Archive for January, 2012

Ol49-69 turned at Leszno

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Progress! Ol49-69 at Leszno. Video by Eisenfisch100.

This short, but informative, video by shows further progress on the chassis of Ol49-69 at Leszno. The coupling rod journals have been turned, the wheels and painted and the chassis turned on the turntable.

The final clips of the video remind me of the scene in Oh Mr Porter where Porter, Harbottle and Albert discuss a series of shunting moves while a rake of trucks they have inadvertently set into motion hurtles to destruction!

A hat tip to Alex Everts for sending us the link to the YouTube video.


Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 12

Monday, 30 January 2012

The last mystery location. Satellite photo courtesy Google Maps.

(Click image to enlarge.)

After a record 7 weeks – BTWT competitions usually drag out for much longer – we have reached the very last round. Starting on 8 December as our ‘Christmas Competition’, the contest played 7 rounds in 2011, and then morphed into our ‘Xmas/New Year Competition’ for another 5 rounds in January.

Today’s round is not helped by the lack of any high resolution image of the area in Google Map ‘satellite view’. The location has been deliberately chosen because it is so confusing. If you look carefully, you will see standard gauge lines, narrow gauge lines, and what could be either! As throughout the rest of this competition, the first person to identify the the area correctly gets the point.

Location No.11 stumped everybody apart from Inzynier. He writes,

From your clue about following steam trains, I first thought of Gniezno, as I remember chasing steam by car along here, and the line runs in the same sort of orientation, but there’s no matching location.  Sroda runs in the wrong direction.

By the time I started visiting the sugar beet lines, steam trains had disappeared.  But I remember driving out from Kruszwica with the railway running almost alongside the road before curving away near the entrance to a farm, which is the location of this photo.  I think I may have some video (certainly some still photos) taken from this location during the period between 1996 and 2002.

Spot on! Inzynier kindly did dig up his photos and found two glorious autumn evening sunlight pictures taken exactly at the No. 11 location in October 1996. Given the flat wagon, box van and the odd passenger coach I would guess this is a mixed P.W. / sugar beet train bringing home the track gang from a day’s work sorting out a few rough places. I passed through here in the early 1970s and caught sight of a steam-hauled train quite by chance.

West bound train near Kruszwica, October 1996. Photo Inzynier.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Kruszwica Railway, the same train a while later. Photo Inzynier.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Google Maps ‘slippy map’ view of location No. 11


The tale of No 40

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Restoration of No 40 – a short film by Bob Krist about the restoration of the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad’s 2-8-0, built by Baldwin in 1925

(This is the first time ever that BTWT has embedded a video from vimeo. Click the ‘vimeo’ logo, then the expand out arrows to see the video full screen on another page.)

BTWT is at its best when reporting stories and some of our best stories are suggested by our readers. If we have managed to make the blog more interesting in recent months it is because a small band of readers regularly send in ideas for stories. Please keep up the good work!

Sometimes we get something out of the ordinary. Kent Kobersteen writes,

It’s not Poland, but here’s a great video that I’m sure the Behind The Water Tower readers would find interesting:

You bet Kent. It is a great video, which as well as showcasing the restoration of NH&IR No. 40, shows the amazing abilities of the new generation of DSLR cameras to shoot really high quality video. And the story of the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad is no less amazing! Follow the links below to learn more.


A Return Journey – Part 13

Saturday, 28 January 2012

by Robert Hall

The continuation of Robert Hall’s account of his 2010 return trip to Poland after a break of 16 years.

Jedrzejow stations in 1936. Note the location of the n.g. and s.g. facilities. From the 1:25,000 1936 WIG map of Jedrzejow.

Sunday’s objective was the 750mm tourist line at Jedrzejow. I was warned against trying to stay in overnight in Jedrzejow, so I spent a pleasant night in Krakow instead. Next morning, I set off towards my target, some 90 km north-east, on the 07:35 ex Krakow Glowny to Lublin.

This part of Poland, an approximate triangle Lodz – industrial-Upper-Silesia-and-Krakow – Swietokrzyskie Hills east of Kielce, was an area I had never visited before.  The usual reason:  by the 1980s, this region had become poor/next to useless for steam, so we gricers mostly stayed away from here.  The Krakow – Jedrzejow journey, through moderately hilly countryside, was interesting – a pleasant change to the great flat plains often encountered in rural Poland.

At the Sedziszow stop I saw Ty51-15, plinthed just south of the station.  Once again thoughts of the 1980s were evoked.  In the latter half of that decade,  PKP attempted a slight degree of enthusiast-friendliness by offering a small number of locations up and down the country for which we could apply in advance for (highly circumscribed) photographic permits.

Some of these venues were worthwhile, others, it was hard to see any point to.  Sedziszow was one of the latter.  Though on a long-electrified main line, and not a junction, up to the late 1980s Sedziszow had, for some odd reason, a steam depot with a small allocation of Ty51. A couple of the big 2-10-0s could be relied on to be in steam there at any particular time; but they never seemed to do anything beyond a little shunting. Useful perhaps, if you needed to bag a photograph of a Ty51 in some sort of action – I never felt that desperate.  It appeared to me as another instance of PKP’s taunting gricers where this class was concerned.

