Posts Tagged ‘Smigiel Railway’

The strange case of Ferdynand Ruszczyc

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Andrew Scott, Director of the National Museum of Science and Industry, investigates the parentage of the ex Krakow Waterworks engine on 28.11.2009.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc, the Director of the Railway Museum in Warsaw, has not been having a good month. Last week he was asked to resign from his other job, director of the office coordinating the Chopin 2010 festivities. On 28th November Gazeta Stoleczna, the Warsaw supplement to Poland’s best selling daily Gazeta Wyborzca, carried an article under the headline Muzeum Kolejnictwa jak prowincjonalny dom kultury? (Railway Museum like a provincial arts centre?) which questioned Mr Ruszczyc’s approach to running the Railway Museum. Mr Ruszczyc responded by demanding that Gazeta Wyborcza print an apology and threatening the authors of the article with legal action; the next day he read in the same paper that Ludwig Rakowski the Deputy Governor of Mazowsze province has ordered an investigation into the way that the Railway Museum is being run.

Why the firestorm? Some Warsaw railway enthusiasts allege that Ruszczyc is more interested in promoting himself than the Railway Museum and that money that he has spent on art exhibitions and fashion shows would have been better spent on restoring his exhibits. The final straw for them was when Ruszczyc moved outside a small industrial locomotive that had graced the Museum’s entrance lobby for many years. The locomotive – a tiny 1920s vintage single cylinder diesel similar in appearance to the small industrial engines manufactured by Orenstein & Koppel A.G. – is the oldest such locomotive in Poland.

However, the simplistic analysis is almost certainly wrong. Under Ruszczyc’s predecessor, Janusz Sankowski, who sat in the director’s chair for 17 years, certain priceless exhibits ended up as gutted wrecks or were even cut up for scrap, while the Museum itself faded into obscurity. The popular press ignored the affairs of the Museum and the demise of its exhibits. In comparison to Sankowski, Ruszczyc has been a breath of fresh air. The Museum has been given a coat of paint. A number of special events have been held in the Museum to raise its public profile. A special educational programme has been put together for school visits. A delegation from the Museum visited the NRM in York to see how railway museums were run in Great Britain.

So why is Ruszczyc getting such a bad press? One theory that is doing the rounds – albeit there is only circumstantial evidence to back it up – is that Ruszczyc is doing too good a job. PKP has decided that it is time to dislodge the Railway Museum from its Warszawa Glowna location – a prime development site and the Museum is fighting for its survival. Ruszczyc has dug in his heels to stay at the Warszawa Glowna site, engaging Greogorz Gomula a brilliant young Warsaw lawyer, to defend the Museum’s position. He has received some useful support in his campaign from the British – Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage partnership – a pro heritage rail lobbying group – who have coordinated a letter writing campaign which resulted in letters of support for the Railway Museum from some influential supporters in Europe. These letters in turn encouraged a couple of Polish ministers to declare their support for the Museum. Connecting the dots it would appear that somebody who stands to make some big money from the Warszawa Glowna development has decided that Ruszczyc has to go.

VIPs at Smigiel. Left to right: Marek Ciesielski, Andrew Scott, David Morgan, Tomasz Strapagiel, Karol Waszczak and Gordon Rushton. The driver looks down from the open door.

Theory number two is that Krzystof Chalupinski, who has been the Museum’s Deputy Director for many years, covets the top job himself and has calculated that if Ruszczyc is disgraced, he has a good chance of landing it himself. It is certainly is true that those people who have told us their doubts about Ruszczyc also regularly talk to Chalupinski. It would also appear that Chalupinski has been conspicuous by his absence at the recent special events organised by his boss in the Museum. Perhaps, the strongest evidence that Chalupinski is playing a devious game, is his strange behaviour with respect to the Railway Heritage and Society conference recently organised in Warsaw by the British Polish Chamber of Commerce and Fundacja Era Parowozow. Adressing the conference would have been a great opportunity for Ruszczyc to face his critics and to explain his strategy for raising the Museum’s profile. At first, all boded well. Ruszczyc agreed to speak at the conference and that the Museum would make a small donation towards the secretarial costs of organising the event. The Museum was also to appear as co-organiser of the event. Mr Ruszczyz even wrote to Andrew Scott, the Director of the National Museum of Science and Industry inviting him to come to Warsaw and give a presentation. In the event Mr Chalupinski persuaded Mr Ruszczyc to renege on all his promises and all but ignore the event. Mr Ruszczyc never met Andrew Scott and all the other VIPs who specially came to Warsaw, and it was left to Paul Fox, the Deputy British Ambassador, and Tomasz Strapagiel, the Chairman of SKPL to provide the distinguished visitors with the welcome that they deserved.

It may be that neither of the two theories outlined above is true, it is also equally possible that both are true. However, one thing is certain – Mr Ruszczyc’s behaviour shocked the VIPs who came to Warsaw because they wished to help him to save his Museum and its collection.

Dyspozytor

Sources (in Polish):

Gazeta W. – Muzeum Kolejnictwa jak prowincjonalny dom kultury
Muzeum Kolejnictwa – Komunikat Dyrektora
Gazeta W. – Marszałek sprawdzi co się dzieje w Muzeum Kolejnictwa

Smigiel Railway saved as a working railway

Friday, 13 November 2009

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Three trains in operation at Smigiel.
Photo ©Albert Mikolajczyk, SKPL.

At a meeting of Smigiel Town Council yesterday, a resolution was passed confirming that the Council intends to make a donation each year towards the operating costs of the Smigiel Railway commensurate in size with the railway’s local tax liability to the Council. The resolution spells the end of earlier plans prepared by the Counil for the railway to be run as a pure ‘tourist railway’ by the Town Council’s own direct labour force. SKPL will continue to be line’s operator and to offer a mix of passenger and freight services as well as special services customised to passenger’s individual requirements.

I would like to thank everybody who wrote individual letters to the Mayor of Smigiel asking that the railway be allowed to continue its role as a working railway.

Dyspozytor

Rainy morning in Smigiel

Friday, 29 May 2009

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Busy scene in Smigiel yard on a rainy morning on 29.06.2009 in preparation for running three trains in simultaneously! The newly refurbished Romanian railcar will form the service train to Stare Bojanowo while the Lxd2 will haul the second of the day’s two special trains to Wielichowo. All photos BTWT.

(Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Smigiel Town Council and PKP have completed the lengthy legal process of transferring the ownership of the line to the Town Council. Whilst this should be a cause for celebration – in theory the way is now clear for the Council to apply for EU funds – the Polish reality is more prosaic – long discussions will now commence between the Council and SKPL regarding the latter’s operating agreement. High on the Council’s agenda, is a demand that SKPL pay council tax in respect of the railway land.

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Most unprototypical! The special to Wielichowo (nearest camera) and the service train to Stare Bojanowo wait in the same road. In PKP days trains to Stare Bojanowo would have used the right hand road.

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The driver of the service train gives his railcar a last minute check.

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That curve really needs some attention.

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The first special crosses the main road.

Freight traffic on the Stare-Bojanowo – Smigiel line seems to be bearing up with two rakes of standard gauge freight wagons expected shortly. If arrangements proceed as planned the Px48 from Gniezno hired by the Wolsztyn Experience will visit the line in September and October.

More information:

  • Timetable – pdf download
  • Contact – tel/fax: +48 65 518 00 10  mobile: +48 694 023 432

Creative Commons License

Click for details of licensing.

Smigiel railcar makeover

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

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The Smigiel Railway’s Romanian diesel railcar is having a makeover.

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All the seats have been renewed and upholstered

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Well nearly all the seats!
All photos courtesy of SKPL

More from Smigiel

Thursday, 13 November 2008

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Evening shadows at Stare Bojanowo, 8.11.2008.
Photo Marek Ciesielski

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Earlier in the day at Smigiel 8.11.2008.
Photo Marek Ciesielski

We just been sent a couple of photos from the Smigiel open day and thought we should publish these. Unfortunately thee-mailer didn’t identify the photographer, but we should be able to add the details in the next 24 hours.

Come to Poland to make a difference!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Photoreportage by Marek Cieselski

Foxfield volunteers working on the Smigiel Railway 30.04.2008

We are really impressed by this story which shows how, with a bit of ‘can do spirit’ on all sides, it is possible for British volunteers to make a real difference when they visit Poland. Howard Jones offers an add-on narrow gauge option on the Smigiel Railway as part of his ‘Wolsztyn Experience’ product. Some of his customers from the Foxfield Railway noticed that some of the trackwork was a bit rough and asked whether they could come down to the Smigiel Railway again and do something about it. Staying in the former goods shed at Smigiel, which has been adapted as hostel accommodation, the Foxfield gang worked on the railway from the 28 April to 2 May and then went to Wolsztyn to enjoy the Steam Show.

Repairs were carried out at the Stare Bojanowo loading ramp, at Stare Bojanowo Wask station and on the sharp curve on the approach to Smigiel Station. 70 sleepers were replaced, track joints were levelled and rail alignment was corrected. On Wednesday 30 April, the permanent way train was hauled by the Px48 steam locomotive on loaned from the Gniezno Railway.

Everybody is delighted with the way that things went and already plans are being made for an even larger group of volunteers to visit Smigiel. Our congratulations to everybody involved in making it happen!

The Foxfield Gang with SKPL Infrastructure boss, Andrzej Cichowicz

Smigiel Railway services cut back

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Rumanian railcar waiting to depart for Sniaty and Wielechowo from Smigiel

Brief history

The Smigiel Railway started life as a metre gauge line. It opened from Krzywin to Wielichowo in 1900 and from Wielichowo to Ujazd in 1901. The section from Lubnica to Ujazd was closed in 1905 because there was insufficient traffic and a branch from Wielichowo to Rakonowice was opened in 1910 utilising much of the material from the dismantled Lubnica – Ujazd section. The Wielichowo – Lunica section continued in operation until 1924. For most of its history it was owned by the local authorities, however, in 1949 it was taken over by PKP. It was re-gauged to the PKP standard (Russian) narrow gauge of 750mm betweem 1952 and 1953.

Death by many little cuts

By 1973, the secretary of the Communist Party in Rakonowiec decided that narrow gauge railways were unfashionable and ordered the Smigiel Railway cut back to Wielichowo. At a stroke, he deprived the railway of the principal destination for much of its passenger traffic. The railway struggled on from year to year passenger services being cut further back. In 1979 the Zgliniec – Krzywin section was closed to make way for a new reservoir and in 1990 the section from Stare Bojanowo to Zgliniec was closed.

The end of the PKP Era

Passenger services were withdrawn completely on 22 June 2001, this being the last day of normal passenger trains running (as opposed to special trains) on PKP’s narrow gauge railways. Freight traffic continued until PKP closed all its narrow gauge operations in December 2001.

A new beginning

The line was taken over by the local authority who entered into an operating agreement with Stowarzyszenia Kolejowych Przewozow Lokalnych, (SKPL). Passenger trains using Romanian-built railcars started running again in February 2002, and freight services followed some time later.

In September 2002, with the start of the new school term the timetable was increased, and the passenger services returned to Wielichowo for the first time in a decade. By October freight traffic had also increased, with coal being carried on a daily basis from Stare Bojanowo to Smigiel, Witowo Polski or Wielichowo. In 2007 and 2008, a Px48 steam locomotive, leased by Howard Jones from the Gniezno Railway appeared at Smigiel and hauled certain trains as part of Howard’s “Wolsztyn Experience” product.

And another cut

From 1 April this year, SKPL has been forced to withdraw all services beyond Smigiel because of the state of the track. Two promised grants, one from the Smigiel Town Council and the other from the Council of Wilkopolska Province have not been forthcoming. If you know the Smigiel Railway and consider it is worthy of financial assistance then it would be very helpful if you made your views known to the relevant authorities.

The Mayor of Smigiel:

Sz Pan Wiktor Snela
Burmistrz Smigla
Urząd Miasta i Gminy Smigiel
Smigiel 64-030
pl. Wojska Polskiego 6
POLAND

e-mail: burmistrz@smigiel.pl

tel: +48 65 518 98 23 or 518 01 39 or 518 00 03

The Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Province:

Sz Pan Marek Wozniak
Marszalek Wojewodztwa Wielkopolskiego
Al. Niepodleglosci 18
Pokoj 142 Budynek C
61-713 Poznan

e-mail: marszalek@umww.pl

tel: +44 61 854-19-88 or 61 854-18-47
fax: +44 61 854-17-17

The Smigiel Railway currently extends from Stare Bojanowo to Wielichowo. (The map can be moved, expanded or changed to satellite view.)