Author Archive

Expansion of Pendolino services

Monday, 5 October 2015

PKP InterCity have taken delivery of their twentieth and final Pendolino unit.  The EMU’s were built by Alstom at their Savigliano plant in Italy.  Introduced to the timetable in December 2014, and branded as Express InterCity Premium (EIP), they have been working scheduled services on the Warsaw – Czestochowa – Wroclaw, and Gdansk – Warsaw – Krakow routes.  With their top speed in public service of 200 km/h they have cut journey times between the Polish cities.

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A Pendolino waits in Wroclaw Glowny for a departure to Warsaw. 8 February 2015.  Photo: John Savery

InterCity have now announced plans to expand the routes, with Jelenia Gora and Kolobrzeg joining the network.  The Jelenia Gora to Wroclaw route has recently been modernised, with PLK spending a quoted 400 million zloty on works since 2010.  The result is a reduction in the journey time to Wroclaw of approximately one and a half hours, compared with five years ago.

For those not familiar with the route, the line follows a fairly straight run down to Jaworzyna Slask, before winding its way up the climb to Walbrzych, and onwards to Jelenia Gora at the foot of the Karkonosze range.  The twisty windy route would be well suited to the tilting Pendolino’s.  Sadly PKP InterCity cut the tilting element from the Pendolino project at design stage, and so passengers will not be able to take advantage of this or the potential for increased speeds on this stage of the journey.

The introduction of the through services to Warsaw (using Pendolinos) is due to take place at the December timetable change.

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New Line Opens with Steam

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Reading the title, you may be forgiven for thinking that Behind The Water Tower has decided to cover the re-opening of The Borders Railway (known formerly as The Waverley Route.)

Whilst worthy of coverage in its own right, the similarities between the formal reopening of part of the former route down to Tweedbank, by Her Majesty the Queen, and the opening of the new inland route (the Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna) between Gdansk and Gdynia are striking.

Both the Borders Railway, and the routes are effectively old routes relayed and reopened with new stations.  Neither is electrified.  The 19.5 kilometre long Gdansk line provides a direct connection to the airport on the alignment of the pre-war line from Kokoszski to Wrzeszcz, with a new chord built at the western end of the line to connect with the non-electrified line to Gdynia.  Train services on the line are provided by ten diesel railcars, built by Bydgoszcz based PESA.

Both routes featured steam haulage as part of the official opening.  Her Majesty was conveyed by the royal train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank hauled by preserved A4 “Union of South Africa”.  John Cameron, who has owned the locomotive longer than its original builder, the LNER, and British Railways combined was present on the footplate for the occasion.

Poland’s new line (Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna) also had steam present for its official opening.  TKh05353, owned by DB Schenker, and loaned to and operated by KSK Wroclaw was brought in specially for the event.  You may be forgiven for wondering why such a diminutive industrial shunter was brought in to feature in such a prestigous event.  After all, with Poland’s Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz conducting the opening of the first major new passenger line in the last 25 years, you would have thought that a more suitable locomotive could be provided.  Apparently not.  Despite Poland still having steam locomotives with PKP Cargo, neither Wolsztyn nor Chabowka were able to provide a locomotive to cover the event.  Wolsztyn had already contractually committed to provide steam haulage for a TurKol special with their sole in-ticket Ol49, and therefore understandably had to honour that commitment.  It is unclear why Chabowka were unable to provide one of their four in-ticket locomotives for the event.

15. Oficjalne foto dla prasy

Made in Poland.  TKh05353 sits alongside one of the new PESA-built railcars.  Photo: Marek Ciesielski

Originally restored at the former sand railway works at Dzierzno, near to Pyskowice, TKh05353 was operated and maintained by DB Schenker.  Following the sale of the works, the locomotive was moved to another DB Schenker workshop in Rybnik, where it only saw limited use.  Subsequently it has been loaned to KSK Wroclaw who have successfully overhauled the engine, and had it recertified for further operation.

Behind the Water Tower congratulate KSK Wroclaw on their success at operating the locomotive, and for providing a professional service at the opening of the Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna.

21. Bliskie spotkania trzeciego stopnia

TKh meets Pendolino.  Photo: Marek Ciesielski

Transwersalna closure puts charters in doubt

Thursday, 17 September 2015

 

The sudden decision to close the line from Kasina Wielka to Nowy Sacz to passenger traffic has taken several groups by surprise, not least Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Wolsztyńskiej Parowozowni (TPWP) who have a planned photo charter for 10 October.  The line from Chabowka to Nowy Sacz, part of the Kolej Transwersalna had recently been subject to renewed activity, due to the Małopolskie Szlaki Turystyki Kolejowej (Malopolska Railway Tourism), organised by the Nowy Sacz Railway Enthusiasts Society.  The society had recently received funding of 200,000 zl, (about £35,000) from the Malopolska regional government to run a series of charters along the line.  They too, have had to change plans, for trains later this month, and into October and November.

