Archive for July, 2012

Nowak courts Chinese rail investors

Monday, 30 July 2012

China Railways CRH5 at Qinhuangdao. Photo 颐园新居.

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

Poland’s Transport Minister, Slawomir Nowak, has concluded a 5 day official visit to China. The visit took place at the invitation of China’s Transport Minister, Li Shenglin. The Polish delegation included Poland’s rail minister, Andrzej Massel, and the head of Poland’s Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ), Sławomir Majman. Other members of his delegation included representatives of PKP PLK, PKP Cargo, LHS, DCT, and the ports of Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin-Swinoujscie.

In China key meetings took place with the Deputy Minister for Trade, Zhong Shanan, and the Deputy Minister of Transport, Weng Mengyong, Other important meeting took place with representatives of some of China’s largest transport companies : China Shipping Container Lines, Cosco Shipping Line & Cosco Freight Forwarding Company, Shanghai Electric and the GeoHarbour Group.

Is it significant that meetings appear to have only taken place at deputy minister level? The official website of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Transport Ministry – always keen to promote China to the rest of the world – are strangely silent on Nowak’s visit.

The purpose of the visit was to promote Poland as an attractive country for investment and a good place to do business in. Given the rapid transformation of China’s railways over the last two decade it is remarkable that no meetings appear to have been held with Chinese locomotive and rolling stock manufacturers, or with Chinese railway construction companies.

It is too early yet to judge whether the visit will succeed in its aims and improve relations between the two countries; a relationship which is still soured by mutual recriminations over the collapse of the Covec contract for building part of the A2 motorway.

Sources:

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PKP Cargo plans for Wolsztyn locos

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pociag do Wielkopolski 23.7.2012 – rail enthusiast produced Wielkoplska province TV programme.

According to Andrzej Jablonski, a Director of the Wielkopolska Division of PKP Cargo, the company wants to maintain 4 working steam locomotives to maintain a reliable Wolsztyn-Poznan service and cope with  steam specials.

Major overhauls will be moved from Leszno to Chabowka where there is already a team of steam fitters based at the ‘skansen’. Jablonski wants to keep two of the Wolsztyn Ol49s in service and also Pt47-67. He also has his eye on Ol49-100 in Chabowka, which – although out of service since 2006 – is reported to have a good firebox.

Jablonski also has a ‘wish list’ of locos that he would like to see in service which includes Warsaw Railway Museum-owned Pm36-2 Piekna Helena and 4-6-0 Ok1-359, but with the Pm36’s ticket due to expire (the loco will need a new firebox) and the Ok1 being not powerful enough for the Poznan turns, it is likely that, for the time being at least, his ‘wish list’ will remain just that.

With a hat tip to Podroznik for the story.

Ol49-80 – will be cut up in 7 days…

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

…unless ‘White Knight’ appears with 180,000 zloty

Ol49-80 at Elk. Photo Roman Miotke.

The OL49 offered for sale by tender in May (see BTWT, 16 May) has been bought by a scrap merchant. He is giving railway enthusiasts 7 days to raise 180,000 zloty to buy the locomotive, before he cuts up the engine for scrap.

Such a price is well beyond the reach of Polish railway heritage societies, leaving the loco’s fate dependent on the miraculous appearance of a ‘White Knight’.

The loco was built for PKP at the Feliks Dzierzynski locomotive factory in Chrzanow in 1953. Its tragic progress from a prize exhibit at the erstwhile ‘skansen’ at Elk to a ‘Barry wreck’ is illustrated on “Tomi” Czarnecki’s website Wciaz pod Para.

The photographs on OL49-80s page on Czarnecki’s website aptly illustrate the ignorance and stupidity of all those officials responsible for the demise of the Elk Skansen. Sadly, unless official policy changes with respect to PKP’s railway heritage rolling stock inventory many other Polish steam engines are likely to follow suit.

A hat tip to Marek Ciesielski for the story.

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Farewell TP and MKT

Friday, 20 July 2012

Farewell to Tramwaje Podmiesjie. PVideo by .

On 1 April 2012 (a very apposite date) The interurban tram services operated by Tramwaje Podmiejskie (services 43 and 43bis to Lutomiersk and Konstantynow) and Miedzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa (service 46 and 46A to Ozorkow) were taken over by Miejskie Przedsiebiorstwo Komunikacyjne, the the Lodz municipal transport company.

TP and MKT were run on a shoestring by TP and MKT, and actually cost the city of Lodz LESS to carry passengers within the city’s boundary than did MPK. Many interested observers of the Lodz tram scene, BTWT included, fear that the takeover is but the first step to the cut back or abolition of the interurban services.

