Archive for October, 2008

California vote vital – support Prop 1A

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Sacramento Station,
visualisation by NCD3 for California High-Speed Rail Authority

On November 4 the voters of the  United States will choose their next President. But the voters of California will also be voting on proposition 1A and deciding whether or not to authorise the USA’s first high speed raiway, the first stage of a new line running between San Diego and Sacramento, with connections to the Bay Area.

Los Angeles to San Francisco by rail in two and a half hours?

High-speed rail advocates in California have been pushing high-speed rail for 25 years and have never been able to raise enough public support. But now a confluence of events – rising fuel prices, gridlocked roads, jammed airports, a concern about global warming and the need to bootstrap the economy – present the best chance yet to bring high speed rail to America.

Proposition 1A would authorize $9.95 billion in bonds to finance the first phase of an 800-mile high-speed rail line that would connect the San Francisco Bay Area with Los Angeles. Several transportation, environmental and business groups say it would offer a faster, cheaper and greener travel while easing the strain on California’s notoriously backed-up highways and airports. Trains would make the 400-mile run between the two cities at about 220 mph (considerably faster than the 150 mph top speed attained by the USA’s fastest train, the Acela Express, linking Washington, D.C. with Boston).

The project is expected to cost $32 billion, with extensions to San Diego and Sacramento adding another $10 billion. The rail authority envisages that local taxpayers, the Government and private investors would share the costs equally. Construction could begin as early as 2011 and trains might be running by 2020. Advocates claim the largest public works project in state history would create as many as 160,000 construction jobs and spur 400,000 more jobs once the system is up and running.

Further information:

“Labour transport policy ‘failing'”

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Traffic Jam – Ten years of ‘sustainable’ transport in the UK

” Labour transport policy ‘failing’ ” screamed the headline on the BBC On-line news page this Sunday. By Monday the article had vanished from the BBC’s news feed and could not be found via the BBC’s own search engine. However, the review of Traffic Jam – Ten years of ‘sustainable’ transport in the UK by Iain Docherty and Jon Shaw remains on-line – if you know where to look for it!

Docherty and Shaw dismiss ten years of government transport policy as “a big disappointment”. They say that, a decade after Labour outlined its new deal on transport in the White Paper, A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone, government has failed to cut traffic congestion, ignored the need for railway investment and neglected walking and cycling.

In 1998, the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said he would regard himself as a failure if, in five years, traffic congestion had not fallen and public transport use increased.

Traffic Jam highlights the areas where government has failed:

  • Traffic congestion is worse than a decade ago;
  • The investment needs of the railways have been almost completely ignored, in particular to increase capacity;
  • Bus services in most of the UK have remained poor, especially in comparison with the rest of Europe;
  • Tram schemes have been abandoned, despite proving effective at getting motorists out of their cars;
  • Apart from some high profile flagship projects, walking and cycling have been largely neglected;
  • The government baulks at addressing the environmental impact of aviation;
  • Transport carbon emissions continue to rise.

China to fight crisis with rail investment

Sunday, 26 October 2008

A segment of the Beijing-Tianjin intercity high-speed
railway under construction on Nov 2007 in Tianjin.
Photo Xinhuanet.

(Click on the picture to read the original China Daily article on the completion of track-laying on the 120 km long Beijing – Tianjin high speed railway in December 2007.)

China’s State Council has approved 2 trillion yuan ($292 billion) for the construction of a series of railway projects, to help boost economic growth amid the worldwide financial crisis. By 2010, the total length China’s railway network will reach 90,000 km an increase of 20% compared to its size in 2006.

About 1.2 trillion yuan ($174 billion) has already been allocated to specific projects, Wang Yongping, spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, said on Friday. Construction work is due to start soon. Zheng Xinli, a senior government policy advisor, said: In 1997, we dealt with the Asian financial crisis by stimulating domestic economic growth by investing in the construction of highways. This time the money will go on improving the rail network.

Slow and relatively poor-quality services and busy trunk lines are the major problems facing China’s railway customers. Insufficient capacity will still be a problem in 2010, but the Ministry of Railways expects this to be solved by 2015. The volume of traffic carried by rail is expected to double with the completion of the trunk line network by in 2010. The railway industry construction boom is expected to last over 10 years.

I suppose it’s too much to hope that a similar strategy might be adopted by the governments of Britain and Poland.

China DailyGov’t sets $300b for railway construction

Wielkopolska promotes railway heritage!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Wolsztyn’s Tr5-65 and six wheel vintage coach in Poznan.
Photo Robert Dylewski, Fundacja Era Parowozow.

(Click to go to Fundacja Era Parowozow website.)

Some 40 years since I first started badgering the authorities that much of Poland’s railway technology has priceless heritage value and that promoted wisely it could be a major tourist attraction, finally, at last, one of Poland’s regional tourist organisations has started actively promoting its heritage railways and museums. The Wielkopolska Organizacja Turystyczna (Wielkopolska Tourist Organisation) has published a very nice 20 page booklet about the region’s heritage railways and museums.

The booklet is very informative and covers everything you might want to know from where and how to hire a hand-propelled platelayers’ truck to where to go to book a steam special for the your next company do. It is full of practical information and includes basic contact details such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. Unusually in a Polish guide, for many of the organisations listed there is actually the name of a contact person. The English text is in English, not Polinglish, and even the Talyllyn Railway, which is not in Wielkopolska, but in North Wales, manages to get a mention.

