Archive for the ‘BTWT’ Category

Christmas Competition – No. 7

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A very interesting, yet somewhat confusing location. Satellite photo courtesy Google Maps.

(Click to enlarge.)

The battle for first place in our Christmas competition is warming up. Waldemar Heise challenged our assertion that only Ed Beale correctly identified our last but one location as Umianowice on the Jedrzejow railway and, after checking all the correspondence that we received, the judges have accepted the challenge!

We received Ed’s answer on 21 December at 16:50, but Waldemar had already sent in an answer at 00:27 on the same day, which we somehow overlooked. Our sincere apologies to both Waldemar and Ed over the mix-up – the judges have had no choice, but to transfer the point for that round from Ed to Waldemar.

It is probably a good time to revisit the corrected score board:

1st round – Waldemar Heise, 1 point (Przemtorf Peat Plant)
2nd round – Ed Beale, 1 point (Karczmiska depot)
3rd round – Inzynier, 1 point (Hajnowka depot)
4th round – Waldemar Heise, 1 point (Golczewo)
5th round – Waldemar Heise, 1 point (Umianowice)

No correct entries were received for our last location which was in Przeworsk on the Przeworsk narrow gauge railway, so the point goes to Dyspozytor. Waldemar appears unbeatable with 3 points, but there are 7 more rounds to play, so anything is possible as far as the final score goes.

Our last location – the curve at Preworsk. ‘Slippy’ map courtesy Google Maps.

Christmas Competition – No. 3

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Today’s mystery narrow gauge location courtesy Google Maps.

(Click image to enlarge.)

More players have joined the competition. Welcome to to one and all. We are particularly pleased to see participants who are taking part for the first time. There will be 12 questions in all, so, if you would like to play the game, it is not to late to join.

The last mystery picture was of Karczmiska depot – easily recognised by its distinctive double-ended shed and triangle – on the Naleczowska Kolej Dojazdowa, literally ‘Naleczow Feeder Railway’.

Poland’s koleje dojazdowe cause a problem for the translator. In English, secondary lines are not generally referred to as ‘feeder railways’, If they are standard gauge they are colloquially called ‘branch lines’, though formally they are railways. Narrow gauge are usually just ‘railways’. The Ffestiniog Railway is owned and operated by the Festiniog Railway Company. (Yes the different spelling of ‘Ffestiniog’ is correct!)

However, some British narrow gauge railways are called ‘narrow gauge railways’, the erstwhile North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways immediately spring to mind. Perhaps the closest to kolej dojazdowa in the physical sense of ‘a lightly laid feeder railway’ is the term ‘light railway’, which like kolej dojazdowa can be applied regardless of gauge.

However, in England this term has acquired a legal sense – a line laid under the powers of the Light Railways Act – and only certain light railways in the formerly Prussian administered areas of Poland were built under the terms of equivalent legislation.

In Poland there is a general tendency for former narrow gauge koleje dojazdowe, now operating as heritage lines, to brand themselves as koleje waskotorowe, so by translating in BTWT the names of such lines as the ‘Something or other Narrow Gauge Railway’ we are only following the trend.

Waldemar Heise, Inzynier and Michael Friedrich correctly identified Karczmiska, but Ed Beale was first and so gets the point.

A ‘slippy’ satellite picture of the Karczmiska area, which can be expanded, scrolled or viewed in Google Maps.

Christmas Competition – No. 2

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A narrow gauge location somewhere in Poland courtesy of Google Maps. But where?

(Click to enlarge.)

A warm welcome to Waldemar Heise who entered the labyrinthine domain of BTWT competitions for the first time only to immediately snatch a point just as Dyspozytor was gazing longingly at another bottle of Zubrowka. Waldemar was the only person to submit an entry. Come on BTWT regulars, where are you all? Dozing off to many pre-Christmas party drinks, I expect.

