Posts Tagged ‘Wolsztyn’

No deal. No steam.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Friday’s meeting between representatives of PKP Cargo and the Wielkopolska provincial government ended without agreement.

No further talks are scheduled until 18 April, and with no agreement, steam services will cease on 31 March.

Ol49-59 has the dubious honour of hauling the last service, the afternoon Wolsztyn to Leszno turn. After that the loco will return light engine to Wolsztyn with the return passenger working being completed by a diesel railcar.

Behind the Water Tower does not intend to sit idly by until 18 April. We encourage people to write to the main parties concerned and encourage them to work out a deal.  There is time for written representations to be delivered before 18 April.  A well written posted letter may carry more clout than an email and we would urge people to put pen to paper in the next few days so that it reaches the relevant parties before the meeting.

The main protagonists and stakeholders are:

Mr Jakub Karnowski
Prezes Zarządu
Polskie Koleje Państwowe S.A.
ul. Szczęśliwicka 62
00-973 Warszawa


Marek Woźniak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań


With elections looming our editorial team have already heard from people who have openly said that  the current incumbents will not be receiving their vote given the current standoff. There may be an element of politics at play in all this. Who knows? The Wielkopolski Marszalek may be planning to pull a rabbit out of the hat and save the steam services as part of his election campaign. We hasten to add, that is pure speculation, however, if that is part of the strategy, it is a dangerous game to play.

If no agreement is reached on 18 April matters are likely to escalate up to Ministerial level. We would therefore encourage people to also write to:

Mrs. Elżbieta Bieńkowska
Ministerstwa Infrastruktury i Rozwoju
ul. Wspólna 2/4
00-926 Warszawa


Lorry collision stops steam

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Steam services from Wolsztyn have been suspended following a collision between a lorry and Ol49-69. The collision, which took place on 11 September, caused some damage to the locomotive, including bent motion.  The lorry suffered serious damage, with most of the cab destroyed.  The lorry driver was lucky to escape with his life, with parts of the cab attaching themselves firmly to the locomotive.

Damage to Ol49-69 following the collision on 11 September

Ol49-69with the remains of the lorry’s door  firmly attached to the loco’s cab. Photo James Shuttleworth.

Whilst the loco was out of traffic for a couple of days whilst repairs were effected at Wolsztyn, it has since returned to service.

The reason for the disruption to the service this time, was not due to the unavailability of a loco or crew, but down to the the cold snap that seems to have caught everyone unawares. The only suitable steam-heated coaches which Koleje Wielkopolskie  had available were involved in the collision. These still require repair, with their steps being ripped off in the force of the collision. (The Poznan-Wolsztyn services are run by Koleje Wielkopolskie, with the locos and their crews being provided by PKP Cargo, and the coaches leased from Przewozy Regionalne!)

With temperatures dropping as low as 3C at night at present, and with no other steam heated coaches available, PKP has taken the step of substituting a diesel railcar until suitable coaches are in service.  It is understood that steam services will return as from today’s (Thursday 27 September) afternoon working.

Stop press

We understand from a senior railway source, who wishes to remain anonymous, that yesterday PKP Cargo signed an agreement for the purchase of 10 passenger coaches, suitable for steam haulage, from Czech Railways at a very good price. The second class coaches are destined for the Poznan-Wolsztyn service; the first class coaches are expected to see duty on various steam specials.

Wolsztyn Steam Gala 2009 – part 2

Monday, 4 May 2009




GWR Small Prairie 5521


Crowds positioned themselves along every viewpoint for 4 km


Ol12-7, outshopped in 2008, has lost its ‘ex works’ gloss


Bill Parker’s Prairie made its last public appearance in Poland

Here are some more of our photographs of the Wolsztyn Steam Gala this time taken on Saturday 2 May.

All the photographs are copyright, Behind The Water Tower. Permission is hereby given for them to be reproduced on any non-commercial website, subject to full attribution and the provision of a back link to BTWT. High resolution pictures may be seen by double clicking the pictures.

For commercial re-use please write to railfan [at] go2 [dot] pl.

Wolsztyn Steam Gala 2009 – part 1

Saturday, 2 May 2009


Performers in position


No time for stage fright


Guest star from Hungary


Chabowka veteran


Waiting to go on stage


A tight fit


The final bow

This year’s Wolsztyn Steam Gala was the most successful yet with some 30,000 people attending. We will be publishing a full analysis and report in due course. In the meantime here are some of our photographs of Friday’s light show, Sound, Light and Steam.