The guide was launched at TOUR SALON 2008, an annual exhibition to promote the attractions of the Poznan region. PKP Cargo brought along Wolsztyn’s 2-8-0 freight locomotive TR5-65 and kept the engine in steam throughout the exhibition. At last some people in Poland are beginning to realise that stuffed dead locomotives do not compare with living and breathing steam engines. It’s just a pity that so much of Wielkoposka’s railway heritage has been destroyed over the last 40 years.

I particularly mourn the passing of:

  • Wielechowo-Rakonowice section of the Smigiel Railway;
  • The Opalenica – Nowy Tomysl – Lwowek Railway;
  • Most of the Kujawy Railways and sugar beet feeder lines;
  • Most of the Sroda Wielkopolska Railway;
  • Nearly all of the Wyrzysk Railway.

Let’s hope that by combining the good will of a few enlightened people and the lobbying power of Behind The Water Tower, there won’t be too many further casualties.


Railway heritage booklet
published by the Wielkopolska Tourist Organisation

“We apologise to passengers…

Thursday, 23 October 2008
waiting for the 16:00 from Oxford. This train will not run today due to an incident at Reading.”

The Quebec to Boston Express train wreck
after the accident on September 15, 1907.
Photo from a 1907 postcard via Wikipedia

I apologise to readers of Behind The Water Tower for its non-appearance during the last 4 days. This has been due to circumstances beyond my control. I hope to restore normal services by 10:00 hrs GMT Friday 24 October. More details about the accident pictured in the photograph here.


Why didn’t PKP… ?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Alan Heath asks a good question. Why, when the Zlote Tarase (Golden Terraces) shopping centre development was being negotiated with the Warsaw authorities, wasn’t the original option pursued of linking the development to Warszawa Centralna station? The centre would have gained more shoppers; PKP and its customers would have gained a refurbished station. Alan points to Leipzig Station as an example of what could have been done. We are stumped for an answer, but will investigate.

Urgently in need of a makeover. The main hall Warszawa Centralna. Source Wikipedia Commons

How it should be done. New look for Leipzig Hauptbahnhof. Source Wikipedia Commons

Another missed opportunity? Krakow Glowny station and the Galeria Krakow development to its right. Source Wikipedia Commons

Haunted Bialystock

Saturday, 18 October 2008

After 5pm in Bialystock. Note that the only rails that are shiny are the twin freight lines that by-pass the station. Photo Michael Dembinski

This picture of Bialystock station on the W-wa Jeziorki blog has a Marie Celeste feel about it. In communist times, Bialystock was an important railway junction and the last big town before the Soviet border. A network of branchlines brought people and goods into the big city. Communist party bosses sent on delegacje to the Soviet Union could stretch their legs while the big Polish Pt47 2-8-2 express steam locomotives took on water. Heavy freight trains regularly took Polish food and manufactured goods deep into the Soviet hinterland.

Now the branchlines are decaying, the people come to Bialystock by car and the only heavy freight rumbling through the stations are trains bringing Russian coal into Poland.

Click on the photo will take you straight to Mike’s article, Rush hour in Bialystock. Clicking on the photo again once you have reached W-wa Jeziorki will take you to a glorious high resolution version which would make a great screen saver. As well as Mike’s brilliant photography, another reason for visiting his blog is that 6 out of his last 8 posts have a railway interest. Is BTWT about to have a serious competitor?

Don’t leave it too late. VOTE!

Friday, 17 October 2008

A hand propelled platelayers’ trolley on the Starachowice Railway in the days when the Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation, FPKW, was the operator. Photo FPKW.

(Click on picture to see it in its original context on the FPKW website.)

Do please take part in our poll and tell us what we should write about. Have we, for example, given sufficient coverage to the Polish passion for charging about on disused railways using home made platelayers’ trolleys? The poll is not some silly gimmick. BTWT veterans will know that we do listen to our readers and that quite often the subject of a post is a topic that was raised as a reader’s comment a day or so earlier. We want to prepare a strategic plan which will give BTWT some direction during 2009 and the poll is the first consultation exercise that we are undertaking to help us firm up the plan. To those who have already taken part in the poll. Many thanks.

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


Clean and uncluttered, the ticket hall at Bialystok, but where should we go?

As we ‘go to press today’ BTWT has published 240 posts, received 198 comments and had 39,924 views. As we pass our 40,000 views milestone we would ask you to help us choose our next destinations.

If you have a couple minutes spare, please take part in our Poll. The first six questions are ‘multiple choice’, the last gives you a field to write in where we should go. Don’t forget to press the yellow “Vote” button after you have made your choice.

Railway Museum Director resigns!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Happier times. In December 2006, Warsaw Railway Museum Director, Janusz Sankowski, listens to a speech by former Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Miroslaw Chaberek, on the occasion of a meeting to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the museum.
Photo, Ministry of Infrastructure.

(Click on photograph to see original 2006 article in POLISH on the Ministry of Infrastructure website.)

After 17 years in post, Janusz Sankowski, Director of the Warsaw Railway Museum, has tendered his resignation to Adam Struzik, the Chief Executive of Mazowsze province. Sankowski, though friendly and hospitable to foreign visitors, was not liked by the leaders of Poland’s independent railway museums and heritage railways. Sankowski had not kept track with what was happening in the railway heritage world and once famously told Fedecrail President, David Morgan, that “the future of railway museums lay in making and displaying scale models“. He also said that Poland had “too many items of historic rolling stock” and that the best way to solve the problem was to scrap surplus items.