Ty42-107 on the closed section, 26 May 2013

Ty42-107 heads a special organised by the Nowy Sacz Railway Enthusiasts Society towards Chabowka, 26 May 2013.  Photo: John Savery

The decision, taken on safety grounds, was made by PLK, the business which runs Polish rail tracks.  With limited (if no) maintenance being undertaken on sections of the line, the permanent way is in poor condition.  The remaining part of the line, from Chabowka to Kasina Wielka remains open.

The line has been threatened with closure before however had a last minute reprieve.  With no scheduled freight service over the line, the closure is effectively a total closure over the scenic and heavily graded section between Kasina Wielka and Nowy Sacz.

 

Locos on the move

Monday, 16 February 2015

1255 - Lorry

Ol49-61 after arriving at Dzierzoniow. Photo: John Savery

Ol49-61 now has a new home.  After many years languishing in Elk, the loco has now moved south, albeit on the back of a low loader.

Its new home from 8 February is Dzierzoniow, in Dolny Śląsk, at the former locomotive depot.  The former depot is to become an outpost of Muzeum Techniki i Przemysłu, which is based in Jaworzyna Śląsk.

Sosnowiec

Ol49-61 being readied for unloading. Photo: John Savery

The Ol49 joins TKt48-72, which was formerly at Jarocin.  Both locomotives were purchased at the PKP Nieruchomosci tender in 2014, along with a number of other vehicles, including Ol49-102 and Ol49-9.

The state of the loco’s meant a road move was preferable.  Given that the loading gauge on Poland’s roads is less than the rail loading gauge, the highest parts had to be removed for the trip, and were carried on the bed of the low loader.

1258 - Chimney and smoke deflectors

Items that put the load out of gauge for the Polish road system were taken off prior to the move. Photo: John Savery

Ol49-9 has also made the move in the past few days, with Ol49-102 expected to follow shortly.

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.

Regulator 1 - KC

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.

IMG_7671 - view down boiler - no cladding - JS

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

Great Continental Railway Journeys – Poland

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Portillo cab view

Michael Portillo rides the cab of Ol49-59.
Still courtesy BBC TV.

The BBC series “Great Continental Railway Journeys” is currently airing on UK television.  The latest series (3) devoted an episode to Poland.

Filmed in the spring of this year, the Michael Portillo and his Bradshaw guide start their journey in the restored heart of Warsaw, before travelling to Lodz, once a cotton capital to rival Manchester.

His Poznan stop includes the obligatory visit to the goats in the Rynek (Market Square), and the Kaiser’s Castle (or Palace) a short walk from the railway station.  The footage of the station is of the new concrete and glass structure (also known as “Poznan City Center” shopping centre), rather than the older building, or even the Dworzec Letni.

Portillo finds time to visit Wolsztyn, referring to it being the place where scheduled from where steam services still run.  His visit, on April 7, fell a few days after the suspension of the service, which as readers will know, has still not recommenced. His footplate ride out to Nowa Wies involved a special train, as there were no scheduled services.  Viewers can draw their own conclusions about his firing (watch the gloves and style).

The onward journey and visit to Wroclaw involved a visit around the Bombardier railway works, formerly known as Linke-Hoffman (before the war) and Pafawag (after the war), before travelling out of Wroclaw via the restored Wroclaw Głowny station.

The shots of Krakow are the familiar Rynek and Mariacki church, and a trip around the Stalinist-era Nowa Huta, grafted onto the side of the old town by the communist regime.

The full programme is available to UK residents for another 3 weeks on the BBC iPlayer here. Sadly viewers in Poland without a proxy server are blocked.

Wolsztyn elects new mayor

Monday, 24 November 2014

Wojciech Lis

Wojciech Lis, the newly elected Mayor of Wolsztyn.
Photo Wojciech Lis.

The recent local elections have seen a change in leadership in Wolsztyn.

The new Mayor is Wojciech Lis, known to many for his factual and regular updates on the Wolsztyn steam scene through his website parowozy.com.pl, which he has operated for well over a decade.

It is clear that since the suspension of the regular scheduled service, the town has been substantially quieter.  It is hoped that such an openly pro-steam mayor will vigorously push for the reinstatement of the daily steam services.

Behind the Water Tower congratulates Mr Lis on his election, and wishes him well for his tenure.

PKP Intercity ticketing system collapses – Heads roll

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

No PKP IC

Tomorrow’s morning trains from Lodz to Warsaw. Only the Przewozy Regionalne online booking service is working. Image TK Telecom train timetable portal.

(Click image to expand.)

