Archive for the ‘Behind the Water Tower’ Category

Film competition – part 5

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A second still from The Red Balloon.

I must try harder next time! Our last mystery film brought in a bumper crop of entries. Barry Drelincourt, Mike Winslow and David Hughes identified the film correctly as The Red Balloon, but Gavin Whitelaw beat them to it and takes the point. Gavin nudges into the lead with 2 points, Alex Fitch and Mike Winslow are close behind with one point each. Amazon UK have the film available for £7-99 on Blu-ray disk. Click the link below to purchase:

The Red Balloon [Blu-ray] [1956]

Another mystery film

Today’s film is another great classic and that is the only clue that I am going to give you!


Film competition – part 4

Friday, 16 September 2011

Another still from the Ealing Studios comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt. The branchline loco is a 14XX class, ex GWR 0-4-2. The coach – which was scrapped shortly after the film was made – was from the Wisbech and Upwell tramway.

BTWT’s readers are avid movie enthusiasts! No less than 9 of you correctly identified the last mystery picture as being a still from The Titfield Thunderbolt. Congratulations to Mark Judd, Adrian, Rick Degruyter, Tim Sparks, Podroznik, Gavin Whitelaw, Steve Reynolds, John Savery and Mike Winslow for being right. Mike Winslow was first, so he gets the point. So far we have three people – all with one point – vying for the lead: Alex Fitch – Oh Mr Porter, Gavin Whitelaw – Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mike Winslow – The Titfield Thunderbolt.

The Titfield Thunderbolt shows the British ‘never say die’ spirit at its best. I know of at least one railway society struggling to save a branch line somewhere in the south of England – which whenever things were going particularly badly – used to screen The Titfield Thunderbolt as a morale booster for their supporters! A copy should be in the library of anyone who is fighting to save a branch line. A copy on DVD can be ordered via Amazon UK for only £5:15 by clicking the link below.

The Titfield Thunderbolt [DVD]

Well it is time I started getting some wickets so I have decided to bowl a googly. Once again this is a classic film, well-known to cinema buffs, but largely unknown in railway enthusiast circles. The still shows a train running under a bridge in some continental city, two seconds later a boy runs into the shot with a ….. ….. . The missing words constitute part the title of the film less the definitive article.

Dyspozytor bowls a googly – today’s mystery still

Ty2-5680 – All’s well that ends well

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Cosmetically restored Ty2-5680 outside the Zabrze HQ of DB Schenker. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

There’s been a dearth of good news on BTWT of late so it gives us great pleasure to report that Deutsche Bahn have kept their word regarding Ty2-5680 and that the cosmetically restored engine is now proudly displayed outside the D B Schenker Rail Polska headquarters in Zabrze. Congratulations to Robert Dylewski and Tomasz Domzalski for a brilliantly executed PR campaign to rescue the engine after it had been sold to a scrapyard! Thanks also to Marek Ciesielski, for sending us a great photograph. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

More about the campaign to save Ty2-5680:

Smigiel smiles in its sleep…

Monday, 8 August 2011

John Savery contributes BTWT’s 800th post

Smigiel Yard on 5 August 2011. Molehills? Photo by John Savery

Actually spot resleepering! Photo by John Savery

Secondhand sleepers. Photo by John Savery

Transporter wagons await their fate.  Photo by John Savery

On 5 August, I called in to Smigiel on the way between Wolsztyn and Jarocin.  I had heard that there had been a tender for the sale of the transporter wagons (details are on the council’s website – see link) but was unclear if any had been sold or not.  As I was within a stone’s throw, I called in to see if there was any sign of them, half expecting to see someone cutting them up (even though the tender had been for rail use only.)

What I found, was a large number of transporters in the station area, all with lot numbers spray painted on.  As I drove down past the side of the station, I noticed a large pile of sleepers in the distance, and, curious as to what they were doing there (and partially fearing the worst – tracklifting) found they were all ex-standard gauge sleepers, and lots of them.  As I parked up, someone came out of the workshop, so I greeted them and asked them about the sleepers.  They explained that it was for remont and indicated the station area.  I said that there were no trains now, and the guy said that the railway was now owned by the town.  I asked who paid for the sleepers, and he replied that the town had bought them. (I assume that this means the council.)  I asked if there would be trains next year, and it got a half shrug, Byc moze.

