Archive for October, 2012

Little train to Sroda

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

‘Little Train to Sroda’ by David Doré

David Doré is a professional film maker. He has scores of films, many made for the railway industry, to his credit. He has made some of his work accessible on Vimeo and we look forward to exploring it together on the pages of BTWT.

David made this superb short film about the Sroda narrow gauge railway in 1996. Happily, although there have been some recent rumblings that all is not well at Sroda, there does seem to be some good news at last. The railway’s support society recently organised a study tour for the mayor of Sroda and some of his officials to visit the narrow gauge line in Zittau.

Shortly after that a decision was made by the Town Council to fund the overhaul of one of the line’s two Px48s! What a pity that the Smigiel Railway’s support society has not shown similar enterprise and seems to be content to merely act as a fan club for that town’s mayor!

A tale of two museums

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The crisp morning air in Warsaw tempted me with some sight seeing. I hadn’t seen much of Warsaw in the past 6 years, and with clear blue skies and bright sunlight it was a nice day to be out and about.


Emerging from the early morning mist, Stalin’s ‘gift’ to Warsaw, the Palace of Culture. Photo John Savery.

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I had never visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego) so it was time to pay a visit. Situated a short distance up ul. Towarowa from the Warsaw Railway Museum, the museum is easy to find and to get to. The tram stop is just nearby, taking its title from the museum.

Arriving, it was clear it is popular with school visits. Purchasing a ticket from the kasa (ticket office) was easy enough, and armed with the souvenir I made my way across the courtyard to the entrance. With an attended cloakroom, I thought it would be easy enough to leave my small case (hand baggage sized) in the cloakroom, alas, this proved not to be the case and I was asked to leave it in the left luggage office opposite. Somewhat disconcerted I left the case as directed, surrounded by arriving tourists!

Once in the museum proper, it was clear why it was so popular. Aside from being a fitting tribute to those that fought for Warsaw in 1944, it is informative with plenty of exhibits and that all important human touch with life stories from people caught in the conflict. With dual translations in places, it was easy to understand.  My only regret is that the was a long queue for the City of Ruins cinema showings so I didn’t get chance to view the film. Walking around it was easy to become immersed in the story finishing up outside at the wall of remembrance.

The Wall of Remembrance at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Photo John Savery.

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Leaving the museum I headed back down ul. Towarowa and called in to the Railway Museum (Muzeum Kolejnictwa w Warszawie) on the way back to Warszawa Centralna station. What a contrast! Walking up to the museum, with the outside door closed it was not clear if it was open or not. On entering, there was a lady stood behind a desk and in an adjacent room a man behind what looked liked a ticket sales window (although my Polish told me it wasn’t).

On asking for a ticket I was sent back to the lady in the adjacent room, who then directed me to and automatic vending machine. Inserting the correct change gave me a flimsy bit of paper more reminiscent of a parking ticket than the entrance to a museum. A complete contrast to my experience a few hours earlier.

A nice and shiny ticket machine at the Warsaw Railway Museum. Photo John Savery.

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With the relevant piece of paper safely in my wallet I ventured inside only to be immediately stopped and asked for my ticket! It would seem that MK regard jobs for the boys (and girls) as more important than looking after its guests and exhibits. The dilapidated state of the locomotives stored outside is abysmal, and exposed to the weather they are quietly rusting away.

Some renovation (painting) of exhibits is going on but it is a drop in the ocean to what is needed. Internally little seems to have changed since I last visited the museum in 2006. The internal displays are still dominated by models and there is little in the way of telling a story. The small section on the history of railways had two very familiar sections of Cuneo prints, neither of which credited the great artist.

Ty42-120 on display.  The outdoor storage and display of the locomotives does little to stop the weather attacking the metal and paintwork. Photo John Savery.

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SD80 railcar.  The railcar was intact on arrival at the museum, however as it was stored outside of the museum’s compound, it was left at the mercy of vandals and thieves.  Little more than a shell remains.  (The bogies are out of shot of the camera.) Photo John Savery.

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I left the museum disappointed. Not because it did not live up to expectations. The disappointment was because the Uprising Museum proved it is possible to have an excellent museum and draw visitors in, on a weekday, in the middle of a capital city. If the Railway Museum’s management team want to run a successful museum, they could do far worse than visiting their neighbour a few hundred metres up the road.

