Archive for December, 2014

Radzymin Narrow Gauge Railway – memories

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Skaldowie official video featuring journey on the Radzymin narrow gauge railway in 1971. Film Telewizja Polska.

Thanks to the Polish rock band Skaldowie and an enterprising 1971 Telewizja Polska film crew the 750mm Radzymin Narrow Gauge Railway (Kolej Marecka) lives on, as a video (teledisk) on YouTube! The Radzymin line was the first Polish narrow gauge railway that I ever travelled on, followed shortly by a trip on the metre gauge Grojecka Narrow Gauge Railway. Both trips happened in 1965 possibly minus a year or two.

It’s a sobering thought that all the n.g. tracks that I travelled on during that trip to Warsaw: Warszawa Wilenska to Radzymin (Px48-hauled); Wilanow to Piaseczno (diesel or petrol railcar); Piaseczno to Warszawa Dworzec Południowy (Warsaw South Station, today the site of Wilanowska Metro station) have been lifted. What a tourist line the railway from Wilanow would have made! A fragment of this once extensive network survives as the Piaseczno Narrow Gauge Railway.

Skaldowie formed in Krakow in 1965, and were one of the most popular bands in Poland in the 1960s and 70s. Their music is a heady mixture of rock, prog rock, folk rock, jazz and classical music. The band – which is still active – seems to be particularly fond of Poland’s narrow gauge railways. As well recording the video for their track Na wszystkich dworcach świata (On all the world’s stations) they recorded Hymn kolejarzy wąskotorowych (A hymn to narrow gauge railwaymen). The latter has also been made into a video, it would appear by some enterprising YouTuber. This second film combines film from the 1971 video with much older archive film of the Radzymin railway from the 1950s – see below.

Both tracks – Na wszystkich dworcach świata and Hymn kolejarzy wąskotorowych – were first released on the band’s LP Ty in 1970. The complete album, as well as the individual tracks, are available for purchase and digital download through iTunes.

Fragments of the 1971 film combined with much older archive footage of the Radzymin narrow gauge railway. Film januszpeiks.

 

Polish Pendolino – a cautious step forward, or too little too late?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Dyspozytor travels on the first public service Express InterCity Premium (EIP) ‘Pendolino’ train from Warsaw to Krakow on 14 December.

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Over half an hour to go before the first Warsaw to Krakow Pendolino departs – time for a coffee and a roll in my favourite coffee bar at Centralna. Photo BTWT.

(All the photos can be enlarged x 2 by clicking on the image.)

I am impressed, but not excessively so. The 2nd class seats are comfortable, though a tad narrow for the classical Polish male derrière. Acceleration out of Warszawa Zachodnia – gentle yet sustained – is comparable to the diesel-powered HST125s out of Paddington (after they were throttled back following the Ladbroke Grove crash) though to PKP’s credit there is no appreciable slowing down through the Zyradow modernisation area, where delays have been the rule for over a year.

I cannot find an Internet signal, but there is a double power socket in the space between the seats. I have to have it pointed out to me as my left thigh is obscuring the location. It seems that the same approach has been made as regards the inter-seat spacing as on the notorious PESA Bydgostia EMU’s – a narrow body shell has been fitted out with 2 + 2 seating and a gangway wide enough to run a wheelchair from one end of the train to another. I have difficulty in believing that such a wide gangway, and the consequent narrow seats and ultra close inter-seat positioning that results, is really required to comply with EU directives.

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On the platform at Centralna there is an impressive platform, but it is only for TV news crews – there will be no speeches. Photo BTWT.

We change tracks vis a facing point at approximately 60mph and I am impressed with our coach’s steadiness as its Alstom Pendolino bogies negotiate the pointwork. The ride is very good, though I am annoyed by the low-frequency rumble occasioned by the welded track joints. Polish rails lack the near perfect alignment achieved in the UK and, apart from a few high quality sections, each welded rail joint is felt in the coach as a slight bump.

I am frustrated by the quality of information provided to passengers. In Warsaw a female voice on a recorded loop announced some 30 times that passengers attempting to travel WITHOUT a ticket and seat reservation will be fined 600 złoty (approx. 120 GBP). This seems somewhat excessive both as regards frequency of the announcement and also the size of the fine, especially as 90% of the seats are empty and journalists and PKP staff seem to outnumber fare-paying passengers.

The LED travelling information ribbon panel at the end of the coach is stuck in an endless loop announcing alternatively: first, that the next station will be Krakow Glowny and then, that the remaining stations will be… Krakow Glowny. I had hoped for the usual more informative display with an occasional real-time indication of our speed.

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Our train draw into the platform, but where are the crowds of intending passengers? Photo BTWT.

There are some nice human touches, the driver switches on the PA and announces aeroplane captain style that we are travelling at 200 km/h (125 mph). The track is exceptionally smooth here and I would never have guessed. However, immediately after making the announcement he applies the brakes so I cannot savour the moment for long.

