Archive for the ‘SKPL’ Category

Krosniewice death watch

Monday, 11 August 2014

With perhaps, the future of the daily ex Wolsztyn steam services being the one exception, no campaign has mobilised BTWT readers as much as the battle to save the Krosniewice Narrow Gauge Railway. Alas it seems that all our attempts – as well as the stalwart efforts of local enthusiasts – have failed to influence the decision makers.

As the various local authorities prepare to take over sections of the line, rip up the track and convert them into cycle paths, on July 6 our reporter paid a last nostalgic visit to photograph the railway’s remains at Ozorkow and Krosniewice.

The text and photographs in this article may be republished under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Volunteers tidy the path leading to the narrow gauge platform at Ozorkow. An Open Day is held each Sunday afternoon at the station. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

(All photos can be expanded by double clicking on the images.)

In its heyday the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways – comprising some 1,000 km of 600mm and 750mm lines – were Poland’s largest narrow gauge network. Starting from various independent agricultural and sugar beet railways the lines were expanded and connected together into a 600mm network for the purposes of supplying the Prussian forces during WW I.

When Poland recovered its independence the ‘main line’ was converted to 750mm. PKP constructed two new buildings at Krosniewice in the latest Art Deco style – the station building and the running shed.

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One of the attractions of the Sunday Open Days is the possibility of a ride on a platelayer’s trolley. Local volunteers pose with an itinerant Englishman. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

The Kujawy Railways survived WWW II and some of the remaining 600mm feeder lines were converted to 750mm gauge. At the start of 1991, PKP reorganised the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways into three independent railways the Gniezno Narrow Gauge Railway, the Sompolno Narrow Gauge Railway, and the Krosniewice Narrow Gauge Railway.

The Krosniewice Railway and the Gniezno Railway – but not the Sompolno Railway – were two of the some two dozen railways that were rescued from the wholesale destruction of the remaining PKP narrow gauge lines in 2001.

Thanks to co-operation between the then Mayor of Krosniewice, and the former PKP general manager of the line, the Town Council decided to acquire the Krosniewice line from PKP.

 

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At first sight Krosniewice station appears to be open. Closer inspection reveals to two changes wrought by Barbara Herman, the Mayor of  Krosniewice – the removal of the level crossing barriers across the main road, and the grave-like display of flowers in the platelayer’s trolley next to the level crossing. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

While the legal formalities for the transfer of the ownership of the line proceeded, the Council obtained an operating licence from PKP SA granted which it sub-licensed to SKPL, a society set up with the objective of carrying on operations on the recently closed narrow gauge railways.

The line’s future seemed secure. SKPL operated a regular passenger service on weekdays linking Krosniewice to the PKP stations at Ostrowy and Krzewie. On market days the service was extended to Dabrowice and Wielka Wies Kujawska.

But the main work on the line was freight – carrying supplies to and refined sugar from sugar refineries situated on the network. At the peak of SKPL operations the line was carrying 100,000 tonnes of freight a year.

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Looking to the North – everything appears neat and tidy. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

The legal wheels turned but slowly – Polish law required PKP to recreate the missing deeds for all the parcels of land over which the line ran before a formal handover could be concluded with Krosniewice Council.

Meanwhile, as a gesture of good faith, PKP transferred the ownership of all the line’s rolling stock – including a working Px48 steam locomotive – to the Council.

Unlike PKP, SKPL received no central government subsidy. During the off-season it was sometimes difficult to find the money to purchase replacement parts for the diesel locomotives and pay staff.

Slowly, disused feeder lines began to vanish…  .

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But a peek across the wall shows that every piece of glass is smashed in the skylight of the workshop roof. Photo BTWT.

Meanwhile a group of railway enthusiasts started clearing the overgrown trackbed on the disused track bed between Ozorkow and Krosniewice. While senior SKPL management – based in the Zbiersk Cukrownia HQ of the Kalisz narrow gauge railway – backed their efforts, relations with management and staff at Krosniewice were strained.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of local railway enthusiasts was when GDDKiA (Poland’s Directorate of Trunk Roads and Motorways) decided that they needed to take over a section of the narrow gauge railway in the vicinity of Topola Krolewska to build a new wide viaduct across the Lodz-Kutno railway line. Thanks to the energetic lobbying of the enthusiasts, the GDDKiA ended up having to construct a brand new viaduct for the narrow gauge line as well!

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The narrow gauge freight wagons have received no attention since the line’s closure. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

In 2006, at special meeting in Ozorkow the supporters of the line decided to formally constitute themselves into the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways Society. SKPL Chairman, Tomasz Strapagiel, attended the meeting and gave the venture his support.

The Society acquired a passenger coach from the defunct Piotrkow Trybunalski narrow gauge railway and restored it to running order. The Society’s volunteers cleared the trackbed from Krzewie to Ozorkow and, with the co-operation of SKPL, a number of special trains – which proved very popular – were run through to Ozorkow.

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The Art Deco building in the background is the running shed. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

Then in 2007 or thereabouts a new Mayor was elected in Krosniewice. Whereas the previous Mayor saw the Krosniewice Railway primarily as a transport undertaking, the new Mayor – Barbara Herman – saw the railway as a lucrative development opportunity.