The relaunch of PKP Intercity’s ticketing system, timed to coincide with the sale of tickets for the new Pendolino service starting in December,  has ended in farce.  Launched on Sunday 16 November, the service quickly collapsed, and whilst booking offices at stations have been resolved, the online service, which handles Intercity’s sales is still down.  Ticket machines are also affected.  Together, they handle 10% of sales.  No timetable is given for resolution. As of this evening, the online service remains unusable.

PKPIC null

PKP IC’s own ticket portal displays a dearth of information.

A crisis team has been set up, and the problem blamed on the lack of compatibility with the new system, and the existing archaic systems used throughout the PKP network.

Heads have rolled.  Paweł Hordyński, the board member with responsibility for IT and the new ticketing system has been removed from his post.  A further two directors have also gone.

As a means of apology, Intercity have increased the availability of the cheapest tickets (49zl) for the new Pendolino service threefold.  Assuming there is a means for buying them…

Intercity have stated that the launch date for the Pendolino is unaffected.

Wolsztyn – The Final Parade?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

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Ty42-24 passing through the signals on the erstwhile line to Konotop. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

(Click images to expand.)

Wolsztyn’s annual May parade took place on 3 May.  A much smaller event than usual, which has cast doubts on whether or not the event will continue.

No German based locomotives were present. Poland’s fractured rail industry appears to have put paid to that. From what we understand, faced with swingeing track access charges and other fees, the German railtours could not break even for a sensible fare. Given that the fees levied on last year’s trains led to them making a loss, a decision was made by German railtour organisers not to risk making further losses this year.

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade, 3 May 2014..

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade. Photo John Savery.

Chabowka supplied 3 in ticket locos: Ty42-107, Ol12-7 and TKt48-191, all being moved from their southern Polish base. Wolsztyn could only muster 2 in ticket locos, Ol49-59 (making it’s last appearance before overhaul at Leszno), and Ol49-69. Quite why PKP allows Chabowka to keep 3 locos in working order (with the boiler for the OKz32 also standing by ready to fit) compared with Wolsztyn’s single remaining loco is beyond reason, given that the number of steamings and charters done by Chabowka is minimal, and is probably worth an article on its own.

 

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Chabowka’s Ty42-107 and Pyskowice’s Ty42-24 in the shed at Wolsztyn. The devil is in the detail! Photo Marek Ciesielski.

Pride of the show was Ty42-24, restored in Pyskowice by Zbyszek and Krzysiek Jakubina.  Making its debut at the Chabowka gala last year, the standard of restoration is exemplary, and the quality of the finish is far superior to that on Ty42-107, overhauled by full-time staff at Chabowka.

Also present were a Czech loco (2-8-2 Mikado 475- 179) and Club Albatross’ Slovakian 4-8-2 498-104.

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Slovakian 498-104 during the Parade, 3 May 2014. Photo John Savery.

So what does the future hold?

Despite optimistic reports in this month’s Railway Magazine, there are no firm guarantees that steam will actually return to the daily services.  As yet no deal has been reached, however it is clear that the lobbying by concerned supporters is hitting the mark. From what we have heard, at least one letter prompted by the appeal in BTWT has actually reached Jakub Karnowski, the boss of PKP, and he has charged the team looking at the Warsaw Railway Museum project to also look closely at the situation in Wolsztyn.

IMG_6990 - Ty42-24 at Wolsztyn, 05-05-14

With the sun glinting off the gleaming paintwork, Ty42-24 prepares to return south to Wroclaw. Photo John Savery.

A team in PKP Cargo’s strategy unit is now working on a business plan to set up a cultural institute to take over long-term responsibility for the shed and its locos. In the meantime, it is probably not a bad idea to keep up the pressure! If you were thinking of writing a letter, but have not already done so why not drop a line to one or both of the people below. Physical letters are best, but you could also send a pdf file version of a properly formatted letter as an e-mail enclosure.

We believe that the cultural institute idea deserves support, however it is important to point out that what made Wolsztyn absolutely unique was the daily timetabled regular passenger service, hauled by the steam engines stabled there, and that it was this that attracted visitors to Wolsztyn from all around the world.

1. Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Provincial Government

Pan Wojciech Jankowiak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań
Poland

wojciech.jankowiak@umww.pl

2. PKP Cargo Chairman

Pan Adam Purwin
Prezes Zarządu
PKP CARGO S.A.
ul. Grójecka 17
02-021 Warszawa
Poland

a.purwin@pkp-cargo.eu

 

No deal. No steam.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Friday’s meeting between representatives of PKP Cargo and the Wielkopolska provincial government ended without agreement.

No further talks are scheduled until 18 April, and with no agreement, steam services will cease on 31 March.