These two fine videos by Piotr Pter19 are a fitting memorial to both TP and MKT and to the Konstal 803N articulated units which were decommissioned when MPK took over.

Miedzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa. PVideo by .

Congratulations to Piotr for his excellent work on board some shaky trams running over some very dodgy track!

The golden telescope

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Hong Kong tramway. Video by .

Michael Dembinski over at W-wa Jeziorki regularly experiences feelings of deja vu. He puts on a WWII GI’s soldier’s helmet and it feels very familiar. He sees a great open field in the middle of the great Polish plain and is suddenly transported to the American West. I suffer from something altogether much weirder.

In 1980, I was standing in Basle near the railway station looking out on to the town. It was not a particularly stunning view: some characteristically European roofs and advertising hoardings in the background, shops with windows full of goods in the middle distance, busy modern trams in the foreground. Then the feeling hit me, this could have been Poland if the boundary between the Soviet region of influence and the West’s had been drawn a couple of thousand miles to the East.

Today, the greyness characteristic of Poland in the 1970s and 80s has gone and a similar view can be seen: in Poznan, Wroclaw, Warsaw or Gdansk. So was I looking into a Philip Pullman Dark Materials Trilogy parallel universe where the betrayals at Tehran and Yalta had never happened, or was I being granted a view of the future?

I certainly do seem to get the occasional ‘flash forwards’. I remember reading the August 1981 Byte magazine. The whole issue was devoted to the research that had been done at Xerox Parc in Palo Alto into object-oriented programming, graphical user interfaces (GUI) and ‘what you see is what you get’ computing. Although the systems had been developed on big computers I remember being hit by an overwhelming feeling that in the future all ‘personal computers’ (the term had just been invented by IBM) would work like this. The first successful personal computer with a GUI, the Apple Mac, was actually launched in January 1984.

So why do I react so strongly to this short film about the Hong Kong tramway, the largest operator of double deck trams in the world? Is it because British cities could have been like this, if pro motor car interests had not succeeded in wiping out virtually all of the UK’s tramways in the 1950s and 60s? Or is it a glimpse into what Britain’s tramways might yet be like in the future?

Zgierz – Lowicz – the ghost trains!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Are Przewozy Regionalny services being censored?

The railway line from Zgierz to Lowicz courtesy OpenStreetMap.

A few days ago ago I had to travel to Warsaw from Lodz and, not wanting to risk a ride on IC’s infamous ED74s, I decided to try out IR 33024 – the 09:38 InterRegio from Lodz Kaliska to Warszawa Wschodnia. IR 33024 runs via Zgierz and Lowicz, a line which lost its passenger services in 2007, because of the dilapidated state of its track and which has recently been completely relaid at a cost of some 65 million zloty (approx. £13 million).

It was a pleasant diversion to be able to ‘grice’ a line newly reopened for passengers en route to some more serious business. At times the train was able to run at up to the line maximum of 90 km/h (56 mph) on the relaid tracks. I was amazed to see that all the derelict station buildings were being rebuilt as well, particularly as some of the stations seem to be literally in the middle of nowhere. (Click the thumbnail map above to see the sites of all the reopened stations on a larger map.)

Part of the departure timetable at Warszawa Centralna.

Having concluded my business in Warsaw, I returned to Warszawa Centralna and heard the return working – IR 33024 – being announced (in Polish) over the station intercom. The train arriving on Platform 4, track 8 is the InterRegio to Lodz Kaliska calling at Warszawa Zachodnia, Sochaczew, Zgierz and Lodz Zabieniec. Hold on a minute, according to my iPhone, IR 33024 also calls at Teresin Niepokalanow, Lowicz Przedmiescie, Domaniewice, Glowno, Bratoszewice, Strykow, Swedow, and Glinnik!

I decided to check out the earlier Lodz Kaliska train that runs via the Lowicz – Zguerz line, IR 33043, departing for from Warszawa Centralna at 11:30 The printed timetable (Click the timetable image above to see it in full size.) shows the train just calling at Lowicz Przedmiescie, Zgierz and Lodz Zabieniec. The TK Telecom timetable shows the train also calling at Warszawa Zachodnia, Domaniewice, Glowno, Bratoszewice, Strykow, Swedow and Glinnik!