Soon she visited the line, in the company of the local PKP property surveyor, and expressed an interest in demolishing the historic workshop buildings in order to make was for a major new property development – the General Wladyslaw Anders Centre.

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Recently repainted, the point lever and indicator adds a surreal touch. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

Mrs Herman requested that SKPL vacate the workshop buildings. The General Manager pointed out that SKPL needed the workshops to maintain the transporter wagons used to carry the standard gauge freight wagons. The Mayor countered that she had no interest in carrying ant freight though she might be prepared to countenance a small ‘fun fair railway’ somewhere on the site.

SKPL refused to vacate the workshop buildings. The Mayor countered by terminating SKPL’s licence to operate the railway.

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These coal trucks have a special compartment for a brakeman and were last used on sugar beet trains. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

The last train ran on 31 March, 2008. Ironically SKPL were in negotiation with a bulk aggregate supplier to deliver several hundred tonnes of roadstone required for building the A2 and A1 motorways. Ads a result of the Mayor’s decision roads in the Lodz Province were subject to tens of thousands of tonne km of unnecessary road traffic.

The Mayor’s decision provoked a massive storm of protest. Realising which way the wind was blowing, the Mayor trimmed her sails maintaining a public stance that she supported the reopening of the railway. She even allowed local activists to organise a couple of special trains from Krosniewice to Ozorkow to demonstrate her good intentions. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Mayor continued her attempts to have the workshop buildings demolished.

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Barely visible under the undergrowth – a line of standard gauge transporter wagons. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

But the Mayor’s plans hit an unexpected obstacle in the form of the Wojewodzki Konserwator Zabytkow, Mr Wojciech Szygendowski. Mr Szygendowski refused to grant permission to have the historic listed buildings demolished.

With her plans apparently thwarted the Mayor decided to reverse her predecessor’s decision to acquire the whole of the Krsoniewice Narrow Gauge Railway from PKP. Instead she came up with the plan that each local council should acquire just that section of line that lay within the its own administrative boundaries.

Now the demise of the railway could become a collective affair – one council could use the line for a cycle path, another for road improvements… and as the line died section by section and the historic workshop buildings deteriorated she could try yet again to have them demolished.

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The low buildings were the machine shops. The smashed windows and doors tell their own story. Photo (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) BTWT.

Without any maintenance, the workshop buildings deteriorate year by year. Unless a ‘white knight’ appears on the scene it seems increasingly like that Mrs Barbara Herman will succeed in her plan to bring about the final end of the Krosniewice Railway.

Further reading:

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Tourist Trains to the Wolf’s Lair

Friday, 16 August 2013

wegorzewo

Test train reaches Wegorzewo. Photo Szymon Błaszczyk/SKPL.

(Click image for more photos on SKPL’s Facebook page.)

After many vicissitudes, tourist trains are finally running on the Ketrzyn – Wegorzewo railway line. For six years the Stowarzyszenie Hobbystów Kolejowych (SHK, The Association of Railway Hobbyists) have been working to bring back passenger services to the line during the holiday season. Despite the huge enthusiasm of everybody involved, success remained elusive.

However, with the assistance  of SKPL, who provided the rolling stock and technical expertise, the SHK’s dream has become a reality and, after an  absence of four years, passenger trains returned to the line on August 15.

Because the Wegorzewo District Council have only taken over the line within the boundary of the District, this year service trains will run only on the section of line between Gierloz and Wegorzewo. However, it is hoped that next year it may be possible to extend services to Ketrzyn, because the Chief Executive of Wegorzewo District Council has expressed an interest in his Council acquiring the missing section.

Come and ride on this nearly forgotten line on the northen edge of Poland’s delightful Mazury Lake District. Trains are running on August 15, 16, 17, 18, ​​24, 25, & 31, and on 1 September. See the time table below.

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(Click timetable above to see more details on the SKPL website.)

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Pleszew – the end of an era

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Last regular n.g. passenger service in Poland ends

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One year to go – railbus MBxd2-216 on shed at Pleszew Miasto on 1 December 2011. Photo Ed Beale.

On 7 December 2012, unnoticed and unreported, regular passenger trains on the Pleszew narrow gauge railway ceased, bringing to a close the long era of regular passenger services on the Polish narrow gauge.

The end of services was not announced on the SKPL Facebook page (now their only news outlet, since their old website closed down a couple of years ago), and only came to light as the result of a question posted on the 750mm.pl forum. The railway has not closed completely, and it is likely that occasional tourist specials will continue to run on the narrow gauge tracks, as well as regular freight on the standard gauge tracks.

The Pleszew railway, being just 4km long and dual-gauge throughout, seemed an unlikely candidate for Poland’s last regular narrow gauge passenger service, but it outlasted Smigiel by 2 years, and Krosniewice by almost 5 years.

The service survived with local authority funding, and using the staff employed by SKPL’s profitable freight business but, as we reported in September, when the local authority funding was cut last autumn and a through ticketing arrangement with Przewozy Regionalne fell through, the end of the passenger services was inevitable, and in the event it survived for only two months.

