Archive for May, 2015

Narrow Gauge revival

Friday, 29 May 2015

Pleszew railcar in December 2011. Photo Ed Beale.

The beginning of May in Poland is memorable not just for the annual Wolsztyn Parade of Steam locomotives, but for the start of tourist services on Poland’s preserved narrow gauge railways. Most lines run trains just over the weekend, sometimes only a couple of return trips on Sundays.

To the best of our knowledge (please tell us if you know of others!) only three lines operate daily services during the operating season: the Nadmorska Kolej Wąskotorowa, aka the Gryfice Narrow Gauge Railway; the Znin Narrow Gauge Railway; and the Bieszczady Forest Railway. The Bieszczady weekday service runs only in July and August, while the Gryfice and Znin lines run daily from May through to September.

Pleszew_timetable

Pleszew Railway timetable 4 May until 13 June 2015.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Notes

(B) runs Mondays to Fridays & Sundays (except 4.6.2015)
(D) runs Mondays to Fridays except bank holidays
(E) runs Mondays to Saturdays except bank holidays
(6) runs on Saturdays
(7) runs on Sundays (except 4.6.2015)

All of us a BTWT were surprised and delighted to be told by SKPL that they have brought back daily ordinary passenger services (not tourist services!) on the Pleszew narrow gauge railway, and that funding is in place for the services to run to the end of 2015.

The Pleszew n.g. line is a mixed gauge line – standard gauge and narrow gauge trains share one rail. It is a 3 km fragment of the erstwhile Krotoszyn Narrow Gauge Railway which at its height was nearly 50 km long. The last train ran from Krotoszyn to Pleszew Miasto on 12 January 1986. The line was taken over by the Pleszew Town Council who licensed it to SKPL in 2006. SKPL operate freight trains over the standard gauge tracks from the interchange with the main line to an oil depot in Pleszew.

In February 2013, BTWT reported that passenger services using a diesel railcar operating over the n.g. tracks had been suspended. We are delighted to report that as from 4 May 2015 Poland’s last surviving n.g. regular passenger service is again operational.

Old president’s campaign derails

Monday, 25 May 2015

Duda elected president of Poland

Duda_2-2

Andrzej Duda in April 2013. Photo Piotr Drabik, (CC by 2.0).

All over Poland people got up, switched on their TV sets or radios, and over their morning cups of coffee heard that they had elected the opposition candidate, Andrzej Duda, to be president of Poland. Almost until the last moment, pollsters were predicting a victory for the incumbent, Bronisław Komorowki. But it was not to be. When the election news blackout was lifted at 22:30 exit polls indicated that the newcomer had secured a decisive 6% lead. Shortly before midnight Komorowski conceded defeat.

It had been an election largely fought on negative point scoring. Opponents of President Komorowski, accused him and the governing party, Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) of employing communist-era officials in key government positions, turning a blind eye to fraud and corruption in high places, and preferring to ignore the problems of ordinary people. Opponents of Duda, ridiculed his membership of the Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) party which is portrayed by the mainstream media, as a bunch of religious bigots obsessed with the circumstances of the Smolensk aeroplane crash which killed President Lech Kaczyński.

The danger in conducting negative campaigns is that while two candidates tear each other apart, a third can emerge quietly from the wings…  . And so it was that ageing rock musician, Paweł Kukiz, emerged as the surprise youth candidate and garnered over 20% of the vote in the first round of the elections. While Kukiz took no part in the second round, he and his supporters are already gearing up for the parliamentary elections due in October. It seems likely that neither Law and Justice, nor Civic Platform will gain an overall majority in the parliamentary elections and that there will be a coalition government.

Andrzej Duda, born 16 May 1972, is a lawyer and a Member of the European Parliament. He comes from Krakow, the son of Janina Milewska and Jan Tadeusz Duda. His wife, Agata Kornhauser, is a high school German teacher. His father-in-law is Julian Kornhauser, a well-known Polish-Jewish writer, translator and literary critic.

