Posts Tagged ‘Pionki Forest Railway’

Whither Wolsztyn?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Pt 47-112 on the turntable at Wolsztyn, photo Hubert Smietanka

(Click on photo to see the original high resolution picture and for details of licensing.)

A number of readers have hinted that it’s time for BTWT to bring the Wolsztyn story up to date. In June we published an article with the byline, “Is this the end of Wolsztyn as Europe’s last working MPD?”, and although we have published several posts since then reporting on the ‘return to steam’, we have yet to give a comprehensive assessment of the long-term future of the operation.

This week, four workings have been regularly steam-hauled: Ol49-69 was diagrammed on 77425 / 77426, Wolsztyn 05:28 – Poznań 07:07 / 09:28 – Wolsztyn 11:20; while Pt47-112 was diagrammed on 79322 / 79327 Wolsztyn 05:56 – Leszno 07:10 / 15:43 – Wolsztyn 16:44. On Wednesday Pt47 also hauled a special working at 10:00 from Wolsztyn to Zbaszynek and then the returned to Leszno after which the train became the 79327 diagrammed working to Wolsztyn.

In the short-term, Wolsztyn is ‘back in business’ and the actual summer gap – during which the steam haulage of scheduled passenger trains was suspended – was much shorter than at first announced. It can even be argued that the position of Wolsztyn now is much stronger than it was before the crisis. The enormous outpouring of public support for the continuance of Wolsztyn’s steam trains took everyone by surprise, and will mean that anyone who comes up with a plan to close the operation down is unlikely to succeed.

The recent crisis also proved the professionalism and resilience of Howard Jones’s ‘Wolsztyn Experience’ operation. Making the most of his back up arrangements at Wroclaw and on the Smigiel Railway Howard ensured that none of his paying guests returned from Wolsztyn disappointed. On a number of occasions during the recent break in scheduled workings Howard dipped into his own ‘war chest’ to hire empty stock workings or light engine movements to ensure that all his commitments to his customers were met. Wolsztyn Experience’s main WWW site reports optimistically about a 5 year partnership between Wielkopolska province local authority and PKP. But this is Poland where all agreements have a secret back door escape route.

Taking a long term view all is certainly not well. PKP Cargo’s running of Wolsztyn is reminiscent of the way that Bryn Eglwys slate quarry was run in the last days of its operation. Because the cost of driving new levels to reach virgin slate was prohibitive, the quarries were kept open by mining the pillars that kept the roof of the mine from collapsing. (Eventually the roof of one of the quarry chambers did collapse, but fortunately without any loss of life.) Wolsztyn’s steam locomotives are kept going by a policy of cannibalising locomotives whose boiler ticket has expired and mending and patching, but they really need major investment and professional maintenance if they are to continue running an intensive daily passenger service for many years into the future.

Frustratingly, a solution for the management of PKP’s heritage railway assets was found, but never implemented. Fundacja Era Parowozow was set up by PKP Cargo to take over and manage its historic rolling stock. The idea was brilliant by giving its historic rolling stock to a charity, PKP could write off the transfer against tax. Moreover Fundacja Era Parowozow as a charity could collect funds from businesses and local authorities and could also partner local authorities in applying for EU grants. So what happened? In the end PKP Cargo decided to hold on to its steam engines as use Fundacja Era Parowozow solely as a marketing vehicle!

The short-term nature of this decision will become apparent as PKP Cargo goes through a series of reorganisations to prepare itself for privatisation, and is then privatised and subsequently sold to Deutsche Bahn. In the meantime Howard Jones and others are working on a ‘Plan B’.

Pionki Progress

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Pionki Forest Railway renaissance,
October 2007, photo FPKW

One of the most remarkable railway projects in Poland is the plan to rebuild part of the Pionki Forest Railway. The railway was located in the Kozienice Forest, near Radom in Poland’s Mazowosze province about 100 km from Warsaw.

Originally, in 1916 a 750 mm gauge railway was laid down linking Garbatka – Słowiki – Lesna Rzek. This line was lifted and replace by a 600 mm gauge railway between Garbatka and z Cztery Kopce. Meanwhile a 16 km horse drawn 600 mm gauge railway was built between Pionki and Stoki. In the 1940s, both systems were connected. The network was then 30 km long. The rolling stock consisted of 2 steam locomotives, 19 pairs of timber bogies and 10 coal wagons. In the period 1947-50 an engine shed and workshop building was constructed in Pionki. By the mid-1950s the network had grown to 50km. During this period the line was worked by ex German military railway HF 0-8-0T locomotives, including, Tx 1113 i Tx 1124, and Polish built 0-6-0T LAS locomotives including, Ty 1131 and Ty 1155.

During 1962-3, a 7 km section of the line from Garbatka to the main timber store was lifted. Demolition of the remainder commenced in 1981 and was largely completed by 1983. A fragment continued in use in a sawmill until 1986. Steam locomotive Las Ty 1131 survived and went to Zagansk. Two diesel locomotives, Wls50 and V10C-559, survived for a time, but were eventually cut up for scrap. Two passenger carriages lingered on, the frame of one still exists to this day. After 1986, the only substantive remains of the railway were the engine shed and workshops at Pionki and a large concrete viaduct in the forest.

In 2002, Pawel Szwed, the President of FPKW (The Polish Narrow Gauge Railway Foundation) had the idea of converting the derelict shed and workshops into a forestry railway museum or ‘skansen’. The idea rapidly gained support and grew into the current project to rebuild 10 miles (16 km) of railway. The reinstated line would link attractions within the forest to Pionki and Garbatka. The project has gained the support of the local section of the Polish State Forests and the local authorities.

Progress so far has been concentrated in the workshop area. The track around the workshops has been relaid, the roof of the workshops reinforced and the whole building refurbished. Rolling stock from various forestry railways all around Poland has been brought to Pionki and many items have been restored. The whole area around the workshops has been attractively landscaped. A bar car serves soft drinks, beer and some of the best chips available anywhere in Poland. A handcart is available for children who want to try their hand at running trains. The skansen not only attracts railway enthusiasts, but also local residents looking for somewhere unusual to have a drink, play chess or take the kids.

600mm gauge Lyd2 looking for a good home
photo FPKW

The next stage of the project will involve the construction of 6 km of track from the skansen to a picnic area at Kociolki where the former line had a junction and triangle. As always in Poland the main obstacle is money. The FPKW is also looking for a small 1ft 11 5/8in (600 mm) steam locomotive. The FPKW have a 600mm gauge Lyd2 Romanian diesel in good mechanical condition which with its 350 h.p. Maybach engine and 0-8-0 wheel arrangement is a little too large for their needs. They would like to ‘swap’ it for a 600 mm steam locomotive. The deal could be set up to ensure a “win-win” for both sides.

Is there anyone out there with a “Quarry Hunslet” looking to get involved in rebuilding a narrow gauge railway from scratch?

More pictures:

  • Pionki Forest Railway – website (Polish)