Archive for the ‘Warsaw’ Category

Expansion of Pendolino services

Monday, 5 October 2015

PKP InterCity have taken delivery of their twentieth and final Pendolino unit.  The EMU’s were built by Alstom at their Savigliano plant in Italy.  Introduced to the timetable in December 2014, and branded as Express InterCity Premium (EIP), they have been working scheduled services on the Warsaw – Czestochowa – Wroclaw, and Gdansk – Warsaw – Krakow routes.  With their top speed in public service of 200 km/h they have cut journey times between the Polish cities.


A Pendolino waits in Wroclaw Glowny for a departure to Warsaw. 8 February 2015.  Photo: John Savery

InterCity have now announced plans to expand the routes, with Jelenia Gora and Kolobrzeg joining the network.  The Jelenia Gora to Wroclaw route has recently been modernised, with PLK spending a quoted 400 million zloty on works since 2010.  The result is a reduction in the journey time to Wroclaw of approximately one and a half hours, compared with five years ago.

For those not familiar with the route, the line follows a fairly straight run down to Jaworzyna Slask, before winding its way up the climb to Walbrzych, and onwards to Jelenia Gora at the foot of the Karkonosze range.  The twisty windy route would be well suited to the tilting Pendolino’s.  Sadly PKP InterCity cut the tilting element from the Pendolino project at design stage, and so passengers will not be able to take advantage of this or the potential for increased speeds on this stage of the journey.

The introduction of the through services to Warsaw (using Pendolinos) is due to take place at the December timetable change.

Polish Pendolino – a cautious step forward, or too little too late?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Dyspozytor travels on the first public service Express InterCity Premium (EIP) ‘Pendolino’ train from Warsaw to Krakow on 14 December.


Over half an hour to go before the first Warsaw to Krakow Pendolino departs – time for a coffee and a roll in my favourite coffee bar at Centralna. Photo BTWT.

(All the photos can be enlarged x 2 by clicking on the image.)

I am impressed, but not excessively so. The 2nd class seats are comfortable, though a tad narrow for the classical Polish male derrière. Acceleration out of Warszawa Zachodnia – gentle yet sustained – is comparable to the diesel-powered HST125s out of Paddington (after they were throttled back following the Ladbroke Grove crash) though to PKP’s credit there is no appreciable slowing down through the Zyradow modernisation area, where delays have been the rule for over a year.

I cannot find an Internet signal, but there is a double power socket in the space between the seats. I have to have it pointed out to me as my left thigh is obscuring the location. It seems that the same approach has been made as regards the inter-seat spacing as on the notorious PESA Bydgostia EMU’s – a narrow body shell has been fitted out with 2 + 2 seating and a gangway wide enough to run a wheelchair from one end of the train to another. I have difficulty in believing that such a wide gangway, and the consequent narrow seats and ultra close inter-seat positioning that results, is really required to comply with EU directives.


On the platform at Centralna there is an impressive platform, but it is only for TV news crews – there will be no speeches. Photo BTWT.

We change tracks vis a facing point at approximately 60mph and I am impressed with our coach’s steadiness as its Alstom Pendolino bogies negotiate the pointwork. The ride is very good, though I am annoyed by the low-frequency rumble occasioned by the welded track joints. Polish rails lack the near perfect alignment achieved in the UK and, apart from a few high quality sections, each welded rail joint is felt in the coach as a slight bump.

I am frustrated by the quality of information provided to passengers. In Warsaw a female voice on a recorded loop announced some 30 times that passengers attempting to travel WITHOUT a ticket and seat reservation will be fined 600 złoty (approx. 120 GBP). This seems somewhat excessive both as regards frequency of the announcement and also the size of the fine, especially as 90% of the seats are empty and journalists and PKP staff seem to outnumber fare-paying passengers.

The LED travelling information ribbon panel at the end of the coach is stuck in an endless loop announcing alternatively: first, that the next station will be Krakow Glowny and then, that the remaining stations will be… Krakow Glowny. I had hoped for the usual more informative display with an occasional real-time indication of our speed.


Our train draw into the platform, but where are the crowds of intending passengers? Photo BTWT.

There are some nice human touches, the driver switches on the PA and announces aeroplane captain style that we are travelling at 200 km/h (125 mph). The track is exceptionally smooth here and I would never have guessed. However, immediately after making the announcement he applies the brakes so I cannot savour the moment for long.

Our 200 km/h peak top speed took some time to build up and I conclude that Pendolino drivers have been trained to limit their acceleration and hence the current drawn from the electric supply. The Pendolino traction equipment was originally designed for high voltage (25kV or 15kV) AC electrified lines and the current drawn on Poland’s 3kV DC lines is very high. (Hint: POWER = VOLTS x AMPS.) Theoretically, two Pendolinos passing each other on the same electrical section and accelerating hard could blow the circuit breakers in the electricity sub station.


The interior – very nice, but the passengers do not quite fit the seats (or is it the other way round?). Photo BTWT.

