Archive for the ‘Museum’ Category

Rail Museum Director resigns

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Light at the end of the tunnel?

PKP’s proposed new location for the Warsaw Railway Museum. Map courtesy Google Maps.

On January 10 Ferdynand Ruszczyc, the Director of the Warsaw Railway Museum resigned. Mr Ruszczyc had been in post since 2009. Prior to his appointment he had been Director of the National Museum for 12 years which he left after being censured by the Minister of Culture.

His reign at the Warsaw Railway Museum had not been without controversy. He felt more at home organising art exhibitions – his grandfather had been a famous Polish painter – than promoting Poland’s railway heritage.

Like his predecessor, Janusz Sankowski, Mr Ruszczyc stubbornly resisted all attempts by PKP to relocate the museum to a new site. For many years the PKP SA board have wanted to redevelop the fomer Warszawa Glowna station site. The redevelopment has become even more urgent after last years government cuts to the railway budget and the decision that if PKP wants to benefit from EU funded projects it will have to generate the required ‘match funding’ from the sale of its surplus assets.

PKP reportedly want to relocate the Museum to the Szczesliwice carriage siding site about 2 km to the West of Warszawa Zachodnia station. A small team has been charged with preparing detailed proposals and concluding negotiations with Adam Struzik, the Chief Executive of the Mazowsze provincial government.

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New municipal transport museum for Lodz

Sunday, 24 November 2013

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Open day at the former Tramwaje Podmiejskie depot, Zajezdnia Brus, on 22.9.2013. Photo BTWT.

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

Thanks to the initiative of Thomas Adamkiewicz and a group of tram enthusiasts the former Tramwaje Podmiejskie Brus tram depot on the Lodz-Konstantinow-Lutomiersk interurban line has been earmarked by the city of Lodz for a new municipal transport museum.

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‘Sanok’ built in 1928 was withdrawn from service and served as a garden shed until it was rescued by Tomasz Adamkiewicz, After an 11-year restoration to working order it is back on the tracks. Photo BTWT.

The depot is already home to a growing collection of withdrawn trams. Some of these were previously stored at the now closed Helenowek tram depot which serviced the Międzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa trams serving Zgierz and Ozorkow.

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Tramway freight vehicles! Photo BTWT.

Goods vans dating back to the days when the Łódzkie Wąskotorowe Elektryczne Koleje Dojazdowe (Lodz Electric Narrow Gauge District Railways) carried freight as well as passengers.

The vans were the subject of our last competition. Congratulations once again to Eric Binamé for getting the answer absolutely correct. John Schøler Nielsen was also a close runner up – he had identified the wagons correctly, but had not realised that they had been moved from the Helenowek depot since he had last seen and photographed them.

The bogie flat wagon in the foreground has a colourful past. Built by the Gregg Company Ltd in Belgium for export to a sugar cane railway. It was seized by the Germans together with the factory in which it had been built during WWI and sent to Poland.

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Ty42-24 – heavy overhaul complete

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

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Ty42-24 on the day of its steam test 18.6.2013.
Photo Marek Ciesielski

(Click image to enlarge.)

Ty42-24’s overhaul is complete. The locomotive passed its official steam test yesterday and now has a boiler certificate for the next 6 years. The locomotive’s heavy overhaul was carried out by TOZKiOS (the Pyskowice Railway Society) under the engineering leadership of the Jakubina brothers.

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to TOZKiOS on the completion of a very challenging task in very difficult circumstances – the court case brought by PKP against TOZKiOS continues to threaten the future of the collection of railway locomotives and rolling stock gathered together at the old MPD at Pyskowice.

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Ty42-24 at Lazy before delivery to Pyskowice. Photo TOZKiOS.

(Click image to enlarge.)

Ty42-24 seems to have led a charmed existence, built in 1945 in Chrzanow to WWII German ‘Kreigslok’ plans, it worked in various locations in the general area of Silesia until 1968 when it was allocated to the MPD at Szopience. Here it was stationed for 16 years until, after a heavy overhaul in Pila, its has its last reallocation in 1984 (some sources give 1988) to Lazy. Here it seems to have some time as a stationary boiler. In 1991 it is officially withdrawn from service, but mysteriously stays on at Lazy, a boiler overhaul is started in 1992, but is suspended when the MPD receives a purpose-built central heating boiler.

Did the loco in those early days in Lazy have a guardian angel sufficiently senior in the local PKP management hierarchy to block any attempts to send it to a scrap yard? Some 6 years later, in 1998, Ty42-24 is ‘removed from the PKP inventory’, but remains in Lazy for the next 10 years, though in a rapidly deteriorating state. In 2005, ownership of the loco is transferred to TOZKiOS though initially the Society lacked the funds to move the loco and the local railwaymen are reluctant to lose a convenient source of scrap which can easily be converted to a few bottles of vodka.

