Archive for the ‘Wolsztyn’ Category

Chabówka grabs Tr5 – threat to Wolsztyn plan

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Disturbing news has reached BTWT that the manager of PKP Cargo’s open air railway museum at Chabowka, Maciej Panasiewicz, has played a masterstroke in his attempts to undermine the agreement between the four parties (PKP Cargo, Wielkopolska Provincial Government, Wolsztyn District Council, and Wolsztyn Town Council) that are planning to take over Wolsztyn shed and run it as a cultural institute.

While this is not the first time that news of Panasiewicz’s attempts at sabotage have reached our ears, it did not seem appropriate to dignify his previous efforts (dragging out overhauls of Wolsztyn steam locos, not releasing more Chabowka  locos for the last Wolsztyn parade, or interfering with the management of the Parade’s steam specials) by reporting them in our blog. This time we will not remain silent, his latest surprise move has shocked all Wolsztyn stakeholders, and it threatens the foundations of the agreement between PKP Cargo and the three local authorities regarding the future of the engine shed.

Just as lawyers are reaching the end of their work on the text of the agreement and constitution which are to give life to the new body which is to become the long-term custodian of Wolsztyn shed, Panasiewicz has arranged with PKP Cargo’s operational management to snatch Tr5-65 from Wolsztyn and move the loco to Chabówka.


Tr5-65 at Wolsztyn coaling stage. Photo courtesy Wojtek Lis.

Designed for heavy freight haulage, Tr5-65 is hardly mission critical to Wolsztyn’s unique role in maintaining a fleet of steam locomotives capable of maintaining the tight schedules of diesel-hauled passenger trains, nevertheless its future is significant to the success of the plans for shed.

Tr5-65 was originally built by Orenstein & Koppel in 1921, as a Prussian Railways G8 class 0-8-0. It was rebuilt as 2-8-0 at Schneidemühl (Piła) in 1938. It was transferred to PKP in 1945 and worked in various locations in south western Poland, ending up stationed at Wrocław Gądów where was withdrawn from active service in 1972. It was then moved around various locations in the character of a ‘pomnik techniczny’ (literal translation technical monument) before going to the railway works in Piła in 1993. It emerged from Piła having undergone a complete rebuild in 1994, was stationed in Jaworzyna Śląska until 2002 after which it was moved to Wolsztyn. It is currently awaiting an intermediate overhaul.

While railfans wanting to see the loco restored to working order might welcome the move to Chabówka which has considerable expertise in overhauling historic railway locomotives, we understand that an offer to fund the restoration of the loco has been made by a long-standing friend of Wolsztyn. Removing the loco just before the new arrangements to run the depot go operational is at best incredibly tactless, and at worst could seriously undermine the trust between the parties concerned – a trust which is critical if the new venture is to be a success.

See also: Wolsztyn Shed – Wielkopolska Vote ‘Yes’Wolsztyn Institute plan gets ‘green light’


New Line Opens with Steam

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Reading the title, you may be forgiven for thinking that Behind The Water Tower has decided to cover the re-opening of The Borders Railway (known formerly as The Waverley Route.)

Whilst worthy of coverage in its own right, the similarities between the formal reopening of part of the former route down to Tweedbank, by Her Majesty the Queen, and the opening of the new inland route (the Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna) between Gdansk and Gdynia are striking.

Both the Borders Railway, and the routes are effectively old routes relayed and reopened with new stations.  Neither is electrified.  The 19.5 kilometre long Gdansk line provides a direct connection to the airport on the alignment of the pre-war line from Kokoszski to Wrzeszcz, with a new chord built at the western end of the line to connect with the non-electrified line to Gdynia.  Train services on the line are provided by ten diesel railcars, built by Bydgoszcz based PESA.

Both routes featured steam haulage as part of the official opening.  Her Majesty was conveyed by the royal train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank hauled by preserved A4 “Union of South Africa”.  John Cameron, who has owned the locomotive longer than its original builder, the LNER, and British Railways combined was present on the footplate for the occasion.

Poland’s new line (Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna) also had steam present for its official opening.  TKh05353, owned by DB Schenker, and loaned to and operated by KSK Wroclaw was brought in specially for the event.  You may be forgiven for wondering why such a diminutive industrial shunter was brought in to feature in such a prestigous event.  After all, with Poland’s Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz conducting the opening of the first major new passenger line in the last 25 years, you would have thought that a more suitable locomotive could be provided.  Apparently not.  Despite Poland still having steam locomotives with PKP Cargo, neither Wolsztyn nor Chabowka were able to provide a locomotive to cover the event.  Wolsztyn had already contractually committed to provide steam haulage for a TurKol special with their sole in-ticket Ol49, and therefore understandably had to honour that commitment.  It is unclear why Chabowka were unable to provide one of their four in-ticket locomotives for the event.

15. Oficjalne foto dla prasy

Made in Poland.  TKh05353 sits alongside one of the new PESA-built railcars.  Photo: Marek Ciesielski

Originally restored at the former sand railway works at Dzierzno, near to Pyskowice, TKh05353 was operated and maintained by DB Schenker.  Following the sale of the works, the locomotive was moved to another DB Schenker workshop in Rybnik, where it only saw limited use.  Subsequently it has been loaned to KSK Wroclaw who have successfully overhauled the engine, and had it recertified for further operation.

Behind the Water Tower congratulate KSK Wroclaw on their success at operating the locomotive, and for providing a professional service at the opening of the Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna.

21. Bliskie spotkania trzeciego stopnia

TKh meets Pendolino.  Photo: Marek Ciesielski

Wolsztyn Shed – Wielkopolska Vote “Yes”

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


OL49-69 ready to depart with Woltur train, Wolsztyn. Photo William Wright.

(Click on images to see larger photos.)