All the photographs were taken on 1st May, 2009. They are copyright, Behind The Water Tower. Permission is hereby given for them to be reproduced on any non-commercial website, subject to full atribution and the provision of a back link to BTWT. High resolution pictures may be seen by double clicking the pictures.

For commercial re-use please write to railfan [at] go2 [dot] pl.

Wolsztyn programme v.2

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Bill Parker’s GWR 5521 at last year’s Wolsztyn Steam Gala. This year’s Gala will be the last public appearance of the engine in Poland before she returns to the UK.

The following changes have been made to the programme that we published earlier. Due to the risks of fires in Germany, locomotives: 35 1019, 52 8177, 52 8079 and 03 2204 will no longer be taking part in the parade. In addition, there are some changes to the timing and the times when 18 201 will depart to be turned in Leszno and then return are no longer fixed at 15:20 and 17:30.

The following steam engines will be taking part in the Gala: Wolsztyn – Pt47-65, Ol49-59, Ol49-69, Tr5-65, Ok1-359, Ok22-31; Chabowka Ty2-911, Ol12-7, TKt48-191; Przewozy Regionalne, Wroclaw – TKt48-18; Great Britain – 5521; Hungary – 220.194; Czech Republic – 423 041; Slowak Republic – 486.007; Germany – 18 201.

Please note. The steam-hauled vintage trains on Saturday are likely to be sold out and it may be difficult to buy tickets on the day in the trains. We would recommend buying tickets (15 zl) on the Friday afternoon or evening in the Information Centre in Wolsztyn MPD.

Here is the revised programme for Saturday:

Ty2-911 + vintage train. Wolsztyn – Stefanowo. PUBLIC
Ty2-911 + vintage train. Stefanowo – Wolsztyn. PUBLIC
Traditionszug special. Berlin – Wolsztyn. PRIVATE
Ol12-7 + vintage train. Wolsztyn – Nowawies Mochy. PUBLIC
(train crosses “Hefajstos” train at Nowawies)
Special. Cottbus – Wolsztyn. PRIVATE
TKt48-18 + GWR 5521 + 9 coaches. Train no. 77503,”Hefajstos”. PUBLIC
Wrocław Gl 8:06; Oborniki Sl. 8:37; Zmigrod 9:00; Rawicz 9:20; Leszno 9:47
Ol12-7 + vintage train. Nowawies Mochy – Wolsztyn. PUBLIC
18 201 + 7 coaches. PRIVATE
Chemnitz Hbf – Cottbus – Wolsztyn.
Ok1-359 + PKP VIP special. Poznan – Wolsztyn. PRIVATE
Pt47-65 + 9 coaches. Poznan – Leszno – Wolsztyn. PUBLIC
Train no. 77503 ,Poznan Gl 9:50 – Koscian – Leszno 10:57
Formal opening
18 201 leaves to be turned in Leszno
TKt48-191 + vintage train. Wolsztyn – Stefanowo. PUBLIC
TKt48-191 + vintage train. Stefanowo – Wolsztyn. PUBLIC
Ol49-59 + PKP VIP special. Wolsztyn – Poznan. PRIVATE
Special. Wolsztyn – Berlin – Lichtenberg. PRIVATE
18 201, returns from being turned at Leszno
TKt48-18 + GWR5521 + “Hefajstos” train. PUBLIC
Boszkowo – Leszno – Rawicz – Zmigrod – Oborniki Sl. – Wroclaw Gl 20:35
Ol49 + train no. 77501. PUBLIC
Grodzisk Wlkp. – Poznan Debiec – Poznan Gl 19:34
18 201 + special. Wolsztyn – Cottbus. PRIVATE
Special. PRIVATE
Wolsztyn – Cottbus – Chemnitz Hbf.

Save a Polish Steam Engine

Friday, 23 January 2009

BTWT exclusive!


Ty42-59 being cut up in Wolsztyn in March 2000,
Photo © loose_grip_99

(Click photo to see it in its original context on Click here to see all of loose_grip_99’s photos.)

If you are not Polish, buying a steam engine in Poland can be a tricky business. How do you confirm whether the fellow trying to sell you the locomotive is legally entitled to sell it? How do you find out whether or not the locomotive is listed as a heritage monument and cannot be repaired or moved without the consent of the Wojewodzski Conserwator Zabytkow? Who has got the boiler book and repair schedule? How much does the fellow want for the documentation? Can you trust your agent / interpreter / intermediary? Are they adding on their own 200% margin to the proceedings and also expecting a back hander from you?