The condition of the collection of historic locomotives and rolling stock that has been under Sankowski’s care at the old Warszawa Glowna Station is appalling with many movable items, including steam locomotive cab fittings and even connecting and coupling rods ripped off and sold for scrap. Warsaw Railway museum items stored elsewhere fared little better. Poland’s oldest steam locomotive, Tkh 5, which was delivered to the Railway Museum complete and then sent to the fraudulent skansen at Krzeszowive is now just three wheelsets and a pile of scrap.

The final straw for Polish railway enthusiasts came when scrap merchants started cutting up the remains of historic Italian diesel railcar SD-80 which for years has been left as a rusting burnt-out hulk in a siding behind Warszawa Zachodnia Station. At the end of August, Piotr Lewandowski, raised the plight of the collection under Sankowski’s care with the District Prosecutor’s office, and formally accused Sankowski of not properly exercising the duty of care over his collection.

Sankowski has told journalists that the problem was caused by Polish railway enthusiasts wanting to “preserve too many items” and that the Museum did not have room for all of them. Railway heritage society leaders counter that they had approached Sankowski many times regarding the possibility of their railways and museums taking particular items of rolling stock into their care and that Sankowski always refused their requests, or proposed punitive conditions which were not practicable for the society concerned.

New livery at Smigiel…

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

… fancy a quiet retirement job?

Smigiel Railway Rumanian railcar freshly painted in SKPL’s passeger livery and with the Smigiel coat of arms on the front, but still carrying its PKP vehicle identity code, MBxd2-218.

Smigiel Railway’s passenger service restarted on 1 September after a break for the school holidays. The new timetable can be downloaded here as a pdf file. Now the railway is looking for part-time drivers. Are you a retired driver looking to make your UK pension go further? £45,000 will buy you a nice 3 bed-roomed house in Smigiel on a reasonably sized plot. The wages SKPL can afford to pay you will only stretch far enough to pay for your beer, but on the other hand food is much cheaper – the price of a decent beef steak is only a quarter of what you would expect to pay in the UK.

First things first

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Map of Polish railway heritage locations
©Wojciech Szymalski

(This map cataloguing of of Poland’s ‘railway tourist attractions’ was produced by Zielone Mazowsze (Green Mazowia) an admirable organisation promoting cycling and railway tourism. The map, which shows the locations superimposed on Poland’s mainline railway network, can be seen full size on Green Mazowia’s website. Just click on the map.)

I thought that before we go much further with BTWT it would be a good idea to define the scale of the problem so to speak and create an inventory of all the heritage railways and railway museums. It will give some perspective to our stories on developments in Poland. Hence the first, incomplete, draft of an index of Poland’s narrow gauge railways which took most of the weekend to compile and today’s map.

The map is admirable because it shows Poland’s mainline railway network, rather than the trunk road network, the implication being that if you are interested in railways you are also likely to want to travel by rail in order to visit them. How different to the small booklet on the railway attractions of [redacted] province which I have just finished translating!

A friend phoned up last week to say that he has only a few days to produce an English language version of a guide to railway attractions and would I help him by editing his translation. Of course, I ended up re-translating the booklet from scratch (much easier than editing a non-native speaker’s translation) and rewriting half the original text.

Today I received the cover artwork – very professional. Then I looked at the inside back page. There were motorways, trunk roads, minor roads, churches, museums, palaces, examples of wooden architecture… . If you looked at the map very carefully you could just see the standard gauge railways, but if you wanted to find the narrow gauge railways that this booklet was supposed to be promoting you would have to look for a very long time – they weren’t included. Of course, I boiled and phoned my friend. “Too late”, he said. “100,000 leaflets must be ready by Thursday”.

Perhaps, BTWT should produce its own guidebooks which would be available as a pdf download to all our supporters?

Poland short line revival…

Monday, 13 October 2008

…while Ministry wields axe!

Lesna Station in Upper Silesia, photo ©Jacek Chizynski

As a result of the large rises in the price of diesel and the increased wages of lorry drivers in Poland, Poland’s disused branchlines are enjoying something of a revival. Several local authorities are exercising the option to take over their lines free of charge. Usually the main purpose is to provide a freight link which would make the towns along the line more attractive to investors, but the long-term revival of passenger traffic is also being investigated.

Last week, I attended a meeting at the offices of Lomza District Council where the future of the Lapy – Ostroleka line was being discussed. The Polish Ministry of Infrastructure has indicated that the line will receive no new investment and is scheduled for closure in 2010. Nearly all the representatives of the local councils there were in favour of taking over the line, although a few councillors did point out the considerable lobbying powers of the local road operators.

What is ironic is that, just as the Ministry of Infrastructure prepares to push through a freight strategy based on closing branchlines and abandoning wagonload freight, similar to the plans implemented by Dr Beeching in Britain in the 60’s, ‘short lines’ and wagonload freight are both experiencing something of a renaissance in Poland . The picture above by Jacek Chizynski shows recently refurbished pointwork at Lesna Station in Upper Silesia.

The investment is not by some ambitious local authority, but by PKP itself, anxious to hold on to a lucrative contract for carrying roadstone to a new tarmac plant at Lesna.