Further to our report (BTWT, 1 July 2015) that representatives of all the parties (Wielkopolska Provincial Government, Wolsztyn District Council, Wolsztyn Town Council and PKP Cargo) had agreed in principle to proceed on the basis of a revised business plan, the council members of the various local authorities have been debating and voting on the proposals to set a new institute to run the shed. Each of the parties will be making a contribution to the setting up and operation of the shed (PKP Cargo – locomotives, rolling stock and facilities; others – start up capital and an ongoing financial contribution towards operating expenses) and participating in its strategic management.

Wolsztyn District Council (Starostwo Wolsztyńskie) have already voted in favour of the proposals and yesterday a critical milestone was passed when the Council of the Wielkopolska Provincial Government (Sejmik Wielkopolski) also passed a vote in favour. The Wielkopolska councillors’ vote was critical because the business plan envisages the provincial government being the principal funding source for the restoration and running of daily steam services.

The last council vote needed to secure the plan is that of the members of Wolsztyn Town Council, but with the town’s hospitality industry badly feeling the drop in tourism since the cessation of daily steam services, it is envisaged that Wolsztyn Mayor, Wojtek Lis, will have little difficulty in securing the support of the town’s councillors. The Town Council will consider the question during their meeting on August 3. If they vote in favour, the last piece of the jigsaw falls into place. There will be a formal signing ceremony sometime later, and December 1, 2016 is already pencilled in as the first day that the shed opens its doors under the auspices of its new owners.

The elephant in the room remains Poland’s railway infrastructure manager, PKP PLK. For reason best known to itself, PKP PLK insists on treating steam trains as if they were carrying out of gauge loads or nuclear waste. Whereas in other countries, steam trains are regarded as bringing useful publicity to the railway and their operators enjoy access to the railway network on the same (or even preferential) terms as those of other trains, in Poland PKP PLK demands a premium rate. As a result it is almost impossible to fill a steam train in Poland unless somebody – usually a local authority – picks up some of the bill.

With so many bodies pulling together to safeguard the future of Poland’s steam heritage at Wolsztyn would it not be appropriate for PKP PLK to also put a shoulder to the wheel?


Wolsztyn steam is alive…

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

 …passengers needed!


by William Wright


Poznan Market Square. Photo William Wright

(Click on images to see larger photos.)

Standard-gauge steam services running on selected days around Wolsztyn are very much alive! I tested a few services on Thursday and Friday May 21 and 22, 2015.

My short tour started in Poznan – a fine town with plenty to discover. I caught a local electric train to Zbaszynek in time to see the afternoon steam train from Wolsztyn arrive. A few days earlier a problem with a wheel bearing had required immediate repair, but thankfully all was now well with Ol49-69 that was to haul all the steam services.

The steam journey to Wolsztyn started with a non-stop stretch to Zbaszyn, on the Berlin to Warsaw mainline. From there, and on all the lines radiating from Wolsztyn, the scenery is a mixture of small villages and forest landscapes; look out for deer and old-fashioned horse and cart farming! Wolsztyn is a small town, with for many visitors its principle attraction being the engine shed and several steam locomotives in various states of repair, but with plenty of fine local attractions to discover also worth exploring in its own right. Accommodation can be found easily.


OL49-69 on arrival at Zbaszynek. Photo William Wright.

The following day, three return services covered part of the main routes out of Wolsztyn, to Nowa Wies Mochy, Rakoniewice and Stefanowo. Each service is mentioned clearly on the printed station departure board timetables. Tickets can be bought on the trains. The services ran perfectly to time, key railway staff were ready to signal departures, operate level-crossing gates and set signals. My visit not being a weekend, passenger numbers were very low, but this is still early days.

As reported in BTWT on 19 February 2015, the town of Wolsztyn, various other local authorities and the Wolsztyn Experience agreed to invest in a brand new tourist product – Woltur. This was set up by Patryk Szkopiec of IRPiK, the same organisation that runs Turkol, with the cooperation of PKP Cargo, responsible for the engine shed in Wolsztyn, and local train services operator, Przewozy Regionalne. Turkol continues to run longer-distance weekend steam specials.


Frozen in time, Tuchorza station and station master. Photo William Wright.

The overall impression is a perfectly run service authentically reproducing a sample of timetabled standard-gauge steam services. My recommendation? Go now whilst the services still exist! For those interested in a more hands-on experience see the Wolsztyn Experience website.


Wolsztyn Institute Plan gets green light

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


A ray of sunlight in Wolsztyn Shed. Photo Jo’ny.

A major milestone in the plan to set up a cultural institute to manage Wolsztyn Depot (see BTWT, 8 May 2014) was achieved yesterday, when at a meeting at the office of the Chief Executive (Urząd Marszałkowski) a new business plan was agreed to by all the parties concerned.

Negotiations had been stalled for some time because of the size of the on-going financial support being asked of the local authorities. Relations between PKP Cargo and the local authorities had reached an all time low and PKP Cargo had threatened to pull the plug on this year’s Steam Parade,  if the local authorities did not sign up to the business plan.


With just the basics necessary for light maintenance, Wolsztyn lacks the engineering resources necessary for heavy maintenance. Photo Jo’ny.

A new ‘can do’ attitude seems to have infected all the parties since the visit to Wolsztyn of Britain’s Ambassador to Poland, Robin Barnett (see BTWT, 18 March 2015). Not only was it announced that the Steam Parade (see BTWT, 5 May, 2015) was going ahead, but shortly afterwards PKP Cargo agreed to prepare a new business plan which would take into account the concerns of the local authorities.


Steam specials could be a useful income stream, but track access charges for steam trains are punitive. Photo Jo’ny.

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

During the last few months the business plan has been the subject of intense discussion with the local authorities and PKP Cargo has given a ‘hair cut’ to the financial support expected from the local authorities by cutting the rental payments expected from the new institute.

At yesterday’s meeting representatives of all the parties to the negotiations – Wojciech Jankowiak, the deputy Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Province; Janusz Frąckowiak, the Chief Executive of Wolsztyn District; Wojciech Lis, the Mayor of Wolsztyn; and Andrzej Jabłoński of PKP Cargo agreed to proceed on the basis of PKP Cargo’s revised plan.

