Archive for the ‘Krakow’ Category

Polish Pendolino – a cautious step forward, or too little too late?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Dyspozytor travels on the first public service Express InterCity Premium (EIP) ‘Pendolino’ train from Warsaw to Krakow on 14 December.


Over half an hour to go before the first Warsaw to Krakow Pendolino departs – time for a coffee and a roll in my favourite coffee bar at Centralna. Photo BTWT.

(All the photos can be enlarged x 2 by clicking on the image.)

I am impressed, but not excessively so. The 2nd class seats are comfortable, though a tad narrow for the classical Polish male derrière. Acceleration out of Warszawa Zachodnia – gentle yet sustained – is comparable to the diesel-powered HST125s out of Paddington (after they were throttled back following the Ladbroke Grove crash) though to PKP’s credit there is no appreciable slowing down through the Zyradow modernisation area, where delays have been the rule for over a year.

I cannot find an Internet signal, but there is a double power socket in the space between the seats. I have to have it pointed out to me as my left thigh is obscuring the location. It seems that the same approach has been made as regards the inter-seat spacing as on the notorious PESA Bydgostia EMU’s – a narrow body shell has been fitted out with 2 + 2 seating and a gangway wide enough to run a wheelchair from one end of the train to another. I have difficulty in believing that such a wide gangway, and the consequent narrow seats and ultra close inter-seat positioning that results, is really required to comply with EU directives.


On the platform at Centralna there is an impressive platform, but it is only for TV news crews – there will be no speeches. Photo BTWT.

We change tracks vis a facing point at approximately 60mph and I am impressed with our coach’s steadiness as its Alstom Pendolino bogies negotiate the pointwork. The ride is very good, though I am annoyed by the low-frequency rumble occasioned by the welded track joints. Polish rails lack the near perfect alignment achieved in the UK and, apart from a few high quality sections, each welded rail joint is felt in the coach as a slight bump.

I am frustrated by the quality of information provided to passengers. In Warsaw a female voice on a recorded loop announced some 30 times that passengers attempting to travel WITHOUT a ticket and seat reservation will be fined 600 złoty (approx. 120 GBP). This seems somewhat excessive both as regards frequency of the announcement and also the size of the fine, especially as 90% of the seats are empty and journalists and PKP staff seem to outnumber fare-paying passengers.

The LED travelling information ribbon panel at the end of the coach is stuck in an endless loop announcing alternatively: first, that the next station will be Krakow Glowny and then, that the remaining stations will be… Krakow Glowny. I had hoped for the usual more informative display with an occasional real-time indication of our speed.


Our train draw into the platform, but where are the crowds of intending passengers? Photo BTWT.

There are some nice human touches, the driver switches on the PA and announces aeroplane captain style that we are travelling at 200 km/h (125 mph). The track is exceptionally smooth here and I would never have guessed. However, immediately after making the announcement he applies the brakes so I cannot savour the moment for long.

Our 200 km/h peak top speed took some time to build up and I conclude that Pendolino drivers have been trained to limit their acceleration and hence the current drawn from the electric supply. The Pendolino traction equipment was originally designed for high voltage (25kV or 15kV) AC electrified lines and the current drawn on Poland’s 3kV DC lines is very high. (Hint: POWER = VOLTS x AMPS.) Theoretically, two Pendolinos passing each other on the same electrical section and accelerating hard could blow the circuit breakers in the electricity sub station.


The interior – very nice, but the passengers do not quite fit the seats (or is it the other way round?). Photo BTWT.

We slow down for the junction at Psary and turn south passing through the site of the Szczekociny head on collision of 2012. The line begins to twist and turn and on this section the tilting package (based on research carried out by the BR Research Division in the 1970s and left off the Polish Pendolino bogies to save money) would have allowed our driver to take the curves some 10 km/h faster. With only twenty-five minutes to our scheduled stop at Krakow Glowny, we grind to a halt at Niedzwiedz. So much for our 2hr 28min run, thinks the cynic in me. Our captain comes on the intercom again to say that the delay has been factored in the timetable, and, we are still scheduled to arrive in Krakow on time. Four minutes later, a train running in the opposite direction having passed, we are off again.

