Author Archive

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.

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Dramatic derailment in Switzerland

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

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The derailed carriages seen from the loco. Photo Graubünden Police.

News of a serious railway accident in Switzerland is always an extraordinary event – Swiss railways are amongst the safest in the world.

The accident occurred at approximately 12:45 on Wednesday 13 August. A train was travelling from St. Moritz to Chur on the Albula section of the Rhaetian Railway between Tiefencastel and Solis. The leading carriage just behind the locomotive was hit by a landslide. The carriage plunged down a ravine and fortunately snagged on some trees before it could gather enough momentum to crash through the forest.

The second coach ended up hanging over the brink of the embankment. The passengers were asked to walk to the back of the coach to keep it stable. The third coach also derailed, but remained upright on the tracks. The rear bogie of the locomotive was also apparently derailed, but the driver promptly brought the engine to a halt and it remained upright on the tracks.

The derailment location near Tiefencastel, Switzerland. Google Maps.

Some two inches of rain fell on Wednesday morning downhill – equivalent to the normal rainfall in the whole of August. The earth and soil, weakened by the rain poured down onto a 15m section of track. In some places the debris piled up 3m high.

Fortunately, there were no casualties – 5 passengers were seriously injured, 6 less so. None are in danger. Those unable to walk were taken to hospital from the scene by helicopter. Some 200 passengers were guided through a tunnel by members of staff and then taken by cars to Tiefencastel station from where they continued their journey by coach.

The Albula section of the Rhaetian Railway is expected to remain closed for two days while the landside is cleared and the hillside secured.

Photos:

Background:

Videos of journeys on the RB

Krosniewice death watch

Monday, 11 August 2014

With perhaps, the future of the daily ex Wolsztyn steam services being the one exception, no campaign has mobilised BTWT readers as much as the battle to save the Krosniewice Narrow Gauge Railway. Alas it seems that all our attempts – as well as the stalwart efforts of local enthusiasts – have failed to influence the decision makers.

As the various local authorities prepare to take over sections of the line, rip up the track and convert them into cycle paths, on July 6 our reporter paid a last nostalgic visit to photograph the railway’s remains at Ozorkow and Krosniewice.

The text and photographs in this article may be republished under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Volunteers tidy the path leading to the narrow gauge platform at Ozorkow. An Open Day is held each Sunday afternoon at the station. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

(All photos can be expanded by double clicking on the images.)

In its heyday the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways – comprising some 1,000 km of 600mm and 750mm lines – were Poland’s largest narrow gauge network. Starting from various independent agricultural and sugar beet railways the lines were expanded and connected together into a 600mm network for the purposes of supplying the Prussian forces during WW I.

When Poland recovered its independence the ‘main line’ was converted to 750mm. PKP constructed two new buildings at Krosniewice in the latest Art Deco style – the station building and the running shed.

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One of the attractions of the Sunday Open Days is the possibility of a ride on a platelayer’s trolley. Local volunteers pose with an itinerant Englishman. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

The Kujawy Railways survived WWW II and some of the remaining 600mm feeder lines were converted to 750mm gauge. At the start of 1991, PKP reorganised the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways into three independent railways the Gniezno Narrow Gauge Railway, the Sompolno Narrow Gauge Railway, and the Krosniewice Narrow Gauge Railway.

The Krosniewice Railway and the Gniezno Railway – but not the Sompolno Railway – were two of the some two dozen railways that were rescued from the wholesale destruction of the remaining PKP narrow gauge lines in 2001.

Thanks to co-operation between the then Mayor of Krosniewice, and the former PKP general manager of the line, the Town Council decided to acquire the Krosniewice line from PKP.

