Archive for the ‘Kalisz’ Category

Kalisz trip report

Monday, 5 December 2011

Photo report by Ed Beale

Zbiersk Cukrownia, SKPL mixed traffic special ready to depart. Photo ©Ed Beale.

(Click to enlarge.)

At 09:30 on Saturday 3rd December, around 25 people armed with cameras were waiting outside Kalisz station for the first part of the Mikolajki z TOWOS-em excursion on SKPL’s Kalisz narrow gauge railway. At 09:45 a historic San H100 bus appeared and we all piled on board and quickly departed. The bus drew all eyes as we drove through the centre of Kalisz – no one has seen its like for decades.

The first stop was at the site of the old Kalisz narrow gauge station on the northern edge of the town. The mainline station in Kalisz is badly located, but this one was in its day just as bad, being 2.5 km from the city centre and 5 km from the standard gauge station. But it closed many years ago and all there is to see now is a large flat empty site covered in low weeds. An LPG gas station occupies a tiny part of the site, but the rest remains empty.

One of several run-pasts. Photo ©Ed Beale.

(Click to enlarge.)

We continued on to Zbiersk, the HQ and engineering base of the railway, where we arrived at 10:35. The special train was waiting in the yard, consisting of Lxd2-287, two standard gauge bogie wagons on transporters, a brake van and a Romanian coach.

Departure from Zbiersk was at 11:00. The southward journey was broken up by a number of photo stops, seven of them in total, with run-pasts at most. The landscape the railway passes through is flat, but forests, a river, and some fine churches in villages close to the line add a bit of scenic interest. The line crosses numerous roads but as the railway is still well used, drivers were pretty good at stopping at the sound of the train horn and there was no need for staff in hi-vis jackets to hop out and stop the traffic.

Standard gauge wagons are unloaded from their transporters. Photo ©Ed Beale.

(Click to enlarge.)

We reached Opatowek, the standard gauge interchange station, at 13:40. Here the coach and brake van were shunted into a siding while the Lxd2 and SKPL’s standard gauge shunter transferred the two standard gauge wagons from the transporters back onto standard gauge track. This took around an hour, then the special train, now reduced to just the coach and brake van, departed back to Zbiersk at 14:50.

This time, due to the fading light, there were no photo stops, but we did have a long stop at Zelazkow where, to my very pleasant surprise, portions of bigos (delicious goulash style stew) and bread rolls arrived for everyone from the catering company on the other side of the road! With the bigos quickly finished off the train continued on into the dusk to Zbiersk, arriving at 16:35, in plenty of time for the 17:19 bus back to Kalisz.

Many thanks to Robert Matczak and his colleagues at SKPL for an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable event, and to Dyspozytor for booking my place.


Kalisz n.g. special booking details

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Opatowek – Turek special train in 1995. Film .

SKPL have published more details of their Kalisz Narrow Gauge Railway railtour which is due to run on 3rd December, Impreza Mikołajki z TOWOS-em. Departure will be from Kakisz (main line) station at 09:30.

A vintage San H100 bus will first take passengers to inspect the site of the former narrow gauge passenger terminus, Kalisz Waskotorowy and then on to the SKPL Headquarters at Zbiersk Cukrownia. Here there will be an opportunity to look around the depot and photograph the extensive collection of narrow gauge freight vehicles.

The special train to Opatowek will depart at 10:30. The train will be a mixed passenger/freight train hauled by an Lxd2 diesel. There will be two standard gauge Rs bogie bolster wagons (on narrow gauge transporter wagons) a Romanian DMU trailer coach and a brake van. At Opatowek participants will be able to photograph the standard gauge wagons being unloaded from their narrow gauge transporters.

The Kalisz Narrow Gauge Railway. Map & map data courtesy Google Maps.

(Click on image to see a larger map which can be expanded and scrolled.)

The cost of the trip – including the vintage bus fare (one-way) from Kalisz to Zbiersk is 60 zloty. Participants who wish to make their own way to Zbiersk and forgo the bus will only be charged 50 zloty. Both fares include the cost of light refreshments. There are only 30 seats available on the bus and these must be reserved before hand. Return to Kalisz (not included in the cost) is by a normal service leaving Zbiersk at 17:20.

Reservations – which must be accompanied by a bank transfer – can be made by contacting Robert Matczak on + 48 503 095 577. Prepayments are only required from participants travelling on the vintage bus and should be made to:

RWM COM – Robert Matczak
Rychnów Kolonia 18
62-814 Rychnów

bank account: 72114020040000310268113032

BTWT regulars who wish to take the vintage bus option and who do not have a Polish bank account are asked to contact Dyspozytor urgently either by e-mail on railfan [at] go2 [dot] pl or via the BTWT comments facility.

Special train at Opatowek on 16 April 2011. Photo BTWT.

A return journey – part 6

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Two standard gauge wagons on three transporters returning from Zbiersk to Opatowek. Photo Tomasz Jankowski, SKPL.

(Click image to see original on SKPL website.)