Suppose you have now bought your steam engine? Where do you put it? How much will you have to pay to rent the space? What about covered accommodation? How much would it cost to repair? Can you trust your fitter to do a professional job?

Well if you would like to rescue a Polish steam engine, keep it in Poland and restore it either cosmetically or into full working order, now may just be the right time. Fundacja Era Parowozow is trying to put together a plan to rescue some of the steam locomotives that PKP deems to be surplus to its requirements.

PKP’s last go at reducing its park of redundant steam locomotives caused such an enormous stink that the FEP team reckon they have a good chance to persuade PKP bosses to let private groups look after some of Poland’s 200 or so ‘surplus’ steam locomotives. Two arrangements are envisaged: (i) outright purchase at scrap metal value; (ii) a licence arrangement transferring custody of the locomotive, subject to a legally binding condition that the locomotive remains in Poland and certain restoration conditions being met.

FEP are looking for expressions of interest from organisations or individuals with the means to make it happen. The Fundacja management team are genuine railway enthusiasts and are not looking to rip anybody off. Further details from either Miroslaw Szymanski, the Chairman of FEP, or Robert Dylewski his assistant.

Mirosław Szymański
tel:(022) 625 52 46


Robert Dylewski
tel:(022) 625 52 46


Fundacja Era Parowozow
Al. Jerozolimskie 125 / 127
02-017 Warszawa

Oh, and by the way, if you do get your proposal accepted by the Foundation and start getting round to looking for somewhere to keep your locomotive, do drop BTWT a line. You never know, we may just be able to help!


One of the locos for which FEP has already found a good home. Photo © Marek Ciesielski

The picture shows Ty2-559 and was taken on Thursday 15 January 2009 in the Dzierżno works of Przedsiębiorstwo Transportu Kolejowego Holding Spółka Akcyjna a private freight operator. The cosmetic restoration included a completely new cab, new coal bunker, boiler cladding and smoke deflectors. Ty2-559 was stored for a long time at Chojnice. The locos new custodians are the AGH mining and foundry university in Kraków, outside whose headquarters the locomotive will be plinthed.

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?

Man with a mission

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Jonathan Glancey, photo The Guardian

Johnathan Glancey is a man with a mission. As The Guardian’s architecture and design correspondent, he writes well and intelligently (the two are not the same) in the paper about modern architecture and classic design. His interview with Daniel Libeskind in 2004 was a seminal piece. He maintains an arts blog for the Guardian where he has written about subjects as diverse as the RAF’s Lightning fighter and the future of Battersea Power Station. He is an honorary fellow of The Royal Institute of British Architects. You might think that Jonathan’s vehicle of the future is the mag-lev personal transport pod flying over the city on a thread of steel. It’s not. Johnathan Glancey is a man with steam in his soul.

His April 2003 article in the Guardian about Wolsztyn is the most atmospheric piece of writing to ever appear in print about the locomotive depot and the people who go there to try their hand at the Wolsztyn Experience.

Three-thirty in the morning. Minus 20C. Packed ice. Insistent snow. A Siberian wind scythes across frozen lakes, birch woods, the frosted onion domes of baroque churches and the cobbled streets of Wolsztyn, a low-lying Polish town set on the great Prussian plain between Poznan and the German border.

This is not most people’s idea of a good start to the day, particularly a holiday. But, what if they were awoken by the sharp whistle and compelling bark of a mainline steam locomotive, and, as they pulled on boots, hat and gloves, they knew that in less than an hour’s time, they would be hard at work on the footplate of that black-and-green engine taking the first yawning commuters to work 50 miles and 15 stations down the line across rural Poland? What then?

Anyone with any sense would take off that hat, those gloves and boots and go straight back to bed. Not, though, if you have steam in the soul. For steam enthusiasts, Wolsztyn is a kind of paradise. Even at 3.30am on a frozen morning. Here, the last scheduled mainline European steam trains, passenger and freight, fan out through forests to Poznan, Zbaszynek and Leszno.

(Click here to read the whole article.)

But there’s more to Jonathan than just steam nostalgia and slightly hazy geography (‘Prussian plain’ in Wielkopolska!). He is one of a tiny group of engineers and visionaries who believes that the steam engine still has a future. In today’s Guardian Jonathan writes,

In 1946 Paul Kiefer, chief mechanical engineer of the New York Central Railroad, set his latest steam locomotive, the potent, coal-burning 6,700hp Niagara class 4-8-4, against General Motors’ brand new diesel-electrics. The Niagara could generate more power than three of the latest diesel-electrics coupled together. It could run the wheels off them while accelerating passenger trains as long as 30 modern British InterCity carriages with the alacrity of an electric.

