The end of daily scheduled standard gauge steam in Poland


Ol49-59 undergoing servicing at Wolsztyn. Photo John Savery.

News has reached us that the steam operation at Wolsztyn is set to suffer further cutbacks. The Wielkopolska government is making drastic budget cuts in 2013, believed to be in the region of 25%. One of the casualties will be the daily steam services from Wolsztyn, which are due to end with the December timetable change.

Ten years ago, Wolsztyn would send out three engines a day. For the past few years, this has been reduced to one engine a day. The latest cutbacks will see the 7-days-a-week service reduced to just 5 days per week, with the withdrawal of weekend services.

One would expect the impact on the town to be fairly major. Wolsztyn’s weekend steam tourists come not only from Poland but also from all over Europe and beyond. It is estimated that Wolsztyn Experience clients alone put as much as 500,000 zloty into the local economy each year, with an additional 500,000 zloty coming from other tourists who also visit the region. If the weekend steam services cease it is certain that the number of rail enthusiast tourists visiting Wolsztyn will fall dramatically, and with it, the amount of money that they inject into the local economy.

This threat to the local economy and local tourism flies in the face of the efforts currently being made by the Polish National Tourist Office, who, this very week, are trying to entice visitors, who may have visited during the Euro 2012 championships, back to Poland.

Behind the Water Tower readers are not known to give up without a fight.

Questions need to be asked about the cost/benefit gained by moving to a 5 day-a-week service as opposed to maintaining the 7 day-a-week operation.

Steam locomotives are serviced on a time interval based servicing regime, rather than on a days in steam servicing regime. Boilers become due for overhaul after a fixed time, regardless of whether they are in steam or not. Operating costs are therefore not proportional to usage. Savings on overhauls by a reduction in usage will be limited.

What will PKP Cargo do with the locomotives at weekends? If they are laid up cold, this cycling of the boiler each week is likely to only add to repair bills for the locomotives due to the constant thermal cycling of the boilers causing additional wear. If the locomotives are left in steam over the weekend, then this will still require staff at the depot, limiting the cost savings that are made by not running the locomotives.

Diesel railcars have been prone to failure during cold and snowy weather. Do Koleje Wielkopolskie intend to make improvements to the flimsy design of these railcars to make them more weather proof?

Readers who feel they would like to make their views known to the relevant authorities may care to use the following addresses. A well written hard copy letter carries more weight than an email, however, given the tight timescales involved, it will not hurt to send an email copy as well, with a note that a ‘hard copy’ is in the post.

The Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province

Marek Woźniak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18, pokój 142, budynek C
61-713 Poznań

tel.: 61 626 66 00
fax: 61 626 66 01

The Deputy Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Province

Wojciech Jankowiak
Wicemarszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18, pokój 340, budynek C
61-713 Poznań

tel.: 61 626 66 10
fax: 61 626 66 11

The Wielkopolska Tourist Organisation

Ewa Przydrożny
Wielkopolska Organizacja Turystyczna
ul. 27 Grudnia 17/19, I p
61-737 Poznań

The Polish National Tourist Office

Mr Boguslaw Becla
Acting Director
Polish National Tourist Office
Level 3, Westgate House
West Gate
London W5 1YY

Mr Roman Gozdzikowski
General Manager
Polish National Tourist Office
Level 3, Westgate House
West Gate
London W5 1YY

The Mayor of Wolsztyn

mgr Andrzej Rogozinski
Burmistrz Wolsztyna
Urząd Miejsji
Rynek 1
64-200 Wolsztyn

The Polish Ambassador

Witold Sobków
H.E. The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland
The Embassy of the Republic of Poland
47 Portland Place
London W1B 1JH

35 Responses to “The end of daily scheduled standard gauge steam in Poland”

  1. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    Why do the Poles have a “Self Destruct” mentality with tourism. Only a couple of years ago the Wielkopolska region was trumpeting rail heritage in the region, Sroda, Smiegel, Wolsztyn, the 10.25 gauge Atlantic, the Maltanka park railway. All have either closed, come close to closing or had services severely curtailed. And it should all be such a good tourist draw, yet there seems to be NO joined up thinking from anyone in positions that could do anything.

    To be frank, a Monday to Friday operation is NOT going to bring tourists flooding in. The operation needs to expand and not contract.

    The Polish mentality to heritage is basically where we were here in the UK in the 1960s and, like rail privatisation, they learn NOTHING from others mistakes.

