Archive for the ‘Behind the Water Tower’ Category

Wolsztyn Shed – Wielkopolska Vote “Yes”

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

wol-7237

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

(Click on images to see larger photos.)

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

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

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

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

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

Dyspozytor

Advertisements

Narrow Gauge revival

Friday, 29 May 2015

Pleszew railcar in December 2011. Photo Ed Beale.

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

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

Pleszew_timetable

Pleszew Railway timetable 4 May until 13 June 2015.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Notes

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

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

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

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

Off topic. On message.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

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

Lost domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firestone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biscuits and Firestone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPSON scanner image

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

(Click on image for details of licensing.)

More:

Wither Wolsztyn?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

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

Wolsztyn 2015-07775

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

Wolsztyn 2015-1030490

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

Wolsztyn 2015-07780

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

Wolsztyn 2015-1030438

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

Wolsztyn 2015-1030451

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

Wolsztyn 2015-1030450

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

Wolsztyn 2015-1030526

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

Wolsztyn 2015-1030565

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

Wolsztyn 2015-1030478

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

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

To be continued/…

More:

 

 

Poland – worst international rail connections in Central Europe

Monday, 23 February 2015

plcutofffromworld

International rail connections between the capitals of Central Europe. Graphic courtesy Centre for Sustainable Transport (CZT).

(Click image to access source material – in Polish – on CTZ website.)

Notwithstanding various European Commission initiatives to create a ‘connected Europe’, and to encourage a modal shift to rail, Poland’s international rail connections are pretty dire. Now the ‘Man in Seat 61‘ reports how international connections from Wroclaw Glowny have been slashed.

 

Should Wroclaw be stripped of its 2016 European City of Culture status?

First the Berlin-Wroclaw-Krakow sleeper train got cut.  Then the Berlin-Wroclaw-Krakow daytime EuroCity train Wawel got cut back to Berlin-Wroclaw.  Then it disappeared completely in December 2014, a civilised train replaced by 5 hours strapped to a bus seat, as if Wroclaw was not a major city, but a remote village far distant from the European rail network.  In a month or two, all Dresden-Wroclaw regional trains will be cut, unbelievably (a) leaving a 2km gap across the border between rail services on either side and (b) leaving Wroclaw with no direct trains whatsoever to or from Germany & the West. Can such a remote and inaccessible village possibly be European City of Culture 2016?  Perhaps the title should be reallocated to a city people can actually get to…  Wroclaw needs to wake up and reassert its need for proper links to the rest of Europe.

A hat tip to Chris White and Podrożnik for today’s stories.

More:

Sławomir Żałobka appointed UnderSecretary for Rail and Air!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Dept_Trans

Żałobka’s new workplace. Photo courtesy Google Street View

The office customarily occupied by the Minister responsible for Polish Railways has from today (9.2.15) a new occupant, Sławomir Żałobka. The office has been empty since 18 December when Żałobka’s predecessor, Zbigniew Klepacki was sacked by Prime Minister, Ewa Kopacz, as part of her review of government ministers.

Undersecretary of State Slawomir Żałobka studied Law and Administration at the University of Warsaw. He has been a civil servant for many years. He has worked the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the Civil Service. He was also a member of the Public Procurement Council, and acted as an arbiter in disputes involving public procurement.

BTWT sees Żałobka’s appointment as a consequence of Prime Minister Kopacz wanting a ‘safe pair of hands’ in a position that has the potential to embarrass the Government. At least one of Żałobka’s predecessors was sacked for being too ‘pro-rail’.

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.

Krosniewice-1020907

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.

Krosniewice-1020903

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.

 

Krosniewice-1020919

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.

Krosniewice-1020921

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…  .

Krosniewice-1020918

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!

Krosniewice-1020910

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.

Krosniewice-1020915

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.

Krosniewice-1020917

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.

Krosniewice-1020916

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.

Krosniewice-1020911

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.

Krosniewice-1020909

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:

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.

Dyspozytor 1

Las49 -1020870

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.

Las49 -1020869

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.

Las49 -1020881

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.