There were a couple of guys in the workshop area behind the shed.  I didn’t actually see anyone physically working outside, but the activity looks very recent.  There was a clear single shiny line on one set of rails where something had been moved fairly recently.  I couldn’t work out what it was.

As far as the resleepering goes, the size of the pile tells its own story.  There are a fair few there, and I imagine that you could cut them in half and get two out of each one given the gauge difference.

As you can see in the photos looking down the yard, there are a good few excavations where sleepers are being changed.  Each one is marked with an “X” on the rail head.

The stock around the yard is more or less as it was left.  There is a broken window in one coach, the railcar or coach is still minus its bogie and stuck up on a transporter wagon (I don’t remember how many years it has been like that – a good few) and a diesel is still dumped outside the shed.  I’d guess that all the transporters have been moved to Smigiel as part of the tender process.

The Px48 is still there, although the tree behind it has collapsed in the winds (I asked the guy I spoke to about the tree and he said that it collapsed in the winds.)


An apology and correction.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

As number of our regular readers have pointed out the Psykowice Skansen is in the Slaskie province, not the Dolnoslaskie.

Behind The Water Tower prides itself on its accuracy. Our stories are obtained directly from first hand sources, or checked against multiple sources, if not. But occasionally we do get things spectacularly wrong. As we did with our Pyskowice story last week. My thanks to everybody who contacted me with the correct information. My sincere apologies to all our readers, particularly to those who put pen to paper and wrote to the Chief Executive of Dolnoslaskie province. See below for the correct address.

I must double-check addresses in future,
I must double-check addresses in future,
I must… X 100


Adam Matusiewicz
Marszalek Wojewodztwa Slaskiego
Urząd Marszalkowski
ul. Ligonia 46
40-037 Katowice

tel. +48 (32) 20 78 290 ext. 290

Milestones, BTWT won’t be celebrating

Monday, 10 January 2011

Various motive power, Smigiel Railway. Photo BTWT.

I have just completed a very emotional telephone call with Wit Kreuschner, the general manager of the Smigiel Railway. Tomorrow Wit hands over the inventory of the railway to Smigiel Town Council and will be general manager no more. It is a sad day for a man who ten years go was the initiator of the plan to save the line, and with the help of SKPL, engineered its takeover by Smigiel town Council.

Jerzy Ciesla, the town mayor in those days was an enthusiastic supporter of the railway and the idea that it should continue to play an active part in the economy of the area. The motives of the current administration are more difficult to fathom. Wiktor Snela, the present incumbent in the mayoral post told Robert Hall that he believes the railway has a future as a tourist attraction rather than as a transport undertaking. A year, or so ago, I attended a meeting at which the deputy mayor said that the Town Council has no interest in developing the Town’s tourist attractions. So which statement is correct? Time will tell.

The last post, reporting the Smigiel Railway’s demise under SKPL auspices, generated a huge amount of interest. On January 6, we had 1,310 hits, a BTWT record. This ‘surge’ in readership also took BTWT over a total of 300,000 hits. But we will not be celebrating these milestones.

In response to the article a number of BTWT readers suggested organising a collection to cover the Smigiel railway deficit for one year. It would have been churlish of me not to have passed the idea on to Tomasz Strapagiel, SKPL chairman. Tomasz asked me to express his appreciation and to explain that the railway’s finances are not really amenable to a rescue plan.

In brief the financial arrangements were as follows. The line’s finances were always on a knife edge. The line needed some 150,000 PLN per annum to cover its costs. There was an understanding between SKPL and the Wielkopolska provincial governor’s office to the effect that the railway would receive funding of 100,000 PLN each year in return for operating a public transport service. But before this grant could be paid, it had to be to be approved by provincial government council members, this usually took place in early summer. Afterwards it took a month or so the funds to be processed and then for various legal reasons it was paid to the Smigiel Town Council. Smigiel Town Council’s management team then had to decide how much of this grant should be actually handed over to SKPL and how much cash should be retained for its own expenditure on matters to do with the railway. By September SKPL received the remaining cash in their bank account. The shortfall was made up from freight revenues and a small amount of ancillary income.

