Archive for the ‘narrow gauge’ Category

Smigiel winter special

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Operational line extended to Zegrowo

A winter journey from Smigiel to Stare Bojanowo in January 2010. Video by bosz112.

The Smigiel narrow gauge railway is planning a winter special on Saturday 2 February. The event will also see the opening of another short extension of the operational line, 1.8km from Nowa Wies to Zegrowo. This is one of the most scenic sections of the line, running through woodland to the attractive halt of Zegrowo. The plan for the day is as follows:

  • 11:00  Stare Bojanowo to Smigiel (waits for connections from Poznan and Wroclaw)
  • 12:00  Special train from Smigiel to Stare Bojanowo and back with diesel locomotive Lxd2-241 and snowplough. Numerous photo stops.
  • 14:00  Special train from Smigiel to Zegrowo and back with diesel railbus MBxd2-266. Several photo stops.
  • 15:10  Smigiel to Stare Bojanowo (connects with trains to Poznan and Wroclaw)

Anyone wishing to participate is asked to book a place before Monday 28 January by emailing kolejka@smigiel.pl or telephoning 696411584, giving your full name, contact telephone number, and whether you wish to use the optional Stare Bojanowo connecting trains. The cost is 40zl per person, plus an additional 5zl for each of the optional Stare Bojanowo transfers at 11:00 and 15:10.

Elsewhere on the Polish narrow gauge, the Bieszczady forest railway is operating regular winter trains for the second year in a row (see Narrow gauge trains in the snow). These depart Majdan station at 12:00 on Fridays and Saturdays during the Polish winter school holidays, running 6km to Dolzyca and returning to Majdan at around 13:15. And a special train is planned on the Znin narrow gauge railway on 30 March, including a connecting standard gauge special train and bus from Poznan.

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Double celebrations at Rogow

Friday, 30 November 2012

Return to Gluchow – the first train since the track was damaged by thieves almost a year ago. Photo FPKW.

On Saturday 17 November the Rogow narrow gauge railway celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first trains in preservation. PKP ceased passenger operations on the Rogow narrow gauge railway on 9 June 2001 and freight operations at the end of September 2001.

It took a year for PKP to hand over responsibility for the line to Rawa Mazowiecka district council and for the council to conclude the necessary licence with FPKW, The Polish Narrow Gauge Railways Foundation, with the formalities complete in October 2002. The first public passenger trains under FPKW ran on the All Saints Day public holiday, 1 November 2002.

Track repairs on the Rogow narrow gauge railway. Photo FPKW.

This year’s event was more than a celebration of the 10th anniversary; it was also a celebration of the reopening of the line beyond Jezow, where in December last year thieves stole 11.5 tonnes of rail bolts and chairs, and in the process damaged 460 sleepers.

Behind the Water Tower readers supported the campaign to raise funds for the repair of the line, and the foundation also received support from the Rawa Mazowiecka district council, and donation of materials from PKP PLK. In the end the task was too large to be completed by volunteer labour so contractors were employed to repair the line between Jezow and Gluchow, while volunteers repaired other smaller areas of damage that had occurred beyond Gluchow during the period that the line was closed.

Tenth anniversary special train on the bridge over the river Rawce. Photo FPKW.

The special train on 17 November consisted of diesel locomotive Lyd1-215, van, traditional Polish 1Aw passenger coach and brake/postal van. Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers the train was able to reach not only Gluchow, but all the way to Zamkowa Wola, the first station beyond Rawa Mazowiecka, 32km from Rogow. Congratulations to all at FPKW and Rogow for this fantastic achievement.

However, the work is not yet complete – there is more damage to repair beyond Zamkowa Wola. FPKW have again appealed for help in raising the money to restore the final 17km of the railway between Zamkowa Wola and Biala Rawska. Any donations would be gratefully received. Behind the Water Tower readers who would like to make a donation can do so without incurring bank transfer fees by using the PayPal donation button on the FPKW homepage.

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The photography of the late Tomasz Wach

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A postscript to Early Sugar Beet Railways in Kujawy.

Lesmierz No 10, Borsig 10357/1918, 0-8-0T on a sugar beet train in January 1980. Photo ©Tomasz Wach estate.

(Click to see original on Wciaz pod Para.)

It seems like another age, yet it was not quite 50 years ago (1964 or 5), that a cousin took me to see  the yard (1) of the Gdańska Kolej Dojazdowa at Gdansk Wask and I had my first taste of Polish narrow gauge steam. Sadly, ten years later in 1974 the whole of the GKD on the left bank of the Vistula was closed and much, but not all, of the GDK followed suit in subsequent years.

