The magic of steam



2008 built, Peppercorn A1 pacific, 60163 approaches Newcastle on Saturday 31 January 2009, hauling her first main line train carrying passengers, The Peppercorn Pioneer. Photo Wikipedia Commons.

(Click to see original high resolution photograph and details of licensing.)

There is a great article in today’s Times by Michael Binyon which nicely captures the magic of steam. It is steam that draws people to ride on heritage railways. It is steam that brings tens of thousands to Wielkopolska to photograph Europe’s last scheduled main line steam service and it is steam that could yet come to the rescue of Poland’s crumbling heritage railways.

All aboard for the new age of steam

Tornado, the engine that has brought back the romance of rail travel, is a hit across the length and breadth of Britain

Wherever it has ventured, it has attracted crowds of people. As it raced up to the North or cruised down to Southampton, thousands turned out to wave and cheer. Children were hoisted aloft. Men hung from bridges and stood on car roofs.

Enthusiasts waited hours in muddy fields for a fleeting view. At King’s Cross throngs blocked the platforms and when it blew a cloud of steam over the Duchess of Cornwall in York, the Prince of Wales burst out laughing.

Indeed, in its six short months of life, Tornado, the first mainline steam engine built in Britain for almost 50 years, has been a film star, splashed across newspaper pages and filmed in action by the thousands who contributed to its £3 million cost and waited 18 years to see an A1 Pacific locomotive running on Britain’s main lines again.

Click here, for the rest of the article.

Alas, too many of Poland’s historic steam engines are not chuffing along the lines to which they belong. Instead they are ‘plinthed’ outside railway stations, or locked up in skansens, or stored in sidings known only to scrap thieves. Open air storage, particularly in Poland’s extreme weather conditions, means slow death to a complex iron and steel machine.

Binyon’s article should be translated into Polish and be sent to all Polish local authorities that own narrow gauge railways that are operated by Romanian diesel locomotives. It makes my blood boil that the Mayor of Rewal who has launched a 34 million PLN EU assisted project to restore his fragment of the Pomeranian narrow gauge railways is spending most of the money on buildings and not a single zloty is earmarked for acquiring a steam engine or rolling stock restoration.

Meanwhile a few people have seen the light. The Mayor of Smigiel is meeting Howard Jones on Monday to discuss the possible restoration of Px48 1765 to working order. The Mayor of Krasne, the custodian of the Mlawa Railway, would love to hear from a ‘well off Englishman’ or a consortium of Brits who would wish to become a ‘godfather’  to his derelict Px48 1758 and help him restore the locomotive to working order. Favourable terms available. He would even consider alternate years working on the Mlawa Railway and the narrow gauge railway of the benefactor’s choice. I guess that depending on how much work was actually carried out by consortium members, such a project would cost some 200,000 – 250.000 PLN, approximately 41 – 50,000 GBP.

So how about it BTWT readers? We can’t all build a main line pacific, but we could restore a narrow gauge Px48 to active life!

Mława Railway videos:

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2 Responses to “The magic of steam”

  1. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    Ah, Mlawa, I remember a railtour on that line in 1992.

    £50K seems a tad expensive to restore a narrow gauge loco (especially in this economic climate) and I would think that anyone putting that sort of money would want to own the loco rather than sponsor an overhaul. For that sort of money in the UK you could get a standard gauge loco in working order (OK a SMALL standard gauge loco, but it would be your own!)

    It isn’t just the locos though, as with no investment the railways NEEDED to run any loco will be under threat.

    This is a start, but all it needs is a change of Mayor and it may be back to square 1!

    • dyspozytor Says:

      I was on SKPL’s last run from Mlawa – a rolling stock move to Krasne where the train was needed for a town festival. I’m fairly optimistic about the long-term chances for the Mlawa Railway – there are a number of actors in play who care about the future of the line: the mayor, the other local authorities and the provincial governor. There is even a local support group who volunteer their services. In any case, if the line folded completely the interests of the loco’s English guardians could be protected. The licence contract could state what would happen to the locomotive if the line closed – such as giving the consortium the right to purchase the loco for its scrap value less invested restoration costs to date.

      As to whether £50k is expensive or not. It depends on what your objectives are. If you want to acquire the ownership of loco as an investment then obviously any sort of licence deal is out of the question. But if you want to play trains and have fun, then £50,000 raised by say 10 friends begins to look quite reasonable. Because on paper the locomotive still belongs to the ‘railway’ rather than a ‘foreign investor’ you are still eligible for all the freebies and sponsorship deals going. A ‘foreign owner’ would find that the bills would soon begin to pile up. Besides which you would be treated as royalty whenever you turned up in Krasne, probably end us being the Mayor’s best buddy and be invited to all the town’s festivals for the rest of your life.

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