Posts Tagged ‘Howard Jones’

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 – Poznan steam

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

What’s really going on?

Ol49-59 hauling train No. 77325 consisting of  three 120A coaches from Wolsztyn to Poznan Główny approaching to Luboń kolo Poznania station. Photo Radomil Binek.

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

On Monday, the Wielkopolska regional government made an announcement that funding has been approved to ensure that the two steam-hauled turns between Wolsztyn and Poznan will be maintained during 2010. So Wolsztyn is saved and we can all relax in our armchairs? Well, perhaps not. The Wolsztyn crisis reoccurs with tedious regularity and the fact that it does so year after year suggests that someone has an agenda. We sent in our agent 003½ to investigate. This is his report.

003½ to Dyspozytor/ Future of Wolsztyn Steam Services/ 02/12/2009

There are four agendas, being pushed through by four different people. Some of the players have more than one agenda. Some of the agendas have more than one proponent. Some of the proponents would probably not publicly admit to having these agendas.

Agenda item 1.  Strip Wolsztyn out of the PKP Group and let the Wielkopolska provincial government operate it as a tourist attraction.

Juliusz Engelhardt, the Under Secretary State at the Ministry of Infrastructure responsible for Poland’s railways has been heard promoting this view. It is thought that Egelhardt wants to strip unnecessary costs from PKP Cargo to clear the way for Cargo’s privatisation.

Jerzy Kriger, the Director of Transport at the Wielkopolska provincial government has also been heard pushing this development. It seems likely that Kriger wants to run a low-cost railway with modern railbuses and does not want his career prospects spoiled by being associated with anything as sentimental as steam services.

Tomasz Wiktor, the Director of Tourism at the Wielkopolska provincial government is also thought to favour this solution. The fact that the infrastructure committee recommended cutting the 3 million zloty subsidy that goes to maintain the daily steam turns and ‘giving’ the money instead to the Tourism Department makes it probable that Mr Wiktor has been busy lobbying behind the scene.

Agenda item 2. Shorten the Supply Chain. (Currently the provincial government gives a subsidy to Przewozy Regionalne which is responsible for local train services. PR in turn then pays PKP Cargo to provide the steam locomotives which haul the Wolsztyn turns.

Jerzy Kriger is thought to favour stripping out all the Wielkopolska local train services from Przewozy Regionalne and running them himself as Koleje Wielkopolskie.

Agenda item 3. Get the best possible deal from Przewozy Regionalne for operating the Steam Services.

It is known that PR originally requested a much higher subsidy for running the steam services in 2010.

After some brinkmanship Jerzy Kriger managed to push PR back to the same price as was in force in 2009 with an adjustment for inflation.

Agenda item 4. Incorporate Wolsztyn Shed into the new Wielkopolska Railway Tourism Project and run steam specials for tourists trains all over province.

It is thought likely that this is the position held by Tomasz Wiktor and also Ewa Przydrozny the Manager of the Wielkopolska Tourist Organisation. Mr Wyktor is Mrs Przydrozny boss. Her office is currently working on creating the Wielkopolska Railway Tourism strategy.

So if 003½ is even half right, it would seem to be premature to put away your pens just yet.

Some really useful addresses:

The Wielkopolska provincial government Director of Tourism

Tomasz Wiktor
Dyrektor Departament Sportu i Turystyki
Urzad Marszalkowski Wojewodstwa Wielkopolskiego
ul. Piekary 17
61-823 Poznań

tel: (061) 64-75-270, 855- 35- 22
fax: (061) 64-75-275

The Head of the Wielkopolka Tourist Organisation

Ewa Przydrozny
Dyrektor Biura Wielkopolska Organizacja Turystyczna
ul. 27 Grudnia 17/19, Vp.
61-737 Poznań

tel: 061 66 45 234 / 233
fax: 061 66 45 221

Wolsztyn Experience on TV in Australia

Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Stills from ABC TV’s film
about Wolsztyn broadcast on
the ‘Foreign Correspondent’
programme in Australia
earlier tonight.
ABC’s Moscow correspondent,
Scott Bevan, tries his hand
behind the regulator of a four
hundred tonne locomotive.

(Click on either of the stills to go to the programme’s home page. Then choose the ‘Flash Video’ option from the ‘Further information’ menu at the bottom of the page in order to see the programme.)

Howard Jones on steam engines. It’s like lions. You can see lions in a zoo or go to Africa. Coming to Wolsztyn is like going to Africa.

Wolsztyn steam – three more weeks!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Howard Jones (photo Rannoch Rail Adventures
click pic for more photographs)

Howard Jones’s last ditch talks with PKP (reported in our article on 11 June) to try to secure the future of steam haulage on the Wolsztyn – Leszno Service have brought partial success. In return for an additional payment from Wolsztyn Experience, PKP Przewozy Regionalne has agreed to let steam haulage of one Leszno train continue until 4 July. Wolsztyn Experience is already paying a subsidy to PKP Cargo to compensate for the additional costs the steam haulage.