I wondered if this was just a problem with the newly reopened stations on the Lowicz – Zgierz line, or whether other IR services were effected. IR 11121, the 11:50 InterRegio to Bialystok, is shown as stopping at Malkinia, Szeptiewo and Lapy. TK Telecom shows it as calling at Warszawa Wschodnia, Malkinia, Czyzew, Szeptiewo and Lapy. Similarly, IR 1612o is shown as calling at Kutno, Konin, Wrzesnia, Poznan Glowny, Wroclaw Glowny and Klodzko Glowny on its way to Bystryca Koldzka, the on-line timetable shows the train as calling at 35 other intermediate stations!

In the end I decide not to take the InterRegio, but to catch some time with my friends and take TLK 26100, the 17:30 to Wroclaw Glowny which runs fast over the Lowicz – Zgierz line, only stopping at Lowicz Przedmiescie. This stop was correctly announced over the PA at Warszawa Centralna, but was omitted from the announcement at Warszawa Zachodnia.

TLK 26100 – EP07-391 with 5 carriages – departs from Lodz Kaliska. Photo BTWT.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

From my observations, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that while information about the stations served by Polish trains is generally incomplete and inconsistent, PR’s InterRegio services are being singled out for special treatment.

Those who were around when much of Britain’s railway network was closed in the 1960s will be familiar with stories how train times were altered and how information about connections was omitted in an effort to drive passengers off the trains before railway lines were put up for closure.

In Poland those who run the railways go a step further – they rebuild a railway line to allow trains to run at speed, reopen it to passenger services, and then make sure that the information about train services remains a closely guarded secret. Is this an example of what is called reverse Polish logic?

PYSKOWICE REPRIEVE!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Court case adjourned till October.

Yesterday the adjourned court case regarding TOZKiOS’s use of the former engine shed at Pyskowice was reconvened, only to be adjourned again till October! While we are not yet out of the woods, it looks as if the accumulating weight of letters received at the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Maritime Affairs, has thrown a spanner in the works and the society will not be receiving their marching orders just yet.

The good news is that local politicians are beginning to get involved and that there is the first glimmer of hope that PKP SA and TOZKiOS may be able to come to an agreement before the court case convenes for the third time. At least the October date gives us time to explore all available options, if PKP SA prove willing to negotiate in good faith. We have arranged to interview Zbyszek Jakubina, the Chairman of TOZKiOS on Thursday afternoon and will publish a detailed post on the subject of the Pyskowice Skansen as soon as possible thereafter.

Many thanks to all BTWT readers who took part in our letter writing campaign. It is only appropriate that I also acknowledge the debt of gratitude due to several senior figures in the international railway heritage movement who also took up their pens on behalf of Pyskowice.

My most sincere thanks to you all,

Dyspozytor

Poznan tram extension ready for comissioning

Monday, 9 July 2012

The route of the extension from the Osiedle Lecha housing estate to the site of the new depot at Franowo. Map ZTM, Poznan.

(Click the map to see a larger, more detailed, map courtesy of Open Street Map.)

A 2 km tram extension costing 2.75 hundred million zloty is about to be commissioned in Poznan. The extension from Os. Lecha (currently serviced by routes 1, 5, 16 & 17) will link the existing tram network to a new tram depot being built adjacent to Poznan’s largest marshalling yard at Franowo.

A new stop at Swedzka will provide tram passengers access to the M1 and IKEA superstores. A close examination of the Open Street Map map shows that this new stop involves quite a long walk to IKEA and is not as convenient for M1 as a stop half way between the two superstores would have been!

The other disturbing factor about the extension is the cost. Was it really necessary to route nearly 1 km of the line in ‘cut and cover’ tunnel? However, the new tram depot will allow ZTM to dispose of its old tram depot at ul. Gajowa which will hopefully offset some of the costs.

Artist visualisation of the new loop at Franowo courtesy Infrastruktura Euro Poznan, PxM Projekt Poludnie, autostrada II Sp. z o.o.

(Click image to see the remainder of the artist visualisations produced for the extension.)

Sources:

Freightliner PL in profit…

Saturday, 7 July 2012

…BTWT issues apology.

Freightliner PL leaflet. Photo Grafixpol.

On Wednesday 28 March 2012 we published an article ‘Freightliner PL to be sold‘ in which we stated that the company ‘has yet to make a profit’ and may have given the impression that the company’s owners might be forced to sell at a ‘garage sale price’. We now accept that Freightliner PL is profitable, that there is no possibility of a quick sale of the company at a knocked down price and that although a sale at some stage is likely – its principal owners Arcapita Inc are in the business of buying and selling companies – it will not take place according to the distressed sale timetable suggested by the article.

We make an unreserved apology to Freightliner PL.