    I despair at the financing of the railways. If European money hadn’t paid for the railcars WHAT would they be running. The Ol49s are all paid for years ago and the overhauls should cost about the same as overhauling a railcar, engines etc aren’t cheap, yet there are sufficient spare/scrap Ol49s around to provide a decent spares back up. and the service could provide apprenticeships etc if European Community money was applied for to run the museum service.

    But the steam doesn’t operate on a level playing field compared to the railcars. The original/depreciating costs are not accounted for and steam pays higher track charges, the fact notwithstanding that if it weren’t for steam Poznan – Wolsztyn may have closed years ago and until it all operates on a level basis those that wish to see steam withdrawn completely may have their way

    As I said, I despair at what has happened at what COULD be a working museum depot given the will to do anything. I suspect it won’t last any more than a couple of years if the chip chip chipping away at the service continues.

    You can only cut something so much before it bleeds to death.

    I hope I am proved wrong!

    • James Shuttleworth Says:


      You make some excellent points, have you considered writing to the address given above? the more people write in the more people will notice.

  2. Pt47 Says:

    This is not a good solution!
    How much money gets PKP Cargo per kilometer driven currently?
    And what are the new prices?

  3. M.P. "Preki" Says:

    Its not mentality, its plain robbery by the officials. We, as regular, ordinary railway maniacs try to maintain museums on our own, but authorities are just like to destroy everything around with premeditation!

    And generally I anticipated this kind of situation long long time ago, when Koleje Mazowieckie started the process of regionalization of PKP PR actually. The regionalization itself was planned nearly a decade ago, when the PKP Group was formed…

    Regards, Preki

  4. Tomisław Czarnecki Says:

    It was only 5 years ago when you could still see three engines a day in regular service. Things went downhill very fast in Wolsztyn from then on.

    • John Savery Says:

      I stand corrected. When I wrote the article I cast my mind back to when I lived in Poland and there was still regular freight. It slipped my mind that there were still both trains to Poznan and Leszno 5 years ago.

  5. Tim Casterton Says:

    As one of the ‘steam tourists’ mentioned, I have travelled to Poznan and Wolsztyn twice now to see the steam locos and was hoping to go again in 2013. With service cuts backs I have to wonder if it would be worth it now. On the first occasion Ol49 59 was running, but on the 2nd, an SM42 diesel was replacing due to a special running the next day and either insufficient locos or crews to operate, so that was already giving me doubts about returning. I will write!

  6. nanstallon Says:

    Very sad to see Polish steam being given ‘death by a thousand cuts’. The hostility of local councils towards narrow gauge local lines at Smigiel and Kroszniowice has been followed by the steady whittling away of steam at Wolsztyn.

    Maybe a delegation from Poland could come to North Wales to see how the Ffestiniog line has reinvigorated Porthmadog as a town, and then realise what benefits are to be gained from encouraging steam.

  7. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    I was told the figures, if I remember correctly it was 3 milllion Zl a year (but I could be wrong) I worked it out that Wielkopolska region subsidised EACH return trip to the tune of £900 (£ – NOT Zl!).I remember workig itout and being shocked at how much was paid by the region. Now, if PKP think that is worth writing off then they should not be in charge of running things. And if they cannot make that pay then they should think about taking up another business.

    • nanstallon Says:

      Looking at Gavin’s report on the alleged subsidy figures, I remember the days when British Railways were desperate to close every line they could. At public inquiries, they would trot out some creative accounting techniques to convince the government that branch lines were losing vast amounts of money. How transparent are the calculations, i wonder?

    • John Savery Says:

      To clarify, it’s not actually PKP that run the services. The Wielkopolska Regional Government subsidise the services which are run by Koleje Wielkopolskie, which is their own Train Operating Company. Koleje Wielkopolskie hire the trains (or more precisely the loco) in from PKP Cargo.

  8. nanstallon Says:

    Following on from my post, I owe the local authority at Smigiel an apology. They do in fact seem to be making a go of the line, with an extension due to open this Sunday. Anyone going to Wolsztyn may do well to check whether the Smigiel line is in operation, and if so to go and support it with a visit. Even though it is diesel on the Smigiel narrow gauge, at least an effort is being made.

  9. Alex Says:

    What is the purpose of the new timetable? The locomotive is under steam, but has nothing to do …

    But maybe there are solutions? There could be cooperation with the railway museum in Jarocin run a train between Wolsztyn and Jarocin. Or they sometimes operate a Sunday freight train. A few unused coal wagons from Leszno to Wolsztyn and back. Then there would be a lot of train enthusiasts!