Nobody involved in running WE has any illusions that this is no more than a short term fix. The future of Wolsztyn as a working steam depot servicing timetabled trains is in grave jeopardy. PKP Cargo have not made the necessary investments in the locomotives or the people maintaining and driving them to guarantee a reliable passenger service and that is what the Wielkopolska province Transport Director, Jerzy Kriger, wants. At the behest of the Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province Mr Kriger has scheduled a meeting next week with PKP. But the meeting is unlikely to agree terms for further scheduled steam operations at Wolsztyn, rather the meeting will be a first opportunity for the local authority to explore the terms under which it could to take over the Wolsztyn MPD from PKP. Give the scant regard shown by Mr Kriger, for WE’s customers Wolsztyn’s survival as anything more than a ‘skansen’ or museum is extremely unlikely.

Some of the many comments left on the Radio Merkury website:

First a 4 month break from steam haulage, next thing (I hope I’m wrong) steam trains will only be running for 2 months. Soon people will remember Wolsztyn as the last operational steam MPD in Europe. I can see that for PKP Wolsztyn is not a treasure to be cherished and promoted (not just for 2 weeks before the steam gala) but rather a burden. (translated)
Marcin Gadek (SKW)

I am a steam enthusiast from Dortmund. I think, it is a very bad decision to stop the steamtrains between Wolsztyn and Poznan. I canceled my trip to Wolsztyn in June, because there is now only one train to Leszno and back left with steam. That is not attractive enough for foreign visitors like me. Especially the 5.00 clock train in the morning to Poznan ist in summertime a very great train to do early morning pictures with sunrise. So, I hope, that the Steamlocomotives will be back soon on the line to Poznan. Best wishes
Uwe Jürgenhake

Please excuse my writing in English! Wolsztyn is famous around the world as the only place left where scheduled passenger trains are hauled daily by steam locomotives. I have been regularly visitng the town since 1989 to see the locomotives and travel on the trains. The town has changed a great deal in the past 20 years and I am sure that much of its current prosperity is due to the attraction of the steam locomotives. It is vitally important that the regular use of steam locomotives on the service to Poznan is resumed immediately. Please make sure that the officials in PKP understand how enthusiasts around the world are worried about the current situation regarding the continued daily use of steam locomotives at Wolsztyn.

=( bad

This should never happen! It is vitally important for this region to have steam around!
Andre from the Netherlands

Hello Radio Merkury. It is really sad for us steamenthusiasts if no steam for so long as 4 months. We are many Danes who go to Poland for one purpus only: Steam in Wolsztyn. Just imagine how much hard currency shops around Wolsztyn will miss. Another thing is missing publicity for the PKP Museum. A lack of judgement from PKP to lay down steam over holiday season in Europe. Hope to see steam again soon.
Best regards Poul Thor Hansen, Denmark


Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Leszno Steam Haulage Axed

Is this the end of Wolsztyn as Europe’s
last working MPD?

Steaming to Leszno by Richard Gatward via TrekEarth
(Click on photo for bigger picture in its original context.
Click here for Richard’s amazing photo reportage of his
engine driving trip to Poland.)

Having reported that one Wolsztyn – Leszno steam turn survived last week’s cuts, today’s shock news is that steam haulage of the Leszno service has also been peremptorily cut. Last week’s ‘suspension’ generated an unprecedented storm of protest from many railway enthusiasts from all around the world, as well as very critical coverage in the Polish press. From reliable sources we have been given to understand that the Wolsztyn Depot has become a piece of ammunition in a battle between the local government transport department of Wielkopolska province and PKP Przewozy Regionalne, the State Railway’s long distance passenger services operator. Of course, no one will admit that this is the reason and so, although they are still arguing, the local authority and PKP did agree to put out a joint statement that the suspension of services is because steam locomotives are a fire hazard during the summer months.

When supporters of Wolsztyn Depot challenged this statement by asking how it was possible for steam services between Wolsztyn and Poznan to be a fire risk, if services between Wolsztyn and Leszno were not, the authorities responded by ordering steam haulage to be taken off the Leszno service as well!

As we publish this, Howard Jones was still hopeful that a last minute deal could be pulled through to save the Leszno service. Watch this space for news of further developments and our planned response.