We slow down for the junction at Psary and turn south passing through the site of the Szczekociny head on collision of 2012. The line begins to twist and turn and on this section the tilting package (based on research carried out by the BR Research Division in the 1970s and left off the Polish Pendolino bogies to save money) would have allowed our driver to take the curves some 10 km/h faster. With only twenty-five minutes to our scheduled stop at Krakow Glowny, we grind to a halt at Niedzwiedz. So much for our 2hr 28min run, thinks the cynic in me. Our captain comes on the intercom again to say that the delay has been factored in the timetable, and, we are still scheduled to arrive in Krakow on time. Four minutes later, a train running in the opposite direction having passed, we are off again.

Resisting blandishments to sample the delights of the restaurant car, I remain in my seat throughout and tap away on my tablet writing this article. The ride is sufficiently smooth to make typing on a tablet or laptop a pleasure. Another announcement (surely too early?) informs us that we are approaching our destination and that we should check that we have collected all our luggage.


On arrival in Krakow a few stragglers pause to admire the train. Photo BTWT.

We arrive in Krakow Glowny at 08:56, 2hr 21min after departing Warsaw – 7 minutes early! The (theoretically non-stop run) from Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) has taken just 2hr 15min to cover 290km – a very satisfactory average speed of approx. 129km/h (80mph). At Glowny, just as had been the case at Centralna, there is a scramble of TV cameras and journalists, but no brass band, nor ribbon cutting. VIPs, whether PKP senior executives or politicians are conspicuous by their absence.

Maria Wasiak – former PKP group chairman and now as minister of Infrastructure and Development ultimately responsible for Poland’s railways – said a few days ago, no need to make a fuss, the Pendolino is just a train. However, I am cautiously impressed, and with plenty cheap discount tickets available for advance purchase, I will certainly be using PKP’s Express InterCity Premium service again.


Great Continental Railway Journeys – Poland

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Portillo cab view

Michael Portillo rides the cab of Ol49-59.
Still courtesy BBC TV.

The BBC series “Great Continental Railway Journeys” is currently airing on UK television.  The latest series (3) devoted an episode to Poland.

Filmed in the spring of this year, the Michael Portillo and his Bradshaw guide start their journey in the restored heart of Warsaw, before travelling to Lodz, once a cotton capital to rival Manchester.

His Poznan stop includes the obligatory visit to the goats in the Rynek (Market Square), and the Kaiser’s Castle (or Palace) a short walk from the railway station.  The footage of the station is of the new concrete and glass structure (also known as “Poznan City Center” shopping centre), rather than the older building, or even the Dworzec Letni.

Portillo finds time to visit Wolsztyn, referring to it being the place where scheduled from where steam services still run.  His visit, on April 7, fell a few days after the suspension of the service, which as readers will know, has still not recommenced. His footplate ride out to Nowa Wies involved a special train, as there were no scheduled services.  Viewers can draw their own conclusions about his firing (watch the gloves and style).

The onward journey and visit to Wroclaw involved a visit around the Bombardier railway works, formerly known as Linke-Hoffman (before the war) and Pafawag (after the war), before travelling out of Wroclaw via the restored Wroclaw Głowny station.

The shots of Krakow are the familiar Rynek and Mariacki church, and a trip around the Stalinist-era Nowa Huta, grafted onto the side of the old town by the communist regime.

The full programme is available to UK residents for another 3 weeks on the BBC iPlayer here. Sadly viewers in Poland without a proxy server are blocked.

PKP plans York-style museum

Friday, 14 February 2014

A4s York-1608

Spotted at York, September 2013: 3717 City of Truro (the first steam engine to reach 100 mph) and A4 pacifics, 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower, and 60010 Dominion of Canada (in LNER blue livery). A4 Mallard holds the world record for steam, 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). Photo BTWT.

PKP S.A. is planning to build a York style museum at Szczesliwice to the west of the Odolany carriage sidings in order to provide a new home for the Warsaw Railway Museum. The plans received a recent boost when agreement was reached in principle at a meeting attended earlier this week by Elzbieta Bienkowska the Minister of Infrastructure and Development, Adam Struzik the Chief Executive of Mazowsze Province and PKP bosses.

It is hoped that the museum project will benefit from EU funds. The fact that Mrs Bienkowska is in charge of inter alia the allocation and disbursement of EU funds should greatly assist the project. The plans envisage creating a modern family-oriented facility with a focus of rail transport including trams. The museum is to be dubbed a ‘Centre of Communication and Technology’ which would allow it to provide a home for the historical relics currently in the care of the Museum of Technology inside Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.

The future of the Warsaw Railway Museum collection had been uncertain for over 10 years. For more than 10 years, PKP has wanted to redevelop the Warszawa Glowna station site, but the museum authorities had dug in their heels and refused to consider moving to any other location.

One of our editorial staff has been busy for the last four years campaigning behind the scenes that Poland deserves a world-class national railway museum constructed with the help of EU funds. The campaign attracted the support of senior figures in the European railway heritage movement, business leaders in Poland and at least one Polish government minister. For a time, he worked hand-in-glove with the museum authorities, but when they discovered that his objective was a proper national museum – but not necessarily on the current Glowna site – cooperation ceased overnight!