Passenger stock at Jedrzejow, autumn 2010. Photo BTWT

The punctual arrival at Jedrzejow arrival was marred by something of a hunt for where to get the narrow-gauge train. The Jedrzejow Railway’s headquarters are about a ‘crow-and-bee’ kilometre across town from the standard-gauge station.  In narrow gauge passenger days, the line continued to a halt outside the standard gauge station (conversely, a s.g. siding lead right into the n.g. depot for the interchange of freight) but alas, no more. The n.g. line now exists in ‘splendid isolation’. The prospects for through freight are nil, even in the remote contingency that such traffic should be offered.

With, happily, about an hour and a half in which to tackle the conundrum, I found the narrow-gauge station in good time.  This preserved line, with a 31 km route between Jedrzejow and Pinczow, is the small active remnant of a once very extensive narrow-gauge system (Poland’s second-largest, after only that of the Kujawy region) spreading out east and south from Jedrzejow,and at one time reaching back to the outskirts of Krakow. Like much of Poland’s narrow gauge, the line owes its genesis to military lines of WW I. In this case, a 600mm gauge railway built by the Austrians in their invasion of Russian-controlled Poland in 1915, this line was added to in 1916 and the system developed further under the aegis of PKP in the 1920s. In the 1950s, PKP converted the whole system to 750mm gauge.

‘Active’ as described above, is a rather relative term: the line operates one return tourist working on summer Sundays only.  It is the same frequently repeated sad story:  its local-government authority owners seem keener to milk money from the railway – and possibly entertain thoughts of selling its land for development – than to support and promote it. The line has recently been threatened with closure, and its future seems very unsure.

At all events, on Sunday 25 August 2010, the railway was alive and well. The train, due to depart at 10:00, was formed by Lxd2-258, heading one Romanian railcar trailer, an older-vintage Bxhpi 1AW coach, another such labelled Bufet, and the usual brankard all-purpose brake van. The line has an operational Px48, which, however, is used only on special occasions – on this day, it was hidden away in its shed. The train well-filled, by time our guard called Odjazd (Right away).

Px48-1724 in its shed at Jedrzejow. Photo BTWT.

Given the basic repertoire of a 31 km route, the most was made of the eight hours or so spent on the line. That Jedrzejow – Pinczow end-to-end run took about an hour and a half – it is a rickety line. It was a pleasant ride through some gently undulating terrain. Between Umianowice and Pinczow, there was a steep escarpment on the east side of the line.

Pinczow is interesting – for about the last kilometre into this big village, the railway does not so much run along the main street, as IS part of the main street: rows of houses on each side, and in between, the road, and parallel to it, the narrow-gauge rails – with a stretch of grass and occasional trees, separating road and rail. (The Pinczow-ites seem to be very good, as regards not blocking the path of the once-weekly train by car-parking on the line.)

When we reached the station the loco ran round, and took the train back 9 km to Umianowice with its still-in-place triangle.  Here there was a long lunchtime layover. The railway land within the triangle is equipped with plentiful picnic tables and benches – with shelter in case of inclement weather – and a covered stage / dance-floor.  Recorded pop music played for everyone’s delectation, with Beatles numbers, prominent.

The Jedrzejow line seemed big on music: the train is fitted up with loudspeakers which throughout most of the journey, pump out a musical assortment (a feature not found on the Rogow or Przeworsk lines).  Some of the Jedrzejow musical fare is pop, some folk with, if my poor comprehension of Polish did not mislead, a proportion of the latter, railway-themed. (I kept hoping for something in translation, from The Ballad of John Axon, but was disappointed.).  I personally prefer to go about my business without unsought musical accompaniment, but this line is battling gamely on, against rather desperate odds, and trying its best to please its patrons, so allowances were duly made.

I had no such reservations in awarding the Jedrzejow line full marks for its Bufet.  The Przeworsk line has a coach similarly marked and equipped, but purveying only a tame and restricted selection of soft drinks and snacks.  Jedrzejow does much better: its ‘buffet car’ sells a range of snacks, fizzy drinks, fruit juice, and also draught beer, which I duly purchased; and does fairly basic hot food (burgers / kebabs / chips), which fearing it might be horrid, I passed. (Dyspozytor, I subsequently learned, has sampled the same and found it OK.)  The buffet also sells postcards of the line.  This railway may not have all that much, but it makes the most of what it has.

After the lunchtime layover, the train returned to Pinczow; then set out back northward for its homeward run.  There was another layover for most of an hour at Umianowice, where the bonfire and sausages ritual (for those not too full from lunch) was enacted.  There some indications that the first 2 km of the system’s one-time eastward branch, as far as Hajdaszek, can and may at times, still be traversed for those interested, during this second layover. But there was no sign of any such move, on the day I travelled; possibly because about at this time, quite heavy rain had set in, though not sufficiently heavy to deter the keener sausage-grillers.

Google maps ‘slippy map’ of the Pinczow area.

And so, probably because of the rain, the train started its homeward bound run some quarter-hour before scheduled time, getting back to Jedrzejow (Wask) about 17:45.