He began his political career with the now-defunct Freedom Union Party (Unia Wolnóści) in the early 2000s, but after the parliamentary elections in 2005, began his collaboration with the Law and Justice Party. In 2010, he was an unsuccessful candidate in the elections for the Mayor of Kraków, but was more successful in the 2011 parliamentary election, where he received 79,981 votes for the Kraków area, becoming a member of the Polish Parliament’s lower house, the Sejm. He did not complete his term, becoming elected in 2014 as a member of the European Parliament.

He was the official candidate of the Law and Justice party for the office of President of Poland in the 2015 Polish presidential elections. He won the election with 52% of the vote. He is President-elect of Poland and will take up the office of President on 6 August 2015.

Great Central Railway wins £10m award

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Bridge to the Future update June 2014. The project to bridge the gap between the two preserved sections of the GCR has now (April 2015) raised £860,000. Video GCRofficial.

Sir Peter Luff, the new chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, has announced support worth £98 million for nine projects to preserve Britain’s rich scientific and technological history.

The world’s largest medical collection in London’s Science Museum, one of the earliest factories at Derby Silk Mill, and Cheshire’s ground-breaking Jodrell Bank centre for astronomy are among the sites receiving a share of the money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Millions of pounds are set to help digitise the British Library’s UK sound collection, while the Great Central Railway, a double-track operational heritage railway between Loughborough and Leicester, will receive funding of £9,999,400 for its Main Line Bridging the Nation project to create a new heritage railway museum in Leicester.

GCR Winter Steam Gala 30 January to 1 February 2015. Video Steaming Around The Midlands.

The new museum will provide secure and weatherproof accommodation for some of the UK’s most iconic locomotives and rolling stock that work or are stored on the GCR, as well as artefacts such as posters, badges and the Newton Photographic Collection.  Uniquely, the operational heritage railway will be an integral part of the museum, enabling visitors to make the connection between exhibits and a real piece of living heritage.

The project will build on an already thriving apprenticeship scheme and involve new volunteers.  There will be a complementary outreach programme which includes plans to make contact with the local Asian community which has strong links to the railway.

Anastazewo to Jablonka, 1939

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

by ‘Inzynier’

(continued from: Gniezno District Railway, 1939 – Part 4)

On 5 July 2013, BTWT published the first part of the imaginary diary of a railway enthusiast exploring the magnificent narrow gauge railways of the Kujawy region of Poland in 1939. Carefully researched by ‘Inzynier’ and brilliantly presented by narrow gauge expert Ed Beale, they are an evocative recreation of a lost world.

At the start of the fifth day, we have a very early start to head East from Anastazewo…

Anastazewo-station-postcard

A very early postcard view of Anastazewo station.

(Click to see the original image on fotopolska.eu)

Around 5am we are woken from our slumber in the loco depot at Anastazewo as work starts on preparing the loco and train for the 06:00 departure.  Half an hour or so later we start to hear a train approaching from the east and at 05:48 the connecting service from Konin (Tuesdays and Fridays only) rolls across the level crossing and into the station.  The locomotive is another 0-8-0T, bearing the number D1-345, while the train consists of two coaches (but no passengers), the usual van and three open wagons(31).  One of the coaches appears to have been converted from a freight van, while the other is purpose-built.  Mail bags are exchanged between trains (and one goes into the station building), while one of the wagons (presumably loaded, as it is sheeted over) is added to the Gniezno train.

At 06:00 No. 6 and its train depart westward.  D1-345 takes water, shunts the other two wagons into the siding and couples up to the coaches, while the fireman prepares his fire for the journey ahead and the injector sings as the water level rises in the boiler.  Unlike the Gniezno men, this crew from Konin do not have the luxury of a few hours’ sleep before starting the return journey; they ‘clocked on’ quite a few hours ago, set out from their home station at 03:35, and will not get back until 08:35.

All too soon for the fireman it is time to depart and we join the other three passengers who have arrived at the station to board the 06:12 departure.  The train shuffles out of the station (the locomotive is fitted with a spark arrestor on the chimney, which muffles any real ‘chuff’) and back across the road as the next stage of our journey begins(32).

anastzewo-departure

A much more recent departure from Anastazewo, at the turn of the 1980s/90s. Photo Milosz Telesinski.