New tarmac plant at Lesna, photo ©Jacek Chizynski

Polish narrow gauge status review

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Wls40 diesel locos at Trzeciewnica Station

(When local authorities first mooted reviving the Wyrzysk Railway in the 2002, PKP responded by ripping up most of the track. The section through Trzeciewnica Station was saved thanks to the initiative of a local brewery.)

We’ve always wanted to create an index to the surviving narrow gauge railways in Poland, but have always baulked at the amount of work involved. But finally, by working over two days we have managed to prepare the first edition. We’ve given each railway a ‘health rating’. The first two traffic lights indicate the current status, and the last two indicate the state last year. Basically those lines with a double green light are OK. They are the ones that we don’t worry too much about about.


Bieszczady Railway 750 mm
Bieszczadska Kolej Lesnia

(Wola Michalowa-Przyslup) The most famous narrow gauge railway in Poland, and the only one able to afford to maintain a regular scheduled programme of track repairs. The trackbed is owned by the Fundacja Bieszczadzkiej Kolejki Lesnej – the only heritage railway operator in Poland to own its own right of way. A project, funded by the Carpathian Foundation, to extend the railway is to the PKP station at Nowy Lupkow is underway.

Gniezno Railway 750 mm
Gnieznienska Kolej Waskotorowa

(Gniezno – Anastazewo ) Formerlt the Gnieznienska Kolej Dojazdowa, the railway was the western section of the Kujawy Railway System. The railway carried freight until PKP abandoned its narrow gauge railways in 2001. In 2002 Gniezno District Council took over the railway and appointed the Gniezno Society to be its operator.

Gryfice Railway 1,000 mm
Gryfica Kolej Dojazdowa

(Gryfice-Rewal) A fragment of the Pomeranian Railway metre gauge system. The title to the trackbed has been acquired by Rewal Town Coucil. The line is a very popular tourist attraction and enjoys strong backing from Rewal Council who have formed their own operating company which runs the line. A skansen (outdoor railway museum) at Gryfice contains a large collection of metre gauge rolling stock, including items from the former Grojecka Kolej Dojazdowa. A major EU-funded project to refurbish the railway is ready to roll.

Znin District Railway 600 mm
Zninska Kolej Powiatowa

(Znin – Wenecja – Biskupin – Gasawa) Arguably Poland’s first tourist narrow gauge railway. Regular passenger traffic ceased in 1962, although freight traffic continued for another 40 years. However, some 10 years later, PKP started a three train a day service during the tourist season to take tourists to the narrow gauge railway skansen set up in 1972 at Wenecja and the prehistoric lake village at Biskupin. In 2002, the Znin District Council and the Gasawa Town established a railway company which continues to run the tourist service.

Upper Silesian Railway 785 mm
Gornoslaskie Kolej Dojazdowa

Bytom-Tarnowskie Gory-Miasteczko Slaskie) A section of the once extensive 785 mm gauge railways that connected the coal mines and power stations of Silesia. The previous green and amber reflected the precarious financial and security status of the railway. The track connecting the railway to its extensive workshops – the largest narrow gauge railway workshops in Europe – was stolen several times. This year the local council have at last agreed to fund some of the railway’s most basic needs, hence the double green.

Naleczow Railway 750 mm
Naleczowska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Naleczow-Opole Lubelskie) The title to the trackbed has now been secured by Opole Lubelskie District Council. After SKPL’s earlier decision to withdraw from running the railway, there are now THREE rival plans to operate the line: (i) a proposal from SKPL, the current operator; (ii) A proposal from FPKW, the operators of the Rogow narrow gauge railway and the Pionki Forest Railway Skansen; (iii) An internal proposal to form a new operating company which would be owned by the Council

Piaseczno Railway 1,000 mm
Piaseczynska Kolej Waskotorowa

(Piaseczno-Tarczyn; there are plans to rebuild the line to Nowe Miast nad Pilica) This railway is part of the former Grojecka Kolej Dojazdowa sysyem. This very popular railway line has made progress by leaps and bounds. Once the private playground of a Polish Heffneresque figure, the Piaseczynskie Towarzystwo Kolei Wąskotorowej now accepts applications for membership and runs a regular all the year round Sunday service. The society has also conducted a heavy overhaul of its Px 48-3917 steam locomotive. However, there a complicated ownership strucure which makes applying for grants difficult. The line is owned by PKP, which licences it to the District Council, which licences it to the Town Council, which licences it to the Society, hence the green and amber rating.

Pionki Forest Railway 600 mm
Kolej Lesnia w Puszczy Kozienickiej

(Pionki only; there are plans to rebuild the line to Garbatka Letnisko) This forestry railway was closed in 1981 and all the track was lifted. In 2002, a project was announced to rebuild the line from scratch. The venture is being led by Pawel Szwed the chairman of the Fundacja Polskich Kolei Waskotorowych and enjoys the support of all the local authorities and the Forestry Commission. The engine sheds and workshops have been restored and the track in the immediate environs relaid. Apart from a chronic shortage of funds, the future looks bright for this project.

Kalisz Railway 750 mm
Kaliska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Opatow-Zbiersk Cukrownia-Turek; short branch to Russow) Freight workings have been cut back to Zbiersk Cukrownia following a serious derailment in 2007. Theoretically special trains can be worked through to Turek. There is a dispute with Turek Town Council which is demanding taxes for the railway land.

