Piotrkow – everything for sale

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Rolling stock at Piotrkow yard awaiting disposal.
Photo J. Sawicki.

(Click image to see three more photos by J. Sawicki on the polskaniezwykla.pl website.)

The Piotrkowska Kolej Dojadowa (Piotrkow Narrow Gauge Railway) should really have been saved. Amazingly the whole track survived until 2006, though certain road crossings had been asphalted over before then. The history of the 750 mm gauge line spanned the 20th century. Construction started in 1900. The driving force was Count Stanislaw Psarski who had a limestone quarry and lime kilns near at Sulejow and needed a way of transporting coal from the standard gauge goods yard at Piotrkow Trybunalski and taking quicklime back in the reverse direction. Count Psarski obtained a construction permit signed by Tsar Nicholas II and the line opened for passenger traffic in early October 1902.

The line prospered, carrying commuters and schoolchildren from outlying villages into Piotrkow, and in the summer holidaymakers and day trippers from Piotrkow into the wooded countryside near Sulejow. By the 1970s, competition from buses began to bite into passenger revenues. However both passenger and freight revenues were to received a boost in 1975 when the River Pilica was dammed creating a large artificial lake and Europe’s largest coal fired power station was constructed at Belchatow. The lake increased the attraction of the Sulejow area to tourists and the power station needed large quantities of Sulejow quicklime for use in its flue gas desulphurisation filters.

Regular passenger workings were suspended in 1986 and freight carrying in 1989. Apparently after abandoning communism the authorities decided that flue gas desulphurization was an expensive luxury that Poland could no longer afford! In 1990, the Towarzystwo Kolejki Waskotorowej Piotrkow-Sulejow (Piotrkow – Sulejow Railway Society) was formed with the objective of running the line as a tourist railway. The Society obtained a license to operate the line directly from PKP without the intermediary step of control of the line being first vested in a local authority. (The latter method subsequently became the norm for preserving ex PKP lines.) The TKWPS were fortunate in being able to take over a railway in working order.

However, in a country conditioned by 50 years of authoritarian rule, ‘bottom up’ initiatives were not exactly welcomed. The society were soon in conflict with the various road authorities who started pouring asphalt over the road crossings. The society members, mostly former and serving railwaymen, set out with their picks and shovels to clear the flangeways, but this only made relations with the local authorities worse! It is easy to be wise after the event and to diagnose that the society should have embarked upon a charm offensive to bring as many of the local authorities as possible on board. However, looking at problems faced by other operators elsewhere, one had to admit that maintaining good relations with local authorities has never been easy for Poland’s preserved railway operators.

In the end, the society managed to clear a 6 km stretch of line from the standard gauge interchange at Piotr Tryb Wask to Jezioro Bugaja, a recreational lake on the outskirts of Piotrkow. Tourist trains were operated on special days such as Children’s Day and Piotrkow Day. By now the railway society were receiving threats from the local authorities who claimed that the trains were operating illegally. The tense situation led to fractures within the society which were exacerbated when some members acquired – and then scrapped – an Ol49 standard gauge steam locomotive.

The recent history of the line has already been described on BTWT. For a time it seemed that a Skansen might be created at Piotrkow Tryb Wask. But it seems that these plans too have come to naught. PKP Estates Department in Lodz has announced that the remaining rolling stock will be disposed of by tender. For those interested in preserving their own bit of the PKD, here is a list of the rolling stock being sold. Guideline prices are shown in the right hand column.

Item Type/no. Built Guide price
Diesel locomotive Lxd2-322 1976 23,520 PLN
Diesel locomotive Lxd2-308 1973 23,860 PLN
Snowplough S-3003-6 1952 1,890 PLN
PW wagon 1960 2,240 PLN
Flat wagon Pddxh 1956 2,460PLN
Flat wagon Pddxh 1960 2,460PLN
Brake/goods van brankard 1950 1,620PLN
Brake/goods van brankard 1929 1,620PLN

All enquiries should be sent to:

Centrala PKP SA
Oddzial Gospodarowania Nieruchomościami
ul. Tuwima 28
Łódź 90-002

Tenders wil be opened on 22 June.

More photos of the line:

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4 Responses to “Piotrkow – everything for sale”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    A sad story. If Count Psarski had had a crystal ball with a range of about a century, one wonders whether he’d have bothered…

    At more or less the same time in the 1980s that n/g passenger services ceased between Piotrkow T. and Sulejow, passenger services commenced on the newish s/g branch in the opposite direction, Piotrkow T. – Belchatow (line presumably inaugurated in mid-70s to serve the new power station). The branch concerned shown still with a passenger service, in the most recent PKP timetable in my possession (1993), but does not feature in the present on-line passenger timetable.

    It can be wondered whether this standard-gauge branch is still in freight use today – shipping coal to the power station? I seem to remember that for a while, approximately in the ‘90s, this line was seen as potentially part of a projected high-speed route between Warsaw and Wroclaw – that plan has seemingly “died the death”.

  2. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    It’s sad to hear that the stock at Piotrkow is being disposed of. Hopefully, most, if not all of it will go to good homes rather that ending up as scrap. Presumably, this marks the end of one of the earlier narrow gauge preservation schemes in Poland. Narrow gauge preservation in Poland seems to be a challenging activity with only limited prospects of success. In particular, the earliest proposals appear to have faired particularly poorly. In addition to the Piotrkow scheme, plans for revitalising the lines at Opalenica and Witaszyce came to nothing.

    There are still a number of question concerning other lines. What is happening at Krosniewice? A few months ago it sounded like there may be some promising developments with the Lodz provincial government taking at interest in the railway. Is there still a likelihood of the provincial government taking over the part of the railway that lies within its area or has this fallen victim to financial cutbacks?

    Is there any chance of you casting an eye over the various narrow gauge lines and giving an update about what is happening both in terms of what trains are running or likely to and about the state of relations with the various local authorities who seem to play a key role in determining the success or otherwise of many railway operating organisations?

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Hi Geoff,

      Yes it’s time for another status update of all the surviving Polish narrow gauge lines. These things take a bit of time, but I will prepare a questionnaire and schedule some time to phone round all the operators.

      Thanks for prompting me!

      Dyspozytor

  3. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    Thanks. It will be very interesting to have an update on what is going on. For example, I understand that SKPL are having their annual disagreement with the funding authorities about the lack of a subsidy for the passenger service at Smigiel and are threatening to suspend it. Apparently, there is little or no freight moving there at present so it does make you question if the line has any future.

    No doubt there will be changes at other lines around the country, some good, some bad and others that will be hard to predict what the outcome will be.

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