Our congratulations to all concerned. It is always invidious to pick out any individuals, but perhaps it would not be out of order to mention the mayor of Wolsztyn, Wojtek Lis (who has been doing a great deal of work behind the scenes), and Andrzej Jabłoński, who has been managing the project on behalf of PKP’s Cargo.


Although not in steam at this year’s Steam Parade pacific Piękna Helena had been cleaned by a couple of volunteers. Photo Jo’ny.

Now it only remains for the council members of the three local authorities – Wielkopolska Province, Wolsztyn District, and Wolsztyn Town – to vote on the proposals, and for the agreement to be signed in a blaze of publicity when everybody gets back from their summer holidays.

Friday, January 1 2016, is the target date for the new institute to take over responsibility for the shed, and Saturday 30 April has been tentatively pencilled in as the date of the next Wolsztyn steam parade. Watch this space!

Wither Wolsztyn?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Wolsztyn’s 22nd annual steam locomotive parade had just three working locos!

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This Chabówka driver in charge of 0-6-0T Tkh49-1 was not the only person trying to figure out what was going on. Photo Marta Goltz.

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The non-working ‘awaiting overhaul’ engines were left in the shed, making photography difficult. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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The joy of Wolsztyn. Hands up who remembers when UK shed open days were like this? Photo Marta Goltz.

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Shy film star. Curiously, a tent blocked off the possibility of a proper ‘head-on’ photo of Ok1-359. The loco has appeared in many films including Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning “The Pianist”. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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While members of the public were permitted to explore nearly all the engines, Ok1-359 was awarded star treatment ond its footplate was a strictly ‘no-go’ area. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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Given a properly dried out boiler and generous doses of oil a steam loco will last forever. Ok1-359 was built by BMAG in 1917, and was last steamed in 2009. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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Good practice – a pragmatic attitude to health and safety, with the running lines securely protected. Poor practice – Ty1-76 like many other historic steam locomotives is kept out in the open all the year round. Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

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Thousands have come to see the engines, but only three locos appear at the parade: Wolsztyn only ‘in-ticket’ loco Ol49-69, and Chabówka’s 2-10-2T Okz32-2 and 0-6-oT Tkh49-1.

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What does the future bode for Wolsztyn – a clear road ahead or storm clouds gathering? Photo Jan Borzuchowski.

Many thanks to BTWT’s guest photographers. Jan Borzuchowski and Marta Goltz. Also special thanks to all our friends in PKP Cargo without whose assistance this report would have been impossible.

To be continued/…




Railway photography in Poland

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Old gentleman

The Railway Children’s ‘The Old Gentleman’. Frame grab courtesy Studio Canal.

Railway photographers lead dangerous lives. All too often they are arrested, their cameras taken away from them and their photos deleted. We asked Dyspozytor how he deals with jobsworth officials interfering with his railway photography in Poland. We have no hesitation in recommending either his regretful approach, ‘I’m awfully sorry. I’m from England. I didn’t know your railway was a strategic installation of military importance.’ or his more apologetic, ‘Thank you for pointing out that I was trespassing. I am very sorry. Now let that be the end of the matter’. However, the last technique he describes here seems to us to be downright dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone who does not at least possess a black belt in the martial arts.

Rule 1. Remain calm and collected at all times.

Let the ‘Old Gentleman’, so brilliantly portrayed by William Mervyn in the 1970 film adaptation of The Railway Children, be your role model.

My first brush against Polish officialdom occurred in 1965, or was it perhaps a year or two earlier? I was a schoolboy and had gone to Stepnica, a tiny port on the Szczecin Lagoon served by a couple of sidings on a branch of the then massive metre gauge railway network centred on Gryfice. I took a couple of shots of an engine at the head of a train at the station.

There are few signs that the port and town of Stepnica were once served by a railway. Satellite photo courtesy of Google Maps.

The station master caught me and delivered a lecture that the railway was a strategic instillation of military significance and that he should call the police. I countered that in the UK we did not regard narrow gauge railways as having any significance at all other than as tourist attractions and apologised profusely.

I was allowed to keep my camera and my film. I used a similar tactic and obtained the same outcome when challenged after photographing a tram depot near Warszawa Wschodnia station in the 1970s.

Sanok Station-2010

Sanok station July 2010. Dyspozytor had strayed off the platform on the left. Photo (GRAD). Licence CC BY-SA 3.0.

But that was then – when Poland was in thrall to the Soviet empire, and paranoia reigned on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Today Polish law has changed. You are allowed to take photographs of trains and railways, but not trespass on railway property.

In 1990, I was with Michael Dembinski (author of W-wa Jeziorki blog) waiting at a level crossing to photograph a Tkt48 pulling a train consisting of a couple of double decker coaches. The level crossing attendant ranted at us that photography of railway lines was prohibited. Michael retorted in his best Jeremy Clarkson manner that the days of communism were over. Which leads me neatly to:

Rule 2. Be firm and stick to your guns.

A few years ago, I was wandering around taking photographs of Sanok station, which was – and still is – served by only a handful of trains a day. I stepped off the platform to get the whole of the station in the frame, shot a set of photographs and found myself facing a member of the Straź Ochrony Kolei (Railway Police).

He told me that I was breaking the law, that he would call the police and would face all sorts of unspecified punishments. I told him that there was no law against taking photographs of the railway. He told me that I was trespassing on railway land and that he would call the police and that I would face… . I thanked him for pointing this out and for having told me off, and told him that I accepted his rebuke and told him that that should be the end of the matter.

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Warszawa 06:25 on December 14 2014 . Shortly after taking this photo in available light (no flash) Dyspoztytor was challenged by a uniformed member of the SOK (Railway Police). Photo BTWT.

We repeated this scene some three or four times. I then pointed out that he had done his job and I needed to get going. I suspect that he had hoped for a bribe. With none forthcoming, he left. The next time I was challenged by a member of the Straz Kolejowy, I did not let him off so lightly, which brings me round to my last rule:

Rule No. 3. The best form of defence is attack!