The detailed report that followed revealed total annual running costs of $350,095 for Kiefer’s finest and $359,478 for a twin-set of 4,000hp GM diesels capable of maintaining existing NYC schedules. As the construction cost of the diesels was nearly 50% higher than that of a Niagara, you might have thought that steam would have continued to rule the railroad roost.

Not a chance, even though the tests were conducted with oil as cheap as chips in today’s terms. If, in fact, the NYC management had been forced to buy oil at the equivalent of today’s prices, the Niagara would have won the day effortlessly. Or, would it? I don’t think so, no matter how you looked at, or cooked, the figures. The problem facing inspired steam engineers like Kiefer and his contemporary, André Chapelon of France’s SNCF – whose latest locomotive, 242 A1, was outperforming existing electric locomotives, was, as much as anything else, one of image.

Steam seemed old-fashioned, dirty and labour-intensive. It didn’t have to be, but that was the perception encouraged by General Motors, the oil lobby and a new generation of fervently modernising railway managers.

(Click here to read the whole article.)

Eccentric? Impractical. Uneconomic? Not necessarily so. The 5AT project is a plan by a group of engineers to build a totally new steam locomotive, designed incorporating the latest developments in steam locomotive technology, for hauling main line steam charter and luxury trains. With a 70% increase in thermal efficiency over “classic” steam, and a maximum design speed of 125 mph (200 kph) its performance could amply demonstrate what could have been achieved had steam locomotive development been fully exploited in the 20th Century. Jonathan wrote about the project when it was given its first public airing in October 2003.

This week Alan Fozard of the 5AT Group presented technical and business plans for this new generation 4-6-0 steam locomotive at the first World Steam and Tourist Train Congress at Brienz, Switzerland. Delegates were shown designs for a machine that will transform the way passengers and railway management alike see the steam locomotive.

The 5AT will resemble a conventional Stephensonian steam locomotive, yet it will be neither smoky nor grimy. Yes, it will produce that familiar rhythmic beat, those plumes of white steam; its piston rods will race in and out of visible cylinders, and its tall disc wheels will be driven by a form of reciprocating motion invented by the Belgian engineer Egide Walschaerts in 1844.

Otherwise, it will be a very different machine, 100% more efficient than the finest steam locomotives of the 1950s when technical development of this much loved form of motive power hit the buffers. Only a small lineage of impassioned engineers in France (Andre Chapelon 1892-1978), Argentina (Livio Dante Porta, 1922-2003), and their disciples, David Wardale, Roger Waller and Phil Girdlestone in Europe, today continue the pursuit of modern steam.

(Click here to read the whole article.)

With oil prices bouncing around $US135 a barrel a modern, low maintenance, high efficiency, steam engine becomes an interesting proposition. With the help of Jonathan, the small band of engineers who believed that steam engine design was capable of much further improvement – Andre Chapelon, Livio Porta and their successors, David Wardale, Roger Waller and Phil Girdlestone – may well one day be proved right.

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.

Scheduled steam to resume at Wolsztyn…

Friday, 27 June 2008

but no one knows how many trains and for how long.

Czeslaw Janus i Andrzej Panczak come off shed on 23.06.2008 © Wojtek Lis

(click for photo in original context, on Parowozy z Wolsztyna, WARNING – Polish and German text)

In an ‘off the record’ briefing, an official in the Wielkopolska province’s transport department told BTWT that as a result of meetings that had taken place last week between Wielkopolska officials and the passenger railway operator PKP Przewozy Regionalne, steam haulage of timetabled passenger trains could restart as early as August and the full three train a day service (one to Leszno and two to Poznan) would resume on 1st October.

The actual number of trains will depend on the price that PKP Cargo will ultimately demand for the provision of its steam engines and rolling stock. The price that has been quoted to Wielkopolska officials has risen from 15 PLN (about £4) to a horrendous 46 PLN (£11-50) per kilometre. Already a couple of UK-based railtour operators have complained that it is cheaper and easier to charter a steam train in Germany than it is in Poland.

The official also confirmed fears that badly maintained steam engines could start forest fires and pointed out that not all passengers wanted to travel in old coaches hauled by steam engines emitting black smoke, particularly in summer where the only form of ‘air conditioning’ was to keep the windows wide open.