This is another of those causes where we can help by putting pen to paper. Please write (polite letters only please) to the Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province pointing out the short-termism of his officials’ decisions and the damage that is doing to Wielkopolska’s and Poland’s credibility abroad. The address to write to is:

WPan Marek Wozniak
Marszalek Wojewodztwa Wielkopolskiego
Al. Niepodleglosci 18
Pokoj 142 Budynek C

61-713 Poznan


tel: (0048) 61 854-19-88, (0048) 61 857-18-47
fax: (0048) 61 854-17-17

Oh and do please send a copy of your letter, and any reply that you may receive, to us at the following e-mail address:

The Wolztyn magic

Monday, 9 June 2008

Pm36 pacific about to depart on a Wolsztyn-Leszno turn
(photo by Charles Turner, more words and pics here)

In view of the current crisis at Wolsztyn following the sudden ‘suspension’ of the Wolsztyn-Poznan steam workings, we hope that BTWT readers will forgive us if this week’s articles have a heavy Wolsztyn bias. The continuation of scheduled steam workings at Wolsztyn is important for a number of reasons:

  • Wolsztyn is the last steam shed in Europe servicing steam locomotives that haul ordinary scheduled service trains (not steam ‘specials’ or heritage railway trains).
  • This brings a large number of visitors to Wolsztyn who spend their money in the town. (The Mayor of Wolsztyn has claimed that each Wolsztyn Experience visitor spends 1,000 euro in Wolsztyn and that excludes any payments to WE. If one adds the expenditure of all those who come to the Wolsztyn region to photograph and ride on the trains the direct economic benefit of the WE product on the local economy is in the order of 500,000 euro per annum.
  • Howards Jones has an agreement with PKP which was supposed to allow him to run the WE business on its current scale at least until 2010. The premature withdrawal by PKP of 2/3 of all steam workings at a time when WE has paid bookings to fulfill, coupled with other recent arbitrary decisions (see previous post) will give little confidence to international tour operators or others contemplating doing business with PKP.
  • Finally, although WE visitors traditionally flew into Poznan, went to Wolsztyn, did their driving and firing turns, and then returned to Poznan and flew out again, there is no reason why Wolsztyn could not act as an international portal for the Polish heritage railways and museums as a whole. Wolsztyn is known and respected internationally, many Polish heritage railways are virtually unknown beyond a couple of hundred Polish railway enthusiasts. Properly managed the potential for mutual synergy is enormous.

Until we finish our investigation into who is responsible for the sudden suspension of the steam workings to Poznan we are not asking our readers to put pen to paper, just yet. In the meantime we have ‘borrowed’ this brilliant account of a WE customers ‘first time’ from the discussion group.

Sunday I arrived at Poznan airport and got a bus to the station. On the bus I met a SDR driver and a Swanage fireman who were out there for their annual trip. We quickly bonded over a beer and a sausage and before long it was time for the journey to Wolsztyn. We were on the 15.30 which is steam hauled so I got a look at the standard machine for the week, a Polish 0l49. The journey took about 1hr 45 and was a trip I was booked to do three times that week as driver so I concentrated on trying to familiarise myself with the line, difficult when there is 45 miles to remember! Once there we had a look round the beautiful depot and at the lines of withdrawn engines. It was then to the WE’s house where we were briefed for the weeks activities. I was introduced to my partner for the week and was given my duty for the next day, the 11:47 from Wolsztyn. There were seven other people there that week and we all went for a meal and got to know each other, and got thoroughly bitten by the local mozzies.

There are two Woltsztyn – Poznan trips each day, the earlybird (05:27 – 07:15 and 09:30 – 11:17 return) and the gentleman’s (11:47 – 13.30 and 15:30 – 17:15 return.) I was down to work the gentleman’s train. The system is that one guy drives one way while the other fires, and then vice-versa. I had done some firing in the UK but no driving bar a “driver for a fiver” at the Bluebell, so it was with some trepidation that I climbed into the cab of the 2-6-2 OL, essentially the Polish black 5, a mixed traffic engine that does a bit of everything. Howard Jones gave me a basic introduction to the cab and a guide to the three signs I had to learn, (whistle boards for the unprotected level crossings, the station warning boards 400m from the stations and the stop points at the stations) and then drove the train out of the station. After a mile or so he got up and pointed at me, and I took control of a loco, at 50 mph with passengers on board! The first stop was nerve-racking but once I had done my first stop I soon felt comfortable with the braking. There are 18 stops along the line, although the polish crews usually take over for the last two stops under the wires on the approach to Poznan. The starts have to be brisk, as the steam locos are operating to electric and diesel timings, so you are actively encouraged to “get on with it” and it is a pleasure to do so! We arrived at Poznan and I think my smile could probably have been seen from space! You have to option of going for lunch or going to the depot with the crew. Being a nosy I went down to the MPD to see what happened. The loco was turned and I then watered the loco while the crew oiled up and cooked some sausages. The firing on the way back was what I was most nervous about, but the Ol is a joy to fire. A firing plate at a perfect height and a large firehole door make it a very simple operation. Apart from a few instances where I was mid-swing when the loco hit a bit of rough track, it went quite well and I grew in confidence. We returned to shed after the run back and cleaned the wheels and motion while the crew coaled and watered the loco. We returned to the house to be told our turn for Tuesday, the Prairie at Wroclaw!

