Posts Tagged ‘Wolsztyn Experience’

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 spring steam timetable change

Monday, 12 January 2009


Pt47-112 passes EP09. Photo © Trevor Jones

(Click to go to Wolsztyn Experience photo gallery.)

In 2008, Wolsztyn Experience launched its own website. Aimed at potential clients of Wolsztyn’s footplate courses, it provides basic news of developments (with a very positive spin!) an e-shop for several Polish railway books, a gallery of photographs taken by Trevor Jones (Howard Jones’s brother) and details of special trains and special events.

For enthusiasts who don’t read Polish, the best thing about the website is that it is in English! Another useful English language resource is the Yahoo Group based discussion group kolejelist. A number of kolejelist members read various Polish railway enthusiast discussion boards and then translate and post the most significant of these.

Finally there is BTWT. What can we say? We probably spread ourselves to thinly to be able to report on every boiler washout at Wolsztyn, but then we do try to keep our finger firmly on the pulse of the long term plans of PKP Cargo, Fundacja Era Parowozow, the Wielkopolska Province Governor’s office, the Undersecretary of State for Rail, the Minister of Infrastructure, the Engine Driver’s Trade Union… et al.

Oh nearly forgot. Sometime in March the second steam working from Wolsztyn to Poznan will be pushed back from 11:36 to around 13:00hrs or thereabouts.

Perhaps somebody should tell The Wolsztyn Experience webmaster?

Scheduled steam returns to Wolsztyn

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Ol49-69 at the 2008 Wolsztyn Parade of Steam. The Ol49’s haul the majority of the ordinary steam-hauled passenger workings out of Wolsztyn. Photo BTWT

The haulage of ordinary passenger trains by steam returns to Poland from the beginning of September in the shape of one Wolsztyn-Poznan working and one Wolsztyn-Leszno working . Wolsztyn’s many admirers all around the world will heave an enormous sigh of relief. Meanwhile, the key players in the Wolsztyn operation have yet to sign up to a deal which will guarantee it’s long-term future.

Wolsztyn’s major stakeholders are:

  • The town of Wolsztyn – benefits massively from the tourists visiting Wolsztyn, not currently providing any financial support.
  • The province of Wielkopolska – also benefits from tourists visiting the region, currently subsidising the operation of the scheduled steam services.
  • PKP Cargo – is responsible for running the Wolsztyn MPD. It enjoys PR benefits from Wolsztyn’s international reputation, but while subsidizing the day-to-day running of the depot, is unwilling to make major investments (such as new boilers and fireboxes), or train new employees, without prior long-term financial guarantees
  • PKP Przewozy Regionalne – runs the scheduled passenger trains that are hauled by the Wolsztyn locos. The operations are dependent on subsidies from Wielkopolska province, part of the subsidy is passed on to PKP Cargo to cover the costs of steam haulage. PKP PR would rather be running modern lightweight rail buses. They see Wolsztyn as a distraction from their core business.
  • The Wolsztyn Experience – run the footplate courses which subsidize part of the cost of running the steam hauled services. In addition Wolsztyn Experience finance the running of special steam trains. They need stable long-term agreements in order to run their courses.
  • Wolsztyn Experience customers – claim that the footplate courses are ‘better than sex’. They also need stable long-term agreements in place in order to plan and book their holidays.
  • The Wolsztyn crews – see at first hand the lack of investment by PKP Cargo in the steam locomotives or in the drivers and fitters who are to look after them. They regard their own jobs, and the Wolsztyn operation as a whole, as something which has a strictly short-term future.
  • Jerzy Kriger, the Director of Transport, Wielkopolska – would like to see the province take over the responsibility for operating passenger trains. He would also like to take over Wolsztyn Depot and develop it as a railway museum, taking the UK’s National Railway Museum in York as a model.

Howard Jones did a very professional job in booking additional steam trains in order to keep his customers happy during the unexpected break in scheduled steam operations during July. He had to dig heavily into the WE “warchest” to do so. Monies which had been earmarked for the restoration of further steam locomotives such as the recently restored Tkt in Wroclaw were spent instead on further payments to PKP Cargo.

Sadly, with so many stakeholders all pursuing a separate agenda, unless a sufficiently powerful political personality is prepared to knock some Polish heads together, this year’s Wolsztyn debacle is likely to be a story that will run and run.