Provided PKP Cargo plays ball, the arrangements now being put in place should keep steam haulage of scheduled services going until the end of 2008. As to the long-term future, that’s still anybody’s guess.

First the good news…

Friday, 27 June 2008

David Morgan addresses Polish Heritage Railway managers in Poznan in 2007

(click to see photo on Fundacja Era Parowozow website)

One of BTWT’s reliable sources reports on a meeting that took place on 25 June between David Morgan, President of Fedecrail, and Juliusz Engelhardt, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry Of Infrastructure, responsible for Poland’s railways. Fedecrail is the European Federation of Museum and Tourist Railways and has been working with a number of Polish heritage railway organisations, as well as the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership, to assist in the creation of a national umbrella body for the Polish heritage railway movement. In Great Britain, such an umbrella body, the Heritage Railway Association, has existed since the 1960s and Mr Morgan is also its chairman.

Mr Morgan came to Poland to tell the Minister of Fedecrail’s concern about the closure of the Krosniewice Railway. At Fedecrail’s Annual General Meeting, which took place in Salzburg in April this year, a resolution (pdf file) was passed urging the Mayor of Krosniewice to reopen the railway. Mr Morgan also raised the matter of the imminent end of the steam haulage of ordinary scheduled trains at Wolsztyn and the prospect of the sale by tender and scrapping of much of Poland’s railway heritage.

Mr Engelhardt, explained that it was his understanding that the Krosniewice Railway had been closed because of lack of cash. Although he could not offer financial support he could offer moral support to efforts to reopen the railway and help set up meetings with the local authorities.

All BTWT activists who wrote a letter to Barbara Herman (the Mayor of Krosniewice who was responsible for closing the railway) and then copied their letter to Cezary Garbarczyk (Mr Engelhardt’s boss, the Minister of Infrastructure) can now give themselves a pat on the back.

…then the bad.

With respect to Wolsztyn, Mr Engelhardt said he recognised that Wolsztyn was now probably unique, not only in Europe, but also in the whole world. It would certainly continue as a steam shed servicing steam locomotives for special events like the Wolsztyn Steam Gala and for special trains. The only aspect over which there was a question mark was the continuation of steam-hauled ordinary service trains, because the operation of railbuses was much cheaper.

This confirms our worst fears about the future of scheduled steam at Wolsztyn. We will be consulting all the key stakeholders, and then recommending what the best course of action is for BTWT activists.

Mr Engelhardt concluded by saying that he had no knowledge of the sale by tender of railway heritage items to which Mr Morgan had referred and that his view was that items of Polish railway heritage should stay in Poland.

Mr Morgan will be asking Polish railway societies to follow up in detail with the minister a number of the specific points that had been raised at the meeting.

Polish scheduled steam continues…

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

… in Wroclaw and Smigiel.

GWR small prairie at Birmingham Snow Hill in the 1920s? No it’s January 2008, and 5521, restored to perfection by Bill Parker, is being shown to the public at Wroclaw Glowny. (photo R. Boduszek. Click on picture to see it in its original context. WARNING, Polish text)

When the last fire is drawn at Wolsztyn on Friday July 4 it won’t quite be the end of scheduled, as opposed to ‘special’ steam workings in Poland. The Wroclaw – Jelcz Laskowice service will be worked by steam, either by Tkt48-18 or GWR small prairie 5521 as follows:

May 28th – June 5th Tkt48-18
June 18th – June 26th GWR 5521
following week Tkt48-18 (dates tbc.)
Aug 3rd – Sept 11th Tkt48-18
Sept 17th – Sept 25th GWR 5521
Oct 8th – Oct 16th Tkt48-18
Oct 22nd – Oct 30th GWR 5521

There will also be some steam haulage of the narrow gauge service trains on the Smigiel Railway between Stare Bojanowo and Smigiel. But it won’t be quite the same without Wolsztyn. A recent post on the kolejelist discussion group (this one is in ENGLISH!) puts an optimistic slant on recent developments. Nonetheless, the facts are that local PKP Cargo director at Poznan, Mr Wasilewski, is being starved of resources to keep the Wolsztyn steam engines running reliably. With Howard Jones’ Wolsztyn Experience only contributing 10% towards PKP Cargo’s costs of running the Wolsztyn Depot, and PKP Prezwozy Regionalne (the passenger train operating company) reliant on a subsidy from the Wielkopolska Council, the long-term future for the continuation of scheduled service train steam operations at Wolsztyn does not look very bright.