Rogow Railway 750 mm
Rogowska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Rogow-Biala Rawska) Arguably the best ‘museum’ railway in Poland. The Fundacja Polskich Kolei Waskotorowych have done and amazing job of collecting historic narrow gauge rolling stock from far and wide and restoring it to a very high standard. The railway has a well managed team of volunteers. The reason for the ‘green and yellow’ is that, although the railway is owned by Rawa Mazowiecka town council, it only operates on a stretch of line at its Rogow end and only runs into Rawa Mazowiecka a couple of times a year. With Rawa not seeing any benefit from its ownership of the railway it’s only a matter of time until some councillor looks begins to wonder about the development potential of the railway land. This is after all what happened at Krosniewice and here the railway WAS operating a daily passenger service from the town!

Smigiel Railway 750 mm
Smigielska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Stare Bojanowo-Smigiel, regular week day services; some special trains run to Wielichowo) Smigiel Town Council has a licence to operate the railway pending acquisition of the title to the railway land. There doesn’t seem to be a long-term strategy for developing the railway. Some trains have been hauled by steam during the summer thanks to the railway hosting some engine driver courses courtesy of the Wolsztyn Experience. The dispute with SKPL over funding has been resolved.

Jedrzejow Railway 750 mm
Swietokrzyska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Jedrzejow-Pinczow; branch to Hajdaszek) The line had a good 2008 season after rumours that it would close at the end of 2007. There is no single owner (each council owns its particular stretch of track) which makes decision making difficult. The railway operating company is owned by the District Council.

Czarna Bialostocka Railway 600 mm
Kolej Lesna Czarna Bialostocka

(Czarna Bialostocka-3km; there are plans to restore the rest of the line to Kopna Gora) A much devastated forestry railway that is being restored by a dedicated team of volunteers. The project does not enjoy the whole-hearted support of the local councils. Hence the warning signals.

Mlawa Railway 750 mm
Mlawska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Mlawa-Makow Mazowiecki) Krasne Parish Council has a licence to operate the railway pending acquisition of the title to the railway land. The long-term strategy for the railway is being managed by the Lokalna Organizacja Turystyczna Polnocne Mazowsze, a tourism development board made up of various local councils. SKPL withdrew from an operating agreement with SKrasne Council in 2007, and the railway only ran on a couple of special occasions in 2008. A small diesel locomotive has been purchased and a bid for an EU-funded project submitted.

Przeworsk Railway 750 mm
Przeworska Kolej Waskotorowa

(Przeworsk-Dynow) The other narrow gauge railway in the Carpathian Mountains. The only narrow gauge railway in Poland with a tunnel. The railway land is in the process of being taken over by Przeworsk District Council from PKP. Because of the losses incurred in operating the railway, SKPL were rumoured to have been planning to withdraw from their operating agreement. But it now seems likely that SKPL will continue to operate the line for another year at least.

Sroda Railway 750 mm
Sredzka Kolej Dojazdowa

(Sroda Wielkopolska-Zaniemysl) A fragment of a much larger railway that once ran as far as Poznan. This railway is very popular with enthusiasts and all services are steam worked. Part of the line is being turned into a cycle path. The station throat in Sroda has been tarmacked over. The bridge over the PKP main line in Sroda is life expired.

Sompolno Railway 750 mm
Sompolinska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Anastiewo-Przystronie) When PKP gave up its narrow gauge operations Polish, railway enthusiasts managed to get two local councils – Krosniewice Town Council and Gniezno District Council to take over the Western and Eastern sections of the Kujawy Railways. Sadly a dispute over rates led to no local council being prepared to take over the connecting central section. The enormous railway workshops at Sompolno have been gutted and the heavy engineering machinery sold for scrap. Amazingly in spite of a section of the line being lifted for turf mining, and another section turned into a cycle path, most of the track is still in place!

Krosniewice Railway750 mm
Krosniewicka Kolej Dojazdowa

(Krosniewice-Krzewie-Ozorkow; Krosniewice-Boniewo-Dobra; Krosniewice-Ostrowy) The Eastern section of the Kujawy Railway System. Following an approach by enthusiasts Krosniewice Council obtained a licence to operate the railway pending acquisition of the title to the railway land. SKPL became the operator. In March 2008, the Mayor of Krosniewice terminated the Council’s operating agreement with SKPL and closed the line. (SKPL were operating daily passenger services and freight services at the time.) The Mayor has informed PKP that it wants each of the councils along the route to take over its portion of line. Apart from one weekend in September when services were run between Krosniewice and Ozorkow the line remains closed. Of all the railways where we are involved, the Krosniewice Railway is the one which is getting the most attention.

Nasielsk Railway 750 mm
Nasielska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Nasielsk-Pultusk) The line closed completely when PKP abandoned its narrow gauge operations in 2001. Unfortunately no local council could be persuaded to take over the line. Remarkably most of the track is still in place! We helped to organise a meeting of the local councils a couple of years ago and followed it up with a private meeting with the Mayor of Nasielsk. Alas our powers of persuasion were insufficient! For as long as the track remains down, the Nasielsk Railway remains on our radar.

Piotrkow Railway 750 mm
Piotrkowska Kolej Dojazdowa

(Piotrkow-Sulejow) Passenger services were withdrawn in 1986. (The line ran alongside the Piotrkow – Radom trunk road.) Freight services ceased three years later. In 1990 a preservation society was formed which leased the line from PKP. Sadly they failed to obtain the backing of the local councils who opposed the reopening of the line. Occasional special trains ran through Piotrkow until about 2006 when all the track was lifted. Only the sidings (and a substantial amount of rolling stock) remains at the interchange with PKP at Piotrkow. This is the line where we wish if only… !