For those who relish above all else, genuine commercial railway operation, the jewel in the Polish narrow gauge’s crown nowadays has to be SKPL’s 24 km Opatowek – Zbiersk 750mm line – freight-only, but Poland’s one remaining narrow-gauge railway which handles a worthwhile and dependable amount of revenue-earning freight. This takes the form of stone, fertilizer, and a certain amount of timber. Workings usually take place several times a week, but on a as required basis – it helps enormously, to have on hand a knowledgeable contact, in touch with the nerve-centre of operations at Zbiersk. Dyspozytor performed this office, and ascertained that a freight train would be running on the morning of Monday July 19, departing from Zbiersk at 08:00 for the standard gauge interchange at Opatowek on the Warsaw – Lodz – Wroclaw main line.

We considered staying overnight at Russow near Zbiersk, but in the end a 06:00 departure by car from Lodz was decided upon, to cover the 90-odd km west to Zbiersk in good time. In part, a beeline was taken over country roads, with Dyspozytor driving and me navigating – despite a couple of minor mess-ups, we got to Zbiersk station only a couple of minutes after 08:00; to discover that due to some minor repair work on the locomotive, our departure would now take place at 08:30, at the earliest. The SKPL staff made us welcome and plied us with tea, while we waited; and we had the chance of a quick look around the locoshed and workshops, including the heartening sight of transporter trucks undergoing maintenance – an indication of freight action on this line continuing for a while yet. Our train departure was ultimately at 08:42. It was a fairly minimalist freight working, but indubitably a genuine one: B-B Lxd2-287 hauling a transporter truck carrying one empty standard-gauge four-wheeled van, which had arrived the previous Friday loaded with fertiliser.

Dyspozytor had arranged for us to travel in the loco’s cab, with the driver and second-man – four in the cab was OK any more would probably have been rather a squeeze. The 24km to Opatowek was covered in about an hour and a quarter. The track seemed fairly overgrown, but was in better-than-dreadful condition. There were many ungated crossings; the most momentous being over the direct Kalisz – Turek road. All of these were negotiated cautiously, with a great deal of horn-blowing from the loco. This particular Lxd2 anyway, had two horns, one on each side of the cab – one shrill, the other deep.

At Zelazkow, the junction for the fork of the line to Russow and formerly, Kalisz, the branch was still there and visible, diverging; but very shortly after the junction, vanishing into thick vegetation. Dyspozytor said nostalgicaly that he had organised a special train from Russow to Rurek which ran along this short spur some three years earlier. These days nothing less than a tank would have cut through the jungle. Onward to Opatowek, where the standard gauge wagon was run off the transporter and on to track of its own gauge. (We were able to render a little help in this operation). SKPL has a tiny standard gauge diesel shunter stationed at Opatowek, which our driver drove to pull the wagon clear from the actual interchange point.

At about 10:30, we headed off back for Zbiersk, with the loco hauling the empty transporter truck which had conveyed the wagon. We gathered that the transporter had some minor fault which needed attending to in the Zbiersk workshops. Back to Zbiersk at 11:49 – and that was it, for the railway’s action for the day. Farewells made to the staff, and then we were on our way.

Dyspozytor and I arranged to reunite at Smigiel in a couple of days time for doings of possibly some significance. In the meantime, I planned a few days exploring to the west and north. We drove to Konin, on the Warsaw – Poznan main line, whence I would travel by train westwards. The first part of the drive was plotted to encompass a couple of crossings over the narrow gauge line’s section Zbiersk – Turek, which had a freight service run by SKPL. This had operated until three years or so ago, but fell victim to the sadly frequent situation in Poland nowadays, of local councils having no interest in their local narrow gauge railway other than extracting money from it via rates and other local charges. SKPL’s chairman basically told the local councils, We’re not playing, and suspended workings on the section Zbiersk – Turek. The track is still there, but overgrown to the point of becoming invisible… having checked out part of this line we drove to Konin. Hetre we parted, I boarded a train running west to Rzepin. We agreed to meet up at Stare Bojanowo, the standard-gauge railhead for the Smigiel narrow gauge railway, at 15:42, the arrival time of my local from Poznan, on the day after next.

Wandering with WIG

Friday, 30 July 2010

Zbiersk – a major junction in 1935

One of the joys of driving by car through Poland in the 1970s was that one could never go very far without coming across something of interest to a railway enthusiast. On the western side of the country that something was, as likely as not, a vintage steam engine pulling a train of goods wagons along some rickety narrow gauge tracks. Alas those days are gone for ever, like the horse drawn carts that used to out number cars in country areas. If only, as one of our regular correspondents is wont to say, one had a vehicle that could go back in time. For those of us not fortunate enough to posses such a machine, the WIG website is the next best thing. I hasten to add that I do not mean the Warszawski Indeks Giełdowy, useful as the Warsaw’s Stock Exchange index might be, but rather the maps published before WW II by the Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny. The WIG 1:100,000 maps are the equivalent of Britain’s old 1 inch to the mile Ordanance Survey mapping.