Some diehard preservationists are already campaigning against the move of the museum fearing that it will lead to the demolition of the Glowna station building. Unfortunately, PKP has no choice but to redevelop the Glowna site – under strict conditions set last year by Poland’s Ministry of Finance if PKP wants to benefit from EU cash during the new funding period, it has to generate its ‘own funds’ contribution itself from the sale of surplus assets. The Glowna site is the most valuable plum in the whole PKP property portfolio.


Rail Museum Director resigns

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Light at the end of the tunnel?

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

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

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

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

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


Tall Tales about Toad, or…

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

No trains to Vilnius


Vilnius railway station, Warsaw – St. Petersburg Railway. Photo Arz.

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

Of all of my extraordinary friends Ropucha is the most eccentric. He once bought a waterworks with a view of turning its underground reservoir into a contemporary version of Bilbo Baggins’s home.

His enormous Warsaw flat is decorated in the minimalist style of Andy Warhol’s New York Studio. Yet not everything is simple. The huge bath, large enough to accommodate a dinner party, is worked by a TV-like remote. One press and a stream of apparently red-coloured hot water starts to fill the bath, another press and blue cold water spurts out, a third button projects Debbie Harry singing Heart of Glass on the back wall. Ropucha hardly ever visits Warsaw.

Ropucha recently bought a yellow sports car, but when I suggested that he might like to give it a quick run on the brand-new motorway and pop in to see me, he replied that it was having an oil change.

A couple of days ago he rang me and asked me how I felt about  the Baltic States. I got very excited, assuming that he was asking me to come as a co-driver for a quick dash in his shiny new toy to Vilnius, Tallinn and Riga, but in fact was buttering me up to check out some international train services.

It seems Mrs Ropucha rather fancies a visit to Saint Petersburg and not wanting to risk his yellow peril on the trip, Ropucha wanted some advice in putting together an interesting rail journey. Perhaps Warsaw – Saint Petersburg – Moscow – Warsaw or even a leisurely return run through the Baltic States? Would I conduct some preliminary research?


Warsaw – St. Petersburg services. Timetable T K Telekom.

(Click to expand.)

A little bit of work on the T K Telekom on-line timetable revealed an every second day train service running direct from Warsaw to Saint Petersburg complete with a romantic sleeping compartments. Just the thing, I thought!

But hold on a minute my friend Kret completed the train to China, but opted to do the first leg: Warsaw – Moscow by plane. I rang him and asked him why he had avoided the comforts of the Warsaw – Moscow sleeping cars. There’s nothing wrong with the train he assured me, but he end his wife baulked at paying the transit visa fee of £50 each for the privilege of travelling through Belarus.

Setting up the Warsaw – Saint Petersburg journey on Google Maps shows that the shortest route from Warsaw is through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Surely the train journey is routed the same way?

Well, it is not. A further check on T K Telekom shows that the train runs through Belarus. Now Ropucha, although quite well off, hates paying the going price for anything, so I could see that he might baulk at paying £200 for four sets of Belarus visas.

Perhaps it might be possible to reach Saint Petersburg via the Baltic States? All three countries are Poland’s near neighbours and are in the EU.

A short session on Google maps revealed that there is one railway line that connects Poland and Lithuania without crossing the Kaliningrad enclave. However, zooming in on the line shaded as distinctly overgrown especially in Lithuania, while in Poland a road appears to have been built over some of the railway track.

I phoned Prezes who knows about all of these things. Is it true that the only direct rail connection between Poland and Lithuania is disused I asked. No, he answered, there is a daily train connection but it does involve two train changes in Lithuania.


Warsaw – Vilnius by rail? Timetable T K Telekom.

Alas no longer! A last visit to T K Telekom sure that the actual border crossing between Poland and Lithuania is carried out by coach. I find this is really amazing. Two neighbouring countries: both members of the EU, with a great deal of common culture and history, and many families living in both countries; yet their capitals – only some 400 km apart – have no direct rail services!

Surely providing such a connection should be an EU priority? It is extraordinary that it is easier to travel by rail from Warsaw to Moscow than between Warsaw and Vilnius.


Court decision blow to Museum

Friday, 12 April 2013


The former Warszawa Glowna Station throat on a misty morning, 11.04.2013 – prime development site. Photo BTWT.

On 10 April 2013, the Warsaw District Court decided in favour of PKP SA and ordered the Warsaw Railway Museum to vacate the land occupied by the Museum.

The museum  occupies the former  Warszawa Glowna terminal building fronting ul. Towarowa, part of the former goods station alongside ul. Kolejowa, and a section of the former station’s tracks and platforms.

The Museum has one year to vacate the site from the time that judgement acquires legal standing. The Museum authorities intend to appeal against the decision.



The old and new in Warsaw

Friday, 21 December 2012


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

Four wheel tram in Warsaw! All photos taken on 4 October 2012 by Dyspozytor on an iPhone 4 and colour graded in Adobe’s Lightroom. (BTWT)

A big apology to BTWT’s faithful readers for our three week sabbatical. Dyspozytor has a new job! The upside is that this has been taking him all over the country with lots of opportunities to ride Poland’s trains and test out stations titivated for Euro 2012. The downside is that he has been returning home too exhausted to write anything useful.