These arrangements were not conducive to the railway’s good health. SKPL never knew what the line’s operating budget was, and so would scrimp and save so as to reduce the eventual deficit. The council saw the effects of this and grumbled about SKPL’s parsimony. And so year by year the relationship deteriorated. When freight carryings ceased, and the Council demanded that SKPL pay local taxes, the elastic snapped.

Perhaps now, where there is no third party to shift responsibility to, the railway might undergo a renaissance? I very much hope so. In the meantime we and many friends of the Smigiel Railway will watch developments carefully and raise the alarm should the council go back on its commitments to continue operating the railway.

My condolences to Wit and his daughter Lidia, who together comprised the line’s management team and for whom the railway was like a member of their family. They were always generous with their time and hospitality to all who came to visit this unique line – the last Polish narrow gauge line to run a genuine passenger service. I hope that both will be able to find equally rewarding employment elsewhere.


Szcesliwego Nowego Roku!

Friday, 31 December 2010

(Happy New Year!)

I wish all Behind The Water Tower readers a happy and prosperous 2011. I would also like to thank all our campaigners and contributors and especially: Robert Hall, Marek Ciesielski, Robert Dylewski, Piotr Kumelowski, Inzynier, Podroznik and Prezes.


PS. In 2011 look forward to publishing more stories about our successful campaigns. My New Year resolution is to post on BTWT more regularly, although if there is a choice between dashing across the country to try to save a railway line, or publishing a new post on time, the railway will win every time!

BTWT is 2 years old!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Babcia’s walnut cake.

(Click on image for the recipe.)

Behind The Water Tower is two years old! By rights we should have been celebrating our birthday on 3 March, but the report of the National Audit Office investigation of the PKP group had just arrived and we thought we should get the translation of the management summary into your hands as soon as possible.

The NIK report confirms what we all know Poland’s railway are in a serious mess and matters appear to be getting worse. Most infuriating – large sums of money, that were available from the EU for the modernization and upgrading of Poland’s railway network, have not been spent because PKP has not submitted the correct paperwork.

At such a time a publication like BTWT which is entirely independent of vested interests – and has an international readership – can play a useful role. This is a very important period for Poland’s railways – decisions about to be made at national government and provincial government level – will determine the long-term size of the railway network and the extent and quality of the services that operate over it.

When BTWT launched, I never dreamed that two nears later the blog would be nudging the 200,000 cumulative hits mark, nor that Tunnel Vision, our daughter blog analysing UK developments and published very occasionally, would have clocked up 11,000 cumulative hits in its own right. I would like to thank all those who help to keep both our blogs on track.

Special thanks are due to: fellow bloggers –  Mike Dembinski, the Fact Compiler and Phill Davison, who not only allow us to cross post articles, but generously have provided back links; guest authors – Robert Hall, ‘Inzynier’ and Grzegorz Sykut; the photographers who have allowed us to regularly use their pictures – Marek Ciesielski, Tomasz Domzalski, Robert Dylewski, Jerzy Dabrowski, Tilo Rösner, Harald Finster, Andrew Goodwin, Dewi Williams, Phill Davison and the late Alun Evans; all our comment contributors, especially our ‘regulars’ Robert Hall, Geoff Jenkins and Gavin Whitelaw; and last but not least all our sources, with special thanks to ‘podroznik’.

Before I close I would like to raise a glass of Zubrowka and drink a toast to all our readers who put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and sent off letters in support of our various campaigns – you have made a difference – Na zdrowie to you all!

There’s nothing better than bad news…

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Crash investigators at Grayrigg
(photo Owen Humphries on daylife ex AP)

First a bit of good news, our chief engineer’s worries about the tram track section of the WHR through Porthmadog apppear to have been misplaced. A medical gentlemen left the following comment on our Twisty Tale post.