Ol49-59 has the dubious honour of hauling the last service, the afternoon Wolsztyn to Leszno turn. After that the loco will return light engine to Wolsztyn with the return passenger working being completed by a diesel railcar.

Behind the Water Tower does not intend to sit idly by until 18 April. We encourage people to write to the main parties concerned and encourage them to work out a deal.  There is time for written representations to be delivered before 18 April.  A well written posted letter may carry more clout than an email and we would urge people to put pen to paper in the next few days so that it reaches the relevant parties before the meeting.

The main protagonists and stakeholders are:

Mr Jakub Karnowski
Prezes
Prezes Zarządu
Polskie Koleje Państwowe S.A.
ul. Szczęśliwicka 62
00-973 Warszawa
POLAND

e-mail: Jakub.Karnowski@pkp.pl

Marek Woźniak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań
POLAND

e-mail: marszalek@umww.pl

With elections looming our editorial team have already heard from people who have openly said that  the current incumbents will not be receiving their vote given the current standoff. There may be an element of politics at play in all this. Who knows? The Wielkopolski Marszalek may be planning to pull a rabbit out of the hat and save the steam services as part of his election campaign. We hasten to add, that is pure speculation, however, if that is part of the strategy, it is a dangerous game to play.

If no agreement is reached on 18 April matters are likely to escalate up to Ministerial level. We would therefore encourage people to also write to:

Mrs. Elżbieta Bieńkowska
Ministerstwa Infrastruktury i Rozwoju
ul. Wspólna 2/4
00-926 Warszawa

e-mail: kancelaria@mir.gov.pl

A Mexican Standoff

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

IMG_1829 - 870x650

Ol49-69 heads towards Poznan at Steszew on 3 May 2012. Photo John Savery

The daily scheduled steam operation at Wolsztyn looks as though it will end next week. The Wielkopolska provincial government and PKP Cargo have failed to reach agreement on the cost of the service, and with no funding agreed from 31 March, the daily steam service to Leszno will not operate unless a compromise is agreed.

Sources indicate that the cost per kilometre that PKP Cargo wish to charge have increased dramatically since the service was moved over to the Leszno line. In itself, this is hardly surprising. There are the fixed costs of operating the shed at Wolsztyn, and the overhaul of the locomotives, which are done on a time based system, not a miles operated, or days in steam system. Nevertheless, it is believed that the charges have increased disproportionately.

TurKol’s charter traffic is covered by a separate contract and would remain unaffected, nevertheless, the viability of the depot must be questionable with the reduced mileage and income.

Wolsztyn is unique in being the last place in Europe (if not the world) where standard gauge steam still hauls daily scheduled services. It entices tourists from around the world, all of whom come because it is unique. All spend money whilst visiting, and this is estimated to be in excess of one million zloty annually.

If the services ends, scheduled standard gauge steam will have had its last stand in Europe.

For those wishing to put pen to paper, and explaining why the service should be retained, the following addresses may be useful.  We understand that a ‘last chance’ meeting between the parties is scheduled for Friday this week, so this could be the final chance to influence the outcome.

1. Minister of Culture
Mr. Bogdan Zdrojewski
minister@mkidn.gov.pl

2. Minister of Infrastructure and Development (Transport)
Mrs. Elżbieta Bieńkowska
kancelaria@mir.gov.pl

3. Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Provincial Government
Mr. Wojciech Jankowiak
wojciech.jankowiak@umww.pl

4. PKP Cargo Wielkopolska Division Manager
Mr. Andrzej Jabłoński
a.jablonski@pkp-cargo.eu

Metal thief strikes at Jarocin

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

TKt48-72 Jarocin-071

TKt48-72 in June 2012, shortly after its arrival in Jarocin. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

TKW, the preservation society based at the former loco depot at Jarocin, suffered at the hands of a scrap metal thief on 26 December.  The thief targeted TKt48-72, which had been stored outside the shed, stripping elements of the braking system from the locomotive.

By chance, a society member noticed a man behaving suspiciously, and contacted the police.  The police attended promptly and arrested a 52 year old man in connection with the theft.  Officers found a number of parts in the grass close to the locomotive, as well as parts laid out in some of the surrounding buildings on the site, indicating that this was not the first time that parts had been removed.  The man in question is already known to the police, and, if convicted, could be sentenced with up to 5 years in jail.

TKt48-72 was built in 1951 and was originally based at Bielsko Biala, and then predominantly at Jaslo.   Brief interludes at Chabowka, and Nowy Sacz followed by a stint at Zielona Gora.  The engine spent 24 years of its life at Kepno, before being moved to Gniezno in 2000.  In 1995, it was placed on the register of historic monuments, though today it is little more than a shell with many parts missing.

The society took the locomotive under its wing in January 2013, and at present leases the locomotive from PKP.

