The case of the Buckinghamshire LAS


Bieszczady Railway LAS, November 2006, at Majdan.
Photo BTWT.

(Click image to expand.)

I had seen little of Prezes lately. My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who finds himself master of his own establishment, had drifted us away from each other, while Prezes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our old lodgings, buried among his books, and alternating from week to week between lethargy and ambition.

He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of railway heritage, and occupied his immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those projects, and assisting those railways which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official bodies. From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons to Gora, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the lost Skansen at Karsnice, and finally of the delicate mission in which he was still engaged. Beyond these signs of his activity, which, when he permitted, I merely shared with our readers, I knew little of my former friend and companion.

Bieszczady Railway LAS about to run round its special train at Dolczyca, November 2006.
Photo BTWT.

(Click image to expand.)

One night my way led me past the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind with the dark incidents of the Study in Smigiel, I was seized with a keen desire to see Prezes again, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own story. He was at work again. He had risen out of his stupors and was hot upon the scent of some new problem. I rang the bell and was admitted to the chamber which had formerly been in part my own.

His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair, indicated a bottle of Zubrowka and a dish of zimne noszki in the corner. Then he stood before me and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

“Domesticity suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Dyspozytor, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”

“Seven!” I answered.

“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy. And you have come to consult me about the LAS that you found in Steeple Claydon.

“Then, how do you know?”

LAS on a PKP 600mm gauge railway somewhere in Poland. The photo was originally published in a calendar published by the erstwhile PKP Dyrekcja Kolei Dojazdowych in Warsaw which was responsible for Poland’s narrow gauge railways. The pictures, by M. Kucharski, J.Wardęcki, J.Zajfert, A.Gibek, C.Gwara, M.Moczulski, were then scanned and displayed on the Internet as an appendix to a brief on-line history of Krosniewice and its railway which was published in 2002 and is still hosted in its original state!

(Click on the image to see all the photographs that appeared on the PKP DKD calendar.)

“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that it is 750mm gauge and was formerly employed in a sugar refinery in central Poland?”

“My dear Prezes,” said I, “this is too much. You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I am intrigued by the Buckinghamshire LAS but, as the engine is surrounded by foliage, how can you know the gauge? I can’t imagine how you deduce it? As to where the engine spent its former life, there again, I fail to see how you work it out.”

“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “I regularly read your somewhat simplified accounts of my cases on BTWT and the comments that you publish from your admiring audience. Alex Fitch tells us that Steeple Claydon is not a million miles from Leighton Buzzard. Obviously if you live near that line and have a 600mm engine you would take it there. So it is not 600mm gauge. A brief glance at the trees on Google’s Street View – a suggestion from another of your admirers, who prefers to hide his identity under the nom de plume of Warwickian – would indicate that the engine has been at its present location for some time. I would estimate some 15 years, or more. This would coincide with the early to mid 90s, after the collapse of communism in Poland, the period when Polish sugar refineries were getting rid of their remaining steam engines. Now the majority of these employed 600mm gauge with the exception of those attached to the Kujawy Railway network which was largely standardised post WW I to 750mm. Hence, you see, my triple deduction that the engine was 750mm gauge, had come from a sugar refinery, and had been based in central Poland.

I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. “When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

“Quite so,” he answered, pouring himself a glass of Zubrowka, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the front door to the lift.”


“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seven steps, because I have both seen and observed. Now kindly look up former 750mm LAS sugar refinery locomotives on the Wciaz Pod Para database of Polish steam engines sold abroad.”

“I have it. There could be five. There are no details about the origins of one.”

“How many in the UK?”



“One from Cukrownia Wozuczyn, in Preston.”

“That one went to the South Tyndale Railway and has now been rebuilt without its side tanks.”

“The other, from Cukrownia Ostrowy, is thought to be near London. Wasn’t Cukrownia Ostrowy some 6 kilometres distance from Krosniewice?”

“You have your engine, Dyspozytor,” said Prezes, pouring himself a glass of Zubrowka and languidly sinking into his armchair.

With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Google Maps, Street View – Sleeping LAS

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