The perils of heavy metro construction – the site of Swietokrzyska station on Warsaw Metro Line 2. Within a day or so of this photograph being taken construction workers hit a water main at this very spot, the construction site was flooded and people evacuated from neighbouring buildings. (BTWT)

However, Christmas would not be Christmas without Behind The Water Tower and the holiday does provide our somewhat ancient Editor-in-Chief with a bit of a breather. So like an express steam locomotive that has been undergoing a major overhaul, BTWT’s first outing on the rails since 30 November is only a light duty, a particularly BTWTish look at trams and Metro construction in Warsaw.


2115 works four wheeler of uncertain parentage and 3023 Konstal-built 116Na/1. With 61% of the interior low-floor, the 116Na/1 was the ultimate development of the line that started with the Konstal 13N. (BTWT)

When Dyspozytor first set foot in Warsaw in the mid 1960s most of the city’s trams where 4-wheelers (N, ND and 4N, 4ND) built in batches mostly by Konstal in Chorzow between 1948 and 1961). Bogie trams (13N), based on a Czech design and inspired by the 1930s PCC fast trams built in the USA, were being introduced. They were prone to breakdowns and had angled fronts and rear ends. Warsaw commuters quickly nicknamed them trumny (coffins).


More than a half century of design and operating experience separate the two trams. (BTWT)

The 112N and its later derivatives (116Na and 116Na) were Warsaw’s first low floor trams and the 116Na/1 seemed set to transform Warsaw’s tram scene in the early 2000s, but it was not to be. Only 26 116Na/1s were ordered and then the City choose the more glamorous looking 120Na from PESA as its new look tram for the 2012 championships.


How it could be (1). A modern rapid transit style tram stop at Arsenal. (BTWT)

A combination of congestion charging, more ground level light rail, and decent park and ride facilities around the City’s periphery is the right answer to Warsaw’s traffic problems, NOT very expensive and agonisingly slow heavy metro construction.

Ken bikes

How it could be (2). Boris (Ken?) bikes but nowhere safe to ride them. (BTWT)

Oh, and some decent safe and comfortable bike routes as well!

Warsaw Railway Museum – PKP goes to court

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Warsaw Railway Museum occupies some prime development land. Map courtesy Google Maps.

For some time now, it has been clear that PKP SA and the Warsaw Railway Museum were on a collision course. PKP bosses have wanted the Railway Museum to move to another location so that they could develop the former Warszawa Glowna land. It is PKP’s premium development site in the centre of Warsaw. Ferdinand Ruszczyc, the museum director and his staff do not want to move. The current location is comfortable for their commuting and, if there is going to be a profitable development, they feel the museum should share in any development premium going.

In July this year, Infrastructure Minister, Slawomir Nowak, refused a request from the museum to stay PKP’s hand with respect to starting court proceedings to expel the Museum. The first salvoes were fired  in a Warsaw court this Tuesday (20 November). There will be several more sessions before the court reaches its decision. While it is totally unacceptable that PKP appears to shirk its responsibilities with respect to its history and heritage, it is difficult in this case not to have some sympathy with its position.

The current site is far from ideal. Locomotives and rolling stock are cramped together nose to tail and slowly rust away under open skys in the toxic city air. The Museum has had several years to develop a ‘Plan B’. That time has been frittered away in its dispute with PKP. Meanwhile the opportunity to create a world-class railway museum elsewhere with the aid of EU funding has slipped away. Projects which lack a minimum of five years security of tenure cannot be funded from EU funds. On Tuesday this week, the first legal salvoes were fired in Warsaw court.

One of several meetings organised by the Railway Museum to promote its own plans for the Warszawa Glowna Site. The PKP SA team state their position. Photo BTWT.

Adam Struzik, the chief executive of Mazowsze province (the operators of the Museum), says that he has no money to fund the move of the rolling stock, nor to develop a new museum in another location. PKP are unapologetic, they are between a rock and a hard place and need to generate the maximum possible returns from the redevelopment of their redundant real estate. Any surplus left after making the scheduled yearly debt repayment, is desperately needed as ‘own funds’ for the next round of EU-funded investment projects.

As often is the case with problems that appear to be insoluble, the solution lies in some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. It seems unreasonable that all the burdens of running what is de facto a national railway museum should rest on the shoulders of the Mazowsze provincial government. The Mazowsze province includes the city of Warsaw and has much of its funds is committed to modernising the trunk transport infrastructure of the region.

If the province cannot fund the running of a proper national railway museum, then why not look to a more modest objective. If the city of Szczecin, which is hard up relative to Warsaw, can develop a municipal transport museum in an old tram depot, then why does the provincial and city government not work together to do the same? After all there is a tram depot complete with workshops and skilled staff less than half a kilometre from the current Museum site!

This would be a grand place to display limited collection of locomotives and rolling stock that have connections with the city and province as well as trams and road vehicles that have local links. Meanwhile time is fast running out for discussions with local government officials elsewhere as regards establishing a proper national railway museum worthy of Poland’s rich railway heritage and history.



  • The PKP press office was asked for a comment regarding the company’s dispute with the Museum, but were unwilling to do so over the telephone.

A tale of two museums

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

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


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

(Click image to expand.)

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

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

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

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

(Click image to expand.)