    • John Savery Says:

      Alex, whilst it would be nice to have a loco just pulling a few wagons to and from Leszno, there is the question of who pays for it. Operating and overhauling the loco costs money. That is the whole driver behind this problem. Freight carries no passengers, and therefore there would be no income from operating a few unused coal wagons to and from Leszno to Wolsztyn. It may bring out a few photographers, but photographers, if all they do is take photographs, do not pay for the overhauls and maintenance.

  10. Ae4/7 Says:

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money

  11. Alex Says:

    As an example: The cement train from Leszno to Powodowo (near Wolsztyn) is once a week driven by PKP Cargo. Instead of diesel locomotive, steam locomotive can drive on a Saturday or Sunday. To prevent photographers come and go the same day, you can ride the freight trains in the morning and evening. Because of this, most photographers must stay overnight and spend money on accommodation and food.
    This is better than a steam locomotive in the weekend has nothing to do.

    • Krzysztof Błoszyk Says:

      It’s not bad idea, enginemen from Wolsztyn says that the cost of running a steam locomotive is similar to the cost of a diesel locomotive but… in Wolsztyn aren’t any efficient freight steam locomotives, so…. Ol49 with cement trains?

      • Alex Says:

        The cement trains from powodowo are the last time not so long.
        And earlier there were also Ol49 with freight trains.

        And from March, the Pt47-65 can also drive the train

      • M.P. "Preki" Says:

        But hey, there were Ty2, Ty42 and Ty45 freight locomotives in Wolsztyn perfectly suitable for local freight traffic service. I wonder why PKP Cargo botched freight steam operations up.

        • John Savery Says:

          All of the Kriegsloks went out of ticket (required overhaul) in October 2002. At that time, it was not worth overhauling any of them due to the reduction in freight traffic. Freight traffic into Wolsztyn has reduced significantly further since then, and is next to nothing now. It’s not so much that PKP Cargo “botched steam operations up”, it’s more to do with the fact that there just isn’t the freight volume.

  12. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    Alex, the freight is only run midweek, who will pay the crews (not run by Cargo), the coal, the track access (higher for steam)?

    You live in a strange world, only inhabited by rail enthusiasts, where money magically appears to finance everything.

    Freight isn’t going to happen. It is enough of a struggle trying to get steam on passenger without cloud cuckoo plans!!

    By the way, I have written, in Polish to all of the adressees in the above posting. I hope it works!!

  13. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    12 days later, and not ONE reply or even acknowledgement to any of my emails which shows how much ANY of the relevant bodies actually care about steam or tourism in Wolsztyn and by extrapolation, Poland in general.

    I fear it is only a matter of time now until the finish……

  14. Mike Fielding Says:

    Sad to hear the news. Was on a Wolsztyn experience in August 2011 running between Wolsztyn-Poznan and Wolsztyn-Zbasznek with 4-6-2 Princess Halena in charge.
    If there is one thing in your lifes ambitions is to drive a regular passenger train hauled by a steam engine this has got to be it.

  15. Alex Says:

    Gavin, Thanks for your response. What seems to you the best solution for Wolsztyn? Where would the money come from? in other words, how do you get the money from the train enthusiasts and tourists?

  16. Mike Fielding Says:

    If the Polish State don’t want the steam engines are there no preservationists in Poland to take them over. Or are we [the English] the only ones to preserve steam engines? There does appear to be a vast amount of disused steam engines just laying around and rotting away.

  17. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    Mike, it isn’t as simple as that. Very few of the fledgling Polish preservation groups actually talk to each other, some are hostile to English enthusiasts (who they perceive as wanting to export engines abroad) There isn’t a lot of spare money around and the Polish mentality regarding preservation is akin at the moment to that in Britain in say 1968. There is a long way to go to even get near what things are like in Britain. Volunteering is almost unheard of as for over 30 years to 1989 the state did EVERYTHING. It will take a generation or more to get away from that way of thinking and we are nowhere near that position at the moment.

    Alex, I think the best solution would be for the Polish politicians/tourism departments to actually DO something constructive. Market it PROPERLY (there is NO easy to find information at Poznan station about the steam workings, nor do the steam locos run at decent times for tourists rather than enthusiasts to travel on)

    Enthusiasts do not cover running costs of steam, in Poland or anywhere else. It is tourists that provide the VAST majority of customers and revenue at British preserved railways and the railways themselves are heavily dependant on volunteer labour to run the trains.

    For Wolsztyn to actually work it does need a subsidy,one that is ring fenced for steam (there are lots of reasons why steam is so expensive to run and palm greasing is one of them), the Poles need to realise that they have to run the service at times people wish to travel.

