Archive for July, 2014

OUT with the old rail transport department – IN with a new railway department… oops Centre

Monday, 28 July 2014

Updated

The new location is unlikely to be popular with students. Map Google Maps.

In a breath-taking move that has left defenders of the Silesian University of Technology’s existing Department of Rail Transport wrong-footed, the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Andrzej Karbownik, has announced that the University and PKP SA will be setting up a new Centre for Railway Research and Teaching. The Centre will have the status of a department of the University. According to PKP SA Chairman, Jakub Karnowski, the Centre will become a ‘strategic partner’ of PKP SA.

The Centre will be located in a new off-campus location in the disused buildings of the currently unused historic railway station at Sosnowiec Maczki. The extensive station buildings were constructed in 1848, when the station lay on the border of The Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires. The buildings will be restored and adapted to serve the needs of the new Centre which is intended to have a research and a teaching role.

Just over a fortnight ago, the University authorities announced that the existing Department of Rail Transport was to be closed with students and staff being moved into a new Department of Road and Air Transport. A shortage of suitably qualified staff and poor financial results were given as the reasons for the changeover. Yet, the under its Head, Professor Marek Sitarz, the Department generated a substantial extra income from external outside contracts, such as running courses on rail safety for UTK, the Polish rail regulator. Professor Sitarz himself is a internationally respected authority on rail transport and popular with his staff and students.

The new Research and Teaching ‘Centre’ is due to start teaching 1st year students in October 2016. Meanwhile, current rail transport students already at the University will be expected to finish their degrees in the ‘Road and Air Transport’ department. Why the two-year hiatus in rail teaching? Could it be that it is part of a clumsily disguised move to remove Professor Sitarz from his position of head of department?

The professor is well known for being a stalwart champion of rail transport and for his uncompromising stance with respect to railway safety – a dangerous position to be in given the low priority given by the government to its railways.

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The 1848 building of Sosnowiec Maczki station formerly on the border of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires. Photo (CC BY-SA 3.0) W. Grabowski.

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Last surviving Polish university department of rail transport liquidated

Friday, 11 July 2014

Politechnika Slaska

The Silesian University of Technology in Katowice. Photo Google Maps.

On July 10, the Dean and Council of the Faculty of Transport of the Silesian University of Technology in Katowice voted to close down the University’s Department of Rail Transport – the last such such department in Poland.

Under its head, Professor Marek Sitarz, the Department has become a world-class facility with its teaching skills much in demand.  In order to ensure the highest standards, entry to the Department is by means of a competition with an 80% grade being compulsory for entry.

The Department is closely involved in monitoring and promoting rail safety in Poland. Its post graduate courses have been attended by employees of the Urząd Transportu Kolejowego (Polish equivalent to ORR in the UK) as well as managers from many private railway companies.

The Department conducts world-class research in the field of the rail/wheel interface. Recent research papers describe work in the field of tribology and the plastic distortion of wheelsets under thermal stress. Professor Sitarz himself has been a leading member of the team conducting the acceptance test of the Pendolino trainsets being delivered by Alstom.

Profesor Sitarz

Professor Marek Sitarz. Frame capture by BTWT.

The resolution to close the Department alleges a lack of competent teaching staff and that the Department operates at a loss – which happen to be the few particular conditions under which a university may close down a whole department.

Professor Sitarz strongly disputes these claims, pointing to the fact that some 30 students graduate with an M.Sc. in rail transport each year and – in what must surely be a record for any Polish university department – 100% of them walk straight into employment, over 90% in the rail industry. He also explains that due to its external contracts the Department brings the University a substantial revenue stream. In spite of the decision being announced in the middle of the summer holidays his students have organised a petition and are planning other moves in a bid to encourage the University authorities to reconsider their decision.

So why is the University closing down Professor Sitarz’s Department? The Professor is remaining tight-lipped, hinting at personal differences with the Dean of the Transport Faculty, Professor Boguslaw Larzaz. However, our own sources in the Polish academic world have told us that such a serious decision could not just be the result of a personality clash of two academics.

