Archive for May, 2011

Obama halts Warsaw

Friday, 27 May 2011

Warsaw traffic at 17:15 today. Traffic map courtesy

(Click image to see an enlarged image. Click here to see the current traffic situation in Warsaw.)

Following a working session with G8 leaders and an ‘expanded G8 working lunch’ in Deauville, France, President Obama landed in Warsaw’s Chopin airport at 17:30 local time 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Roads leading from the airport to Marriot and at other locations which the President was likely to visit had been closed from early afternoon. Warsaw traffic was brought to a standstill in many places. The road closures have been strongly criticised – while many roads in Warsaw were closed to vehicles hours before the President’s plane touched down, in London they were only closed when Obama’s motorcade actually started its journey.

But the real culprits are Warsaw’s transport planners who have neglected the role that light rail and semi-metro could play in solving Warsaw’s congestion problems. With rail links woefully inadequate (see our earlier story) Warsaw commuters are understandably difficult to prize out of their motor cars. With Central and Eastern European heads of state arriving since in Warsaw ready for their dinner at the Presidential palace – road closures and traffic jams have been commonplace since Thursday. Yet today many commuters choose to sit in their snarled up cars for three hours rather than risk the rail transport alternatives.

Troubled travels…

Friday, 27 May 2011

Michael’s Dembinski journey from Warszawa Jeziorki to Lodz – 83 miles in 3 hours 12 minutes. Map courtesy Google Maps and Scribble Maps.

(Click on the map to link to an expandable ‘slippy map’.)

Michael Dembinski the blogger behind the legendary W-wa Jeziorki blog, recently travelled to Lodz. The 83 mile journey took him an incredible 3 hours 12 minutes. Of course, he could have had a 39 minute longer lie-in by taking the 05:30 from Jeziorki and changing at Warszawa Zachodnia instead of travelling by the 04:51 and changing at Warszawa Centralna, which would have only have meant travelling for 2 hours and 33 minutes – quite good as Polish railway journeys go. The demoralising effect of being crushed together in slow and dirty overcrowded trains seems even to have penetrated Michael’s soul…

On Wednesday I had to be in Łódź to speak at a conference which started with breakfast; I needed to be there for 9:00am. This meant catching a train that arrived just after eight. And unlike London to Rugby (83 miles, 48 minutes ) the 83 miles between Warsaw and Łódź takes 120 minutes. My train for Łódź would leave W-wa Centralna at six. To get to Centralna I had to catch the 04:51 service from W-wa Jeziorki.

And this is where my story begins…

The 04:51 from W-wa Jeziorki begins its journey in Radom, departing for Warsaw at 03:12 every day of the week. It stops at every small town along the way, and by the time it reaches W-wa Jeziorki, the first station within Warsaw’s city limits, it is packed solid. Boarding the train, I had to stand in the corridor…

For the rest of the story, click on the link below:

Super power at Lodz Fabryczna

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Electric passenger locomotive EP07-374 heads failed mixed traffic EU07 class loco awaiting the ‘right away’ on the 11:29 from Lodz Fabryczna to Warszawa Wschodnia on 22 May 2011.

The 11:29 from Lodz Fabryczna to Warszawa Wschodnia enjoyed super haulage this morning. The rostered locomotive was failed because of a broken radio and EP07-374 was rostered as a pilot. With both locomotives manned and worrking, the train made an impressive get-away from Lodz Fabryczna.

TKW at Jarocin – how it should be done

Saturday, 21 May 2011

TKW’s first locomotive, SM03-348, built Chranow 1961, stationed at Bezwola Army Depot, donated to the Society by the Ministry of Defence in 2009. Newly arrived in Jarocin shed and photographed in the company of two PKP Cargo SM42s by Marek Ciesielski on 31 July 2009.

Articles about the toxic relationships between Polish railway societies and their local councils have appeared with depressing regularity on BTWT, so it makes a welcome change for us to report on a group that have been working successfully WITH their local council for several years to set up a brand new railway museum in Wielkopolska.