    They also need to look carefully at the costings of the traction types involved as they do not operate on a level playing field. If PKP Regionale had to pay for the railcars rather than the European Union, the line would probably have had to close as the monies are not available locally. The Ols, the coaches etc have had the capital costs written off on the books years ago, so possibly, just possibly, the overhaul and running costs ARE on a level basis, but when the railcars require overhaul/new engines/impact damage who pays for that? A few of the railcars are out of service already due to colision damage that PKP Regionale can’t/won’t pay for.
    Until the Poles realise they have to work at tourism, steam is in danger of finishing. It is almost too late to save it and until the Polish tourism mentality changes from the Communist frame of mind to one where they actually embrace tourism instead of expecting people to just turn up when they find it convenient to run a train (and I KNOW it is NOT a tourist train!, but it needs to run and be advertised as such and run when people would wish to travel on it for leisure as well as commuting!)

    Too many enthusiasts think that steam will pay for itself. It won’t and that is why it has all but vanished from railway systems. It is expensive, dirty, inefficient, and the will and monies need to be there to finance its retention..

    I don’t want steam to end, but while the politicians do nothing and starve the railways of money, I suspect it will die gradually.

    I don’t see any way of stopping this until the Poles actually realise WHAT they have got and do something actively about retaining it. Until that happens I fear that the future may not be good.

    No easy answers, but it seems the people in the right positions in the Polish Railway infrastructure are not only not asking the right questions of the politicians, but they haven’t even thought WHAT questions to ask to get the right answers!

  18. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    2 months now and NO replies to any of my emails other than the tourist office forwarding my email to the shed at Wolsztyn – which would do no good at all.

    At least we now know how important the Polish authorities think tourism is!

    What a bunch of wasters!!

  19. Alex Says:

    Very sadly! But there are people who think carefully. During the modernization of the railway line Wolsztyn / Poznan, all semaphore signals replaced with brand new semaphore signals! they do it not for nothing.
    But which locomotives can we expect in 2013? The Ol49-59 will run until March (probably to April) and will then wait for major maintenance. In March, the Pt47-65 and Ol49-100 will return from Chabowka. But I hear nothing about the Ol49-100 .. Who can clear about it?

    • John Savery Says:

      Alex, the Pt47 is not expected back until early September at the earliest. My understanding is that contractually Chabowka has until the end of August to complete the repairs. Penalty clauses do not kick in until the end of October. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t be putting money on it coming back until then.

  20. Alex Says:

    Is it possible that the deadline of the boiler from the Ol49-59 is extended by six months? Then there are at least two steam locomotives in service

  21. westernsncf Says:

    I hope someone is still following these comments ;) a year on. It all looks very glum.

    Can anyone actually tell me what’s happening to the regular steam service with the December timetable change on 15/12/2013 ? I’m on a business trip the week before to Poznan (11-13/12) and I’d like to see if there’s any steam action going on. I’ve searched everywhere on the net, but it’s impossible to find this info…

    I’d really appreciate any information. Thanks in advance for your help


  22. John Savery Says:

    The steam service moves to the Leszno line from the timetable change. It also moves back to 7 days a week. The move is in part forced by the planned refurbishment of the remainder of the Poznan to Wolsztyn line next year. The final week for the Poznan service appears to be the week you are there.
    The current timetable can be found on

    although I would advise checking at the station as times can vary by a few minutes with the regular timetable changes. (Odjazd – departure, Przyjazd – arrival)

    • Westernsncf Says:

      Many thanks for taking the time to get back to me. This time round I might actually see some trains running. Last time I stopped at Wolzstyn on my way back from to Lodz for a christeninug. It was easter monday a few years ago and nothing was running of course.
      Regards and thanks again

    • westernsncf Says:

      Thanks also for the link to the web site with daily info on train times. If nothing else I’ll be able to get down to the station after an early breakfast to see Ol49-69 between trains. I’m glad I’m not there over the weekend, as I have the impression that they replace steam with a railbus on Sat/Sun.

      I just explored the website a bit further and there are some amazing photos in there – I wish I could speak Polish!

      I just got a message from my colleague at PKP who tells me he’ll be taking us on a trip on the train during our visit and in which he states the importance of looking after the railway’s history, which would seem to indicate that not everyone within PKP is anti-steam! I’ll let you know how we get on. We arrive in Poznan Wednesday early afternoon and leave on Friday afternoon. Best regards, Robin

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