The theft highlights the risks to the remaining redundant steam locomotives in Poland.  Even those in the custody of recognised societies run the risk of being stripped of easy to remove parts if they are stored outside.  Whilst TKW Jarocin takes security reasonably seriously – it does have a system of CCTV cameras installed to monitor the grounds outside the shed – like other societies it is prone to people wandering through the external grounds and helping themselves to metal.

Poland would do well to learn from the UK’s recent approach to the sale of stolen scrap metal.  Since the UK banned “cash in hand” scrap metal transactions, metal (and cable) thefts have plummeted.  Unless a similar approach is taken in Poland, metal thefts will continue to be a serious problem.

Last train to Nowy Sacz?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

IMG_4889 - departing shot

Departing shot Ty42-107, and its train. Photo John Savery.

The line from Chabowka to Nowy Sacz is on the list of lines to be closed that was published earlier this year.  The scenic line, with its twisting curves and steep gradients, is worth travelling.  With that in mind, coupled with the fact that I hadn’t travelled further east than Dobra, forced the decision to go out for the steam hauled special on 26 May, organised by the Nowosądeckie Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Kolei (Nowy Sacz Railway Society).  Tickets for the special sold out weeks before, however there were tickets left for the Chabowka to Nowy Sacz leg of the trip, which had been added as a working train, rather than an empty stock move.

A bright early morning start greeted Ty42-107, and the mixed train of retro and ryflak coaches.

IMG_4760-1 Heading to Mszana Dolna

The 5.30 departure didn’t deter people from turning out for the train.  The line is rarely used, and this showed on the stiff climb from Mszana Dolna to Skrzydlna, with the loco slipping to a stand on several occasions.  A wet railhead, along with a rarely used line proved a tough match for the Kriegslok, despite not having a heavy train.  Pausing at some stations on the way for 5 minute breaks, the train made slow progress to Nowy Sacz, but kept time.  Despite the weather, there were several groups of photographers out in force at the lineside.

A large crowd greeted the train at Limanowa, many of whom boarded.

At Nowy Sacz, the train was greeted by brass bands, singers, and a display of period soldiers.

I was fortunate enough to be with a friend who has a wide network in the Polish gricing community, which rallies together to help each other out.  Seeing a contact on the side of the line, a quick handwave, a few gestures, and a follow up text message secured 2 spaces in a car for the return trip.

IMG_4910-1 near Skrydlna

Special near Skrydlna. Photo John Savery.

Under worsening weather, the train returned to Chabowka, full, and stopping for approximately half an hour at intermediate stations, where there were festivities laid on.  With decreasing adhesion, the train stalled several times, making for a spectacular display.  At one stage the crew were forced to walk ahead of the loco in pouring rain, placing ballast on the railhead so that the engine could crush it and get a grip.

IMG_4944-1 Mszana to Rabka

Special on the section Mszana to Rabka. Photo John Savery.

Arriving in Chabowka, the passengers boarded waiting coaches to take them back to Nowy Sacz and the intermediate towns.

As we close for press we have heard that the line has been saved from closure as it is of national strategic importance.  There are no further planned workings over the line – the trains scheduled for Parowozjazda are only planned to go as far as Mszana Dolna, missing the steepest sections, and in some cases the most deteriorated parts of the line.  This could well be the last train to Nowy Sacz (via the Transwersalna).  Only time will tell.

IMG_4958 empty tracks, near Rabka Zaryte

Empty tracks near Rabka Zaryte. Photo John Savery.

(All photographs Ⓒ John Savery. Click on the image to view a larger picture.)

More photos of the trip can be seen on Flickr, and video on YouTube.

Room with a View

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

PoC Nastawnia-4977-2

New life for old – PoC Nastwania. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

It’s always pleasing to see someone find a new use for redundant railway assets.  Even more so when they are restored from a derelict condition.

Passing through Poznan recently, I had chance to meet friends for a drink, in PoC Nastawnia, a bar, which takes its name from, and is situated in one of the old, now redundant, signalboxes on the side of the railway.

The box has been restored over a few months, and a steel framed building grafted onto the side.  Whilst it not be the most aesthetically pleasing addition, it does enhance the space available on the inside.

PoC is the only surviving relic of the electro-mechanical signalboxes that were around Poznan station, before the power box was commissioned a few years ago.

The view – straight out onto the railway, with a clear view of the arrivals and departures from Poznan.

The beer – cold and refreshing!

Spies of Warsaw

Sunday, 27 January 2013

david_tennant

David Tennant as Jean-Francois Mercier, 1944 built Ty2-911 as …? Publicity still.

(Click on image to see original on david-tennant.org.)

The BBC and TVP have recently aired the film “Spies of Warsaw”.