Competition with a heart of gold!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Big-hearted Rail Employee award 2013, Allianz pro Schiene.

Allianz pro Schiene (Pro-Rail Alliance) was set up in 2009 for similar reasons as Transport 2000 (now Campaign for Better Transport) in Great Britain – to fight the case for Germany’s railways. It is a rather unconventional alliance, with no other organisation in Germany having such a broad non-profit spectrum. Environmental groups, trade associations, trade unions and consumer organisations, including two automobile clubs, all work closely with the Alliance to promote rail transport. These 18 non-profit organisations, which as ordinary members formally make up the German Pro-Rail Alliance as a registered association, represent more than two million individual members.

The Alliance enjoys an excellent relationship with the railway unions with Eisenhbahn und Verkehrswerkschaft union boss Alexander Kirchner elected in 2010 as the its chairman. Kirchner succeeded Klaus-Dieter Hommel, who was national chairman of the former GDBA and became Pro-Rail Alliance chairman in 2008.

In addition to the non-profit organisations supporters, which seek to promote the railways for non-commercial reasons, the alliance has the financial support of over 100 companies working in the railway sector. This group includes train operating companies and infrastructure operators, manufacturers of railway technology, construction companies, banks and insurance companies.

The Alliance works in many imaginative ways to promote rail transport. In October, it launched a competition asking rail customers from across Germany to send in their best rail travel experiences. Passengers who witnessed helpful railway employees during an eventful train journey or who had a remarkable experience during a visit to a railway station can nominate a candidate for the Big-hearted Rail Employee award 2013. A jury made up of people from the three largest passenger interest groups and the two rail unions will choose the winners from this gallery of candidates by Easter 2013.

The competition is now in third year. In April this year, the title was awarded for the second time, with TV entertainer, Harald Schmid, making the presentation. The gold medal went to InterCity Express conductor Peter Gitzen from Cologne for putting two young teenage girls on the right train after they had become lost the night before, and for helping a pensioner to get back the BahnCard that she had mislaid. The silver medal went to DB Regio train driver Oliver Vitze from Nuremberg who had crawled over the ballast under his train to retrieve a passenger’s wedding ring. The bronze award went to Alexandra Schertler from Tegernsee for her thoughtful attention in caring for a sick passenger.

A special prize for ‘courageous public behaviour’ was awarded to DB Regio conductor Yalcin Özcan from the Südostbayernbahn, who protected his passengers from an armed and violent person who was travelling without a ticket.

How about a ‘big-hearted rail employee competition’ in Poland, anyone?


Grudziaz – Poland’s shortest tram line to get upgrade

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Single track and mediaeval streets. Photo U.M. Grudziaz.

The smallest tram system in Poland – the 9 km long metre gauge system in Grudziaz – is to be rebuilt. The extent of the works has been cut down from ambitious plans, mooted in 2006, by the town’s mayor. These included, removing the tram lines from the narrow streets in the town centre and building brand new lines running East-West, including a line which would share the PKP viaduct across the river Vistula.

Now, following the work of a consortium of consultants, the project envisages no new trams and no extensions, instead existing trams will be modernised and the existing route will rebuilt, doubling much of the single track running lines. Single track will be retained in the market square area, but special insulation will be employed to reduce noise and vibration. There will also be raised platforms, better bus-tram integration and a new intelligent traffic management system.

The first stage of the project is already undeway. 6 trams are being rebuilt by ZNTK in Minsk Mazowiecki and PESA in Bydgoszcz. Now the second stage of the project, comprising the civil engineering works, has cleared the last hurdle.

Grudziaz tram Depot. February 2008.

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Detailed plans for the upgrade were produced by a consortium comprising Vialis Polska, Vialis Public Transport – CTD and Stator. Early design work had been previously prepared by StadtRaum. For rebuilding a 9 km tram line the number of consulting firms employed by the Town Council must be a record!

In July 2011, the Town Council announced a tender for the choice of contractor to carry out the project. The Council had budgeted 42.3 million PLN for the works, the tenders came in between 66.1 million and 75.6 million PLN. The mayor declared the tender null and void.

Some economies were made – a cheaper rail was specified and a new building for the traffic management system was found unnecessary. A second tender was held and this time the cheapest bid came in at 50,331,973.80 PLN. Nevertheless at a session of the Town Council held on 26 September a decision was made to find the missing funds and the project was given the ‘go ahead’.