(Click to see the original image on Baza Kolejowa)

So far all of our travels have been on railways owned and operated by the respective local authorities (Jarocin, Wrzesnia and Gniezno).  Now we are on the state railway system but ironically the locomotive and coaches seem inferior to anything we have previously experienced.  We briefly run alongside the road, cross over it again and run along the other side of it.

After about a kilometre a branch trails in on the right, this is Goslawice sugar factory’s 7 km line to beet loading points at Naprusewo(33).  Our train trundles over a road junction and we find the road is on our right instead of left, but that soon changes when we cross to the other side again.  Various other trackways are crossed and then we leave the road for a while.  Curving to the left we cross a small river and another couple of roadways and arrive at Budzislaw Koscielny halt.  Here another Goslawice sugar factory line trails in, this time from the left and with a loop; it runs 4 km to a loading point at Marszewo(34).

anastazewo-budzislaw-map

Anastazewo to Budzislaw-Koscielny and branches. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

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

A small crowd is awaiting the train at Budzislaw and perhaps a dozen people board the train, most carrying baskets full of produce, while those with more bulky goods load them into the van.  Within a minute or so we are on our way again, alongside a road for a couple of kilometres to the next halt at Nieborzyn, where the three waiting passengers quickly climb aboard.

Shortly after the halt, the road crosses to our other side, but roadside running remains the order of the day until we cross over again and then curve away from the road on the approach to Zlotkow.  This halt has a loop and another handful of passengers join the train.  There now follows a fairly straight section across open country, crossing the odd road or watercourse, to Dankow, another halt with a loading siding, at which another couple of passengers board.

Shortly after Dankow comes a pair of tight bends, then we cross a couple of streams and finally cross the road into Jablonka Slupecka, a quite sizeable station with loops and a number of sidings holding various wagons and vans, as well as the line from Sompolno trailing in from the east.  The 14 km from Anastazewo have taken us 53 minutes to cover (16 kph or 10 mph), but the importance of Jablonka is underlined by the fact that the train pauses here for 17 minutes – the loco takes water and the fireman again tends to his fire, while another half dozen or so passengers join the train.  Meanwhile, another 0-8-0T, number D1-332, is shunting wagons from one siding to another(35).

to be continued…

    Notes

    31) D1-345 was a ‘Brigadelok’ built by Henschel (works number 13312) in 1915 and initially numbered HF 349.  It was amongst the locomotives inherited by PKP when the Kujawy system was taken over after the First World War.  It remained on the system until the Second World War, when it became DR’s 99 1553, but was taken away from the system during that war and nothing further is known about it.

    32) The Anastezewo – Maly Patnow section was built by Goslawice sugar factory in 1912 as a 750mm gauge ‘industrial’ railway.  It was converted to 600mm gauge by the invading Germans in 1914, passenger services later started and the line was taken over by PKP after the First World War.  It was converted back to 750mm gauge in the 1950s, but passenger services west of Jablonka Slupecka ceased in 1954/5.  Jablonka Slupecka – Maly Patnow closed in 1965 as a result of brown coal mining in the area.  Freight traffic on the remaining section gradually declined to zero, but it remained in place as a link between the Gniezno and Sompolno operations.  Following cessation of PKP narrow gauge operations in 2001 it was officially transferred to the Gniezno division, but saw no regular traffic and sections have since been lifted to facilitate further brown coal mining.

    33) Goslawice sugar factory’s branch to Naprusewo was built to 600mm gauge in the 1920s and regauged to 750mm in the 1950s.  It closed in about 1975.

    34) Goslawice sugar factory’s branch to Marszewo was built in the 1920s to 600mm gauge.  It probably closed in the 1950s when the other lines were regauged.

    35) D1-332 was a ‘Brigadelok’ built by Henschel (works number 12557) in 1914 and initially numbered HF 255.  It was amongst the locomotives inherited by PKP when the Kujawy system was taken over after the First World War.  It remained on the system until the Second World War, when it became DR’s 99 1548.  It was taken away from the system during that war but later returned and became PKP’s Tx1-328.  It went to Rogow about 1950, to Mlawa on 1st September 1954 and was withdrawn on 16th November 1955.

Off topic. On message.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Dyspozytor takes a trip down memory lane to his school days and reflects on the UK elections.

