Pyskowice Skansen – Is this the end?

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Cash crunch and Polish laws driving railway heritage to extinction.

pyskowice_dusk

Shadows gather over the Pyskowice Skansen, December 2006.
From a photo ©Robert Dylewski

(Click on picture to see original on TOZK website.)

You would have thought that someone would have connected the dots by now.

In the early 1990s Poland experienced its first cash crunch as an IMF Adjustment Programme, dubbed locally as the ‘Balcerowicz Plan’, eroded the value of the zloty. Poland’s surviving railway heritage was hit badly as PKP responded by getting rid of its regional railway museums, withdrawing passenger services from its narrow gauge lines or closing them down altogether.

Fortunately, the Polish railway heritage movement developed to fill the gap. Inspired by the PSMK (The Polish Railway Enthusiasts Association) which was set up in 1987 and took over the roundhouse at Skierniewice, other societies sprang up to save their own narrow gauge lines or preserve standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock.

One such society was the Towarzystwo Ochrony Zabytków Kolejnictwa i Organizacji Skansenów w Pyskowicach (The Society for the Preservation of Railway Heritage and the Organisation of Skansens in Pyskowice). Known to its friends as TOZK , the Society led by the brothers Krzystof and Zbyszek Jakubina obtained access to the old roundhouse and carriage depot at Pyskowice. Here they gathered together an impressive collection of locomotives rolling stock, some owned by them and others owned by private owners who wanted to play their part in the Pyskowice project. Today Pyskowice is the home of 27 steam locomotives, 10 diesel locomotives, 8 passenger coaches and 12 freight locomotives. Many of the locomotives have been cosmetically restored and one Slask Tkp class steam locomotive has been restored to working order.

In 1999, PKP offered the TOZK the use of old roundhouse at a nominal rental and later suspended this agreement, but from 2002 allowed the Society to use the carriage depot at a peppercorn rent. Now, unfortunately, PKP has changed its tune and is demanding payment of a ‘commercial’ rent. The similarity with the plight of the Railway Museum in Warsaw is quite striking.

In the middle of a region of industrial decay and surrounded by railway land and without any road access the ‘commercial’ value of the railway depot is questionable. In fact there have been no expressions of interest from commercial interests during the ten years that the Society have been in residence. PKP would gladly transfer the land to the local Town Council, but fell that they cannot hand it over to a ‘private’ Society like TOZK. The Council do not want the railway depot with its attendant responsibilities…

PKP have now given TOKZ two weeks to clear the site or else to agree to pay a commercial rent back dated since the last agreement expired.

Time for another BTWT campaign?

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2 Responses to “Pyskowice Skansen – Is this the end?”

  1. Rik degruyter Says:

    It is sad to hear about all this development.

    Everybody seems to be cash strapped in Poland. PKP, the local Town Council, and of course TOZK itself.

    I urge PKP to understand that TOZK is not a commercial business.

    I wonder why the input of UK know-how does not lead to a real tourist attraction. The collection policy leads to an extensive pile of rolling stock. You will paint it once, maybe twice and then it slowly becomes a scrap line.

    I certainly do not want to blame the friends of TOZK. But they will be eaten by economic reality if they not try to be self supporting certainly in running the business. This year I have seen no “open door” days, steaming for the public visitor or whatever. How are they going to survive ?

    Plenty of questions to be answered.

    Rik Degruyter
    Stoomcentrum Maldegem
    Belgium

  2. June Johnson Says:

    A group of us went to see the Skansen recently as part of a tour of the area related to our father’s time as POW’s in Stalag V111B at Lamsdorf. Three young people – including a local history teacher took us to look at the Skansen and told us about Hitler’s plans for a ‘Hub’ or distribution system.
    It is very sad that this is not being restored and valued as an important part of Pyskowice’s history

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