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

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

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

(Click image to expand.)

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

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

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

(Click image to expand.)

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

(Click image to expand.)

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

Warsaw leads TomTom Congestion Index

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

EU congestion winner. Graphic TomTom Congestion Index.

(Click graphic to download the TomTom Congestion Index – pdf)

In car navigation producer TomTom has used anonymised data harvested from its devices to compile a ‘Congestion Index’ for Europe. Warsaw is in top place as Europe’s most congested city, followed closely by Marseilles and Rome.

The index was compiled by comparing the length of time a particular journey takes in low traffic conditions with the time when traffic volume is at its highest and aggregating the results. On average a peak traffic journey in Warsaw takes 58 minutes longer than its low traffic counterpart.


1 August 1944

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

There is a city. Video by .

The City of Ruins. Film by Platige Image and Warsaw Uprising Museum.


“Too many cooks spoil the broth”

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Volunteer-assisted train information. From a photo by Krzysztof Smietana of Warszawa

(Click on the image to read the original article in Polish on Warszawa, or here to read a computer-generated English translation courtesy of Google translate.)

Polish media have been providing in depth coverage of the Euro 2012 football championships, and have also devoted considerable space to discussing how Poland’s roads and railways are coping with the influx of visitors. Not all the stories are flattering to Poland. Perhaps the saddest published so far, appeared yesterday on Warszawa, the Internet edition of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily’s Warsaw supplement.

It seems that PKP’s brand new train indicators at Warszawa Centralna do not indicate that the Malopolska, a train from Krakow to Gdynia, actually calls at Gdansk, which is unfortunate as four of the tournament’s matches are actually being played there. Happily, one of the many hundreds of volunteers recruited for the tournament came up with a low-tech solution which is shown above.

Full marks to Gazeta Wyborcza for reporting on this nonsense. Though the article pulls its punches and does not ask the obvious questions – how many millions of zloty were spent by PKP in developing a train information system that fails to provide the necessary information and who was responsible for signing off the defective system? For BTWT readers with a feeling of deja vu, yes, we covered this problem in November 2010!

A fortnight ago, I attended the Rynek Kolejowy Railway Business Forum in Warsaw which had a small exhibition area outside the conference hall. The PKP Information Technology subsidiary, and the PKP Telecommunications subsidiary were both proudly displaying their wares. Afterwards, I travelled out to see the refurbishment carried out at Warszawa Wschodnia and then caught the Lodzianin train.

There was some confusion at the ticket counter as to which train I wanted to catch. According to the TLK on-line timetable the Lodzianin was to leave Wschodnia at 16:58; according to PKP IC’s ticketing system it was to depart at 16:56; according to PKP Dworce Polskie’s indicator board it was due to leave at 17:03.  I see we’ll be leaving five minutes late, I said to the guard. No, we’re due to leave on time at 16:58, he replied. I’ll bet you we won’t, I joked. We did not.

The stupidity of breaking PKP up into so many – sometimes competing – companies was never better demonstrated.

With a hat tip to Podroznik for the link.

Head on collision in Warsaw

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Polish rail

The crash scene. Local PKP PLK director, Jan Telecki, describes the movements of the two trains immediately before the accident. Video by .

A head-on collision between two early morning commuter trains in Warsaw on Thursday morning (24 May) brought back memories of the head-on train collision near Szczekociny – Poland’s worst train crash in 22 years – which killed 16 people and wounded 57. This time, the relative velocity of the two trains was small and the lead coaches only suffered minor damage. Two people were injured; one sufficiently seriously to need hospital treatment.

The accident occurred at 05:45 in the vicinity of Warszawa Praga station. The trains involved were KM 1521 – an EN76 trainset belonging to Koleje Mazowieckie running from Warszawa Gdanska to Ciechanow, and SKW 40222 – a 19WE trainset belonging to Szybka Kolej Miejska running from Legionowo to Warszawa Gdanska.

According to The Warsaw Voice, a report published by the European Railway Agency, shows that Poland’s railways have the worst safety record* in the EU. There were 449 rail accidents in Poland in 2010. Germany was second with 297 accidents followed by Romania with 271.


The vanishing skansen at Elk

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Alerted by a PKP estate department’s tender for the sale of items from the erstwhile ‘skansen’ at Elk, John Savery leaves his car at home and travels by Wizz Air and TLK to photograph the remains.

How do I get to Centralna without getting wet? Photo John Savery.

I have regularly driven to Poland in recent times, my hands-on involvement in the preservation scene here makes carrying tools and equipment easier and more practical. I had not used Wizz Air’s Warsaw flight for about 5 years, however a bit of research showed that this was the best way of getting there. A late evening departure from Luton meant a 23:00 arrival at Okecie and, despite knowing Warsaw well, I opted to pay the extra and use the Wizz Air bus connection to the centre of town.

Okecie is still being modernised, and seems huge compared to what it was like when I first used it back in 2000. Despite the Euro 2012 championships being less than a month away, like many other projects, the airport still needs some finishing touches, and parts of the arrivals hall are still fenced off.