The 4km Pleszew Wask to Pleszew Miasto line is the surviving part of the Krotoszyn District Railway, which opened in 1900 and at its maximum extent ran 50km from Krotoszyn, through Dobrzyca and Pleszew, to Broniszewice.

The railway was operated by PKP until 9 June 2001, then closed for 5 years until it was reopened under the management of SKPL on 17 September 2006. As well as the station buildings at Pleszew Wask and Pleszew Miasto, and the locomotive sheds and plinthed Px48 steam locomotive at Pleszew Miasto, some remains of the rest of the railway exist, including another plinthed Px48 and train at Krotoszyn, and the station building at Dobrzyca.

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.

More:

Przeworsk Railway reopens for 2012

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Kanczuga Station, Przeworsk Railway. Photo Pabbloz.

(Click on image to enlarge, click here for details of licensing.)

After missing the traditional beginning-of-May start of the operating season, the SKPL-operated Przeworsk Railway commenced its 2012 passenger operations on 2 and 3 June. Trains will run every Saturday and Sunday during June, July and August; departing from Przeworsk at 09:00 and arriving at Dynow at 11:45. The return working departs from Dynow at 14:30 and arrives at Przeworsk at 17:10. In addition a free-of-charge shuttle is operated in association the the restaurant at Bachorz. The shuttle departs from Dynow at 13:00 and arrives at Bachorz at 13:10. It leaves Bachorz at 13:50 and returns to Dynow at 14:00. There is just time to sample the traditional Polish kotlet schabowy (pork chop) if you order promptly! During September trains will only run on Sundays.

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.)

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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 .<

SKPL goes heavy haul-haul

Sunday, 18 March 2012

SM42 loco and train at Rogowiec, 14 march. Photo SKPL.

(Click image to enlarge.)

When Stowarzyszenie Kolejowych Przewozow Lokalnych (SKPL) – literally the Local Rail Haulage Association – was set up in 2001, its promoters hoped to take over all the narrow gauge lines that had been closed that year by PKP. Sadly few local authorities regarded their n.g. lines as anything more than a convenient land bank and in the end only a handful of lines were saved.

Nevertheless SKPL managed to take over the operation of 7 n.g. lines – Kalisz, Krosniewice, Mlawa, Naleczow, Pleszew, Przeworsk and Smigiel – and an equal number reached the ‘serious discussion’ stage with their relevant local authorities.

Today SKPL runs only three narrow gauge lines, but is building up its portfolio of standard gauge ‘short-lines’ – long sidings and branch lines on which it manages and runs freight operations.

This is what 28 wagons look like from the cab! Photo SKPL.

(Click image to enlarge.)

On 14 march, SKPL ran a test train of Ucs and Uacs wagons on the route: Piotrkow Trybunalski – Rogowiec – Piotrkow Trybunalski. The wagons collected fly-ash from the power station at Belchatow. The Rogowiec – Piotrkow lines is not electrified. From Piotrkow another operator and an electric locomotive took the train of 28 wagons to Chelm, their ultimate destination.

Kalisz trip report

Monday, 5 December 2011

Photo report by Ed Beale

Zbiersk Cukrownia, SKPL mixed traffic special ready to depart. Photo ©Ed Beale.

(Click to enlarge.)

At 09:30 on Saturday 3rd December, around 25 people armed with cameras were waiting outside Kalisz station for the first part of the Mikolajki z TOWOS-em excursion on SKPL’s Kalisz narrow gauge railway. At 09:45 a historic San H100 bus appeared and we all piled on board and quickly departed. The bus drew all eyes as we drove through the centre of Kalisz – no one has seen its like for decades.

The first stop was at the site of the old Kalisz narrow gauge station on the northern edge of the town. The mainline station in Kalisz is badly located, but this one was in its day just as bad, being 2.5 km from the city centre and 5 km from the standard gauge station. But it closed many years ago and all there is to see now is a large flat empty site covered in low weeds. An LPG gas station occupies a tiny part of the site, but the rest remains empty.

One of several run-pasts. Photo ©Ed Beale.

(Click to enlarge.)

We continued on to Zbiersk, the HQ and engineering base of the railway, where we arrived at 10:35. The special train was waiting in the yard, consisting of Lxd2-287, two standard gauge bogie wagons on transporters, a brake van and a Romanian coach.

Departure from Zbiersk was at 11:00. The southward journey was broken up by a number of photo stops, seven of them in total, with run-pasts at most. The landscape the railway passes through is flat, but forests, a river, and some fine churches in villages close to the line add a bit of scenic interest. The line crosses numerous roads but as the railway is still well used, drivers were pretty good at stopping at the sound of the train horn and there was no need for staff in hi-vis jackets to hop out and stop the traffic.

Standard gauge wagons are unloaded from their transporters. Photo ©Ed Beale.

(Click to enlarge.)

We reached Opatowek, the standard gauge interchange station, at 13:40. Here the coach and brake van were shunted into a siding while the Lxd2 and SKPL’s standard gauge shunter transferred the two standard gauge wagons from the transporters back onto standard gauge track. This took around an hour, then the special train, now reduced to just the coach and brake van, departed back to Zbiersk at 14:50.

