Archive for the ‘Starachowice’ Category

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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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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Xmas/New Year Competition – No. 8

Saturday, 14 January 2012

There’s a n.g. railway there, somewhere! Satellite photo courtesy Google Maps.

(Click image to enlarge.)

BTWT competitions are legendary for dragging on for months and months and our 2011 Christmas Competition is no exception, as it has now extended itself into a Xmas / New Year competition. There will be 4 more instalments after this one, so at the current rate of progress we should be able to announce a winner sometime in March!

Our last location (No. 7) was on the Starachowice Narrow Gauge Railway, although the most prominent features on the satellite photo are the formations of the standard gauge lines which were part of the ZGM Zebiec factory.

This plant is something of a mystery. It started in the 1950s ostensibly with the mission of extracting and concentrating the iron ore content of the sands which lie in a belt from Lubien through Tychow as far as Mirzec. The process proved uneconomical which should have meant the end of the company. But in Poland anything is possible! ZGM Zabieniec morphed from a mining company to one producing central heating boilers.

To complicate matters still further we have come across reports that in the 1950s a company in the Starachowice area was engaged in uranium mining and processing. So perhaps the ‘iron ore concentration plant’ was just a cover story? In actual fact the location of the uranium facility – if it existed – is not known to us.

The history of the Starachowice Narow Gauge Railway is no less complicated. Constructed in 1950 to link Starachowice and Ilza, the line utilised substantial portions of a late 19th century 750 mm gauge railway network which carried iron ore to the blast furnaces at Starachowice.

The relationship between old and new lines is shown on the diagrammatic map which was prepared during the time that the line was being operated by the Rogow-based Polish Narrow Gauge Foundation (FPKW). At its peak the pre-PKP n.g. network totalled some 60 km. The 1950 PKP railway was 20 km long.

By the 1990s regular passenger traffic had ceased though the line was used for occasional diesel hauled specials. I was lucky enough to see one of these in operation before PKP closed the line in 1997 and transferred the rolling stock elsewhere. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the FPKW the line was taken over by the Starachowice District Council in 2003 and initially operated by the FPKW. Sadly during the 6 years the line was defunct about a third of the track was stolen by scrap thieves.

At the end of the 2008 season, a row between the then FPKW chairman, Pawel Szwed and volunteers led to a decision by the District Council not to renew the operating agreement with the Foundation. During the 2009 and 2010 seasons the line was operated by the Bytom-based Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railway Society. In 2011, the line was based by the Friends of the Jedrzejow Railway Association.

In practice, much of the volunteer base has remained the same throughout these and only the management has changed.

Three correct answers were submitted, by Waldemar Heise, Ed Beale and Inzynier. Waldemar was first and so takes the point.

A Google Maps ‘slippy map’ (can be scrolled and zoomed) of the No. 7 location on the Starachowice n.g. railway.

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Starachowice Railway has a new operator

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Early days – iron ore hoppers rattle through a housing estate in Starachowice. Note the brakeman riding in the last of the two coal wagons at the back of the train. (source)

On 22 April, a contract was formally signed at the offices of the District Council in Starachowice between the Starachowice District Council and the Zulawy Railway Society appointing the later as the new operator of the narrow gauge railway. The contract was signed on behalf of the Council by Andrzej Matynia, the Chief Executive, and Waldemar Wrona, a Council member. Dariusz Gliniecki, the Chairman of the Zulawskiej Local Railway Society, signed on behalf of the Society. An inaugural train was run on the northern section of line, Ilza – Marcule on 2 May. Some photos of the train are available on the SKW website. (WARNING, Polish text)

Where it all began – the Starachowice Blast Furnaces, now a museum (source)

A brief history

The railway has its origins in the 750mm gauge railways that were constructed to carry ironstone from the numerous quarries to the Starachowice furnaces. It’s not clear when a railway was first to used to carry the iron ore, but there are records of iron ore being quarried in the area as as far back as 1547! Certainly by the inter-war period a network of lines existed to the north of the town connecting the new blast furnace. More photos showing the remains of the railway at the blast furnace site available here. (WARNING – Polish text) A separate system was established to the south of the town to serve the forestry industry. These railways are shown as white dots on this map prepared by the FPKP. In 1945 the plan to build a modern narrow gauge railway connecting Ilza to Starchowice was first mooted and by 1950 the new line, which used parts of the earlier ironstone railway formation and completed.

Locomotives and rolling stock

When the line was first opened the basic motive power was several Px2 and Tx28 steam locomotives. Passengers were carried in dual purpose freight/passenger wagons. In 1955 the first Px48 and Px49 locomotives arrived from Chrzanow. The railway also received 2 Pxu UNRRA engines. Several Px29 locomotives built by the Warszawska Spolke Akcyjna Budowy Parowozow completed the loco roster. In 1956 the railway received 7 second-hand passenger carriages from the Jablonowska Kolei Dojazdowa, and 4 brand new 1Aw passenger carriages built in Swidnicy. By 1965 the railway had 10 1Aw carriages. The railway received its first diesel locomotives, Lyd1 type built in Chrzanow, in 1978 and, during the period 1987-90, the railway received 3 Lxd2 large diesel locomotives built in Romania

Run down and closure

Freight traffic declined dramatically when one of the largest factories served by the line, the “Zebiec” works in Lubieni were connected to the standard gauge in the 1960s. Passenger services, with the exception of occasional specials, were withdrawn in 1986. Freight carryings improved substantially after the introduction of transporter wagons which could carry normal standard gauge wagons in piggy-back fashion. Nevertheless, in 1994 the line was closed, and all the rolling stock was transferred to the Jedrzejow Kolej Dojazdowa.