Set in late 1930’s Warsaw, the film follows the exploits of a French spy, and his associates, amid the political manuvering in the build up to WWII.  Starring David Tennant (of Dr Who fame), the film was made with some scenes shot in Poland.

Purists will note that the railway scenes feature Chabowka’s Ty2-911, an engine not built until 1944.  The only appearance of a historically accurate locomotive is the scene showing OKz32-2 which is under overhaul in the works at Chabowka (with Ty2-953 seen in close proximity.)  Nevertheless, the railway scenes do feature some great shots of the Chabowka – Mszana Dolna – Nowy Sacz line, which formed part of the Galicyjska Kolej Transwersalna (Galician Transverse Railway).

The shots also include the platform at the Chabowka skansen (look out for Ol49-44  making a guest appearance at the end of the platform), and the station at Kasina Wielka.

The line itself has featured in film several times, notably in the opening scenes of Schindler’s List.  With glorious mountain views, and steep gradients, its clear why film makers use the line, as well as its proximity to Chabowka.

But wait, if film makers can see the benefit in the line, why can’t PKP?  With minimal services over it, and minimal use of the in-ticket engines at Chabowka, you would think that it would be the ideal place for tourist trips.  PKP Cargo seem unable to realise this, and for years have failed to market the line, which is closed to passenger and freight services, and clings to life by a thread.

Chabowka is a wasted asset.  A capable workshop and boiler facility with assets that are under utilised, and exhibits that rust outside in the Polish weather.  It should be a tourist goldmine, set in some of the most beautiful scenery, on a steeply graded line.

For some great photos of the line, see Michal “Doctor” Pawelczyk’s site.

2013 TurKol Programme Published

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Turkol, who run both steam hauled and diesel tourist trains in Poland, have published their programme for the first part of 2013. The dates, which at present are visible to the end of August, show the usual range of long distance, and short haul charters.

The programme starts on 13 February, with the diesel hauled “Wodnik”, the train to the AquaPark in Wagrowiec.

With a lull during March, the programme gets more intense in April, with a train to Torun, plus an add on from Torun, and then the usual trains associated with the Wolsztyn Parade (now in its 20th year, and set for 27 April)

The long distance Pirat (to Kolobrzeg) is set for 1 June, a marathon day out.

This year’s itinery, as published so far, does contain additional trips to last year, including a trip from Poznan to Wroclaw via Ostrow Wielkopolska.

Full details of the itinery can be found on the TurKol website.

The end of daily scheduled standard gauge steam in Poland

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Ol49-59 undergoing servicing at Wolsztyn. Photo John Savery.

News has reached us that the steam operation at Wolsztyn is set to suffer further cutbacks. The Wielkopolska government is making drastic budget cuts in 2013, believed to be in the region of 25%. One of the casualties will be the daily steam services from Wolsztyn, which are due to end with the December timetable change.

Ten years ago, Wolsztyn would send out three engines a day. For the past few years, this has been reduced to one engine a day. The latest cutbacks will see the 7-days-a-week service reduced to just 5 days per week, with the withdrawal of weekend services.

One would expect the impact on the town to be fairly major. Wolsztyn’s weekend steam tourists come not only from Poland but also from all over Europe and beyond. It is estimated that Wolsztyn Experience clients alone put as much as 500,000 zloty into the local economy each year, with an additional 500,000 zloty coming from other tourists who also visit the region. If the weekend steam services cease it is certain that the number of rail enthusiast tourists visiting Wolsztyn will fall dramatically, and with it, the amount of money that they inject into the local economy.

This threat to the local economy and local tourism flies in the face of the efforts currently being made by the Polish National Tourist Office, who, this very week, are trying to entice visitors, who may have visited during the Euro 2012 championships, back to Poland.

Behind the Water Tower readers are not known to give up without a fight.

Questions need to be asked about the cost/benefit gained by moving to a 5 day-a-week service as opposed to maintaining the 7 day-a-week operation.

Steam locomotives are serviced on a time interval based servicing regime, rather than on a days in steam servicing regime. Boilers become due for overhaul after a fixed time, regardless of whether they are in steam or not. Operating costs are therefore not proportional to usage. Savings on overhauls by a reduction in usage will be limited.

What will PKP Cargo do with the locomotives at weekends? If they are laid up cold, this cycling of the boiler each week is likely to only add to repair bills for the locomotives due to the constant thermal cycling of the boilers causing additional wear. If the locomotives are left in steam over the weekend, then this will still require staff at the depot, limiting the cost savings that are made by not running the locomotives.

Diesel railcars have been prone to failure during cold and snowy weather. Do Koleje Wielkopolskie intend to make improvements to the flimsy design of these railcars to make them more weather proof?

Readers who feel they would like to make their views known to the relevant authorities may care to use the following addresses. A well written hard copy letter carries more weight than an email, however, given the tight timescales involved, it will not hurt to send an email copy as well, with a note that a ‘hard copy’ is in the post.

