Poland’s brand new narrow gauge line

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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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