On the morning of December 14 2014, shortly before travelling on the first ever public Pendolino service from Warsaw to Krakow, I was accosted by a member of the SOK and asked whether I had a permit to take photographs. All around me TV crews were setting up, people were snapping away as if there was no tomorrow, yet this SOKista had the nerve to pick on an old gentleman barely supporting himself on a walking stick – me!


Henry the Pious before his defeat and beheading at the Battle of Legnica in 1241. From a painting by Jan Matejko.

I saw red. My blood pressure rose past all safe limits. I was trying to change the course of history and fighting the Battle of Legnica all over again, defending civilisation against the hordes from the East. What! I spluttered. Today, everybody in Poland should be rejoicing that at last Polish Railways have taken a cautious step forward into the future, and YOU are behaving as if we were still living under communism!

I had reached the most dangerous moment, the man’s temper was rising. The list of remedies available to members of SOK reads like something out of Fifty Shades of Grey: physical force, weighted baton, handcuffs, tear gas grenade, police dog, Walther P99 and Taser. It was time to go in for the kill, Tell me Sir, when did you last go to confession?

Defeated by an old gentleman with a walking stick, the SOKista beat a hasty retreat.

Prussian P8-5228

Tp3-3, former Prussian Railways G8 class, built Hanomag 2013, active PKP service 1945-1970, displayed as a ‘technical monument’ at Zbąszynek from 1988. Note pile of coal in foreground and shadow cast by the sun. Photo BTWT.

My last run in with the SOK occurred just 5 days ago on 17 March at Zbąszynek. I was with a friend, we were returning from Wolsztyn, where we had been guests at a lunch given by the Mayor of Wolsztyn in honour of the British Ambassador on the occasion of his visit to the Steam Locomotive Depot.

We were both smartly dressed and talking – quite loudly I suspect – in English. It was 15:15, the sun was shining brightly from the South West and we both walked off the end of the platform to get a good view of the Ex Prussian Railway G8 0-8-0 plinthed just off the neighbouring platform.

After I had taken my photographs, we were approached by a couple of SOKisci. It appeared one of them objected that we were wandering too close to a pile of coal. The last part of our conversation went something like this.

Me Zbąszynek should be celebrating its railway heritage not harassing tourists!

SOKista Why are you raising your voice?

Me Because I object to being told off for taking a photograph of a unique Prussian Railways locomotive.

SOKista You can take your photo from the other platform. I am just telling you that you should not be wandering around in the vicinity of the heap of coal.

Me So you you think that I am planning to take the coal away in my jacket pocket? I cannot take a photograph against the sun. I object most strongly to you lecturing me.

SOKista I am not lecturing you… 


SOKisci are human too! Taking photos of the first ever public Pendolino working to Krakow in 14 December 2014. Photo BTWT.

[Here comes the critical moment, the SOKista has as good as admitted defeat, and has delivered his last two lines with a broad grin on his face. Time to let him off the hook, and to show that I understand that he has to work in a wider environment with regulations and bosses.]

Me That as maybe. But I am lecturing YOU. Please tell your boss that, if Zabąszynek is to be a proper custodian of a unique locomotive of world-class importance, photographers should be welcomed not harassed.

And that was the end of the matter. When it became clear that our EIC train from Berlin to Warsaw was lost somewhere in Germany, and that it would be prudent to take the next KW stopping train to Poznan, the SOKisci, seeing my walking stick, guided us politely over the barrow crossing to the platform where the stopping train was waiting. Perhaps things are getting better on PKP after all?


British Ambassador drives Ol49-69!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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Left to right: British Ambassador, Robin Barnett; Shed Manager, Mariusz Kokornaczyk; and Mayor of Wolsztyn, Wojtek Lis. Photo BTWT.

The mood is sombre in Wolsztyn these days: the regular pair of scheduled steam passenger workings has been suspended for a whole year; only one locomotive, Ol49-69, is in ticket; Leszno depot is due to close and its engineering facilities will be lost; idle drivers sit around grumbling, and contemplate early retirement.

The negotiations between the main decision-makers seem to have ground to a halt. While a breath of optimism was injected into the negotiations when it was announced that the plan to form a commercial company to run the depot was being superseded by a project to set up a cultural institute (BTWT 8 May 2014) instead, the reality is that the various local authorities just do not have the financial resources to pay the annual subsidies that the PKP Cargo business plan envisages.

An ugly game of  one-upmanship seems to be being played out. The original suspension of steam services last March took place when the Chief Executive of Wielkopolska provincial government felt that PKP Cargo were dragging out the negotiations, since then a majority of PKP Cargo shares has been sold and Cargo is effectively a private company. Responsibility for maintaining Poland’s steam heritage sits uncomfortably alongside the company’s commercial aspirations.

Now it is PKP Cargo that is keen to speed up negotiations – a fortnight ago the Mayor’s office was informed that unless the local authorities signed up to the business plan there would be no Parada Parowozow (Wolsztyn’s annual parade of steam locomotives) this year.

At a few minutes past 10:00 on Tuesday 17 March, Robin Barnett, CMG, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Poland, swept into this forbidding environment like a breath of fresh air. His enthusiasm was infectious and provided a much-needed morale boost to all those who accompanied him around the shed. The British Ambassador came to Wolsztyn at the invitation of Wojtek Lis, the Mayor of Wolsztyn, and a passionate enthusiast of steam locomotives since his student days.

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Robin Barnett says a few words for the benefit of the press.
Photo BTWT.

Though the Ambassador spoke in Polish, thanks to the help of the British Embassy, we managed to obtain a copy of his speech in English.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would just like to say a few words to thank those people who worked so hard to make my visit to Wolsztyn and its historic locomotive depot possible. I have always been a fan of steam trains. When I was in Poland under communism one of my hobbies was to travel to the south of Poland to ride on PKP steam trains and taking illegal photos. I even took the train that passed through the USSR without requiring
a visa. So I would like to say a special thank you to the Mayor of Wolsztyn, Mr Wojtek Lis for inviting me to Wolsztyn and letting me revisit the sights and smells of my first time in Poland.