Resisting blandishments to sample the delights of the restaurant car, I remain in my seat throughout and tap away on my tablet writing this article. The ride is sufficiently smooth to make typing on a tablet or laptop a pleasure. Another announcement (surely too early?) informs us that we are approaching our destination and that we should check that we have collected all our luggage.


On arrival in Krakow a few stragglers pause to admire the train. Photo BTWT.

We arrive in Krakow Glowny at 08:56, 2hr 21min after departing Warsaw – 7 minutes early! The (theoretically non-stop run) from Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) has taken just 2hr 15min to cover 290km – a very satisfactory average speed of approx. 129km/h (80mph). At Glowny, just as had been the case at Centralna, there is a scramble of TV cameras and journalists, but no brass band, nor ribbon cutting. VIPs, whether PKP senior executives or politicians are conspicuous by their absence.

Maria Wasiak – former PKP group chairman and now as minister of Infrastructure and Development ultimately responsible for Poland’s railways – said a few days ago, no need to make a fuss, the Pendolino is just a train. However, I am cautiously impressed, and with plenty cheap discount tickets available for advance purchase, I will certainly be using PKP’s Express InterCity Premium service again.


Great Continental Railway Journeys – Poland

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Portillo cab view

Michael Portillo rides the cab of Ol49-59.
Still courtesy BBC TV.

The BBC series “Great Continental Railway Journeys” is currently airing on UK television.  The latest series (3) devoted an episode to Poland.

Filmed in the spring of this year, the Michael Portillo and his Bradshaw guide start their journey in the restored heart of Warsaw, before travelling to Lodz, once a cotton capital to rival Manchester.

His Poznan stop includes the obligatory visit to the goats in the Rynek (Market Square), and the Kaiser’s Castle (or Palace) a short walk from the railway station.  The footage of the station is of the new concrete and glass structure (also known as “Poznan City Center” shopping centre), rather than the older building, or even the Dworzec Letni.

Portillo finds time to visit Wolsztyn, referring to it being the place where scheduled from where steam services still run.  His visit, on April 7, fell a few days after the suspension of the service, which as readers will know, has still not recommenced. His footplate ride out to Nowa Wies involved a special train, as there were no scheduled services.  Viewers can draw their own conclusions about his firing (watch the gloves and style).

The onward journey and visit to Wroclaw involved a visit around the Bombardier railway works, formerly known as Linke-Hoffman (before the war) and Pafawag (after the war), before travelling out of Wroclaw via the restored Wroclaw Głowny station.

The shots of Krakow are the familiar Rynek and Mariacki church, and a trip around the Stalinist-era Nowa Huta, grafted onto the side of the old town by the communist regime.

The full programme is available to UK residents for another 3 weeks on the BBC iPlayer here. Sadly viewers in Poland without a proxy server are blocked.

Łódź Fabryczna – white elephant?

Saturday, 2 November 2013

lodz platform-06

Lodz Fabryczna construction site, summer 2013. Photo by Zorro2212.

(Click picture to see original photo on Wikipedia Commons.)

Behind The Water Tower has been ‘down’ for much longer than usual. I have not been well – nothing terribly alarming, rather a combination of ‘wear and tear’ and an old back problem has taken its toll, and much of my ‘get up and go’ seems to have got up and gone. I have decided on a few simple steps which should at least improve the frequency of postings, if not their quality.

BTWT readers may remember my dislike of the new Lodz Fabryczna project. Currently, the centre of Lodz is cut off for visitors by train and there is no firm date in sight for when the rail link will be restored. Lodzians commuting to Warsaw or further afield are better off – they simply park at one of the many stations on Lodz’s periphery: Zabienec, Kaliska, Chojny or Widzew and enjoy reasonably comfortable(1) – if not very fast train journeys.