During that same trip to Poland I found myself on a family organised visit to the palace to Wilanow to the south of Warsaw. In those days one went by tram to Wilanow, so I was happy enough, but when I discovered that the Wilanowska Kolej Dojazdowska ran from the gates of the park, I decided to pursue my own itinerary and, while the rest of my family went sight seeing at the palace, I and an attractive Warsaw cousin minder explored the WKD and the Grojecka Kole Dojadowa for the rest of the day.

We took a strange looking petrol(?) railcar to Piaseczno. I remember being disappointed that the line from the then terminus at Wilanow (the line had run once run as far as pl. Lubelski) ran as a roadside tramway through Powsin and Klarysew, but then the ride became more interesting as we passed the junction to Konstancin and I spotted some dumped 0-6-2Ts (2) before we reached Piaseczno Miasto. Miraculously three of these locos have survived and are now mouldering in the open at the skansen in Gryfice.

Piaseczno Miasto yard was bigger in those days (a few sidings have since been removed to make room for a road) and resembled a busy main line junction. Here we changed trains to ride in what I regarded to be a ‘proper train’ hauled by a Px48 as far as Warszawa Poludniowa. From here we took the tram back to the city centre. A few days later I had another Px48-hauled trip on the Marecka Kolej Dojazdowa from Warszawa Wilenska to Radzymin.

When Ed Beale brought my attention to the wonderful narrow gauge pictures of the late Tomasz Wach, as part of his photographic research for the Early Sugar Beet Railways in Kujawy article, all these memories came flooding back. We wanted to reproduce Wach’s photographs of engines working on the Dobrzelin and Lesmierz sugar beet railways to illustrate the article and corresponded with Tomislaw Czarnecki on whose website Wciaz pod Para Wach’s photos are hosted as well a contact that we had been given for a representative of Wach’s estate. Sadly, though at first our correspondence seemed to be leading to a positive conclusion, it then petered out without us receiving a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Wach’s collection goes back to 1962 and continues through to 1995. It includes pictures of narrow gauge engines working on the Gdańska Kolej Dojazdowa, the Grojecka Kole Dojadowa, the Mlawska Kolej Dojazdowa, the Nasielska Kolej Dojazdowa as well as on the narrow gauge railways belonging to the sugar refineries at Dobrzelin, Guzow, Lesmierz and Mala Wies. There are also preservation era photos of unusual steam working on the narrow gauge lines in Elk and Sochaczew. In addition there are some splendid pictures of – mostly older – standard gauge locos working in various locations.

Wach’s pictures are from a past era when railway photography was strictly forbidden and only a handful of photographers managed to record what was an an amazingly diverse steam scene. We publish this review to celebrate Wach’s achievement and courage. It would be wonderful if someone (maybe FPKW?) manages to secure the right to reproduce these pictures in print and so preserves this wonderful collection for future generations.

Dyspozytor

Notes

(1) Ty1-1096 caught in Gdansk Wask in 1963
(2) Tyb5-3386 at Iwiczna on the Grójecka KD in May 1962

More Tomasz Wach photos (links to Wciaz pod Para):

Acknowledgements

All photographs linked to in this article are from the collection of the late Tomasz Wach hosted on Tomislaw Czarnecki’s web site Wciaz pod Para. All the maps linked to from this article are courtesy Jaroslaw Wozny and Railmap – Kolejowa Mapa Polski. Thanks also to Ed Beale for doing the original photographic research.

Early sugar beet railways in Kujawy

Monday, 12 November 2012

by ‘Inzynier’

With thanks to Ed Beale for sourcing the photographs.

Brigadelok at Irena sugar factory in Lyszkowice.

(Click to see original image in Ziemia Lodzka, page 18)

As followers of BTWT will be aware, the First World War saw construction of many narrow gauge ‘field railways’ in what is now Poland, a number of which subsequently found use as common carrier railways under PKP.  While Austria and Russia built such lines, the vast majority were the German Heeresfeldbahnen (miltary field railways).

Of the lines (or networks) taken over by PKP, the Kujawy network is probably the most widely known today and, following eventual conversion to 750mm gauge, was the last of the classic former Feldbahnen to survive in operation; although the Zbiersk line was a First World War creation, it was always 750mm gauge and was built for economic rather than purely military purposes.