This time, due to the fading light, there were no photo stops, but we did have a long stop at Zelazkow where, to my very pleasant surprise, portions of bigos (delicious goulash style stew) and bread rolls arrived for everyone from the catering company on the other side of the road! With the bigos quickly finished off the train continued on into the dusk to Zbiersk, arriving at 16:35, in plenty of time for the 17:19 bus back to Kalisz.

Many thanks to Robert Matczak and his colleagues at SKPL for an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable event, and to Dyspozytor for booking my place.

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Smigiel Railway in the 1960s

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Smigiel Railway hangs on to its future existence by a slender thread, so we thought it timely to remind BTWT readers what this railway was like in the 1960s: 13 trains each way with two two-coach train sets in operation. This delightful film was made by Lodz animation studio Semafor and uploaded onto YouTube by YamanKos.

Some 60 years later Smigiel Yard still had a track layout befitting the HQ of a major narrow gauge railway and the line between Smigiel and Stare Bojanowo still enjoyed a regular passenger service as seen on this video by bosz112. To see the present state of the line please see our recent post.

Second Smigiel shock

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Both lines to the East of l.c. are now abandoned. Google Maps.

It hardly seems possible that only a few years ago the previous mayor of Smigiel was talking about his plans to reopen the first 7km of the Stare Bojanowo – Krzywin section and to link Smigiel with the man-made lakes near Woniesc. (Scroll the map to see the abandoned route of the line and its close proximity to the lakes.)

Of late, the only operational part of this section was the 1km kept open as part of the standard gauge interchange to the East of the main line. Smigiel Town Council have not only cut off the Smigiel Railway from its freight connection the outside world by filling-in the railway cutting to the interchange, they have decided to cut off its passenger connection as well by abandoning the section of line leading to the passenger station at Stare Bojanowo!

This is vandalism that cannot be allowed to continue without making our protests heard! Writing to Smigiel Town Council will do no good – their collective heads are buried in the sand. We must take up the cudgels elsewhere! See tomorrow’s post for names and addresses for letter-writing targets and other ways of helping.

Smigiel railway dies, but slowly

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The severed freight link. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk.

(Click the image to see the rest of Albert Mikolakczyk’s photographic survey of the current state of the Smigiel narrow gauge railway as posted on the 750mm.pl discussion forum.)

Any hopes that the tide was turning for the Smigiel Railway (see John Savery’s recent post on BTWT) have been swept away by some recent posts on the on the 750mm.pl discussion forum. The first of these posted on the 9 September was the program for the lines 111th birthday celebrations to take place on 25 September:

Family afternoon at the Smigiel narrow-gauge railwayThe event will take place on September 25, 2011
at the station in Smigiel – from 15:00 to 18:00.

The program includes:

Awarding honorary membership of the Society of
the Friends of the Smigiel Narrow Gauge Railway
Presentation of rolling stock
Performance by the band “Regent” from Czempin
An art contest for children and adults
A race for a “Railway friend” certificate
An exhibition of photographs
A visit to the workshops
Games, sports and recreation – a birthday cake

Any comment by BTWT would be entirely superfluous.

Even sadder are the photos posted by Albert Mikolajczyk of the ‘repair’ of the wooden bridge that used to straddle the erstwhile Krzywin branch at Stare Bojanowo. The new embankment cuts off the Smigiel Railway from the standard gauge interchange and kills off the possibility of any rail delivery of repaired locomotives and rolling stock.

Since the Mayor and Deputy Major have little interest in the line. I suggest sending angry letters to the Chairman of Smigiel Town Council. I will post the contact details tomorrow.

Smigiel smiles in its sleep…

Monday, 8 August 2011

John Savery contributes BTWT’s 800th post

Smigiel Yard on 5 August 2011. Molehills? Photo by John Savery

Actually spot resleepering! Photo by John Savery

Secondhand sleepers. Photo by John Savery

Transporter wagons await their fate.  Photo by John Savery

On 5 August, I called in to Smigiel on the way between Wolsztyn and Jarocin.  I had heard that there had been a tender for the sale of the transporter wagons (details are on the council’s website – see link) but was unclear if any had been sold or not.  As I was within a stone’s throw, I called in to see if there was any sign of them, half expecting to see someone cutting them up (even though the tender had been for rail use only.)

What I found, was a large number of transporters in the station area, all with lot numbers spray painted on.  As I drove down past the side of the station, I noticed a large pile of sleepers in the distance, and, curious as to what they were doing there (and partially fearing the worst – tracklifting) found they were all ex-standard gauge sleepers, and lots of them.  As I parked up, someone came out of the workshop, so I greeted them and asked them about the sleepers.  They explained that it was for remont and indicated the station area.  I said that there were no trains now, and the guy said that the railway was now owned by the town.  I asked who paid for the sleepers, and he replied that the town had bought them. (I assume that this means the council.)  I asked if there would be trains next year, and it got a half shrug, Byc moze.

There were a couple of guys in the workshop area behind the shed.  I didn’t actually see anyone physically working outside, but the activity looks very recent.  There was a clear single shiny line on one set of rails where something had been moved fairly recently.  I couldn’t work out what it was.

As far as the resleepering goes, the size of the pile tells its own story.  There are a fair few there, and I imagine that you could cut them in half and get two out of each one given the gauge difference.