There is currently no money nor end date for the completion of the 2,000 million PLN project, 1,500 million of which is being put up by PKP and 500 million by the City of Lodz. The project will not add a single new train path between Lodz and Warsaw.  Just think what 2,000 million PLN could have done in removing speed restriction and bottlenecks in key places around the Polish railway network.

For those readers admiring the progress on the new station in the photo above, perhaps I should explain that the concrete deck in the picture is not intended to be the track bed level of the new station, merely its ceiling. The actual station level remains to be excavated, under the newly cast concrete deck in the picture.

(1) Apart from certain Lodz-Krakow services worked by the PESA ED74 EMUs with their back-breaking seats.


More: Wikipedia – Łódź Fabryczna railway station

Lodz to Lviv – part 4

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The approach to the gauge changing facility at Mostiska-2. Photo PKP IC.

The Inkwizytor remains as elusive as Vault 713 underneath Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley. Some years ago I was here with some sailing friends, when in swept Ian Woods, complete with a group of attractive female minders from Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts. The evening ended in an alcoholic haze, but not before many sea shanties had been sung in English and Polish.

Poland has moved on and so has the Inkwizytor. These days, disguised as the Autorska Kawiarnia, it has moved up market. A middle aged lecturer was explaining the difference between the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters to one of his female students. You can’t rely on what was written in the papers, he began. I listened spellbound. Was he going to propound the theory that Fukushima had been a victim of the Stuxnet virus? But no, he had nothing new to say. It seems that Polish female students still have to put up with being taken out by boring male teachers in order to get higher marks.

The waitress came round and I asked her if she was aware that this had once been the centre of Krakow’s sailing community. Surely not here, she replied. I asked for some placki ziemiaczane (potato cakes) without the goulash stew that is their usual accompaniment and a glass of Zywiec. This time, unlike previously at Dynia, there was no problem in serving exactly what I had asked for. The beer and the potato cakes were both delicious.

The wheelset 1435/1520mm gauge changing facility.
Photo PKP IC.

Soon it was time to return to Krakow Glowny. On the train from Lodz, I had proofed a translation of an article about gasworks in Wielkopolska and the proofed copy needed to be e-mailed to the translator. If my back had not been playing up, I would have taken the laptop with me to Dynia which has a free WiFi link, but – not wanting to carry any weight around – I had left it in my suitcase. It was a pleasant walk back to the station, via the market square, passing Adam Mickiewicz’s statue and St. Mary’s Basilica, then clipping the corner of the Juliusz Slowacki theatre.

There was no problem in collecting my luggage and my laptop was still inside my suitcase. The ramp down to the former north subway was closed, but at least the stairs leading down to and up from the south subway were not too much of an obstacle. With just under an hour before my train was due to depart, I brought out my computer kit. Consternation, not only did PKP not provide a WiFi link, but my mobile telephone company’s carrier signal was also severely degraded.

More walking, however, here the escalators from my departure platform down to the new deep level subway were working. The underground passage leading to the Galeria shopping has been tidied up. But it remains architecturally bleak and soulless. It is clear that – rather than conceive of the Galeria and new station as a single unified functional space – the architects of each have chosen to distance their creations from each other. A tremendous missed opportunity – just as in Warsaw’s Zlote Tarasy.

McDonald’s provided me with a fast Internet connection and a welcome coffee. In 5 minutes I was done and back in the interconnecting passage which was physically, as well as architecturally cold. Another 2 minutes and I was back on the platform where my night sleeper train, with an attendant by each coach, was already waiting for me.

Seamless gauge changing. Video by .

PKP IC’s sleeper trains are a welcome left-over of the ‘good old days’ days when Poland’s managers actually travelled by train. I never fail to be impressed by the comfort of the sleeping berths, the cleanliness of the toilets and the helpfulness of the attendant. The Krakow – Lviv sleeper is no exception. It is curious that PKP IC makes so little of the train. Like the Inkwisytor, it is very difficult to find. It is even more difficult to buy a ticket!

