Gniezno roundhouse, PKP reply – part 2


One of the visualisations for the future development of the Gniezno depot site prepared by the Poznan branch of the Polish Town Planners Association. Stripped of their historic context the 19th century buildings lose their meaning. PKP archive.

(Click image to expand.)

Pawel Olczyk’s letter to Robert Hall continued from part 1

Such an analysis was also carried out with respect to the real estate adjacent to Gniezno station including inter alia the area of the former locomotive depot, the subject of your concern.

As a consequence of this, the current plans of PKP SA take into account the above principles regarding the management of real estate, according to which this real estate could be disposed of by means a sale by tender; always taking into account the possibility of a disposal taking place without a tender to a local authority or the state treasury; although such a disposal would be conditional on receiving the assent of the Minister for responsible for transport matters.

As part of the process of preparing this real estate for disposal, a conceptual plan was prepared by the Poznan branch of the Polish Town Planners Association. This was preceded by a careful study of the relevant strategic planning documents for this land, whereby:

  • a study, indicating the dependencies and directions relating to the spatial development of Gniezno, zones the land in question as an industrial area which could be developed for large scale retail use or other service industries;
  • a development study for the City of Gniezno, identifies as one of its key priorities, the development of enterprise and the need to attract new investment;
  • a strategy for the development of Wielkopolska province, describing a vision for the development of this region, indicates that the Wielkopolska should be an integrated and competitive region.

In accordance with this concept, the area of the former locomotive depot was zoned for multiple retail and service industry use. The concept involved the creation of a retail-cultural gallery with a wide range of functions: retail, recreation, sports, office, cultural-theatre, cinema, exhibition space and gastronomic.

The 19th century locomotive depot, which was recently added to the list of historic buildings, would have a chance to combine commercial and cultural uses in a refined industrial interior. New buildings in the shape of cylinders would form atria to the roundhouses and maintain a height sympathetic to existing buildings (Please see visualisation.) No changes to the internal structure of the building is anticipated. There is an assumption that a public space would be created dedicated to the culture of steam and electricity. There would be the possibility of displaying steam locomotives, for example.

The revenue stream from commercial activities on the site would provide an opportunity to preserve and maintain the historic aspects of these buildings. However, the way the space would be utilised according to this concept is not yet finalised.

In matters concerning the development of its real estate within Gniezno, PKP SA is cooperating on the basis of a tripartite agreement which was reached in November 2009 between PKP SA, PKP PLK and the City of Gniezno. The subject of the agreement is the stipulation of the general principles to be adopted in implementing development projects in Gniezno. Accordingly it is planned to breakdown the development tasks into concrete actions with specified targets and to identify the legal and the necessary legal milestones of the anticipated works as well as sources of finance.

The area of the former locomotive depot was recognised as particularly important for the purposes of changing its existing role on account of the planning policies and the investment needs of the City and PKP SA.

Discussions are also taking place in other fora regarding the development of this area.

Above all, PKP is concerned to achieve the rational development of railway real estate taking into account the economic needs of the company. Hence great care is taken with regard to the choice of future investors. In the case of real estate which has a heritage value, there is also an additional obligation the – the manner of its preservation must conform to the requirements of the Heritage Conservator.

The conclusions which can be made today on the basis of the operation of similar buildings outside the structures of PKP differ. See the following examples:

  • Skierniewice Roundhouse, which comprises the first and largest, entirely private, collection in Poland of historic rolling stock owned by the Polish Railway Enthusiasts Association (PSMK) – one of the oldest and the largest organisation grouping Polish railway enthusiasts in the country. The PSMK collection, gathered within the walls of the roundhouse contains over 100 items of rolling stock represents a cross-section of European railway rolling stock construction (steam engines, diesel engines and passenger and freight rolling stock) from the second half of the 19th century the first half of the 20th century. Only part of the rolling stock collection is in operational condition; the majority of items still await their restoration.The title to the real estate within whose area the roundhouse is located was transferred to the town of Skierniewice on a commercial basis during the period when PKP was still a state enterprise, in 1998, in exchange for tax liabilities. Up to the year 2005 was only possible to visit the roundhouse by earlier arrangement, only then was the decision made to provide access on a regular basis to tourists.
  • The Slask Museum of Industry and Railways in Jaworzyna Slaska, which is located on the 49th kilometre on the railway line from Wroclaw to Swiebodic. In 1843, Königszelt railway station was established here. Several decades later at the end of the 19th century a locomotive depot was established to serve the developing junction; a second was built in the 20th century.The title to this real estate was transferred by PKP to Jaworzyna Slaska municipal council on a non-commercial basis. The current museum was established on the basis of an existing disused ‘skansen’. The municipality and sponsors take care to maintain its attractiveness by acquiring further exhibits.Several attractions await visitors from the age of steam including the beautiful largest surviving roundhouse in Dolny Slask province. Inside is a unique rolling stock collection, currently undergoing repair and renovation, displayed on some 1.5 km of railway track. The collection spans the period from 1890 to 1970 and contains over 50 locomotives (built in Poland, Germany, Austria, England and the USA) and 50 wagons and coaches as well as water cranes and a snowplough. Visitors can enjoy a run on a hand powered trolley, look at the collection of old railway documents and souvenirs and may spend the night in the sleeping coach and directors saloon that was once used by the PKP board. Future plans include restoring a steam locomotive and a rake of historic coaches which could operate as a vintage train on the railway lines in Dolny Slask province.

As can be seen from the above examples, if the local authority decides that it would be appropriate to take over this real estate from PKP SA (irrespective of the way in which this might take place) it will be important that the resources and financial means are in place to take over the roundhouse and operate it as a museum or skansen.

Should such a proposal be submitted to PKP SA it will be carefully analysed and decided upon by the main board.

Pawel Olczyk

Main board member responsible for real estate and property

3 Responses to “Gniezno roundhouse, PKP reply – part 2”

  1. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    You have to give PKP credit for providing a comprehensive and fairly well reasoned reply. It may not be the sort of response that people wished for but it spells out what they are proposing and why they are intending to do it. This is better than some of the local authorities who have been the targets of BTWT letter writing campaigns. How many of them have set out a detailed justification of what they are doing to a random British enthusiast?

    PKP has had a pretty tough time in recent years and it is sad to see the way that once busy stations, depots and workshops have fallen into decline and disrepair. However, PKP has a duty to try to keep the railways that survive in a reasonable state and to modernise what is left of the system in order to try to retain passengers and freight customers. It is not in the business of running museums or heritage centres. All that we can really ask for is that it does pay some attention to those buildings that are of historic or architectural interest and that it attempts to pass those with the most merit onto someone who will look after them, even if this involves non railway use and modifications. There will be difficult decisions and people will have differing opinions.

    As far as I’m concerned they can bulldoze Gniezno depot tomorrow as long as they save some of the best narrow gauge stations and depots. Gniezno depot has deteriorated badly in recent years and looks well past its sell by date.

  2. robertday154 Says:

    All I can say is that I’m pleased I got a chance to have a very good look around the shed in February 2011 before redevelopment starts! But then again, as a photographer as a well as a railway enthusiast, dereliction has a certain attraction for me which it’s getting more difficult to satisfy in the UK.

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