Smigiel – a one year swansong?

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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?

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4 Responses to “Smigiel – a one year swansong?”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    Minor railways carrying roadstone – a time-honoured theme, often seen as equating with slow suicide. Chief role of the Glyn Valley Tramway (which has featured in the past on BTWT) in its last couple of years of life after withdrawal of its passenger service in 1933, was hauling roadstone from the quarries at its upper end – some of which commodity was used to improve the road alongside which the tramway ran – GVT 1935, R.I.P.

    However – as this post emphasises, situation for Poland’s few remaining narrow-gauge railways in genuine commercial use, is midnight-black. One feels that the Smigiel line is, as the chap said, “a dead man on furlough” – better than the end coming right now (best, and not the most likely, future, some of it to continue as a tourist railway), for things to carry on for a year, with the end seen for 2011.

    And you never know – during that spell of borrowed time, some eccentric multi-millionaire railfan might just fall in love with the line and decide to buy it and keep it going in public service, subsidised out of his unlimited pocket – he’d pay the municipality more than they could get from abandoning the railway and selling its land for development – we can all dream…

  2. John Ball Says:

    Has the freight traffic under this new contract begun yet?

    Real freight at Smigiel, plus as real as it gets steam at Wolsztyn, plus Ryanair cheap fares make for a worthwhile long weekend to break up the winter gloom!

  3. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    When I was at Smigiel last month it looked as though a standard gauge wagon had recently been unloaded from the narrow gauge. There seemed to be a suggestion that more freight might be moved in the following week. However, the railcars were running with hardly anyone on them and the cafe has been shut and stripped out. The last return service of the day has been removed from the timetable displayed at the station, although it is still on the downloadable version on the SKPL web site. Smigiel station was quieter than it has been in previous visits. At least the cafe used to draw some people to the station, even if they didn’t use the trains. Whilst moving the odd standard gauge wagon may help to pay the wages, you have to wonder about how long the railway can stagger on.

  4. warwickian Says:

    I would concur with Geoff’s post above. When I visited Smigiel in September, I called in to view the last train of the day, only to find that all the stock was back in Smigiel, so it appears that the online timetable is currently not up to date.

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