Our 200 km/h peak top speed took some time to build up and I conclude that Pendolino drivers have been trained to limit their acceleration and hence the current drawn from the electric supply. The Pendolino traction equipment was originally designed for high voltage (25kV or 15kV) AC electrified lines and the current drawn on Poland’s 3kV DC lines is very high. (Hint: POWER = VOLTS x AMPS.) Theoretically, two Pendolinos passing each other on the same electrical section and accelerating hard could blow the circuit breakers in the electricity sub station.

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The interior – very nice, but the passengers do not quite fit the seats (or is it the other way round?). Photo BTWT.

We slow down for the junction at Psary and turn south passing through the site of the Szczekociny head on collision of 2012. The line begins to twist and turn and on this section the tilting package (based on research carried out by the BR Research Division in the 1970s and left off the Polish Pendolino bogies to save money) would have allowed our driver to take the curves some 10 km/h faster. With only twenty-five minutes to our scheduled stop at Krakow Glowny, we grind to a halt at Niedzwiedz. So much for our 2hr 28min run, thinks the cynic in me. Our captain comes on the intercom again to say that the delay has been factored in the timetable, and, we are still scheduled to arrive in Krakow on time. Four minutes later, a train running in the opposite direction having passed, we are off again.

Resisting blandishments to sample the delights of the restaurant car, I remain in my seat throughout and tap away on my tablet writing this article. The ride is sufficiently smooth to make typing on a tablet or laptop a pleasure. Another announcement (surely too early?) informs us that we are approaching our destination and that we should check that we have collected all our luggage.

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On arrival in Krakow a few stragglers pause to admire the train. Photo BTWT.

We arrive in Krakow Glowny at 08:56, 2hr 21min after departing Warsaw – 7 minutes early! The (theoretically non-stop run) from Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) has taken just 2hr 15min to cover 290km – a very satisfactory average speed of approx. 129km/h (80mph). At Glowny, just as had been the case at Centralna, there is a scramble of TV cameras and journalists, but no brass band, nor ribbon cutting. VIPs, whether PKP senior executives or politicians are conspicuous by their absence.

Maria Wasiak – former PKP group chairman and now as minister of Infrastructure and Development ultimately responsible for Poland’s railways – said a few days ago, no need to make a fuss, the Pendolino is just a train. However, I am cautiously impressed, and with plenty cheap discount tickets available for advance purchase, I will certainly be using PKP’s Express InterCity Premium service again.

dyspozytor_sig

An update from Jarocin

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

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TKi3-87 on the turntable at Jarocin. Photo: John Savery.

It has been a while since I wrote about what has been happening in Jarocin.  Part of my lack of articles (until the recent flurry) has been down to the amount of time spent in Poland, in part on railway based activities, and in the UK, also with railway activities, with a Polish flavour.

TKW, the society based at the former locomotive shed in Jarocin, have a good set up.  Not all Polish societies can boast accommodation on site, with running hot water (and showers) available, and with adequate power and light in the shed.  Granted, the main part is not heated, and even if it was, the cost of the fuel to heat it would be outside the society’s resources in the middle of winter.  Nevertheless, the society’s facilities are well ahead of most others.

Back in 2010, the society stepped in to provide accommodation to TKi3-87, formerly based at Wolsztyn, and the property of the Poznan Model Railway Club (PKMK).

The loco finished working in Wolsztyn in 2001, and was towed to Gniezno for storage.  Following the closure of the Gniezno workshops, the loco was moved outside, open to the elements, and anyone who wanted to help themselves to parts of it.  Fortunately, very little of the latter seems to have happened, however given the plight, TKW stepped in to offer accommodation, sponsors were found to pay for the move, and a long term loan agreement was reached with PKMK.

Gradually, a group of volunteers has been formed to start to prepare the loco for overhaul, and this has resulted in a spate of activity over the summer.

Whilst some parts had been removed prior to this year, regular working parties have progressed well.

The external boiler fittings have been removed, as have cab fittings.  This has allowed the cab to be lifted from the loco, and in turn, allowed the side tanks to be lifted.  The cladding has been removed from the boiler sides to give access to the boiler shell.

Additionally, the reverser mechanism has been removed to give access to the side of the firebox, and parts of the cab floor have also been lifted to give access to the mounting bolts for the reverser.

For the first time in over 15 years, someone has managed to squeeze into the boiler barrel, if only to assist with removing the regulator valve rods.

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Removing the regulator gland. Photo: Konrad Czapracki.

Much now will depend on the condition of the boiler barrel, and it is anticipated that the tubes will be removed, and boiler shell samples taken for analysis in the new year.  This should give an indication of the level of work required on the boiler.  The Polish regulations require samples to be cut from the plates, instead of non-destructive testing.

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A view of the boiler without the cladding.  Note the holes in the side of the shell.  Samples were taken whilst at Gniezno, but never tested. Photo: John Savery.

It’s fair to say that it is unlikely to be a fast track restoration, and is likely to depend on the number of volunteers continuing to grow as visible progress is made.  Nevertheless, each journey begins with a single step, and hopefully the first ones in the restoration of this locomotive have now been taken.

The group can be contacted on tki3@parowozy.net