Apart from the Kujawy system, a significant number of other railways were taken over by PKP:

  • most of the Torun – Sierpc – Nasielsk line, with a branch to Rypin, was a 600mm gauge PKP railway with public services until the last sections were replaced by standard gauge lines in the mid 1930s;
  • the Mlawa railway was built as a 600mm gauge military field railway, taken over by PKP for civilian services, converted to 750mm gauge in the early 1960s and lasting for freight purposes until 2001;
  • the extensive Jedrzejow system has its origins in Austrian military railways of 700mm gauge, rebuilt as a 600mm gauge line still during the war, expanded by various local authority and private initiatives between the wars, regauged to 750mm in the 1950s and lasting with ‘regular’ traffic into the 1990s;
  • the Rogow line was another that survived, converted to 750mm gauge, until the end of PKP narrow gauge operations in 2001;
  • the system based around Myszyniec remained 600mm gauge until closed in the 1970s;
  • the Zwierzyniec – Bilgoraj line probably takes the prize for the number of different gauges, being originally built by the Russians on 750mm gauge, later a 600mm gauge line built during the war, converted to 750mm gauge by PKP in the 1960s and closed in the 1970s to be replaced by a standard gauge line that was later joined by a Russian gauge railway!

There were various other lines in present-day Poland which saw short-lived civilian service and also, largely forgotten today, PKP operated significant former Heeresfeldbahnen in those regions lost to the Soviet Union in the Second World War: the 90+km Dukszty-Druja line, the 66km Nowojelnia – Nowogrodek – Lubcz line, the Baranowicze network and the Iwacewicze – Janow – Kamien system (on which PKP still operated passenger services over 214 route kilometres in 1939) to name only a few.

Besides these significant lengths of railway for which a post-war use was found, there were as many, probably many more, which were redundant.  As these lines were dismantled; the track materials were sold off.  Furthermore, the German authorities had ordered around 2,500 of their standard 0-8-0T Brigadelokomotiven (commonly known in Britain as ‘Feldbahn’ locomotives), many of which were stored or still under construction when the war ended – locomotives were still being delivered to military stores depots well into 1919.  These locomotives were also soon on the market.

Transhipment from a Wisla barge on the Borowiczki sugar beet railway, 1941.

(Click to see the original image on plock24.pl)

Many forestry and industrial concerns in Poland took advantage of this ready availability of 600mm gauge railway equipment to build their own railways in place of horse and cart transport of raw materials and/or finished products.  The advantages of narrow gauge railways had been recognised by sugar factories in the German-controlled part of Kujawy from the 1880s, and those in the Russian-controlled areas had begun to follow suit before the war.

The 1920s saw an explosion in the construction of sugar factory railways.  Some, such as Ostrowite, chose 750mm gauge but for most the availability of Brigadeloks and other equipment led to 600mm gauge being selected.  Amongst the factories that developed 600mm gauge railways at this time were Klemensow, Mala Wies, Izabelin, Borowiczki, Cielce, Guzow, Dobrzelin, Chelmica, Mlynow, Irena and Lesmierz.

German 1944 1:2500 map based upon pre-war Polish WIG cartography showing the end of the Lesmierz line near Unjejow, in the yard of a private estate in Dominikowice. Did the Lesmierz line link up with an existing estate railway?

(Click to expand,)

Lesmierz sugar factory’s railway was built between 1920 and 1928.  The first section built was a link to Sierpow station on PKP’s 600mm gauge Krosniewice – Ozorkow – Strykow line, itself built as a Heeresfeldbahn.  Note that the standard gauge Kutno – Zgierz line through Sierpow did not open until 1924.  From Sierpow the railway was continued westward.

WIG maps show the railway’s most westerly terminus was Dominikowice, south of Uniejow, while there was a lengthy branch running north from near Pelczyska to Swinice and Kozanki.  In 1926, before completion of the network, the Lesmierz sugar factory railway was recorded as having 70km of track, 8 steam locomotives, 160 freight wagons and 2 passenger coaches.  Presumably the link to the PKP line served to deliver coal and limestone to the factory and take away finished sugar, while the lines further west served to bring in sugar beet and take out beet pulp.

Further to the east, Irena sugar factory in Lyszkowice, south of Lowicz, built a 600mm gauge railway in 1920-1 to Domaniewice station on the Lowicz – Lodz standard gauge line, presumably serving only to bring in coal and limestone and take away the finished sugar.  The railway of Mlynow sugar factory at Piatek, south east of Kutno, probably also dates from the 1920s.  The main line of this system ran to Jackowice station on the Lowicz – Kutno standard gauge line, but the fact that there were branches through Janowice to Balkow and through Przezwiska to Borow as well as other short branches (all shown on WIG maps) suggests that the railway transported beet and pulp as well as coal etc.  To the north of these lines Dobrzelin sugar factory also developed a quite extensive 600mm gauge railway between the wars.

