by John Savery
Gniezno idyll. Some BTWT readers will remembers scenes like this on the Smigiel railway! Photo John Savery.
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For the last few weeks I seem to have been spending all my spare time in Poland. A Wolsztyn Experience organised charter was a great excuse for a trip out to Gniezno and a chance to view the narrow gauge line in operation, once as a passenger, and once to chase the train and photograph the line.
For those who are not familiar with the railway, the Gniezno Narrow Gauge Railway forms the most western part of the one enormous Kujawy narrow gauge system, and is currently the only operational section. The political situation at the Krosniewice Railway have been well covered elsewhere on this blog, and the centre section around Sompolno did not survive the purge of narrow gauge lines following abandonment by PKP in 2001. The line survives down to Anastarzewo, however the charter trips were only down to Witkowo, an intermediate town.
Blessed with glorious sunshine all weekend, the weather has been ideal for being outdoors. That coupled with a working narrow gauge steam locomotive, Px48-1919, made for a fun day out. Pottering along at 15 to 20 mph, through the Polish country side, with the sight and sound of steam has to be good for the soul. A very different pace of life to that in the UK, and a far more relaxed (but sensible) attitude to health and safety. No central locking doors here, and with both windows and doors flung wide to add to the ventilation, there probably isn’t a better way to see the Polish countryside.
With the line hugging the main road down to Witkowo for part of its length, before diving into the countryside and around the back of villages, it’s easy to see the contrast between the paces of life. The modern bustle of traffic, then open fields. Wildlife abounds. Deer and hare are still common along the line, both bounding out of the way when approached by the iron horse pulling our train. So close is the line to the country roads that shadow it between villages, it is possible to transfer goods between rail and road vehicles without either of them stopping!
Photostops were arranged for the outward journey to Witkowo, with multiple runpasts for the participants. At Niechanowo, the remains of the sidings and former junction can be seen, the rails into the siding covered with a thin layer of asphalt at the level crossing.
At Witkowo, the train was watered, before running back tender first. No crane or column here, but a blockwork hut by the side of the line contains the water standpipe. The hose is stored within the tender coal space, pushed onto the pipe poking out of the hut each time it is filled.
A steady run back to Gniezno was broken by a stop for refreshments. There can’t be many places where a train will stop by the roadside to allow the passengers to go for refreshments at a local bar!
The railway has a regular service planned from mid-June until the end of August, at weekends and holidays, plus additional services on several other dates throughout the year. Further details are available on the railway’s official website: www.gkw-gniezno.pl .
Protests by local residents killed the Gniezno Railway’s freight operations though in many cases the railway pre-dated the adjoining houses! Photo John Savery.
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