Archive for the ‘Koluszki’ Category

A return journey – part 4

Monday, 9 August 2010

Banks of linefinders – part of the Siemens built historic telephone exchange in the railway museum at Skierniewice. Photo Pawel Mieroslawski.

Sat. 17th was slated for a visit to the Polskie Stowarszyszenie Milosnikow Kolei (Polish Railway Enthusiasts’ Society) museum based on the former locomotive depot at Skierniewice, 50 km north-east of Lodz on the Warsaw – Czestochowa – Upper Silesia main line. I met up again with Dyspozytor and we caught a brand-new EMU built by PESA at Bydgoszcz, comprising the 10:54 Tanie Linie Kolejowe semi-fast to Warsaw (TLK is the PKP InterCity brand for trains that are not categorised as being in one of their ‘fast’ categories such as IC or EIC.) Dyspozytor was scathing that, after a line upgrade costing billions of zloty, the brand new rolling stock was being throttled down to a maximum speed of 130 km/h because Polish railway regulations demanded two people in the cab for trains travelling at higher speeds. Dyspozytor directed me to some uncomfortable looking seats near the toilets. When I queried this, he explained that the normal seats, while stylishly designed, had never been ergonomically tested and were uniformly loathed by train crews and regular passengers alike.

Soon we were bowling along the newly relaid track. Though our maximum speed was only 80 mph, it seemed much faster. Polish continuously welded rail is much ‘bumpier’ than its British equivalent. There was a long line of cars waiting for us to pass at the level crossing across the Lodz – Rawa Mazowiecka road and soon Dyspozytor was pointing out the headquarters of the Fundacja Polskich Kolei Waskotorowych (Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation) at Rogow, which was to be our destination the following day. While the new rolling stock may be uncomfortable to sit in, it does have powerful air conditioning, and I had not realised how hot it was outside until a blast of heat hit us as we exited the train and started our trek across the footbridge and then towards the shed. The Skierniewice museum is open to the public on the first Saturday of the month in summer, but Dyspozytor had worked his magic and soon we were being welcomed by Pawel Mieroslawski, the chairman of the PSMK.

Skierniewice museum is an incredible treasure-house of preserved motive power and rolling stock, which deserves to be much better known among British enthusiasts. I have included a link to the rolling stock catalogue on the Society’s webpages, so here is a short list of what were to me, its highlights. On display in the open, on the periphery of the indoors collection – 2-6-2T OKl27-10, 2-10-0 Ty51-1, 2-6-2 Ol49-4 – and of course the astounding sectioned Prussian S6 4-4-0.

Indoors in the former locoshed, were more marvels. Ty2-1407 is the arguably last steam loco built in Poland. Basically a Ty2 2-10-0 Kriegslok, it was assembled in 1964, from the parts of cannibalised locos, by ZNKT Poznan for experiments in the mid-1960s in heavy oil-burning. A totally new concept for me, I had had no notion that oil-burning was ever part of the PKP scene, with Poland having such enormous coal reserves. Mr Mieroslwaski told us that in the 1960s thick oil waste from the refineries at Plock, was tested as a possible loco fuel, and some 350 Kriegsloks were adapted to burn it. Also there was a time when only oil burning steam locos were permitted on the branch along the Hel spit, in order to minimise the risk of fire in the woods which held the sand dunes together.

Among the society’s collection of vintage carriages I found what were for me two absolute pearls: standing on a wagon was a 600mm gauge ex-German WW I 0-8-0 Brigadelok, obtained from Lesmierz sugar factory; there was also an utterly marvellous Wittfeld battery-electric railcar, built in 1913 and operated by PKP till 1957 from their Malbork sub-depot. Mr Mieroslawski has in Skierniewice, not only the ultimate ‘train set’ but also an impressive collection of smaller exhibits. His pride and enjoy is a Siemens telephone exchange of a type that was installed by the Germans during WWII on all the railway lines under their control and which post-1945 became the de facto standard on Polish railways. The exchange has been restored to working order by two members of the Society and is – we were given to understand – the only such installation still in working order.

After our tour of the shed and its exhibits Mr Mieroslawski took us around to the Society’s mess room and pulled out a couple of cold beers from the fridge. We discussed some of the problems that Polish railways societies laboured under such as the poor support from local authorities and no clear mechanism to give volunteer-run societies access to EU funds. The PSMK were lucky, in the heady days during the transition from Communism they were promised the freehold of the Skierniewice shed, and after 10 years of meetings and pen pushing, the Society finally acquired the freehold of the site. This gives the PSMK a considerable advantage over other societies who operate under licence from their local authority and whose use of a particular shed or railway line can be arbitrarily terminated at the drop of a hat.

Skierniewice Railway Station. Photo Tomasso.

(Click to see original on Wikimedia Commons and for details of licensing.)

