The fly and the fly bottle

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Ol49-32 in Gniezno shed. On Tuesday this locomotive was removed from the Wciaz pod Para database of surviving Polish steam locomotives. Photo ©Tomislaw Czarnecki.

(Click on image to go to Tomislaw Czarnecki’s on-line catalogue of Polish steam locomotives.)

Wittgenstein very fittingly compares a certain type of philosopher with a fly in a bottle, going on and on, buzzing about. And he says it is the task of his philosophy to show the fly the way out of the bottle. But I think it is Wittgenstein himself who is in the bottle and never finds his way out of it; and I certainly don’t think he has shown anybody else the way out.

Karl Popper

Poland’s railway heritage faces dark times. I have just taken part in a programme on Radio Rzeszow about the future of the Przeworsk narrow gauge railway. The radio programme was like a game of ‘pass the parcel’. The Chief Executive of Przeworsk District Council noted a distinct coolness on the part of the Podkarpackie Province regional government in rallying to the railway cause. The representative of the regional government used the opportunity to blame the District Council and SKPL. SKPL blamed everything on the lack of funding. Nobody discussed how the railway can get out of the current mess and move forward.

The situation around the country is little better. There is no agreed plan to safeguard the collection in Poland’s national railway museum, the Railway Museum in Warsaw, neither is there an accepted strategy for the future of the railway museum in Chabowka. The scheme that was being developed for the future of operations at Wolsztyn – a separate company to administer the shed – failed to win the support of members of the Wielkopolska provincial government. There is no project to resurrect the Krosniewice Railway. The narrow gauge railway at Jedrzejow faces the hostility of its local authority owners. The society maintaining the historic collection of rolling stock in the former locomotive dep0ot at Pyskowice continues to face eviction…

So what of Poland’s railway enthusiasts? A select few actually work on restoring railways and their rolling stock. Many more take photographs, or spend hours on rail-related Internet forums. However, only a tiny minority are prepared to actively ‘lobby’. They still have to learn how to develop an effective voice and how to use it to address Poland’s decision makers. If only half the effort that goes into on-line intercine warfare was focussed on the addressing the outside world…

So is there any way that those of us who are ‘outsiders’ can help? By the strange Alice-in-Wonderland relations that govern Poland, a letter or e-mail originating from the United Kingdom or United States can have a much bigger effect than a similar missive sent from Poland. An even bigger impact can be made when visiting Poland’s heritage railways – make an appointment at the town hall or municipal government offices and tell the Chief Executive how far you have come specifically to visit the railway.

It may take time, but the cumulative effect of such initiatives can be a powerful force for good.

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One Response to “The fly and the fly bottle”

  1. David Hughes Says:

    Any ideas about where to start? I’ve never been much of an activist even UK railways, but then in UK most newsagents will carry a number of rail or railway modelling magazines, whereas I struggled to find any on a recent visit to Poland. That seems to show relative levels of interest and presumably activism. So if Polish enthusiasts (and frankly world-wide enthusiasts: this is shared heritage) need help, who should we email and to what effect?

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