Commemoration of Poland’s Independence Day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 11 November 2005. Photo Daria2005.
(Click on image to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)
On 11th November Poland celebrates Independence Day, the day in 1918, when – after 123 years of having been wiped off the map of Europe – the country emerged like a phoenix from the ashes of WWII. That it did so owes a great deal to General Pilsudski.
Those BTWT readers interested in discovering more about these remarkable events and their historical background are recommended to look up two works by Norman Davies, the best historian for those interested in an unbiased account of Poland’s past: the easy to read, Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland’s Present or the more technical twin volume work, God’s Playground, A History of Poland: Vol. 1: Origins to 1795 and God’s Playground, A History of Poland: Vol. II: 1795 to the Present: 1795.
Poland takes Independence Day very seriously; the commemoration was banned by the Nazis and Soviets during their WW II occupation of Poland and the subsequent Soviet-imposed communist government. The day is a bank holiday. As well as the main event at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw countless parades and commemorative events take place all around the country.
In recent years the Warsaw commemorations have been disturbed by a small number of violent activists who seem determined to spoil the event and Poland’s reputation abroad. This year a march was targeted by several bus loads of ‘rent-a-mob’ agitators from Germany. While the effect – perhaps deliberate – of such antics is that many Varsovians stay at home other commemorative events take place unimpeded all around the country.
Several of Poland’s heritage railways run special trains on 11 November and this year was no exception. The Piaseczno Narrow Gauge Railway’s special train was heavily booked, but perhaps the biggest surprise was the reopening for two days – Friday 11 November and Saturday 12 November – of the Smigiel Railway.
Two trains ran on each day from Smigiel to Stare Bojanowo under the auspices of the line’s new operator – the town council’s own direct labour force. Trains only ran as far as Stare Bojanowo Miasto, Smigiel Council having refused to make the payment – previously made by SKPL – to PKP which would have allowed trains to run the final 300 yards into the PKP station.
This was the first time that a public train train ran from Smigiel to Stare Bojanowo since SKPL relinquished its role as operator of the line. Some 200 passengers were carried each day. Sadly none of our contributors were able to attend. However a very comprehensive photo report was published by on the naszemiasto.pl portal. A thumbnail of the article with a link to the original appears below.
Smigiel: The train departed just as in the good old days
Photo reportage of the inaugural day on poznan.naszemiasto.pl
(Click image to go to the original article and view all 15 photos on the poznan.naszemiasto.pl portal.)
The Smigiel Railway now has its own official website. Mysteriously it does not feature any photographs of the reopening day, nor are there any photographs on the railway’s page on the council’s own website.
We have regularly asked BTWT readers to put pen to paper to appeal for the rescue of part of Poland’s railway heritage. Our readers have been generous in their response to our appeals. Perhaps now might be a good time to write to the Mayor of Smigiel to congratulate him on the reopening of the line.
If you are considering dropping him a line, do take the opportunity to remind him that the restoration of the link to the PKP freight interchange is essential if he wants to acquire or borrow rolling stock from the outside world, and that cutting up the freight transporter wagons might turn out to be a very short-sited move.