German 1940 1:2500 map (reprinted 1944) based upon pre-war Polish WIG cartography showing the line to the sugar beet factory at Lesmierz, but not its WWII extension eastwards to Pokrzywnica.

(Click to expand,)

And then came German occupation.  In the First World War the Germans had created links between various sugar factory railways and they did so again in the Second World War.  In the north of Kujawy they converted the 900mm gauge Pakosc/Tuczno/Wierzchoslawice railway to 750mm gauge and linked it to the Matwy, Kruszica and Dobre systems of that gauge, and created various other links between those railways.

In the south east of this sprawling, still partly 600mm gauge network, they created a number of links.  From Lesmierz a line was built east to join the Mlynow system at Pokrzywnica.  From Domaniewice the Irena sugar factory’s railway was extended north west to join the Mlynow system at Walewice.  From Jackowice the Mlynow system was extended to Czerniew, where a connection was probably created with the Dobrzelin factory’s system.

Soon after the war these lines started to be divided up and partially dismantled.  Irena sugar factory closed in 1947 and although its railway may have been taken over by Dobrzelin, it was probably soon dismantled.  Most of the rest of the Mlynow system was taken over by Lesmierz.

In 1948 work started on converting PKP’s Krosniewice – Ozorkow line to 750mm, being completed in 1951.  Consequently, in 1952 the 3km section of the Lesmierz system linking the factory to PKP’s Sierpow station became mixed 600/750mm gauge; henceforth the beet and pulp were carried in 600mm gauge wagons and coal etc. in 750mm gauge wagons.  Two 750mm gauge locomotives were acquired by the factory to serve this short but vital link.

Lesmierz sugar factory in 1927.

(Click to see original image on fotopolska.eu)

The Lesmierz 600mm gauge network gradually shrunk. By 1950 it had already reduced from around 120km to 90km and by 1970 had declined to 60km.  In the latter year, however, there were 14 steam locomotives, 240 wagons, 2 coaches and 3 diesel locomotives.  The end of narrow gauge operations appears to have come in the 1980s or early 1990s.  The last year in which PKP supplied beet to the factory in narrow gauge wagons was 1986, when some 15,000 tonnes were brought in and almost 13,000 tonnes of pulp taken away.  By way of comparison, ten years later the Tuczno system carried 140,000t of beet and 36,000 tonnes of pulp.

The 600mm gauge steam locomotives of the Lesmierz system were as follows:

  • Lesmierz 1, LHW 1760/191, 0-8-0T Brigadelok HF 2416, still existed 9/72
  • Lesmierz 2, BMAG 6798/1919, 0-8-0T Brigadelok HF 2483, to playground in Kutno 1992
  • Lesmierz 3, LHW 1721/1918, 0-8-0T Brigadelok HF 2239, to Elk, then Skierniewice
  • Lesmierz 4, Fablok 1541/1947, 0-4-0T Rys, at Warszawa Railway Museum since 1994
  • Lesmierz 6, Borsig 10329/1918, 0-8-0T Brigadelok HF 2098, still existed 9/72
  • Lesmierz 7, O&K 8745/1919, 0-10-0T HF 2858, Mlynow, then Lesmierz, still there 9/72
  • Lesmierz 8, O&K 8721/1918, 0-10-0T, ordered as HF 2646 but delivered to Mlynow then to Lesmierz, still there 9/72
  • Lesmierz 9, Henschel 14921/1916, 0-8-0T Brigadelok HF 991, still existed 9/72
  • Lesmierz 10, Borsig 10357/1918, 0-8-0T Brigadelok HF 2294, withdrawn 1982, remains still existed 1987
  • Lesmierz 11, O&K 8692/1918, 0-8-0T Brigadelok HF 2456
  • Lesmierz 11, Schwartzkopff 6808/1919, 0-10-0T HF 2655, to PKP 1919 as Es 451 or E1-451, Mlawa, DR 99 1611, to Myszyniec by 1940, at Mlawa 1942, Rogow in early 50s as PKP Tx1-591, to Lesmierz 16/4/56, later heating boiler at Mlynow, to Sucha Beskidzka and then Chabowka