The article was based on information in the public domain about the financial status of Freightliner PL’s principle owner Arcapita Inc and information about Freightliner PL’s financial results supplied by one of our trusted sources. What we had not factored in was that – in an effort to divert business away from Freightliner – one of Freightliner PL’s principle competitors was spreading misleading information about Freightliner PL’s profitability. We should have checked this information; we did not, and we accept full responsibility for the mistake.

Narrow gauge line reopened…

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

… but closed again one week later!

The first train reaches Tuja on 7 June. Photo Wojciech Lemanski – www.750mm.pl

(Click to see the original photo and discussion forum, in Polish.)

On 7 June the Nowy Dwor Gdanski narrow gauge railway opened a 6km extension south-west from Nowy Dwor Gdanski to Tuja. Trains had not previously run on this line in preservation apart from the short stretch to Nowy Dwor Cemetary, to which some All Saints Day special trains ran in previous years. Following weed cutting and repairs to the line, two trains daily ran to Tuja over the June long weekend, 7 – 10 June, via the intermediate halts of Cmentarz Komunalny, Tuja Mleczarnia and Orlowko.

Just a week later on Sunday 17 June, the railway had been invited to take part in the Childrens Day festivities at Tuja, and planned to run a special train with 130 seats for children and their parents. The train was to have departed at 12:30 from Nowy Dwor and returned after the festival at 18:30. At 10am a draisine ran to check the track. Disaster! A 30 metre stretch of track near Tuja Mleczarnia had been stolen. The Childrens Day train sadly had to be cancelled and the Tuja line is now once again closed until further notice.

Thirty metres of track stolen at Tuja Mleczarnia. Photo PTMKZ

(Click to see the original on the PTMKZ website.)

Track theft remains a major problem for Poland’s narrow gauge railways. Rogow, Bytom, Piaseczno and now Nowy Dwor Gdanski have all suffered from it in the past six months alone. Most railways do not have the resources to replace stretches of track immediately so any theft can bring trains to a complete halt for weeks or months.

Nowy Dwor Gdanski’s main ‘T’ shaped network running north from Nowy Dwor to Stegna with branches west to Prawy Brzeg Wisly and east to Sztutowo, is unaffected by the theft, however, and trains are now running daily until 2 September.

More:

Transport of Delight, or own goal? (Finale)

Monday, 2 July 2012

On its way out? The old station building. Photo BTWT.

(Click to expand)

One of my favourite parables is the one about the frog sitting in a cooking pot. It applies to many of the challenges that face the human race. A slow fire is lit under the pot and the frog never realises what is happening until it is too late and it can no longer jump out. Poor frog! The waitress starts fiddling with the temperature control on the cold drinks fridge and I realise it has become uncomfortably hot. Is the air conditioning not powerful enough to cope with a really hot day, I query. No, the building was opened in a rush by the politicians before all the systems were finished, she replies. Like a dark cloud on the distant horizon being a harbinger of a storm to come, this is the first warning.

The 15:55 leaves from platform 2. The stairs going down to the platform are clearly marked. Unfortunately, there is only an upward escalator and I do not want to take my suitcase down the steep and narrow steps. I look for a lift. There is a lift which looks as if it might connect to platform 2, but there are no signs to advise where it might go to. However, I notice that there is a lift on the opposite side of the concourse to each set of platform stairs, so I deduce that the one opposite the platform 2 stairs is probably the one I want.

Outside it is really hot and humid. Second class TLK stock is not fitted with air conditioning so I begin to worry about the journey to Lodz. The Sukiennice from Szczecin arrives punctually at 15:45 crammed full of Ireland supporters. I choose an open carriage to give me a better view. It is the last coach of the train and is destined to become the first as the train reverses here. I wait patiently as the fans pour out onto the platform till the flood becomes a trickle. Meanwhile passengers are already boarding the coach at the other end and desirable seats are going fast.

The coach resembles an open compartment coaches from BR days with a table and a window between each pair of seats. I rather fancy a window seat on the left of the carriage which will become the shady side once we reach the suburbs of Poznan and swing round towards the East.

As it happens some Ireland supporters have left one of the tables covered in beer cans and fast food containers. Other passengers have avoided its seats as if they were contaminated with polonium. I thank St Patrick and make a beeline for the mess, yank open the window and sink gratefully into my chosen seat.

Regio 71136, the 17:22 from Wrzesnia to Kutno.

Photo BTWT.

(Click to expand)

The train accelerates out of Poznan Glowny like a bat out of hell. I am impressed, I have never left Poznan in such style. For years trains have dawdled along the approach tracks out of the city, only picking up speed once they were running in open country. I become mildly alarmed. The carriage is bumping and shaking with a motion not dissimilar to HSTs along sections of the Great Western mainline, but with a greater amplitude and noise. (The ride on the GWR has deteriorated somewhat since the days of BR.)

I calculate, that we are travelling at a little over 100 miles an hour. As I am to learn a little later, we are not, it is just that PKP have not mastered the art of accurately welding track and the bumps over the welded joins create the illusion of travelling faster than we really are. The high speed run does not last. After some 15 minutes, the brakes are applied, and we veer off the mainline tracks and stop by the platform at a new station. What station? What are we doing at some small wayside station?

After a ten-minute wait, we set off at high speed only to have the brakes applied just before the next station and another five-minute wait. Finally we reach Wrzesnia which is about 40 km to the east of Poznan. Here we stop and it seems we are destined to stay here for some time.

‘Should I have changed trains?’ Photo BTWT.

(Click to expand)

The grumbling of my fellow passengers reaches a crescendo. It seems there is a Regio all stations osobowy to Kutno following us which might provide some of them with a faster way home. I debate with myself should I catch the Regio and then organise a lift from Kutno or should I sit tight and brave it out to see what happens? I decide to sit tight. I bury myself in the biography of Trevithick. This remarkable man pioneered the use of ‘strong’ (high pressure) steam, invented the railway locomotive, the steam dredger and several other world changing inventions and yet died a pauper.

Half an hour passes. It must be the hottest time of the day. Trevithick is now working on a project to build a tunnel under the Thames. The Regio arrives on the opposite platform and the majority of passengers decant themselves to catch it. I start to romance a survival film scenario: the majority set out to trek across the jungle to seek assistance, but we know in our hearts that will never make it. The chosen few stay put, improvise a shelter and go foraging for provisions.

A lady with blonde hair takes charge of the handful of passengers that are left. It appears that our locomotive has broken down and that a replacement logo has been summoned. She walks up and down the carriage opening windows and tries jamming a piece of paper under the doors at each end to encourage a draught. The gap under the doors is too big and no matter how many times she folds a piece of paper the doors snap open.

It is a matter of considerable satisfaction me that I once came top in the mechanical engineering exam at one of Britain’s leading industrial universities. We had a drop forge just across from the sports stadium. I crush the Irish beer cans to make neat little wedges. Proudly, I hand her my metal work. She fits my wedges under each of the doors and they stay open. A cool draught starts to blow along the open carriage.

Brief encounters, Dawid, Sonia and the team leader.

Photo BTWT.

(Click to expand)

Our leader reports that she has interrogated the guard, the driver and a relief driver. All had given her different time estimates as to when help will arrive. The guard says that we could spend the rest of the day here and seems relieved most of the passengers have deserted his train. The relief driver thinks we may be delayed by about two hours, while the driver expects to have more information in about half an hour.

The prognosis is encouraging, but my water supply – I bought a small bottle at Poznan – is getting dangerously low. Apparently there is a spozywczy store close to the station. Sonia, a student at the Lodz Film School, offers to go and get some beer. This is getting better and better! We place our orders and assure her that we will not let the train go without her.

Soon she returns with our drinks. I put Richard Trevithick aside and we discuss our plight. We are all agreed that it is absolutely unacceptable that at no stage we been provided with any official information. What we do know, we have had to find out for ourselves.

Our team leader reports that she has complained strongly to the guard about the way he has kept us in the dark. I reflect that he will probably be the last to be kept informed and that in any case there is no effective feedback mechanism in PKP. The company treats its staff strictly according to the ‘mushroom management methodology’. (*See below.)

We are briefly joined by the driver and another driver travelling ‘on the cushions’. The driver reports that a relief engine has been sent out. Our own engine, EP09-02 has overheated. It is 70°C in the resistor compartment, he tells us. I ask him whether he went over 160 k/h (100 mph) coming out of Poznan, I only touched 155, he answers defensively. He does not think much of the EP09s. Not as reliable as the EU07s, he tells us.

The EP09s were designed in the 1980s to be thyristor controlled, but as Poland was in the middle of a hard currency crisis at the time, the thyristors were replaced by resistors. This radical redesign made the locomotives much less energy efficient. The wasted energy becomes converted into heat. All it needs is a hot humid day and a faulty fan and the EP09 is crippled.

Failed EP09-002, piloted by unknown EU-07 hauling TLK 83106 at Lodz Zabieniec on 18 June 2012.

Photo BTWT.

(Click to expand)

Footnote

*Mushroom management methodology: keep them in the dark and from time to time throw in a load of sh*t.

TO BE CONTINUED