Have no fear about our tram track. The gauge is widened by 10mm in the middle of the 50m radius curve at Britannia Bridge, and a suitable rail with an appropriate flange groove between the running rail and the check rail has been found in Austria.

There is a notice at the approach to the crossing saying CYCLISTS MUST DISMOUNT.

The class NGG16 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt locomotives traverse 58m radius curves elsewhere on the railway without difficulty, and of course the radii are even sharper at points (turnouts), check rails and all.

Relax, sleep well; come and see us this time next year. Croeso i Gymru; welcome to Wales.

We have been to Poland and admired some of your narrow gauge lines – we were very taken with the marvellous museum at Sochaczew (pardon me if I spell it wrong). the branch line at Smigiel needs someone to go along it with a fishplate spanner to tighten the joints.


Dyspozytor has been going on long walks, relaxing and is already sleeping better. Our chief engineer is still muttering ‘NG 15s are 2-8-2s, 50 doesn’t equal 58, flangeway clearances, back to back flange distance’ and other such nonsense, but we have locked him up in a cupboard and will leave him there until he promises to behave himself.

Now the bad news, there will be no repeal of the decision to suspend the Wolsztyn – Poznan steam workings this summer. Howard Jones has been to Poznan this morning and met with Wielkopolska province’s Deputy Director of Transport. He was assured that the importance of the Wolsztyn operation was recognized by the Chief Executive and that steam trains will return to the Poznan route in October. Meanwhile Howard will be hiring additional special trains on the Wolsztyn-Poznan route to fulfill his existing agreements with customers. (He already has built up alternative footplating capacity in Wroclaw with recently restored TKt48-18 and Bill Parker’s GWR 45xx 5521, as well as on the narrow gauge Smigiel Railway with the Px48.) Howard says, “We have built up a special fund for capital projects such as restoring our own Ol steam locomotive. Now we will have to dip into this fund and buy extra trains so that we can still meet our customers’ expectations.”

It seems that the reason for the suspension of the steam services is based on more than just economics. If saving money was the object, the timetabling and rostering of the steam trains could have been arranged more economically. Rather, PKP is tied up in its own affairs – the removal of senior directors and the sale of parts of its business. Wolsztyn is no one’s priority. In spite of promises to the contrary, no new crews have been recruited nor trained, and licences to allow the depot to carry out boiler repairs have not been renewed. The basic problem is that there is no one at a sufficiently high level in the PKP hierarchy who really cares about heritage rail operations.

Still, as the proprietors of the popular press know all to well, publishing bad news boosts circulation. BTWT watches the number of daily hits it gets assiduously and we were surprised to see how much interest bad news generates.

Behind the Water Tower’s weekly-cumulative daily hit rate

Our biggest daily hit rate (which we have yet to beat) occurred on 2 April when we broke through the 100 hits a day and 200 hits a day barriers for the first time. At the end of the day we had registered 253 hits. What had generated so much interest – our articles on the closure of the Krosniewice Railway and the stepping up of our letter writing campaign to save the line. The Krosniewice closure gave us a daily-cumulative per week hit rate of 774 views (week 14 on the graph) as opposed to 236 hits the previous week. Readership then fell back to its previous steady growth and then began to level off at around 750 weekly hits – just over 100 hits each day. Over the last two days interest in our story about the curtailment of steam operations at Wolsztyn, and narrow gauge fans returning for the latest news about the Krosniewice Railway closure, boasted our daily hits to 220 on Sunday. This gave us our biggest ever daily-cumulative per week hit rate of 898 views last week (week 23).

Why this obsession with the numbers game? We know that for every 100 long-term readers, about 10 are sufficiently committed to respond to our calls for help. That means that the Ministry of Infrastructure received 10 more letters on its desk than it would of done if there had been no BTWT and no letter writing campaign. Can 10 letters make a difference? Quite frankly we don’t know, although we hope that taken together with the Fedecrail delegation’s visit to Poland and the threat of legal action, they will. But just consider if we had 1,000 regular readers each day. That would mean that the Minisister would have received 100 letters – a figure much more difficult to ignore.