Leaving the terminal building and following the contradictory directions for the connecting bus, I decided discretion was the better part of valour, and took the liberty of phoning the helpline number for the driver. After a reassuring person told me that there would be someone with me in 8 minutes, there followed a 30 minute wait, and several more phone calls before I finally found myself in a Wizz Air taxi on the way to the centre. Next time, if there is a next time before Wizz locate to Modlin airport, I will take the 175 bus!

Zlote Tarasy interior. Photo John Savery.

A central Warsaw hotel provided convenient accommodation, close to Centralny station, however breakfast was not provided in the price, and being unwilling to part with the extortionate fee of EUR 20 for the privilege of eating in the hotel, I decided to do breakfast on the hoof or on the train.

Walking around to the station, the area has changed considerably since I last visited, (although I have kept apace with developments through Michael Dembinski’s excellent Warszawa Jeziorki blog) and the partially completed Zlota 44 tower now rivals the other buildings around it.

Not wanting to risk a long wait at the ticket office, I opted to buy my ticket first, and joined the back of a fairly quick moving queue at the ticket windows. It is pleasing to see that there were common queues for multiple ticket windows, much improved on the previous system of choosing a window and finding yourself behind an awkward or complicated request, although for the life of me, I could not work out why there were two queues each leading to half the windows. With an internet printout of the train I wanted in my hand, the purchase of my ticket was swift. With that completed in less time than anticipated, I wandered back through the bus station to Zlote Tarasy, the Eden Project style shopping mall opposite, to find food for the journey.

Better information and signage. Photo John Savery.

Warszawa Centralna is greatly improved following the facelift. Lighting and ambience are better, and gone are the dark entrances to the platforms. Like the airport, I would be amazed if it is complete by the time the football starts, but at least it has taken a big step in the right direction. I have always been wary around Centralna, and despite living in more dangerous places, it is the only place where I have nearly been pickpocketed getting into a train. The improved lighting helps the atmosphere. Platform information is adequate, with departure listings on the digital screens at platform level, however the individual platform screens are not utilised well, with confirmation of the train only being put on the platform screen at the last minute. This results in a last minute rush of passengers to the platforms.

The TLK itself was comfortable. I opted for first class, more expensive but more roomy, and there was only one other person in my compartment. Striking up a conversation it transpired that he was from Lodz. The conversation turned to what I thought of Poland now as to compared to what it as like when I had lived here previously, and the state of manufacturing in the UK. With the bar car conveniently located in the next coach, I sat back with a coffee and watched the Polish countryside roll by.

SU45-168 takes over the train. Photo John Savery.

On arrival in Elk, I wandered down to the front of the train to see the loco being changed. EP07-456 giving way to SU45-168, which would take the train forward to Olsztyn. The narrow gauge railway is immediately opposite the station on the opposite side to the town, however with no obvious access, (and no signage) I wandered down the road immediately opposite the station to my hotel for the night.

The Rydzewski was reasonable, and importantly had a town map on reception, so after dropping my bag in the room, I retraced my steps under the leaden skies towards the station, followed the road under the under-bridge and into the narrow gauge area. Elk could make more of its narrow gauge railway. The signage was woeful, only a small sign near the entrance was visible. Walking unchallenged through the security gate I set about exploring the yard.

N.g. coaches recently touched up. Photo John Savery.

The narrow gauge coaches were parked neatly in the station, and the area itself was kept tidy. Grass was kept in check, and the line’s Px48-1752, which although cold, looked as though it had been recently steamed, with fresh ash in the pit.

Elsewhere in the yard, SM42-002, one of the items on PKP’s tender list stands forlorn; next to it lie the remains of what appear to be a set of wheels which have been crudely cut from the axles – it wasn’t possible to tell what they were from, however they looked suspiciously like pony truck wheels from an Ol49.

Nice grass, pity about the locos. Photo John Savery.

There are two standard gauge locos on the adjoining tracks, Ol49-11 and Ty2-1285. Both have been heavily stripped, with hardly a single item inside the cab. The connecting rods of the Ol49, along with some of the axle box covers on the tender were also missing. Both are in dire need of a coat of paint to protect them from the elements, however, this is the very least of the concerns from them. Theft of further components appears to be a real risk despite the narrow gauge area being fenced off and having steel shutters at the entrance.

I took a wander over to the ticket office, as up to now, I had not seen hide nor hair of anyone else, and found it locked. How many other potential customers have wandered in and out without paying?  However, this also meant that I could not view the small museum inside either. Wanting to see more of the standard gauge locos that were stationed around the former roundhouse, I set off towards the standard gauge tracks.

What a railway museum this could have made if only PKP and the local council could have reached agreement. Photo John Savery.

The first two locos that I came across were Ol49-80 and 102. Both were plinthed on a separate section of track next to what appeared to be living accommodation in coaches. Ol49-80 holds the dubious distinction of probably being the only Ol49 to be fitted with a satellite dish! That, and its appearance on PKP’s auction list may not bode well for the loco’s future. Whilst most of the motion on the side closest to the station appeared intact, metal magpies had again been at the bearings, and the crank and con-rod bearings had been stripped from the fireman’s side of the loco. The cab had been stripped bare, with even the firebox doors missing.

