The International Steam Pages

The Gnieźnieńska Kolej Powiatowa - Gnieźno District Railway, 2012

James Waite writes of his visit to Gnieźno in April 2012.

See also his reports of other Polish narrow gauge visits:

The Gnieźno-Anastazewo railway was one of the PKP’s last steam-worked narrow gauge lines and will be well known to many enthusiasts who visited the country before PKP gave up its narrow gauge operations in 2002.

Even by the convoluted standards of the Polish narrow gauge the railway has a complicated history. The first stretch out of Gnieźno was built in 1883 as an industrial line to serve the sugar factory there and reached Mielyn, 22km to the southeast. Poland had lost its independence in the late 18th century and until 1918 was divided between Germany, Russia and Austria. Gnieźno lay in the German portion and the line was built to the 900mm gauge often used for German industrial lines. The line was taken over by the local authority in 1893 for use as a public railway. It was converted to 600mm gauge two years later. Several extensions were built over the following years including one eastwards from a junction at Niechanowo which reached Anastazewo in 1911.

Two years later the sugar factory at Goslawice built a private line to connect with the new railway at Anastazewo. However this lay in the Russian-occupied part of the country and the Russians required that it should be built to 750mm gauge which had by then been adopted as a standard throughout the Russian empire. The railway adopted the name Gnieźnieńska Kolej Powiatowa (Gnieźno District Railway) in 1927 as a result of local government reorganisation in the wake of Polish independence after the end of the First World War.

The whole line was rebuilt to 750mm gauge in 1951 after being taken over by the PKP and was incorporated via a connecting line from Niechanowo into the extensive Kujawy system, much of which had originated in military railways built by the Germans during the First World War. Closure of much of the system occurred in the following years and after 1984 the Gnieźno-Anastazewo became the only remaining section of this part of the Kujawy system. The railway remained entirely steam-worked until 1999. Control passed to the local authority in 2002 and it once again became known as the Gnieźnieńska Kolej Powiatowa.

Tourist services, mostly worked by Lxd2 class diesels, ran until 2011 but agreement has not as yet been reached between the various parties involved for regular operations in 2012. Freight services continued for some years after PKP pulled out but appear now to have ceased entirely. This is said to have come about as a result of opposition from residents of the towns and villages along the route; most of their houses were built long after the railway so it’s hard to understand quite why they should have been able to influence any closure decision. The final stretch from Ostrowo to Anastazewo is currently closed altogether because of the poor state of the track.

Between Gnieźno and Witkowo the railway runs mostly alongside route 260, quite a major road, though it veers off through the fields and villages here and there. The remainder of the line to Ostrowo runs well away from the main road and is quite different in character.

Px48-1919 is still kept in working order at Gnieźno shed but is said to require overhaul next year. Px48-1785 is also at Gniezno out of use. Most of the structures along the line look poorly maintained and it’s hard to avoid the impression that the railway’s future is less than secure. While the heritage value of some of Poland’s narrow gauge lines is now being recognised this, sadly, seems not to be the case all across the country. There should be some more steam trips before the end of the summer and they will provide a good opportunity to ride on this pretty line. Gnieźno is a historic city with an enormous medieval cathedral and good hotels – well worth a visit.

Px48-1919 pulling away from Gniezno station past the engine shed with the towers of the cathedral on the skyline to the left.

This young family have turned out to watch the train at Niechanowo. It was once one of the line's more important junctions but the station is now derelict.

Between Niechanowo and Miroszka.

Two views at Miroszka.

The train crew enjoy an al fresco lunch at Powidz.

Rob Dickinson