The International Steam Pages
Steam Special on the Cisna Tourist Railway, Poland, 2010
James Waite writes of his visit to Cisna in April 2010.
See also his reports of other Polish narrow gauge visits:
I made a brief (1 ˝ days) trip with Bernd Seiler's FarRail Polish group to the forestry railway at Cisna in the south eastern corner of Poland. Here are a few photos from Thursday 29 April 2010, a beautiful cloudless day but very cold as the railway is up in the Carpathian mountains with a summit at an altitude of more than 700 metres. It’s now solely a tourist railway and most of the tourist trains are diesel hauled.
The line started out life as a fairly typical Austrian-style 760mm gauge railway between a main line junction at Nowy Lupkow and Majdan, near Cisna - this part of Poland was part of the Austrian empire until 1918. It had its fair share of turmoil during the various wars there – being partly dismantled by the retreating Austrian army in WW1 and again by the Poles when the Germans and the Russians invaded in 1939.
However the worst devastation, both for the railway and the district which it served, occurred between 1945 and 1947 in what was in effect a vicious civil war between the Polish Army and the UPA, a Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary organisation. Up until then the district had been quite densely populated, mostly by people of Ukrainian origin. Many of the towns and villages were entirely destroyed as was much of the railway.
The conflict with the UPA only came to an end when the entire Ukrainian population was deported from the south east of the country and scattered throughout the territory which the Poles gained from Germany in 1945 in what is now western Poland – ethnic cleansing on a grand scale long before the term was invented. Economically the area has never recovered. The ruins of old houses form a common sight throughout the district and most of what had been good arable land has long since reverted to nature.
Reconstruction of the railway, now to 750mm gauge, began in the early 1950’s. It was extended northwards from a new junction at Smolnik to Mikow where it joined an existing industrial line to a paper factory at Rzepedz. At its greatest extent the line covered a distance of 73km between Rzepedz in the northwest to Moczarne in the east and was Poland’s longest narrow gauge line. For a while after the reconstruction the railway operated as a freight line only, primarily now for timber traffic. Passenger services resumed in 1963 and continued until 1993. The line closed altogether for regular traffic the following year. By 1997 a limited tourist service was in operation for a short distance to the east of Cisna. This has gradually been extended and tourist services now operate as far east as Wetlina and to the west as far as the old junction at Smolnik.
After the 1950’s reconstruction the line was initially worked by several of the standard Polish “Las”-type 0-6-0T’s, locos specifically designed for forestry service. At Cisna they were fitted with four wheeled tenders in view of the railway’s considerable length. By 1955 at least four of them were in service. They proved to be too small for the steep gradients and heavy timber trains and in 1957 were replaced by a series of six newly-built Kp-4 class locos – the standard Soviet design many hundreds of which were built in Poland for service in the USSR along with thousands more built elsewhere. These were amongst the small number of the Polish locos to remain in the country. In 1960 they were joined by two second hand Px48 class 0-8-0’s.
These were all replaced by a group of Lyd2 class diesels delivered new to the line in 1977 and 1980, most of which still serve the line today. One each of the Kp-4’s and the Px48’s were kept at Cisna as museum locos for a few years but by 1987 the museum had folded up. Today they’re at Sochaczew narrow gauge museum. It’s a pity they can’t return now that the future of their home line is secure.
Within the last few years the railway has acquired and restored a “Las”-type loco which spent its working life at Kruszwica sugar factory in central Poland. Earlier this year it was fitted with a replica of the tenders with which the “Las”-type locos ran on the line during their brief period of service there in the 1950’s. The railway has also acquired a Kp-4 loco but it needs extensive overhaul and replacement of spare parts. In the current economic climate the cost of manufacturing them is beyond the railway’s means and so it’s unlikely that the loco will run again for some years to come.
As with many of Poland’s tourist railways most regular services are diesel-operated and the steam loco runs only on special occasions. Even so the scenery in this remote corner of the country is most attractive and the line’s well worth visiting.
Incidentally I found in a small postcard shop in the village a fascinating book of photos of the forestry lines throughout the Carpathians, in Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, more than 400 pages altogether. An excellent book. The railway has a website at http://www.kolejka.bieszczady.pl/?catID=552. It's in Polish only but there are several interesting archive photos of the railway in its working days and it's well worth a look.
Steam locos since the post-1950’s reconstruction