The International Steam Pages

A Polish Steam Primer

If (like me) you have never been to Poland let alone seen a Polish steam locomotive then Robert Hall's primer may help reading his accounts of fighting the system. Below are links to the tales

PKP (Polish State Railways) steam dramatis personae in regular commercial service during the 1980s -- all classes World-War-II-or-later, vintage:


Standard gauge

Ty2 2-10-0: German class 52 "austerity" WWII "Kriegslok" type. There was also class Ty42 - identical with Ty2, but far less often met with. The only difference was that Ty2 were German-built, Ty42 built by Polish firms at German orders.

Pt47 2-8-2: PKP's post-war express passenger class, developed from similar pre-war ditto.

Ol49 2-6-2: post-war PKP mixed-traffic design.

TKt48 2-8-2T: post-war type, originally planned for freight haulage, but by the 1980s employed almost entirely on local / branch passenger.

Narrow gauge

Px48 0-8-0: post-war design, developed from similar pre-war ditto, widespread on the 750mm and metre gauges (not found on other narrow gauges). Minor variation, the class Px49 (only ten built): identical, except that "48s" had bogie eight-wheel tenders, and "49s" six-wheel ones.

Less common:

Standard gauge

Ty43 2-10-0: German class 42 design - more-heavy-duty version of the German class 52 "Kriegslok".

Ty45 2-10-0: post-war PKP design - relatively light, "go-anywhere", freight 2-10-0.

Ty51 2-10-0: post-war PKP design for heavy freight haulage.

I have always marvelled at PKP's elaborate designation system for steam loco classes. For the standard gauge, the initial, capital, letter, indicated the class's intended principal purpose: P meant express passenger, O mixed-traffic, T freight. A capital K after the first letter (as in TKt48) indicated a tank loco class. The succeeding lower-case letter indicated the wheel arrangement - one for each: thus, t meant 2-8-2, y meant 2-10-0, and so on. The number which followed, specified the class and revealed the origin of the loco's design. A certain number-series referred to German designs; another, to Austrian; another, to post-independence Polish (these and these only, also incorporated the type's year of origin - e.g. Pt47: inaugurated in 1947); yet another, to "anyone else" (Brits, Yanks, what-have-you). For some reason, the system had a "thing" about German types from the World War II era: if German-built they had one designation, if Polish-built at German behest under German occupation, they had another, giving the year of introduction: thus with, as above, Ty2 and Ty42 - by the 1980s, the only such class with examples of both kinds, left in service.

To someone non-technically-minded such as myself, it all seemed unnecessarily and dementedly complicated, and as though dreamed up for the delectation of gricers - who were otherwise hated on the Polish railway scene. The icing on this cake, was that PKP's set-up for designation of narrow-gauge steam classes was similar in general outline, to that for standard-gauge ones, but considerably different in detail. Glass houses, maybe: British Railways' designating of their steam classes was fairly strange and wayward - but BR seemed in this, to glory in being random and un-systematic, whereas PKP took system and logic to borderline-crazy extremes. There's probably no totally ideal way to handle this thing.

Rob Dickinson