ZNKT Lapy – the end



Bogie tank wagon type 455R for the carriage of liquified propane and propane-butane mixtures built at ZNTK Lapy. Photo ZNTK Lapy.

(Click on photo for full specifications of wagon in Polish.)

After a long and distinguished history, the story of the railway rolling stock repair and manufacturing works at Lapy in Podlaskie province, enters its final chapter. The Regional Court in Bialystok has declared ZNTK Lapy bankrupt. Some 750 employees have lost their jobs.

The history of the works at Lapy go back to Victorian times. The Warsaw – Bialystok Railway was opened in 1862 inside the Russian partition of Poland. A major station was constructed in Lapy. In 1863, the station was occupied by insurgents fighting for Polish independence. The same year the station was retaken by Russian soldiers. A year later, in 1864, 270 people were employed at Lapy station and at the locomotive shed.

In 1870, the loco shed and station passed into the hands of a Belgian-French company. This year is considered to be the start of the history of the Works. Two years later a railway technical school was opened in Lapy. In 1893 the main line between Bialystock and Lapy was double-tracked and the Lapy – Czerwony Bor – Ostroleka – Malkinia loop line was opened to traffic. The double track was extended along the main line between Lapy and Malkinia in 1897.

In 1905, an engine shed, boiler shop, machine shop and smithy were in operation. That same year the town was garrisoned by the Russian army. Ten years later during WW I in 1915 the Russians retreated in the face of the advancing German armies. As the Russians departed they stripped the works of its most important machine tools and took away the most important engineering personnel.

The Germans built a two road loco shop, a new machine shop and adapted the boiler works for carrying out heavy overhauls on steam locomotives. In 1918, it was the Germans turn to retreat. Before they left they destroyed much of the technical installation at the railway station and stripped the works of its machine tools and technical documentation.

On October 7, 1918 Poland formally declared its independence. On 1 January 1919, the works at Lapy were formally taken over by the PKP, the new Polish State Railway, under the area management of PKP’s Wilno office. A formal dedication ceremony took place on 3 May 1919 – Constitution Day – a Polish holiday. By 1929 the works employed 2,000 people.

In 1939, a small hospital wing was opened at the works. On 2 September that same year, the Germans bombed the station and the first aid post. On 8 September, some personnel and machine tools were evacuated. On 26 September, the Red Army marched into Lapy.

On 22 June 1941, The Germans began Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s planned invasion of the Soviet Union. On 1 August the Germans classified the works a Reichsbahnusbesserungswerk. In 1942 the Germans constructed a large repair shop and three wooden shops for the repair and rebuilding of steam locomotives as well as an electromechanical workshop.

In 1943, the local branch of the AK, Poland’s Underground Army, ‘liberated’ a large cylindrical grinding machine from the works. A year later the AK commenced the manufacture of hand grenade casings. In 1944, the retreating German’s blew up the works only the old wagon shop was saved where Polish railwaymen managed to cut the detonation leads.

On 31 October 1951, the Minister of Communications signed a decree creating the Lapy Wagon Repair Works as a state-owned company. By 1953 the basic rebuilding of the Works was complete. In 1959 and 1960 the works was enlarged an electric workshop, a new repair shop and a spare parts warehouse was commissioned. A spring manufacturing facility was added in 1970. On 1 July 1982 the workshops were incorporated into PKP. In 1986 a new wagon repair shop was commissioned.

In 1989 at the Round Table Solidarity and the Polish Communist Party agreed a gradual transition to free elections and the end of single Party rule in Poland. In 1990 the works celebrated their 120 year anniversary and opened their own liquid oxygen facility. In 1991, the Works were split from PKP and became an independent state owned enterprise. In 1994 the company was made a public joint stock company. (In Russia and the former communist European companies the term ‘Joint Stock Companies’ is used for ex-State Enterprises that are now under a more free business regime. Their business conditions are somewhat different from JSCs in western countries.)

In 1995 the shares of ZNTK Lapy were transferred into National Investment Fund No 1. In 1997 the shares of the company began to be traded on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

The trading difficulties of ZNTK date back to some two years ago when orders from PKP Cargo for the building and repair of freight wagons began to dwindle and then dried up altogether. During this time PKP Cargo started its own restructuring – cleaning up its balance sheet in readiness for privatisation by setting them up its own wagon plants as independent entities. Finally Cargo set up a brand new in house wagon repair facility. Faced with declining freight volumes Cargo had no need to outsource its repairs to ZNTK Lapy.

An acrimonious period followed when the chairman of ZNTK publicly accused PKP Cargo of offering to place orders for wagon repairs in return for bribes. A desperate scramble to find a strategic investor and to diversify out of the railway business was ultimately unsuccessful. PKP Cargo’s last order was received in February was for the scrapping of redundant freight wagons. With the follow up order for 270 employees have already been dismissed a further 480 were still on the company’s books at the start of July. No one had been paid during the last three months.

The plant’s closure is a devastating blow for a town that during its short existence has had an economy entirely based on the railway works.


Tkh 2191 plinthed during the 120 anniversary celebrations in 1990.
Photo Athantor

(Click to see original and for details of licensing.)

2 Responses to “ZNKT Lapy – the end”

  1. Rik Degruyter Says:

    I fear for more of these stories…

  2. Robert Hall Says:

    Wasn’t Lapy works the last place where class OKl27 2-6-2Ts were active? — if I remember rightly, ” a couple” were retained here as works shunters until the mid-1980s, some years after PKP ceased to use the class in normal service.

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