I would also like to thank Mr Mariusz Kokornaczyk, the shed master for putting one of his historic locomotives in steam and answering all my questions. I need to learn more specialised vocabulary po polsku!

I would also like to congratulate the PKP group and more specifically, PKP Cargo, the custodians of Wolsztyn locomotive depot, for recognising the unique heritage value of the depot and its locomotives and for preserving the complex as a going concern for the benefit of future generations.

I have been told that talks are in progress between PKP Cargo, the Marszałek’s office, the Starosta and your Burmistrz regarding setting up a new entity to secure the long-term future of the shed. I very much hope that these negotiations will soon reach a successful conclusion. The Wolsztyn depot, its engines and its trains, are not only a wonderful Polish asset with huge potential to attract tourists – they are also important in the European context.

Finally, while today is all about railway heritage, I would like to say a few words about the future of railways. The future is all about integrated transport systems. Roads will always play a vital role but they are increasingly full in many places and have environmental implications. So rail is an essential ingredient of any successful transport strategy. Freight trains, commuter trains, light rail and PKPs impressive new Pendolino will all be crucial for Poland’s future economic growth.

Today Britain’s railways transport more passengers than at any time since the Second World War. We are well on the way to completing Crossrail – Europe’s biggest urban infrastructure project, a 15 billion pound project to improve commuter services by constructing a new railway under London. We are also about to embark on HS2, a 43 billion pound project to build a new high-speed railway from the London to the north.

Helped by almost 8 billion of EU funding between now and 2020, I am certain that Poland’s railways will also experience a great renaissance, which will give me great pleasure. I have to admit though that, much though I have enjoyed using Pendolino, for me, my heart will always be with steam.

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Robin Barnett about to have his driving lesson. Photo BTWT.

The highlight of the Ambassador’s visit to the locomotive depot was when, armed with a PKP Cargo footplate pass, he mounted the footplate of Ol49-69 and, after having had the controls explained to him by Howard Jones of the Wolsztyn Experience, he then – under the eagle eye of one of the Ol49’s regular drivers – gradually opened the regulator and took the loco for a spin down the loco yard.

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With Robin Barnett at the controls Ol49-69 accelerates down the depot yard. Photo BTWT.

Polish TV’s TeleExpress crew were there to record every detail of the trip and a splendid piece went out that day on Poland’s main TV channel giving the shed – and everybody’s hopes for the return of daily steam workings – a terrific plug. Even PKP Cargo got into the mood and their Press spokesman, Mirosław Kuk, announced that the twenty-second annual Steam Locomotive Parade in Wolsztyn WILL take place this year on May 2!

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 Ambassador triumphant! Photo BTWT.


Hopes for daily steam return at Wolsztyn…

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ride on a wing and a prayer

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Ol49-69 at Wolsztyn station having just completed its second turn from Poznan on a scorching hot 6 August 2012. Photo BTWT.

The project (see: BTWT 8 May 2014) to create a cultural institute to take over the Wolsztyn engine shed and safeguard its long-term future has run into trouble. Either the agreement between PKP Cargo and the various local authorities will be so watered down so as to fudge the question as to how much actual cash will be invested by the latter in the project, or the scheme in its current form is a dead duck. With local authorities all over Poland finding it difficult to make their budgets balance it does rather seem that the return of daily steam-hauled passenger workings by locomotives stabled at Wolsztyn shed may not be as certain as once thought.


Part of Woltur’s home page on the WWW.

So, in the light of this bleak news, the announcement that the town of Wolsztyn, various small local authorities and the Wolsztyn Experience have all agreed to invest in a brand new tourist product – Woltur – comes like a breath of fresh air. Woltur has been set up by Patryk Szkopiec of IRPiK, the same organisation that runs Turkol, the long distance steam specials that run approximately once a month. Now, with Woltur’s local steam services supplementing TurKol’s long-distance specials, there will be steam activities every week in the summer season.

An important partner in the new venture is Przewozy Regionalne, the train operating company that will be actually running the trains and thanks to whose assistance passengers will be able to ride the Woltur services with tickets charged according to PR’s InterREGIO tariff. Congratulations from us at BTWT to everyone involved in setting up Woltur, and here’s hoping the new product is hugely successful and will prove to be one step on the way to restoring daily scheduled steam services to Wolsztyn.




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.

Wolsztyn elects new mayor

Monday, 24 November 2014

Wojciech Lis

Wojciech Lis, the newly elected Mayor of Wolsztyn.
Photo Wojciech Lis.

The recent local elections have seen a change in leadership in Wolsztyn.

The new Mayor is Wojciech Lis, known to many for his factual and regular updates on the Wolsztyn steam scene through his website, which he has operated for well over a decade.

It is clear that since the suspension of the regular scheduled service, the town has been substantially quieter.  It is hoped that such an openly pro-steam mayor will vigorously push for the reinstatement of the daily steam services.

Behind the Water Tower congratulates Mr Lis on his election, and wishes him well for his tenure.

Wolszstyn steam – proceed with caution

Saturday, 2 August 2014


Junction colour light signal. From a photo by Henryk Żychowski.

Thanks to the efforts of Howard Jones – who created the ‘Wolsztyn Experience’ and negotiated an agreement to market footplate passes to international railway enthusiasts – daily steam passenger services (with occasional interruptions) have survived for some 17 years since the end of regular steam haulage on Poland’s railways. A proportion of Wolsztyn Experience’s revenues helps to subsidize the running costs of the shed and the repair of individual locomotives.

Wolsztyn Shed is the last such installation in Europe and most certainly in the Northern Hemisphere. Visitors come from all around the world and contribute an estimated 1 million Euro to the Wielkopolska economy. Howard Jones, himself, was awarded the MBE for his efforts.

