Stranger than fiction – No. 1

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Ghost train to Lodz

A passenger expresses her frustration at a unadvertised train running outside the published timetable. Still from The Ghost Train.

A friend was coming up to see me from Warsaw to Lodz on Saturday (19 November) evening, and had an interesting journey. Here is his account.

I had a busy day including a pupil whose lesson was due to end at 19:30. According to the official PKP timetable (rozklad-pkp.pl) run by TK Telekom and Dworzec Polski I had a choice of two trains to Lodz: the 19:50 Inter Regio due into Lodz Widzew at 21:21 and continuing on to Lodz Kaliska for 21:39; or the 21:33 Tanie Linie Kolejowe for Lodz Widzew only, arriving at 23:13. Lodz Kaliska being much more convenient for my final destination than Lodz Widzew, I phoned my pupil, brought her lesson forward and set out in good time for Warszawa Centralna.

The reply to the timetable query. TK Telekom/Dworzec Polski.

I got to the front of the queue at the ticket office at 19:40, bought my ticket for the 19:50 and then strolled off to find platform 4. Consternation, it is 19:50, but no 19:50 train to Lodz on the departure board! I rush upstairs to the monitors in the subway linking the platforms; no 19:50 train to Lodz; in fact, no 19:50 to anywhere! I charge upstairs to the departure hall and check out the new touch-screen information terminals. ‘Arrival times’, no I don’t want arrivals, ‘Departures’ that’s better, and there at last, is my train to Lodz Kaliska only it leaves at 20:10, not 19:50. Hey ho, if only I had known, I need not have rescheduled the lesson after all.

We arrive at Lodz Widzew around 21:45, so far so good. Most people get off here. I ask the guard what time we are due in to Lodz Kaliska, he replied that we should be there about 22:35. I text this information to Dyspozytor our train pulls out and heads out North-east across the access tracks to the freight yard. Unfamiliar scenery follows is this really the route to Lodz Kaliska?

We stop at another station; my remaining fellow passengers look worried. I look out the window; the phone rings. It’s Dyspozytor. According to my calculations, you are being routed via Zgierz. Please get out at Lodz Zabieniec.

I’m not sure we stop at Lodz Zabieniec, I reply cautiously.

All trains from Zgierz stop at Zabieniec, he says confidently. With half my body out the window. I can just make out the station sign which is situated conveniently at right angles to the platform.

Where are you, he asks? I’m at Zgierz, but according to the route diagram that’s impossible.

You’ve been routed via the freight cut-off line, he explains. Please get out at the next stop.

After what seems an eternity, but is probably only 5 minutes, the train starts running back in the direction we have come from. We arrive at what appears to be a disused halt. It is 22:37. Should I really get off here? My phone rings. Please get out here. You’ve reached your destination.

And that would be the end of the story, had it not been for the fact that I was not the only person waiting at Lodz Zabieniec to pick someone up. Obviously the fact that the 20:10 IR ex Centralna runs – and runs via Zgierz – is out in the public domain, if not in the TK Telekom timetable. I remember the little leaflets handed out to passengers on the last day of Lodz Fabryczna’s operation and the Notice to Passengers on the PKP IC website. I wonder?

I check out the relevant BTWT post, follow the link to the PKP IC Notice to Passengers, and download the new timetable. Yes there it is – the 20:10 ex Centralna, calling at Widzew, Zgierz and Zabieniec!

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2 Responses to “Stranger than fiction – No. 1”

  1. Podroznik Says:

    This is quite a normal situation.

    A few years ago (2008/9 timetable?) there was a good night train operating between Warsaw and Berlin, taking the “slow route” through Torun – Bydgoszcz – Pila – Gorzow. It had comfortable departure and arrival times, and carried standard carriages, couchettes and sleepers.

    However, if you searched for a night connection from Warsaw to Berlin in the on-line timetable, this train wouldn’t be displayed! Instead, one of the Russian sleeper trains would show. This train had a faster running time, but you had to leave or arrive (I don’t remember which) at some ungodly hour, and in any case the train couldn’t be booked from points in Poland to Berlin!

    The Polish train on the route could only be found by “forcing” the on-line timetable to show trains using a via (of Bydgoszcz or Gorzow, for example).

    Needless to say, not many people ever knew of this train, and it was discontinued after one year.

  2. Ed Beale Says:

    I like that Hitchhiker’s Guide quote – the experience of trying to find out accurate train running information since PKP was split up feels very much like that! I remember a visit to Jedrzejow in 2009 where 3 different and conflicting timetables were on display at the station, all apparently for the current timetable period!

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