Gniezno Railway Px48-1919 being unloaded at Smigiel Station in February 2008. Photo Marek Ciesielski.
The post-PKP history of the Smigiel Railway is of one disappointment after another. Last year, the Smigiel Town Council were approached by a British railway enthusiast who wanted to restore the dead Px48-1765 in Smigiel Station. In return for his efforts, the prospective benefactor wanted to acquire the legal title to the engine. He was quite happy to sign a covenant requiring the locomotive to spend the majority of its time working on the Smigiel Railway – the Council turned him down flat. Then there was the demand for local tax payments of about 100,000 PLN (£20,000) – curiously the railway receives a 100,000 PLN subsidy from the provincial government. SKPL managed to win that battle by appealing over the heads of the Council Chief Executive to the Council members as a whole.
Next came the episode with the coal trains. A local coal merchant was keen to increase the amount of coal he was bringing into Smigiel. There was talk of 25 standard gauge wagons coming into Stary Bojanowo at a time which would have involved 13 shuttle trips along the line to deliver the coal to Smigiel. Weak portions of railway line, including parts of the standard gauge interchange yard in Stary Bojanowo were treated to spot re-sleepering in order to bring the line up to scratch. Enter Cargo Sped, a curious joint venture between certain PKP Directors and PKP Cargo itself. Cargo Sped offered the coal merchant a reduction in tariff of 10 PLN/tonne, if he would only accept delivery in the standard gauge coal yard at Wloszakowice rather than Smigiel. For the time being the agressive Cargo Sped price has meant the demise of freight traffic to Smigiel.
Enter a Smigiel businessman. He was also interested in restoring the engine for use on the Smigiel railway and occasional use elsewhere. He was quite prepared for the legal ownership of the Px48 to remain with Smigiel Council, but wanted a 25 year long licence to use the locomotive – he was also turned down. Now comes the latest pinprick – there was until recently a small restaurant in the former waiting room at Smigiel Station. The rental payments from the restaurant owner provided the Smigiel Railway with a modest income of some 500 PLN (£100). Now the Council have arbitrarily removed the waiting room room area from the land licensed to SKPL in order to lease it to the police!
One veteran Smigiel driver compares the present situation at Smigiel to the one that pertained at Kosniewice when the mayor wanted to drastically reduce the land and buildings used by SKPL – when SKPL protested the mayor closed the railway. The current licence agreement between SKPL and Smigiel Town Council has two more years to run. If things go on as at present it seems unlikely that the council will agree to a new agreement on terms that SKPL can possibly accept. Given that Smigiel Town Council have invested absolutely nothing in the railway since they acquired it, am I being too cynical in thinking that some Council officials may have alternative plans for the railway land?