There’s something to said for the Polish custom whereby the whole country celebrates St Andrew’s day and then everybody slows down their rate of beverage consumption until Christmas. Andrew is the patron saint of countries not particularly known for being abstemious: Scotland, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, and in bygone times, Prussia.

While on the subject of saints, here is a brief note about Saints Barbara and Catherine in reply to a couple of recent comments by Robert Hall. St Barbara is the patron saint of artillerymen, military engineers, miners and others who work with explosives because her wicked father was struck down by lightning. St Catherine looks after railwaymen, because Emperor Maxentius ordered her to be tortured on a spiked wheel. So Barbara – explosives; Catherine – wheeled transport. Easy!

Our congratulations to Waldemar for correctly identifying the Przemtorf Peat Processing Plant – and its narrow gauge railway at Nowy Chwalim near Szczecinek. There are some nice photos of the railway on Peter Wilhelm’s fascinating Eisenbahnen in Pommern website. Below is a ‘slippy’ satellite picture of the peatfields, which can be expanded, scrolled or viewed in map view.

Film competition – tie breaker

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The magician starts his journey home from Edinburgh Waverley station. Still from Sylvain Chomet’s L’illusionniste.

(Click image to expand.)

Consternation reigned in the BTWT tower when it became clear that there is no overall winner in our film competition. Much to our astonishment nobody identified our last mystery film as Sylvain Chomet’s L’illusionniste. This, the last appearance of Jacques Tati’s slightly jejune gentleman character (Mr Hulot’s Holiday, Traffic) albeit, albeit faithfully recreated in animated form, is a wonderful evocation of Britain about to be changed forever by the ‘swinging sixties’. There are many scenes of railway interest and Edinburgh never looked so attractive.

The film is a faithful tribute to Tati without ever becoming a pastiche. Based on one of Tati’s own scripts – which he never produced – it tells the story of two people whose paths intersect. The first is a magician of the music hall tradition, forced by changing public tastes to travel ever further – from cities to remote villages – to present his magic show. The second is that of a naive young girl, Alice, who still has the sense of wonder of childhood. The meeting of these two lonely souls is a tender and magical moment, but both are destined to move on…

Amazon currently have L’illusionniste available on DVD for £5.37. If you buy through our link below, a small contribution will be paid by Amazon to us.

The Illusionist [DVD]

A clip from our tie breaker.

With no one identifying L’illusionniste, Dyspozytor has notched up another point. The score is now: Gavin Whitelaw and Dyspozytor are  in joint first place with 4 points; Mike Winslow is second with 3 points and Alex Fitch is third with 1 point. Since splitting a bottle of Zubrowka in two might be a tad difficult [We could always meet up and drink it together! D.] our competition board have decided to hold a tie-breaker. Today’s film has a great deal of railway interest, but is probably better known by cineastes than rail fans.

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.


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.)

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

Film competition – part 3

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Another still from Jacques Tati’s Les Vacances de M. Hulot.

At first, Monday’s still stumped everybody! But then, to be fair to BTWT’s readers, it was from a rather uncharacteristic shot that only lasts a few seconds. A day later, the answers started rolling in. Gavin Whitelaw and Mike Winslow correctly identified the still as being from Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday. Above is another still with a typical incident from this very funny film. Gavin was first with the right answer, so he takes the point.

If you have not got a copy of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday then you may be interested in buying the film. It has recently been digitally remastered by the National Film Institute and is available from Amazon UK for £10:93 (including delivery in the UK). Buying it by clicking the link below gives BTWT a small percentage of the proceeds.

Les Vacances de M. Hulot  (1953)  Blu-ray + DVD

Judging how well BTWT readers have coped with quite obscure films, the next still should produce dozens of correct answers. If you want to take part in our competition, and can identify the film from the still below, then post the answer as a comment as quickly as you can.

Today’s mystery film should be easy!

Competition rules:

End of season competition – part 2

Monday, 12 September 2011

From which film was this still taken?

Five of our readers correctly identified the last picture as a still from the 1937 British comedy Oh Mr Porter! This very funny film starring Will Hay, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt, and directed by Marcel Varnel, is Will Hay’s best movie.

The plot was inspired by Arnold Ridley’s 1923 play The Ghost Train and the principal characters in the film – Porter, Albert and Harbottle – were in turn to inspire Jimmy Perry to create the characters of Captain Mainwaring, Corporal Jones and Private Pike in one of the BBC TV’s best-loved sitcoms, Dad’s Army. The circle closed when in 1968 Arnold Ridley appeared as Private Charles Godfrey in Dad’s Army.

Alex Fitch, Mike Winslow, Jan Rapacz, Mike and Gavin Whitelaw submitted correct answers. Alex Fitch takes the point for being first to submit the correct answer.

Today’s still is a tad more difficult. The film it is taken from is another well-loved comedy. It is less well known by British railway enthusiasts but is highly regarded by cineastes. Some of its hero’s mannerism were then copied many years later by the principal character of a modern British TV comedy series who is as well known in Poland as he is in the UK.

Another scene from Oh Mr Porter (left to right) – Will Hay as William Porter, Graham Moffatt as Albert and Moore Marriott as Harbottle.

Amazon UK have two copies of the Oh Mr Porter! DVD for sale for £5:47 (postage free in the UK). If you purchase by clicking through the link below a small percentage will be credited to BTWT.

Buy the film:

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.)


Blowing hot and cold in the Carpathians

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Bieszczady Railway, Majdan yard, November 2006. Photo BTWT.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Poland is experiencing a thaw and nearly all the snow has melted. Poland’s two narrow gauge lines in the Carparthian Mountains – the Bieszczady Forest Railway and the Przeworsk Railway are getting ready for the spring.

The Bieszczadzy Railway’s EU project has started. Some 1,442,000 PLN (approx £315,000) is being spent on restoring and improving buildings in the Majdan area, essential work on the track and building new passenger carriages. The engine shed and workshops are being insulated, which will enable fitters to work all year round. At the moment such staff are employed on a seasonal basis. This work will also make it possible for the railway to run special trains during the winter season. During the line’s heyday the principal engine shed was at Rzepedz, and the locomotive workshops, located inside the grounds of the timber mill at Nowy Lupkow, were heated by the mill’s district central heating system.

Some of the project money is being spent on restoring the historic station building at Majdan. When its outer cladding was stripped away, it became apparent that the main structural timbers were completely decayed. Without the support of the cladding, part of the station building collapsed. Meanwhile work on the Kp4 0-8-0 locomotive which the railway acquired in near ‘Barry Dock’ condition is continuing off-site. If everything turns out as planned, the Kp4 will join the railway in May.

Three new steam drivers recently passed out by taking their theory exam at the Railway Museum in Warsaw. [Why on earth is the Railway Museum responsible for passing out heritage railway drivers? D.] The Las locomotive which  featured in some of our earlier articles remains in service. So the Bieszczadzy railway will be  the only Polish narrow gauge line able to roster two operational steam locomotives.

The Bieszczadzy railways EU project is a Polish first – it is the first non-local-authority-owned line to benefit from an EU grant. But it is paying heavily for the privilege. Initially the railway will have to find 1 756 414 PLN (£384,000) being the value of the project plus VAT and, unlike local authority projects where only 25% has to be contributed as ‘own funds’, the railway will responsible for raising some 45% of the project budget itself.

Przeworsk Railway, Przeworsk yard, April 2009. Photo BTWT.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Meanwhile a meeting took place on 7 Febuary at the offices of the Chief Executive of Przeworsk district Council to discuss the future of the Przeworsk Railway. Among those present were: Mrs Anna Kowalska, the deputy chief executive of the Podkarpackie Provincial Government; Tomasz Strapagiel, the chairman of SKPL; Wladyslaw Zelazny, the general manager of the Przeworsk railway; Zbigniew Kiszka, the chief executives of the Przeworsk district Council; and Grzegorz Krupa of the Przeworsk railway’s supporters association.

