A return journey – part 8

by

by Robert Hall

Miedzyrzecz Station before WW II.

(Click image to see a larger version on the strefabiznesu.gazetalubuska.pl website.)

Miedzyrzecz Station today. Photo Maciej G, Kolejowy Wroclaw.

(Click on image to see more photos by Maciej G of Miedzyrzecz Station on the Kolejowy Wroclaw website.)

The depressing condition of secondary standard-gauge passenger lines earlier in the tour, had lessened my enthusiasm for exploring them (Rzepin – Miedzyrzecz was a much-desired exception) so a change of plan was called for, I would visit some interesting preserved lines, even though I had visited the lines concerned, on my earlier Polish trips. My initial idea was to head north to the Gryfice – Rewal – Pogorzelica metre-gauge preserved railway, which runs every day of the week in the summer season.

The gricing gods proved to have other ideas, as I was to experience in the ensuing hours. Miedzyrzecz’s somewhat basic bus station, essentially the railway station forecourt, seemed at first sight almost as desolate as its rail counterpart, and not inspirie me with great confidence. I began to doubt whether the purported 08:50 Gorzow replacement bus would actually show up. When just before 08:00, a bus – seemingly not heralded by any displayed list of departures – rolled in, I queried the driver as to its destination. When he replied, Gorzow, I got on board and found myself at that town’s rail station, not quite an hour later.

Düwag 6ZGTW tram on ul. Sikorskiego, Gorzow Wielkopolski, April 2005.
From a photo by Macdriver, pl.Wikipedia.

(Click on image to see original photograph and for details of licensing.)

Gorzow, a medium-to-large-sized town, and not a usual destination for conventional tourists, has a modest standard-gauge tram system, which most properly has an offshoot to the station, with a balloon loop right in front of the building. Unfortunately, I had no chance to ride on the trams, my priorities were to take the first chance to grab some breakfast, and to see to my onward travel arrangements to the seaside and its metre gauge. At first, it seemed that the unexpectedly early bus would allow departure for Krzyz, by a train two hours earlier than that envisaged. However, to rephrase the words of the Navy chap in World War I, There’s something wrong with our bloody trains today.

Present-day rail travel around Poland is less easy than in former times, because of the continual state of flux in which passenger services seem to find themselves in nowadays. Often, what actually happens, is not reflected by the arrival-and-departure timetables posted up at stations – is sometimes, in fact, not shown on them at all. And, especially if one does not know the language – and is not helped by announcements over station loudspeakers – it is impossible to determine whether the differences from the displayed which occur are official long-term changes of train timings, or simply quirks of the day’s operation. Thus – for whatever reason – instead of the expected 09:47 departure from Gorzow, I found myself on a train, working in from further west, which left at 10:24.

This service, running over the unelectrified west-to-east line through Gorzow, was formed of diesel loco SU42-504 hauling three single-deck coaches. It was a nice change from the ultra-modern railmotors which seem to predominate nowadays on non-electric passenger lines. These vehicles, though they do their job perfectly adequately and give quite a comfortable ride, but with their space-ship looks, are visually most unappealing. An hour and a quarter’s all-stations run through undramatic but pleasant terrain, brought me to Krzyz, but a four-way junction today, a glorious seven-way junction in the 80s.

Soon there were further indications that this was not going to be a good day for achieving what I had planned to do. Thinking myself highly clever in expediting my onward progress, I had bought at Gorzow, a ticket to Szczecin via Krzyz. The guard of the Gorzow – Krzyz train, alerted to my intentions while checking tickets, informed me volubly but incomprehensibly, that there were some problems ahead. Polish word-of-mouth having failed, he kindly sought me out subsequently, and by dint of his few words of English, sign language, and his copy of the timetable book, conveyed to me that because of some mishap, services on the Poznan – Szczecin main line north-west of Krzyz were disrupted, and a replacement bus service was operating over part of the route.

With Poland’s rail passenger workings, things do not on the whole happen very quickly. My snap judgement was that the delays likely to be involved would reduce my chances of making the connection further north, which would be vital to getting some action on the metre gauge that day. A rendezvous with friends and allies at Stare Bojanowo (the railhead for Smigiel) was already scheduled for 15:42 the following day. With my not having that appliance owned by almost every inhabitant of modern Poland – a mobile phone – attempts at making contact to alter arrangements, were a potential nightmare, to be reserved for acute emergencies; grices going wrong, were basically not in that bracket. I made an Instant decision to forget the visit to the metre gauge railway at Gryfice, and to substitute a preservation venue more in striking distance both of where I then was, and of the Smigiel area where I soon hoped to be. My new destination was to be the 600mm line at Znin.

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