Cegielski – the begining of the end


Ty51-228, the last Cegielski steam locomotive built for PKP, though not quite the last Ty51 ever built in Poland. Photo ©Damian Burdka.

(Click on photo to see the rest of Damian Burka’s high quality photos taken at the Railway Museum in Warsaw, or on the next link to go to the home page of his excellent railway website.)

The historic H. Cegielski – Poznan S.A. (HCP) engineering company is on the verge of bankruptcy. 500 workers were laid of last week another 800 await their fate.

The company was founded by Hipolit Cegielski in 1846. The company’s beginnings were in building and maintaining traction engines and agricultural engineering. After Poland recovered its independence, the company gradually focussed on the building of railway locomotives and rolling stock and grew rapidly employing 490 people in 1917, 990 in 1920 and 5080 in 1923. During WW II the company’s works were seized by the Germans and turned over to the manufacture of arms and other equipment for the German army.

After the war, the company returned to railway engineering, becoming the most important railway works in Poland. In 1953, Poland’s government renamed the works the Joseph Stalin Metal Works in Poznan, but this attempt to inculcate a communist zeal in the workforce badly misfired and in 1956 a number of strikes erupted in Cegielski’s factory and several other factories against the communist government’s policies. Shortly afterwards, the company regained its original name: H. Cegielski Metal Industry Complex in Poznan.

In 1956, the company purchased a licence from the Swiss company, Sulzer Brothers Ltd, to manufacture a range of diesel engines and in 1959 acquired a second licence from Burmeister Wain in Denmark. In 1958, the company delivered its last steam locomotive and moved its focus to the building of large diesel marine engines. In 1970s, Ciegielski began to build diesel locomotives for PKP (classes SP45, SU46 and SP47) and later electric locomotives (classes ET41, EU07 and EM10).

In the 1990s, the company reorganised its business and formed 9 subsidiary companies, including Fabryka Pojazdów Szynowych (Railway Rolling Stock Factory). Unfortunately, the reorganisation and pursuit of ISO 9001 certification was not sufficient to guarantee the future of the company which became known for taking proven older designs and updating them with electronic controls. Examples of this practice include the company’s 123N high-floor trams and its RT-Flex or ME-C marine diesel engines.

One of Ciegelski’s last railway orders was awarded in 2007, a 10 million PLN contract for the general overhaul of 10 EU07 locomotives for PKP Cargo. However, by then the bulk of Ciegielski’s business was the supply of marine diesel engines to the Polish shipyards. With the virtual shutdown of Poland’s ship building industry it is difficult – bar the sudden arrival of a white knight – to imagine a future for this iconic company.

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One Response to “Cegielski – the begining of the end”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    Sad news — but one is apt to feel, what other kind is there from Poland, railway-wise, nowadays? Splendid pictures by the guy, of museum exhibits.

    Re daft shenanigans in Communist times: seems a bit surprising that short-lived attempt to rename the works after Stalin, happened as late as 1953: year of the old — gentleman’s — death. A parting tribute, maybe, in acknowledgement of his tireless work to better mankind’s lot…

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