Ol49-102 was in a similar state. Being on a separate section of isolated track, coupled with the removal of key components may make it extremely difficult to move either of these locos. The fact that the tender and loco are listed separately on the auction page would seem to suggest that they are trying to generate as much money as possible from the sale, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the scrap man may be interested.

Blacksmith forge awaiting scrapping. Photo John Savery.

Elsewhere on the site, demolition is in full swing. Spying through a chink in the modern section of the roundhouse, industrial sized skips are present, as stripping continues. This is clearly a place in its death throes, with contractors moving in with the axe. In the older part of the roundhouse, which again, is secured to deter intruders, a tiny chink in a door reveals Ty2-1279. Alas, this too has been the victim of theft, and despite not being able to get close to it, it is possible to see that the crank and con-rod bearing have been taken from the side that is visible.

With the shed all but abandoned, it is probably as easy for a thief to work under the cover of the shed, as it is for them to work outside. The roof of the shed looks anything but secure. Daylight spews in through blatant cracks in the planking and felt roof, its sieve like properties must do little to protect the interior.

How much longer before these locos are quietly scrapped? Photo John Savery.

Despite probing, I am unable to access the shed, and turn my attention to the remaining engines in the yard. Aside from a small diesel shunter, the yard contains two Ok1’s and three Ol49’s. All are in abysmal condition, stripped to ex-Barry hulk status. All have motion missing to some degree or other, and one, Ol49-61, has trees growing in its tender. Exploring some of the others is risky business, and I tentatively worked my way around the cabs, probing gently at the wafer thin metal of the cab floors, ensuring it was load bearing before taking each step.

Ok1 waiting for rescue. Photo John Savery.

Walking back to the hotel, I pondered on the question raised by Gary Boyd-Hope in this month’s Steam Railway magazine. Is the breaking up of steam locomotives acceptable in the 21st Century? The question appears to be rhetorical. To some people it is. Locomotives that were once complete are being taken apart piece by piece, by thieves and others until they no longer have a future or purpose. At that point, it is easy to call the scrap man in to take away an eyesore, or to cash in on the value of the scrap metal asset that exists.

Take a piece of precision machinery and leave it out in the open for Polish weather and metal thieves to do their worst. Photo John Savery.

One thing is for certain. The remaining locos at Elk face a very difficult future, and I would be amazed if the majority are not lost in the coming years.

Act of God

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The ticket hall at Warszawa Centralna 25.2.2012. Photo BTWT.

I am not usually afraid of the dark, but as the lights flickered, the power sockets shorted and sparks and smoke flew out of the surge prevention block protecting Sextus, the G5 Power Mac, I confess that I was a little fazed.

But to begin at the beginning, I was about to travel to Lodz on the 21:49 from Centralna. As this was the last train of the day, I contrived to arrive in plenty of time: not only to catch my train, but also to inspect how the ‘revitalisation’ of the station was proceeding.

The main ticket hall was practically empty. Posters advertising the film, Dziewczyna z Tatuażem, added to the eerie atmosphere. How did the original Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor (“Men Who Hate Women”) morph to the English version, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, only to lose the dragon in the Polish release (“The Girl with the Tattoo”)?

A few passengers got on the empty 8-coach train. I settled myself comfortably in an empty compartment and settled down to read Frank Mildmay by Frederick Maryatt on my iPhone. Most of Maryatt’s naval adventures have a good-hearted, but naive youngster, as the narrator. He goes to sea as a midshipman in the British Navy and his character is licked into shape during the trials and tribulations that follow. By the end, our hero is a man, the villains are vanquished and the hero marries his sweetheart.

Not Frank Mildmay, the subject is an anti-hero. His decisions start out badly and he never quite manages to free himself from ‘the dark side’. As Maryatt begins to draw all the threads together towards the end of the book, Mildmay rushes headlong into disaster. Too much like real life to be good escapism, I thought.  So, as I had already downloaded quite a few other out-of-copyright books, I quickly switch to a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

As the train ran slowly on the track, I allowed myself a moment of satisfied reflection – with Ed Beale now running our narrow gauge section and John Savery taking over responsibility for standard gauge preservation – BTWT is at last on an even keel and nothing should disturb our target of daily publication. (Have you noticed that whenever you congratulate yourself that all is going smoothly, the wheel come off the bus?)

I return home and lean briefly against the wall to ease the weight of my legs. The lights flicker ominously and darken, then after a few seconds they blaze more brightly than they ever did before. Our power sockets crackle, sparks fly from the surge protector and the fuses blow.

This being Poland it takes two different electricians, and most of the following day, to restore decent mains power. We seem to have escaped lightly – burnt out power blocks. The main computer, Sextus, is down, but hopefully only the Apple Cinema Display power supply will need replacing.

We are lucky, we have escaped lightly compared to our neighbours. They have lost a couple of TVs, a fridge and a router. I buy a massive new Polish surge protector and five PL to UK power socket adapters. I order a new power supply for the monitor from China. I order two new power circuits for the flat.

This is being written on Quintus, my trusty 12″ Apple G4 PowerBook. Unfortunately my photographs and most of my programs are on the G5. I yearn for a couple of shots of Zubrowka, but alas, inspired by Michael Dembinski’s example, I have decided to give up alcohol and sugar for Lent.