When it was announced that Ty42-24 was to be restored there were many doubters who gave vent to their scepticism and said that the loco would never steam again. Now that they have been proved wrong we hope very much to see the locomotive at various railway events and hope that the attendant publicity may help to persuade the authorities to help the Pyskowice museum secure its future.

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A tale of two museums

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The crisp morning air in Warsaw tempted me with some sight seeing. I hadn’t seen much of Warsaw in the past 6 years, and with clear blue skies and bright sunlight it was a nice day to be out and about.

 

Emerging from the early morning mist, Stalin’s ‘gift’ to Warsaw, the Palace of Culture. Photo John Savery.

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I had never visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego) so it was time to pay a visit. Situated a short distance up ul. Towarowa from the Warsaw Railway Museum, the museum is easy to find and to get to. The tram stop is just nearby, taking its title from the museum.

Arriving, it was clear it is popular with school visits. Purchasing a ticket from the kasa (ticket office) was easy enough, and armed with the souvenir I made my way across the courtyard to the entrance. With an attended cloakroom, I thought it would be easy enough to leave my small case (hand baggage sized) in the cloakroom, alas, this proved not to be the case and I was asked to leave it in the left luggage office opposite. Somewhat disconcerted I left the case as directed, surrounded by arriving tourists!

Once in the museum proper, it was clear why it was so popular. Aside from being a fitting tribute to those that fought for Warsaw in 1944, it is informative with plenty of exhibits and that all important human touch with life stories from people caught in the conflict. With dual translations in places, it was easy to understand.  My only regret is that the was a long queue for the City of Ruins cinema showings so I didn’t get chance to view the film. Walking around it was easy to become immersed in the story finishing up outside at the wall of remembrance.

The Wall of Remembrance at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Photo John Savery.

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Leaving the museum I headed back down ul. Towarowa and called in to the Railway Museum (Muzeum Kolejnictwa w Warszawie) on the way back to Warszawa Centralna station. What a contrast! Walking up to the museum, with the outside door closed it was not clear if it was open or not. On entering, there was a lady stood behind a desk and in an adjacent room a man behind what looked liked a ticket sales window (although my Polish told me it wasn’t).

On asking for a ticket I was sent back to the lady in the adjacent room, who then directed me to and automatic vending machine. Inserting the correct change gave me a flimsy bit of paper more reminiscent of a parking ticket than the entrance to a museum. A complete contrast to my experience a few hours earlier.

A nice and shiny ticket machine at the Warsaw Railway Museum. Photo John Savery.

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With the relevant piece of paper safely in my wallet I ventured inside only to be immediately stopped and asked for my ticket! It would seem that MK regard jobs for the boys (and girls) as more important than looking after its guests and exhibits. The dilapidated state of the locomotives stored outside is abysmal, and exposed to the weather they are quietly rusting away.

Some renovation (painting) of exhibits is going on but it is a drop in the ocean to what is needed. Internally little seems to have changed since I last visited the museum in 2006. The internal displays are still dominated by models and there is little in the way of telling a story. The small section on the history of railways had two very familiar sections of Cuneo prints, neither of which credited the great artist.

Ty42-120 on display.  The outdoor storage and display of the locomotives does little to stop the weather attacking the metal and paintwork. Photo John Savery.

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SD80 railcar.  The railcar was intact on arrival at the museum, however as it was stored outside of the museum’s compound, it was left at the mercy of vandals and thieves.  Little more than a shell remains.  (The bogies are out of shot of the camera.) Photo John Savery.

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I left the museum disappointed. Not because it did not live up to expectations. The disappointment was because the Uprising Museum proved it is possible to have an excellent museum and draw visitors in, on a weekday, in the middle of a capital city. If the Railway Museum’s management team want to run a successful museum, they could do far worse than visiting their neighbour a few hundred metres up the road.

The good and bad in Szczecin

Friday, 10 August 2012

1926 ‘Bremen’ tram interior.
Photo Michal Pilaszkiewicz, Muzeum Techniki i Komunikacji.

(Click image to see original on muzeumtechniki.eu website.)

There are not many cities in Europe that posses a transport museum, with all the exhibits stored under cover in an expertly restored building, in which a perfect balance has been struck between the new function of the building and the preservation of its historic character and context.

Yet this praiseworthy facility is located, not in some prosperous city in Western Europe, but in Szczecin located in the very ‘top left hand corner’ of Poland. Szczecin itself has had the heart of its local economy ripped out when its main shipyard, Stocznia Szczecinska, closed in stages during the last decade.

In the 1960s, the shipyard employed some 30,000 people, and almost every family in the town had someone who was either employed by the yard or worked for one of its suppliers. During the Solidarity era, the shipyard became one of the bulwarks of the trade union. After the collapse of communism, the shipyard was privatised, its workforce reduced to 11,000 and its activities concentrated on large bulk carriers.

