, the Vintage Carriages Trust loaned the locomotive to the Foxfield Railway. Here after a decade of hard work another major overhaul was commenced. The restoration was completed in time for Bellerophon to be the star attraction at the Foxfield Railway’s Steam Gala on 19 and 20 July this year.

Ben Sidwell’s BBC Midland’s Today film on the restoration of Bellerophon
broadcast on 18 July, 2008

It was, of course, a party of Foxfield Railway volunteers who acquitted themselves so well repairing track on the Smigiel Railway in Poland earlier this year.

More videos:

More pictures:

A tale of three egines – part 3

A tale of 3 engines, part 1

Monday, 4 August 2008

Tkh 05353 (ex Huta Florian No. 4) undergoing steam trials on 24 Luly 2008 at the ZNiUT works of PTK Holding in Dzierno. (from a photo by Gregorz Radlinski of TOZK Pyskowice)

(click to see complete photo in original POLISH context)

Behind The Water Tower
does not usually linger over developments concerning single locomotives. We deal with the fate of whole railways, analyse national transport policy and look at the systemic problems faced by railway ‘preservationists’. We leave it to others to describe and debate such fine details as the restoration of a signal box and what livery a particular railway carriage should be painted.

Of course, there are exceptions. Such iconic locomotives as the Flying Scotsman, by their very nature, are ambassadors for the railway heritage movement. Projects such as new build Peppercorn A1 pacific Tornado show how the ‘impossible’ can be achieved given sufficient determination, a professional approach, a good business plan and the generosity of many private individuals and commercial sponsors. It is entirely appropriate that developments concerning these ‘icons’ should feature in our pages.

But why are we devoting this post and our next two to the fate of three virtually unknown small industrial steam locomotives? First of all, because in Poland, which has only two dozen standard gauge steam locomotives in working order, the restoration of any steam locomotive from a derelict wreck to running condition (today’s article) is so rare for the story to be major news in its own right, and secondly, because the other two stories (one English and one Polish) do cast some fresh light as to the problems faced by the Polish heritage movement as a whole.

Tkh 05353 worked for many years at the Huta Florian steelworks. After withdrawal the locomotive was stored for many years at the railway workshops in Przezchleb. Here its condition deteriorated and it seemed unlikely that it could ever become anything more than a cosmetically restored ‘stuffed’ exhibit. However, Mr Zbigniew Pucek, the President of the Board of PTK Holding S.A. had other ideas. The locomotive was acquired by his company and given a general overhaul at the company’s ZNiUT works in Dzierno. The company maintains very close links with the TOZK Society at Pyskowice. The Society, which includes several steam fitters amongst its membership, gave practical assistance as well as technical advice during the restoration. Boiler repairs were carried out under the supervision of PPHU “Januszewski Wicher” S.C. also of Pyskowice.

On 24 July the locomotive had its first live steam test. Mr Radlinski’s stunning photograph (click on the picture) and this sparking video on You Tube, which can be seen in high definition, are a worthy record of this historic occasion.

A tale of three engines – part 2

China launches ‘world’s fastest HS railway’.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

The first intercity train between Beijng and Tianjin departs from Beijing South Railway Station for Tianjin, Aug. 1, 2008. Photo Xinhua/Gong Lei

(clck to see picture in original context)

Two opening ceremonies were held in Beijing and Tianjin on Friday to mark the inauguration of the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, a week before the Olympic Games are due to begin. Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, China Olympic Committee, BOCOG President and Beijing Party Chief Liu Qi, Tianjin Party Chief Zhang Gaoli and Railways Minister Liu Zhijun attended the ceremony at the new Beijing South Railway Station.

Zhang and other senior officials boarded the first train which left at 10:40 for Tianjin. Within minutes, it had accelerated to over 300 km per hour, pulling into Tianjin Railway Station at 11:10 on schedule. In Tianjin, the first train left at 10:42 and, 30 minutes later, arrived at Beijing South Railway Station.

The railway is the world’s fastest, with passenger trains running at an operational speed of 350 km per hour, according to China’s Ministry of Railways (MOR), which claims high-speed trains in Japan and Spain run at 320 km per hour, and those in France and Germany at 300 km per hour. The new service cuts the 120-km journey from 70 minutes to about 30 with five stops at Yizhuang, Yongle and Wuqing. The service will shuttle spectators, athletes, media people and other passengers between Beijing and Tianjin, which is to host 12 Olympic football matches from Aug. 6 to 15.

The regular service starts on Saturday, with the first train scheduled to leave Beijing at 6:15 and the first train departing from Tianjin 20 minutes later. The last trains are to leave Beijing at 22:10 and Tianjin at 22:06. Forty-seven trains are scheduled to run daily from each city. Trains for Tianjin will leave at intervals of 15, 20 and 30 minutes. A first-class ticket costs 69 yuan (£5:11) and a second-class fare is 58 yuan (£4:30). Fares will be frozen for the first year of operation.