 

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At first sight Krosniewice station appears to be open. Closer inspection reveals to two changes wrought by Barbara Herman, the Mayor of  Krosniewice – the removal of the level crossing barriers across the main road, and the grave-like display of flowers in the platelayer’s trolley next to the level crossing. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

While the legal formalities for the transfer of the ownership of the line proceeded, the Council obtained an operating licence from PKP SA granted which it sub-licensed to SKPL, a society set up with the objective of carrying on operations on the recently closed narrow gauge railways.

The line’s future seemed secure. SKPL operated a regular passenger service on weekdays linking Krosniewice to the PKP stations at Ostrowy and Krzewie. On market days the service was extended to Dabrowice and Wielka Wies Kujawska.

But the main work on the line was freight – carrying supplies to and refined sugar from sugar refineries situated on the network. At the peak of SKPL operations the line was carrying 100,000 tonnes of freight a year.

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Looking to the North – everything appears neat and tidy. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

The legal wheels turned but slowly – Polish law required PKP to recreate the missing deeds for all the parcels of land over which the line ran before a formal handover could be concluded with Krosniewice Council.

Meanwhile, as a gesture of good faith, PKP transferred the ownership of all the line’s rolling stock – including a working Px48 steam locomotive – to the Council.

Unlike PKP, SKPL received no central government subsidy. During the off-season it was sometimes difficult to find the money to purchase replacement parts for the diesel locomotives and pay staff.

Slowly, disused feeder lines began to vanish…  .

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But a peek across the wall shows that every piece of glass is smashed in the skylight of the workshop roof. Photo BTWT.

Meanwhile a group of railway enthusiasts started clearing the overgrown trackbed on the disused track bed between Ozorkow and Krosniewice. While senior SKPL management – based in the Zbiersk Cukrownia HQ of the Kalisz narrow gauge railway – backed their efforts, relations with management and staff at Krosniewice were strained.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of local railway enthusiasts was when GDDKiA (Poland’s Directorate of Trunk Roads and Motorways) decided that they needed to take over a section of the narrow gauge railway in the vicinity of Topola Krolewska to build a new wide viaduct across the Lodz-Kutno railway line. Thanks to the energetic lobbying of the enthusiasts, the GDDKiA ended up having to construct a brand new viaduct for the narrow gauge line as well!

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The narrow gauge freight wagons have received no attention since the line’s closure. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

In 2006, at special meeting in Ozorkow the supporters of the line decided to formally constitute themselves into the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways Society. SKPL Chairman, Tomasz Strapagiel, attended the meeting and gave the venture his support.

The Society acquired a passenger coach from the defunct Piotrkow Trybunalski narrow gauge railway and restored it to running order. The Society’s volunteers cleared the trackbed from Krzewie to Ozorkow and, with the co-operation of SKPL, a number of special trains – which proved very popular – were run through to Ozorkow.

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The Art Deco building in the background is the running shed. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

Then in 2007 or thereabouts a new Mayor was elected in Krosniewice. Whereas the previous Mayor saw the Krosniewice Railway primarily as a transport undertaking, the new Mayor – Barbara Herman – saw the railway as a lucrative development opportunity.

Soon she visited the line, in the company of the local PKP property surveyor, and expressed an interest in demolishing the historic workshop buildings in order to make was for a major new property development – the General Wladyslaw Anders Centre.

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Recently repainted, the point lever and indicator adds a surreal touch. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

Mrs Herman requested that SKPL vacate the workshop buildings. The General Manager pointed out that SKPL needed the workshops to maintain the transporter wagons used to carry the standard gauge freight wagons. The Mayor countered that she had no interest in carrying ant freight though she might be prepared to countenance a small ‘fun fair railway’ somewhere on the site.

SKPL refused to vacate the workshop buildings. The Mayor countered by terminating SKPL’s licence to operate the railway.

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These coal trucks have a special compartment for a brakeman and were last used on sugar beet trains. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

The last train ran on 31 March, 2008. Ironically SKPL were in negotiation with a bulk aggregate supplier to deliver several hundred tonnes of roadstone required for building the A2 and A1 motorways. Ads a result of the Mayor’s decision roads in the Lodz Province were subject to tens of thousands of tonne km of unnecessary road traffic.

