Archive for the ‘railway tourism’ Category

A return journey – part 5

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Lyd1-215 and immaculately restored Romanian trailer at Rogow, 15 May 2005. Photo BTWT.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The item on the menu for Sunday 18 July was something which I had set my heart on months earlier – the Fundacja Polskich Kolei Waskotorowych (Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation) preserved 750mm gauge line at Rogow. A line lauded as probably the country’s best achievement of recreating the atmosphere of the narrow gauge in PKP days with the exception of steam – the line has a pair of Px48, but not in working order. That would seem fair enough: dieselisation of PKP’s narrow gauge set in quite early, with a fair number of narrow gauge railways going 100% diesel as at the early 1980s, or before. This was a big reason for my never hitherto having been to this line: it went all-diesel quite early, and my overriding reason for visiting Poland up to the early 1990s, was to see active steam. Though a narrow-gauge devotee, I skipped many narrow-gauge lines in those times, because of their steamlessness.

The line’s west-to-east 49 km, Rogow to Biala Rawska, is all still in situ, and the preservation undertaking is entitled to operate on all of it. It does so, on a very few days of the year. Most of the time, the line operates on summer Sundays only, over the 17 km from Rogow east to Gluchow. Two return runs per day: the earlier just 8 km out to Jezow and back, the later a return working all the way to Gluchow. We opted for the 13:15 Gluchow return train.

Rogow was reached, by car, in just nice time for departure of this working: a Bxhpi 1Aw in proper green livery, two semi-open bogie coaches rebuilt for tourists from coal wagons, and a bogie brankard guard’s utility van – this latter seemingly a standard component of all 750mm gauge tourist trains. Motive power was a tiny jackshaft-drive 0-6-0D, Lyd1-215 –of a class which I had met in the past on the 750mm system at Elk, where for many years they handled all traffic. Wanting to feel as authentic as possible, we took our places in the1Aw . The train set out, crossing on the ungated levelcrossing a little way out of Rogow across the trunk road eastwards from Lodz to Rawa Mazowiecka. We ran slowly, but steadily (Dyspozytor commented that the track had been improved) through pleasant tranquil gently undulating countryside. We passed the intermediate stations at Jezow and Bialynin, to arrive at Gluchow some 35 – 40 minutes after leaving Rogow.

There followed something that you don’t get at Devil’s Bridge or Dalegarth. The train’s amiable guard gathered up the passengers, and led them off to visit the village’s church – one was given to understand that this excursion was basically compulsory. Oh, well – pretend (in the spirit of the line’s basic period recreated) that it’s Communist times, when one was always being obliged to do assorted things, supposedly for one’s own good. Group-walk through the village to the church – in fact, a handsome edifice, dedicated (going by the statues on its outside) to Saints Peter and Paul. In the interior, beautifully decorated, the date 1786 was to be seen – presumably, that of the church’s founding. The guard addressed his ‘congregation’ for some ten minutes outside the church, and for another ten minutes within – where we could at least sit down. I could make out, from his orations, only a few place-names – deducing that some of his spiel, at least, was historical. For the rest – was he maybe a zealous Catholic, taking the chance to give a religious pep-talk to his punters? … I’ll never know…

Church-bash concluded, we were left free to explore the village, or make our way back to the station. The organised fun was not over, however. Dyspozytor, who had not taken part in the church trip, had during my absence kitted us out for the next phase of activities – which came about after we had travelled 9 km back westward, as far as Jezow. The train made a prolonged stop there, and on a green tree-ringed patch, with benches, close by the station, a bonfire was lit.

Dyspozytor explained that this was a particularly Polish thing – grilling sausages on sticks over the bonfire. (At the Gluchow grocer’s-and-general shop, he had purchased a couple of sausages for the purpose, and a few bottles of beer.) Very many Poles of all ages are / have been in their youth, involved with the Scout movement or its other-ideology alternatives; the ‘campfire / sausage’ ritual is one with many nostalgic associations from when folk were young, and it’s a something that Poles love doing. On both the other narrow gauge tourist trains on which I travelled during this holiday, sausage-grilling over a campfire featured at some stage of the proceedings. We duly grilled our sausages and ate them as we quaffed our beer. I wonder whether this would this work as a gimmick on certain minor British preserved lines?

