Archive for August 31st, 2010

Smigiel – a one year swansong?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Narrow gauge – standard gauge transporter wagon siding at Stare Bojanowo. Photo U.M. Smigiel.

(Click photo to see more pictures of the Smigiel Railway on the Smigiel Town Council website.)

The Smigiel Railway is the last of its kind. Within one lifetime Poland has changed from a country which was covered by a dense network of narrow gauge railways, to a barren wasteland where most of the handful of narrow gauge survivors cling on to a precarious existence only kept alive by tourist trains in the summer. A handful of n.g. lines, all operated by SKPL, still carry freight. Following the closure of the Krosniewice Railway, the busiest of the freight lines is now the Kalisz Railway, now only operational between Opatowek and Zbiersk. The Przeworsk Railway carries the occasional truck of coal to Dynow. The Smigiel line still appears on the PKP Cargo list of freight depots, but its transporter wagons have stood unused since the spring. The Pleszew Railway is busy carrying freight, but on standard gauge rails (the railway is mixed gauge) so it doesn’t count. When it comes to regular public transport passenger workings over the list is even shorter – just Pleszew and Smigiel.

So Smigiel, which operates a regular passenger service during school term time and is theoretically still open for freight, really is the last of its kind. However, relations between SKPL and the Mayor of Smigiel are not good, and with the demise of the coal traffic earlier this year it looked as if SKPL would be withdrawing from its operating agreement at the end of the year. Now it looks as if Smigiel will have a final swansong – a contract to carry road stone is being negotiated which should see freight carrying resume in October. So Smigiel will have its swansong, maintaining for one more year its position as the last narrow gauge railway in Poland to run a regular passenger service and operate freight services. Perhaps BTWT should organise a study tour to witness the last days of the Smigiel Railway as a real working railway and also explore some of Poland’s surviving narrow gauge lines? Perhaps the itinerary should be something along the lines of Robert Hall’s recent journey?