Quo Vadis, PKP?


Kepa 1992, on the line from Stalowa Wola Rozwadow to Lublin. Photo ©Tomasz Ciemnoczułowski.

(Click on image to see the original photo on the Server Milosnikow Transportu Szynowgo [Rail Transport Enthusiast’s Server].)

Kepa Rzeczycka 1995. Photo ©Tomasz Ciemnoczułowski, Server Milosnikow Transportu Szynowgo.

Poland’s railways’ presence on the WWW seems to multiply in inverse proportion to the size of the operational railway network. There is an active community of railway enthusiasts who seem to spend their entire time on their computers documenting the current railway scene, commenting on the intelligence of Poland’s decision makers or lobbying to get a particular diesel or electric repainted in a particular historic livery. A tiny number actually get their hands dirty: the largest are the PSMK regulars at Skierniewice; there is a small, but very dedicated band of FPKW volunteers at Rogow; two groups of SGKW volunteers at Starachowice / Ilza and Bytom; and a tiny, but mechanically skilled, band at Psyskowice; a small group on the 600mm gauge remnant at Bialosliwie, another on the 600mm forestry line at Czarna Bialostocka and a fledgling group that were driven out of Wolsztyn and are now starting up again at Jarocin.

Yet how many Polish railway enthusiasts regularly put pen to paper and write to – or meet with – their key stakeholders, whether PKP, the local authority or the Ministry of Infrastructure? About a dozen, and I have probably drunk cups of tea (if you believe it was tea you will believe anything!) and argued with all of them. And how many railway enthusiasts have actually written to Poland’s key decision makers and made representations, not about Poland’s railway heritage, but about the state of Poland’s railways? I have yet to meet one!

But before you jump on the bandwagon and berate Polish railfans for their political passivity, consider the situation in Great Britain. There are some 1 – 2 million railway enthusiasts in Great Britain, yet the rail network has butchered by over 2/3 and Britain’s trains are the most expensive in Europe. Sure railway enthusiasts have demonstrated considerable skills in saving ‘their railway’, the resurrection of the Swanage railway being the most remarkable example; but what impact have railway enthusiasts made on changing UK government policy regarding railway transport at a national level? And more importantly how many have tried?

So when a railway portal starts publishing ‘before and after’ pictures of Poland’s railway network (an extremely effective for of propaganda) it is time to applaud the initiative and afford it due publicity. Sadly the Serwer Milosnikow Transportu Szynowego (Rail Transport Enthusiasts’ Server) flourished only between 1999 and 2002. It was disbanded and then partially reconstructed in 2006. It does not seem to be actively maintained at present – a great pity. However, there is much there of interest. Click on ‘Galerie”, then ‘Filmy Video”, then on ‘Movies”, and then on ‘Kolysaka.avi’ to see some amazing shunting by gravity. The Server also has some English language pages (sadly not all the links work) and also an English language offshoot – the Kolejlist mailing list, which is older than BTWT and is still going strong. Perhaps it may prove possible to reactivate the main portal in due course?

3 Responses to “Quo Vadis, PKP?”

  1. Martin Miller Says:

    Firstly may I say how much I enjoy Behind the Water Tower as a new convert to the joys of Poland. As an avid tramway enthusiast I am gradually working my way through the delightful systems over there with the willing, for most of the time, involvement of my wife with Lodz being our next target. We have always been made most welcome throughout the Country.

    I am also General Manager and a director of the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway in Derbyshire which has been ploughing a furrow for the last ten years to reopen a disused 9 mile branch line. On day one there were 8 volunteers and now there are over 160. There are some 1,500 shareholders that have raised approaching £600,000 and grant revenue has added around another £750,000 to this plus for the last five years we have traded at a “profit”.

    The secret, in my mind, is to involve the local community where we draw the majority of our volunteers from. In my estimation less than 40% of our volunteers are railway enthusiasts with the other 60% seeing the project as a plus for the community. The “norm” is that for every £1 the Railway generates, in our case £1.5m there is a further £4 generated into the local community – accommodation, restaurants, pubs, garages, local shops etc. equating in our case to £4m. As this income generation becomes apparent the community comes eagerly behind the enterprise.

    The other critical factor is to ensure the enterprise offers a range of opportunities. Again, in our case we are now a major test site for new build railway vehicles, offer filming facilities, driving experiences and pride ourselves to being able to respond to opportunities very, very quickly.

    Interestingly, you don’t necessarily have to be a steam railway to achieve this!

    Kind regards


    • Dyspozytor Says:

      Thank you Martin. I do not normally make comments of the ‘I do/don’t agree’ variety about comments. But I will make an exception. Not only do I agree with your view that the secret of success is to involve the local community, but I have been trying to persuade my Polish colleagues of this for at least 5 years.

      Clearly I have not tried hard enough!

      Drop me a line on railfan [at] go2 [dot] pl next time you are coming to Poland and I’ll show you some interesting trams!

  2. Carol Larson Says:

    Looking for information about a rail line between Bialosliwie and Breman in 1881

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