The Jedrzejow network went overwhelmingly diesel quite early on and lost its passenger services rather early  (the last being withdrawn in 1987); and even when passenger workings still running, they were sparse, and at nightmare hours, making the system “a bitch and a half” to cover by normal scheduled passenger trains.  In the early 1980s, the network’s  86 km west-to-east main line from Jedrzejow to Bogoria, had two passenger workings in each direction per day, taking about five hours one way.  Jedrzejow departures were 01:34 and 18:10, Bogoria ditto 00:48 and 17:24 – impossible thus, even on Midsummer’s Day, to travel the whole length of the route in daylight and see all that you were riding through. So sadly I, and many other British gricers gave it a miss.

Though the operational line is basically between Jedrzejow and Pinczow, all is not necessarily lost (even if it is in the department of beyond-Pollyanna lunatic optimism) further beyond.  In 1996, the still-active Jederzejow – Umianowice – Pinczow section and the disused routes Umianowice – Rakow (47 km) and Pinczow – Wislica (28 km) were declared a protected ‘historical landmark’.  Everything else of this one-time system has been lifted;  but I learn that technically, the above mentioned sections are ‘protected’.  However, many parts of the disused but supposedly protected sections have fallen victim to the modern Polish scourge of rail-theft. Dodgy scrap-metal dealers offer enticing prices, and many people are sadly short of cash.  Where this has happened, the local authorities have – what a surprise – shown no interest in restoring track.

A steam-hauled trip on a now closed section of the line from Kazimierz Wielka – Skalbmierz on 24 April 1994. Video by .

According to my usual criteria, I should have found the Jędrzejów set-up thoroughly depressing.  It has been blatantly reduced to purest tourist-and-gricer-bait, losing all capacity to function as a real railway; its future has been for some time been in the balance (there’s no knowing whether it will run from one season to the next); and while all narrow-gauge lines that I visited on this tour, had fairly overgrown track, none were as bad as the Jedrzejow line’s was the most ‘vanishing into Mother Nature’s bosom’ track; and the just over thirty kilometres which tenuously survives, is a microscopic fragment of a once huge system.

Strangely enough, the experience of travelling on the line did not leave me feeling sad and wretched – on the contrary, I felt that the day was a demonstration of Poland’s spirit of facing hopeless odds, jauntily and with style. (Think of the cavalry taking on German tanks in 1939.) The cheery and positive attitude taken by those who run the trains, and their enterprising attempts (even if not always to my personal taste) to make the operation attractive to its customers, as well as the visible enjoyment of the plentiful customers, combined to make an agreeable day out. I was encouraged to hope that the worst may not happen, and that the line may continue to run on summer Sundays (and perhaps in the future more than that) for many years to come.

An additional attraction of this area, is the  LHS, originally the Linia Hutnicza Siarkowa (Steelworks and Sulphur Railway) now, following the closure of the open cast sulphur quarries near Tarnobrzeg, the Linia Hutnicza Szerokotorowa  freight route, inaugurated in 1979 on the Russian 1524mm gauge, from the Ukrainian border near Hrubieszow, to the Upper Silesian industrial belt.

This (non-electric) line intersects and then parallels the standard-gauge main for a while between Sedziszow and Jedrzejow; and runs parallel to and within easy sight of the narrow gauge, crossing over it at one point, for some kilometres west of Umianowice.  Several long freights on the broad-gauge line, were observed:  regulation motive power thereon, seeming to be double-heading class ST44 Co-Co diesels.  My first sight of the LHS in any detail; found it rather fascinating – and it brought the “score” of different gauges experienced on my bash, up to four.

Two ST40s (rebuilt M62s) on the LHS. Photo Sigman.

(Click image to see original at pl.wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Close acquaintance here with class ST44, had an interest-factor of its own.  These Soviet-built machines were widely used in the USSR-as-was (there, designated class M62), and in a number of its satellite nations. They have on the whole been well regarded by loco crews, being found an unusually good and reliable example of Soviet design and engineering; though because of their tendency to spread poorly maintained track are less fondly regarded by their civil engineering counterparts.

Polish railwaymen nicknamed the class Gagaryni – their introduction on PKP having roughly coincided with Mr. G’s exploit in space.  They are now becoming rather rare on PKP:  the LHS would seem to be one of their chief remaining strongholds.  There appears these days, to be a considerable nostalgic focus on class ST44 – especially on the part of German enthusiasts (the East German railways also used the type) – their remaining duties in Poland seem to be lovingly followed and chronicled.

The ST44s have other, less happy, connotations for enthusiasts such as me.  In the mid-and late 1980s, the blasted things seemed forever to be showing up in cherished steam venues, often spoiling passenger workings expected to be purely steam, by piloting a steam loco, or hauling the train solo. Ee bitterly hated and resented the ugly green so-and-so’s.  Decades later, the wheel has turned, and the ST44s are themselves an endangered species, and nostalgia-fodder. I found it possible to let bygones be bygones, and entertained quite fond feelings toward those encountered during my trip.

On return to Jedrzejow, I retrace my steps to the standard-gauge station and catch the 19:04 Warsaw train, for the run to Radom.  Here I stay overnight in a comfortable hotel a stone’s through from the railway station, prior to my departure for Lodz early the following morning.