The Mayor’s decision provoked a massive storm of protest. Realising which way the wind was blowing, the Mayor trimmed her sails maintaining a public stance that she supported the reopening of the railway. She even allowed local activists to organise a couple of special trains from Krosniewice to Ozorkow to demonstrate her good intentions. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Mayor continued her attempts to have the workshop buildings demolished.

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Barely visible under the undergrowth – a line of standard gauge transporter wagons. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

But the Mayor’s plans hit an unexpected obstacle in the form of the Wojewodzki Konserwator Zabytkow, Mr Wojciech Szygendowski. Mr Szygendowski refused to grant permission to have the historic listed buildings demolished.

With her plans apparently thwarted the Mayor decided to reverse her predecessor’s decision to acquire the whole of the Krsoniewice Narrow Gauge Railway from PKP. Instead she came up with the plan that each local council should acquire just that section of line that lay within the its own administrative boundaries.

Now the demise of the railway could become a collective affair – one council could use the line for a cycle path, another for road improvements… and as the line died section by section and the historic workshop buildings deteriorated she could try yet again to have them demolished.

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The low buildings were the machine shops. The smashed windows and doors tell their own story. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

Without any maintenance, the workshop buildings deteriorate year by year. Unless a ‘white knight’ appears on the scene it seems increasingly like that Mrs Barbara Herman will succeed in her plan to bring about the final end of the Krosniewice Railway.

Further reading:

Wolszstyn steam – proceed with caution

Saturday, 2 August 2014

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Junction colour light signal. From a photo by Henryk Żychowski.

Thanks to the efforts of Howard Jones – who created the ‘Wolsztyn Experience’ and negotiated an agreement to market footplate passes to international railway enthusiasts – daily steam passenger services (with occasional interruptions) have survived for some 17 years since the end of regular steam haulage on Poland’s railways. A proportion of Wolsztyn Experience’s revenues helps to subsidize the running costs of the shed and the repair of individual locomotives.

Wolsztyn Shed is the last such installation in Europe and most certainly in the Northern Hemisphere. Visitors come from all around the world and contribute an estimated 1 million Euro to the Wielkopolska economy. Howard Jones, himself, was awarded the MBE for his efforts.

Since March this year, the daily steam workings have been suspended and the Wolsztyn locomotives have only been steamed spasmodically mainly to haul the Turkol specials. Meanwhile the principle stakeholders: the Chief Executive (Marszałek) of Wielkopolska Province, PKP Cargo, Koleje Wielkopolskie (Wielkopolska Railways) and the Mayor of Wolsztyn have been hammering out a deal to create a new organisation to run manage the shed and its locomotives in the future.

Now, at last, an agreement in principle has been reached, the formal documents are being drafted, and – after several postponements – early September has been announced as the time when everything is to be signed and sealed.

The depot will be managed by a new body with the legal status of a cultural foundation. The foundation will be able to accept and seek grants and donations and, if well-managed, should ensure that the future of the shed is secure. This scheme has received the backing of Brian Simpson, MEP, when he was chair of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee.

But while the future of the Wolsztyn Shed would seem to be secure, the future of the daily steam services may be less so. One of the stakeholders, Koleje Wielkopolskie (controlled by the Marszałek), is less than enthusiastic about the daily steam workings (the feature that made Wolsztyn unique) and would prefer steam operations to be restricted to a limited number of special trains and the attitude of the Mayor of Wolsztyn is said to be ambivalent.

BTWT readers have already sent many letters about the future of the Wolsztyn steam workings. Maybe now is the time the one last letter? It would be opportune to congratulate the key players on the progress achieved so far towards securing the future of the shed, and at the same time pointing out that, without a daily steam service, Wolsztyn is just another – not very special – railway museum.