As you can see in the photos looking down the yard, there are a good few excavations where sleepers are being changed.  Each one is marked with an “X” on the rail head.

The stock around the yard is more or less as it was left.  There is a broken window in one coach, the railcar or coach is still minus its bogie and stuck up on a transporter wagon (I don’t remember how many years it has been like that – a good few) and a diesel is still dumped outside the shed.  I’d guess that all the transporters have been moved to Smigiel as part of the tender process.

The Px48 is still there, although the tree behind it has collapsed in the winds (I asked the guy I spoke to about the tree and he said that it collapsed in the winds.)

More:

Super power at Srem

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Class 66 66220, newly outshopped in D B Schenker Rail Polska colours, at Zdzieszowice en route to Czempin and Srem on 16 June 2011. Photo J. Stawinski.

After the completion of extensive homologation tests, D B Schenker Rail Polska have commissioned their Class 66 locomotive 66220. The loco, which has generated a great deal of interest in Polish railway enthusiast circles, formerly worked in the UK as part of the EWS motive power fleet.

Class 66 66220, at Srem station on 17 June about to return to Czempin and the main line. Photo J. Stawinski.

On 16 June, 66220 worked a train of 30 bogie coal wagons down the SKPL-operated Czempin – Srem branch. After delivering its load to the foundry at Srem, 66220 spent the night there and returned with the empties on 17 June.

Class 66 66220 and 30 empty coal wagons, at the boundary of the Srem District on 17 June. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

Passenger services return to Srem…

Monday, 13 June 2011

just for a day.

SKPL 401Da-216 0-6-0D shunter backs on its train at Czempin on 11 June 2011. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

Saturday 11 June saw passenger services returning for one day to the Czempin – Srem line on the occasion of the Dni Srema festival.

The train consisted of  two, 2-coach articulated double-decker sets painted in heritage dark olive green. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

The one-day operation was a joint between Przewozy Regionalne – who provided the rolling stock – and SKPL – who provided the locomotive and driver.

The line runs mostly along the main road although – as above – there are some very attractive scenic sections. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

The day’s operation received financial support from Srem Town Council.

This rural scene level crossing usually only sees a daily freight train. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

SKPL ran 4 trains each way between Czempin and Srem.

SKPL 401Da-216 and train run literally through the station master’s garden at Szoldry. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

The first train left Czempin at 07:35 and included a number of stops to allow railway enthusiasts to take pictures.

The semaphore signals are still in situ at Grabianowo, although they have been unused since PKP suspended services on the line. Photo Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

As well as the 07:35 three other trains left Czempin, at 10:30, 13:05 and 15:30; returning at 10:20,

More:

A return journey – part 12

Friday, 29 October 2010

by Robert Hall

A special train organised for represntatives of the local authorities along the line, 23 June 2009. Photo BTWT.

I was up bright and early the following morning for my trip on the Przeworsk Railway on the 09:00 to Dynow. Pan Zelazny sold me my ticket at the narrow gauge station. All workings on this line nowadays are diesel-hauled. Lxd2-268 headed the tourist train, consisting of: four 1980s-Romanian-built railcar trailers; two semi-opens, converted from freight vehicles; and a guard’s / utility van. The gratifyingly well-filled train made a punctual departure.

Px48-1734 sits at Dynow station, looking attractive, but is. completely non-functional. Photo BTWT

The first part of the journey was across low-lying flat ground, though with pleasant rolling country to the side, and high hills tantalisingly ahead. Sharp bends, though, were a feature of the route right from the start. The most exciting scenery started some 35 kilometres out from Przeworsk on the 7 kilometre section between the tunnel (the only one on the Polish narrow gauge) and the penultimate station of Bachorz. To allow photographers to make the most of the scenery, there was a photo-stop at the tunnel’s southern end.

After some hard climbing, and and some wild loops and twists the last 4 kilometres run into Dynow was level, though the line ran between high and splendid hills.

The line has been described as Poland’s answer to the Darjeeling Railway. Photo BTWT.

Dynow – a municipality consisting of several large villages – was reached two-and-three-quarter hours after leaving Przeworsk. There was nearly three hours’ before the return train. The Polish tourist narrow gauge railway bonfire-and-sausages ritual, already described in Part 5, duly got under way, clearly delighting the many children who were travelling. For those who did not want to partake of the bonfire-and-sausages there was an alternative attraction – a short excursion (at no extra cost as the leaflet proudly informed) 4 kilometres back down the line to Bachorz. Here, adjacent to the station, there was a pleasant restaurant, Pod Semaforem, with a railway semaphore signal erected on the establishment’s road-facing forecourt. The excursion was accomplished by the loco, having run round the train, taking just the two semi-opens to Bachorz. For the return journey these were propelled back to Dynow. (Let’s not get into health-and-safety related musings.) The schedule was such that the participants had only forty minutes at the restaurant. One might reckon, that this was not much time in which to order and eat a meal, but the place seemed to be on the ball with quick and efficient service. In the light of potential language difficulties, I contented myself with a beer… [There was no danger in being left behind. The excursions to Bachorz were run association with the restaurant. D.]