Ten eight-car trains are already in service, each equipped with aircraft-like cabins, swivel seats, spacious interiors and rooftop solar panels. Every train carries 600 passengers. Four of the trains are CRH3 (China Railway High-speed) manufactured by the Tangshan Locomotive and Rolling Stock Works in association with Siemens. One reached a maximum speed of 394.3 km per hour during a June 24 test run. These trains would be used on the planned Beijing-Shanghai and the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway lines, and the operational speeds would be raised to 380 km per hour, said MOR deputy chief engineer Zhang Shuguang. The other six were CRH2-300 trains built by the Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company, and could travel at an operational speed of 300 km per hour, Zhang said.

About 26 million people travel between the two cities annually. The MOR predicts the new line will help raise the figure to 32 million this year. At least three kinds of trains already run between the two cities:

  • D-category trains run at 200 to 250 km per hour and take 70 minutes. Passengers pay 51 yuan for first-class and 42 yuan for a second-class.
  • K-category trains take 100 minutes and the maximum fare is 20 yuan.
  • Bank holiday trains run only during major holidays, and supplement regular services.

£3 million new build A1 pacific steamed today

Friday, 1 August 2008

Peppercorn A1 pacific 60163 Tornado a few weeks before today’s test run,
photo, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust

New build Peppercorn A1 pacific, 60163 Tornado, made its first public move under her own steam in Darlington at 11:00hrs today.

The new A1 class (there was an earlier Gresley class with the same designation) was designed by Arthur Peppercorn as the final embodiment of express passenger steam locomotive design for the London and North Eastern Railway. The newly formed British Railways constructed 49 Peppercorn A1s in 1948/49 at their works in Doncaster and Darlington. By 1966, 17 years after the last member of the class was built, all the A1s were scrapped. There was an abortive attempt to preserve the last survivor of the class 60145 St Mungo. The project to build a new Peppercorn class A1 was launched in 1990 and, after 18 years of planning, construction and raising over £2.9 million, 60163 Tornado made her first public run today.

Mark Allatt, chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust commented:

Tornado’s first public move in steam marks the beginning of the final phase for a project that many said could never be completed. In 1990 a group was formed with a vision and the determination to make it succeed – to build and operate a Peppercorn class A1 Pacific steam locomotive for main line and preserved railway use. 18 years later Tornado is complete. It is down to our more than 2,000 regular monthly and other donors, our sponsors lead by William Cook Cast Products Limited and the hard work of our volunteers and contractors that all that remains now between Tornado and main line operations is the successful completion of her test and trials programme, first on the Great Central Railway at Loughborough and then on Network Rail.

With 4th August marking the 40th anniversary of the end of British Railways steam and 6th August the 60th anniversary of the entry into traffic of the first Peppercorn class A1 60114 WP Allen, there could be no better time to celebrate steam’s second coming and no better way than the completion of the first new main line steam locomotive in Britain for almost 50 years. When this project was launched in 1990 many people said that it could not be done. The completion of the construction programme proves the doubters wrong and means that there is only £66,000 to pay for test and trials and less than four months between now and Tornado’s main line début.

The A1 Trust has built Peppercorn Class A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado at its Darlington Locomotive Works and when certified it will be used on charter trains operating on Network Rail. Fitted with additional water capacity and the latest railway safety electronics, Tornado is fully equipped for today’s main line railway. Over £2.9m has been raised to-date through deeds of covenant, commercial sponsorship (principal sponsor William Cook Cast Products Limited) and through a bond issue. In order to get Tornado on the main line as quickly as possible the Trust needs to raise a further £66,000 on top of its existing pledges.


Steam parade moved to Sucha Beskidzka

Friday, 1 August 2008

Sucha Beskidzka Station, 2006
Photo Pawel Okrzesik, Beskidzka Strona Kolejowa
(Click to see photo in original context and more pictures of the Sucha Beskidzka-Zywiec line.)

PKP Cargo have moved their parade of steam hauled trains – a central part of the Chabowka Steam Gala – from Rabka Zdroj to Sucha Beskidzka. Our special cleaning lady who empties the wastepaper bins for PKP Cargo informs us that their Regional Director Zbigniew Gadek, does not have a good working relationship with Rabka Zdroj Mayor, Ewa Przybylo. Ms Przybylo has her town – one of Poland’s most popular health resorts – jam packed with Poles who have persuaded their doctors that what they really need is a holiday in the mountains at the taxpayers expenses. Parowozjazda, the Chabowka Steam Gala leaves her cold.

Meanwhile, Stanislaw Lichosyt, the Mayor of Sucha Beskidzka, is wondering what will happen to his town if the new railway line from Cracow to Zakopane gets built. The new line would by-pass Sucha Beskidzka and then the old line connecting Sucha with Krakow would be flooded by a new lake. Sucha, which was industralised after WW II, has suffered from Poland’s short sharp shock economic transition and Mr Lichosyt is keen to see tourism develop in the area. So it’s little surprise that he welcomed Director Gadek’s proposal to bring his parade of steam locomotive hauled trains to Sucha with open arms.

Parowozjazda takes place this year on the weekend of 6 – 7 September. Apart from the parade of steam trains, all the other events will take place at the Railway Museum in Chabowka. There will be access to the railway museum at Chabowka overnight on the 6/7.

To coincide with the Chabowka Steam Gala, the British-Polish Railway and Industrial heritage Partnership are organising a one week trip travelling round Poland by rail and visiting various narrow gauge railways. More details are promised soon.