The 750mm gauge steam locomotives of the Lesmierz system were:

  • Fablok 1982/1949, 0-6-0T Las, to Bad Muskauer Waldeisenbahn, then Oberoderwitz
  • Fablok 1984/1949, 0-6-0T Las, Lesmierz 610, to PSMK Skierniewice about 1992

The 600mm gauge steam locomotives of the Dobrzelin system were as follows:

  • Dobrzelin 1, LHW 1719/1918,  0-8-0T Brigadelok, still existed, out of use, 9/72
  • Dobrzelin 2, Henschel 14471/1916, 0-8-0T Brigadelok, acquired 1920
  • Dobrzelin 3, Jung 2865/1919, 0-8-0T Brigadelok, still existed, out of use, 10/72
  • Dobrzelin 4, O&K 8691/1918, 0-8-0T Brigadelok, still at Dobrzelin 8/72
  • Dobrzelin 6, Schwartzkopff 6813/1919, 0-10-0T, M. Stern AG, Essen, for sale 11/22, to PKP as Es-1344, Zwierzyniec, DR 99 1621, then to Dobrzelin
  • Dobrzelin 7, Schwartzkopff 6806/1919, 0-8-0T Brigadelok. Probably sold to Dobrzelin by M. Stern AG, Essen, where it was for sale 11/22
  • Dobrzelin 8, Henschel 15523/1917, 0-8-0T Brigadelok, still existed 9/72
  • Dobrzelin 10, Jung 2864/1919, 0-8-0T Brigadelok
  • Dobrzelin 13, Henschel 15549/1917, 0-8-0T Brigadelok,  still existed 9/72
  • Dobrzelin 15,  O&K 8688/1918, 0-8-0T Brigadelok, Krasiniec or Ciechanow sugar factory 4, to PKP Mlawa 1949 as Tx1-350, to Dobrzelin 4/3/58
  • Dobrzelin 15, Schwartzkopff? 6803/1919, 0-8-0T Brigadelok, Krasiniec or Ciechanow sugar factory 4, to PKP Mlawa 1949 as Tx1-353, to Dobrzelin 4/3/50 or 4/3/58
  • Dobrzelin 17, Chrzanow 1625/1953, 0-6-0T Las, to Meldegen, Belgium
  • Dobrzelin 21, Fablok 3297/1954, 0-6-0T Las, to Meldegen, Belgium
  • Dobrzelin 24, Chrzanow 3444/1957, 0-6-0 Las, to De Bakkersmolen, Essen-Wildert, Germany

Stop press

Ex Lesmierz Fablok 1982/1949 0-6-0T Las, together with a sister engine, ex Plocicznow 3816/1958 Chrzanow have been repatriated to Poland and will be exhibited at the Krosnice Park Railway.

Footnote

Some splendid historic n.g. engine photographs by the late Tomasz Wach – including 8 photos of engines on the Lesmierz sugar beet line – used to be hosted by Tomislaw Czarnecki on his Wciaz pod Para website. Sadly the link to Tomasz Wach’s gallery no longer (as on 12.11.12) appears to work.

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Little train to Sroda

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

‘Little Train to Sroda’ by David Doré

David Doré is a professional film maker. He has scores of films, many made for the railway industry, to his credit. He has made some of his work accessible on Vimeo and we look forward to exploring it together on the pages of BTWT.

David made this superb short film about the Sroda narrow gauge railway in 1996. Happily, although there have been some recent rumblings that all is not well at Sroda, there does seem to be some good news at last. The railway’s support society recently organised a study tour for the mayor of Sroda and some of his officials to visit the narrow gauge line in Zittau.

Shortly after that a decision was made by the Town Council to fund the overhaul of one of the line’s two Px48s! What a pity that the Smigiel Railway’s support society has not shown similar enterprise and seems to be content to merely act as a fan club for that town’s mayor!

Problems at Pleszew

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Pleszew Miasto station, December 2011. Photo Ed Beale.

Passenger services on the Pleszew Railway, Poland’s last regular narrow gauge passenger service, are facing serious problems. The service has been in steep decline since 2010 when there were 6 return trains a day. In December 2010 the service was reduced to 5 trains a day, then to 3 return trains in March 2011, then to 2 return trains in September 2011. By that time it had been reduced to a basic schools service, nominally still providing a link between the town and the standard gauge station but really only used by teenagers going to school in Pleszew. Trains do not run during school holidays but usually resume in early September.