Las49 -1020872

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.

Las49 -1020872-2

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.

More:

BTWT Brain-twister 3

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Rebuilt and relaid 600mm gauge line, but where?
Photo BTWT.

(Click image to enlarge.)

In our last Brain-twister competition we asked, What links two of Poland’s newest underground stations with a 15th century confirmation of a union between two nations? Amazingly our previously astute and assiduous competition solvers all seem to have been asleep for this round although it was so very easy!

The latest underground station to open in Poland is at Warsaw’s Chopin Airport as reported in BTWT on 22 May. Identifying the station would have won 2 of the 6 marks available. Previous to that the last underground station to open in Poland was not on Line 1 of the Warsaw Metro, but the pre-metro, fast tram station underneath Krakow Glowny main line railway station. Identifying the pre-metro station would have gained another 2 marks.

Finally, both stations link to the old Warsaw – Krakow railway which passes through Radom. The Commonwealth of Poland and Lituania was confirmed there in 1401. Identifying Radom and its treaty would have earned the final two points.

Today’s brain-twister is even easier. For example, identifying the narrow gauge railway above gains an automatic single point! Though you will have to work quite hard to gain all the 6 points available for fully solving today’s riddle:

     Two neighbours – different in all ways but one,
One carries people on their annual quest to the sun.

The other carries treasure wrested from the deep,
Is little known, less lauded, but by no means asleep.

Wolsztyn recruitment

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Engine crew give Pm36-2 a quick check at Wolsztyn. Photo BTWT.

Wojciech Lis’s website parowozy.com.pl carries the story that PKP Cargo has recruited 4 new enginemen to retrain to work with steam locomotives at the Wolsztyn shed. Three are former enginemen, the fourth is a young trainee whose higher education is being sponsored by Cargo.

We are delighted to be able to report good news in the same post as announcing that BTWT has passed the milestone of 500,000 hits. To all – readers and contributors – who have made BTWT a success our heartfelt thanks. Thanks also to Podroznik for today’s lead story.
More:

Act of God

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The ticket hall at Warszawa Centralna 25.2.2012. Photo BTWT.

I am not usually afraid of the dark, but as the lights flickered, the power sockets shorted and sparks and smoke flew out of the surge prevention block protecting Sextus, the G5 Power Mac, I confess that I was a little fazed.

But to begin at the beginning, I was about to travel to Lodz on the 21:49 from Centralna. As this was the last train of the day, I contrived to arrive in plenty of time: not only to catch my train, but also to inspect how the ‘revitalisation’ of the station was proceeding.

The main ticket hall was practically empty. Posters advertising the film, Dziewczyna z Tatuażem, added to the eerie atmosphere. How did the original Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor (“Men Who Hate Women”) morph to the English version, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, only to lose the dragon in the Polish release (“The Girl with the Tattoo”)?

A few passengers got on the empty 8-coach train. I settled myself comfortably in an empty compartment and settled down to read Frank Mildmay by Frederick Maryatt on my iPhone. Most of Maryatt’s naval adventures have a good-hearted, but naive youngster, as the narrator. He goes to sea as a midshipman in the British Navy and his character is licked into shape during the trials and tribulations that follow. By the end, our hero is a man, the villains are vanquished and the hero marries his sweetheart.

Not Frank Mildmay, the subject is an anti-hero. His decisions start out badly and he never quite manages to free himself from ‘the dark side’. As Maryatt begins to draw all the threads together towards the end of the book, Mildmay rushes headlong into disaster. Too much like real life to be good escapism, I thought.  So, as I had already downloaded quite a few other out-of-copyright books, I quickly switch to a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

As the train ran slowly on the track, I allowed myself a moment of satisfied reflection – with Ed Beale now running our narrow gauge section and John Savery taking over responsibility for standard gauge preservation – BTWT is at last on an even keel and nothing should disturb our target of daily publication. (Have you noticed that whenever you congratulate yourself that all is going smoothly, the wheel come off the bus?)

