LKR – Stranger than fiction

by

by Rob Hall

Former Danish MA 461-470 diesel unit on a Lubuska Kolej Regionalna working in the early 1990s. Photo Mohylek.

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

The Wolsztyn scene underwent a big change on 23 May 1993, PKP ceased to be responsible for passenger services on two of the five lines radiating from Wolsztyn itself: those to Sulechow, and to Nowa Sol. For a few years up to that date, those two less important lines, had been the ones over which most of Wolsztyn’s steam passenger workings had operated.

Passenger diagrams were re-jigged for the benefit of enthusiasts and tourists, so that a decent number of workings on the remaining passenger lines (Wolsztyn – Poznan, and Zbaszynek – Wolsztyn – Leszno) were regularly steam-worked.

From the above-mentioned date, a new and strange thing came to be, concerning passenger services in the area. A new undertaking was formed, titled Lubuska Kolej Regionalna – to operate in PKP’s stead, local passenger services on a number of secondary lines in Lubuskie province (encroaching a little way into the province to the east, Wielkopolskie, in which Wolsztyn is located).

Six such lines came into operation by the new LKR:  some – such as Wolsztyn to Sulechow, and to Nowa Sol – ‘seamlessly’ taken over upon PKP’s ceasing to work them; others with passenger services being restored months-or-years after PKP had closed the lines to passengers.

LKR took over six lines in all: the two from Wolsztyn itself, already referred to; the Toporow – Sieniawa Lubuska section of former PKP Table 334;  the Kolsko – Slawa Slaska section of former PKP Table 347; the parts of PKP Table 352 involving workings Nowa Sol – Kozuchow – Niegoslawice and return; and former PKP Table 357 Tuplice – Leknica.

What LKR found, to work its services, was – of all unlikely things – several express-diesel-multiple-unit sets (four-car, I think), recently redundant from the Danish State Railways, and bought by LKR second-hand from that source. In their homeland, these units had been designated Lyntog (Lightning Train).

They were based at LKR’s headquarters at Czerwiensk, whence – seven days a week — they worked remarkably complex and lengthy diagrams which managed to give an average of two or three workings each way daily, over each of the six taken-over sections. To get from HQ, to one, and then to the next, and the next, taken-over branch in order to serve them, the Lyntogs traversed still-PKP-passenger-served routes, carrying on public-passenger business on same.

This way of doing things meant that in a fair few cases, LKR could not even pretend to run services at times which fitted in with people’s required travelling hours – everything had to be geared to the diesel units’ diagrams. Thus, the two daily return workings between Kolsko and Slawa Slaska all happened in the time-window approximately between 1500 and 1830 hrs. – they involved the 14:17 Wolsztyn – Nowa Sol, and the 1645 Nowa Sol – Wolsztyn, interrupting their journeys to run the 14 km from Kolsko to Slawa Slaska and back again.

Ingenious all this may have been, but there was another adjective which asks to be applied to it: ‘nonsensical’. It came as no surprise to learn that as at early February 1994, the undertaking had gone bankrupt, and all its services had been withdrawn. An approximate eight-month career – mayfly-like, indeed.

The LKR handled passenger services only; after 23 May 1993 PKP continued to work freight over some portions of LKR’s six lines. They did so south-west of Wolsztyn, for instance; including 11km of former Table 347 south of Slawa Slaska (thus not traversed by LKR passenger workings), to Krzepielow.

In the light of the basic absurdity of the whole LKR undertaking, one has to wonder just what it was all about.  It would seem – either a valiant but naïve and poorly-set-up attempt to offer a genuine public service; or something else?

I don’t think it unjust to say that post-the fall of Communism, Eastern Europe has been heavily beset by a great variety of scams – some of them very strange – carried out by resourceful folk. An associate of mine (a self-confessed cynic) came up with the theory that the business with the LKR, was a racket whose perpetrators found an easy way to have handed over to them by PKP, free of charge, the stations and other associated buildings on the lines concerned.

A brief spell of ‘Lewis Carroll’ passenger operation, planned so as to be totally non-viable, and speedily to fail; and after its collapse, plenty of ex-railway real estate for the perpetrators to sell off for development.

I have some doubts about the veracity of this scenario: there is the consideration that it would maybe only work for sections totally relinquished by PKP: as mentioned above, PKP continued to work freight on parts of the lines concerned, and would presumably have continued to need the infrastructure for that purpose.  At all events, the time which LKR and its Lyntogs spent on the public stage, was exceedingly brief.

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