Since March this year, the daily steam workings have been suspended and the Wolsztyn locomotives have only been steamed spasmodically mainly to haul the Turkol specials. Meanwhile the principle stakeholders: the Chief Executive (Marszałek) of Wielkopolska Province, PKP Cargo, Koleje Wielkopolskie (Wielkopolska Railways) and the Mayor of Wolsztyn have been hammering out a deal to create a new organisation to run manage the shed and its locomotives in the future.

Now, at last, an agreement in principle has been reached, the formal documents are being drafted, and – after several postponements – early September has been announced as the time when everything is to be signed and sealed.

The depot will be managed by a new body with the legal status of a cultural foundation. The foundation will be able to accept and seek grants and donations and, if well-managed, should ensure that the future of the shed is secure. This scheme has received the backing of Brian Simpson, MEP, when he was chair of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee.

But while the future of the Wolsztyn Shed would seem to be secure, the future of the daily steam services may be less so. One of the stakeholders, Koleje Wielkopolskie (controlled by the Marszałek), is less than enthusiastic about the daily steam workings (the feature that made Wolsztyn unique) and would prefer steam operations to be restricted to a limited number of special trains and the attitude of the Mayor of Wolsztyn is said to be ambivalent.

BTWT readers have already sent many letters about the future of the Wolsztyn steam workings. Maybe now is the time the one last letter? It would be opportune to congratulate the key players on the progress achieved so far towards securing the future of the shed, and at the same time pointing out that, without a daily steam service, Wolsztyn is just another – not very special – railway museum.

These we believe are the people whose resolve needs to be strengthened:

The Mayor of Wolsztyn

mgr Andrzej Rogozinski
Burmistrz Wolsztyna
Urząd Miejsji
Rynek 1
64-200 Wolsztyn

mob. 606 972 203
tel. 68 347 45 0
fax. 68 3842747

The Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province

Marek Woźniak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18, pokój 142, budynek C
61-713 Poznań

tel. 61 626 66 00
fax. 61 626 66 01

The Chief Executive of Koleje Wielkopolskie

Włodzimierz Wilkanowicz
Prezes Zarządu
Koleje Wielkopolskie Sp. z o.o.
ul. Składowa 5
61-897 Poznań

tel. 61- 27-92-700
fax. 61-27-92-709

Previous articles about Wolsztyn:

Wolsztyn – The Final Parade?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Ty42-24 passing through the signals on the erstwhile line to Konotop. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

(Click images to expand.)

Wolsztyn’s annual May parade took place on 3 May.  A much smaller event than usual, which has cast doubts on whether or not the event will continue.

No German based locomotives were present. Poland’s fractured rail industry appears to have put paid to that. From what we understand, faced with swingeing track access charges and other fees, the German railtours could not break even for a sensible fare. Given that the fees levied on last year’s trains led to them making a loss, a decision was made by German railtour organisers not to risk making further losses this year.

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade, 3 May 2014..

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade. Photo John Savery.

Chabowka supplied 3 in ticket locos: Ty42-107, Ol12-7 and TKt48-191, all being moved from their southern Polish base. Wolsztyn could only muster 2 in ticket locos, Ol49-59 (making it’s last appearance before overhaul at Leszno), and Ol49-69. Quite why PKP allows Chabowka to keep 3 locos in working order (with the boiler for the OKz32 also standing by ready to fit) compared with Wolsztyn’s single remaining loco is beyond reason, given that the number of steamings and charters done by Chabowka is minimal, and is probably worth an article on its own.



Chabowka’s Ty42-107 and Pyskowice’s Ty42-24 in the shed at Wolsztyn. The devil is in the detail! Photo Marek Ciesielski.

Pride of the show was Ty42-24, restored in Pyskowice by Zbyszek and Krzysiek Jakubina.  Making its debut at the Chabowka gala last year, the standard of restoration is exemplary, and the quality of the finish is far superior to that on Ty42-107, overhauled by full-time staff at Chabowka.

Also present were a Czech loco (2-8-2 Mikado 475- 179) and Club Albatross’ Slovakian 4-8-2 498-104.


Slovakian 498-104 during the Parade, 3 May 2014. Photo John Savery.

So what does the future hold?

Despite optimistic reports in this month’s Railway Magazine, there are no firm guarantees that steam will actually return to the daily services.  As yet no deal has been reached, however it is clear that the lobbying by concerned supporters is hitting the mark. From what we have heard, at least one letter prompted by the appeal in BTWT has actually reached Jakub Karnowski, the boss of PKP, and he has charged the team looking at the Warsaw Railway Museum project to also look closely at the situation in Wolsztyn.

IMG_6990 - Ty42-24 at Wolsztyn, 05-05-14

With the sun glinting off the gleaming paintwork, Ty42-24 prepares to return south to Wroclaw. Photo John Savery.

A team in PKP Cargo’s strategy unit is now working on a business plan to set up a cultural institute to take over long-term responsibility for the shed and its locos. In the meantime, it is probably not a bad idea to keep up the pressure! If you were thinking of writing a letter, but have not already done so why not drop a line to one or both of the people below. Physical letters are best, but you could also send a pdf file version of a properly formatted letter as an e-mail enclosure.

We believe that the cultural institute idea deserves support, however it is important to point out that what made Wolsztyn absolutely unique was the daily timetabled regular passenger service, hauled by the steam engines stabled there, and that it was this that attracted visitors to Wolsztyn from all around the world.

1. Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Provincial Government

Pan Wojciech Jankowiak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań

2. PKP Cargo Chairman

Pan Adam Purwin
Prezes Zarządu
ul. Grójecka 17
02-021 Warszawa


Wolsztyn plan gets EU chair support!

Thursday, 8 May 2014


PT47-112 at Wolsztyn. Photo Hubert Smietanka. CC2.5 licence.