3,000 tonnes/day on 600mm gauge

Friday, 27 January 2012

A Google Maps ‘slippy’ satellite view (can be scrolled and zoomed) of the Staßfurt Soda Works limestone quarry and n.g. railway.

No, not another mystery location in our competition, but the mine and loading chutes of the Staßfurt Soda Works GmbH & Co. KG in Saxony-Anhalt, one of Germany’s largest producers of sodium carbonate. The company obtains the limestone needed for the manufacturing process from an open cast mine about 3km from the production site.

The mine and production plant are linked by a unique 600mm gauge industrial railway. Each day the railway caries between 2,500 – 3,000 tonnes of limestone. Two trains operate on the single track line, each train, consisting of four 50-tonnes capacity bogie hopper wagons. Their 13 tonne axle weight necessitates the use of S49 rail, usually used on the standard gauge. The trains are hauled by LEW EL-12 electric locomotives.

A BTWT reader kindly sent us a link to a couple of YouTube videos of the railway in action. The first video shows an interesting series of shunting moves taking place when an empty train arrives at the loading plant. Here the engine is uncoupled from its train, and fly shunts its wagons back up the track from where the train came. Then the driver just nips his engine into the beginning of the run-round loop, switches the point and watches the wagons roll down towards the delivery chute by gravity. Now the engine rejoins its train at the right end for the run back to the processing plant. The cameraman was not quite sure whether this was an authorised manoeuvre and blacked out the driver’s face just in case!

The second video shows a loaded train proceeding to the processing plant and afterwards a second train having its wagons filled at the loading chutes. The process is interesting as it is entirely automatic, the train being positioned by means of a haulage cable.

The whole system – railway and loading arrangements – is delightfully simple and highly energy efficient. It is sad to reflect how many industrial railways could have survived in Poland if not for the punitive local tax rates on such lines.



Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 11

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The 11th mystery location. Satellite photo Google Maps.

Today’s mystery location should be familiar to those who used to follow steam-hauled trains on this railway in their cars.

Location no 10 showed the track of the German (probably 600mm gauge) narrow gauge railway that brought construction materials to the underground complex at Osowka in the Owl Mountains during WWII. The three articles linked to below provide probably the best English-language discussion of this real world mystery.

The Osowka complex – and several similar underground complexes nearby –  have been the subject of regular speculation in the Polish press. But just as in the case of the Loch Ness Monster, the fundamental questions have never been satisfactorily answered.

The no 10 location was meant to defeat all BTWT batsmen, but amazingly Waldemar Heise unravelled the location in a matter of hours. Asked how he succeeded when so many BTWT veterans were stumped, he explained that his secret was flowers and plants!

Detective work is a quite usual thing for me. I work at Jagiellonian University Institute of Botany, and as a part of my job is to try to find historic stands of rare plants in Poland. Also, most of my actual time is taken by editing and processing geographical and botanical data from whole country. In both cases I need to work with Polish WIG maps, Russian and Austrian KuK maps, Prussian Grossblatts and Messtischblats and… modern WIG, GIK and other topographic maps and ortophotomaps.

In this particular case I saw some hills (quite steep), deciduous forest, terraced fields and pastures. It couldn’t be anything in Carpathians – also I know most of the Swietokrzyskie mountains (made a topographic survey there this year) – so it should be somewhere in Sudety. There was one big problem – most of the railways there in some part of their history were narrow gauge, and many of them are now defunct.

So I opened my qGIS and searched for a particular area where I could find such hilly terrain with lots of complicated, defunct, former railways. After checking the western Sudety I remembered that there were some military lines in the area of Bardzkie and Sowie mountains. So I opened some 1965 maps which should still show some cuttings and embankments and “tadaaah!” – the German Riese complex of Rzeczka, Osówka and Walim. It was worth 3 sleepless hours!

A Google Maps ‘slippy’ satellite view (can be scrolled and zoomed) of the No. 10 location at Osowka.


Bid to save Post Office coach fails

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Ostatni wagon pocztowy (The last TPO) by Michal Bis

In our last post we featured Michal Bis’s film on the history of the EU-06s. Today we feature a second Bis rail documentary – arguably even better – about the last Polish Travelling Post Office (TPO).

The demise of the TPOs in England and Poland has the same root cause – the pro-road transport policy of successive governments of both countries where politicians are ‘helped’ to office by donations from companies whom such a policy benefits. Road haulage companies do not pay a fair share of their track costs – the damage caused by a wheel rolling along a road to the road is proportional to the fourth power of the axle weight, yet the road tax paid by road vehicles does not rise by the same ratio.

In England the increase in operating costs as a result of the fragmentation of the railway by privatisation dealt the death blow and the last TPO ran on 9 January 2004. One postal train (without sorting facilities) has been reintroduced on the West Coast mainline. In Poland the railway was fragmented (with an explosion of costs) before privatisation, TPOs were gradually withdrawn over the last 6 years or so and the last TPO of all ran on the night 28/29 May 2011 between Krakow Plaszow and Szczecin Glowny.

A bid by Manchester-based Robert Kotowski, in association with Stowarszyszenie Milosnikow Kolei w Jaworzynie Slaskiej, to save one of the TPO coaches has failed. All the surviving Pafawag 101C TPOs have been sold by Poczta Polska for scrap.