Professor Sitarz is known to be an enthusiastic proponent of rail transport. The government is known for its lack of interest in developing Poland’s railways and is channelling nearly all its transport infrastructure funds into road-building. Is the opportunity being taken to silence a dissenting voice – and fire a warning shot across the bows of other would-be critics – as Poland nudges forward to its next general election?

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Tram skateboard

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Sustainable transport in Bratislava. Video © Tomáš Moravec

With tram frequency only a fraction of what it was 10 years ago, is this DIY approach the solution to the problem of providing a decent public transport service in Lodz?

A hat tip to Tomasz Adamkiewicz for the link.

Poland’s brand new narrow gauge line

Sunday, 6 July 2014

First day of public operation as a 785mm gauge line, 19 June 2014. Video courtesy Sarmacja Film.

BTWT has had a longer than usual hiatus. I have had many things on my mind over the last twelve months and at some point all the creative energy drained away. The fact that this Polish railway blog is running at all owes a great deal to our deputy editors, John Savery and Ed Beale.

I would also like to thank all those who have provided articles and stories, especially ‘Inzynier’. My thanks to all BTWT readers and contributors. Please do continue sending us your stories and pictures. Our e-mail address is: railfan[at]go2[dot]pl.

What better to celebrate the return of BTWT than this story about the rebirth of the Park Slaski Railway, a line that many had given up for dead? Our thanks to Andrew Goltz for sending us his photographs.

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Industrial narrow gauge in the park. Las49-3343 being serviced. Photo Andrew Goltz.

(All photos can be expanded by clicking the image.)

The Park Slaski line has had three gauges! It opened in 1957 as a 1,000mm line. Trains were operated by 3 sets of single-directional railcars and trailers. The railcars had to be turned on special turntables located at each end of the line.

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First the tanks are topped up with water. Photo Andrew Goltz.

By 1966 the railcars and trailers were life expired. The line was re-gauged to 900mm – a gauge for which wheelsets and locomotives were readily available from nearby coalmines. Three 2WLs50 diesel locos were acquired and ten light coaches were specially constructed. The 2WLs50 locos struggled with the steep gradients between Zoo and Wesole Miasteczko stations and were replaced in 1973 by two more powerful WLs75 locos.

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Then the locomotive is coaled. Photo Andrew Goltz.

In 1988, the WLs75 locos were themselves replaced by two WLs150 locos that had been obtained from the KWK Katowice mine. When they became worn out they were replaced in 1994 by a single WLP50 loco which was painted in garish colours in the style of a steam loco as imagined by a drug user during a psychedelic delirium.

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Details for model makers. Photo Andrew Goltz.

In 2003, the operator of the Bytom Narrow Gauge Railway – the Stowarzyszenie Górnośląskich Kolei Wąskotorowych – took over responsibility for running the Park Slaski Railway.The Society ran the railway until the end of the 2011 running season. By this time services the single WLp50 was breaking down at frequent intervals and services suspended. The track was also in a very bad state.

In May 2012 the operating agreement with the SGKW was terminated and in October that same year the track was lifted and the track bed was bulldozed away. In spite of assurances to the contrary by the Park authorities, many people thought that the track-lifting heralded the end of the Park Slaski Railway. However, in 2013, a new bed of ballast was laid down. On this the company that had built the 750mm gauge park railway at Krosnice started constructing a brand new 785 gauge railway.

Initially the track has been laid between Wesole Miasteczko and Zoo stations (about 1 km) with a spur to the engine shed beyond. Eventually the Park authorities intend that the line should rebuilt for the full length of its former route – just over 4 km.

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Builders Plate. Photo Andrew Goltz.

On the 19 June 2014, operations commenced on the new line utilising rolling stock, staff and volunteers from the 785mm gauge railway at Rudy. Motive power was in the form of a Las49 0-6-0WT and a Romanian Lxd2 diesel. The Las 49 was only supposed to work the first three weekends, but has proved so popular (the police had to be called in to control the crowds of would-be passengers on the first day) that its guest appearance in the park was extended.

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