These we believe are the people whose resolve needs to be strengthened:

The Mayor of Wolsztyn

mgr Andrzej Rogozinski
Burmistrz Wolsztyna
Urząd Miejsji
Rynek 1
64-200 Wolsztyn
POLAND

mob. 606 972 203
tel. 68 347 45 0
fax. 68 3842747
e-mail. burmistrz@wolsztyn.pl

The Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province

Marek Woźniak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18, pokój 142, budynek C
61-713 Poznań
POLAND

tel. 61 626 66 00
fax. 61 626 66 01
e-mail. marszalek@umww.pl

The Chief Executive of Koleje Wielkopolskie

Włodzimierz Wilkanowicz
Prezes Zarządu
Koleje Wielkopolskie Sp. z o.o.
ul. Składowa 5
61-897 Poznań
POLAND

tel. 61- 27-92-700
fax. 61-27-92-709
e-mail. wlodzimierz.wilkanowicz@koleje-wielkopolskie.com.pl

Previous articles about Wolsztyn:

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.

More:

Some photos:

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.

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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?

Sources:

 

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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Wolsztyn plan gets EU chair support!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

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PT47-112 at Wolsztyn. Photo Hubert Smietanka. CC2.5 licence.

Brian Simpson, the chair of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, has entered the battle to save the Wolsztyn engine shed, and its daily timetabled steam workings. Mr Simpson has sent a detailed letter to Adam Purwin, the new boss of PKP Cargo, strongly supporting the idea that a new entity be created to be the long-term custodian of Wolsztyn and that the new entity take the form of a cultural institute.

The idea of a cultural institute is the third iteration in the development of ideas for the long-term future of Wolsztyn in over three years. BTWT has had an opportunity to talk to the people who are working on the plan at PKP HQ in Warsaw, and the plan seems the best solution yet.

Previous plans for the long-term future of Wolsztyn envisaged setting up a company for the specific purpose of operating the shed and maintaining the locomotives used for the daily steam trains. The main drawback of the plan was that the company would have operated with the legal status of a commercial entity – precluding certain kinds of donations and financial support.

A cultural institute, could be the beneficiary of all sorts of grants and donations – including EU support – that would be not be available to a commercial entity.

Flirting in Lodz

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The first Stadler FLIRT EMUs have arrived in Lodz. They are part of an 110 million euro project grandly called “The Building of the Lodz Urban Area Railway system” (Budowa  systemu Lodzkiej Kolei Aglomeracyjnej). The project is actually nothing of the sort – no new railway lines, urban or otherwise, are being built – but does include the purchase of 20 two-car FLIRT EMUs, the construction of a maintenance depot on the site of the erstwhile Lodz Widzew marshalling yard and a 15 year maintenance contract for the EMUs.

The EMUs will operate services from Lodz to Sieradz, Kutno, Lowicz and Koluszki. The first of these, Lodz-Sieradz is due to start on June 15.

A number of old stations have been refurbished and a a few entirely new stations have been built. On 30 April, 6 units were displayed to the inspection of the public and press at Lodz Kaliska Station.

Inspired by the name FLIRT (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train) Questia, the PR company which managed the event, decided to give the ceremony a wedding theme. And so, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, here is our slightly tongue-in-cheek report of the proceedings.

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The celebrant anxiously awaits the arrival of the bride and groom – Witold Stepien, the Chief Executive of Lodz Province gets ready for his speech. Photo BTWT.

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The best man frets – Andrzej Wasilewski, Chairman of the Lodzka Kolej Aglomeracyjna, delivered the second speech. Photo BTWT.

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Here comes the bride! Security guards and a railway man spoil the view as the first train consisting of 3 two-car EMUs arrives at platform 2 of Lodz Kaliska station. Photo BTWT.

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Followed by the groom! The second train arrives on the other track. Photo BTWT.

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The groom is relaxed – Christian Spichiger, Chairman of Stadler Polska and Vice Chairman Stadler Central Europe, talks to the media. Photo BTWT.

