Posts Tagged ‘railway museum’

Will Railway Museum close in September?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

salonka bieruta

One of the exhibits of the Railway Museum in Warsaw, the private coach of Boleslaw Bierut, president of Poland 1947-52 (following rigged elections), first secretary of the Communist Party 1948-56, who maintained a Stalinist reign of terror until his death in Moscow in 1956. The coach was built just before WW II for the French government, but never delivered. Photo © Jerzy Dabrowski, Oko na Swiat, photo agency.

A meeting took place on Friday 21 August between Ferdynand Ruszczyc, the Director of the  Railway Museum in Warsaw and representatives of PKP SA, Poland’s State Railway company.

Up to now PKP negotiators, who are trying to force the Museum to move out of  Warsawa Glowna station had been taking a hard line negotiating stance. They had demanded that the Museum quits its premises by the end of August, and had threatened to cut off the museum’s hot water supply and to demolish some of the museum’s buildings. Stung by the resulting hostile press coverage, PKP’s negotiators are now adopting a more conciliatory approach.

They suggested that the Museum and PKP sign a commercial lease which would enable the Museum to stay on its existing site until the Museum’s new location was ready. The agreement would run from 1 September for a maximum term of 2 years. PKP are claiming that the Museum’s occupancy of the station site has costed them 4 million zloty (£850,000) to date and is costing them 26,000 zloty (£5,500) each month.

PKP wants the Museum to relocate to a plot in the Praga district of Warsaw, not far from Warszawa Wilenska station. The plan would be for PKP to hand the land over to the City Council in settlement of unpaid local taxes. City authorities are reported to be resisting the proposal. Ferdynand Ruszczyc estimates that relocating the collection and building a new museum could cost between 50  and 70 million zloty (£10.6 – £14,8 million). Neither he, nor the provincial government, has such funds at their disposal.

PKP has terminated the Museum’s licence to occupy Warsawa Glowna station effective 31st August. What will happen to the Museum after that? At the moment the battle is being fought in the pages of the Warsaw press and in smoke-filled rooms in government offices. Watch this space!

Uncertain future of museum exhibits

Thursday, 13 August 2009


New banners adorn the side of the Railway Museum at the former Warszawa Glowna station. Until recently the ‘sex shop’ sign was more prominent than the Museum’s own signs. Photo BTWT.

While the exhibits of Poland’s first National Railway Museum perished during WWII, one could be excused for thinking that those in the custody of its post-war successor had a secure future. The new Muzeum Kolejnictwa was set up in 1972, in the former main line terminus of Warsawa Glowna, with a mission to teach future generations of Poles about the role played by the ‘iron road’ in the history of their country. Originally established under the auspices of PKP, the Polish state railway company, responsibility for the museum was transferred to the Ministry of Transport in 1995 and in 1999 it was transferred to the custody of the Mazowsze provincial government.

The new legal arrangements suited both parties. PKP got rid of a massive potential liability – some of the Museum’s 80 items of historic rolling stock are listed and there is a legal obligation on the owner of a listed monument to maintain it in good condition. At the same time, the local government of Mazowsze province acquired an asset – slap in the centre of the City – with enormous tourist potential. Or at least this is how it was meant to be. In practice things turned out rather different.

A short step to retirement

The museum became the repository of tired former PKP officials who looked forward to their retirement rather than to the future of their collection. The locomotives and rolling stock – stored in the open – began to deteriorate. Some, which had been sent to the so-called ‘skansen’ at Krzeszowice, were scrapped. Cab fittings and connecting rods vanished. Meanwhile the director of the museum, Janusz Sankowski, concentrated on building up a collection of scale models.

Storm clouds first gathered over the museum in 2003 when PKP entered into discussions with a developer. The covered ways from the station building to the former low-level platforms were demolished and all the rolling stock collection was dragged several hundred yards northwards to make room for the planned development. Mr Sankowski and the developers discussed co-existence. His collection of scale models might even become the centrepiece of the new development. A few locomotives could be left outside while the rest could be farmed out elsewhere or sent to a remote siding. So, when an opportunity arose to move the museum to covered accommodation in the historic Praga South locomotive sheds, Mr Sankowski did not feel it was worthwhile to pursue the matter.

