Warsaw Railway Museum’s Ok22-31 comes on stage
BTWT was out in force to cover this year’s Wolsztyn Steam Gala and Steam Locomotive Parade. Lurking in the background was the fear that this might be the last chance to see and photograph this extraordinary spectacle. Perhaps the fear that this year’s show could be the last was the reason that everybody worked so hard to make the event such an enormous success?
Working steam engines illuminated by whirring coloured lights, or 18 year old wannabee models strutting up and down on a revolving flat wagon, or a dozen steam engines tethered together and making as much smoke and noise as possible – are not exactly my cup of tea. A sleepy country junction with a couple of passengers waiting to board the train is much more my scene. But deserted railways do not generate any income or public support!
Heritage railways and steam engines have not yet captured the public imagination in Poland. So any event that shows the key decision makers the ‘pulling power’ of live steam is to be applauded. A comparison of the blurred video taken at the first Parade of locomotives in 1992 – spectators are conspicuous by their absence – and the photographs of this year’s event – crowds lining both sides of the tracks for 4 kilometres – show that the organisers know their audience and have got the basics of the programme exactly right.
The key missing ingredient was the stable financial environment that would guarantee that this year’s event would take place at all. The Wolsztyn Steam Gala is a truly international event, yet visitors from countries as far away as Japan and America are not going to come in droves to an event that might be cancelled at short notice. My solution? Keep the Steam Gala as a PKP event, but subcontract the management to Howard Jones and the Wolsztyn Experience?
Wolsztyn Loco Parade in 1992. Unknown camera operator.