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The happy couple – Christian Spichiger and an unknown admirer. Photo BTWT.

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Everybody wishes the couple a long and happy future – another bright idea from the PR company. Photo BTWT.

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The 1970 – 90s re-building of Lodz Kaliska left the station with low platforms. Photo BTWT.

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Getting on board is much easier when the step is extended. Photo BTWT.

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Stadler are to be congratulated in meeting the provincial government’s requirement of squeezing in the maximum number of seats and, at the same time making them very comfortable. Photo BTWT.

Polish railways are dying and dangerous

Thursday, 10 April 2014

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Public funds invested in railway infrastructure as a proportion of public funds invested in road infrastructure

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All funds invested in railway infrastructure as a proportion of funds invested in road infrastructure (2007-2011)

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Fatalities on EU railways per million train-km

 

PKP plans York-style museum

Friday, 14 February 2014

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Spotted at York, September 2013: 3717 City of Truro (the first steam engine to reach 100 mph) and A4 pacifics, 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower, and 60010 Dominion of Canada (in LNER blue livery). A4 Mallard holds the world record for steam, 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). Photo BTWT.

PKP S.A. is planning to build a York style museum at Szczesliwice to the west of the Odolany carriage sidings in order to provide a new home for the Warsaw Railway Museum. The plans received a recent boost when agreement was reached in principle at a meeting attended earlier this week by Elzbieta Bienkowska the Minister of Infrastructure and Development, Adam Struzik the Chief Executive of Mazowsze Province and PKP bosses.

It is hoped that the museum project will benefit from EU funds. The fact that Mrs Bienkowska is in charge of inter alia the allocation and disbursement of EU funds should greatly assist the project. The plans envisage creating a modern family-oriented facility with a focus of rail transport including trams. The museum is to be dubbed a ‘Centre of Communication and Technology’ which would allow it to provide a home for the historical relics currently in the care of the Museum of Technology inside Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.

The future of the Warsaw Railway Museum collection had been uncertain for over 10 years. For more than 10 years, PKP has wanted to redevelop the Warszawa Glowna station site, but the museum authorities had dug in their heels and refused to consider moving to any other location.

One of our editorial staff has been busy for the last four years campaigning behind the scenes that Poland deserves a world-class national railway museum constructed with the help of EU funds. The campaign attracted the support of senior figures in the European railway heritage movement, business leaders in Poland and at least one Polish government minister. For a time, he worked hand-in-glove with the museum authorities, but when they discovered that his objective was a proper national museum – but not necessarily on the current Glowna site – cooperation ceased overnight!

Some diehard preservationists are already campaigning against the move of the museum fearing that it will lead to the demolition of the Glowna station building. Unfortunately, PKP has no choice but to redevelop the Glowna site – under strict conditions set last year by Poland’s Ministry of Finance if PKP wants to benefit from EU cash during the new funding period, it has to generate its ‘own funds’ contribution itself from the sale of surplus assets. The Glowna site is the most valuable plum in the whole PKP property portfolio.

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Rail Museum Director resigns

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Light at the end of the tunnel?

PKP’s proposed new location for the Warsaw Railway Museum. Map courtesy Google Maps.

On January 10 Ferdynand Ruszczyc, the Director of the Warsaw Railway Museum resigned. Mr Ruszczyc had been in post since 2009. Prior to his appointment he had been Director of the National Museum for 12 years which he left after being censured by the Minister of Culture.

His reign at the Warsaw Railway Museum had not been without controversy. He felt more at home organising art exhibitions – his grandfather had been a famous Polish painter – than promoting Poland’s railway heritage.

Like his predecessor, Janusz Sankowski, Mr Ruszczyc stubbornly resisted all attempts by PKP to relocate the museum to a new site. For many years the PKP SA board have wanted to redevelop the fomer Warszawa Glowna station site. The redevelopment has become even more urgent after last years government cuts to the railway budget and the decision that if PKP wants to benefit from EU funded projects it will have to generate the required ‘match funding’ from the sale of its surplus assets.