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 Deputy Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Province

Wojciech Jankowiak
Wicemarszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18, pokój 340, budynek C
61-713 Poznań
POLAND

tel.: 61 626 66 10
fax: 61 626 66 11
e-mail: wojciech.jankowiak@umww.pl

The Wielkopolska Tourist Organisation

Ewa Przydrożny
Dyrektor
Wielkopolska Organizacja Turystyczna
ul. 27 Grudnia 17/19, I p
61-737 Poznań
POLAND

ewa.przydrozny@wot.org.pl

The Polish National Tourist Office

Mr Boguslaw Becla
Acting Director
Polish National Tourist Office
Level 3, Westgate House
West Gate
London W5 1YY

bogdan.becla@poland.travel

Mr Roman Gozdzikowski
General Manager
Polish National Tourist Office
Level 3, Westgate House
West Gate
London W5 1YY

roman.gozdzikowski@poland.travel

The Mayor of Wolsztyn

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

burmistrz@wolsztyn.pl

The Polish Ambassador

Witold Sobków
H.E. The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland
The Embassy of the Republic of Poland
47 Portland Place
London W1B 1JH

london@msz.gov.pl

A tale of two museums

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The crisp morning air in Warsaw tempted me with some sight seeing. I hadn’t seen much of Warsaw in the past 6 years, and with clear blue skies and bright sunlight it was a nice day to be out and about.

 

Emerging from the early morning mist, Stalin’s ‘gift’ to Warsaw, the Palace of Culture. Photo John Savery.

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I had never visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego) so it was time to pay a visit. Situated a short distance up ul. Towarowa from the Warsaw Railway Museum, the museum is easy to find and to get to. The tram stop is just nearby, taking its title from the museum.

Arriving, it was clear it is popular with school visits. Purchasing a ticket from the kasa (ticket office) was easy enough, and armed with the souvenir I made my way across the courtyard to the entrance. With an attended cloakroom, I thought it would be easy enough to leave my small case (hand baggage sized) in the cloakroom, alas, this proved not to be the case and I was asked to leave it in the left luggage office opposite. Somewhat disconcerted I left the case as directed, surrounded by arriving tourists!

Once in the museum proper, it was clear why it was so popular. Aside from being a fitting tribute to those that fought for Warsaw in 1944, it is informative with plenty of exhibits and that all important human touch with life stories from people caught in the conflict. With dual translations in places, it was easy to understand.  My only regret is that the was a long queue for the City of Ruins cinema showings so I didn’t get chance to view the film. Walking around it was easy to become immersed in the story finishing up outside at the wall of remembrance.

The Wall of Remembrance at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Photo John Savery.

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Leaving the museum I headed back down ul. Towarowa and called in to the Railway Museum (Muzeum Kolejnictwa w Warszawie) on the way back to Warszawa Centralna station. What a contrast! Walking up to the museum, with the outside door closed it was not clear if it was open or not. On entering, there was a lady stood behind a desk and in an adjacent room a man behind what looked liked a ticket sales window (although my Polish told me it wasn’t).

On asking for a ticket I was sent back to the lady in the adjacent room, who then directed me to and automatic vending machine. Inserting the correct change gave me a flimsy bit of paper more reminiscent of a parking ticket than the entrance to a museum. A complete contrast to my experience a few hours earlier.

A nice and shiny ticket machine at the Warsaw Railway Museum. Photo John Savery.

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With the relevant piece of paper safely in my wallet I ventured inside only to be immediately stopped and asked for my ticket! It would seem that MK regard jobs for the boys (and girls) as more important than looking after its guests and exhibits. The dilapidated state of the locomotives stored outside is abysmal, and exposed to the weather they are quietly rusting away.

Some renovation (painting) of exhibits is going on but it is a drop in the ocean to what is needed. Internally little seems to have changed since I last visited the museum in 2006. The internal displays are still dominated by models and there is little in the way of telling a story. The small section on the history of railways had two very familiar sections of Cuneo prints, neither of which credited the great artist.

Ty42-120 on display.  The outdoor storage and display of the locomotives does little to stop the weather attacking the metal and paintwork. Photo John Savery.

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SD80 railcar.  The railcar was intact on arrival at the museum, however as it was stored outside of the museum’s compound, it was left at the mercy of vandals and thieves.  Little more than a shell remains.  (The bogies are out of shot of the camera.) Photo John Savery.

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I left the museum disappointed. Not because it did not live up to expectations. The disappointment was because the Uprising Museum proved it is possible to have an excellent museum and draw visitors in, on a weekday, in the middle of a capital city. If the Railway Museum’s management team want to run a successful museum, they could do far worse than visiting their neighbour a few hundred metres up the road.