However, this year things have taken an even more serious turn. The railway has not resumed for the start of the school year, apparently due to road repairs being carried out on ulica Lipowa, which crosses the narrow gauge line in Pleszew, and when trains do resume on Monday 8 October the afternoon train pair will be suspended due to lack of financial support from the local government, leaving only one train a day in the morning, from Pleszew Miasto at 06:20, returning from Kowalew (Pleszew Wask) at 07:22.

When BTWT asked SKPL for comment, they sent us a copy of a letter from Przewozy Regionalne turning down a suggestion for a joint ticketing arrangement from Pleszew Miasto to destinations on the main line network. Apparently the scheme, which would have boosted passenger carryings and was enthusiastically received by PR HQ in Warsaw, was just too much trouble for local PR management to implement.

So, for the moment, teenagers may still go to school on the train, but must go home by bus. Following the much documented end to the regular passenger services at Krosniewice and Smigiel, it seems that the end may well be nigh for the last regular narrow gauge passenger service in Poland.

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May Holiday – A Narrow Gauge Feast

Friday, 20 April 2012

Updated

Crossing one of the long viaducts on the Jedrzejow line. The operating season at Jedrzejow starts on 1 May. Photo Ed Beale.

(Click image to enlarge.)

The first week in May is traditionally a holiday week in Poland with its two public holidays on 1 and 3 May. Many narrow gauge railways start their operating seasons during this week with trains at the weekends or on 1, 2 or 3 May. This year, 17 narrow gauge railways will be operating during the May holiday week. The special train at Przeworsk on Saturday 5 May must be booked in advance by email to smpkw [at] wp.pl before 22 April. The other trains do not need to be booked in advance.

  1. Bieszczady Forest Railway: 28 and 29 April, 1, 3, 5 and 6 May at 10:00 (to Przyslup) and 13:00 (to Balnica).
  2. Elk: Tuesday 1 May at 10:00.
  3. Hajnowka Forest Railway: 1-5 May at 10:00, 14:00 and 17:00.
  4. Hel Military Railway: 1, 3, 5 and 6 May.
  5. Jedrzejow: Tuesday 1 and Sunday 6 May at 10:00.
  6. Karczmiska: Thursday 3 and Sunday 6 May at 11:00.
  7. Koszalin: Tuesday 1 May at 11:00.
  8. Nowy Dwor Gdanski: 28 April to 6 May at 09:00, steam on 1 and 2 May.
  9. Piaseczno: 29 April, 1, 3 and 6 May at 11:00.
  10. Plociczno Forest Railway: Daily from 1 May at 13:00.
  11. Przeworsk: Special train with historic stock on Saturday 5 May (bookings by email to smpkw [at] wp.pl before 22 April).
  12. Rogow: 29 April, 1, 2, 3 and 6 May, four trains daily.
  13. Rudy: 28 and 29 April, eight trains to Paproc. 1, 3, 5 and 6 May, six trains to Paproc and 2 trains to Stanica.
  14. Smigiel: Thursday 3 May.
  15. Sroda: Tuesday 1 May, festival at Sroda Miasto station with short train trips to Kipa between 15:00 and 19:00.
  16. Starachowice: 1 and 6 May at 14:00 from Starachowice, 1-3 and 6 May at 14:00 from Ilza.
  17. Znin: Daily from Saturday 28 April, six trains each day.

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Another difficult year ahead for Bytom

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Track severed by A1 Motorway construction, 2011. Photo SGKW.

The Bytom narrow gauge railway is the longest surviving fragment of the Upper Silesian narrow gauge railway, an extensive 785mm gauge freight network that carried heavy coal traffic until as recently as May 2001. The tourist service dates back to 1993 when the railway was still operated by PKP.

Since PKP closed all of its surviving narrow gauge lines at the end of 2001, the railway has been owned by Bytom, Tarnowskie Gory and Miasteczko Slaskie councils. It has been operated under licence by Stowarzyszenie Górnosląskich Kolei Wąskotorowych (The Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railway).

The new operators survived a very tough first year or two, when track theft was a major unchecked problem in Upper Silesia. Vast swathes of the former network were lost to theft, including the lines to the southern tourist train terminus of Siemianowice Slaskie and to the repair workshops at Bytom Rozbark. Following this, the railway entered a period of relative stability, operating daily tourist trains in the summer over the core Bytom to Miasteczko Slaskie route. The line gave access to the popular recreational lake Chechlo-Naklo, and long trains were well loaded with tourists.

