Battle of Skierniewice

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Ty2-911 and reenactor at Skierniewice depot, 12 August 2010. From a photograph by Jerzy Dabrowski. Photo © Oko na Swiat Photo agency.

(Click to enlarge. All enquiries regarding the use of Jerzy Dabrowski’s photographs should be directed to Oko na Swiat.)

It’s not every day that one can see a steam engine in steam at Skierniewice so, following a tip off, (there was nothing about this ‘happening’ on the PSMK website) an early evening pilgrimage was duly made. I must admit a certain fondness for travelling across Poland by car on roads ‘off the beaten track’ and some of the route from Janow (on the Rogow n.g. line) and Skierniewice lies along a beautiful tree-lined avenue that runs across gently undulating hills. When I reached Skierniewice, there was already a long line of cars parked on the road besides the depot, but I managed to shunt into a slot just vacated by the straz mieska (municipal police).

Sunday 15 August is the 90 anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw – a defining event in Poland’s post WW I history. But I had come to Skierniewice to witness a different kind of battle; I wanted to see how the PSMK ran a themed open day and whether the association was using the occasion to advance its own long-term objectives. The first surprise was at the gatehouse where in days gone by passes and temporary permits were checked before allowing entry into the MPD. Entry was free! There was a donation tin, but its tiny slot precluded the entry of notes. Every visitor received a beautifully printed Edmondson card ticket.

Inside the depot grounds, there were several hundred people milling around the exhibits. The association had brought out some of its own large exhibits from their customary home inside the roundhouse including the 1913 Wittfeld battery railcar and 2-8-2T Tkt48-39, but the biggest crowds milled around Ty2-911 which had come with a vintage train of 4 wheeled passenger carriages from Chabowka. By this time the ‘Kriegslok’ was only in light steam, but it was still a ‘live’ steam engine and ,with its footplate open to visitors, it was undoubtedly the star attraction of the day. Reenactors from the GRH Radosław and PSRH X DOK societies wearing army uniforms of the 1920s reminded us of the occasion when volunteers from all over Poland travelled to Warsaw to defend the newly independent country against Lenin’s army.

However, I had a different ‘target’ in my sights; the President of Skierniewice hove into view by the newly repaired turntable. One of her assistants was giving out apples individually packed in pretty boxes; although at first glance it was difficult to see whether the purpose of the exercise was to promote the town or encourage voters at the forthcoming local elections. Madame President, I began, I have come all the way from London to witness today’s proceedings. Let me congratulate you on having such a heritage pearl in Skierniewice.

Thank you. she fluttered her eyelids modestly, but the congratulations should go to the railway association.

I hope, I continued pointing at the broken skylights in the roundhouse roof, that some formula may be found – maybe by means of an EU-funded project – to help the Society restore these historic buildings.

Realising that the conversation was moving to dangerous territory one of the President’s minders steered her away from the dangerous anarchist who had dared to voice such heretical views. Meanwhile another official coldly pointed out that the Town Council could not help restore the MPD buildings because they did not belong to the Council, but the Society!

BTWT readers fluent in Polish who are interested in learning more about the Catch-22 situation that Polish railway societies (and Polish railways generally) find themselves in may be interested in the debate that recently took place recently between Miroslaw Szymanski, chairman of Fundacja Era Parowozow (Steam Age Foundation) and Andrew Goltz, the chairman of British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership, on the Catholic radio station radio Maryja. To listen to the two part debate click the links below:

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2 Responses to “Battle of Skierniewice”

  1. Michael Dembinski Says:

    Any chance of a listen to the Radio Maryja debate? This is history!

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