I return home and lean briefly against the wall to ease the weight of my legs. The lights flicker ominously and darken, then after a few seconds they blaze more brightly than they ever did before. Our power sockets crackle, sparks fly from the surge protector and the fuses blow.

This being Poland it takes two different electricians, and most of the following day, to restore decent mains power. We seem to have escaped lightly – burnt out power blocks. The main computer, Sextus, is down, but hopefully only the Apple Cinema Display power supply will need replacing.

We are lucky, we have escaped lightly compared to our neighbours. They have lost a couple of TVs, a fridge and a router. I buy a massive new Polish surge protector and five PL to UK power socket adapters. I order a new power supply for the monitor from China. I order two new power circuits for the flat.

This is being written on Quintus, my trusty 12″ Apple G4 PowerBook. Unfortunately my photographs and most of my programs are on the G5. I yearn for a couple of shots of Zubrowka, but alas, inspired by Michael Dembinski’s example, I have decided to give up alcohol and sugar for Lent.

Aren’t I being good? I hear the warning words again, Pride goes before a fall. As the late Frankie Howard used to say, Here endeth the first lesson!

BTWT Deputy Editor Apointed!

Monday, 13 February 2012

It hardly seems possible that Ed Beale’s article about narrow gauge operations in winter was really our 894th post and that BTWT is a month short of its third birthday. Will we still be running in 2015? There is every reason to hope so!

We have an enthusiastic readership which keeps us up to date with the latest developments; we have some excellent contributors who send in some first rate articles and photographs; and at last we have a Deputy Editor!

I am delighted to welcome Ed Beale to our editorial team. Ed has a light pen and his recent contributions have made BTWT much more interesting and entertaining. Ed has had a long term interest in Polish railways, especially narrow gauge railways. He has published the Narrow Rail website since 2001 so his commitment to ‘the cause’ is no passing fancy!

There will inevitably be period while Ed and the rest of the team adjust to each others way of working and – of course – there is no guarantee that Ed will like the job. So both sides have agreed a two month a ‘running in’ period just to check out how matters work out.

So Ed’s formal title is BTWT Deputy Editor Designate, we look forward to dropping the ‘designate’ when the two months are up!

Dyspozytor

Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 8

Saturday, 14 January 2012

There’s a n.g. railway there, somewhere! Satellite photo courtesy Google Maps.

(Click image to enlarge.)

BTWT competitions are legendary for dragging on for months and months and our 2011 Christmas Competition is no exception, as it has now extended itself into a Xmas / New Year competition. There will be 4 more instalments after this one, so at the current rate of progress we should be able to announce a winner sometime in March!

Our last location (No. 7) was on the Starachowice Narrow Gauge Railway, although the most prominent features on the satellite photo are the formations of the standard gauge lines which were part of the ZGM Zebiec factory.

This plant is something of a mystery. It started in the 1950s ostensibly with the mission of extracting and concentrating the iron ore content of the sands which lie in a belt from Lubien through Tychow as far as Mirzec. The process proved uneconomical which should have meant the end of the company. But in Poland anything is possible! ZGM Zabieniec morphed from a mining company to one producing central heating boilers.

To complicate matters still further we have come across reports that in the 1950s a company in the Starachowice area was engaged in uranium mining and processing. So perhaps the ‘iron ore concentration plant’ was just a cover story? In actual fact the location of the uranium facility – if it existed – is not known to us.

The history of the Starachowice Narow Gauge Railway is no less complicated. Constructed in 1950 to link Starachowice and Ilza, the line utilised substantial portions of a late 19th century 750 mm gauge railway network which carried iron ore to the blast furnaces at Starachowice.

The relationship between old and new lines is shown on the diagrammatic map which was prepared during the time that the line was being operated by the Rogow-based Polish Narrow Gauge Foundation (FPKW). At its peak the pre-PKP n.g. network totalled some 60 km. The 1950 PKP railway was 20 km long.

By the 1990s regular passenger traffic had ceased though the line was used for occasional diesel hauled specials. I was lucky enough to see one of these in operation before PKP closed the line in 1997 and transferred the rolling stock elsewhere. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the FPKW the line was taken over by the Starachowice District Council in 2003 and initially operated by the FPKW. Sadly during the 6 years the line was defunct about a third of the track was stolen by scrap thieves.