Brian Simpson, the chair of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, has entered the battle to save the Wolsztyn engine shed, and its daily timetabled steam workings. Mr Simpson has sent a detailed letter to Adam Purwin, the new boss of PKP Cargo, strongly supporting the idea that a new entity be created to be the long-term custodian of Wolsztyn and that the new entity take the form of a cultural institute.

The idea of a cultural institute is the third iteration in the development of ideas for the long-term future of Wolsztyn in over three years. BTWT has had an opportunity to talk to the people who are working on the plan at PKP HQ in Warsaw, and the plan seems the best solution yet.

Previous plans for the long-term future of Wolsztyn envisaged setting up a company for the specific purpose of operating the shed and maintaining the locomotives used for the daily steam trains. The main drawback of the plan was that the company would have operated with the legal status of a commercial entity – precluding certain kinds of donations and financial support.

A cultural institute, could be the beneficiary of all sorts of grants and donations – including EU support – that would be not be available to a commercial entity.

No deal. No steam.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Friday’s meeting between representatives of PKP Cargo and the Wielkopolska provincial government ended without agreement.

No further talks are scheduled until 18 April, and with no agreement, steam services will cease on 31 March.

Ol49-59 has the dubious honour of hauling the last service, the afternoon Wolsztyn to Leszno turn. After that the loco will return light engine to Wolsztyn with the return passenger working being completed by a diesel railcar.

Behind the Water Tower does not intend to sit idly by until 18 April. We encourage people to write to the main parties concerned and encourage them to work out a deal.  There is time for written representations to be delivered before 18 April.  A well written posted letter may carry more clout than an email and we would urge people to put pen to paper in the next few days so that it reaches the relevant parties before the meeting.

The main protagonists and stakeholders are:

Mr Jakub Karnowski
Prezes Zarządu
Polskie Koleje Państwowe S.A.
ul. Szczęśliwicka 62
00-973 Warszawa


Marek Woźniak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań


With elections looming our editorial team have already heard from people who have openly said that  the current incumbents will not be receiving their vote given the current standoff. There may be an element of politics at play in all this. Who knows? The Wielkopolski Marszalek may be planning to pull a rabbit out of the hat and save the steam services as part of his election campaign. We hasten to add, that is pure speculation, however, if that is part of the strategy, it is a dangerous game to play.

If no agreement is reached on 18 April matters are likely to escalate up to Ministerial level. We would therefore encourage people to also write to:

Mrs. Elżbieta Bieńkowska
Ministerstwa Infrastruktury i Rozwoju
ul. Wspólna 2/4
00-926 Warszawa


A Mexican Standoff

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

IMG_1829 - 870x650

Ol49-69 heads towards Poznan at Steszew on 3 May 2012. Photo John Savery

The daily scheduled steam operation at Wolsztyn looks as though it will end next week. The Wielkopolska provincial government and PKP Cargo have failed to reach agreement on the cost of the service, and with no funding agreed from 31 March, the daily steam service to Leszno will not operate unless a compromise is agreed.

Sources indicate that the cost per kilometre that PKP Cargo wish to charge have increased dramatically since the service was moved over to the Leszno line. In itself, this is hardly surprising. There are the fixed costs of operating the shed at Wolsztyn, and the overhaul of the locomotives, which are done on a time based system, not a miles operated, or days in steam system. Nevertheless, it is believed that the charges have increased disproportionately.

TurKol’s charter traffic is covered by a separate contract and would remain unaffected, nevertheless, the viability of the depot must be questionable with the reduced mileage and income.

Wolsztyn is unique in being the last place in Europe (if not the world) where standard gauge steam still hauls daily scheduled services. It entices tourists from around the world, all of whom come because it is unique. All spend money whilst visiting, and this is estimated to be in excess of one million zloty annually.

If the services ends, scheduled standard gauge steam will have had its last stand in Europe.

For those wishing to put pen to paper, and explaining why the service should be retained, the following addresses may be useful.  We understand that a ‘last chance’ meeting between the parties is scheduled for Friday this week, so this could be the final chance to influence the outcome.

1. Minister of Culture
Mr. Bogdan Zdrojewski

2. Minister of Infrastructure and Development (Transport)
Mrs. Elżbieta Bieńkowska

3. Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Provincial Government
Mr. Wojciech Jankowiak

4. PKP Cargo Wielkopolska Division Manager
Mr. Andrzej Jabłoński

Poland’s TWO steam galas

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Behind The Water Tower

The ‘all hands on deck’ highlight of the 2013 Wolsztyn Steam Gala, Video by lukas125p .

There are TWO ‘mainline’ steam galas in Poland: the well publicised Parada Parowozow which takes place each year at Wolsztyn and the less well known Parowozjazda at Chabowka.

The Wolsztyn Gala, whose 20th anniversary was celebrated on the 27 April this year, is  undoubtedly the event which is responsible for keeping working steam locomotives in the public eye in Poland.

The Chabowka event deserves to be better known offering as it does the sight of a parade of vintage trains – freight and passenger – rather than just steam locomotives. A couple of steam specials offering photos stops for enthusiasts are also run on the Chabowka – Nowy Sacz line as far as Dobra k. Limanowej.

This year, the Chabowka gala is due to take place on 24 August and with the Nowy Sacz line on PKP’s closure list it may be the last year that steam specials operate over that line.

Highlights of the 2012 Parowzjazda. Video by rafstak.

Sadly, because of the lack of support from local councils, and lack of imagination from those responsible for marketing the event to potential stakeholders, Parowozjazda is now a pale shadow of days gone by.

Not so long ago, connecting specials ran from Cracow and Zakopane while the parade of vintage trains took place at Rabka Zaryte. Today, the sidings at Rabka Zaryte have been lifted and Parowozjazda takes place within the confines of the Chabowka ‘Skansen’.

With a hat tip to Mike Stollery of the Swanage Railway.