Aren’t I being good? I hear the warning words again, Pride goes before a fall. As the late Frankie Howard used to say, Here endeth the first lesson!

Lifts? Please book 48 hours ahead.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Centralna facelift has given the station a new cleaner appearance. Photo BTWT.

Friday’s Wyborcza daily newspaper and the TVP evening news carried the good news about the lifts at Warszawa Centralna. Apparently there have always been lifts at Centralna, but they had been hidden by the clutter that the station had accrued since it had been built.

Now as part of the stations 40 million zloty Euro 2012 facelift, the clutter has been removed, the lift doors painted a bright orange and pictograms put up showing where to find them.

There are guide strips for the visually impaired. Photo BTWT.

Naturally enough people with heavy luggage, prams or in wheelchairs, gather outside the lifts. They press the button and wait, and wait, and wait. Nothing happens. Then they make their way down to the platform as best they can. For people with wheelchairs the only way down is a slippery steep travelator at the far end of the platform.

Wyborcza took up the matter with the PKP press office. ‘They are freight only lifts installed in the 1970s. They weren’t intended for passengers.’ So why has access to the lifts been provided and pictograms displayed? ‘The lifts are available to passengers, but should be booked 48 hours beforehand’. Wyborcza tried ringing the number provided by PKP (22 47 46 016) several times, but no one answered.

You could not make it up!

There is a new lift, but it does not go to the trains. Video by .


  • Gazeta Wyborcza – zamów windę 48 godzin wcześniej

Railway Museum – here we go again!

Thursday, 21 July 2011


The Railway Museum at the former Warszawa Glowna station sits on some prime real estate. Photo BTWT.

A few hours ago one of our friends received the following e-mail from Ewelina Matuszewska at the Warsaw Railway Museum. (BTWT translation of Polish original.)


In connection with the fact that PKP SA has issued a summons against the Railway Museum to terminate its occupation of the real estate and railway station buildings at Warsawa Glowna and ordered the Railway Museum to leave these within 7 days from legal validation of the documentation, please do not hesitate to support our institution by leaving your signature on the portal:


Ewelina Matuszewska
Promotion Department
Railway Museum

We were under the impression that PKP SA and the museum had agreed to give the museum three more years at its Warsaw location. Perhaps the museum has not been keeping up with its rent payments?


Obama halts Warsaw

Friday, 27 May 2011

Warsaw traffic at 17:15 today. Traffic map courtesy

(Click image to see an enlarged image. Click here to see the current traffic situation in Warsaw.)

Following a working session with G8 leaders and an ‘expanded G8 working lunch’ in Deauville, France, President Obama landed in Warsaw’s Chopin airport at 17:30 local time 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Roads leading from the airport to Marriot and at other locations which the President was likely to visit had been closed from early afternoon. Warsaw traffic was brought to a standstill in many places. The road closures have been strongly criticised – while many roads in Warsaw were closed to vehicles hours before the President’s plane touched down, in London they were only closed when Obama’s motorcade actually started its journey.

But the real culprits are Warsaw’s transport planners who have neglected the role that light rail and semi-metro could play in solving Warsaw’s congestion problems. With rail links woefully inadequate (see our earlier story) Warsaw commuters are understandably difficult to prize out of their motor cars. With Central and Eastern European heads of state arriving since in Warsaw ready for their dinner at the Presidential palace – road closures and traffic jams have been commonplace since Thursday. Yet today many commuters choose to sit in their snarled up cars for three hours rather than risk the rail transport alternatives.

Troubled travels…

Friday, 27 May 2011

Michael’s Dembinski journey from Warszawa Jeziorki to Lodz – 83 miles in 3 hours 12 minutes. Map courtesy Google Maps and Scribble Maps.

(Click on the map to link to an expandable ‘slippy map’.)

Michael Dembinski the blogger behind the legendary W-wa Jeziorki blog, recently travelled to Lodz. The 83 mile journey took him an incredible 3 hours 12 minutes. Of course, he could have had a 39 minute longer lie-in by taking the 05:30 from Jeziorki and changing at Warszawa Zachodnia instead of travelling by the 04:51 and changing at Warszawa Centralna, which would have only have meant travelling for 2 hours and 33 minutes – quite good as Polish railway journeys go. The demoralising effect of being crushed together in slow and dirty overcrowded trains seems even to have penetrated Michael’s soul…

On Wednesday I had to be in Łódź to speak at a conference which started with breakfast; I needed to be there for 9:00am. This meant catching a train that arrived just after eight. And unlike London to Rugby (83 miles, 48 minutes ) the 83 miles between Warsaw and Łódź takes 120 minutes. My train for Łódź would leave W-wa Centralna at six. To get to Centralna I had to catch the 04:51 service from W-wa Jeziorki.

And this is where my story begins…

The 04:51 from W-wa Jeziorki begins its journey in Radom, departing for Warsaw at 03:12 every day of the week. It stops at every small town along the way, and by the time it reaches W-wa Jeziorki, the first station within Warsaw’s city limits, it is packed solid. Boarding the train, I had to stand in the corridor…

For the rest of the story, click on the link below: