Archive for August, 2012

IKEA Tram Triumph

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Is it a Victorian conservatory? No it’s a tram. Photo IKEA.

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I am off to Poznan to sink into a comfortable arm chair, enjoy the décor of Victorian floral prints, and travel by tram free of charge. That I can do all three at the same time time is the brilliant PR brainwave of IKEA whose Poznan Franowo store wanted to let the rest of the city know that it is now possible to visit the shop by tram.

IKEA and Polish trams would not usually be associated together. While enjoying a ‘good design at good value’ market positioning in the West, IKEA stores have a distinctly ‘up-market’ brand image in Poland and other former Soviet satellites in the East. Here the typical IKEA customer drives a large 4×4 with smoked windows and employs a Belarussian cleaner.

In Poland, trams are not seen as an ‘eco-friendly’ solution to urban transport gridlock, but as a grim communist era hand me down. Consequently they get banned from the centres of Polish cities and cars – not trams – are given priority at traffic lights and road junctions.

The Victorian floral print style. Photo courtesy Laura Ashley.

(Click image to browse the Laura Ashley catalogue where the original photo appears. Click here to enlarge image.)

I must admit that Victorian floral prints give me the goose bumps. I am immediately transported to the 1960s. Hands up those BTWT readers who remember the Cambrian Coast Express steaming past the Laura Ashley factory on the site of Carno Station or the pioneering Laura Ashley store in South Kensington’s Pelham St? What, only one hand? Never mind, what Laura Ashley sells to the classes, IKEA sells to the masses, to paraphrase that amazing consumer electronics entrepreneur, Jack Tramiel.

To press home the point that IKEA products are for everybody, not just Poland’s nouveau riche, IKEA struck a deal with MPK, Poznan’s municipal transport company. One articulated tram set has been refitted internally with IKEA furnishings and will operate a free-of-charge service along the new line to Franowo for a fortnight.

The on- tram ad says Przyjedz do nas tramwajem (Come to us by tram). Photo IKEA.

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Deservedly, IKEA’s gamble has paid off and the PR stunt has generated a massive amount of free publicity for the company. At the same time the company’s deal with MPK has improved the image of the city’s tram network and publicised the opening of the Franowo extension. A win for both sides. Brilliant! Many thanks to Podroznik for tipping us off about the story.


Shocking Skansen

Friday, 24 August 2012

These Romanian trailers look as if they were never painted since they were put into service by PKP in the 1970s. Photo BTWT.

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I hate skansens. This Scandinavian invention may have a place in preserving rural architecture; although personally I have never seen the point of plucking a building from its historic context and and transporting it to an entirely artificial setting, however carefully designed and landscaped.

Applied to the railway locomotives and rolling stock a skansen is a monstrous aberration condemning precision machinery and delicate woodwork to the ravages of its worst enemies: frost and water and a programme of accelerated decay.

A rustic retreat? No, a historic four wheel covered wagon left to rot in the ‘skansen’. Photo BTWT.

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Nowhere is the bankruptcy of the Polish railway skansen meme demonstrated so effectively as the narrow gauge railway skansen in Gryfice. Adjacent to a thriving narrow gauge railway operated by the most prosperous gmina in Poland is a collection of decaying rolling stock the likes of which have not been seen since the last steam locomotive left Barry scrapyard.

Seen from the road the skansen looks neat and tidy with well-kept lawns trimmed bushes and locomotives which appear to be regularly repainted. Penetrate a little further and the condition of many priceless relics is heartbreaking.

Ex Grojecka Kolej Dojazdowa motor coach MBxd1-359 heads a line of rotting metre gauge motor coaches and trailers. Photo BTWT.

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The tragedy is that this need not have been so. The Gryfice workshops of the Pomeranian Narrow Gauge Railways were extensive and could easily have provided covered accommodation for much of this rolling stock. But someone decided that most of the accommodation was ‘surplus to requirements’.

Someone also decided that it would be inappropriate for Gmina Rewal to hold on to all the historic rolling stock left behind after the closure of the Pomeranian metre gauge network and it would be in better hands (= would provide more opportunities for private profit) if the bulk of the collection was retained by the Railway Museum in Warsaw.

Unidentified Romanian trailer, Vulcan Werke 0-6-2T of 1928 Tyn-3632, and a transporter wagon. Photo BTWT.

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And so it was that the Piaseczno and Gryfice narrow gauge railways were deprived of their own rolling stock and locomotives and had to stand idly by while part of their heritage rotted away.

Eventually, the authorities running the Railway Museum in Warsaw, embarrassed by the state of the items in their custody, and realising that – because of fuss stirred up by several infamous cases of dodgy sales elsewhere – the eagle eyes of Polish railway enthusiasts were upon them, decided to hand over the skansen to the Szczecin branch of the National Museum.

Unfortunately the Museum does not have the funds available to arrest the decay in the skansen, an in fact, has serious problems with its own collection of historic wooden fishing vessels which – displayed outdoors in Szczecin – have decayed so much that they are in danger of falling apart.

(left to right) Px48-3912, Tx7-3501, Tx7-3502, Ty6-3284, Txn8-3811, Px48-3916, Ty-9785.
Photo BTWT.

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Gmina Reval, the owners of the Gryfice Narrow Gauge railway now renamed the Nadmorska Kolej Waskotorowa (Coastal Narrow Gauge Railway), have made a bid to the National Museum to take over and restore the collection of historic fishing vessels. Is it too much to hope that they might bid to provide a better home for the skansen rolling stock as well?

Vandalised Bxhpi 00-450044328-0 trailer next to an unidentified trailer in Gryfice yard. Photo BTWT.

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Sadly the EU-assisted project to upgrade the Gryfice Narrow Gauge Railway, while providing for a brand new station buildings and several covered platform awnings (where they had never been awnings before) did not envisage providing secure covered accommodation for the railway’s rolling stock. The effect of this can be seen in the act of wanton vandalism shown on the photograph above.


Ol49-80 – Conservator to ‘list’ loco.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Ol49-80 at Elk. Photo Roman Miotke.

Robert Dylewski reports that, following the appeals of numerous railway enthusiasts, officials in the Historic Monuments Office in Olsztyn have started the process of listing Ol49-80 as a historic monument. (See: BTWT, 24 July 2012 – Ol49-80 – will be cut up in 7 days…) With the listing process started it would now be illegal for the locomotive to be cut up by its scrapyard owners.)

While the future of Ol49-80 is still far from secure, an important victory has been achieved. Congratulations are due to Robert who initiated a massive campaign to save the loco and also to Piotr Lewandowski of Fundacja Thesaurus in Poznan who provided legal support.

Robert is acquiring quite a reputation in Polish railway enthusiast circles for his campaigns to rescue steam locos on ‘death row’ it was he who initiated the successful campaign to save Ty2-5860 after DB Schenker had sold it to a scrapyard! (See BTWT, 6 September 2011 – All’s well that ends well.)

Celebrations at Maltanka

Thursday, 16 August 2012

… but mixed fortunes for Poland’s other park railways

Borsig approaching Maltanka station, 4 May 2012.
Photo Ed Beale.

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On 21 July this year the Maltanka park railway in Poznan celebrated its 40th birthday. It was opened on 21 July 1972 as the successor to the first park railway in Poznan, the Scouts Children’s Railway (Harcerska Kolejka Dziecieca). It is 600mm gauge and runs the full length of Lake Malta, from Maltanka station at the western end of the lake near the Rondo Srodka tram stop, to Zwierzyniec station beside Poznan zoo, a total of 4km. Ptys station near the middle of the line serves the new Termy Maltanskie baths. On certain dates of the year the line’s Borsig 0-4-0 steam locomotive is used on one of the two trains. All other trains are hauled by one of the three small diesels, all built by ZNTK Poznan to a standard design used on many industrial narrow gauge railways around Poland. These are WLs40-100 built in 1952, Wls50-1225 built in 1961, and WLs50-1563 built in 1964.

The weekday timetable sees hourly departures from either end of the line, on the hour from Maltanka, and on the half-hour from Zwierzyniec, from 10:00 to 18:30, while at weekends and in the summer holidays there are half-hourly departures in each direction, with the two trains passing at Balbinka station. The line is very popular, especially on sunny days when the plastic coach sides are rolled up.

The Borsig loco, Bn2t-2, was built in 1925 and worked at a chemical plant, Zaklady Azotowe in Chorzow, until 1977 when it was plinthed in a park beside the works. It was brought to Poznan in 1990 by the Railway Modellers Club of Poznan and restored to operating condition in 1999. Steam-hauled trains run every other weekend during the summer. The remaining steam dates this year are 25 and 26 August.

A second steam locomotive, the much larger 0-8-0 tank locomotive Tx26-423, is plinthed at Maltanka station, but has never worked here. It was built in Chrzanow in 1926 and worked on the Jedrzejow system while that was 600mm gauge, and then on the Jarocin District Railway until withdrawal in 1978.

Another item of historic rolling stock which used to run on the Maltanka railway was single-ended railbus MBxc1-41 built in 1934. It originally worked on the Bydgoszcz District Railway, then at Witaszyce from 1953 to 1991, before coming to Maltanka where it worked off-peak trains between 1994 and 2002. Unfortunately it is now out of service and is currently stored at Forteczna tram works in Poznan Staroleka. From photographs it appears that sadly it is being stored in the open and its condition is deteriorating. It was a highlight of my first visit to Maltanka in 2001 and a rare survivor of the railbuses which were once common on Poland’s 600mm narrow gauge lines, so I hope it returns to traffic.

Myslecinek remains, 7 June 2012. Photo Ed Beale.

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Elsewhere in Poland, park railways are suffering very mixed fortunes. The fire that destroyed virtually all the rolling stock on the Myslecinek park railway in Bydgoszcz was reported in Behind the Water Tower on 25 September 2011. After the fire the majority shareholder in the line, PKP Cargo, was not sufficiently interested in the railway to invest several hundred thousand zloty to restore it, and Bydgoszcz city council did not have the money to restore it either, so the railway was placed into administration seeking a buyer. When I visited in June I found the stock abandoned in the open next to the charred footprint of the old shed. The four coaches which were not affected by the fire had been vandalised, and the rails lay abandoned and rusting.

Chorzow WPKiW park railway, 8 July 2011.
Photo Ed Beale.

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The future of the Chorzow WPKiW park railway is also now uncertain after the park authorities terminated the operating contract of SGKW, the society based at the Bytom narrow gauge railway, earlier this year. This is the oldest surviving park railway in Poland, originally built as a metre gauge line in 1957 and converted to the unusual gauge of 900mm in 1966. When I visited in July 2011 I found the railway to be in a fairly run-down state. Wesole Miasteczko station at the southern end of the line close to the tram stop was covered in graffiti and had no timetable on display, the track was overgrown with weeds, and trains were running with just a single coach and far from full.

Px48-1907 on test at Krosnice. Video by Jan Krosnicki.

On a brighter note though, the new park railway at Krosnice, reported in Behind the Water Tower on 11 October 2011, is nearing completion. A total of 4.7 million zloty have been spent on the construction of the railway, which is expected to be complete by October. In a surprise move, the Krosnice railway recently purchased steam locomotive Px48-1907, which previously ran at Nowy Dwor Gdanski but was privately owned. While a boon to the new park railway, this sadly leaves the Nowy Dwor Gdanski railway without a steam locomotive, a further blow to that railway following the recent track theft that closed the Tuja extension.


Trams make cities more ‘liveable’

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


D1 Combino tram at Melbourne Town Hall.
Photo Bahnfrend.

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

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s last Liveability Ranking and Overview Melbourne is the best city in the world to live in while Vienna comes a close second. London trails a long way behind and is ranked as the 55th most ‘liveable’ city in the world.

The Economist’s methodology is somewhat subjective – members of the EIU panel award points for such factors as crime levels, education, health care, culture and infrastructure – and then multiply the points by a weighting predetermined for each factor.

However, it is noteworthy that, at 250 km, Melbourne has the largest urban tramway network in the world. Melbourne is the only Australian city that defied the general Australian trend of scrapping its city tramways. The retention of its tram network is due to determined opposition by the trade unions, the general public and the vision of the chairman of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, Sir Robert Risson.

Great Britain – which liquidated its tramways in the 1950s – had no Sir Roberts, and has no cities in the Economist’s top 50. Manchester, at number 51 is Britain’s most ‘liveable’ city according to the study. Could it be a coincidence that Manchester started building a new tram network in 1988 and is actively expanding the system, partly by building new ‘inter-urban’ extensions on former ‘heavy rail’ lines?

Finally, by way of proof that trams and ‘liveablity’ go together, the Economist’s second best choice is Vienna. Vienna has a thriving tram network. Currently the city fathers have a policy of replacing tram lines in the city centre by traditional metro – somewhat similar to the current trend in Warsaw. However, what with the with the slow pace of Metro construction, its cost and the financial crisis, trams are likely to retain a key role in both city’s transport systems.

How do Polish cities fare? Unfortunately, the complete rankings are not provided in the brief FOC  ‘summary’ and the full reports cost many thousands of Euros. If any BTWT reader has read any of the full EIU Liveability reports and knows the rankings of Polish cities, do please share them with us.


The good and bad in Szczecin

Friday, 10 August 2012

1926 ‘Bremen’ tram interior.
Photo Michal Pilaszkiewicz, Muzeum Techniki i Komunikacji.

(Click image to see original on website.)

There are not many cities in Europe that posses a transport museum, with all the exhibits stored under cover in an expertly restored building, in which a perfect balance has been struck between the new function of the building and the preservation of its historic character and context.

Yet this praiseworthy facility is located, not in some prosperous city in Western Europe, but in Szczecin located in the very ‘top left hand corner’ of Poland. Szczecin itself has had the heart of its local economy ripped out when its main shipyard, Stocznia Szczecinska, closed in stages during the last decade.

In the 1960s, the shipyard employed some 30,000 people, and almost every family in the town had someone who was either employed by the yard or worked for one of its suppliers. During the Solidarity era, the shipyard became one of the bulwarks of the trade union. After the collapse of communism, the shipyard was privatised, its workforce reduced to 11,000 and its activities concentrated on large bulk carriers.

In 1991, Krzystof Piotrkowski took over as CEO of the shipyard. He was hailed as an economic guru for rescuing it from verge of bankruptcy, restoring its credibility with customers and making the it profitable. The yard was featured as a ‘case study‘ example of transformation best practice by the influential Harvard Business Review.

10 years later, in spite of overflowing order books (the yard was building 17 ships, but only had working funds for 11) the state banks refused to extend the shipyard’s credit line, and in March 2002 production halted. The SLD-led post-communist government demanded that the shipyard’s board members hand over their shares to the state before any financial help in the form of credit guarantees or loans could be forthcoming. When they refused, the Minister for Trade began planning to re-nationalise the shipyard after first allowing it to go bankrupt.

When it seemed possible that a further downsizing and a new credit line might after all allow the shipyard to continue – in a move that eerily presaged the arrest of Yukos boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the board members were arrested on the orders of the Minister of the Interior. The shipyard was declared bankrupt and its assets were seized by the government. It seems that Poland’s economic transformation had outstripped the business ethics of its government. 6 years later all the arrested board members were declared innocent, but by then it was too late for the yard.

The state-owned Nowa Stocznia Szczecinska made huge losses and ate up government funds some 20 times greater than the size of the loan guarantees originally requested by Piotrkowski. There were several abortive attempts to find private buyers. In the end, all these efforts collapsed, and the yard is now in the final stages of liquidation.


  • Misja specjalna (Special assignment)
    (TVP1 2008 TV programme with English subtitles)

Museum exterior. Photo by Kerim44.

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

Gradually Szczecin is reinventing itself. While three smaller shipyards specialising in building smaller vessels for profitable niche markets still keep the ship-building tradition alive, the construction of giant bulk carriers in the main yard has ceased for ever. Jobs in new industries such as IT  and call-centres are replacing those in traditional metal-bashing. Unemployment remain a serious problem, in April 2012, some 18,600 people were out of work giving the city an unemployment rate of 10.7%.

Given the city’s recent history and its economic difficulties it is remarkable that the City Council has created one of the best city transport museum’s in Poland. The site of the museum is a former tram depot, opened in 1912 and built according to the design of two Berlin architects Griesbach and Steinmetz. The original depot consisted of 9 roads. In 1927, a smaller 5 road shed was built onto the east side of the original building and a two road workshop on the west.

Following the depot’s closure, the Szczecinskie Towarzystwo Milosnikow Komunikacji Miejskiej (Szczecin Urban Transport Enthusiasts Society) gained access to the building in October 2004. They acquired a number of historic tramcars and commenced restoration work.

In November 2005, the City Council decided formally to create the Muzeum Techniki i Komunikacji – Zajezdnia Sztuki (Museum of Technology and Transport) in the depot. The project received funding support in the form of a Norway Grant and an European Economic Area Grant to a total of 2.3 million euro, the remainder of the 13 million euro cost of rebuilding the tram depot and equipping the museum came from the city council’s own funds.

The tracks and overhead wiring have been preserved in the yard area with a carefully restored cobble stone pavement. Also retained inside the main hall are the tracks, inspection pits and an under-floor wheel lathe; the pits being glazed over for safety with architectural glass.

There are 6 permanent exhibitions. The largest exhibits – 7 trams and 3 buses – comprise the History of Szczecin Public Transport exhibition. Several motorcycles built in pre-war Szczecin make up the Szczecin Motor Transport 1919-1945 exhibition; a further group of motorcycles and two prototype ‘Smyk’ mini cars, all built in Szczecin motorcycle factory form the Szczecin Motor Transport 1954-1967 exhibition. Two other permanent exhibitions are dedicated to Polish communist era motor cars and motorcycles, while the third focuses on pre-war motorcycles. Most of the motor vehicle exhibits come from the private collection of Leszek Liszewski, which the city authorities purchased in 2007 for 1.5 million zloty (about £300,000).

The museum excels in many ways and a visit is highly recommended. Particularly impressive is the fact that, although the museum is today a shining example of European best practice, it has not forgotten its modest beginnings in the work of the Szczecin Urban Transport Enthusiasts Society and that, even today, there is still a role to be played by volunteers.


4N1 293 4-wheeler driving car built in 1962.
Photo MTS.

The museum is not the only place in Szczecin where one may encounter vintage trams. On Sundays in July and August ZDiTM, the Szczecin Road and Transport Management Company, runs a tourist vintage tram service around the centre of the city. Sadly it is no longer possible to ride in the 1926 Bremen 4-wheeler, which now has pride of place in the new museum, and only ran the service in 2001. These days the tourist service trams are somewhat more modern such as this 1962 4N1 caught at the Golecin tram depot through the window of a another tram.


The decline and fall of the Smigiel Railway

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Wielichowo, 6.8.2012. Spot the railway track!
Photo BTWT.

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Smigiel looking towards Wielichowo, 6.8.12.
Photo BTWT.

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Smigiel looking towards Stare Bojanowo, 6.8.12.
Photo BTWT.

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Same photo as above zoomed in on the works.
Photo BTWT.

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Former block post in foreground.
Photo BTWT.

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The former snack bar is now a police station.
Photo BTWT.

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Smigiel Railway in its SKPL days – a steam train chartered by the Wolsztyn Experience. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

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Heard behind the water tower

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ol49-69 at Wolsztyn on 6.8.2012. Photo BTWT.

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The Sroda Narrow Gauge railway is fighting for its life. Both the Mayor of Sroda Wielkopolska (where the line starts) and the Chief Executive of Sroda District Council (who own the line) favour turning the bulk of the 14 km railway into a cycle path. and keeping just a stub of the line at Sroda as part of a ‘Wild West’ theme park.

The Smigiel Narrow Gauge Railway has cancelled the trains planned for August. No explanation appears on the railway’s website. Apparently during a recent meeting, the deputy Mayor of Smigiel announced that the Town Council have ‘no interest’ in developing the line as a tourist attraction.

The team of bankers that have been injected into PKP SA and its daughter companies have vetoed the plan to move the heavy maintenance of Wolsztyn-based steam locomotives to Chabowka. Meanwhile Leszno overhauled Ol49-69 (the boilerwork was done at Interlok in Pila) is acquiring a good reputation amongst Wolsztyn drivers for its powerful and reliable performance.

Many thanks to BTWT’s dedicated team of informers who keep their ears to the ground!

BTWT Brain-twister 3

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Rebuilt and relaid 600mm gauge line, but where?
Photo BTWT.

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In our last Brain-twister competition we asked, What links two of Poland’s newest underground stations with a 15th century confirmation of a union between two nations? Amazingly our previously astute and assiduous competition solvers all seem to have been asleep for this round although it was so very easy!

The latest underground station to open in Poland is at Warsaw’s Chopin Airport as reported in BTWT on 22 May. Identifying the station would have won 2 of the 6 marks available. Previous to that the last underground station to open in Poland was not on Line 1 of the Warsaw Metro, but the pre-metro, fast tram station underneath Krakow Glowny main line railway station. Identifying the pre-metro station would have gained another 2 marks.

Finally, both stations link to the old Warsaw – Krakow railway which passes through Radom. The Commonwealth of Poland and Lituania was confirmed there in 1401. Identifying Radom and its treaty would have earned the final two points.

Today’s brain-twister is even easier. For example, identifying the narrow gauge railway above gains an automatic single point! Though you will have to work quite hard to gain all the 6 points available for fully solving today’s riddle:

     Two neighbours – different in all ways but one,
One carries people on their annual quest to the sun.

The other carries treasure wrested from the deep,
Is little known, less lauded, but by no means asleep.

Wolsztyn recruitment

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Engine crew give Pm36-2 a quick check at Wolsztyn. Photo BTWT.

Wojciech Lis’s website carries the story that PKP Cargo has recruited 4 new enginemen to retrain to work with steam locomotives at the Wolsztyn shed. Three are former enginemen, the fourth is a young trainee whose higher education is being sponsored by Cargo.

We are delighted to be able to report good news in the same post as announcing that BTWT has passed the milestone of 500,000 hits. To all – readers and contributors – who have made BTWT a success our heartfelt thanks. Thanks also to Podroznik for today’s lead story.

1 August 1944

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

There is a city. Video by .

The City of Ruins. Film by Platige Image and Warsaw Uprising Museum.