The International Steam Pages

Polish Hide and Seek, Steam in Poland 1984

Robert Hall writes of his experiences in Poland. Further tales are linked below:

These tales relate entirely to 21st Century experiences:

You may also want to read his Polish Steam Primer.

For those who would like to see the kind of steam locomotive described here, Robert recommends the following galleries of Polish steam:

Railway enthusiasts are sometimes accused of not having their priorities fully right: they came in for a certain amount of “stick” over that, in connection with Eastern Europe in the final fifteen years or so of Communism there. Vis-a-vis “real life”, the general view held, with fairly few dissenting, was that the system mentioned was, in sundry ways, not a good one by which to try to run countries; and attempts by the citizens of the afflicted lands, to throw off the yoke, were applauded. The railfan community in the West, though, harboured (and felt guilty for so doing) mixed feelings about the issue. At that stage of the twentieth century, the only remaining European countries which still had a significant amount of steam in everyday commercial service, were in the East. This situation obtained in the first place, thanks to the inefficiencies inherent in Communism, slowing down what is generally seen as progress. Furthermore, visits pursuing the railway interest, to Eastern European countries – never altogether easy, even in the best of circumstances – were apt to be badly hampered by internal unrest in those countries, which intensified the activities of the always high-profile agencies dedicated to “security”. Hence many Western enthusiasts shamefacedly feeling along the lines of: “we agree with, and admire, the folk who are striving for freedom in these places; but we can’t help wishing that they’d hold back on it a bit, until steam – on the way out, in all the countries concerned -- is finished.”

In the context of this – admittedly perverted – “take” on things, Poland’s struggle to get free of what she had been lumbered with, boiled over at an outstandingly bad time. At the beginning of the 1980s, among the tiny handful of countries in Europe which still boasted totally genuine day-in-day-out steam line working, Poland had by far the greatest quantity of that rapidly-diminishing treasure, shared between nine different classes (one of them narrow gauge); and there was free access to travel around and experience this scene, though photographing it was usually strictly taboo. Martial law being imposed in late 1981, with tourists not being admitted “until further notice”, was cause for dismay for many reasons – including from a narrowly selfish gricing angle. An unhappy episode for all concerned; but as things worked out, what had passed for normality returned in a matter of months, rather than years. By 1983, independent tourism was once more permitted – though the country was on edge, and gricing needed to be undertaken warily. Things eased off progressively, and by early ’84, conditions for the enthusiast were not dissimilar to how they had been three years earlier, pre-martial law; and mercifully, though steam’s role had lessened in those intervening years, it had not done so by an enormous amount – Poland was still by far Europe’s best steam venue.

In the light of this, myself and the associate with whom I had visited Jugoslavia a couple of years before (this gentleman referred to as “G.”) decided to do a ten days’ independent tour of Poland, using “Polrailpass” unlimited-travel “railrovers”, in early summer 1984. The plan was to concentrate on good steam areas, and some of the more enticing narrow gauge, and to look at parts of the country of which I had hitherto seen little or nothing – this would be G.’s first visit to Poland, so all would be new to him. Areas focused on were basically the south-eastern and north-western parts of the country, plus some doings north of Warsaw. Although the unexpected took a hand in the “bash” to quite a dramatic extent, these remained basically the parts which were visited.

There is much wisdom in the slogan “KISS ( = Keep It Simple, Stupid)”; but sometimes life dictates that arrangements have to be other than simple, and it’s just necessary to hope and pray that they work out. Thus it was with us. I was living in London; G. was studying in France, and our mutual situations meant that we had to rendezvous in Poland at the start of our tour. We made ingenious arrangements, including back-up ones in case of mishap, for this to be done – all very John Le Carré. “Plan A” was that we would meet at Warsaw (Gdańska) station, to catch a particular train on a particular morning. “First fall-back” involved our meeting on a particular passenger train that evening, on the Ciechanów to Grudusk narrow-gauge line some way to the north. “Second fall-back” would be at Przeworsk station, far to the south-east, at a particular time the following evening.