For several years the Jarocin Town Council have leased some space at the locomotive depot in Jarocin and allowed the Wielkopolska Railway Society (TKW) to store historic rolling stock there with a view to establishing a railway museum there when PKP Cargo ended their occupation of the site. In December 2010, PKP Cargo finally moved out and handed over the keys of the depot building to the Town Council who have asked TKW to administer the site.

As well as maintaining a good relationship with the Council the Society also understands the need to develop the interest of the local community. In a novel and interesting development, two theatrical performances are taking place this month, on 20 May, and 27 May in an area of the shed that was adapted in recent times for the maintenance of road vehicles.

The Jarocin project has lots going for it. It is only 90 minutes by car from Wolsztyn and can tap into the reservoir of talent that became disillusioned when PKP Cargo rebuffed the efforts of would-be volunteers who wished to paint some of the rusting steam locomotives that are languishing there. It is also close to some of Wielkopolska’s other historic railways, including the narrow gauge railways at Sroda, Pleszew and Zbiersk. Finally Jarocin is only 4 kilometres from Mieszkow, the junction for the branch to Czempin – the first 25 kilometres of which are disused; the remaining 20 kilometres (from Srem) carry regular freight trains run by SKPL.

We await to see what other progress takes place with this fledgling project, and wish the TKW the very best of luck with their endeavours.


Quest for new PKP SA chairman over

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Maria Wasiak stays in post.

Maria Wasiak. Photo PKP SA.

At an extraordinary general meeting of PKP SA shareholders held earlier today Maria Wasiak was appointed chairman of PKP SA. Ms Wasiak has been working as ‘acting chairman’ of PKP SA since 30 December 2010, following the dismissal of the previous incumbent, Andrzej Wach by the new Deputy Minister responsible for Poland’s railways, Andrzej Massel. Ms Wasiak will share the duties for which she has been responsible up to now with Romuald Bosakowski, who was appointed a board member today.

Ms Wasiak hails from Radom and studied law at Warsaw University and management at the School of Economics in Poznan. She was involved in local politics and became the Deputy Chief Executive of the Radom District Council in 1998 from where she moved to the political office of Tadeusz Syryjczyk, the Minister of Transport. She is seen as politically connected to Civic Platform, Poland’s governing party.

She joined PKP in 2000 in the role of ‘Project Director’. In 2001, she was promoted to the position of chairman of the PKP subsidiary responsible for regional services, PKP Przewozy Regionalne. In 2002, she became Head of PKP’s privatisation office. She was promoted to main board member with responsibility for ‘Promotion and Social Affairs’.

While some commentators regard the non-appointment of a suitably qualified ‘Rail Czar’ as a failure, it is unlikely that the Government, working through the Ministry of Infrastructure, looked very hard for an alternative. Maria Wasiak is seen as a safe pair of hands who will regard the privatisation of PKP SA’s assets as her top priority.

Her appointment and the ‘steady as she goes’ message that it conveys will have pleased the Ministry of Finance and received its tacit backing – the State Treasury controls the voting rights at PKP SA’s general meetings. A powerful external candidate may have upset the tacit understanding between the government, rail union bosses and top rail managers whereby everyone milks Poland’s railways for what they can and the network gradually decays until only a small core is left.

Less pleased will be PKP’s customers. Without fundamental changes to the way the railways are managed passengers will be left with even fewer overcrowded trains and with increasingly inaccurate and inadequate information. Freight operators will face rising rail access charges and deteriorating tracks. While wishing Ms Wasiak well with her appointment, we suspect that we will be continuing to be chronicling the decline of Poland’s railways for many more years to come.

Rogow chairman resigns

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Andrzej Tajchert presents the current state of the Rogow – Rawa – Biala narrow gauge railway at a meeting for local and national government officials held on 4 April 2011 in the museum building in Rogow. Photo © K. Boberek.

(Click on the image to link to an account of the meeting, with links to this and other photos, on the Ziemia Lodzka tourist portal.)