The engine shed and workshops during the line’s closure. Click on the picture to see the same scene after the line had been taken over by the FPKW.

Rescue and termination

The line was added to the register of monuments in Swietokrzyskie Province. Thanks to the efforts of the Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation the Swietokryskie District council were persuaded to acquire the line. In 2003, they successfully concluded their negotiations with PKP and granted the society an operator’s licence. But time and scrap metal thieves had taken their toll. 8 kilometres of track had been stolen and the workshops stripped of machinery. In spite of having an operator’s licence, during the first few years that the railway was in the care of the FPKW, the Foundation could not use the engine sheds and workshops because the council had leased them to a road haulage company. Any rolling stock stored in the open was immediately vandalised and the inspection pits in the engine sheds were filled in with rubble! In spite of these setbacks, FPKW volunteers reopened a section of line to tourist traffic as far as Lipie, carried out work on the isolated northern section (Ilza Marcule) and built several covered ‘open’ carriages. On 21 November the Starchowice Council issued a notice terminating the Foundation’s operating agreement from 1 January, 2008. Council representatives cited ‘lack of progress’ as the reason for the termination, but it is known that there was a rebel group of volunteers unhappy with the management style of FPKW president, Pawel Szwed, and we suspect that they ‘lobbied’ their dissatisfaction at the district council offices.

New operator

The new operator is the Zulawy Railway Society headquartered at Nowy Dwor Gdanski. By a strange coincidence we wrote about the Starachowice Railway and the Zulawy Railway in the same post at the end of March!

Your questions answered

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Geoff Jenkins asks –

FPKW open carriages

Close up of two open passenger coaches
built on goods van chassis by the FPKW

There are a number of narrow gauge lines lines that are of interest. Obviously, Krosniewice is a major concern at the moment. I understand that a few more letters are heading from Britain to the Mayor of Krosniewice. It would also be interesting to know more about the situation at Starachowice. This seems to be another case where the local authority and the operating organisation have had a disagreement.

The Starachowice Powiat, broadly equivalent to a UK District Council, are backing the plan to restore the Starachowice – Ilza line, but the council were dissatisfied with the rate of progress being achieved by the Fundacja Polikich Kolei Waskotorowych (Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation). A breakaway group of FPKW volunteers approached the Council directly and criticised the FPKW’s President Pawel Szwed. He had been managing three projects: Starachowice, the Pionki Forest Railway and a skansen at Janow Lubelski, so he had little time to watch his back. Things came to a head when a group of FPKW volunteers took out an engine on a trip that was supposed to be a working party, but in fact was a private picnic. Szwed took away their key to the loco shed and the volunteers went bleating to the council. Since breaking with the FPKW the Council have been looking for a new operator to run the line.

Tourist train, Zulawy Railway, 2007

Do you know what has happened at Nw Dwor Gdanski? When I visited it a few years ago the preservation group seemed to be very ambitious about opening up as much of the system as possible and had restored some equipment to a very high standard. However, I have been told that the local authority was more interested in developing the railway near the coast rather than reopening towards Malbork.

The original preservation society Pomorskie Towarzystwo Milosników Kolei Zelaznych (PTMKZ) considered that the 20km line to Malbork was an essential part of the project to restore some 50km of the Zulawy Railway. Malbork is a tourist hotpot with an amazing 14th C. castle built by the Teutonic knights. In March 2006, the Powiat Nowodworski (Nowodwor District Council) citing internal disagreements within the Society broke with the society, utilised 2.5km of the track formation for road improvements, and appointed a new operator. This left 30km of railway operational. The local authority is however unhappy with the new operator and a rapprochement with the PTMKZ seems increasingly likely.

800px-opalenicka_kd_1920_fot26.jpg

Opalenica Engine Shed, about 1920

Finally, on a more historic note, what happened to the preservation attempt at Opalenica?

The line provided the local towns along its route with a useful link to the main line system and carried increasing amounts of freight on transporter wagons until the link was severed with the main line around 1995. This was supposedly only temporary as part of the EU financed Poznan-Slubice main line upgrading works, but in fact the link to the transhipment sidings at Opalenica was never restored. In spite of this PKP built a new locomotive shed in Opalenica! Later that year PKP withdrew the passenger services as well.

A group of railway enthusiasts based in Poznan mounted a preservation attempt. The line was acquired by the local authority and listed by the Province’s Conservator of Monuments. Some special trains were run until 2002. Meanwhile the extension of the A2 motorway was being planned, by-passing Poznan and running on towards the German border. The Design, Build and Operate contract was won by Autostrady Wielkopolskiej SA which is controlled by Jan Kulczyk, Poland’s richest businessman. Mysteriously a key section of the railway — which would have needed an 1expensive motorway bridge — was suddenly removed from the Conservator’s listing. After the de-listing it was not long before the remainder of the rolling stock was removed, the track was lifted and the motorway built across the trackbed without any bridge.But this is not quite yet the end of the story. A group called Stowarzyszenie KOLD partly financed by the EU Leader programme is investigating ways of boosting agrotourism in the area. One of the options being examining is the possibility of using a rebuilt railway to carry tourists!

( 1British readers might like to reflect that when plans were being drawn up to extend the M3 from Popham to Southampton, the promoters of the Mid Hants Railway were promised a ‘fast track’ Light Railway Order if they abandoned the original plan of running through to Winchester. This would have required a bridge to take the M3 over the line!)