The original development plans for Warszawa Glowna came to naught. PKP and the developers started a series of legal wrangles regarding the future of the site and the Museum stayed where it was. A new director, Ferdynand Ruszczyc, was appointed earlier this year. The Museum and its rolling stock received a much needed coat of paint. Special events were organised to promote the Museum and its attractions. The future of the Museum looked brighter than ever. Then the blow came!

A move to the East of the Vistula

PKP’s long drawn out court actions were finally resolved and the company felt free to resume its plans for the redevelopment of the Warszawa Glowna site. In April this year, PKP started putting pressure on the provincial governor’s office to relocate the Museum PKP to some sidings on the East side of the River Vistula. Ironically these are located close to the – now demolished – locomotive sheds at Praga South, but lack any office buildings for the Museum’s small items collection and their staff.

Adam Struzik, the provincial governor of Mazowsze province decided to tough it out. His thinking seems straightforward – his provincial government is funding the Railway Museum – an institution which benefits Polish State Railways. If PKP wants to relocate the Museum, they should fund the move and ensure that the new facilities are at least equivalent to the existing accommodation.

“only and exclusively, on a commercial basis”

PKP’s thinking was summarised by their press spokesperson, Michal Wrzosek. “Polish State Railways S.A. – the owner of the former Warsawa Glowna station site at ul. Towarowa – 1 is preparing to use this land for the purpose of development. Polish State Railways S.A. has allowed the Railway Museum to use this site on a free of charge license since 1996. PKP SA – in accordance with its strategy for its land holdings – is obliged to rent land at this location, only and exclusively, on a commercial basis.”

A new national museum?

In an ideal world, a new national railway museum would be established, with proper covered accommodation, workshops and facilities to service steam-hauled special trains. This is exactly the sort of project for which EU funding for the former communist countries was designed to assist. But instead PKP and the provincial governor’s office seem determined to tough it out. Who will blink first? This strategy might just lead to a successful resolution, but it is more likely that the locomotives and vintage rolling stock at Warszaw Glowna will end up like their brothers and sisters elsewhere – in some forgotten siding – mysteriously shedding pieces of metal year by year. After all, with the high price of scrap, you don’t have to work particularly hard to earn yourself the price of a bottle of Vodka.

Warsaw Museum closure – PKP reply

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Pm3-5 (with Pm3-3 plate) streamlined pacific, built by Borsig 1940. Photo Hiuppo

(Click picture above to see original and for details of licensing.)

A media storm blew up following Friday morning’s announcement by the Director of the Warsaw Railway Museum that PKP SA. have ordered the Museum to quit its Warszawa Glowna site by the end of the month. Stung by the negative publicity, PKP’s PR department started a damage limitation exercise and issued their own press release on Friday afternoon. It really does not need any further comment from ourselves!

Information on the site provided free of charge to the Railway Museum in Warsaw

Polish State Railways S.A. – the owner of the former Warsawa Glowna station site at ul. Towarowa – 1 is preparing to use this land for the purpose of railway investment. PKP SA has been taking court action against a number of bodies, who have been preventing the site from being exploited commercially. The claims of the third parties have now been disposed by court decisions favourable to PKP SA. This clears the way for the development of this part of Warsaw.

Polish State Railways S.A. has allowed the Railway Museum (an organisation funded by the local government of Mazowsze province) to use this site on a free of charge license since 1996. PKP SA – in accordance with its strategy for its land holdings – is obliged to rent land at this location, only and exclusively, on a commercial basis.

For these reasons PKP SA terminated the Railway Museum’s current license in July 2009. This does not preclude the Railway Museum from obtaining a lease of the property on a commercial basis until the the Museum has been transferred to another location.

The termination of the license and the need to transfer the Museum to another location was previously discussed with the bodies responsible for the Museum. In October 2008, PKP SA and the authorities of the provincial government (the Governor and a senior official) signed a memorandum in which it was specified that the Museum will be relocated from its current location to a site provided by PKP SA on Grodzienska street in Warsaw (near the junction of Grodzienska street and Radzyminska street) with an area of 1.8 hectares [4.45 acres ed].