Farewell to the English engines

Monday, 23 January 2012

Golden Jubilee. Video by Michal Bis.

50 years ago the first EU06 electric locomotives, built by English Electric works at Vulcan Foundry, were delivered to Poland. This excellent video by Michal Bis tells their story.


IC loses 73% W-wa – Gdansk passengers

Monday, 23 January 2012

March timetable – 85% ‘Express’ trains to run even slower.

Worsening connection times. Source Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

(Click table to see the original on the website.)

Today’s Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (Daily Law Journal) carries a damning article about worsening state of Polish rail services. Quoting PKP IC chairman, Janusz Malinowski, DGP reveals that as a result of worsening connection times 73% less passengers were carried on the Warsaw – Gdansk route in September 2011 than in the same period the previous year. On the Warsaw – Krakow and Warsaw – Katowice routes the fall in passenger numbers was 20%.

The results are a disaster for PKP IC. Its prestigious Express (Ex), Express InterCity (EIC) and EuroCity (EC) services, which in 2010 accounted for more 30% of its revenues, are haemorrhaging passengers. In an attempt to stem the flow PKP has dropped the price of certain tickets. For example, the cost of travelling on the Malopolske and Norwida services between Cracow – Warsaw and Gdynia has been reduced by 30%. But not all the passengers have come back.

Connection times and ticket prices are important factors in determining whether passengers choose to travel by train, but so are ‘soft’ factors such as the ease of purchasing tickets, the accuracy of timetable information and customer service. PKP IC  manages to achieve ‘third world’ levels on all 5 of the key factors important to passengers. Of course, not all factors are completely under the control of PKP IC. Ticket prices are driven by track access charges which are controlled by another PKP subsidiary, PKP PLK, which has actually raised its charges for trains travelling on the Warsaw – Gdynia route by 30%!

To add insult to injury, connection times will actually get worse for 85% of Ex, EIC and EC trains, following the March timetable adjustment. Of the 80 trains whose connection times will be affected by the new timetable only 12 will reach their destinations in less time than before. Undersecretary of State responsible for rail, Andrzej Massel, assures intending passengers that the longer journey times are only a temporary measure to allow key infrastructure work to be complete in time for Euro 2012 and that after 1 June connection times will improve dramatically.

DGP comments that the improved train times will be the result of certain infrastructure works being suspended for the duration of the championships. When the fans go home, the works will resume and the slower connection times will return.


Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 10

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The 10th mystery location. Satellite photo Google Maps.

(Click to enlarge.)

Many years have passed since the last train ran along these hills and today the former narrow gauge railway has become a road. Sometimes the modern road abandons the former railway track and takes a more direct route where the trains once hugged the contour and took a more roundabout route.

Our last Google satellite view was the former site of the Radzymin terminus of the erstwhile Marecka Kolej Dojazdowa which was an important part of the transport infrastructure of Warsaw’s right bank and ran from Warszawa Wilanow station to Radzymin.

The first correct reply came from Inzynier who compared the copious clues with some of the information given in earlier BTWT posts. The other came from Waldemar Heise who utilised his Polish Ordnance maps (WIG) from the 1930s and came in with the answer some 8 hours later. So the point goes to Inzynier.

Part of the WIG 1:25,000 map of the Radzymin area.

Map Archive of Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny:

Lifts? Please book 48 hours ahead.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Centralna facelift has given the station a new cleaner appearance. Photo BTWT.

Friday’s Wyborcza daily newspaper and the TVP evening news carried the good news about the lifts at Warszawa Centralna. Apparently there have always been lifts at Centralna, but they had been hidden by the clutter that the station had accrued since it had been built.

Now as part of the stations 40 million zloty Euro 2012 facelift, the clutter has been removed, the lift doors painted a bright orange and pictograms put up showing where to find them.

There are guide strips for the visually impaired. Photo BTWT.

Naturally enough people with heavy luggage, prams or in wheelchairs, gather outside the lifts. They press the button and wait, and wait, and wait. Nothing happens. Then they make their way down to the platform as best they can. For people with wheelchairs the only way down is a slippery steep travelator at the far end of the platform.

Wyborcza took up the matter with the PKP press office. ‘They are freight only lifts installed in the 1970s. They weren’t intended for passengers.’ So why has access to the lifts been provided and pictograms displayed? ‘The lifts are available to passengers, but should be booked 48 hours beforehand’. Wyborcza tried ringing the number provided by PKP (22 47 46 016) several times, but no one answered.

You could not make it up!

There is a new lift, but it does not go to the trains. Video by .


  • Gazeta Wyborcza – zamów windę 48 godzin wcześniej

Chmielna 73

Friday, 20 January 2012

The last remains of the Warsaw – Vienna Railway, Warszawa Centralna in the background.
Photo Tomasz D.

(Click image to enlarge.)

The building would appear to have once extended further to the North. Photo Tomasz D.

(Click image to enlarge.)

The richness of detail betrays the building’s illustrious origins. Photo Tomasz D.

(Click image to enlarge.)

This rather modest building in a Warsaw back street is the only architectural remains in the capital of the Warsaw – Vienna Railway. The railway was built between 1840 and 1848 and its construction was at that time the most ambitious railway project in Europe.