To complicate matters, a three way power struggle has broken out between PKP Cargo, PKP Przewozy Regionalne and the Wielkopolska Chief Executive’s office about who will eventually control Wolsztyn.

Let’s all hope that, while the parties fight it out amongst themselves, the baby is not thrown out with the bath water!


Wolsztyn Experience – News and Events
You Tube – nice video clip of 5521 arriving at Wroclaw Glowny

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.

Well Played PLK!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Lodz Fabryczna Station (photo MarcinK on, click pic for more pictures of Lodz)

Unlike Mike, who publishes the W-wa Jeziorki blog, I used to like the old style trains which plied from Lodz to Warsaw. True the 100 km journey did take 2 hours 15 minutes, but the nicely refurbished compartment coaches were clean comfortable. Rush hours excluded, they offered a pleasant environment for working or reading for pleasure, and if bored one could always engage the guard or one’s fellow passengers in a conversation about the shortcomings of PKP’s management.

However, since PKP noticed that the Warsaw – Lodz service (one of their most profitable) was loosing passengers fast to the rival coach operators, things have not been the same. For the last two years, contractors have been rebuilding the railway. They have not just been relaying track, but also they’ve been draining the trackbed, rebuilding bridges, digging subways, putting up noise barriers and constructing proper platforms. While all this has been going on the train journey lengthened by another hour. To make passengers feel really miserable, brand new shining emus were introduced without compartments, but with back-breaking seats.

Today’s journey did not start well. My taxi driver asked me where I was going and, when I told him that I was going to Warsaw, he told me that I would be lucky to get there at all. A train crash had occured further up the line and all trains were being diverted. He then chose a route which allowed me ample time to study the worst traffic jams in Lodz and ensured that I would miss my train. Unbidden he offered me the information that his rate for going to Warsaw was 250 dollars. I wondered whether I look like the sort of person who if he has a spare 250 dollars in his pocket looks for a taxi driver who can relieve him of the burden?

At the station, the lady behind the ticket desk positively beamed. “There’s been a big train crash and all Warsaw trains are being diverted.” “So how long do you think the journey may take.” “We can’t be sure, apparently one Lodz train left Warsaw this morning and nobody has seen it since.” She cheered me up by telling me that the train that I had just mised hadn’t in fact run. She asked me for 32 zloty for my fare. I told her that yesterday the fare from Warsaw had been 26 zloty and she told me that today was the first day of the new timetable which shortened the journey time to just over 90 minutes.

After making some enquiries I discovered that the next train would leave in an hour. Arming myself with a toasted sandwich and a 1.5 lire bottle of mineral water, I was please to discover that the train would consist of some old fashioned compartment stock which already waiting on platform 2 track 3. (Confusingly for Brits the Poles number both their platforms and tracks.) A TV were waiting like vultures to pounce on the passengers who were travelling on the train from Warsaw. As the hour passed and the train never arrived they moved on to doing short vox pop interviews with passengers boarding the Warsaw train. I grabed the producer and she recorded me doing a little rant about the seating in the new emus.

The guard was not a happy bunny, when I asked him when he thought that we will be in Warsaw, he answered by grumbling that he should have been home over an hour ago. The new tracks are smoother than before but the welding of the rail had not been done to such close tolerancres as in the UK. I slept. When I awoke, we were on the outskirts Warsaw. The blockage had been cleared, we had only lost 20 minutes. Now, when was the last time that you heard of a case in the UK where after a major train crash the line is back in service after barely 12 hours? Well played, PLK – the Polish rail way infrastructure company.

I reached Warsaw in time for a key meeting to brief an important member of the business community about the crisis facing Wolsztyn. He offered to support our lobbying campaign. Tomorrow we will review the Wolsztyn situation and discuss what action BTWT readers can take.

And now Chabowka?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Chabowka, Poland’s other steam locomotive depot

Our favourite cleaning lady, who empties the waste paper bins at the Polish Ministry of Transport, tells us that Under Secretary of State for Rail, Juliusz Engelhard, and the Chief Executive of Malopolska province, Marek Nawara, will meet on Tuesday 17 June to discuss the future of the Chabowka Open Air Railway Museum. Apparently Mr Nawara is intending to create a company to take over the museum from PKP Cargo. Cynics are saying that the creation of a company rather than a ‘Foundation for Public Benefit’ (the Polish equivalent of an English Charity) bodes ill for the future of Chabowka’s collection of historic steam locomotives and rolling stock.