Elk Railway 750 mm
Elcka Kolej Waskotorowa

(Elk-Turowo; branch to Zawady-) The line closed completely when PKP abandoned its narrow gauge operations in 2001. Elk Town Council took over the railway. The line is currently worked by MOSIR, the Council’s sport and recreation department. NO OTHER STATUS INFORMATION AVAILABLE.

Sochaczew Railway 750 mm
Sochaczewska Kolej Muzealna

(Sochaczew-Wilcze Tułowskie branch to Wyszogrod and remainder of main line to Piaski Krolewskie are disused) Formerly known as the Sochaczewska Kolej Dojazdowa. Regular passenger workings ceased in 1984. A narrow gauge railway museum opened here under the auspices of the National Railway Museum in Warsaw in 1986. Freight services continued until PKP abandoned its narrow gauge operations in 2001. The line is currently worked by the Warsaw Railwau Museum. NO OTHER STATUS INFORMATION AVAILABLE

Wyrzysk Railway 600mm
Wyrzyska Kolej Powiatowa

(Bialosliwie to Lobzenica; also to branches from Czajcze to Wysoka and Niezychowo to Glesno ) This is a fragment of a much larger network. The line is worked by the Towarzystwo Wyrzyska Kolejka Powiatowa. NO OTHER STATUS INFORMATION AVAILABLE.

Please note this is not a comprehensive list of all the ‘preserved’ narrow gauge railways in Poland. Rather it is a list of all the lines whose fortunes we are most familiar with. If we have no information as to the state of the relationship between the line’s ‘owner’ and operator or the strategic plans of either, the ‘colour light signals’ are black. If you can help us complete the list and bring the status reports up to date, do please write.

Whither Wolsztyn?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Pt 47-112 on the turntable at Wolsztyn, photo Hubert Smietanka

(Click on photo to see the original high resolution picture and for details of licensing.)

A number of readers have hinted that it’s time for BTWT to bring the Wolsztyn story up to date. In June we published an article with the byline, “Is this the end of Wolsztyn as Europe’s last working MPD?”, and although we have published several posts since then reporting on the ‘return to steam’, we have yet to give a comprehensive assessment of the long-term future of the operation.

This week, four workings have been regularly steam-hauled: Ol49-69 was diagrammed on 77425 / 77426, Wolsztyn 05:28 – Poznań 07:07 / 09:28 – Wolsztyn 11:20; while Pt47-112 was diagrammed on 79322 / 79327 Wolsztyn 05:56 – Leszno 07:10 / 15:43 – Wolsztyn 16:44. On Wednesday Pt47 also hauled a special working at 10:00 from Wolsztyn to Zbaszynek and then the returned to Leszno after which the train became the 79327 diagrammed working to Wolsztyn.

In the short-term, Wolsztyn is ‘back in business’ and the actual summer gap – during which the steam haulage of scheduled passenger trains was suspended – was much shorter than at first announced. It can even be argued that the position of Wolsztyn now is much stronger than it was before the crisis. The enormous outpouring of public support for the continuance of Wolsztyn’s steam trains took everyone by surprise, and will mean that anyone who comes up with a plan to close the operation down is unlikely to succeed.

The recent crisis also proved the professionalism and resilience of Howard Jones’s ‘Wolsztyn Experience’ operation. Making the most of his back up arrangements at Wroclaw and on the Smigiel Railway Howard ensured that none of his paying guests returned from Wolsztyn disappointed. On a number of occasions during the recent break in scheduled workings Howard dipped into his own ‘war chest’ to hire empty stock workings or light engine movements to ensure that all his commitments to his customers were met. Wolsztyn Experience’s main WWW site reports optimistically about a 5 year partnership between Wielkopolska province local authority and PKP. But this is Poland where all agreements have a secret back door escape route.

Taking a long term view all is certainly not well. PKP Cargo’s running of Wolsztyn is reminiscent of the way that Bryn Eglwys slate quarry was run in the last days of its operation. Because the cost of driving new levels to reach virgin slate was prohibitive, the quarries were kept open by mining the pillars that kept the roof of the mine from collapsing. (Eventually the roof of one of the quarry chambers did collapse, but fortunately without any loss of life.) Wolsztyn’s steam locomotives are kept going by a policy of cannibalising locomotives whose boiler ticket has expired and mending and patching, but they really need major investment and professional maintenance if they are to continue running an intensive daily passenger service for many years into the future.

Frustratingly, a solution for the management of PKP’s heritage railway assets was found, but never implemented. Fundacja Era Parowozow was set up by PKP Cargo to take over and manage its historic rolling stock. The idea was brilliant by giving its historic rolling stock to a charity, PKP could write off the transfer against tax. Moreover Fundacja Era Parowozow as a charity could collect funds from businesses and local authorities and could also partner local authorities in applying for EU grants. So what happened? In the end PKP Cargo decided to hold on to its steam engines as use Fundacja Era Parowozow solely as a marketing vehicle!

The short-term nature of this decision will become apparent as PKP Cargo goes through a series of reorganisations to prepare itself for privatisation, and is then privatised and subsequently sold to Deutsche Bahn. In the meantime Howard Jones and others are working on a ‘Plan B’.

Welcome 2009 with steam and champagne!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Chabowka Skansen, December 2005, © M. Mazurek

(From an original by Milosz Mazurek on the website. Click photo to see more pictures of Chabowka in the snow.)

