Gniezno District Railway, 1939 (Part 3)

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by ‘Inzynier’

(continued from: Gniezno District Railway, 1939 – Part 2)

After two days travel, we have reached Gniezno, operating base for the western part of the Kujawy narrow gauge railway network…

gniezno

Gniezno. The narrow gauge line runs south east. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

(Click to download the full size map. Warning: Very large file)

The third day of our tour presents us with two problems. Firstly, we need to continue our journey across the network via Anastazewo, but that end of the Gniezno system has a rather sparse service. On Tuesdays and Fridays there is an afternoon working, while on Mondays and Thursdays there is an evening train to Anastazewo which overnights there and returns early on Tuesdays and Fridays. Today is Wednesday, so we have no way of reaching Anastazewo by train. Secondly, our mission is to cover the whole of the linked Kujawy system and yesterday we missed out the Mierzewo – Arcugowo section of the Gniezno railway, which links that system to the Wrzesnia line. Consequently, we resolve to spend the day covering the missing link on foot.

Fortunately, the Gniezno – Powidz section of line has a daily passenger service, so we will be able to journey to and from Niechanowo by train and, as we will be staying in the same hotel tonight, we can travel rather more lightly for our railway ramble. The first departure of the day from Gniezno is at 09.15 (there was an arrival from Powidz at 07.40 to bring folk into the city), which turns out to be railcar No.1, built in Hannover in 1928(21). Passenger loadings are relatively light and the car’s 30 seats are more than sufficient as we re-trace yesterday’s route to Niechanowo. The advantages of the railcar are clear in terms of journey time, as we cover the 10km in just 22 minutes at an average speed of 27 km/h (17 mph).

And so we start walking. From Niechanowo station we cross the Witkowo road and pass through the village, turning left (and crossing the field railway we saw yesterday) to eventually reach the crossroads by Arcugowo halt. Here we turn right, for the branch to Mierzewo runs along the right hand side of the road(22). Shortly before Mikolajewice the railway crosses the road and we follow it, skirting round the village, to the unused halt with a loop which clearly is used, as there are two wagons in it, one of them partly loaded with hay. The railway then heads south alongside a road, crossing a couple of streams and then crossing to the other side of the road and throwing off a short siding to the left that crosses back over the road.

At Malczewo comes an oddity, for the railway passes under a road bridge. Why a bridge? From the topography it would seem that the railway could have crossed on the level, while the road is by no means a busy highway; indeed, a few kilometres to the east, the Mielzyn branch crosses the same road on the level. Continuing south of the bridge, the railway runs on the left hand side of another road and shortly a field railway branches back to the left; this splits into three branches, each perhaps a kilometre long. There is also a halt. The main line continues to Czechowo-Grotkowo (various names seem to have been used for this halt) which is a three-way junction beside a crossroads. To the right a field railway runs beside a cart track to the village and farm at Grotkowo, straight ahead runs the district railway’s branch to Czeluscin, with a loading loop alongside the road, while to the left is the main branch to Mierzewo, also alongside a road.

We turn left and follow the road and railway for a couple of kilometres until the railway swings right, away from the road, to run behind the cottages of Mierzewo and then we come to the station at which we witnessed some shunting yesterday; today all is quiet here. It has taken us well over two hours at a stroll (anything more would be uncomfortable in the heat) to get here from Niechanowo, which is 9.6km by rail, and it is clear that although the narrow gauge trains may seem slow, they are an essential means of transport for the local population, for most of whom walking is the only alternative.

czeluscin-branch

Czechowo-Grotkowo and the Czeluscin branch. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

(Click to download the full size map. Warning: Very large file)

After a pause to rest our legs, we walk back to Czechowo-Grotkowo and, as we have plenty of time before the last train leaves Niechanowo, we decide to explore some of the Czeluscin branch. As previously indicated, the line runs along the left hand side of a road for almost two kilometres to Czechowo, where it crosses the road and a siding branches off right to the farm(23). The main branch continues alongside the road for a short distance, past a couple of ponds, and then turns right across fields. We pass what looks like a sand pit and then come alongside another road on our left.

The railway crosses the road and heads across fields again to Zolcz, with a long siding branching off to the left for a few hundred metres. Crossing a couple of lanes in Zolcz the line continues west with a roadway on the right to a T junction, where the railway turns sharply south with another road still on the right. Somewhere along here another line branched off for a few years to a standard gauge interchange at Czerniejewo station, but the route has disappeared under the plough.

Following the road and railway south from the junction we are amazed to see, as we approach Czeluscin, the smoke from a locomotive. As we get nearer we can see that it is Krauss 0-6-0T+T No. 4, one of about eight such locomotives built for this line and the Znin system between 1894 and 1913(24). What seems bizarre is that we can hear standard gauge trains on the Gniezno – Wrzesnia line and Czerniejewo station is less than 2km from Czeluscin, yet this locomotive has travelled about 24km from Gniezno to reach here; presumably it passed Czechowo-Grotkowo while we took our diversion to Mierzewo.

As on the Wrzesnia line, when the crew see our interest in their locomotive we are invited to take a closer look and, when they finish their shunting and are ready to set off back towards Gniezno, we are invited to join the guard in his van, an offer we gratefully accept. The train by now consists of just the loco and van, but at Zolcz we stop to pick up a couple of empty wagons, and at Czechowo a wagon load of manure is added. At Czechowo-Grotkowo the loco uncouples from the train and runs up the siding to Grotkowo, reappearing with a couple of vans, while at Mikolajewice one of the wagons we saw earlier is now completely loaded with hay and is added to the train; at each stop there is a long break in the journey as, not only do the wagons have to be added to the train, but the guard has to do the necessary paperwork.

On arrival at Arcugowo the loco again uncouples, as there are apparently some wagons to collect at Mielzyn. Not knowing how long the business at Mielzyn might take, we bid farewell to the crew and set off on foot again to Niechanowo. We arrive there in plenty of time to rest our feet before railcar 1 arrives from Powidz. After our day’s walking through the countryside it is a relief to know that we only now have the walk from the station to our hotel. There are only two other passengers by this time of day and all the halts are passed without stopping. As we near Gniezno the speed noticeably reduces, to avoid getting too far ahead of schedule, and soon we pull into the platform as a nearby church clock strikes 19.00. Tonight will be early to bed, for not only has our walk and fresh air taken its toll, but tomorrow we travel east towards the main Kujawy network and it will be a few days before we get another night in bed.

to be continued…

NOTES

21) Gniezno’s railcar 1 was tested on the Mecklenburg-Pommersche Schmalspurbahn and possibly on the Bydgoszcz district railway before arriving at Gniezno in 1929. It was taken into PKP stock in 1949 and designated Mzx-044 but is believed to have been scrapped in 1950.

22) The Arcugowo – Mierzewo line opened in 1896 and was converted to 750mm gauge in 1957. Grotkowo – Mierzewo closed in 1979 and Arcugowo – Grotkowo in 1986.

23) Grotkowo – Czeluscin opened in 1916, as did Zolcz – Czerniejewo, but the latter closed in 1923. The Grotkowo to Czechowo section was converted to 750mm gauge in 1957, but Czechowo – Czeluscin was closed rather than regauged. Grotkowo to Czechowo closed in 1973.

24) Gniezno 4 was Krauss works no. 3179 of 1895. It was renumbered 8 in 1939 (I have assumed after the German occupation), and taken into PKP stock in 1949, becoming Py1-723. It was sold to industry in 1954 and its fate thereafter is unknown.

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