Three days in Severn

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

LMS Ivatt 2-6-0 43106 and GWR 2-6-2T 4566 at Bewdley, SVR, March 2010. Photo KJEvans.

(Click image to expand. Click here to see original and for conditions of licensing on Wikipedia.)

A last minute change of plans, and an invite from some friends who also visit Wolsztyn, gave me the opportunity to visit the Severn Valley Railway for its steam gala weekend. I’d not been to a UK gala for many years, so comparing it with the annual parade in Wolsztyn was interesting.

For those not familiar with the Severn Valley Railway, the 16-mile heritage line, is one of the best established in the UK. With a connection to the national network at Kidderminster, the line meanders up the scenic valley of the River Severn to Bridgnorth, the line’s northern terminus. Following closure of the line in 1963, it was reopened by preservationists in 1970 (between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade) and eventually extended to Kidderminster in 1984.

Arriving on the Friday evening, I had chosen to camp at the Unicorn Inn, adjacent to Hampton Loade station. The campsite backs on to the river, and the pub handles the bookings (as well as serving very refreshing beer.)

Throughout the gala weekend, train services were scheduled continuously, including throughout the night, the clanking of buffers and the sharp bark of the exhaust easily heard from under the canvas.

With visiting engines complementing the SVR’s home fleet, a good selection of motive power was on offer, with locos rostered for turns for several hours at a time before servicing.

Like Wolsztyn, the Severn Valley draws the crowds for its gala. Unlike Wolsztyn, the crowds have to pay for the privilege. It is a small price to pay for preserving the heritage, and Polish operations could do with learning from it (although it is pleasing to hear that the recent gala day at Jaworzyna attracted about 6000 paying guests.)

The SVR is far stricter on access to shed areas than Poland. No free run of the shed back in the UK, and certainly no wandering off up the line to get that lineside shot unless you hold a trackside permit. It is a balance. In some respects, the health and safety legislation has made it necessary to stop people wandering around the shed (I remember doing it as a 12 year old), but at the same time, it does mean that you do have a chance to see the locos without hoards of people around them, something that is impossible at Wolsztyn during the parade day.

Sitting on the train on the Sunday afternoon, I had time to reflect. What can Poland learn from all this? The UK has a well established steam heritage movement, and societies co-operate and support one another well. People will pay to see steam, and travel behind it, and the money is brought into the local economy. Additionally, the SVR has invested heavily in storing its locomotive collection and carriages under cover.

The Engine House at Highley is a superb example of thinking big. Whilst not in the architectural style of the railway, it keeps the locos that are not currently “in ticket” protected from the elements, whilst providing an informative visitor centre complete with an income stream from refreshments and souvenirs. It is a stark contrast to Poland where engines stand outdoors rusting away, waiting for their next overhaul.

Poland does have a grass roots preservation movement. With the right support, and the right level of leadership, it may grow to thrive. Poland’s railways are facing the same cuts that Beeching imposed 50 years ago. Will Poland’s societies take over the mantle in the same way the UK’s preservationists did? Only time will tell.

More:

Lorry collision stops steam

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Steam services from Wolsztyn have been suspended following a collision between a lorry and Ol49-69. The collision, which took place on 11 September, caused some damage to the locomotive, including bent motion.  The lorry suffered serious damage, with most of the cab destroyed.  The lorry driver was lucky to escape with his life, with parts of the cab attaching themselves firmly to the locomotive.

Damage to Ol49-69 following the collision on 11 September

Ol49-69with the remains of the lorry’s door  firmly attached to the loco’s cab. Photo James Shuttleworth.

Whilst the loco was out of traffic for a couple of days whilst repairs were effected at Wolsztyn, it has since returned to service.

The reason for the disruption to the service this time, was not due to the unavailability of a loco or crew, but down to the the cold snap that seems to have caught everyone unawares. The only suitable steam-heated coaches which Koleje Wielkopolskie  had available were involved in the collision. These still require repair, with their steps being ripped off in the force of the collision. (The Poznan-Wolsztyn services are run by Koleje Wielkopolskie, with the locos and their crews being provided by PKP Cargo, and the coaches leased from Przewozy Regionalne!)

With temperatures dropping as low as 3C at night at present, and with no other steam heated coaches available, PKP has taken the step of substituting a diesel railcar until suitable coaches are in service.  It is understood that steam services will return as from today’s (Thursday 27 September) afternoon working.

Stop press

We understand from a senior railway source, who wishes to remain anonymous, that yesterday PKP Cargo signed an agreement for the purchase of 10 passenger coaches, suitable for steam haulage, from Czech Railways at a very good price. The second class coaches are destined for the Poznan-Wolsztyn service; the first class coaches are expected to see duty on various steam specials.