Wolsztyn, so what should we DO?

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Wolsztyn Autumn (photo, click on pic for photo in original context)

I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what to do about Wolsztyn. It’s clear that the way the steam depot (not Howard Jones’s Wolsztyn Experience) is managed at present is not sustainable. The engines are poorly maintained and increasingly unreliable. The number of drivers and skilled fitters available to Mr Wasilewski, the local PKP Cargo Director, is too small. The passengers want a service that they can rely on. And yet with all its shortcomings, the Wolsztyn steam trains bring tens of thousands of tourists to Poland from all around the world. The goodwill and ‘brand recognition’ associated with Wolsztyn is amazing. It would be an enormous waste if, for lack of getting all the stakeholders working together, this unique locomotive depot lost the essence that makes it so different – the daily ordinary timetabled trains hauled by steam – and Wolsztyn became yet another steam centre servicing locomotives that haul ‘steam specials’.

So who should we write to? The crisis has come about because the key stake holders are not working together. So it’s a no-brainer that our representations should be made to all of them urging them to get the responsible officials sitting down all together, ideally with Howard Jones of WE in attendance, and start talking!

The key stakeholders are:

1) The Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province:

WP Marek Wozniak
Budynek C, pokoj nr 7, parter
al. Niepodleglosci 18
61-713 Poznan

tel: (61) 854 1799
fax: (61) 852 6007


Mr Wozniak officials are responsible for transport and tourism in Wielkopolsk. Perhaps they should be talking to each other?

2) The Chairman of PKP, Poland’s state-owned railway company:

WP Andrzej Wach
Prezes Zarzadu
Polskie Koleje Państwowe S.A.
ul. Szczesliwicka 62
00-973 Warszawa

tel: (22) 47-49-000
fax: (22) 47-49-020


Mr Wach’s subsidiary companies, PKP Cargo and PKP Przewozy Regionalne can’t seem to agree how Wolsztyn should be run. Perhaps Mr Wach to encourage them to come to an agreement?

3) The Minister of Infrastructure

Mr Cezary Grabarczyk
Minister Infrastruktury
ul. 4/6 Chalubinskiego
00-928 Warszawa

tel. (22) 630 14 10
fax (22) 630 14 14

4) The Minister of Sport and Tourism

WP. Mirosław Drzewiecki
ul. Senatorska 14
00-921 Warsaw

Tel: (22) 2443 102
Fax: (22) 2443 217

Perhaps it would be a good idea for the Minister of Infrastructure and the Minister of Sport to encourage their Under Secretaries of State: Mr Engelhardt, responsible for railways; and Mrs Soborajska, responsible for tourism; to talk to one another.

If you are responsible for organising groups who visit Wolsztyn, if you have been to Wolsztyn, or if you were planing to go, and if you would like Wolstyn to retain its unique position as Europe’s last steam depot servicing engines hauling ordinary trains, please write to all the above stakeholders.

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.

We couldn’t believe our eyes…

Friday, 25 April 2008

Wolsztyn Parade of Steam Locomotives 2007

Wondering whether it would be worthwhile to visit next weekend’s Wolsztyn Steam Gala? Here’s a flavour of last year’s event courtesy of Steam Railway magazine.

… we couldn’t believe our eyes at Wolsztyn. When it comes to organised chaos Wolsztyn makes Llangollen look like a village fete. Trevor Jones of the Wolsztyn Experience arranged the trip to the Polish steam shed’s 100th birthday and I was glad to see so many STEAM RAILWAY readers on it. Like me, they didn’t know what was about to hit them.

From the moment we landed at a former Russian airbase we knew this would be an unusual day. When Bill Parker’s Prairie No. 5521, waiting to take us from the airbases’ nearest railhead at Babymost to Wolstyn, was passed by the fastest preserved, main line legal, steam locomotive in the world, German ‘Pacific’ 18.201 – ‘unusual’ became stupendously surreal.

Again, the day’s celebrations were unique and spectacular. Every time Bill’s Prairie made its spirited runpasts in front of the (estimated) 10,000 strong crowds, I felt an overwhelming surge of pride. Not just patriotic (although the Prairie was by far the most delightful engine on show), but pride because, as an enthusiast, I am a tiny part of all this. If Bill and Trevor didn’t think anyone would be bothered, they wouldn’t have gone to such extraordinary lengths to make it happen…

(read complete article)