In 1991, Krzystof Piotrkowski took over as CEO of the shipyard. He was hailed as an economic guru for rescuing it from verge of bankruptcy, restoring its credibility with customers and making the it profitable. The yard was featured as a ‘case study‘ example of transformation best practice by the influential Harvard Business Review.

10 years later, in spite of overflowing order books (the yard was building 17 ships, but only had working funds for 11) the state banks refused to extend the shipyard’s credit line, and in March 2002 production halted. The SLD-led post-communist government demanded that the shipyard’s board members hand over their shares to the state before any financial help in the form of credit guarantees or loans could be forthcoming. When they refused, the Minister for Trade began planning to re-nationalise the shipyard after first allowing it to go bankrupt.

When it seemed possible that a further downsizing and a new credit line might after all allow the shipyard to continue – in a move that eerily presaged the arrest of Yukos boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the board members were arrested on the orders of the Minister of the Interior. The shipyard was declared bankrupt and its assets were seized by the government. It seems that Poland’s economic transformation had outstripped the business ethics of its government. 6 years later all the arrested board members were declared innocent, but by then it was too late for the yard.

The state-owned Nowa Stocznia Szczecinska made huge losses and ate up government funds some 20 times greater than the size of the loan guarantees originally requested by Piotrkowski. There were several abortive attempts to find private buyers. In the end, all these efforts collapsed, and the yard is now in the final stages of liquidation.

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  • Misja specjalna (Special assignment)
    (TVP1 2008 TV programme with English subtitles)

Museum exterior. Photo by Kerim44.

(Click image to see original and for details of licensing.)

Gradually Szczecin is reinventing itself. While three smaller shipyards specialising in building smaller vessels for profitable niche markets still keep the ship-building tradition alive, the construction of giant bulk carriers in the main yard has ceased for ever. Jobs in new industries such as IT  and call-centres are replacing those in traditional metal-bashing. Unemployment remain a serious problem, in April 2012, some 18,600 people were out of work giving the city an unemployment rate of 10.7%.

Given the city’s recent history and its economic difficulties it is remarkable that the City Council has created one of the best city transport museum’s in Poland. The site of the museum is a former tram depot, opened in 1912 and built according to the design of two Berlin architects Griesbach and Steinmetz. The original depot consisted of 9 roads. In 1927, a smaller 5 road shed was built onto the east side of the original building and a two road workshop on the west.

Following the depot’s closure, the Szczecinskie Towarzystwo Milosnikow Komunikacji Miejskiej (Szczecin Urban Transport Enthusiasts Society) gained access to the building in October 2004. They acquired a number of historic tramcars and commenced restoration work.

In November 2005, the City Council decided formally to create the Muzeum Techniki i Komunikacji – Zajezdnia Sztuki (Museum of Technology and Transport) in the depot. The project received funding support in the form of a Norway Grant and an European Economic Area Grant to a total of 2.3 million euro, the remainder of the 13 million euro cost of rebuilding the tram depot and equipping the museum came from the city council’s own funds.

The tracks and overhead wiring have been preserved in the yard area with a carefully restored cobble stone pavement. Also retained inside the main hall are the tracks, inspection pits and an under-floor wheel lathe; the pits being glazed over for safety with architectural glass.

There are 6 permanent exhibitions. The largest exhibits – 7 trams and 3 buses – comprise the History of Szczecin Public Transport exhibition. Several motorcycles built in pre-war Szczecin make up the Szczecin Motor Transport 1919-1945 exhibition; a further group of motorcycles and two prototype ‘Smyk’ mini cars, all built in Szczecin motorcycle factory form the Szczecin Motor Transport 1954-1967 exhibition. Two other permanent exhibitions are dedicated to Polish communist era motor cars and motorcycles, while the third focuses on pre-war motorcycles. Most of the motor vehicle exhibits come from the private collection of Leszek Liszewski, which the city authorities purchased in 2007 for 1.5 million zloty (about £300,000).

The museum excels in many ways and a visit is highly recommended. Particularly impressive is the fact that, although the museum is today a shining example of European best practice, it has not forgotten its modest beginnings in the work of the Szczecin Urban Transport Enthusiasts Society and that, even today, there is still a role to be played by volunteers.

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4N1 293 4-wheeler driving car built in 1962.
Photo MTS.

The museum is not the only place in Szczecin where one may encounter vintage trams. On Sundays in July and August ZDiTM, the Szczecin Road and Transport Management Company, runs a tourist vintage tram service around the centre of the city. Sadly it is no longer possible to ride in the 1926 Bremen 4-wheeler, which now has pride of place in the new museum, and only ran the service in 2001. These days the tourist service trams are somewhat more modern such as this 1962 4N1 caught at the Golecin tram depot through the window of a another tram.

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