The principal subjects discussed were the shortfall between income and expenditure on the railway’s operational account as well as the urgent need for substantial funding to carry out essential work on the railway’s infrastructure. While there have been several meetings before to discuss the future of the line, this was the first time that a meeting to discuss the future of the railway was attended by such a senior representative of the provincial government as Mrs Kowalska.

No final agreement was reached regarding the resolution of financial challenges that the railway faces. However, it was agreed that a meeting of all the local authorities concerned with the future of the line should take place at the offices of the provincial government in Rzeszow under the chairmanship of  Mirosław Karapyta, the new chief executive. All sides felt that significant progress had been made in securing the long-term future of the railway.



The case of the Buckinghamshire LAS

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Bieszczady Railway LAS, November 2006, at Majdan.
Photo BTWT.

(Click image to expand.)

I had seen little of Prezes lately. My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who finds himself master of his own establishment, had drifted us away from each other, while Prezes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our old lodgings, buried among his books, and alternating from week to week between lethargy and ambition.

He was still, as ever, deeply attracted by the study of railway heritage, and occupied his immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in following out those projects, and assisting those railways which had been abandoned as hopeless by the official bodies. From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons to Gora, of his clearing up of the singular tragedy of the lost Skansen at Karsnice, and finally of the delicate mission in which he was still engaged. Beyond these signs of his activity, which, when he permitted, I merely shared with our readers, I knew little of my former friend and companion.

Bieszczady Railway LAS about to run round its special train at Dolczyca, November 2006.
Photo BTWT.

(Click image to expand.)

One night my way led me past the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind with the dark incidents of the Study in Smigiel, I was seized with a keen desire to see Prezes again, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own story. He was at work again. He had risen out of his stupors and was hot upon the scent of some new problem. I rang the bell and was admitted to the chamber which had formerly been in part my own.

His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair, indicated a bottle of Zubrowka and a dish of zimne noszki in the corner. Then he stood before me and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

“Domesticity suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Dyspozytor, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”

“Seven!” I answered.

“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy. And you have come to consult me about the LAS that you found in Steeple Claydon.

“Then, how do you know?”

LAS on a PKP 600mm gauge railway somewhere in Poland. The photo was originally published in a calendar published by the erstwhile PKP Dyrekcja Kolei Dojazdowych in Warsaw which was responsible for Poland’s narrow gauge railways. The pictures, by M. Kucharski, J.Wardęcki, J.Zajfert, A.Gibek, C.Gwara, M.Moczulski, were then scanned and displayed on the Internet as an appendix to a brief on-line history of Krosniewice and its railway which was published in 2002 and is still hosted in its original state!

(Click on the image to see all the photographs that appeared on the PKP DKD calendar.)

“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that it is 750mm gauge and was formerly employed in a sugar refinery in central Poland?”

“My dear Prezes,” said I, “this is too much. You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I am intrigued by the Buckinghamshire LAS but, as the engine is surrounded by foliage, how can you know the gauge? I can’t imagine how you deduce it? As to where the engine spent its former life, there again, I fail to see how you work it out.”

“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “I regularly read your somewhat simplified accounts of my cases on BTWT and the comments that you publish from your admiring audience. Alex Fitch tells us that Steeple Claydon is not a million miles from Leighton Buzzard. Obviously if you live near that line and have a 600mm engine you would take it there. So it is not 600mm gauge. A brief glance at the trees on Google’s Street View – a suggestion from another of your admirers, who prefers to hide his identity under the nom de plume of Warwickian – would indicate that the engine has been at its present location for some time. I would estimate some 15 years, or more. This would coincide with the early to mid 90s, after the collapse of communism in Poland, the period when Polish sugar refineries were getting rid of their remaining steam engines. Now the majority of these employed 600mm gauge with the exception of those attached to the Kujawy Railway network which was largely standardised post WW I to 750mm. Hence, you see, my triple deduction that the engine was 750mm gauge, had come from a sugar refinery, and had been based in central Poland.