The recent problems started in 2010 when floods in the middle of May badly damaged the bridge over the river Stola at Tarnowskie Gory. Trains were unable to run over the northern section of the line for two months while repairs were carried out, resuming on 15 July. Then in 2011, construction of the A1 motorway severed the route for the whole of the summer operating season. Originally due to be complete in October 2011, the work overran considerably and the new viaduct is only now ready for track laying.  At the time of writing, SGKW are expecting the new bridge to be ready for use by the end of April.

The new viaduct ready for track laying. Photo SGKW via Facebook.

But already a new problem is looming on the horizon. The two viaducts either side of Szombierki power station, which carry the narrow gauge line over first the Bytom to Gliwice line, and then the Bytom to Tarnowskie Gory line, are both in very poor condition and in urgent need of repair. Bytom council have received an EU grant to cover part of the cost of the repair, but the conditions of the building permit mean that work must start by July. So for the third year running SGKW are faced with a key part of their route being closed for the main tourist season. Trains will have to start from Bytom Karb instead of from the platform at the main Bytom Glowny station, and the society fear that far fewer passengers will travel on the trains as a result.

If all this were not enough, the railway is also suffering from mining subsidence from the Bobrek-Centrum coal mine in Bytom. A 1.5km section of the line is affected, at the centre of which the track level has fallen by 8 metres. The resulting gradients are so steep in places that they make operation of the trains difficult, as well as causing ongoing damage to rails and sleepers. The mine owners should be liable to repair the damage, but this may take time.

SGKW board members have shown considerable resourcefulness in trying to overcome the problems they face and have come up with several new ways to attract passengers to the railway. In 2008 they introduced power station tours which were a great success, involving a short train ride from Bytom to Szombierki power station, then a guided tour of the power station and train back. Unfortunately, the new Finnish owner of the power station is concerned about health and safety and these tours are unlikely to run again this year. Other recent new ventures include involvement in the annual Industriada event celebrating the industrial heritage of Upper Silesia, and “cinema trains”, evening events consisting of a train ride from Bytom to Bytom Karb for film showings in a converted railway carriage.

Due to the uncertainty concerning the viaducts at Szombierki the timetable for the 2012 season has not yet been finalised, but trains from Bytom Karb to Miasteczko are expected to run on summer weekends, and perhaps also on weekdays in the school summer holidays. The line has considerable scenic as well as railway interest, and is well worth a visit.

More:

Regulator sets up n.g. portal!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The ‘World of Narrow gauge Railways’ according to UTK.

(Click on image to go to the UTK interactive map.)

With no effective umbrella body representing or promoting Poland’s tourist and heritage railways, it has fallen to Poland’s railway regulator, Urząd Transportu Kolejowego (Office of Railway Transport) to publish the first Polish language on-line atlas of operational narrow gauge lines.

Although we welcome this atlas, it does seem a somewhat bizarre thing for the UTK to publish. Have they not got more urgent priorities in the wake of the Szczekociny disaster?

Inevitably as always occurs with ‘first editions’, there are some omissions and inaccuracies. At first glance, two operational n.g. lines have been missed out, and one no-longer-operational line has been included.

We invite readers to submit their own corrections to BTWT. We will consolidate the corrections into one document and forward it to the UTK.

For readers planning their own visit to Poland we also recommend accessing Ed Beale’s own Narrow Gauge Railways in Poland portal for up to date information regarding operations in 2012. For information about the history of the lines Andrew Goodwin’s Polish Narrow Gauge Railways – though now somewhat dated – remains an invaluable resource.

(With a hat tip to Prezes for the link.)

More:

Brake blocks and tranporter wagons

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Smigiel Railway Freight in 2008. Video by .

Good Friday starts with early morning phone call from France, Can you help us source brake blocks for the L45h (PKP-Lxd2) locomotive? Hmm. So who else runs an intensive train service using Lxd2s and might be wearing out their brake blocks?

Dark thoughts gather. There’s nothing like hauling heavy standard gauge wagons on top of narrow gauge transporter wagons to wear out loco brake blocks. When BTWT started, Lxd2s operated a regular SKPL-operated freight service on the Krosniewice Railway. Now that’s gone. They also hauled frequent freight trains on the Smigiel Railway, now that Smigiel Council has cut up the majority of the transporter wagons, that’s gone for good.

The Gryfice Narrow Gauge Railway – now ominously renamed Nadmorska Kolej Dojazdowa (The Costal Narrow Gauge Railway) – runs a passenger service along its coastal stretch with almost tram-like intensity and that is either Lxd2 or Px48 hauled. But Gryfice is a long way away and Zbiersk is nearer.