It can be supposed that laying any set of plans that elaborate, is tempting fate: what happened with us, would seem to confirm this. G. and I failed to meet up, either at Warsaw (Gdańska) or at the supporting venues, or at any time thereafter. The reason for this, as subsequently learned from him, was that in the course of his rail journey from Paris to Warsaw, he quitted his compartment for a while to go to the dining-car, leaving his luggage on the compartment’s rack. During his absence, some less-than-honest citizen rifled his luggage and took various things – including the piece of paper on which were written our rendezvousing arrangements, which he had left in one of his bags (would have been far more prudent, I feel, to keep that document on his person – but G. was of the absent-minded-professor persuasion). He had not methodically committed our arrangements to memory, so for trying to meet up, had to rely on what he did remember – which unfortunately didn’t “cut it”. As he recounted to me when we were back in England, he and I must have been within yards of each other at Warsaw (Gdańska) station at the appointed time; but he didn’t recall the part which involved our both being on the agreed-on particular train. From then on, things went rapidly downhill. At that time, there were 750mm gauge passenger lines diverging from the Warsaw – Gdańsk main line, at two different points not very far north of Warsaw, and running to respective termini with not-dissimilar names; Pułtusk, and Grudusk. Murphy’s Law – G., racking his brains, picked the wrong one of these, and duly had an agreeable return journey behind a Px48 0-8-0, on the Pułtusk line; but our “fall-back No. 1”, was that to Grudusk. After that, not a chance…

In the succeeding days, I did quite some disrupting of intended itinerary, to try to reunite with G., or at least to establish that he had not met with some horrid fate. All to no avail, as it turned out – but the Polish steam scene was then so superb that even if you had to abruptly change your travel plans, you could still get some wonderful action on it. After going down south-east to Przeworsk and failing to meet with G. there, I felt it incumbent on me to return to Warsaw (not in the original plan), and call in at the British embassy to see whether he had left any message for me there. Duly did so; and as it turned out, could have saved myself the effort. Concerning the recounting of my “spot of bother”, I was assigned a female, junior member of the embassy staff – a rather sniffy individual, revealing no discernible interest in, or concern about, her fellow-countrymen’s problems. I told my tale, and was informed by the lady that they hadn’t been contacted by anyone called G., wishing to get in touch with myself with view possible linking-up at last – and rather got the feeling that she heartily wished she had never heard of me or of G. And I learned, when back in “Blighty”, that shortly after our failing to meet – and way before my visit to the embassy – G. had telephoned the embassy, and (in the hope of reuniting us, or at least reassuring me that he was alive and well) recounted to one of the staff there, our difficulty. No connection was made between his phone call and my visit, and I was left with the impression that he had not been heard from. Very bad service from the Warsaw embassy in 1984, to two “distressed British subjects”…

The tour became at times for me, something of a “ping-pong-ball” exercise – trying (unavailingly, as it turned out) to link up with G. – presenting self at Poznań to look along the westbound expresses on which he might be travelling, on originally-envisaged (different from mine) possible departure dates. (Found out subsequently, that a day or so after our failing to meet up, he had cut his losses and gone home.) I spent more time travelling, at all hours, up and down PKP ( Polish State Railways)’s timetable 340 route, Poznań – Kołobrzeg, than I like to think about – and what’s more, that line was at least 90% diesel…

In retrospect -- the way things turned out, was quite likely a blessing in disguise. There had been warnings in plenty on our previous trip to Jugoslavia, that G. and I did not make a very good travelling partnership – flaws and failings on both sides. If we had been together for a week-plus in Poland, the Polish police could imaginably – as a change from harassing foreigners trying to photograph steam trains – have been faced with a situation wherein (whichever) British gricer, had committed grievous bodily harm on his (ditto) companion…

“Zakaz fotografowania”, as they used to put it on many thousands of warning signs – I managed to get in bother with that one too, “in course of travels”. To approximately quote Bryan Morgan (writing about an experience three decades earlier, in another country, and involving a totally different situation), “a black cloud of stupidity descended on my mind”. I was in Rzeszów, in the south-east of Poland, with time to kill – had booked a sleeper berth on the evening’s departure of the overnight train to the opposite corner of the country, and it was just a matter of filling in the intervening hours. The Rzeszów – Jasło branch line’s passenger service was seemingly all-steam, and quite generous by PKP standards – but sparse by British Rail ditto. I got it into my head to walk a few kilometres out of town to the halt of Rzeszów Osiedle on the Jasło line, and catch from there the 1238 ex Jasło, back to Rzeszów’s main station. I duly set out on foot through the town’s extensive suburbs, noticing on the way a siding off the Jasło branch into a factory, being served by a Ty2 “Kriegslok” 2-10-0 on a freight working. Reached “Osiedle”, four kilometres out, and formed the impression that it was an unstaffed halt – whence (can only hypothesise local mischievous spirits briefly robbing me of my wits) I decided to take a photo, from the far end of the platform, of a typical – train-less – Polish branch-line scene. “PKP evil magic” was instantly triggered off: Rzeszów Osiedle turned out not to be unstaffed. The “staff” hastened to the platform-end, and collared me; he was a brawny young guy for whom I had clearly provided a welcome “make my day, punk” moment. I was held captive in the tiny station office while the stationman phoned the police, who arrived shortly in a car to collect me and take me to the town’s police station. As we drove off from Osiedle, the 1238 from Jasło came in behind a “Kriegslok” – but I did not get that preferred mode of transport back into town.