So how can you help? First of all, you can sign up to our twice monthly mailing which contains links to our most popular articles. Secondly, ask yourself – are any of your friends interested in Poland or railways or both – whose names we could add to our mailing list? Secondly – and we apologise for nagging – please, if you have not already done so, do send that letter to the Mayor of Krosniewice and copy us on your letter and any reply that you may receive.

Our 100th post

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Cumulative daily visits each month in April and May

Today’s article is our 100th post. We have now been publishing Behind The Water Tower for three months in its present form as a campaigning blog. (An earlier test version was started a month earlier on another site.) In May we had 3,183 hits which averages out at 100 visits daily.

Rather than bask in out own glory we would like to dedicate today’s post to all the professional men and women who work on our railways and to all the volunteers who work to rescue closed railways and then keep them going. People like Moira Cross.

Moira Cross at Swanage Station (c) Andrew Wright

Moira took part in the original campaign, launched in 1968, to stop the Swanage Railway closing and helped petition the authorities. From 1972, she provided secretarial assistance to the Swanage Railway Society – the pioneers of the project to reopen the Swanage Railway. She was a committee member of the Swanage and Wareham Railway Group – the local resident’s campaigning group – without whose efforts the Society’s efforts would have come to nothing.

When the trains started to run she helped run the railway shop and helped set up the team that ran the refreshment stall. For over 30 years, Moira has been helping the Swanage Railway as an unpaid volunteer. On 6 September, 2002 Moira’s dedication was recognised by the Swanage Railway and Virgin Trains when she was asked to name a Virgin Voyager trainset – the first mainline train to travel down the Swanage line for over thirty years. To Moira, and the hundreds of thousands of men and women, who work our railways, whether as transport links, heritage lines, or both, our grateful thanks.

Our road map

Thursday, 3 April 2008


Ania, one of the school children who
regularly used the KrKD, decorates
the last train. 31.03.2008

(Clicking the picture leads to more.)

Behind the Water Tower started as a ‘niche’ blog some 10 weeks ago. Our intention was to celebrate the variety of Poland’s railway heritage and to encourage railway enthusiasts from Western Europe to visit Poland. If we had a ‘hidden agenda’ – it was a hope that some of these western visitors would befriend their Polish counterparts and help the Polish societies with their work. The bigger societies, such as FPKW, PSMK and SKPL, already have links with the outside world, but there are a score of lesser-known railway societies, struggling against enormous odds to develop their railways and railway museums, who desperately need assistance.

After a month or so of experimental blogging (it’s no easy task to find something new and exciting to say every day) external events suddenly took a hand. A massive and irrecoverable crash on our original host, forced our move to, but how to inform our ten or so readers? We prepared an e-mail to everybody we knew who was interested in Polish rail. Some of these were members of an informal group of anglo-poles who meet to dine in Warsaw once or twice a year. We added all their names for good measure! The e-mail pointed out that it was easy to get crossed off the mailing list. Neo, a friend of ours, also posted a couple of links on the kolejelist discussion group.

Dyspozytor waited for the floodgates to open (Please take me off your mailing list at once!) but no angry e-mails came. The regular readership climbed to about thirty, peaking to twice or three times that figure when we carried an article of interest to a particular group. Then came the closure of Krosniewice, with the main Polish narrow gauge discussion group indulging in an orgy of mutual recriminations as to whose fault it was. (It’s not the fault of any Polish railway enthusiast, but it’s entirely the fault of Madame Mayor!)

Decision time – do we join the MOANERS, sitting on the fence helplessly, wringing their hands and blaming each other – or do we emulate John Wayne? We decided to wade into the battle to save the Krosniewice Railway, guns blazing! One of the administrators of Swiat Kolejek Waskotorowych (Polish narrow gauge discussion group) published a link to our campaign and yesterday’s readership broke through the roof! It will take a few days for things to settle down, but if we end up with a base of, say 30 to 50 readers prepared from time to time to type out the odd letter, we will be very content!