Finally the ‘barbie’ was over, and the train returned to Rogow, getting there abouty 16:30. The line has an indoor museum at Rogow, which was unfortunately closed by the time of our return. For whatever reasons – some, probably not within their control – Polish heritage-railway undertakings do not always have their act together as well as they could. As well as the two Px48 mentioned earlier, there is at and around the Rogow narrow-gauge station, an assortment of motive power and rolling stock: including several class Lxd2 B-B locos (the loco type most commonly encountered now, on the Polish narrow gauge), a couple of elderly railcars, assorted freight wagons, and a few diminutive standard-gauge diesel shunters. A fairly quick look round this array; time then to head back to Lodz, for a necessary early start to Zbiersk and the Kalisz narrow gauge railway on the morrow.

…to be concluded

More:

Glimpsed at the Wosztyn Gala II

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Wolsztyn Shed, 11.00 hrs. 1.5.2005. Photo BTWT.

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Two hours or so before the parade. Not a fluorescent jacket or plastic barrier tape to be seen. (They were there, but only where needed to prevent the public from straying over the main line tracks.) Do you remember when shed open days in Britain were like this?

Chabowka Tkt48-91 undergoes some last minute repairs to its air compressor on the Wolsztyn turntable. Photo BTWT.

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A couple admire PKP 2-8-0 TR5-65, formerly German Railways Br 56.2–8, originally built as a 0-8-0 by Orenstein & Koppel. Photo BTWT.

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Tr5-65 had its boiler certificate specially extended so that it could attend this year’s Wolsztyn Steam Gala. The photograph also shows how the Wolsztyn turntable was extended to accommodate longer locomotives.

Pm36-2 departs the shed to take up its position before the parade.
Photo BTWT.

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242.001, a streamlined 4-4-4T light express locomotive visiting Wolsztyn courtesy MAV Noztalgia. Photo BTWT.

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Only four of these 4-4-4Ts were built between 1936-40, by MÁVAG in Budapest. One of them reached 161 km/h on a test run, the speed record for Hungarian steam engines. They used to haul the Baltic-Orient express trains double-headed between Budapest and the Romanian border.

Wolsztyn based, Pt47-65. Photo BTWT.

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The Wolsztyn Steam Gala is the biggest such event in Poland. Although this year the morning rain damped down attendance, some 15,000 people are estimated to have attended the event. The Wolsztyn Gala plays a major role in spreading the word about steam locomotives and railway heritage in a country where many people regard such matters as embarrassing hand-me-downs from the communist era.

First things first

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Map of Polish railway heritage locations
©Wojciech Szymalski

(This map cataloguing of of Poland’s ‘railway tourist attractions’ was produced by Zielone Mazowsze (Green Mazowia) an admirable organisation promoting cycling and railway tourism. The map, which shows the locations superimposed on Poland’s mainline railway network, can be seen full size on Green Mazowia’s website. Just click on the map.)

I thought that before we go much further with BTWT it would be a good idea to define the scale of the problem so to speak and create an inventory of all the heritage railways and railway museums. It will give some perspective to our stories on developments in Poland. Hence the first, incomplete, draft of an index of Poland’s narrow gauge railways which took most of the weekend to compile and today’s map.

The map is admirable because it shows Poland’s mainline railway network, rather than the trunk road network, the implication being that if you are interested in railways you are also likely to want to travel by rail in order to visit them. How different to the small booklet on the railway attractions of [redacted] province which I have just finished translating!

A friend phoned up last week to say that he has only a few days to produce an English language version of a guide to railway attractions and would I help him by editing his translation. Of course, I ended up re-translating the booklet from scratch (much easier than editing a non-native speaker’s translation) and rewriting half the original text.

Today I received the cover artwork – very professional. Then I looked at the inside back page. There were motorways, trunk roads, minor roads, churches, museums, palaces, examples of wooden architecture… . If you looked at the map very carefully you could just see the standard gauge railways, but if you wanted to find the narrow gauge railways that this booklet was supposed to be promoting you would have to look for a very long time – they weren’t included. Of course, I boiled and phoned my friend. “Too late”, he said. “100,000 leaflets must be ready by Thursday”.

Perhaps, BTWT should produce its own guidebooks which would be available as a pdf download to all our supporters?