PKP reportedly want to relocate the Museum to the Szczesliwice carriage siding site about 2 km to the West of Warszawa Zachodnia station. A small team has been charged with preparing detailed proposals and concluding negotiations with Adam Struzik, the Chief Executive of the Mazowsze provincial government.

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PKP PLK takes over train information

Monday, 16 December 2013

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Timetable change at Lodz Kaliska on 19.09.2013. Photo BTWT.

(All images can be clicked to enlarge.)

At midnight on Saturday 14 December, a new railway timetable was introduced. PKP IC are to run fewer trains than last year. Inter City will run 326 trains on the national railway network (355 – 2012/3) and 40 international trains running across the Polish border (52 – 2012/3).

PKP PLK, the company responsible for Poland’s railway infrastructure, will take overall responsibility for the quality of information provided to passengers at all of Poland’s railway stations with the exception of the Warsaw main line stations: Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Centralna and Warszawa Wschodnia.

There will be standards for the way train services are announced as well as the information that is shown on the various display systems. There will quality inspectors to ensure that the standards are met, service level agreements and fines for those responsible for not achieving them.

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Information is inconsistent and incomplete. Photo BTWT.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that PKP bosses are creating yet another management team to solve a problem that would just melt away after the application of a little customer feedback, analysis and common sense. The problem is not that one station announcer says, The train at platform 3, track 5, is for Lodz Kaliska, calling at Zyradow, Skierniewice and Koluszki, and another says, The train for Lodz Kaliska, calling at Zyradow, Skierniewice and Koluszki, is at platform 3, track 5; the problem is that in both cases the information is incomplete.

First of all, it would be helpful – as I hurtle through the station wondering if I have time to reach the platform or would my time be better invested by buying a ticket for the next train – to have the departure time confirmed. In the UK the station announcer informs us, The train at platform 3 is the 16:16hrs for Lodz Kaliska… . Why not also announce the departure time in Poland?

Secondly, the list of calling stations has stations missing. The train also calls at the Lodz main stations: Lodz Widzew and Lodz Chojny, but you will not obtain this information from the printed timetables displayed at Centralna or any of the electronic train departure indicators.

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Heath warning on the PKP PLK passenger information portal.

The printed timetable displayed at stations is a plakat relacyjny which shows the train times and departure details, but not all the calling stations. So if you do not have access to the on-line timetable, or are not Internet-savvy it would seem that PKP wants you to go by bus.

Assuming that you have found the right destination, train and platform – all is well until things go wrong. There is then a dearth of information, and station staff and train crew seem to melt into thin air. A pertinent tale about the 18:46 from Warszawa Srodmiescie to Piaseczno was recently published on the W-wa Jeziorki blog. I wonder just how many people in PKP Informatyka are working on smart travel information systems?

Source:

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Pyskowice – some good news at last!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

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The pride of the fleet, restored Ty42-24 steam test, 18.6.2013.
Photo Marek Ciesielski

On Monday 9 December the District Court in Katowice threw out the case brought by PKP SA against TOZKiOS, the railway society that is responsible for the Pyskowice railway museum. PKP SA were claiming that the society owed several tens of thousands of zloty in unpaid rent and were seeking a court order requiring the society to pay the back rent – or have its assets seized – and forcing TOZKiOS to quit the site.

The court found that the society had a perfectly valid agreement with infrastructure company PKP PLK and that it had kept its rental payments up to date. Of course, the court order does not provide TOZKiOS what the society most needs – security of tenure and access to the old roundhouse area of the  site, but it does buy time.

It is to be hoped that it may be possible to persuade both parties that the way forward is the path of conciliation and not litigation and that through constructive dialogue a solution can be found that represents a ‘win-win’ for both sides.

