‘Beautiful Helena’ ?


The left hand nameplate of Poland’s most famous steam locomotive Piękna Helena. Photo BTWT.

Our colleagues on the polish2english blog take the authorities to task for translating the name of Pm36-2 Piękna Helena into English as Beautiful Helena.


4 Responses to “‘Beautiful Helena’ ?”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    So far as I know, PKP has never engaged in the practice of naming locomotives. However, in the last decade or so of (not counting Wolsztyn 1992 onwards) regular service PKP steam loco crews seemed fond of unofficially naming their machines – tracing the name (presumably of wife or girlfriend) in the soot and grime, usually on the smoke deflectors.

    I recall a Pt47 at Klodzko, thus named; but the name was Pawel, causing a bit of head-scratching to those of us present there – an openly gay Polish railwayman in 1983, seemed a bit hard to imagine! I’ve heard of a Wolsztyn Ol49 in the late ‘80s, unofficially christened Turbo Ferrari. And in May 1990, the staff at Zagan shed seemed to have a thing about those cartoon characters the Smurfs. I noticed an Ol49 with a neatly-drawn Smurf on its smoke deflector; and a diesel loco with an effigy of one of the creatures prominently displayed on the dashboard. People brighten their jobs up in whatever ways they can find…

  2. Damian Pietrzak Says:

    First of all hello to Dyspozytor & Co and many thanks for this highly informative post.

    Moving on topic I think that there should not be any plates on sides of Pm 36-2 as putting nameplates on steam engines was not a common place in the era of steam locos in Poland. Also please note, that Poles have not asked to put plates on let say Evening Star. I know that Wolsztyn Experience and English enthusiast contributions deserve to be rewarded but I think that there are ways of doing so which are more appropriate for Polish railway heritage.

    I have slightly bigger problem with Ol 49-7, which is named after a person who left money in his will to finance the overhaul of this loco. Well that deserves to be appreciated, but how could it be done in a way which fits the Polish tradition of not naming locos?

  3. Damian Pietrzak Says:

    I think this informal practice of naming locos is also the origin of Pm36-2’s nickname – I think it was given by its driver, whose wife’s name was Helena when it was stabled in Ostrów in 1960s, before the loco’s transfer to the Railway Museum in Warsaw.

    So in this situation loco should be called Beautiful Helena, I guess.

    The other hypothesis which I heard is that Pm 36 was called after a then wife of one of the Jones brothers (I think Howard but I am not sure) when they arrived in Wolsztyn in 1997.

  4. John Says:

    Damian, several locomotives in the UK have names of owners…
    45305 is named Alderman AE Draper, as is 45428 named Eric Tracey.

    History doesn’t end when the locomotive is withdrawn by the national railway, it is still being written.
    That said.. it is only a name, with bolts that can easily be removed.

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