The 1950s are frequently considered as the zenith of the Polish narrow gauge. PKP built new lines, relaid industrial lines and largely standardised on the 750 mm gauge. However, though the 50s are the time when Poland had the greatest mileage of public narrow gauge railways, the real n.g. heydey was in the inter-war years, when the newly formed PKP’s narrow gauge lines co-existed with am enormous mileage of other narrow gauge railways. These included private estate railways, forestry railways, sugar beet railways, colliery and quarry railways and hundreds of industrial lines both large and small. Thanks to the on-line archive of historic WIG maps maintained by the Archiwum Map Wojskowego Instytutu Geograficznego 1919 – 1939, a trip back to the Poland of the inter war years needs just lots of time and a little imagination.

Just how large Poland’s network of secondary narrow gauge lines once was, can be contemplated by going on a virtual journey from Kalisz to Zbiersk via the Kaliska Kolej Dojazdowa. (WARNING – the maps are very large files – do NOT click on the links unless you have plenty of hard disk space and a fast Internet connection.) We start at the standard gauge station (P42_S26_OPATOWEK, 1934) The narrow gauge station is on the other side of town, some way from the elegant mainline station, so we better hire a horse drawn dorożka. Some 25 minutes later we arrive at the narrow gauge station (P41 S26_KALISZ, 1935-6). Here a diminutive Kraus 0-6-0T with a distinctively home-made tender waits to haul our two coach passenger train. The guard shouts ‘Odjazd!’ and with an answering toot from the engine we depart from the station. We chug along the main road and reach our top speed of 30km per hour. but soon it is time to slow down. With a shrieking whistle we cross the main road and pull into our first halt, some 12 minutes after leaving the line’s Kalisz terminus.

Though in PKP days the branch to Russow ended in a sugar beet loading area adjacent to the main road, the line was once a model estate railway in its own right.

Soon we are off again, and now that we are away from the main road our top speed seems to be a little higher, but soon we are slowing down again. On our left a private estate railway joins us. It leads to the farmyard at Russow and the watermill beyond. (Though it is now badly overgrown, the track still goes as far as the main road and was used by a special train collecting a party of Brits from the hotel in Russow as recently as recently as 2007.) Soon with another scream from the engine’s whistle, we cross another main road and the branch from the standard gauge goods transshipment point at Opatowek joins us from our right. We trundle slowly into the station at Zelazkow, a short ‘L’ shaped sugar beet branch joins us from our left before we reach the low platform. Hardly have we stopped when we are off again, though some 7 minutes later we are pulling into a rather larger station with a long passing loop at Goliszew. Here we take a little more time time unloading people and their baggage. Now we have a clear run for nearly 4 kilometres, but we do not really pick up speed till we cross a short sugar beet siding and run through the request halt at Zlotniki Wielkie.

Just before we reach Zbiersk another railway joins us, but maintains its own right of way on our left. This wanders all over the countryside and pointedly by-passes all the major villages, but runs close to, or throws off branches, to join the major farms. From its rambling route, which ignores such minor details as contour lines, it is possible to deuce that its construction was the result of an agreement between several major landowners and the sugar refinery that had contracted to buy their sugar beet. Amazingly, after about 20 kilometres this railway reaches its own standard gauge transshipment point at Kucharki. Just before we reach Zbiersk this lines veers off to our left and shortly afterwards splits three ways. The right fork rejoins the KKD ‘mainline’, the middle track runs straight into the sugar refinery, the left fork continues northwards, runs through a wood and serves a brickyard. If we are lucky we might see an elderly O&K 0-4-0 shunting wagons in the refinery yard.

It is interesting to note that the Zbiersk sugar refinery could gather most of its sugar beet without its wagons running over KKD metals and that the factory could also ship its refined sugar to its own standard gauge interchange without touching KKD tracks. No doubt these two facts gave the sugar refinery owners a good bargaining position when negotiating tariffs with the local authority owners of the KKD.

Our trip to Zbiersk – some 25 kilometres in all – would have lasted about 1 hour 20 minutes. Downloading the maps and researching the salient features to be seen during the journey took about half a day. Any readers out there fancy preparing a virtual exploration of the Kujawy Railways, about 1,000 kilometres in all?


Now KKD threatened by ‘rain tax’

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


A special train stops at Dzierzbin on a July evening in 2006. Photo BTWT archives.

A 20,000 PLN ‘rainwater tax’ demand from Turek Town Council’s Water and Drainage Department has caused SKPL bosses to contemplate the abandonment of the northern section of the Kaliska Kolej Dojazdowa (the Kalisz narrow gauge railway) which currently runs from the PKP interchange sidings at Opatowek to Turek. At a meeting with Krzysztof Nosal, the Chairman of Kalsz District Council, which took place yesterday, a number of long-term development options were discussed for the future of the railway including the availability of EU funding to upgrade the line and even the possibility of restoring the link back into Kalisz itself. In view of the tax demand from Turek, the option of abandoning the section which runs through the area administered by Turek District Council was also discussed.

Joined up thinking is never a strong point of governments, but when the Polish Government passed the Act on the Commercialisation, Restructuring and Privatisation of Railways, common sense was in short supply. The Act allows a local authority to take over an unused PKP railway subject to the condition that it will used for transport purposes, even if the railway runs through territories administered by other local authorities. Sadly while roads are exempt from local taxes, the new Act did not make the same exemptions for railways.