600mm rally returns to Bialosliwie

by

7-10 June 2012

Bialosliwie during the Zlot Milosnikow Kolejek 600mm in 2011. Photo Ed Beale.

Following the success of the Zlot Milosnikow Kolejek 600mm (600mm Railway Enthusiast Rally) at Bialosliwie in June 2011, the event is to be repeated from 7 to 10 June this year. It represents a rare opportunity to visit and travel on one of Poland’s most elusive and fascinating narrow gauge railways. The plans for this year’s event are for public trains using visiting steam and diesel locomotives to run from 13:00 to 19:00 on Thursday 7 June and from 10:00 to 19:00 on Friday and Sunday. On Saturday, public trains will run between 09:30 and 11:00, and 15:00 to 19:00, with the official welcome and locomotive parade at 11:00, followed by a special train for invited guests only. In addition there will be catering stalls, book and model stalls, railway film screenings, a model railway exhibition, hand trolley rides, and shed tours. Two steam locomotives are expected to visit the festival, a recently-restored Las 0-6-0, and the Borsig 0-4-0 from the Maltanka park railway in Poznan.

Sugar beet trains from Czajcze to Naklo in 1991. Slideshow by

The Wyrzysk Local Railway was opened in February 1895. It was extended northwards and eastwards and at Suchary north east of Naklo it connected with the Bydgoszcz local railway, also of 600mm gauge. In 1949 the two railways were formally joined as one system, PKP’s largest 600mm gauge network at 256km long. In 1955 the system carried 1,474,000 passengers and 256,000 tonnes of freight. The first branch closures began in the 1950s and lines were progressively closed in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, until final closure on 1 January 1994. In the last few years the Bialosliwie line was freight only, and sugar beet and coal were carried in 600mm gauge wagons into the 1990s.

Bialosliwie is relatively close to the German border and the survival of such a large 600mm gauge system did not escape the notice of enthusiasts there. In 1992 just a year prior to closure, a remarkable series of special trains was organised by Hermann Schmidtendorf, co-founder of InterLok Pila, in partnership with JS Rail film production and rail tourism agency IGB. These trains traversed the entire surviving network from Bialosliwie in the west to Koronowo in the east, including a crossing of the spectacular viaduct over the Brda river at Koronowo. The viaduct had not seen a train for years and a special engineering inspection had to be made to ensure it was safe before the train was allowed to use it.

The viaduct still exists today and is part of a foot/cycle path. Steam hauled freight trains ran onto the tracks of the private railways at Naklo sugar works and Gadki brandy distillery. The film made during the event remains unpublished. If any readers would be interested in purchasing this on DVD, please send an email to Hermann Schmidtendorf, redakcja [at] kolejwizja [dot] pl – if enough interest is received this film material will be published. Hermann is also gathering expressions of interest for a second unpublished film made in the same year at the Witaszyce 600mm gauge railway. Excerpts from this material can be found in this recent edition of Kolejwizja.

The Bialosliwie railway existed in a legal limbo following closure. The local enthusiast group Towarzystwo Wyrzyska Kolejka Powiatowa (TWKP – Wrzysk District Railway Society) maintained the Bialosliwie sheds and the first 3.5km of line to Kocik Mlyn but were unable to run any public trains. In September and October 2000, and again in April 2001, the Poznan model railway club organised a series of trips from Bialosliwie to Lobzenica using the Borsig 0-4-0 steam loco which is normally based on the Maltanka park railway in Poznan. In 2009 Pila District Council were finally able to take over the first 12km of the line between Bialosliwie and the crossing of the A10 road north of Niezychowo from PKP and TWKP were able to commence operations over the cleared section of track.

Kipplore works train near the A10 road crossing. Photo Ed Beale.

In 2010, Pila county signed a three party agreement with TWKP and Peter Erk, the owner of the 600mm gauge railway FBG Ilmenau in Germany. Peter is one of the partners of the Kipplore German 600mm gauge enthusiasts group’s annual festivals, and he convinced the group to hold their 2011 festival in Bialosliwie. Several of this group then visited Bialosliwie for week-long periods to cut down weeds, dig out crossings and repair broken rail joints, and by time of the Kipploretreffen festival in June 2011 they had restored the line all the way to the A10 road crossing.

In the meantime, TWKP had decided to hold a special event targeted at Polish enthusiasts and local people over the last few days of the week-long Kipploretreffen, and so the first Zlot Milosnikow Kolejek 600mm was born. Px38-805 ‘Leon’ which had previously worked at Bialosliwie, was brought in from Znin for the event, and the Kipplore enthusiasts brought an Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive, around ten small industrial diesel locomotives and draisines and a battery tram from various locations in Germany.

The festival found additional support from the local EU co-financed development group Nadnotecie and the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation amongst others. PKP PLK cleared weeds from their standard gauge track, the regional passenger operator Przewozy Regionalne agreed to reduce the speed of all their trains passing the festival grounds during the festival and blow their whistles, and InterLok, the Pila-based steam loco repair workshop, checked and repaired some of the passenger carriages so that they could be used again.

Many thanks to Hermann Schmidtendorf for help in preparing this article.

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One Response to “600mm rally returns to Bialosliwie”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    A fascinating item, thanks. This network – complex and quite extensive, combining the Wyrzisk and Bydgoszcz sub-systems – has always struck me as PKP’s latter-day’s 600mm ‘Premier Line’. Have always felt a bit baffled as to why the 600mm museum / tourist workings venue was set up. not on this system, but on the Znin lines, passenger services on which were long withdrawn when that step was taken (delightful though the Znin 600mm gauge is). Still, PKP, like the Almighty, often ‘moved in mysterious ways’.

    I’ve almost totally missed out on the Wyrzisk / Bydgoszcz 600mm, on visits to Poland. When I first got to Poland in 1980, steam on this system was almost finished; and for a dozen years, my highest-by-far priority in Poland was surviving steam. I returned in the mid-1990s to try to mop up the surviving narrow gauge, by which time the last passenger services on this 600mm system, were gone. My only acquaintance with the system, has been ‘in the bygoing’ at the junctions of Bialosliwie and Naklo.

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