I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. “When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

“Quite so,” he answered, pouring himself a glass of Zubrowka, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the front door to the lift.”


“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seven steps, because I have both seen and observed. Now kindly look up former 750mm LAS sugar refinery locomotives on the Wciaz Pod Para database of Polish steam engines sold abroad.”

“I have it. There could be five. There are no details about the origins of one.”

“How many in the UK?”



“One from Cukrownia Wozuczyn, in Preston.”

“That one went to the South Tyndale Railway and has now been rebuilt without its side tanks.”

“The other, from Cukrownia Ostrowy, is thought to be near London. Wasn’t Cukrownia Ostrowy some 6 kilometres distance from Krosniewice?”

“You have your engine, Dyspozytor,” said Prezes, pouring himself a glass of Zubrowka and languidly sinking into his armchair.

With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Google Maps, Street View – Sleeping LAS

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.


A Staffordshire ‘might have been’

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Picture 14

Hand propelling a standard gauge wagon on to a 2ft 6in gauge transporter wagon, Leek & Manifold Light Railway in 1930.
Frame from BFI National Film Archive film.

(Click picture to see the entire film on You Tube.)

The Leek and Manifold Valley Railway was the only narrow gauge railway in England which successfully operated narrow gauge transporter wagons to carry standard gauge railway wagons. The line was opened in June 1904. The gauge, 2ft 6in, was unusual for a UK public narrow gauge railway although it was used in the British colonies, in Admiralty depots and on certain industrial lines e.g. the Bowaters Paper Railway.

The single track line ran for nearly nine miles from Hulme End to connect with the North Staffordshire Railway at Waterhouses. There were eight intermediate stations: Ecton, Butterton, Wetton Mill, Redhurst Halt, Thor’s Cave, Grindon station, Beeston Tor, and Sparrowlee.

The line’s engineer Everard Calthrop was a proponent of narrow gauge railways who had achieved some distinction in the construction of the Barsi Light Railway in India. By specifying locomotives where the distribution of the weight was evenly distributed across all the axles – an idea that he had successfully proved on the BLR – he was able to use 35lb/yard rail and reduce the cost of building the railway. His plans were approved and be became the line’s engineer designing two 2-6-4T locomotives, which were built by Kitson & Co in 1904.

The L&MVT’s passenger rolling stock consisted of four bogie coaches: two first class and two brake composite thirds. The freight rolling stock consisted of only one box van and two open wagons and five transporter wagons; Calthorpe recognizing the advantage of not having to transfer goods to and from standard gauge goods wagons at Waterhouses.

There were plans to extend the line to Buxton but these were blocked by the NSR and local landowners. Without the link to Buxton the L&MVLR was a line to ‘nowhere’ and could never build up enough freight business to safeguard its future. During WW I, the line briefly came into its own carrying large quantities of milk in 17 gallon churns. After the war the line suffered from passengers and freight deserting the line in favour of road transport.

At Grouping in January 1923, the L&MVLR became part of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). The LMS ran the line for another 11 years, finally closing the line in March 1934. If only the line had survived another 16 years into the ‘preservation era’ which started in Britain on the Talyllyn Railway in 1950. Sadly it was not to be.

In the 1970s a plan was put forward to revive a section of the railway as a miniature railway. Despite an opinion poll recording 98% support for the railway from the local people, the Peak Planning Board took heed of the view of a minority of protesters – including the local branch of the Ramblers Association – and turned down the proposals. Ironically at the same time members of the South Dorset branch of the Rambler’s Association were playing a key part in saving the Swanage Railway!