Lxd2-257 runs round its special at Dynow, 23 June 2009. Photo BTWT.

14:30 saw the departure of the reunited whole train from Dynow, back ‘down the hill’. I had travelled up, in a semi-open coach, but with rain having set in, relocated myself to a Romanian closed vehicle for the journey back. An equally pleasant journey ensued, with the punters clearly enjoying the whole experience – there does seem to be a definite and appreciative local market for these tourist trains. As something of a railway purist, in theory I can feel this kind of scene to be downright ghastly; but in the case of the Przeworsk Railway I am more than willing to suspend my purism. The tourist trains are excellent fun, and their continuation for many years yet, is much to be hoped for.

At first sight, 46 km in two-and-three-quarter hours can seem ludicrously slow – a speed of roughly 17 km per hour. The basic fact is, though, that 750mm gauge trains do not travel very fast. In genuine-passenger-service days, a train between Przeworsk and Dynow took the same amount of time, as a 2010 tourist working. By the often-noticed ‘magic of the narrow gauge, with the vehicles being only a small distance above the ground, the rate of progress does not seem to be unduly slow. A very agreeable experience, in any case – who would want it to be over with in the blink of an eye?

The train arrived punctually at Przeworsk at 17:10, in nice time for the my 17:50 departure for Krakow, en route for another 750mm tourist line to be sampled on the morrow.

A return journey – part 11

Thursday, 28 October 2010

by Robert Hall

Holding sidings close to the s.g./n.g. ramp at Przeworsk.
Photo SMPKW.

(Click image to see this and other photographs of the Przeworsk narrow gauge railway on the SMPKW website gallery page.)

There’s a wonderful overnight train plying between Poland’s north-westernmost corner at Swinoujscie (a hot contender for the country’s most unspellable and unpronounceable place name for foreigners), and its rival in these categories, at the opposite south-easternmost corner of the country, Przemysl. This train calls at Poznan, and at Przeworsk. At the former I wished to board it, and at the latter, to disembark. The train includes sleeping cars, however when Dyspozytor attempted to make a reservation by phone he was unable to get through to PKP InterCity’s telephone booking service. So, when I reached Poznan Glowny station, I made a bee-line to the PKP IC customer service office, only to be told that as the train had already left Szczecin it was now too late to make a sleeping berth reservation! I understand that sleeping berth upgrades are available from the attendant that travels with each sleeping coach. But being a rather timid character and with virtually no command of Polish, I settled for a still-vacant second-class seat on the crowded train when it arrived at Poznan Glowny at 23:10 on July 22nd. After a fairly forgettable night and an early morning, I reached Przeworsk around 10:30, some half an hour late, on Friday the 23rd.

The 46-km Przeworsk – Dynow 750mm gauge line is generally reckoned Poland’s best narrow-gauge section for scenery, save for the Bieszczady preserved forestry line still further to the south-east. Its current status is a little unusual. It is worked by SKPL, but is geographically far away from that firm’s Kalisz headquarters – a situation which has at times raised problems. Officially the line is open for freight traffic, of which a little does run at rare and unpredictable intervals; but most of the action nowadays takes the form of a one train-each-way-per-day tourist service which runs on summer Saturdays and Sundays. It is likely that SKPL will, after this year, give up the unequal struggle concerning this line, and relinquish its operating agreement. [SKPL sent a formal notice, resigning from their operating agreement, to the Chief Executive of the Przeworsk District Council earlier this week. D.] The local authorities in this area appear much more supportive of their narrow gauge railway than is usual in Poland, and there would seem to be a fair possibility of their taking it over and continuing the tourist workings, in years to come; but the line’s future is far from certain, and it seemed a good idea to take the chance to travel on it this summer.

I had briefly visited Przeworsk before, in 1984, but that trip had been focused on standard-gauge steam, with no time or attention available for the 750mm line. On this year’s visit, I noted a standard gauge locomotive plinthed at Przeworsk station – Ol49-8 – a representative of the class most prominent hereabouts a quarter-century ago. With the tourist train’s departure time being 09:00 – difficult to fit in with a same-morning arrival from the west – plan was to spend Friday night in Przeworsk. The place seems to be more significant as a railway centre, than as a civilian settlement; and lies some way away southward, from its stations – accommodation for rail-borne visitors, therefore a potential problem. Dyspozytor thus enlisted the local knowledge of the n/g line’s general manager, Pan Wladyslaw Zelazny. On my presenting self to him on arrival on Friday morning, he kindly drove me to the Hotel Zgoda, only a few minutes away by car; I was duly installed there, and we parted ways till the following morning.

The Zgoda, whilst undoubtedly a Godsend for rail travellers to these parts, was an experience. Had some of the traits of a nostalgia-trip back to Communist times, inadvertently I’m sure on the part of those who run it. Though the staff were pleasant and helpful, the general facilities were at best so-so. Shared bathrooms and toilets – no effete en suite arrangements here. In the showers, at least one shower-head proved to be totally detached from its fitment. The rooms were fairly Spartan. There were no towels provided, and the lighting was abysmally dim. An evening meal could be had, but the only sitting was at 18:00 hours which clashed with my planned expedition, so no use for me. Admittedly, the accommodation was commensurately cheap: 36 zloty (£9) per night for a single room.

