Archive for January 13th, 2010


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Mystery Location 1, Picture 3

Familiar 0-6-0T in in an unfamiliar location. Photo BTWT archive.

Much to Dyspozytor’s delight, our first mystery location continues to elude our readers. Robert Hall guessed Ketrzyn which is close, but only by means of a piece of left-handed lateral thinking. John Hyde, who we hope will be getting his bottle of Zubrowka quite soon, guessed Huta Kosciuszko which is wrong, but does have a vertical relationship to the place we are looking for.

An Englishman in Poland

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

(Click image to go to Chris Thornborrow’s blog home page)

There’s a lovely sketch about travelling long distance by rail in Poland on Chris Thornborrow’s blog in an article entitled, An Englishman in Poland: The first 6 months. Chris writes with evident relish about the joys of travelling by train across Poland in 2003.

Each weekend I would take a train for 5.5 hours to Warsaw. Polish trains in those days were an adventure. Still this train was largely empty and so sleeping in an empty carriage was possible. Half way through the journey the train would split into two halves. I only found this out by sleeping in the wrong half once. Trains in Poland were not as bad as people said though. They were always on time or within a few minutes, nothing like English trains whose arrival times are best described using a gaussian distribution curve with a long tail. Nontheless, you needed to be on your toes.

The beer sellers would come on at each station and offer cans of beer at much cheaper prices than the railway bar. Once a man came in my carriage as I was dozing and announced “lodowka” – fridge. It was snowing and I assumed he was cold, so I tried to explain he was welcome and we could turn the heating up (it worked in about 50% of trains). “Lodowka” he shouted. After one more attempt, angry as hell at my lack of response, he left calling me some colourful things. Apparently, he had said “zlotowka” – meaning in effect, “Spare some change?”, and the ignorant foreigner had turned the heating up instead.

So, 6 years later and many 100s of millions of euro EU grants later, how long does it now take to travel from Zielona Gora to Warsaw? The only reasonable through train (reasonable price, reasonable time of departure) takes 5 hours 45 minutes. However, if you prepared to catch a train at 04:23 in the morning and pay triple the price, the journey can be done in 4 hours 45 minutes. Some things don’t get better, they just get more expensive.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Some of the items being auctioned by WOSP

(Click on image to go to auction site).

While the aims of WOSP (The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity) are above reproach, the decision by PKP bosses to donate ‘preserved’ steam locomotive Ty51-133 from Chabowka is a decision of crass stupidity. There are plenty of decaying PKP steam engines stuck in various sidings and if PKP really wanted to donate a steam engine it should have chosen one of these locomotives rather than one that is part of the collection of Poland’s best railway museum.

Yesterday, I spoke to one of the veterans of the 2003 campaign to save Chabowka. “I assume,” she said, “that next year we’ll be told that the cottage where Chopin was born, or perhaps Wawel Castle, will be donated to the WOSP auction.”

So far no bids have been placed for Ty-51-133. This is perhaps not surprising as the locomotive had one of the heaviest axle weights of any Polish steam engine – a static weight of 20.6 tonnes on the rear axle which combined with the effects of hammer blow from the motion could result in dynamic loads greater than 21 tonnes on the track. So, even if the locomotive was restored to working order, PKP would be unlikely to let it run.

I glanced at some of the other items that can be bid for on the WOSP auction. With a current bid of nearly 152,000 zloty (some £33,500) the red BMW Z4 Coupé donated by BMW dealers association has yet to reach its reserve price. If it doesn’t do so by the end of the auction, does this mean that the BMW dealers get to keep the car? Make a more affordable 21,000 (£4,600) zloty bid and you could end up with an 8 hour voyage in a submarine belonging to the Polish Navy, while a similar amount could put you in the co-pilot’s seat of one of Poland’s latest F16 fighter bombers. A more modest  13,000 zloty (under £3,000) bid would let you you and four friends spend a weekend in the President’s country retreat, Zamek Wisla.

These ‘experience’ donations point the way that PKP should have helped WOSP, involving lots of potential customers and gaining itself good PR into the bargin. How about a batch of railway experiences? How about, first class tickets for two to go to for an all expenses paid trip to London by train travelling by Jan Kiepura, Thalys and Eurostar; and similar first class trips to Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, Moscow, Paris and Rotterdam? Other more modest PKP ‘experience’ donations could have included a batch of cab rides on some of PKP’s more exciting routes like Krakow – Zakopany or even Poland’s longest railway journey, Szczecin -Przemysl.

With the discounts available to PKP for rail tickets plus the ability to tie-in publicity deals with the hotels where the winning bidders could stay, the whole jamboree could comfortably have been accommodated within a budget of 50,000 zloty (say £10,000). The result would have created new friends and favourable publicity for PKP, instead of the anger and frustration caused by the auction of TY51-133.

If you care about the future of Poland’s railway heritage and the skansen at Chabowka do please put pen to paper (or fingers on keyboard) and write!