Archive for July 21st, 2015

Wolsztyn Shed – Wielkopolska Vote “Yes”

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

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OL49-69 ready to depart with Woltur train, Wolsztyn. Photo William Wright.

(Click on images to see larger photos.)

Further to our report (BTWT, 1 July 2015) that representatives of all the parties (Wielkopolska Provincial Government, Wolsztyn District Council, Wolsztyn Town Council and PKP Cargo) had agreed in principle to proceed on the basis of a revised business plan, the council members of the various local authorities have been debating and voting on the proposals to set a new institute to run the shed. Each of the parties will be making a contribution to the setting up and operation of the shed (PKP Cargo – locomotives, rolling stock and facilities; others – start up capital and an ongoing financial contribution towards operating expenses) and participating in its strategic management.

Wolsztyn District Council (Starostwo Wolsztyńskie) have already voted in favour of the proposals and yesterday a critical milestone was passed when the Council of the Wielkopolska Provincial Government (Sejmik Wielkopolski) also passed a vote in favour. The Wielkopolska councillors’ vote was critical because the business plan envisages the provincial government being the principal funding source for the restoration and running of daily steam services.

The last council vote needed to secure the plan is that of the members of Wolsztyn Town Council, but with the town’s hospitality industry badly feeling the drop in tourism since the cessation of daily steam services, it is envisaged that Wolsztyn Mayor, Wojtek Lis, will have little difficulty in securing the support of the town’s councillors. The Town Council will consider the question during their meeting on August 3. If they vote in favour, the last piece of the jigsaw falls into place. There will be a formal signing ceremony sometime later, and December 1, 2016 is already pencilled in as the first day that the shed opens its doors under the auspices of its new owners.

The elephant in the room remains Poland’s railway infrastructure manager, PKP PLK. For reason best known to itself, PKP PLK insists on treating steam trains as if they were carrying out of gauge loads or nuclear waste. Whereas in other countries, steam trains are regarded as bringing useful publicity to the railway and their operators enjoy access to the railway network on the same (or even preferential) terms as those of other trains, in Poland PKP PLK demands a premium rate. As a result it is almost impossible to fill a steam train in Poland unless somebody – usually a local authority – picks up some of the bill.

With so many bodies pulling together to safeguard the future of Poland’s steam heritage at Wolsztyn would it not be appropriate for PKP PLK to also put a shoulder to the wheel?

Dyspozytor

Wolsztyn steam is alive…

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

 …passengers needed!

 

by William Wright

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Poznan Market Square. Photo William Wright

(Click on images to see larger photos.)

Standard-gauge steam services running on selected days around Wolsztyn are very much alive! I tested a few services on Thursday and Friday May 21 and 22, 2015.

My short tour started in Poznan – a fine town with plenty to discover. I caught a local electric train to Zbaszynek in time to see the afternoon steam train from Wolsztyn arrive. A few days earlier a problem with a wheel bearing had required immediate repair, but thankfully all was now well with Ol49-69 that was to haul all the steam services.

The steam journey to Wolsztyn started with a non-stop stretch to Zbaszyn, on the Berlin to Warsaw mainline. From there, and on all the lines radiating from Wolsztyn, the scenery is a mixture of small villages and forest landscapes; look out for deer and old-fashioned horse and cart farming! Wolsztyn is a small town, with for many visitors its principle attraction being the engine shed and several steam locomotives in various states of repair, but with plenty of fine local attractions to discover also worth exploring in its own right. Accommodation can be found easily.

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OL49-69 on arrival at Zbaszynek. Photo William Wright.

The following day, three return services covered part of the main routes out of Wolsztyn, to Nowa Wies Mochy, Rakoniewice and Stefanowo. Each service is mentioned clearly on the printed station departure board timetables. Tickets can be bought on the trains. The services ran perfectly to time, key railway staff were ready to signal departures, operate level-crossing gates and set signals. My visit not being a weekend, passenger numbers were very low, but this is still early days.

As reported in BTWT on 19 February 2015, the town of Wolsztyn, various other local authorities and the Wolsztyn Experience agreed to invest in a brand new tourist product – Woltur. This was set up by Patryk Szkopiec of IRPiK, the same organisation that runs Turkol, with the cooperation of PKP Cargo, responsible for the engine shed in Wolsztyn, and local train services operator, Przewozy Regionalne. Turkol continues to run longer-distance weekend steam specials.

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Frozen in time, Tuchorza station and station master. Photo William Wright.

The overall impression is a perfectly run service authentically reproducing a sample of timetabled standard-gauge steam services. My recommendation? Go now whilst the services still exist! For those interested in a more hands-on experience see the Wolsztyn Experience website.