I occupied Friday afternoon with a standard-gauge bash: a dose of nostalgia for something from steam days which I had read about, but never experienced. Until late in the steam era – 1989 or ’90 – the branch north-eastward off the main line here, to Belzec, was solidly steam on passenger, worked by Ol49 from Przeworsk depot. (Until the mid-to-late eighties, further steam from another division of PKP, made its appearance at Belzec.) My short 1984 visit had not involved this line: focus had been on the more dramatic steam route into Przeworsk from the north-west. Of this former 97km branch, 58km at present retains a passenger service, from the main-line junction as far as Horyniec Zdroj – a basic four workings each way per day, one of which nicely suited my movements.

Jaroslaw Station. Photo PKP S.A

I journeyed by main-line train to Jaroslaw, 15km to the east of Przeworsk. Here I took a break for lunch, the station being conveniently right in town centre. I then continued on the 15:28 departure down the branch. Once again, the train was a modern railmotor, SA109-010, an articulated double-unit, branded as running in the colours of Podkarpackie province. The workings were quite well patronised on the outward and the return run. Scenically, it was frankly a boring journey. This part of south-east Poland is virtually dead flat, though delectable hill country begins not far to the south. Unless the terrain changes dramatically beyond Horyniec Zdroj, this must have been a rather dull steam route, lacking in gradients and thus noise-and-smoke effects.

There was a delay at Munina, the actual junction point – awaiting a westbound main-line connection – which put the working behind time. The timetabled three-minute turn-round at Horyniec Zdroj was accomplished at lightning speed, giving me no opportunity to check out the status of the track on the passenger workings-less section on towards Belzec. It was the same picture as on standard-gauge branches elsewhere – seemingly no freight action, all intermediate goods yards overgrown and out of use. This trip was, however, as much in homage to how things had been on this line a couple of decades back, as for its own sake. The return working, departing Horyniec Zdroj at 16:47 as per the timetable, gave me a through run to Przeworsk, and then proceeded further along the main line to Rzeszow. And so after, a fairly effortless journey back, I returned to the rather penitential regime of the Zgoda.

A return journey – part 10

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

by Robert Hall

The SKD when trains still ran to Wielichowo. Video by vicinalasvi.

At Poznan Glowny station, I found the same problem as recounted by Dyspozytor in his post, Customer Care Conundrum – the displayed timetables at the station did not seem to have heard of my train, supposedly scheduled to reach Stare Bojanowo at 15:42. Unlike Dyspozytor, I had the good fortune to have plenty of time at my disposal and I asked at a likely-looking Informacja window, where the chap on duty knew a little English, and was able to tell me the time and departure platform of my train. Stare Bojanowo was reached on time. I was met there by Dyspozytor and two of Smigiel line’s general manager’s daughters – one to take us around the railway; the other to drive the car. In fact the whole family looked after us splendidly throughout the whole action-packed 24 hours or so at Smigiel. The visit started with being taken round the overgrown and bordering-on-ruinous transporter wagon loading facility at Stare Bojanowo. I saw some forlorn-looking transporter trucks and learnt that they were last used in March this year. In view of later developments, the future of freight working on this line seems uncertain.

Dyspozytor was keen that I should meet up not only with the line’s management, but also with a representative of the line’s owner, Smigiel Town Council. A meeting with the mayor was duly arranged. Wth Dyspozytor acting as interpreter I tried to explain to the Mayor that a purely tourist operation is in many enthusiasts’ eyes, considerably less attractive than a real railway fulfilling a real passenger and / or freight commercial function. But the mayor was having none of it. His plan for the future of the line has already been covered on BTWT. The general impression that I received was that the best that can be hoped for, is for some of the line to survive as a purely tourist operation.

The dealings of Polish local government authorities nowadays, with narrow-gauge railways in their remit, seem on the whole to be characterised by a strong anti-railway mindset, and in that connection, mind-boggling spite and stupidity. It is to be hoped that such local authorities will eventually realise that a preserved narrow-gauge line is a wonderful tourist magnet and thus provides a big boost to the local economy and that, having done so, they will not actively seeking to thwart its doings and confiscate money from its coffers.

After the railcar trailer painting working party mentioned in the same BTWT post, I caught a mid-afternoon Wolsztyn Experience special run in one of the line’s Romanian-built diesel railcars. At Stary Bojanowo, I changed trains – I was bound for Poznan and an overnight run to the south-east of the country. At least I can say that I have twice done the 5 km Smigiel – Stare Bojanowo secion, that direction only, by MBxd2 : in 1993 and now in 2010. It would seem that Smigiel – Wielichowo will never be mine; but, as an old proverb tells us, You can’t win them all.

A local EMU took me to Poznan, from where I was to depart for the south-east, my target being there being the narrow-gauge Przeworsk Railway. I arrived at Poznan Glowny a little before departure of the 17:22 steam working to Wolsztyn – Pt47-65 on two single-decker coaches. Feeling that I have done justice to the Wolsztyn scene on previous trips to Poland, I had made no plans to look in there, on this tour. The 17:22’s departure was to be my only sight during the whole tour, of a steam loco in steam and in motion.

