Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 8


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.


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