Waiting for some TLC, the Pyskowice engine shed. Photo BTWT.

For many years TOZKiOS has been prevented from accessing the old roundhouse site. Without an effective guardian, the engine shed has been deteriorating fast. Several years ago accumulated snow led to a roof collapse.

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Smashed down and stolen door. Photo TOZKiOS.

TOZKiOS have tried to keep the old shed area secure, but a week ago scrap thieves smashed down an old door and are now helping themselves to the metal contents inside the shed.

PKP boss launches clean up campaign

Friday, 13 December 2013

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Former PKP Cargo Chairman, Lukasz Boron. Photo PKP Cargo.

Shortly after sacking PKP Cargo boss, Lukasz Boron, PKP SA Chairman, Jakob Karnowski, launched a drive to introduce a code of ethics across the whole of the PKP Group.

Each PKP subsidiary is to have its own code of practice and a person responsible for making sure that it is implemented. A senior project manager, reporting direct to Karnowski, will oversee the whole process.

‘Spanish customs’ were once common in PKP. It was not unknown for regional heads in the infrastructure company, PKP PLK, to run their own track maintenance companies employing PKP PLK staff and bidding for PKP PLK contracts.

Conflicts of interest were rife. Some PKP Cargo bosses had shares in Cargosped, a logistics company that bid for freight haulage contracts in competition with PKP Cargo.

Industry sources claim that the wagon standing time scam is still common. PKP Cargo customers are charged for the amount of time wagons are left in sidings waiting to be unloaded, certain Cargo officials are happy – in return for a small consideration – to book a lower amount of standing time.

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Audit Commission slams railway infrastructure

Thursday, 12 December 2013

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Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, Chief Executive of NIK. NIK video.

(Click image to go to the source page on the NIK website.)

Poland’s National Audit Commission published a report today about the poor safety record of Polish railways. Poland’s railways had the second highest accident record in 2010 and 2011 (Romania had first place), though they were knocked down to third place by the Slovak Republic in 2012.

The most common reason for railway accidents was the bad state of the track, points and signalling equipment. Only 43% of Poland’s railway infrastructure is in good condition, 30% is in a satisfactory condition (speed limits are in force and certain elements need renewal); 23% is unsatisfactory (major speed limits are imposed, and many elements require renewal; 4% is in bad condition.

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European railway accident league table. Source UIC.

(Click to enlarge.)

While the National Audit Commission report highlights the need for more investment in Poland’s railway network, Polish government representatives in Brussels are lobbying hard to be able to use more EU funds on road building. See More on Massel sacking.

More on Massel sacking

Friday, 6 December 2013

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Former Rail Minister Andrzej Massel. Photo Shalom.

BTWT has been told by sources close to the Ministry of Transport the reasons why the Undersecretary of State responsible for Poland’s railways was sacked by Elzbieta Bienkowska, the new Infrastructure and Development Minister – he was too pro rail!

Apparently, the Polish government has been trying to wriggle out of the EU Commission’s requirement that 60% of the next tranche of EU transport infrastructure funding should be spent on rail. Polish government negotiators have been claiming that there was no way that Polish railways could use all the funds and that most of the funding should be spent on road building.

Massel broke ranks and told European Commission officials that Polish railways could use all the funds. So he was sacked.

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Rail Minister sacked!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

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Former Rail Minister, Andrzej Massel; Railway Industry Association, Director General, Jeremy Candfield; British Ambassador, Robin Barnett, in conversation at TRAKO, September 2013. Photo BTWT.

Four deputy Ministers – including rail minister,  Andrzej Massel, at the former Ministry of Transport, Construction and maritime Affairs – have been dismissed by Elzbieta Bienkowska, the new boss at the ‘super-ministry’ of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Massel was appointed Undersecretary of State responsible rail by previous transport boss Slawomir Nowak on 28 December 2010 to sort out the timetabling chaos that occurred under his predecessor Juliusz Engelhardt.