Representatives of the local authority and the Railway Museum were again informed about the importance of relocating the museum at a meeting which took place on 16 April 2009 between representatives of PKP SA and the local government of Mazowsze province. On 25 June 2009, once again PKP SA informed the provincial authorities of the necessity to relocate the Museum to the site being made available by PKP SA.

Polish State Railways supports the Railway Museum in carrying out its functions.  This is reflected in the agreements that have been in place up to now between the two parties and the technical assistance PKP SA has provided to assist the running the Museum. The need to regulate the legal status of PKP’s real estate PKP SA and its use for development does not permit the free use of a plot of land of over 7 hectares [17.3 acres ed.] in the heart of Warsaw. PKP SA maintains regular contact with the Museum and the local government.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s exciting instalment – ‘Reading between the lines’.

Koscierzyna security cover victory!

Friday, 6 March 2009


Pu29-3 4-8-2 passenger locomotive in the Koscierzyna museum
Photo PKP Cargo

(Following the closure of the museum at Koscierzyna, PKP Cargo have removed the link to the skansen’s page on their website, Clicking the picture will (for the time being at least) take you to the defunct page together with the slide show of which the above photograph is a part.)

Further to our last article about security cover being removed from the Koscierzyna Skansen we have been informed by a reliable source that PKP has extended the security contact to the end of the year. This will provide a breathing space for those parties interested in taking over the museum and its collections to continue, and we hope complete, their negotiations with PKP.

Our grateful thanks to all those who took part in our letter writing campaign. We have fired a useful warning shot. If any PKP Director ever again contemplates abandoning railway a railway museum without securing the future of its exhibits, as happened in the cases of Elk and Jaworzyna Slask, hopefully this time he will think again.

Mystery train

Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Mystery Train at the Warsaw Railway Museum
(Robert Dylewski) Click on photo for close up.

The Polish government train came to the Warsaw today. You didn’t know that the Polish government had their own train? Well, not to worry, the government probably doesn’t know either. The last time it was used as intended was before General Jaruzelski declared martial law in 1981. During the martial law era, the government was too afraid of its own people to risk going around by train and since then the habit of using fast cars and planes has stuck. So the train has languished unloved and forgotten. One carriage has gone to PSMK’s railway museum in Skierniewice, another is in Chabowka, another has been ‘adopted’ by a retired railwayman. Occasionally, the odd coach or two is dusted down and used for some private special excursion.

So what was the train doing in Warsaw? Was the Polish Minister of Transport entertaining his German opposite number prior to the sale of the profitable bits of the PKP empire to Deutsche Bahn? Are Mr and Mrs Peter Philips planning a quiet railway honeymoon in Poland? Is the President entertaining his mother in law?

It hurts us to admit it, but we don’t know! There a bottle of Zubrowka for anyone who manages to find out and tell us before midnight (Polish time) today.

Skierniewice Success!

Saturday, 8 March 2008


Ok1 guest at Skierniewice Open Day 22 September 2007

In contrast to the unrelieved gloom of my usual fare, I thought I would brighten up your weekend by writing about the Polskie Stowarzyszenie Milosnikow Kolei, The Polish Association of Railway Enthusiasts and their wonderful railway museum at Skierniewice. The PSMK were set up in 1987 (two years before the collapse of communism) and since then have been assiduously collecting historic rolling stock, railway artefacts and documents. In 1991 the locomotive depot at Skierniewice was closed and the site started degrading. The takeover of the depot by the Association was first mooted in 1992. Thanks to the Association’s efforts the depot was listed as a historic monument in 1994 and the removal of artefacts and machinery from the site ceased. In 2002 the formalities were complete and the Association became the proud owners of the depot.

Much remains to be done and the depot roof will need rebuilding. But the great achievement of the Association is that they have secured the ownership of the site and cannot, as has happened elsewhere, be thrown out at the whim of the local council. The Association have a very informative website and have made a good start at getting the material translated into English. The list of exhibits has not yet been translated, but the details can readily be deduced.  Skierniewice is only 65 kilometres from Warsaw and enjoys an excellent rail service. A list of open days in 2008 is available here.