Pionki, the end of a dream.

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Work starts, 2004. From a photo in the Pawel Szwed archive.

(Click image to see the original photo, as well as other pictures showing the skansen’s development on the FPKW (Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation) website.

The Pionki Forest Railway, set up by Polish actor and former chairman of the Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation, Pawel Szwed, is no more. Started in 2004,and opened in June 2005, the Pionki skansen was intended to be the base of an ambitious plan to relay part of the forest railway running through the Kozienice Forest. Pawel Szwed collected 600 mm gauge rolling stock from all around Poland and brought it Pionki where, with the help of volunteers, the exhibits restored to working order.

The skansen was more than a museum, under the energetic direction of Pawel Szwed it became an attractive venue for a family day out. There were platelayers’ trolley rides for children, a pizza bar with bottles of beer for thirsty fathers, as well as the display of historic rolling stock rolling stock, and an exhibition of photographs showing the history of forest railways in the area.

The skansen during a BPRIHP study tour August 2006. BTWT.

The Pionki forest railway project seemed set fair to succeed. Numerous consultative meetings took place with many of the local stakeholders. The forest authorities declared themselves delighted with the idea that rebuilt railway would bring visitors – in an environmentally sensitive way – to a number of attractions that they had developed deep in the forest. The Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation provided funding and know-how to help set up a partnership to make sure that the project retained and developed its roots in the local community. (The skansen was named after Jan Szwed, by Pawel Szwed’s father who had been a forestry worker at Pionki.)

(left to right) Pawel Szwed and BPRIHP founder Mike Pease.

The Pionki forest railway project seemed set fair to succeed. Numerous consultative meetings took place with many of the local stakeholders. The forest authorities declared themselves delighted with the idea railway would bring visitors in an environmentally sensitive way to a number of attractions that they had developed deep in the forest. The Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation provided funding and know-how to help set up a partnership to make sure that the project retained and developed its roots in the local community.

Then the project hit the buffers stops of Polish bureaucracy. Pawel discovered that it is one thing for a local body to declare their support, it is another for them to provide practical support or even sign agreements. Volunteers became dissatisfied at the lack of progress and drifted away to other projects. Finally, when it became clear, that the forest authorities would not sign the appropriate wayleaves to enable the railway reconstruction to go-ahead Pawel decided to shut down the Pionki operation.

It is to Pawel’s credit that safe homes have been found for nearly all historic rolling stock that had been gathered Pionki. Some of the 600 mm gauge forestry railway items have gone to another forest railway skansen at Janow Lubelski. Two 750 mm gauge open coaches that had worked on the Starachowice railway have been acquired by a local authority that is restoring a small part of the narrow gauge railway network that once ran to Wroclaw. Finally certain items of rolling stock and Pawel’s own efforts have been transferred to Rudy where part of the 785 mm gauge Gliwice Railway is being restored as a tourist attraction.

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2 Responses to “Pionki, the end of a dream.”

  1. Geoff Jenkins Says:

    What is going to happen to the stock and material that has gone to Rudy? Is it the intention to set up a 600 mm gauge line there or is it is just a convenient storage site for the equipment?

    I’m pleased that everything has been saved. I had heard a rumour that the LKM V10C had been scrapped. It would have been a great shame to lose a machine that worked on Poland’s forestry railways as too many of this class were scrapped when most of lines were closed in the early 1990’s. Has it gone to Rudy with the Lyd2 or ended up at Janow Lubelski?

    • Dyspozytor Says:

      I have now heard from several sources that some items of rolling stock DID get scrapped at Pionki and have asked for more concrete information.

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