A magnificent terminus was built in Warsaw at the location presently occupied by the Centrum station on the Warsaw metro. Sadly nothing remains of the main station building, but this little hut close to the station throat provides a direct link to the past.

Recently the site on which the building stands was acquired from PKP by a Czech development company. The Warsaw City Conservator of Monuments has declared that the building has no architectural merit. And another priceless piece of Poland’s railway history will shortly be bulldozed into rubble.

No Steam Today – Postscript

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Ol49-69 at Leszno on 27.11.2011. Photo John Savery.

(Click image to enlarge.)

John Savery writes –

I’ve been following the blog on “No steam today”.  There are actually overhauls going on at Leszno at the moment, and some money is being put in to get more locos in steam.  I’ve attached some photos of Ol49-69 (previously 99) in Leszno taken 27 November when I was last out there.  The boiler is currently in Pila being overhauled, with the bottom end being done in Leszno.  Ol49-23 is next in line.  The tender is also being overhauled, with a new tank being fabricated.

A tender receiving attention. Photo John Savery.

(Click image to enlarge.)

We are always pleased to hear from readers, especially when they can add some more information to a story published on BTWT. John Savery’s photo report from Leszno works casts a more optimistic light on the future of the regular steam services running between Wolsztyn and Poznan.

But hold on a moment, there seemed something dreadfully deja vue about John’s 27 November picture of the bottom half of Ol49-69 at the head of the article. A quick sort through the BTWT photo archive dug up the photo below taken on 17 September! Can anyone report on any more progress on this loco?

A rather less dusty Ol49-69 on 17.09.2011. Photo BTWT.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Stop SOPA and PIPA

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wikipedia front page on 18.01.2012.

BTWT supports the protection of intellectual property rights and is against piracy. We understand the need for action and would happily support measures which would cut off pirates from financial services such as credit and debit card processing through which they make their ill-gotten gains. But we are against legislation which would harm the fundamental engineering which supports the WWW. That is why we are adding our small voice to industry giants such as Wikipedia and Google in asking the USA Congress and Senate to completely rethink their approach to the problem.

Learn more:

Make your voice heard:

Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 9

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The 9th mystery Polish n.g. location. Satellite photo Google Maps.

(Click to enlarge.)

It has been many years since trains ran into this station. Yet in its heyday, it was the terminus of a very busy narrow gauge railway which should be known – by reputation, if not from personal acquaintance – to most BTWT readers. I paid two visits to the line when it was still working, once in the 1960s and once in the 1970s, and on the occasion of my last visit managed to talk myself aboard the footplate for a brief ride while our engine, a Px48, was running round its train at this very location.

Armed with a fistful of clues, I trust that today’s location will prove a walkover. The same cannot be said for our last location which stumped everybody. This is quite surprising given that the line closed as recently as 2008, and would have been seen by anyone looking out of the window and travelling by train from Krakow to Przeworsk and destinations further East.

The line was the 600 mm Igloobud brickworks railway in Debica. It carried clay from an opencast mine in Wolica – a suburb of Debica – to the brickworks adjacent to the mainline. It was opened in 1968 and served for 40 years. Most of the track, except that buried in the street, was dismantled in May 2009. Had it not been for the Ministry of Finance regulation that owners of industrial railways have to pay local authority taxes on their railways, the line might be running still.

A Google Maps ‘slippy map’ (can be scrolled and zoomed) of the No. 8 location on the Debica brickworks railway.


No steam today

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Awaiting repair or a source of spare parts? Unidentified Ol49 at Leszno, 17.09.2011. Photo BTWT.

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As from Monday (16 February) the Poznan – Wolsztyn steam turns are all diesel-hauled. On Sunday, Ol49-59 hauled the 05:22 from Wolsztyn to Poznan and then departed for its periodic overhaul. Already under repair at Leszno is Pm36-2 which is having a tender axle replaced. No further steam workings are envisaged this week.

Given the substantial funds that the Wielkopolska provincial government is providing to maintain Europe’s only scheduled main-line steam service is a matter of some surprise that the availability of steam traction hangs on such a slender thread. PKP Cargo seems not to realise the positive publicity value of a reliable regular steam service.

It is also a pity that each PKP Cargo region seems to operate as an autonomous empire and that at critical times the Poznan region cannot borrow locomotives from the Chabowka Skansen. Chabowka completed two heavy overhauls in 2011. Yet its in-ticket engines seem to spend most of their time hanging around waiting for something to do.

One foot in the grave? Ol49-111 at Leszno on 17.09.2011. Photo BTWT.

Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 8

Saturday, 14 January 2012

There’s a n.g. railway there, somewhere! Satellite photo courtesy Google Maps.

(Click image to enlarge.)

BTWT competitions are legendary for dragging on for months and months and our 2011 Christmas Competition is no exception, as it has now extended itself into a Xmas / New Year competition. There will be 4 more instalments after this one, so at the current rate of progress we should be able to announce a winner sometime in March!

Our last location (No. 7) was on the Starachowice Narrow Gauge Railway, although the most prominent features on the satellite photo are the formations of the standard gauge lines which were part of the ZGM Zebiec factory.