The New Year’s Eve Steam Special from Chabowka to Zakopany this year has an an outlaw theme. The legend of Janosik – a Robin Hood like figure – permeates local folklore in the land of the mountain people, the Gorale. For 200 PLN a head, or 390 PLN for two, you get includes traditional Polish food, folk musicians and a band of outlaws, the grilling of Polish garlic sausages over a bonfire, some booze, a glass of fizzy wine AND a Ty2 steam pulling your vintage train from Chabowka to Zakopane and return. More details from Fundacja Era Parowozow.

Death by a thousand cuts

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Roadstone being unloaded at Krosniewice on 9 July, 2007

(Click on picture to see it in its original context on the SKPL’s website.)

PKP Cargo have a national freight forwarding agreement with SKPL. SKPL’s goods stations (both narrow gauge and standard gauge) appear on PKP Cargo’s List Tariffs. A prospective customer can look up his intended departure and arrival points in the List, multiply the resulting tariff by the tonnage to be carried, and will then know how much it will cost to transport the goods by rail. The next step is to ring the nearest PKP Cargo freight office and arrange the details. For long-term carriage of large consignments PKP Cargo is prepared to offer attractive discounts.

If the goods depot lies on a railway line served by SKPL, it makes no difference. The customer deals with PKP Cargo who then pay SKPL a fixed percentage of the total tariff in return for SKPL originating or terminating the journey on its tracks. In the case of SKPL’s narrow gauge railways, such as the Kalisz or Smigiel Railway, SKPL, carry the standard gauge wagons, a la Calthorpe, on narrow gauge transporter wagons.

As the Mayor of Krosniewice has not appointed another operator since terminating the operating agreement with SKPL, there is now nobody to terminate the traffic at the goods stations on the Krosniewice Railway. Accordingly, PKP Cargo have announced their intention to remove the Krosniewice Railway freight handling points from the list of tariffs. A pity – a major aggregate company was planning to carry 100,000 tonnes of roadstone by the Krosniewice Railway – a traffic which would have done a great deal to revive the railway’s fortunes. Now it will all have to go by road. In 2,000 lorry loads!

If you think this is crazy, please write to

Mrs Julianna Barbara Herman
The Mayor of Krosniewice
Urzad Miejski
Poznanska 5
99-340 Krosniewice

and send a copy to:

Mr Cezary Grabarczyk
The Minister of Infrastructure
ul. 4/6 Chalubinskiego
00-928 Warszawa

The copy to the Minister is vital. The Minister is only the person who can ensure that the conditions under which the control of railway was transferred to Krosniewice Town Council are enforced. For those who are have become readers of BTWT recently, you will find some background reading about our campaign to save the Krosniewice Railway as a working railway (not just as a short tourist line) by clicking on the links below:

Son of a railwayman, and a railway fan…

Monday, 6 October 2008

Geoff Hoon admires a model railway.

(Click picture to see it in its original context on Geoff Hoon’s website.)

The reshuffle at the Department of Transport is complete. Geoff Hoon, the son of a railwayman, has replaced former Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, and Lord Adonis takes over the rail portfolio from former Under Secretary of State, Tom Harris. Our favourite railway pundit, Christian Wolmar wrote a very hostile article on his blog regarding Hoon. Hoon is a man so devoid of charisma or style, and so smug and complacent, that it is a wonder he has survived in politics so long and, indeed, been in the Cabinet for over half a decade. However, it is only fair to point out that Wolmar’s hostility has more to do for Hoon’s stance with respect to the war in Iraq rather than Hoon’s views on transport policy, which are largely unknown.

The appointment of Adonis as rail minister gets the thumbs up treatment from Wolmar. Adonis is a real enthusiast for the railways and he even reviewed my book very favourably… His two passions are schools and railways, and this is his dream job. Bringing us down to earth in his own post about Adonis’s appointment, our blogging colleague, The Fact Compiler, reminds us that, At the end of his review of ‘Fire and Steam’ Lord Adonis adds: “The big debate for the future is if and when High Speed Two and Three are to follow”. Well my Lord. Perhaps you can now tell us?

We wait in hope.

Gordon shunts Thomas into a siding

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Thomas at Bressingham Gardens

(Click on picture to see it in its original context with details of attribution and licensing.)

Tom Harris, who until his phone call from Gordon Brown on Friday evening, was the Under Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, has been sacked. It would be hypocritical for me to shed crocodile tears. I bayed with the rest of the hounds for Tom’s blood when he supported the DfT line that the Department should be modally agnostic. Yet it would be dishonest of me not to record that although I disagreed with Tom on many matters of policy he also had many good qualities.

He was well liked by the UK railway heritage movement and enjoyed a good working relationship with David Morgan, the chairman of the Heritage Railway Association, and Fedecrail – the UK and European umbrella bodies for museum and tourist railways. He was well respected by the Railway Industry Association, whose Director General, Jeremy Candfield, posted a tribute on Tom’s blog. Paul Martin, Director General of the Railway Forum, posted another.

Tom was the son of a lorry driver who actually travelled by train! He treated those who worked for him with respect and was respected by them in return. On the other side of the balance sheet there are those who felt that he had never completely managed to wrest rail transport policy out of the grip of the dead hands of his department.