Zbiersk – Opatowek special

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Special train on the Kalisz narrow gauge railway on 2 October 2010. Photo Kajetan Orlinski.

(Click image to view original on the World Rail Photo website.)

Saturday’s special train on the Kalisz narrow gauge railway gives me an excuse to review and link to some interesting Polish websites that I thought BTWT readers might enjoy. For those of you who are not fluent in Polish and who have not yet discovered the delights of Google Translate here is some magic which will turn Polish websites into websites with reasonable English. Simply cut or copy the URL (web address) at the end of each paragraph. Now go to Google Translate. You will find a link at the top of our Blogroll in the column to the right of this article and another at the very bottom of this post. Next paste the URL into the box provided and set Google Translate to translate from Polish to English, and Bob’s your uncle!

First of all, the World Rail Photo website from which today’s header photograph was taken. Here there are some suberb photographs. Poland’s contemporary narrow gauge railway scene – interspersed with a few photographs of some lines that are no longer in operation – is excellently illustrated. The photographs and a special train in Sompolno station yard in April 1999 and the farewell train in March 2003 to the sugar refinery in Tuczno are especially poignant –

http://stud.pam.szczecin.pl/~wizard/details.php?image_id=22462

Secondly, the ok-kolej.pl portal which was the organiser of Saturday’s special trip. The portal links to quite a few photographs of the Kalisz Raiway. You will find a mass of information about railways in the area around Sieradz and also in southern Wielkopolska on their website –

http://www.ok-kolej.pl

The gallery contains a rather nice picture of the special train near Petryki station

Thirdly, the Ogolnopolska Galeria Kolejowa which contains some brilliant photographs, both narrow gauge and standard gauge –

http://www.ogk.cal.pl

The narrow gauge section is a delight, while the Galeria contains one of the neatest photos of the special.

Fourthly, Galeria Milosnikow Fotografownia Kolei whose tenth photographic expedition provided the excuse if any was needed for ok-kolej.pl to organise the special train. Suprisingly their were only a few photos of the group’s adventures on the Kalisz Railway on their website –

http://pro.ovh.net/~gmfkezdl/cpg144/index.php

Last, but not least, the personal website of Kajetan Orlinski, the photographer who took today’s header photograph. This is a website for those who delight in motive power. Here there are engines large and small, private and state-owned. His gallery of photos taken on the slag heaps of Huta Miedz Legnica are amazing. The rest of his collection of photos will repay careful viewing as well –

ttp://www.m0ke.kolej.org.pl/

Smigiel – a succession of setbacks

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Gniezno Railway Px48-1919 being unloaded at Smigiel Station in February 2008. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

The post-PKP  history of the Smigiel Railway is of one disappointment after another. Last year, the Smigiel Town Council were approached by a British railway enthusiast who wanted to restore the dead Px48-1765 in Smigiel Station. In return for his efforts, the prospective benefactor wanted to acquire the legal title to the engine. He was quite happy to sign a covenant requiring the locomotive to spend the majority of its time working on the Smigiel Railway – the Council turned him down flat. Then there was the demand for local tax payments of about 100,000 PLN (£20,000) – curiously the railway receives a 100,000 PLN subsidy from the provincial government. SKPL managed to win that battle by appealing over the heads of the Council Chief Executive to the Council members as a whole.

Next came the episode with the coal trains. A local coal merchant was keen to increase the amount of coal he was bringing into Smigiel. There was talk of 25 standard gauge wagons coming into Stary Bojanowo at a time which would have involved 13 shuttle trips along the line to deliver the coal to Smigiel. Weak portions of railway line, including parts of the standard gauge interchange yard in Stary Bojanowo were treated to spot re-sleepering in order to bring the line up to scratch. Enter Cargo Sped, a curious joint venture between certain PKP Directors and PKP Cargo itself. Cargo Sped offered the coal merchant a reduction in tariff of 10 PLN/tonne, if he would only accept delivery in the standard gauge coal yard at Wloszakowice rather than Smigiel. For the time being the agressive Cargo Sped price has meant the demise of freight traffic to Smigiel.

Enter a Smigiel businessman. He was also interested in restoring the engine for use on the Smigiel railway and occasional use elsewhere. He was quite prepared for the legal ownership of the Px48 to remain with Smigiel Council, but wanted a 25 year long licence to use the locomotive – he was also turned down. Now comes the latest pinprick – there was until recently a small restaurant in the former waiting room at Smigiel Station. The rental payments from the restaurant owner provided the Smigiel Railway with a modest income of some 500 PLN (£100). Now the Council have arbitrarily removed the waiting room room area from the land licensed to SKPL in order to lease it to the police!

One veteran Smigiel driver compares the present situation at Smigiel to the one that pertained at Kosniewice when the mayor wanted to drastically reduce the land and buildings used by SKPL – when SKPL protested the mayor closed the railway. The current licence agreement between SKPL and Smigiel Town Council has two more years to run. If things go on as at present it seems unlikely that the council will agree to a new agreement on terms that SKPL can possibly accept. Given that Smigiel Town Council have invested absolutely nothing in the railway since they acquired it, am I being too cynical in thinking that some Council officials may have alternative plans for the railway land?