Andrzej Tajchert, who has been leading the project to restore the Rogow – Rawa – Biala narrow gauge railway for ten years has resigned from his position as chairman of the Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation (FPKW).

He had been associated with the line since 2001 when he and Pawel Mieroslawski, the chairman of the Polish Railway Enthusiasts Association (PSMK) first learned about PKP’s plans to close its remaining narrow gauge railways and started discussions with PKP and the local authorities.

Earlier this month he hosted a delegation from Fedecrail in Rogow and gave an excellent presentation about the FPKW’s achievements in Rogow and the challenges facing the line.

In an e-mail to friends and co-workers he wrote –

After 10 years I regret that I no longer have the ability or energy to look after the Rogow line in a manner which would accord with my understanding of the concept of responsibility.

50 kilometres of railway, rolling stock, staff, the Office of the Railway Transport, local authorities – all these demand someone working full-time. Something that I just cannot manage to do. That is why I have resigned from my position of chairman and board member.

I apologise for my many mistakes and pass on my best wishes the new board and its new chairman for success in further developing the railway.

BTWT salutes Andrzej Tajchert for his achievement in Rogow. The line is Poland’s premier volunteer-assisted preserved railway. We hope very much that  he will not only continue to be involved in developing  the line, but also that he will find a way of sharing his experience and knowledge with Poland’s wider railway heritage movement.

Steam, Snow, and Shunting!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Words and pictures by
John Savery

TKt18-18, built Cegielski 1950, at Jaworzyna Slask, 4 May 2011. Photo John Savery.

The Wolsztyn Experience now offers shunting courses run in the Skansen at Jaworzyna Slask.  Whilst over in Poland for the Wolsztyn Parade, and the TPWP special on the Sunday (plus a miriad of other excuses for another visit to Poland!) I had an opportunity to take part in a shunting course at Jaworzyna Slask, about 40km south west of Wroclaw.  The courses, operated by The Wolsztyn Experience, utilise TKt48-18, the loco previously used for the Wroclaw to Jelcz Laskowice footplate experiences.

For those not familiar with the former loco depot, it is now a privately run museum, and houses a wide range of railway and industrial artifacts, plus a collection of Harley Davidson motorbikes, and is worth a visit in its own right.

TKt18-18, simmering in the snow, 3 May 2011. Photo John Savery.

Retired Wolsztyn driver Czeslaw Janus accompanied our group for the visit, and provided his usual, welcoming style on the footplate.

For those that think pottering around on a shunting course would be a boring occasion, think again.  Carefully manoeuvring loco and wagons about the yard, coupling, uncoupling, and buffering up, watering the loco, as well as providing van rides for visitors is no mean feat, especially given that there are only inches to spare on the turntable for loco and wagon.  Equally enjoyable, the warming Goulash soup from the museum shop, and sausages cooked on the shovel in the firebox (bring your own!)

And the added ingredient – snow.  It may be May, and the temperature may have reached 25 degrees over the bank holiday weekend, but by Tuesday morning, the temperature had fallen to freezing, and 3 inches of snow fell onto the ground.  Magical.

Would I recommend it?  Absolutely.  But there’s no guarantee of snow!

A big thank you to Pan Czeslaw for his efforts on the day, as well as to the staff and crew from the museum in Jaworzyna.

Bluffing at Bialystok

Saturday, 7 May 2011

German WW I ‘Feldbahn’ 0-8-0T, built Borsig 1918. Photo BTWT.

A quick dash to attend a meeting in Bialystock yesterday left me with some time on my hands. While waiting for my preferred return train to Warsaw, the Tour de Pologne, a glance out the station window revealed this fine example example of a Prussian military light railway (Feldbahn) 0-8-0T plinthed in the forecourt.

TX 100? Actually Tx 201! Photo BTWT.