This plant is something of a mystery. It started in the 1950s ostensibly with the mission of extracting and concentrating the iron ore content of the sands which lie in a belt from Lubien through Tychow as far as Mirzec. The process proved uneconomical which should have meant the end of the company. But in Poland anything is possible! ZGM Zabieniec morphed from a mining company to one producing central heating boilers.

To complicate matters still further we have come across reports that in the 1950s a company in the Starachowice area was engaged in uranium mining and processing. So perhaps the ‘iron ore concentration plant’ was just a cover story? In actual fact the location of the uranium facility – if it existed – is not known to us.

The history of the Starachowice Narow Gauge Railway is no less complicated. Constructed in 1950 to link Starachowice and Ilza, the line utilised substantial portions of a late 19th century 750 mm gauge railway network which carried iron ore to the blast furnaces at Starachowice.

The relationship between old and new lines is shown on the diagrammatic map which was prepared during the time that the line was being operated by the Rogow-based Polish Narrow Gauge Foundation (FPKW). At its peak the pre-PKP n.g. network totalled some 60 km. The 1950 PKP railway was 20 km long.

By the 1990s regular passenger traffic had ceased though the line was used for occasional diesel hauled specials. I was lucky enough to see one of these in operation before PKP closed the line in 1997 and transferred the rolling stock elsewhere. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the FPKW the line was taken over by the Starachowice District Council in 2003 and initially operated by the FPKW. Sadly during the 6 years the line was defunct about a third of the track was stolen by scrap thieves.

At the end of the 2008 season, a row between the then FPKW chairman, Pawel Szwed and volunteers led to a decision by the District Council not to renew the operating agreement with the Foundation. During the 2009 and 2010 seasons the line was operated by the Bytom-based Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railway Society. In 2011, the line was based by the Friends of the Jedrzejow Railway Association.

In practice, much of the volunteer base has remained the same throughout these and only the management has changed.

Three correct answers were submitted, by Waldemar Heise, Ed Beale and Inzynier. Waldemar was first and so takes the point.

A Google Maps ‘slippy map’ (can be scrolled and zoomed) of the No. 7 location on the Starachowice n.g. railway.


A prosperous 2012?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Lodz Fabryczna, the last day – 15.10.2011. Photo BTWT

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May you have an interesting year, so goes the old Chinese curse. It certainly looks as if Poland’s railways are set to have such a year. The world’s financial crisis will get worse, probably much worse, before things start getting better, and Poland’s economy will be no exception. So there will be no more cash for Poland’s railways, all that Transport Minister, Slawomir Nowak, will be able to do is spend the cash that he has got more wisely.

Though Poland’s railways are the Cinderella of the European rail scene there is still some slack in the system – money and resources that could be used more effectively. But will Nowak, who has a reputation as an effective political fixer, have the courage to sort out Poland’s ‘rail mafia’, who are all milking the system for all that its worth, with little regard for the customer or the future?

Euro 2012 will be an interesting test. Will Poland’s railways rise to the challenge, or will Poland end up with egg on her face while PKP’s subsidiaries play the blame game?

A protracted period of illness caused quite a bit of pain and a 10-day pause on the blog. Though not everything is quite 100% – Dyspozytor is getting on a bit – hopefully we are now over the hump. The pause did give some useful time for reflection and perhaps BTWT will be better as a result. To all our readers and contributors, especially Robert Hall, John Savery, Ed Beale, Podroznik and Inzynier, we would like to wish you that 2012 brings more good things than bad!


P.S. If any of our readers are looking for some of experience in blog journalism, we are still looking for a Deputy Editor. News items, articles and photographs are always welcome!

Apple Centre in Grand Central

Monday, 2 January 2012

Apple Store Grand Central Terminal. Photo © Apple Inc.

As a proponent of both rail transport and Apple computers I could not resist picking up on the story about the new Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal. The store – Apple’s 5th in Manhattan – overlooks the 1913 main concourse from the station’s East and North East balconies. The store has 315 full and part-time employees who look after 45 display tables, covered with loads of lovely Macs, iPads, iPhones and iPods.

The original station on this site, Grand Central Depot, was built for railway and shipping magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt, at a cost of $6.4 million and opened in October 1871.  It served three railway companies – the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, New York and Harlem Railroad, and the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad – each of which maintained its own waiting room, baggage facilities and ticketing operations.

Between 1898 and 1900 the ‘Depot’ was expanded and its interior remodelled. Re-branded as ‘Grand Central Station’, its most prominent feature was an enormous train shed.  Built of glass and steel, the 100-foot wide by 650-foot long structure rivalled London’s Crystal Palace as one of the most dramatic man-made interior spaces.  The updated station also featured a classical façade, and a 16,000 square foot waiting room.

But even before the ‘Station’ opened, the first links in a chain events had occurred which were to lead to its rapid demise. Responding to road congestion and road safety fears (real or imaginary) the Fourth Avenue Improvement Scheme had already buried the railway tracks below ground level from Grand Central Depot to 56th Street. But it was the new tunnel itself that was to prove a killer.