Our foxy friend points out that perhaps it is no coincidence that the crisis at Wolsztyn and this development at Chabowka are both occurring at about the same time. About two years ago, PKP Cargo launched a special foundation, Fundacja Era Parowozow, to take over its historic collection of locomotives and rolling stock. The plan was a good idea. A foundation can apply for local authority grants and EU finding in a way that a commercial company cannot. There was also a lot of potential synergy between Chabowka and Wolsztyn. Chabowka employs 30 people, maintains its working engines in top notch order, has just passed out 15 new steam drivers, but its engines hardly do any work. Wolsztyn lacks good fitters and drivers, its engines are poorly maintained, but up to the 1 June was running scheduled steam services daily.

However, it seems that some sort of deal was concluded in the corridors of power in Warsaw which stopped Fundacja Era Parowozow in its tracks. Instead of taking over custody of those items of Poland’s railway heritage which were set aside for preservation, the Foundation has been pushed aside to become no more than a marketing agent for PKP Cargo. A tour operator from Germany or the UK now has to first submit his requirements to FEP who then forward the request to PKP Cargo who then submit an (enormously inflated) estimate to FEP, who then send it on to the client. By the time the process is complete the prospective customer has gone elsewhere. Meanwhile FEP, which was set up to look after Poland’s railway heritage, now finds itself in opposition to any intentions that PKP may having to simply sell off Poland;s railway heritage to the highest bidder.

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


Thursday, 12 June 2008

‘Wolsztyn puffers may return’
(Click on pic for Radio Merkury POLISH webpage)

Poznan local radio station Radio Merkury has devoted considerable airtime to investigating the suspension of steam services from Wolsztyn. For members of BTWT’s Polish class, the recorded interviews are available on-line. (Just click on the picture above and then click on the individual links.)

Radio Merkury teases out its story till the bottom of the page. The final paragraph states –

There is, however, a spark of hope for all those who care about the future of Wolsztyn, Poznan and Wielkopolska province. Jerzy Kriger, the Director of Transport of the provincial government, told Radio Merkury that Marek Wozniak, the Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province has ordered him to hold an urgent meeting with PKP officials with a view to finding whether an solution could be reached which would allow steam locomotives to return to the Wolsztyn – Poznan route.

The whole sorry saga goes to show that the Wolsztyn MPD and its scheduled steam trains is too important a matter to be left to the whim of local PKP, or local authority, officials. The steam depot at Wolsztyn is a national resource worthy of world heritage status. We believe that it should be administered by a national charitable trust independent of PKP or Wielkopolska province, and have binding long-term agreements with all stakeholders such that embarrassing incidents of this sort do not occur again.


Thursday, 12 June 2008

Marek Wozniak, Chief Executive of Wielkopolska

Following the shock 4 month suspension of steam haulage of the Wolsztyn – Poznan services from 1 June, the Wolsztyn – Leszno steam-hauled train is now officially due to be cease on Monday 16 June. A storm of protest has hit the office of the Chief Executive of Wielkopolska province. (Note that he is quaintly called the ‘Marshal of Wielkopolska Region’ on the English version of the authority’s website.) Howard Jones is still hopeful that a deal can still be swung to save the Leszno service. Local authority officials are sounding him out as to whether he would be willing to fund the difference between steam and diesel haulage that they are being charged by PKP. So much for a ‘fire risk’ that conveniently disappears when money is being talked about! Howard is already paying PKP Cargo the difference between steam and diesel haulage, so it looks as if Cargo have been charging for steam haulage twice, sending bills to Howard and the local authority.

This sad story seems to be a typical case that when something is operating well in Poland, some stupid official has to come up with a way of ruining it. Howard has been providing the income stream that has kept Wolsztyn Depot open for 11 years as Europe’s last motive power depot servicing steam locomotives that work regular service trains. Wolsztyn’s visitors have spent millions of euros in the region! Howard should be feted by the Polish authorities and PKP for his achievements and they should have the courtesy to discuss any changes in arrangements with him well in advance.


The meeting that we originally reported as taking place between Howard Jones and Ministry of Infrastructure officials in Warsaw, in fact took place in Poznan between Howard and the Deputy Transport Director of Wielkopolska province. Our thanks to WE for pointing this out. The original article has been corrected.

Useful links:

Wolsztyn Experienceofficial website

Wielkopolska provincethe office of the Chief Executive


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:

There’s nothing better than bad news…

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Crash investigators at Grayrigg
(photo Owen Humphries on daylife ex AP)

First a bit of good news, our chief engineer’s worries about the tram track section of the WHR through Porthmadog apppear to have been misplaced. A medical gentlemen left the following comment on our Twisty Tale post.