A 04:00 wake up saw us leave the house at 04:15, get a train from Leszno and at some ungodly hour arrive in Wroclaw, in time for a quick Big Mac before making our 07:30 departure. We wondered along the platform and there was 5521, a picture of polished Brunswick green, its airpump echoing through the station. The crew were English, from the Flour Mill and a polish driver was there as pilotman/translator. The cab is only big enough for four so one rides in the carriages while the other drives. I opted to catch some shut eye, so I slept for the first journey while my partner drove. The journey is about 20-25 miles and takes about 45 mins, the last 5 miles of track are awful and are covered at just above walking speed, but the first section is along a proper mainline with Intercitys and freights passing you! The middle section is through some beautiful countryside with some lovely gradients and curves. The prairie uses about 1100 gal of its 1300 gal capacity on the trip so after the run we returned to the depot for water, and sausages for the crews (Polish railwaymen exist on a sausage only diet.) Then it was my turn and what a joy the prairie is. Driving, you instantly noticed how responsive the regulator is, compared with the Polish locos. The Prairie’s acceleration is truly impressive and it really flies. You have to be smart about starting away as there could be an Intercity two minutes behind you. The English crew, Geoff and Dougie Phelps, were brilliant and I cannot thank them enough. I even managed to avoid slipping on the station on a heavy gradient where apparently everyone slips, so again my smile was a mile wide! Coming back into Wroclaw, the fairly extended use of the two-tone whistle saw the entire station turn and stare! A quick drink from a hydrant saw the Prairie ready for the final trip. There are three round trips, so you drive on three journeys, or one and a half round trips. An excellent day, on an excellent engine, whose appearance and quality are a true testament to the skill and quality of the Flour Mill boys. After driving a Prairie at 60mph, preserved lines in England don’t half seem slow!

Thursday we decided to have a play at Smeigel, the narrow gauge line. The track is awful, but the crew were brilliant and the loco is delightful, so I would urge anyone who goes to visit Smeigel, even if you are not a NG person. The station, station bar, loco, location and attractive guard all make it worthwhile. The run is quite short, and the pace is very sedate, but the state of the track make it quite trilling! You do a roundtrip each and one participant got off and declined to drive back as the state of the track scared him so much!

On Friday we made up for our half turn on the Wednesday by arriving on shed for our gentleman’s turn again to find not to find the expected Ol, but Pm36, a bright green pacific. Wow, what an experience that was. It was raining and I watched with horror as the Polish crew slipped and slid out of the depot to the station. The cab seemed massive, the boiler was gargantuan, everything seemed preposterously large. The Polish driver, slipped heavily out of the station as the blood continued to drain from my face. The run was difficult. The regulator was stiff, the air brakes didn’t always release properly and on 80% of starts it was a case of constant regulator changes to control slips (although the handle was damn near impossible to move.) Coming back was equally torturous as the rain was now heavy making the light footed beast near impossible for Tim, my buddy for the week, or the polish crews to control. The size of the cab means when you fire, its about quarter of a mile from firing plate to firehole door. As a relative novice the size of the firebox seemed unbelievable. No matter how much I fired, or how quickly, the grate never seemed completely covered. I got back to shed, happy I’d driven a pacific on the mainline but also tired, filthy and aching, and also acutely aware that, while it had been exhilarating, I’d rather have Ol49 69 any day!

Saturday, we bought an extra turn as I wanted one last bash with an Ol49 and I drove back from Poznan with a little extra gusto, knowing it would be a while before I could experience the sheer thrill of being given a loco and told to “GO!”

Sunday, I got the steamer to Poznan before catching a flight home. I resisted the urge to stand by the cockpit door to see if the pilot would let me fly or at least do the landing at Luton.

All in all, I met a really lovely group of people both the English participants and polish crews, got bitten all over by mosquitoes, ate my body weight in sausages, and had a couple of ice cold Tyskie-s and Zwyiec-s in the beautiful weather we had for most of the week. I have fallen asleep nearly every night since to the sound in my head of a Polish engineman shouting “Brake, BRAKE!, Go, Whistle.”

The above has been lightly edited. You’ll find the original article by KHARDS here.

Tribute to Howard Jones

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Howard Jones is the man who has kept Wolsztyn alive as the last steam locomotive depot in Europe servicing steam engines that are hauling regular service trains – not steam specials or trains on a preserved railway. This short, but professional, film is a tribute to his achievement.