At the end of the 2008 season, a row between the then FPKW chairman, Pawel Szwed and volunteers led to a decision by the District Council not to renew the operating agreement with the Foundation. During the 2009 and 2010 seasons the line was operated by the Bytom-based Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railway Society. In 2011, the line was based by the Friends of the Jedrzejow Railway Association.

In practice, much of the volunteer base has remained the same throughout these and only the management has changed.

Three correct answers were submitted, by Waldemar Heise, Ed Beale and Inzynier. Waldemar was first and so takes the point.

A Google Maps ‘slippy map’ (can be scrolled and zoomed) of the No. 7 location on the Starachowice n.g. railway.

More:

Christmas Competition – No. 1

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Somewhere in Poland courtesy of Google Maps. But where?

(Click to enlarge.)

Our last competition seemed to go down quite well, so here is another, specially devised for the holiday season. Between now and the New Year we will be publishing Google satellite views of a dozen narrow gauge railway locations scattered around Poland.

All you have to do is to be the first to send in the correct answer to gain a point. If no one submits a correct answer before the next question is published, Dyspozytor gets a point. Answers may be submitted either via the Comments facility or by e-mail to our mail box: railfan [at] go2 [dot] pl.

The person who gets the maximum amount of points is the winner. The winner gets to take Dyspozytor out for a drink / a bottle of Zubrowka (delete as appropriate!).

Film competition – part 11

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Early London Underground District line driving coach. Still from Passport to Pimlico.

The BTWT editorial team are in Gdansk attending TRAKO, the international railway fair, so today’s post is just a quickie. The last mystery film was the well-loved Ealing comedy film, Passport to Pimlico, made in 1949. Much to our surprise the only person to get the answer right was Gavin Whitelaw. Gavin moves into first place with 4 points, Mike Winslow is second with 3 points, Dyspozytor has 2 points and Alex Fitch 1 point.

Amazon UK have a few DVD copies of Passport to Pimlico available for £4:39.

Passport To Pimlico 1949 [DVD]

A still from what film?

Film competition – part 9

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

GWR Castle Class 4-6-0. Still from The Ghost Train.

Our last competition was a little mean. We think a few more BTWT readers would have guessed that the last still was from the 1941 remake of The Ghost Train, if we had used a clip from the shot above. At the start of the film, the train engine – shown running westwards along the seawall at Teignmouth – is either 4084, Aberystwyth Castle, or 4094, Dynevor Castle. The number on the front buffer beam is not altogether clear. Then for  a brief couple of seconds the train engine is shown as a ‘streamlined’ GWR 4-6-0.

It is said that GWR CME, Charles Collet, had been pressurised by the GWR board to try out streamlining. Only two engines were subjected to the treatment – Castle class 5005, Manorbier Castle, and King class 6014, King Henry VII. By the time the film was made, both engines had lost much, though not all, of their streamlined ironmongery. Which of the two engines, the Castle or the King, was used in the film? It is difficult from the rather dark clip to be absolutely sure. Perhaps one of our GWR experts could identify the engine and give his reasons why?

The Ghost Train was originally written as a play by Arnold Ridley and, as such, became a great hit. Ridley was inspired to write it after becoming stranded overnight at Mangotsfield railway station near Bristol. The station was situated on two sides of a a triangle and one of the three routes by-passed the station. The sound of  ‘invisible’ trains apparently passing through the station gave Ridley the inspiration to write the play. The play was filmed many times. Our stills are from the film directed by Walter Forde and released by Gaumont in 1941. The film is a treasure chest of GWR memories. It is available as a DVD through Amazon UK for £6-99.

Ghost Train [DVD] [1941]

The winner of our last round? Gavin Whitelaw, Mark Judd and John Savery submitted corrected answers, but Gavin dashed in first to take the point. The score so far: Mike Winslow and Gavin Whitelaw joint first with 3 points, Alex Fitch and Dyspozytor trailing behind with one point each. A word of warning – so far the going has been relatively easy. Now it’s time bring on our fast bowlers!