Some pleasant surprises were in store. The state of the track on both sides of the Polish – Ukrainian border was remarkably good. I managed to sleep quite soundly. Although the journey only takes 6 hours 48 minutes, not quite enough time for a good night’s rest when getting ready for bed + border crossing controls + getting up times are taken into account.

The border formalities were quick and efficient and the border officials polite and helpful. If anything, the Ukrainian officials were a tad more polite than their Polish counterparts. Perhaps they had been given ‘customer care’ training ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships?

The train arrives at the main railway station in Lviv. Photo BTWT.

(Click image to expand.)

Arrival at Lviv was at 06:03 local time – an hour earlier than the time advertised by the TK Telekom timetable. I was picked up by friends – who had ascertained the correct time from the local timetable – and taken to my apartment. First impressions of Lviv were positive – there is no traffic about at 06:oo hrs – and the roads seemed no worse than the worst roads in Lodz.

Lviv, like Lodz, has a metre gauge tramway system and, like Lodz, has abandoned some of its most picturesque lines. I noticed that in the worst places the tram rail stuck out some 200 mm proud of the coble stone surface. I could see that Lviv could take quite some getting used to!


To be continued…

Lodz to Lviv – part 2

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Lodz Widzew on 7.11.2011. According to the sign access to platform 2 is either via subway or footbridge, but there is no subway, and the footbridge is closed, Photo BTWT.

(Click image to enlarge.)

I very nearly missed my train to Krakow, the 09:06 from Lodz Widzew. In hindsight it would have been better if I had. Lodz Widzew is a mess. (See Mike Dembinski’s post on Ww-a Jeziorki.) It is definitely not a place to drive into, tyres screaming, 2 minutes before booked departure time and expect to get into the right train. I had a choice of two. There was a train that looked right for the Krakow run, a nice EU07 electric locomotive and a traditional rake of compartment coaches; there was also a train that looked all wrong, an ED74 electric multiple unit.

I hate the ED74s as I hate no other vehicle. Originally ordered for the Lodz – Warsaw run, they generated so many complaints that PKP IC were forced to swap back most of the Lodz – Warsaw services to loco-hauled trains and disperse the displaced ED74s around the network. But the driver of the ED74 was sitting in the right driving compartment for a run to Krakow, while the EU07 was on the wrong end of its train. So after a long delay (and a very patient guard) while the dreadful truth dawned, I boarded the ED74.

What’s wrong with the ED74s – everything! Designed by PESA of Bydgoszcz, a company better known for its trams rather than its trains, they would make ideal stock for outer suburban services if not for their incredibly uncomfortable seats. Nobody can sit up straight in the seats for long; their profile, surely designed by someone with shares in Polski Bus, will damage the toughest back. Passengers contort themselves into different positions to ease the pain, but there is no escape. After the 2 hour run from Lodz to Krakow, one’s back is out of joint for a week.

The Lodz railway network. From a larger map prepared by PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe S.A.,

(Click to enlarge.)

With increasing numbers of ED74s in service since 2007, a survival strategy was needed. I started to manage my rail journeys so as to travel on the locomotive-hauled long distance services that ran via Lodz Kaliska; I travelled during the rush-hour when, after a short hiatus, the inadequate 8 coach twin ED74 sets were switched back to 11 coach loco-hauled trains. If, in spite of all my precautions, I did find myself on an ED74 I sat on the folding seats near the 2nd-class toilets which were marginally more comfortable than the standard seats elsewhere.

5½ hours on an ED74 folding seat is no joke. The journey was punctuated by informing people that the toilet was out of order, but they would find another in the first class compartment at the head of the unit. It was not long before the first class toilet waste tank was full as well! Then a moment of panic; surely that ornamental park is just before Skierniewice? Skierniewice; why are we stopping at Skierniewice? Lodz – Krakow trains do not go via Skierniewice! Had I, after all, boarded the wrong train? Was it bound for Warsaw rather than Krakow?