The Kalisz narrow gauge railway remains the last narrow gauge railway operating regular freight services in Poland. I call my SKPL contact, Your French friend is in luck we are about to place an order with the foundry to get the next batch of brake blocks cast.

I am pleased that I have been able to help the Frenchman, but I cannot fight the growing feeling of dark despondency, The battle to retain narrow gauge freight operations in Poland is virtually lost.

How long until the only active Polish transporter wagons will be scale models? Video by .<

Polish heritage rail and EU funding

Friday, 18 February 2011

Too little trickles down to where its needed

EU project notice Karczmiska Station. Photo L Grabczak, Radio Lublin.

(Click image to see more photos taken recently at the Naleczow Railway’s Karczmiska headquarters.)

There seems something distinctly odd about the way that Polish heritage and tourist lines use EU funds. Only a handful of lines have actually benefited from EU funding, but those that have seem wary of spending much money on the basic ‘train set’. Rolling stock continues to be left out in the open and subject to the depredation of vandals and the Polish weather. Infrastructure and rolling stock gets hardly a mention. Track receives the absolute minimum attention. Unique steam locomotives are left to decay as ‘technical monuments’.

Meanwhile precious EU funding is focussed elsewhere. Station buildings are restored, or built from scratch, and paved platforms are built where there was once only a few kerb stones and a bank of ballast. Since it is unlikely that all local authority owners suffer from the same tunnel vision, could it be that this obsession with buildings is the result of implementing EU project guidelines set by the Ministry of Regional Development?

The Naleczow Railway is the beneficent of a 3.999 million zloty EU-assisted project. The station buildings at Karczmiska have been immaculately restored, yet the track, rolling and depot buildings continue to present a sorry sight. The railway has not been operational since SKPL ceased operating the line at the end of 2008.

Newly built platforms and station buildings at Hajnowka. From a photo at bialowieza-info.eu

(Click on image to see more photos of the Bialowiza Forest Railway on the bialowieza-info.eu website.)

The Bialowieza Forest Railway has built a new station, platform and prestigious office facilities at Hajnowka. Yet one historic HF ‘Feldbahn’ locomotive languishes in the open, while its sister, which is in near working order, rests in its shed unused for want of a boiler inspection.

Project for rebuilding Rewal Station
Visualisation © Ingeno Consult BPK Sp. z o.o.

(Click image to see more Ingeno design sketches. Click here to go to Ingeno Group website.)

A 47 million PLN (£10 million) EU-assisted project for the Gryfice narrow gauge railway envisages two brand new station buildings, platform awnings, paved platforms, ‘retro’ lamps, art galleries, museums, a library, cafés, cycle hire and bed and breakfast facilities. Yet the railway passes through some of Poland’s most developed seaside tourist infrastructure. Does Rewal Council need to finance all these facilities itself? Are they all necessary? Only 8 km of track of the line’s 40 plus km will receive attention as a result of the program and the railway’s solitary Px48 – borrowed from the Railway Museum in Warsaw – will not be augmented by any additional steam engine.

More on Rewal (in Polish):

Come to Poland to make a difference!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Photoreportage by Marek Cieselski

Foxfield volunteers working on the Smigiel Railway 30.04.2008

We are really impressed by this story which shows how, with a bit of ‘can do spirit’ on all sides, it is possible for British volunteers to make a real difference when they visit Poland. Howard Jones offers an add-on narrow gauge option on the Smigiel Railway as part of his ‘Wolsztyn Experience’ product. Some of his customers from the Foxfield Railway noticed that some of the trackwork was a bit rough and asked whether they could come down to the Smigiel Railway again and do something about it. Staying in the former goods shed at Smigiel, which has been adapted as hostel accommodation, the Foxfield gang worked on the railway from the 28 April to 2 May and then went to Wolsztyn to enjoy the Steam Show.

Repairs were carried out at the Stare Bojanowo loading ramp, at Stare Bojanowo Wask station and on the sharp curve on the approach to Smigiel Station. 70 sleepers were replaced, track joints were levelled and rail alignment was corrected. On Wednesday 30 April, the permanent way train was hauled by the Px48 steam locomotive on loaned from the Gniezno Railway.

Everybody is delighted with the way that things went and already plans are being made for an even larger group of volunteers to visit Smigiel. Our congratulations to everybody involved in making it happen!

The Foxfield Gang with SKPL Infrastructure boss, Andrzej Cichowicz