Have no fear about our tram track. The gauge is widened by 10mm in the middle of the 50m radius curve at Britannia Bridge, and a suitable rail with an appropriate flange groove between the running rail and the check rail has been found in Austria.

There is a notice at the approach to the crossing saying CYCLISTS MUST DISMOUNT.

The class NGG16 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt locomotives traverse 58m radius curves elsewhere on the railway without difficulty, and of course the radii are even sharper at points (turnouts), check rails and all.

Relax, sleep well; come and see us this time next year. Croeso i Gymru; welcome to Wales.

We have been to Poland and admired some of your narrow gauge lines – we were very taken with the marvellous museum at Sochaczew (pardon me if I spell it wrong). the branch line at Smigiel needs someone to go along it with a fishplate spanner to tighten the joints.


Dyspozytor has been going on long walks, relaxing and is already sleeping better. Our chief engineer is still muttering ‘NG 15s are 2-8-2s, 50 doesn’t equal 58, flangeway clearances, back to back flange distance’ and other such nonsense, but we have locked him up in a cupboard and will leave him there until he promises to behave himself.

Now the bad news, there will be no repeal of the decision to suspend the Wolsztyn – Poznan steam workings this summer. Howard Jones has been to Poznan this morning and met with Wielkopolska province’s Deputy Director of Transport. He was assured that the importance of the Wolsztyn operation was recognized by the Chief Executive and that steam trains will return to the Poznan route in October. Meanwhile Howard will be hiring additional special trains on the Wolsztyn-Poznan route to fulfill his existing agreements with customers. (He already has built up alternative footplating capacity in Wroclaw with recently restored TKt48-18 and Bill Parker’s GWR 45xx 5521, as well as on the narrow gauge Smigiel Railway with the Px48.) Howard says, “We have built up a special fund for capital projects such as restoring our own Ol steam locomotive. Now we will have to dip into this fund and buy extra trains so that we can still meet our customers’ expectations.”

It seems that the reason for the suspension of the steam services is based on more than just economics. If saving money was the object, the timetabling and rostering of the steam trains could have been arranged more economically. Rather, PKP is tied up in its own affairs – the removal of senior directors and the sale of parts of its business. Wolsztyn is no one’s priority. In spite of promises to the contrary, no new crews have been recruited nor trained, and licences to allow the depot to carry out boiler repairs have not been renewed. The basic problem is that there is no one at a sufficiently high level in the PKP hierarchy who really cares about heritage rail operations.

Still, as the proprietors of the popular press know all to well, publishing bad news boosts circulation. BTWT watches the number of daily hits it gets assiduously and we were surprised to see how much interest bad news generates.

Behind the Water Tower’s weekly-cumulative daily hit rate

Our biggest daily hit rate (which we have yet to beat) occurred on 2 April when we broke through the 100 hits a day and 200 hits a day barriers for the first time. At the end of the day we had registered 253 hits. What had generated so much interest – our articles on the closure of the Krosniewice Railway and the stepping up of our letter writing campaign to save the line. The Krosniewice closure gave us a daily-cumulative per week hit rate of 774 views (week 14 on the graph) as opposed to 236 hits the previous week. Readership then fell back to its previous steady growth and then began to level off at around 750 weekly hits – just over 100 hits each day. Over the last two days interest in our story about the curtailment of steam operations at Wolsztyn, and narrow gauge fans returning for the latest news about the Krosniewice Railway closure, boasted our daily hits to 220 on Sunday. This gave us our biggest ever daily-cumulative per week hit rate of 898 views last week (week 23).

Why this obsession with the numbers game? We know that for every 100 long-term readers, about 10 are sufficiently committed to respond to our calls for help. That means that the Ministry of Infrastructure received 10 more letters on its desk than it would of done if there had been no BTWT and no letter writing campaign. Can 10 letters make a difference? Quite frankly we don’t know, although we hope that taken together with the Fedecrail delegation’s visit to Poland and the threat of legal action, they will. But just consider if we had 1,000 regular readers each day. That would mean that the Minisister would have received 100 letters – a figure much more difficult to ignore.

So how can you help? First of all, you can sign up to our twice monthly mailing which contains links to our most popular articles. Secondly, ask yourself – are any of your friends interested in Poland or railways or both – whose names we could add to our mailing list? Secondly – and we apologise for nagging – please, if you have not already done so, do send that letter to the Mayor of Krosniewice and copy us on your letter and any reply that you may receive.