Just after the Skierniewice PW depot we branched off heading generally to the west leaving the mainline heading south-west-by-west. (See map.) That was marginally better, between Koluszki and Skierniewice the train had actually been running in the opposite direction from Krakow; now at least, even if it was not getting any nearer, at least it was not getting any further away. But now where? There is no West-to-South curve between Grabce and Szeligi; could the train be heading for the legendary Czachowek and the old main line to Krakow via Radom?

Another unscheduled stop, this time at Mszczonow. The driver walks through to the back of the train and tries the toilet door. I’m sorry it’s out of action, I hear myself say. Perhaps the toilet in the first class section is still working? The driver heads off the way he came. After a long wait the he reappears, the train reverses direction and takes the East-to-South curve down to the CMK.

A little research subsequently reveals that the train was originally diagrammed to run from Koluszki via the Tomaszow Mazowiecki – Radom line and to turn South onto the CMK at Zapowiedz, but with the section between Tomaszow and Deba Opoczynska out of action for track repairs, instead of re-routing the train the obvious way – via Piotrkow Trybunalski and Czestochowa – PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe – had sent us on a magical mystery tour.

Krakow market square and Cathedral. Photo BTWT.

(Click to expand.)

I did get to Krakow eventually, as the photograph of the market square proves, but by then my back was seriously out of kilter and was to go downhill badly during the next few days.


To be continued…

Make a difference! Part 2

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Ol49-100 at Krakow Biezanow, 08:33, 30 July 2006. A group of Spa Valley Railway volunteers visiting Poland on a railway heritage study tour had just travelled overnight from Chabowka in a vintage train empty stock working. Photo BTWT.

(All photos can be clicked to see a larger image in a new window.)

Our last post Make a Difference – Part 1 generated a number of interesting comments and e-mails. One of our regular readers sent in a detailed report about a project which involves a group Brits working with a Polish society to restore a tank locomotive to working order. In order to keep costs down to the minimum, the involvement of the Brits is – for the time being – being kept under wraps. We have been asked not to divulge any detailed information at the moment, though we will publish a full report about the project just as soon as the restoration team decide that the embargo can be lifted.

Ol49-100 had been assisted by vintage electric loco EP03-01. A temporary hiatus – how do you get out of Krakow Biezanow early on a Saturday morning – was solved by the PKP Cargo Dyspozytor who arranged for a van to take the group to Krakow Plaszow station. Photo BTWT.

Another encouraging piece of news concerns the visit of a couple of British boilersmiths who visited Poland to help repair the riveted boiler of a small narrow gauge locomotive. The boilersmiths were provided with accommodation in one of the major railway heritage centres in Poland and having taken a look at the steam locomotives stored there, further visits to Poland are being discussed…

We stayed overnight at the Nocy i Dnie hotel in Russow and, on 1 August 2006, SKPL ran their last ever train along the Kalisz narrow gauge railway’s branch to the former sugar beet holding area at Russow to collect us. Photo BTWT.

Finally, former Fedecrail treasurer, Rik Degruyter used our comments section to announce that he is putting his Tkt48-23, currently stored at Pyskowice, for sale at 12.500 euros. It is a very good price; Tkh 2191 – a much smaller locomotive – was sold recently at an auction for over 70,000 zloty (17,750 euro).

No derailments and our train had successfully made it through the jungle. The driver of Lxd2-303 looks as pleased as we were. Photo BTWT.

As well as being keen to promote ‘hands on’ involvement of the sort described above, we also regularly ask BTWT readers to put pen to paper and to write to key Polish decision makers regarding particular endangered items of Polish railway heritage. Without going into too many details – lobbying is much more effective if it seems spontaneous and not coordinated – BTWT campaigners will be glad to know that their letters form a part of a much wider lobbying strategy to raise the profile of Polish railway heritage much of which cannot be reported in the pages of BTWT.