As sometimes happens in railway circles, the engine currently carries a false identity. As far as I was able to ascertain, ‘PKP TX 100’ was never part of PKP’s operational stock list. According to the locomotive’s history as published on Tomislaw Czarnecki’s excellent on-line data base Wciaz pod para… after the locomotive finished its war service it worked for a time on the Reseau de la Marne in France and then in 1945 was acquired by the Forestry Department at Czarna Bialostocka where it worked on their 600 mm forestry railway.

The loco and bar coach are kept very smart. Photo BTWT.

Needless to say the loco was never ‘TX 100’ but was allocated the stock number ‘Tx 201’, though whether it ever physically carried this number is a matter of conjecture. Certainly, when the locomotive was withdrawn to spend the first part of its retirement on the Zloty Stock housing estate in Bialystock, it carried the name ‘Basia’ (the diminutive of ‘Barbara’) painted on its tank sides.

Divorcing narrow gauge steam locomotives from the railways on which they used to run is a strange Polish custom. Is it to much to ask that one day the engine might be able to return to the forestry line at Czarna Bialostocka?

By steam from Zbaszynek

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Warsaw Railway Museum Tp3-36 plinthed at Zbaszynek,  built by Hanomag in 1913 as Prussian State Railways 4832 (4804 after 1920) renumbered by DR as 55 2199 in 1925, taken into PKP stock in 1945 and withdrawn from service in 1970. Photo BTWT.

The Wolsztyn Steam Parade has just taken place (29 – 30 April), but I gave the show a miss this year. There is an element of artificially about the event which I do not like, and – with the Smigiel Railway closed – a large part of the reason for making the annual pilgrimage to this corner of Wielkopolska has evaporated.

I heard through the grapevine that this year for the first time PKP Cargo had arranged to bring its VIP guests from Warsaw by motor coach rather than train – a decision which speaks volumes about the sad state of Polish railways.

PKP Cargo operated, Warsaw Railway Museum owned, Pm 36-2 pacific Piekna Helena (Fablok 1937) just coming off the 11:13 arrival (10:41 ex Wolsztyn) at Zbaszynek on 16 March 2011. Photo BTWT.

Instead of visiting the Steam Parade at the end of April I travelled to Zbaszynek a fortnight earlier to ride on the regular Zbaszynek – Wolsztyn – Leszno steam turn. (The steam service has been relocated to this line while the Wolsztyn – Poznan track is upgraded.) While waiting for the arrival of the morning steam turn from Wolsztyn there was time to admire the ex Prussian Railways, Tp3-36 plinthed opposite the old railway works at Zbaszynek.

PKP Cargo EU43-005 (Bombardier TRAXX 2007). Photo BTWT.

Within a minute of seeing PKP Cargo’s oldest operational locomotive arrive at Zbaszynek I was treated to the sight of its newest loco travelling ‘light engine’ in the opposite direction.

The Pm36-2 is kept in spotless condition. Photo BTWT.

While Pm36-2 is kept in immaculate condition, sadly the same cannot be said of its pair of ‘double decker’ coaches which were very dirty and in poor condition. Justifiably they are not very popular with local residents and are due to be replaced by overhauled ‘single decker’ coaches from the New Year.

With no operational turntable at Zbaszynek the the Fablok pacific suffers the indignity of working its train tender-first as far as Wolsztyn.

Pm 36-2 is coaled… Photo BTWT.

The Przewozy Regionalne Osobowy 11:50 ex Zbaszynek  arrived in Wolsztyn at 12:35. Here I cadged a lift on the footplate as far as the shed where the engine was coaled, watered and turned.

55 minutes later, Pm36-2 and its two ‘double deckers’ continued their journey as the 13:30 ex Wolsztyn Osobowy arriving in Leszno at 14:35.

…and having been turned on the Wolsztyn turntable is watered. Photo BTWT.

With 75 kilometre trip from costing only 15.60 zloty (about £3.40) the Zbaszynek to Leszno journey must be the best value steam-hauled trip in Europe.

Checking Pm36-2’s motion. Photo BTWT.

After the loco is coaled at Wolsztyn shed a new crew take over the engine for the rest of the journey to Leszno. Their first duty is to check the bearings and oil the engine.