We returned to the railway station. There was time to admire the beautifully restored station buildings, a refreshing contrast to what I had seen elsewhere, we grabbed a couple of ices at the smart café inside and caught the 16:15 to Koluszki. I was supposed catch a 17:08 to Tomaszow Mazowiecki at Koluszki. I was impressed that although our train was late the Tomaszow train was held at the junction to make the connection. In fact, the train was also held for a connecting TLK train run by Intercity – an impressive example of cooperation between the two operators. At the end of the erstwhile Piotrkow narrow gauge railway there is an attractive artificial lake that was created in the 1970s by damming the River Pilica. Although I am no sailor, I was to spend an enjoyable couple of hours cooling off in the early evening sailing on the lake.

More:

…to be continued

10,000 million zloty down the drain?

Monday, 19 July 2010

Lodz Fabryczna as enlarged by PKP after WW I.

The Koluszki – Lodz railway line – a branch of the Warsaw – Vienna Railway – was opened on 18 November 1865 for the carriage of goods. Passenger services were inaugurated on 1 June 1866. Initially, the railway reached further west than at present; a temporary station was built at the location now occupied by the Lodzki Dom Kultury (Lodz Arts Centre). In 1868, the current Lodz Fabryczna station was built at the initiative of Lodz industrialist and philanthropist, Karol Scheibler. It was designed by Adolf Schimmelpfennig. The station was built in a Baroque-baronial style and when after WWI the newly formed PKP came to enlarge the station, the new extensions were carefully designed to complement the existing building. The extended station survived WW II and also was left unscathed by post-was PKP’s mania for demolishing all buildings of any architectural merit and replacing them with modernist non-entities.

So what are PKP and the City of Lodz planning for the future of Karol Scheibler’s station? Scheibler did after all establish Lodz as a major centre of Europe’s textile industry and his factories and railway lines established the shape of the modern city. Maybe they will give the historic building a light skin of glass like the Gare de Strasbourg in France? Not a bit of it! The plan is to demolish Scheibler’s building and replace it with an underground station at a cost of some 10,000 million PLN.

The new Lodz Centralna as envisaged by PKP

Juliusz Engelhardt, the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Infrastructure responsible for rail, has recently said that only 22 of Poland’s 1,000 top stations come up to contemporary requirements. Rafal Szafranski, the chairman of PKP PLK (the Polish State Railways infrastructure company) has said that some 10,000 route kilometres of Poland’s railways face the axe. In such circumstances sending 10,000 million putting Lodz Fabryczna underground is an act of wanton folly. And the reason for this madness? To turn make Lodz a ‘City of Culture’. Poor Karol Scheibler must be turning in his mausoleum.

Koluszki inspection

Monday, 25 May 2009

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Warsaw – Lodz railway modernisation
Stage 1 – Skierniewice Lodz

The railway line between Warsaw and Lodz is being modernized in stages. Stage 1, the rebuilding of the line between Skierniewice and Lodz Widzew, was started in July 2006 and completed on 16 June 2008. The cost of the project was 905,151,233 PLN, of which 678,863,425 PLN was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and 226,287,508 PLN by the Polish Government. At the time, the project was billed by PKP as the biggest infrastructure in Poland.

We took our Chief Engineer to Koluszki1 station, the site of a major junction on the line, and recorded his comments.

All photographs were taken on Sunday 24 May, 2009. Click twice on the pictures for a magnified view.

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The new platform for the Warsaw – Lodz services is on the left. Other trains use the older platform on the right.

The Lodz platform on the left seems OK, but read on. The platform on the right – rebuilt in the 1970s – has been resurfaced but not raised. The new platform awnings constructed on both platforms stop about a metre short of the platform edge and don’t reach as far as the subway or the ticket office.

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The view to Warsaw

The main line for Warsaw trains appears to be well laid out for 160 km/h running. But what is the lady with the shopping trolley doing on the staff crossing? And why is there no warning device which is activated when a train is about to cross.

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The view to Lodz

Once again, the lines for the Lodz services seems well laid out. The tracks to Tomaszow Mazowiecki and Piotrkow Trybunalski less well so.

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Wroclaw-bound train arrives at Koluszki

Let’s hope that the lady with the trolley is clear of the crossing. Clicking the picture for an enlarged view shows that one of the ‘main lines’ is in fact a badly aligned dead end and that Warsaw bound trains leaving the Lodz platform road have to negotiate a couple of crossovers to reach the running line.

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Weeds sprouting up in the newly laid sidings.

It would appear that the reused ballast has not been properly cleaned and screened.

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The white line is disintegrating.

The home-made concoction of cement and paint has not lasted one winter! The appropriate material for the job is thermoplastic paint.

Overall, this seems to have been a modernisation carried out on the cheap where a glossy appearance took precedence over functionality.

It would have been appropriate to conclude this article with a Google Maps view of Koluszki station, but unfortunately in the satellite photography purchased by Google, Koluszki station is under a cloud!

1 Pronounced “COLL-OO-SH-KI”.

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