In 1902, a driver of an express train striving to make up for lost time in the smoke-filled tunnel missed a signal set at danger and ploughed into the back of a stationary commuter train. As a result of the collision and ensuing panic, 15 people were killed outright and 38 injured of whom 2 were to die later of their injuries. A campaign was mounted to do away with steam haulage and introduce electric traction.

The conversion of the line from steam to electric was costly, but electric trains do not need extensive locomotive servicing facilities, nor do they need a well-ventilated train shed. By doing away with the great wrought iron train shed of Cornelius Vanderbilt and building a brand new station with two levels of underground tracks, and putting the rest of the line underground, valuable real estate could be released to be rented or sold to pay the electrification bill.

The project was led by William Wilgus, the New York Central’s chief engineer. Twenty-five miles of water and sewer lines had to be removed or relocated, and more than three million cubic yards of rock and dirt excavated and hauled away. Two hundred buildings were demolished, and 60 million tons of concrete laid. Throughout the construction work trains had to be kept running. It was the most complex construction project in New York City’s history.

On February 15, 1907, electrified rail service began to the Westchester suburb of White Plains. The following evening, as a train left Grand Central, it sped around a curve and flew off the rails, killing 20 people and injuring 150, with wreckage stretching for over a mile. It was William Wilgus, the pioneer responsible for leading the New York Central Railroad into the electric age, who was to bear most of the blame. In July 1907, he resigned from the New York Central.

Excavations for the new underground Grand Central Terminus, while part of Grand Central Station continues in operation c. 1908. Photo Library of Congress.

(Click image to enlarge. Click here to see LoC record for the photograph.)

After more than 10 years of planning and construction a brand new ‘Grand Central Terminal’ officially opened at 12:01 am on Sunday, February 2, 1913, and more than 150,000 people visited the new terminal on its opening day. Though some construction work was to continue, New York had acquired a major landmark which was to act as a spur to further development in mid-town Manhattan.

19th century warehouses were demolished to give way to: the 56-story Chanin Building, the 54-story Lincoln Building and the 77-story Chrysler Building.  On Lexington Avenue, the Hotel Commodore opened in 1919, and the Graybar Building was completed in 1927, each with a passageway connection to Grand Central’s Main Concourse.

By the mid-1950s railways in the USA began a swift decline and the Railroad was no exception. In 1954 the first proposal was made to demolish Grand Central. In its place was to rise an 80-story, 4,800,000-square-foot (450,000 m2) cylindrical glass tower, 500 feet (150 m) taller than the Empire State Building. Though this plan was abandoned. In 1955, a proposal was made for a tower north of the Terminal replacing the Terminal’s six-story office building. A revised plan was approved in 1958 and the Pan Am Building was completed in 1963.

Although the Pan Am Building bought time for the New York Central, the decline of the Railroad continued. In 1968, facing bankruptcy, it merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the Penn Central Railroad. The Pennsylvania Railroad had its own financial troubles and in 1964 had demolished the ornate Pennsylvania Station (despite pleas to preserve it) to make way for an office building and the new Madison Square Garden.

In 1968, Penn Central unveiled plans for a tower even bigger than the Pan Am Building to be built over Grand Central. The plans drew huge opposition, most prominently from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Six months prior to the unveiling of the plans, however, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Grand Central a ‘landmark’ – equivalent to the UK’s Grade 1 listed building status. Penn Central was unable to secure permission to build their tower and filed a suit against the city.

The resulting case, Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978), was the first time that the Supreme Court ruled on a matter of historic preservation. The Court saved the terminal, holding that New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Act did not constitute a ‘taking’ of Penn Central’s property under the Fifth Amendment and was a reasonable use of government land-use regulatory power.

Penn Central went into bankruptcy in 1970 in what was then the biggest corporate bankruptcy in American history. Title to Grand Central passed to Penn Central’s corporate successor, American Premier Underwriters which in turn was absorbed by American Financial Group. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority signed a 280-year lease in 1994 and began a massive restoration. Midtown TDR Ventures, LLC, an investment group controlled by Argent Ventures, purchased the station from American Financial in December, 2006.

The MTA’s restoration was a triumph. The huge billboard advertisements on both side of the main concourse were removed. Its ceiling, showing the starsand constellations was painstakingly restored. The original baggage room, later converted into retail space was removed, and replaced with a mirror image of the West Stairs. Although the baggage room had been designed by the original architects, the restoration architects found evidence that a set of stairs mirroring those to the West was originally intended for that space.

The original quarry in Tennessee was located and reopened to provide matching stone to replace damaged stone and for the new East Staircase. Other modifications included a complete overhaul of the Terminal’s superstructure and the replacement of the electromechanical train arrival / departure display with a purely electronic display that was designed to complement the architectural aesthetics of the Terminal.

Now Apple have moved into the space formerly occupied by Metrazur Restaurant having reportedly bought out the eight years remaining on its Grand Central Terminal lease for $5 million. The Steve Jobs mandated minimalist décor blends perfectly with the restored building.

Apple’s latest store – Apple Store Grand Central – opened on Friday, December 9 2011 and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


P.S. Now how about an Apple Store on the balcony of the refurbished Warszawa Centralna? Come to think of it if the Grand Central Railroad managed to keep hundreds of trains running a day and construct a new underground station could not PKP do the same at Lodz Fabryczna?