It is the manner of his passing that is a shock. It means that with Ruth Kelly’s departure, two key positions in the Department are being rotated at once. Geoff Hoon, who takes over from Ruth Kelly as Secretary of State will not have a Minister who can advise him on the Byzantine nature of British railway policy and politics. Nearly 48 hours after Gordon’s phone call to Tom, the DfT website is still showing him as the man in charge of Britain’s railways, trunk roads and ports. Nor has Tom’s successor yet been announced.

Our own reading of the tea leaves is that the decision to sack Tom was not planned as part of the original reshuffle, but is a last minute afterthought. Tom had published a gushing tribute to his former boss, Ruth Kelly, on his blog. Ruth – although nothing has been said officially – had somehow contrived to become persona non grata with the Prime Minister. Since her departure from office she has nailed her colours firmly to the mast of David Milliband’s political ambitions. In the paranoid atmosphere that surrounds No. 10, Tom’s tribute to Ruth was seen as a coded attack against Brown, so the guns were out for Tom.

Warsaw’s minor railways, part 1

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Updated 01:30 GMT, Sunday 5 October 2008

Warsaw’s railways in 1924

(borrowed from Kolejka Marecka webpages)

A comment from Robert Hall regarding the gauges of the Warsaw narrow gauge railways gives us an excuse to post this map, published in a 1924 guidebook, of Warsaw’s railways during the inter-war period. The map is not to scale and the routing of the lines has been greatly simplified. Nevertheless it will repay some further study.

Some standard gauge anomalies

The standard gauge network within Warsaw has actually grown since 1924. A map of the current network is shown on the PKP website here. Let’s start our quick review with the curious North-South line from Dworzec Gdanski to Mlociny. Other maps show this as a tramway. In a month’s time, passenger trains will once again run between stations bearing these same names, but this time on the last and final section of the Warsaw Metro. Intriguingly the map shows an extension under construction to the North of Mlociny. Can anyone out there shed any more light on this railway?

Getting back to the city centre, curiously enough, the map does not show the route of the Warszawska Lnia Srednicowa, the construction of which was approved in 1921. Work on the line, linking the main stations on the left and right banks on the Vistula, Dworzec Glowny and Dworzec Wschodni, started in 1924 and the line (in its original two track form) was completed in 1933. Neither does the map show the planned route of Warszawaska Kolej Dojazdowa, the construction of which was first mooted in 1918. However, as the building of this line did not actually start until 1925, and the first train ran in 1927, that is perhaps understandable.

Warsaw’s narrow gauge railways before WW II

The first narrow gauge railway to be constructed in Warsaw was the Kolejka Wilanowska, an 800 mm gauge horse tramway from Belweder to Wilanow. It was first opened in 1892 and steam locomotives, tram engines with enclosed wheels and motion, were introduced in 1894. In 1896 the line was extended to Jezorna and in 1900 to Konstancin. At some stage the line was extended to plac Unii Lubelskiej at its northern end and to Piaseczno at its southern end. In 1935 as the result of a court decision which affected both the Kolejka Wilanowska and the Kolej Grojecka, both railways lost their street running sections within the City’s boundaries, the Wilanow Railway being cut back to Belweder. According to the Piaseczynska Kolej website (Polish only) the Wilanow Railway was regauged to 1,000 mm in 1936 and from that time became an integral part of the Kolej Grojecka system.

In 1897 (some sources say traffic started unofficially in 1896) the 800 mm Kolej Marecka was opened as a horse tramway, from Targowek to Marek. An Orstein & Koppel steam locomotive was bought as early as 1896 and tried out on an unopened section of line in 1897. By 1899 the line had reached Radzymin, and work to relay the railway with heavier rail more suitable for steam locomotives was in full swing. The original weight was 10 km/m and the replacement rail was 14 km/m. In 1901, the line was extended westwards from Targowek to Warszawa Praga Stalowa. At that stage the line was about 12 miles long (19.6 km) and had many short branches to various industrial establishments along its length. In 1916 the German occupying forces built a branch from Struga to Zegrze, reusing some earthworks and bridges that were built before the war, possibly for a standard gauge line. Shortly afterwards they extended this branch to the North East from Struga to connect at Wawer with the Kolej Jablonowska. This extension, the Linia Wojenna, continued in use until 1923.

In 1889 a 1,000 mm gauge line, which was to subsequently become known as the Kolej Grojecka, was opened from plac Unii Lubelskiej in Warsaw to Piaseczno, running broadly parallel to the Wilanow Railway. In 1900 the new line reached Gora Calwaria. In 1914 a branch, which subsequently became the main line, was opened to Grojec. The Grojec line was extended in stages and reached Nowe Miasto nad Pilica in 1924. In 1935, the Grojecka Railway’s operations in the streets of Warsaw were cut back to ul Odynca because of of the desire of the city authorities to give greater priority to motor traffic and the planned extension of a tram route along ul. Pulawska. In 1938 the line was cut back further to a terminus called Szopy (literally sheds) later renamed Warszawa Poludnie, (Warsaw South) currently the site of a bus station and the Wilanow metro station.

In 1900 the 800 mm Kolej Jablonowska was constructed, linking communities along the right bank of the Vistula. It first ran from Jablonna to Wawer and in 1914 was extended to Karczew. This concludes our quick review of the birth and growth of Warsaw’s narrow gauge railways. Some of the information sources  that I have checked this account against are vague, some are conradictory, so if you have any further information, do please write.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the history of Warsaw’s narrow gauge railways after WW II – an initial period of explosive traffic growth followed by subsequent decline and closure.