Partnership, the key to Wolsztyn success

Monday, 29 April 2013


On the left DB Schenker owned Tkh 5353, built Chrzanow 1953; on the right Tkh 5695 (carrying the number Tkh49-1) from Chabowka, built Chrzanow 1961. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

In spite of the clouds and rain, the 20th annual Parada Parowozow held at Wolsztyn over the weekend 27/28 April was an outstanding success.

A few months ago the prospects for the event looked decidedly gloomy – the town council at Wolsztyn was reported to have withdrawn from financing the security arrangements; the Poznan Department of PKP Cargo had its funding for the event cut to the bare bone…

In the intervening months, the wind seems to have changed. Maybe someone whispered into the ear of Cargo senior managements that this was to be the 20th steam parade, and the last to be held before PKP Cargo is privatised by a share floatation on the Warsaw stock market?

Wolsztyn locos-9607

The two Tkh locos and 4-8-4T 464-008 from the Czech Republic steam towards the station. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

Money was evidently found, and Cargo set itself the target of having 20 engines in steam at the event. In the end they were some half dozen engines short, but neither this nor the bad weather seemed to damp the spirits of the huge crowd who came to watch the parade, or ride on the record number of steam trains organised by TurKol.

The fireworks and lightshow were moved from their traditional slot on Friday evening to Saturday evening guaranteeing that many people stayed on till late.

Significantly as the event drew to a close, the chairman of PKP Cargo was seen to confer with the Chief Executive of the Wielkpolska provincial government and local Cargo managers. Hopefully a sign that a deal to secure not only the steam depot, but also its unique ordinary passenger schedule steam trains, may well be on its way.

More photos:

Clouds gather over Wolsztyn services

Monday, 1 April 2013


Ol49-69 at Wolsztyn Station on a service train in August 2012. Photo BTWT.

The idea always carried some risk – setting up a separate body to run Wolsztyn Shed – the new body to be owned by PKP Cargo and the local authorities. Neither have a strong reputation for marketing or a passion for steam, two of the criteria that we would be looking for in any organisation to run the steam depot through the new millenium.

At least under the original scheme (see, BTWT 19.03.2010), the new company was going to be well capitalised – PKP’s Cargo’s steam locomotives and the shed was going to be valued at 5 million PLN and a similar amount in hard cash was going to be brought in by the Wielkopolska provincial government. Historic locomotives were going to be restored to running order and Wolsztyn was going to become a world class tourist attraction.

But it was not to be, negotiations with PKP Cargo dragged on. How many Cargo officials were trying for a place on the board of the new company as a sinecure to ends their days in profitable retirement? Meanwhile local government elections were held and the main proponent of the project in the Wielkopolska Urzad Marszalkowski (Chief Executive’s office) had moved on to pastures new…  .

By September 2011, PKP Cargo’s main board had passed the necessary resolutions, but the U.M. was having distinctly cold feet. The scheme returned to the drawing board. Now it has returned in a new guise, but with the capitalisation very much reduced. Instead of 10 million PLN, the new company will start operations with a capital of 1 million.

PKP’s contribution will be 500,000 PLN (in the form of a transfer of title of the steam locomotives) and the 3 local authorities (the Wielkopolska, provisional government, the Wolsztyn District Council and the Wolsztyn Town Council) will contribute 170,000 PLN each.

Not only is the cash component ludicrously small, but presumably this time round the title to the property is being excluded from the deal and the new organisation will be hobbled from the start by having to pay a commercial rent for the land and buildings occupied by the shed.


Slide showing income from hauling scheduled steam services ending in 2017. Slide UMWW.

Thanks to some accounting magic running the shed under the new regime is going to be profitable! The ‘expensive’ scheduled steam services will be phased out by 2017 (see graph) and the new organisation will concentrate on running ‘profitable’ steam specials for tourists. Now Jerzy Kriger’s letter (see BTWT 23.01.2013) can be understood in a wider context. The loss of weekend services is just the beginning of the run down of steam-hauled passenger services leading to their complete elimination by 2017.

Whoever wrote this plan clearly has no understanding that what makes Wolsztyn different is that it is the running depot for the world’s only main line regular steam-hauled passenger service that is NOT based on ‘steam specials’.

Without its scheduled steam passenger trains Wolsztyn become another historic steam depot and falls from its spot at the top – as the world’s only steam depot servicing locos running regular passenger trains – to ‘just another steam centre’.

The rescue plan as drawn up by the UMWW (Wielkopolska province Chief Executive’s office) shows only three locomotives being maintained in running order: Pt47-65, Ol49-59 and Ol49-69 – hardly a world class attraction.

What is more Poland is littered with remains of similar schemes that have failed. The steam sheds at Elk and Koscierzyna were going to make a profit running steam specials. Chabowka’s once popular public steam specials now only run at the time of Parowozjazda – its annual steam gala.

Without  PKP PLK, Poland’s infrastructure manager, all such schemes are doomed to failure – PKP’s track access charges are amongst the highest in Europe and steam-hauled specials enjoy no special rates.


Tr5-65 awaiting overhaul at Leszno. The Orenstein & Koppel built ex Prussian railways 2-8-0 is absolutely unique, but will it ever steam again? Photo BTWT.


Fire at Wolsztyn

Monday, 25 February 2013

Steam services suspended.


Carriage fire at Wolsztyn, 25 February 2013. Photo OSP Keblowo.

(Click to see the original photo on the TPWP website.)

At around 1am on Monday 25 February the fire brigade were called to a fire at Wolsztyn. One of the two carriages used for the regular steam service was almost completely destroyed in the blaze, though the fire brigade managed to prevent it spreading to the second coach. With no spare steam heat-capable stock Koleje Wielkopolskie were forced to cancel today’s steam service. A railbus normally used on the Leszno service was substituted.

This unfortunate event has highlighted once again how tenuous the steam hauled service at Wolsztyn is, where the loss of one coach or a single locomotive failure can lead to the suspension of the service, often for a week or more. The steam service may now be suspended for some time until Koleje Wielkopolskie can obtain a suitable replacement coach.


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