Lost domain

A treasure trove of transport history. The River Thames (bottom right) has been a transport route since before the Romans invaded Britain. The Roman road from London to Bath (left bottom to mid right) was by-passed by the Great West Road which itself was superseded by the M4 motorway. The canalised River Brent  (top left to bottom right) was opened in 1798 as part of the Grand Junction Canal. The area comprising both banks of the canal to the north of Brentford Locks was the canal company’s Brentford Dock. The last commercial traffic on this section of the canal ceased around 1980.

The London & South Western Railway’s line from Barnes to Hounslow (lower left to upper right) opened in 1849 and is still open for passenger services. The Great Western Railway’s Brentford Branch, opened in 1859, was the last commission of Brunel, the GWR’s chief engineer. The whole triangular built up area to the south of Thames Locks was the GWR’s Brentford Dock. The Dock closed in December 1964.

The Great West Road (mid left to top right) from Hounslow to Kew was opened around 1930. The remaining section from Kew in Middlesex to the Cromwell Road in London completed in the 1950s. The eastern section of the M4 motorway (top left to top right) from Slough to the Chiswick flyover was opened in 1965. The white oblong on the right is the Griffin Park ground of Brentford Football Club.

Satellite view courtesy Google Maps. Click the image to open an interactive map of this area on Google Maps.

Today, Parliamentary elections are being held in the United Kingdom. What have football and party politics got in common? Both are capable of generating enormous levels of passion, both – in spite of the media hype – seem to leave a large portion of the population stone cold. I first noted the similarities between the two as a schoolboy.

Let us start at the beginning. In the early 1960s, whenever I could get away from school, much of my time was spent on the Grand Union (formerly Grand Junction) canal at Brentford where – having made friends with the lock-keeper at Lock 99 – I became his unofficial deputy. I had discovered the canal, the lock and my friendly lock keeper while on a cycle ride to explore the ex Great Western Railway Brentford branch line.

Firestone

Almost the entire section of the Brentford branch line that lies to the north-east of the Great West Road is visible in this photograph. It shows the area as it was in 1953. The Imperial Biscuit Works is the factory on the extreme left – it had its own siding as did Firestone Rubber Tyre factory in the foreground. This building with its iconic Art Deco frontage was demolished during the August 1980 bank holiday weekend before it could be listed.

Lock 99 of the Grand Union Canal is visible on the extreme right and Brentford Town Goods Depot is in the middle distance. Those with a keen eye will spot the Great Western main line and Wharncliffe Viaduct which carries the line over the River Brent valley. Photo ©Historic England.

(Click the image to see the original on the Historic England website and for details regarding reuse.)

At 07:00 each morning during the holidays, I would help to lock through 6 or 7 lighters (unpowered barges) that had been waiting below Lock 99 while their two-man crews (tractor driver and steerer) had breakfast at the café serving the Firestone Tyre factory.

Already the narrow boat pairs (motor boat and unpowered butty) heading for Birmingham had left the British Waterways Brentford Dock and locked through Lock 99, before the lock-keeper had come on duty. They were in a hurry to clear the 6 lock Hanwell Flight before the lighters began to move.

On Friday afternoons I was allowed to leave school early and as often as no cycling along the canal in the late afternoon, I would see a pannier tank haul a train of coal wagons along the branch where it ran parallel to the canal.

And so at an early age my life became linked with two transport routes that were on the way out: the railway to Brentford Docks and the Grand Union Canal. Meanwhile the M4 motorway was being cut through one of the lakes of Osterley Park and taken over Boston Manor Park on an ugly steel viaduct.

My lock keeper friend took me to see the run down Brentford Docks just before they closed in December 1964. The tractor-hauled lighters carried their loads up to Hanwell and Southall until the closure of London Docks. Long distance narrowboat carrying along the Grand Union continued on a small until the closure of Blisworth Tunnel for major engineering work in 1980.

It was easy to see even at my tender age that a tiny tractor pulling a barge loaded with 80 tons of cargo, or a pair of narrow boats carrying 50 tons between them with the motor boat powered by a single cylinder Bolinger engine, or an ex GWR 0-6-0PT 57xx class loco pulling 25 coal wagons, were all burning much less fossil fuel than if the same loads were being carried by heavy lorries. Likewise it did not require a Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree from Oxford to see connect the dots when a Minister of Transport called Ernest Marples was promoting a switch from rail to road while his wife’s company, Marples Ridgeway, was building motorways.