>

Today’s mystery film. It’s a googly!

Film competition – part 8

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sprague-Thomson first-class car interior in 2007.

(Click picture to see original on the Discover France website.)

We thought that our last question with the iconic picture of the Sprague metro coaches crossing the Seine in Paris would bring in a great crop of entries. But, much to our surprise mystery film 7 stumped everybody except Mike Winslow who guessed correctly: Barnardo Bertolucci’s 1972 mainstream cinema debut, Last Tango in Paris.

The score is now: Mike Winslow in the lead with 3 points, Gavin Whitelaw – 2 points, Alex Fitch and Dyspozytor trailing behind with one point each.

Incidentally a number of the Sprague coaches survive on a disused section of the Paris metro. Some great photographs taken by Rookinella can be seen on the Dark Places website.

Unidentified Flying Engine?

Today’s mystery picture is rather unusual. Who will be the first to guess the film?

 

Film competition – part 7

Monday, 26 September 2011

This second clip from Train of Events shows the technical difficulties of recording moving pictures on film in low light conditions.

The last mystery picture was from the shed sequence in Train of Events. Congratulations to Gavin Whitelaw and Mike Winslow for identifying the film. Mike Winslow beat Gavin by a couple of hours and so takes the point. The score now is: Gavin Whitelaw and Mike Winslow both in the lead with 2 points, Alex Fitch and Dyspozytor trailing behind with one point each.

Train of Events was made by Ealing Studios in 1949 and stars Jack Warner and Gladys Henson. Express locomotives had already been hastily repainted in an early British Railways livery while less prestigious engines still carried LMS markings. The locomotives seen in the train include two LMS  Jinty class 0-6-0Ts, and a LMS Royal Scot class 4-6-0 plays a leading role. Much of the initial filming was carried out at Willesden Shed – a favourite location in my gricing days. As well as masses of railway technical detail from the days of steam on the ex LNWR main line, the film accurately portrays the hierarchical social relationships in a large steam shed. Train of Events is available on DVD from Amazon UK for only £6:93.

Train of Events [DVD]

Today’s mystery still is from one of several ‘metro’ stills which feature in our competition. The film is very well known, so again no clues. First one with the correct answer gets the point.

A still from our 7th mystery film.

Film competition – part 6

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A still from the opening sequence of Citizen Kane

Nobody identified the picture of the porter unloading crates as a still from the ‘newsreel’ sequence in Citizen Kane so the point goes to us! The scorecard now reads as follows: Gavin Whitelaw in the lead with 2 points, Alex Fitch, Mike Winslow and Dyspozytor – one point each.

Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films ever made. It was the first film that Orson Welles was to direct, he also played the leading character and contributed to the screenplay. Though made 70 years ago, the film’s original positioning as a modern American story remains true, even today.

More:

A still from today’s mystery film

Today’s mystery film should be well known in British railway enthusiast circles, so no clues. First one to post the right answer gets the point.

Looking around Leszno

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A visit to Poland by Mike Pease, the Vice President and founder of the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership, provided a welcome opportunity to revisit some favourite railway locations. Since the Leszno maintenance depot is well known and well photographed, I thought that this time it would be interesting to take photos in B&W. All the pictures reproduced below were taken on 17 September 2011. This photo shoot brought back many memories: my last B&W shed interior shots were taken some 35 years ago at Tysley and Oxley ex GWR sheds. Thanks to the latest digital camera technology it is now possible to take good shed interior pictures without lugging around a heavy tripod. Wearing the regulation Polish railway ‘uniform’ of blue shirts and dark trousers, our visit brought in a bumper crop of pictures and passed off without any incident.

Vintage railway enthusiast and a line of vintage diesels.

Ol49 cab undergoing a makeover.

What is the engine lurking in the back?

A closer look reveals a complete Ty2 ‘plugged in’ to the depot’s central heating.

(Click any photo above to see an enlarged view.)