Pause to find the location of the erstwhile ‘main line’ to Kalisz. Photo BTWT.

Robert Hall’s recent trip to Poland reminds us that there is a third way that we can directly help Polish preserved railways. His afternoon working party at Smigiel – in which a group from Wolsztyn Experience also took part – made the desired impression on Smigiel Town Council: the deputy major told me recently that a group of Brits had come for a week to work at Smigiel! Such study visits provide valuable revenue to the lines and heritage centres that we visit and raise their profile in the eyes of the local authorities on whose good will the ventures depend.

‘There it is!’ Photo BTWT.

The photographs illustrating this article show a small part of a study visit which we had the pleasure to organise for volunteers from the Spa Valley Railway in conjunction with the Parowozjazda steam gala in 2006. At least two of the lines that we travelled on in 2006 are currently impassable: the Kalisz Railway’s Russow branch and the section from Zbiersk to Turek.

With the Romanian trailer changed to a 1Aw the group’s special train became one of the last workings to Turek. Photo BTWT.

In the first week of 2011, we are planning another study visit to Poland – we will visit some 15 railway heritage locations and view the annual Wolsztyn Steam Gala and Locomotive Parade. To make the visit as enjoyable as possible – and keep things informal the size of the group will be kept small. If you are interested in taking part please drop us a line.

Pt47-93, which had received a quick lick of paint in anticipation of the study tour visit, at the ‘Forgotten Skansen’ in Karsnice. Photo BTWT.

The current plan is a 10 day visit – travelling out to Poland on Wednesday 28 April and returning home on Sunday 8 May – and to visit many of the locations visited by Robert Hall. If there any particular railway heritage locations that you would like to be included in this visit please drop us a line.

The BTWT e-mail address is: railfan [at] go2 [dot] pl. Please remove the spaces and convert ‘at’ and ‘dot’ to the appropriate characters.

MPK Krakow completes EU projects for 300m PLN

Friday, 27 August 2010

Promotional video for MPK Krakow by WYG International

MPK Krakow, the municipal transport operator in Krakow, is celebrating the successful completion of an EU project worth 300 million PLN. The project, ‘Integrated Public Transport in the Krakow Conurbation’, has helped MPK to build a bus station at Krowodrza Gorka, modernise the track from the Kamienna loop to Krowodrza Gorka, and purchase new trams. The EU conrtribution came from the EU Structural Fund Programme Infrastructure and the Environment.

Now a further 185 million PLN project has been signed of which will allow the construction of a new tram line to the roundabout at ul. Grzegorzeckiego Street to Golikowka, with the construction of a 1 km length of a new street, ul. Kuklinski, the rebuilding of ul. Dluga and the purchase of 24 low-floor 32m long air-conditioned ‘Flexicity’ trams from Bombadier.

Perhaps MPK Krakow show consider hiring out some of its EU funding specialists to clear up the mess at PKP PLK?

EU8N tram built by MPK Krakow from Vienna E6 and C6 components

While MPK Krakow have exhibited considerable skill in coping with the complex demands of EU project,s their own engineering department have shown considerable skill in creating a new tram from recycled tram components. MPK Krakow and Wiener Linien have been cooperating for many years and Vienna E1 and C3 cars have been running in the city since 2003. In 2009 MPK bought a Vienna E6 motor unit and C6 driving trailer. The cars used to rum on the Vienna semi-metro in a E6+C6+C6+E6 formation. A new low body passenger section to sit between a E6 and a C6 unit was manufactured by Polish bus body company, Autosan S.A. of Sanok. The two ex Vienna vehicles were specially adapted to accept the new articulated section and extensive trials were held in 2009 and 2010. The new vehicle, classed EU8N, proved a great success and was officially presented to the public on 18 June 2010 during the 135 anniversary celebrations of municipal transport in Krakow. MPK Krakow have bought 25 E6 and C6 pairs from which they plan to build 25 EU8N vehicles.