Biscuits and Firestone

The Great West Road, looking from Osterley towards the Brentford Dock branch line in 1931. The Imperial Biscuit Works is the first factory on the left and Firestone Rubber Tyre factory is far distance. Photo ©Historic England.

(Click on the image to see it on the Historic England website and for details of re-use.)

During the 1960s, a great deal of effort was expended explaining to the general public that railways make a loss and road transport is ‘more economic’ to justify the wholesale destruction of Britain’s railways. A great deal less was said then, and has been said since, about the way that this economic argument is slanted against railways which in the UK, as in Poland, are expected to bear their capital and maintenance costs – a charge which is not made on the balance sheet of road transport. If the environmental and health costs of unbridled road expansion are taken into account the case for investing in railways becomes even stranger.

Ever wondered why in countries such as Austria and Switzerland which do put their roads and railways on the same financial footing it still ‘pays’ to transport rail freight by the wagonload and also carry it over their extensive networks of narrow gauge railways.

In 1993, Britain’s railways were broken up into over 90 companies and privatised. Poland’s railways are undergoing a similar process and the privatisation of PKP Energytyka – responsible for supplying the traction current – and PKP Informatyka – responsible for PKP’s computer services – is being rushed through with indecent haste.

Not surprisingly the ‘reform’ pushed up costs and made long-distance ‘walk-on’ fares too expensive for ordinary people who switched coach services. Since those days the major political parties have produced a great deal of hot air – usually while in opposition – about making railway services more affordable for passengers and switching freight from road to rail. These promises are quickly forgotten as soon as the opposition party is elected to government.

Which brings me back to the football analogy at the start of today’s post. While the fans roar their support for one or other side, the real action is taking place off the pitch. Who will invest in the club? Which players should be bought? What will the sponsor want for his money?

As it is with football so it is with mainstream politics. If you share my concern for the destruction wrought by the UK’s pro road transport policy and have still not cast your vote, why not fire a shot across the bows of the mainstream political parties and cast a vote for the Green Party?

EPSON scanner image

The site of Brentford GWR station in 1961. Note the overhead wires for providing the traction current for trolleybuses. The footbridge to the British Waterways office at Lock 100 can just be discerned under the railway bridge, Photo ©Ben Brooksbank.

(Click on image for details of licensing.)

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Wither Wolsztyn?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Wolsztyn’s 22nd annual steam locomotive parade had just three working locos!

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This Chabówka driver in charge of 0-6-0T Tkh49-1 was not the only person trying to figure out what was going on. Photo Marta Goltz.

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The non-working ‘awaiting overhaul’ engines were left in the shed, making photography difficult. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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The joy of Wolsztyn. Hands up who remembers when UK shed open days were like this? Photo Marta Goltz.

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Shy film star. Curiously, a tent blocked off the possibility of a proper ‘head-on’ photo of Ok1-359. The loco has appeared in many films including Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning “The Pianist”. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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While members of the public were permitted to explore nearly all the engines, Ok1-359 was awarded star treatment ond its footplate was a strictly ‘no-go’ area. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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Given a properly dried out boiler and generous doses of oil a steam loco will last forever. Ok1-359 was built by BMAG in 1917, and was last steamed in 2009. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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Good practice – a pragmatic attitude to health and safety, with the running lines securely protected. Poor practice – Ty1-76 like many other historic steam locomotives is kept out in the open all the year round. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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Thousands have come to see the engines, but only three locos appear at the parade: Wolsztyn only ‘in-ticket’ loco Ol49-69, and Chabówka’s 2-10-2T Okz32-2 and 0-6-oT Tkh49-1.

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What does the future bode for Wolsztyn – a clear road ahead or storm clouds gathering? Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

Many thanks to BTWT’s guest photographers. Jan Borzuchowski and Marta Goltz. Also special thanks to all our friends in PKP Cargo without whose assistance this report would have been impossible.

To be continued/…

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