Archive for August 10th, 2010

A return journey – part 5

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Lyd1-215 and immaculately restored Romanian trailer at Rogow, 15 May 2005. Photo BTWT.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The item on the menu for Sunday 18 July was something which I had set my heart on months earlier – the Fundacja Polskich Kolei Waskotorowych (Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation) preserved 750mm gauge line at Rogow. A line lauded as probably the country’s best achievement of recreating the atmosphere of the narrow gauge in PKP days with the exception of steam – the line has a pair of Px48, but not in working order. That would seem fair enough: dieselisation of PKP’s narrow gauge set in quite early, with a fair number of narrow gauge railways going 100% diesel as at the early 1980s, or before. This was a big reason for my never hitherto having been to this line: it went all-diesel quite early, and my overriding reason for visiting Poland up to the early 1990s, was to see active steam. Though a narrow-gauge devotee, I skipped many narrow-gauge lines in those times, because of their steamlessness.

The line’s west-to-east 49 km, Rogow to Biala Rawska, is all still in situ, and the preservation undertaking is entitled to operate on all of it. It does so, on a very few days of the year. Most of the time, the line operates on summer Sundays only, over the 17 km from Rogow east to Gluchow. Two return runs per day: the earlier just 8 km out to Jezow and back, the later a return working all the way to Gluchow. We opted for the 13:15 Gluchow return train.

Rogow was reached, by car, in just nice time for departure of this working: a Bxhpi 1Aw in proper green livery, two semi-open bogie coaches rebuilt for tourists from coal wagons, and a bogie brankard guard’s utility van – this latter seemingly a standard component of all 750mm gauge tourist trains. Motive power was a tiny jackshaft-drive 0-6-0D, Lyd1-215 –of a class which I had met in the past on the 750mm system at Elk, where for many years they handled all traffic. Wanting to feel as authentic as possible, we took our places in the1Aw . The train set out, crossing on the ungated levelcrossing a little way out of Rogow across the trunk road eastwards from Lodz to Rawa Mazowiecka. We ran slowly, but steadily (Dyspozytor commented that the track had been improved) through pleasant tranquil gently undulating countryside. We passed the intermediate stations at Jezow and Bialynin, to arrive at Gluchow some 35 – 40 minutes after leaving Rogow.

There followed something that you don’t get at Devil’s Bridge or Dalegarth. The train’s amiable guard gathered up the passengers, and led them off to visit the village’s church – one was given to understand that this excursion was basically compulsory. Oh, well – pretend (in the spirit of the line’s basic period recreated) that it’s Communist times, when one was always being obliged to do assorted things, supposedly for one’s own good. Group-walk through the village to the church – in fact, a handsome edifice, dedicated (going by the statues on its outside) to Saints Peter and Paul. In the interior, beautifully decorated, the date 1786 was to be seen – presumably, that of the church’s founding. The guard addressed his ‘congregation’ for some ten minutes outside the church, and for another ten minutes within – where we could at least sit down. I could make out, from his orations, only a few place-names – deducing that some of his spiel, at least, was historical. For the rest – was he maybe a zealous Catholic, taking the chance to give a religious pep-talk to his punters? … I’ll never know…

Church-bash concluded, we were left free to explore the village, or make our way back to the station. The organised fun was not over, however. Dyspozytor, who had not taken part in the church trip, had during my absence kitted us out for the next phase of activities – which came about after we had travelled 9 km back westward, as far as Jezow. The train made a prolonged stop there, and on a green tree-ringed patch, with benches, close by the station, a bonfire was lit.

Dyspozytor explained that this was a particularly Polish thing – grilling sausages on sticks over the bonfire. (At the Gluchow grocer’s-and-general shop, he had purchased a couple of sausages for the purpose, and a few bottles of beer.) Very many Poles of all ages are / have been in their youth, involved with the Scout movement or its other-ideology alternatives; the ‘campfire / sausage’ ritual is one with many nostalgic associations from when folk were young, and it’s a something that Poles love doing. On both the other narrow gauge tourist trains on which I travelled during this holiday, sausage-grilling over a campfire featured at some stage of the proceedings. We duly grilled our sausages and ate them as we quaffed our beer. I wonder whether this would this work as a gimmick on certain minor British preserved lines?

Finally the ‘barbie’ was over, and the train returned to Rogow, getting there abouty 16:30. The line has an indoor museum at Rogow, which was unfortunately closed by the time of our return. For whatever reasons – some, probably not within their control – Polish heritage-railway undertakings do not always have their act together as well as they could. As well as the two Px48 mentioned earlier, there is at and around the Rogow narrow-gauge station, an assortment of motive power and rolling stock: including several class Lxd2 B-B locos (the loco type most commonly encountered now, on the Polish narrow gauge), a couple of elderly railcars, assorted freight wagons, and a few diminutive standard-gauge diesel shunters. A fairly quick look round this array; time then to head back to Lodz, for a necessary early start to Zbiersk and the Kalisz narrow gauge railway on the morrow.

…to be concluded

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