So, if the sight of a single track tram line winding its way across cobble streets dating back to the 14th century is a something that appeals, you had better hurry!


Pyskowice society loses court case

Friday, 5 October 2012


Happier days, Pyskowice in Oct. 2005. The engine shed roof is still intact, and TOZKiOS have use of sidings and covered accommodation at a peppercorn rent. Photo by J. Nowaczewski.

(Click image to see the original picture and for the rest J Nowaczewski’s photos of Pyskowice.)

We just heard that earlier today in Katowice, the court hearing the case brought by PKP’s real estate department, has ordered TOZKiOS to vacate the former wagon works at the Pyskowice MPD complex.

This is neither the end of TOZKiOS, nor the Skansen, because the society has a rental agreement on railway sidings leased from from the infrastructure manager, PKP PLK, but after 14 years of hard work on the site it will be a bitter blow to loose their secure covered accommodation.

We will discuss the current situation, and how BTWT could help, with the TOZKiOS management board and report back shortly.


I have just taken a call from the President and Vice-president of TOZKiOS. They will be drafting a high-profile appeal and we will be meeting within the next 10 days to brainstorm available options. WATCH THIS SPACE!



WCML fiasco!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

English Rail is back to comment about the UK’s West Coast mail Line franchise process fiasco:


Three days in Severn

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

LMS Ivatt 2-6-0 43106 and GWR 2-6-2T 4566 at Bewdley, SVR, March 2010. Photo KJEvans.

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A last minute change of plans, and an invite from some friends who also visit Wolsztyn, gave me the opportunity to visit the Severn Valley Railway for its steam gala weekend. I’d not been to a UK gala for many years, so comparing it with the annual parade in Wolsztyn was interesting.

For those not familiar with the Severn Valley Railway, the 16-mile heritage line, is one of the best established in the UK. With a connection to the national network at Kidderminster, the line meanders up the scenic valley of the River Severn to Bridgnorth, the line’s northern terminus. Following closure of the line in 1963, it was reopened by preservationists in 1970 (between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade) and eventually extended to Kidderminster in 1984.

Arriving on the Friday evening, I had chosen to camp at the Unicorn Inn, adjacent to Hampton Loade station. The campsite backs on to the river, and the pub handles the bookings (as well as serving very refreshing beer.)

Throughout the gala weekend, train services were scheduled continuously, including throughout the night, the clanking of buffers and the sharp bark of the exhaust easily heard from under the canvas.

With visiting engines complementing the SVR’s home fleet, a good selection of motive power was on offer, with locos rostered for turns for several hours at a time before servicing.

Like Wolsztyn, the Severn Valley draws the crowds for its gala. Unlike Wolsztyn, the crowds have to pay for the privilege. It is a small price to pay for preserving the heritage, and Polish operations could do with learning from it (although it is pleasing to hear that the recent gala day at Jaworzyna attracted about 6000 paying guests.)

The SVR is far stricter on access to shed areas than Poland. No free run of the shed back in the UK, and certainly no wandering off up the line to get that lineside shot unless you hold a trackside permit. It is a balance. In some respects, the health and safety legislation has made it necessary to stop people wandering around the shed (I remember doing it as a 12 year old), but at the same time, it does mean that you do have a chance to see the locos without hoards of people around them, something that is impossible at Wolsztyn during the parade day.

Sitting on the train on the Sunday afternoon, I had time to reflect. What can Poland learn from all this? The UK has a well established steam heritage movement, and societies co-operate and support one another well. People will pay to see steam, and travel behind it, and the money is brought into the local economy. Additionally, the SVR has invested heavily in storing its locomotive collection and carriages under cover.

The Engine House at Highley is a superb example of thinking big. Whilst not in the architectural style of the railway, it keeps the locos that are not currently “in ticket” protected from the elements, whilst providing an informative visitor centre complete with an income stream from refreshments and souvenirs. It is a stark contrast to Poland where engines stand outdoors rusting away, waiting for their next overhaul.

Poland does have a grass roots preservation movement. With the right support, and the right level of leadership, it may grow to thrive. Poland’s railways are facing the same cuts that Beeching imposed 50 years ago. Will Poland’s societies take over the mantle in the same way the UK’s preservationists did? Only time will tell.