Pyskowice – a miracle needed

by

by John Savery

The design on the special commemorative stamp issued by Poczta Polska on 12.8.2005, the 85th anniversary of the ‘Miracle on the Vistula’.

In 1920, just after the end of the First World War, on the plains of Poland near Warsaw, a decisive battle took place.  There on the Wisla and Wieprz rivers, the mighty Soviet Army, which had been cutting a swathe across Europe, was stopped against overwhelming odds by the Polish Army under the command of Jozef Pilsudski.  The underdog had triumphed, against the might of Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution.

Battle of Warsaw, the first stage. Map by by Hjaekel and by Halibutt.

(Click on image to enlarge. Click here to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Polish railway societies, often fighting on many fronts,  would do well to take heart and learn the tactics of this remarkable battle.  With dogged tenacity – and when all available forces are concentrated on the right strategic points – the underdog can triumph.  Regular readers of BTWT will be familiar with the plight of the railway museum at Pyskowice.  Without security of tenure, mains water, or electricity, and with the small inconvenience of a roof collapse back in 2006, TOZKiOS, under the leadership of Zbyszek and Krzysztof Jakubina, has steadily and gradually built up an impressive collection of some 70 items of rolling stock and motive power.

Now matters appear to be coming to a head.  The society is embroiled in a court case with PKP Nieruchomosci, the property division of PKP.  When the TOZKiOS started its operations at the old Pyskowice depot in 1998, it occupied the redundant premises at a peppercorn rent by agreement with the local management of PKP. But since PKP became ‘commercialised’ (split into hundreds of separate companies) the property division has been trying to force the society to pay a ‘commercial rent’. Now the dispute has escalated and PKP is pressing for the eviction of the society from the site.  An initial court hearing took place in Gliwice on 21 February.

Though at various times it seemed that a breakthrough between TOZKiOS and PKP was imminent, it appears that certain PKP officials are determined to frustrate and block any progress on a deal to secure and preserve the site.  Despite meetings being arranged between key stakeholders, including the governor of the Slask province, the Conservator of Historic Buildings and Monuments for Slask province, the board of the society, and various arms of PKP, the latter has only paid lip service to any attempt to find a solution. Tactics such as – making last minute changes to the people attending, sending only junior members of staff who have arrived under prepared and without the necessary authority – have ensured that no deal acceptable to all sides has been reached.

In contrast to this, the Conservator of Historic Buildings and Monuments is taking steps to have the whole site put on the register of historic buildings to give it greater protection.  The shed itself is currently afforded the Polish equivalent of listed building status.  At present, the ancillary buildings do not enjoy this protection; the process currently ‘in the works’ would see their status raised to the same level.

The next round of the court case is scheduled for 21 April, and at this stage it is unclear whether it will reach a conclusion on this date. PKP are demanding back-dated commercial rental for the area occupied by the society calculated at the rate of 5000zl per month (approx. £1000). If the court decides in favour of PKP, the Society will be bankrupted and if an official receiver seizes the rolling stock many items in the historic collection could be cut up for scrap.

Despite all of these distractions, the members of the society are still making progress with the restoration of rolling stock. Pride of the collection, Ty42-24, is nearing the end of an overhaul to mainline running order.

The start of Ty42-24’s overhaul in November 2008 at Pyskowice. Photo TOZKiOS.

It never rains but it pours

Meanwhile it would appear that the possibility that their locomotives could be legally impounded has prompted some of the overseas owners of locomotives to try to cut their losses. In particular news has reached us at BTWT that the future of TKt48-23 is looking decidedly insecure. Built by Cegielski in 1951, the 2-8-2 tank engine was withdrawn from service at Kluczbork in 1992, and is privately owned but currently resides at the Pyskowice skansen.

The current owners (who are not Polish) are looking to sell the loco, and if no private buyer or consortium is found, will let the loco go for scrap to realise its cash value.  The Pyskowice society realise how damaging this would be to their reputation.  Readers may remember the damage that was done to the credibility of the society attempting to save the Piotrkowska Kolej Dojazdowa when they scrapped Ol49-48 to raise funds.

The owners are asking in the region of EUR 17,500 for the loco, which they believe is a realistic scrap value.  We feel that this may be over-optimistic given the current economic climate and the recent fall in the value of scrap steel, and believe the 78 tonne loco to be worth somewhat less than this.

Despite the Polish economy still growing, we feel it unlikely that a local white knight will ride to the rescue and stump up the cash to buy the loco.  Whilst we recognise the right of the owners to dispose of their assets, we feel it would be a scandal if yet another of Poland’s locos should succumb to the gas axe and the increasing pressure of market forces.

Should any readers be interested in purchasing the loco outright, or forming a consortium to secure the future of the loco, please contact us at BTWT and we will put you in touch with the owners.

Please help

by Dyspozytor

We set up BTWT in 2008 to support the faltering Polish railway heritage movement, it was the latest of a series of initiatives carried out by a group of friends with experience of railway preservation in Poland and in the UK. Since then we have won a few battles, lost a few, and reached stalemate in others.

We do not campaign on our own account, but rather try to bring pressure to bear (through the pages of BTWT and through private channels) to support causes brought to our attention by Polish railway enthusiasts. This appeal is just such an occasion. Please help us help TOZKiOS win its battle with PKP by posting or faxing a suitable letter to Mariak Wasiak, the head of PKP, and also copying it to the Minister responsible for Poland’s railways.

The relevant addresses are:

PKP Chairperson

Maria Wasiak
Prezes
Polskie Koleje Panstwowe S.A.
Centrala
ul. Szczesliwicka 62
00-973 Warszawa
Poland

tel: (22) 47 49 101
fax (22) 47 49 102

The Minister for rail

Andrzej Massel
Podsekretarz Stanu
Ministerstwo Transportu, Budownictwa i Gospodarki Morskiej
ul. Chalubinskiego 4/6
00-928 Warszawa
Poland

tel. 22 630-14-00
fax 22 630-14-02

Please write or fax rather than sending an e-mail. I copied one letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs by e-mail and received a very courteous reply from his office exactly one year later :-)

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One Response to “Pyskowice – a miracle needed”

  1. Rik Degruyter Says:

    A couple of years ago two foreign rail enthusiasts bought the Tkt48-23 to bring her to Belgium for use on the Stoomcentrum Maldegem’s touristic railway. If not the loco would have been scrapped longtime ago with the rest of the Kluczbork engines. So the fact that de loco is still with us, is thanks to her current owners.

    The board of the association however has no plans anymore to take over the loco. This leaves the owners with the problem to secure her future. In the first place they offered her for sale already a few years ago by the BTWT blog without any response so far.

    They asked the Jakubina brothers recently if there was any interest for buying the loco by TOZKIOS or anybody else. There was even offered a considerable part of the money raised from the sale in order to help the cash strapped TOZKIOS. The owners do not want a higher bid than the scrap value which is today 250 euros/t. They consider this as only fair and reasonable in trying to save the loco’s live.

    The current owners do agree that scrapping the loco would be a real blow for TOZKIOS’s name and integrity and confirm that this is not their goal.

    So the torch is not around the corner and the Jakubina brothers were asked to take their time. Dyspozytor knows that the current owners are decent and honest people. But the battle with PKP is also worrying them and they have to stay vigilant.

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