Smigiel Railway – first letter to Mayor


by Robert Hall


The end of the line – Wielechowo Station. When Dyspozytor first travelled on the Smigiel Railway the track was still in place from here to Rakonowice. How long will it be before the rest of the line looks like this? Photo BTWT.

(Click picture to enlarge.)

The first of what we hope will be many letters from BTWT readers to the Mayor of Smigiel regarding the future of his railway. Thanks Robert! D.

Wiktor Snela
Burmistrz Smigla
Urząd Miejski Smigla
pl. Wojska Polskiego 6
64-030 Śmigiel

17 / 9 / 2009

Dear Sir,

Being a British citizen with a great love of Poland and its national heritage – and who has taken many enjoyable holidays in Poland, including visiting Śmigiel and travelling on its narrow-gauge railway – I hope that my writing this letter to you will not cause offence.

I learn that the Śmigie Town Council, having lately become the owners of the land and infrastructure of the 750mm gauge railway serving Śmigiel and surrounding area, are now proposing to charge the railway society SKPL of Kalisz, who in recent years have been operating the railway, a large sum of money in local rates, relating to their occupation of the railway land – charges which were waived under the previous arrangement. I understand that in view of this situation and its ramifications, SKPL will be unable – with these terms applying – to continue to operate the railway.

This prospect is a distressing one for me, and for many people throughout Europe and, I am sure, beyond – who are interested in Poland’s railway heritage. I would beg of you and the Town Council, to reconsider this matter, and to reverse the decision to hit SKPL with this punitive financial demand – so that they may be able to continue operating the local railway.

If the railway could continue the operation of its passenger and freight services – plus, as has happened in the past few years in co-operation with the “Wolsztyn Experience”, ran regular steam-locomotive-hauled services visitors from much of Europe, whose time spent in the area would enrich the local economy.

Here in Britain for example, we now have absolutely nothing like the Śmigiel local narrow-gauge railway (a narrow gauge railway providing a genuine public transport service) – lots of us would love to come to Poland, to enjoy there, what we cannot enjoy back home. Should the line continue to run in years ahead – as well as and providing useful service for people in the area, it would draw many railway-interested tourists, who would spend money in Śmigiel.

Entreating you to give the local railway a chance, doing which would benefit all concerned.

Yours truly


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5 Responses to “Smigiel Railway – first letter to Mayor”

  1. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    Excellent, but it would possibly be better in Polish (and I know that isn’t easy!)

    Here’s hoping it works……….

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Hi Gavin, I don’t think that it matters at all that Robert’s letter is in English. If the Mayor himself does not know English, then one of his close circle of advisers will. Poles are notoriously nit-picking about the way their language is used. Unless you have a Polish native speaker handy, don’t worry about translation and whatever you do don’t use ‘Google Translate’ or similar. A good letter written in English will carry much more weight than one written in bad Polish. At the moment discussions between SKPL and the Smigiel Town Council are still ongoing so all is not lost, and every letter of support can make a difference. PLEASE, PLEASE, write!

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Google Translate generates rough but understandable English if fed in Polish text, but the results in the opposite direction are aweful!

      Re the competition prize. I’ve had problems in contacting John (my e-mails were bounced back as spam), but I have now written to him from a new e-mail account. I would prefer – if at all possible – for John to personally receive the Zubrowka by hand and to have a photo of the event for BTWT.

  2. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    I wouldn’t use Google Translate! It throws up some really strange phraseology and words. It does make some sites easier to understand though!

    I will write a letter this week and send it!

    Now, what about this bottle of Zubrowka that I have that was supposed to be the prize in the last competition? I can pack it VERY securely and post it recorded.

  3. Robert Hall Says:

    Have just received – dated Oct. 9th – a “snail-mail” reply (in English), “pp” the mayor of Śmigiel, to my likewise “snail-mail” letter of Sep. 17th, to him (original-post-subject). Quoting it, in its entirety, below.

    “I gratefully accept many European countries’ concern with the future of our local narrow-gauge railway. I want to say that its fate is also important for the local authorities and the inhabitants of Śmigiel. That is why I want to deny the rumour concerning the intentions of burdening the current owner, I mean ‘The association of local rail transport’ (SKPL) a special tax. Moreover, I would like to present the legal situation of our narrow-gauge railway.

    Since April 2009 the Commune of Śmigiel has become the owner of the property on which ‘The association of local rail transport’ works, offering its service. As in other European countries, the situation is similar in Poland; the owners of the properties are obliged to pay taxes. This obligation, concerning the property on which narrow-gauge railway was working to the end of March 2009, was supposed to be fulfilled by the Polish National Railway. However, since April 2009, the owner of the land and buildings of the local narrow-gauge railway has become the Commune of Śmigiel. In this case, according to Polish law, the owner has got the duty of paying the tax concerning the property, if the act of owning stems from the agreement with the owner. Here, the owning of the property results from the agreement of lending, so the tax, according to the act about taxes and local payments, must be paid by the haulier. I mean, ‘The association of local rail transport’. The mayor of Śmigiel is obliged to exact this tax. Moreover, he does not have any legal opportunities to exclude from the tax obligation, as it would be illegal. The owners of ‘The association of local rail transport’ have known that information since April 2009.

    As I have mentioned, the future of our narrow-gauge railway, taking into account its historical character, is surrounded by special care of the local town council. That is why, in case of a possible resignation of the current haulier, the most important matter will be the maintenance of tourist and passenger transport. Moreover, we do not resign form doing the earlier planned renovation. In this situation, I would like to calm all people, who are worried with the fact that the local narrow-gauge railway may not survive.”

    “Whatever else”, this is a courteous response – and the first reply I have ever had, from any letter of protest which I’ve written to any administrative body in Poland. I plan to reply, equally politely – reckoning that usually, diplomatically “correct” conduct is preferable to going at it “with fire and sword”. Have to feel – chiming in with other comments on BTWT – that if local authority truly wishes to keep the n/g line in action for genuine passenger-and-freight service, there would be “ways and means” – at however many removes, the legally-required tax could be levied, and the money ultimately given back to SKPL “or whoever” – but perhaps things are actually not that simple… I just hope that Śmigiel’s local authority may truly mean at least some of the above, and that the line may in some way or shape, survive beyond the end of this year.

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