It was far from being a nasty arrest situation: the two plain-clothes policemen who questioned me (we communicated in German, our only shared language) displayed throughout, a “more in sorrow than in anger” demeanour. For my part, I felt a complete fool about how I’d been “nicked” – and have always been no more than lukewarm about the photographic side of the railway hobby; plus reckoning myself a useless photographer, confiscation and destruction of whose pictures is an outright service to the art concerned. Thus, I was able to endure with equanimity, my interrogators’ apologetically removing the film from my camera, and taking it into their possession. After a couple of hours, Rseszów’s guardians of law and order seemed to conclude that I was weird, but naďve and harmless, and let me go on my way -- we parted with mutual apologies and good wishes. The episode had meant my missing the overnight train to Gdańsk, and forfeiting my “sleeper” thereon – but in all honesty, I could only feel that this was a fitting penalty for my stupidity. Had to, instead, head north-west overnight, on a succession of electric-hauled expresses, via Kraków, Katowice and Poznań – a less comfortable way of reaching the goal, but not at any disastrous cost in time. Have always felt that I received more human warmth, and a kinder attitude, from “the enemy” in Rzeszów, than from the snotty woman at the British embassy who had been assigned to hear my tale of woe the previous day. 

Despite the foul-ups resulting from the antics of the human element, this trip was for me the best for railway content, of all of the eight gricing visits I have made to Poland. If only those foul-ups had not happened – but had they not, likely others would have befallen in their place… 

It is aimed at giving some highlights of the tour, attempting to do so by areas. One matter which rather defies geographical pigeon-holing, involves a couple of classes with which I always had poorish luck. On this tour in ’84, I at least managed to see in steam, specimens of all eight standard-gauge classes then in everyday PKP service – well, in point of fact, not totally sure about class Ty42; but always felt that designation to be a bit of a “cheat”, anyway. The Ty42 2-10-0s were identical to the more numerous class Ty2: “Kriegsloks” (German class 52), part of the German war effort in World War II – Ty2 were actually German-built; Ty42 were built during the war, under German orders, by Polish firms. It has always struck me that the Poles enjoyed making their steam loco classifications complicated…

Two of PKP’s 2-10-0 classes mostly eluded me (in PKP ownership, at all events) on all my visits to the country: both post-WWII PKP types – the big, heavy-duty Ty51, and the lighter Ty45. By the early 1980s, both had become rather scarce, and confined to relatively few locations, some of those not particularly easy or favourable of access. An area where both could be found, was along the Berlin – Warsaw main line a little way east of the East German border, around the junctions of Rzepin and Zbąszynek. Rzepin, only 12 km from the frontier, had perhaps Poland’s biggest and most dependable concentration of Ty51: a fair quantity were shedded there, and as at 1984, worked most main-line freight between limit of electrification at Rzepin, and the border. A number of Ty51 observed at that task, on that stretch, when entering and leaving Poland; and a couple more, fleetingly seen active in the south-east. Class Ty45 were getting very uncommon by ’84: a metaphorical “couple” seen in steam, light engine or on lowly duties, on the western end in Poland, of the “east-west main”; and two Ty45 were observed shunting at Ciechanów, north of Warsaw.

All my trips to Poland were, in one or another way or context, subject to constraints: there was always a lot more that would have been good to cover, than it was actually possible to cover. Extensive questing after the rare 2-10-0 classes would have meant passing up other, yet-higher-priority, things… as mentioned, Rzepin would have been the surest bet for Ty51; but there was the consideration that a spot so close to an international frontier (albeit of an allied nation) would probably have featured an even higher-than-usual level of spy-mania. “World enough and time,” as the chap said…

“Top” memories of 1984 travels -- north of Warsaw: wonderfully steamy evening scene at Toruń: Pt47 – originally, express-passenger -- 2-8-2 on Kutno line local, Ol49 2-6-2 (PKP post-WWII mixed-traffic type) on ditto for Sierpc, awaiting departure within minutes of each other. Changing trains at first light, at Sierpc – four-way country junction with a locoshed, nearly everything on the lines radiating therefrom steam-worked, by Ol49 helped out by Ty2 2-10-0s (the standard “Kriegslok”, PKP’s most numerous steam class); Ol49 haulage on all-stations train 88 km from Sierpc to Nasielsk, in the early morning; Nasielsk, then the end of electrification out of Warsaw on the Gdańsk main line, seemingly a place with steam everywhere, including a steam narrow-gauge line to Pułtusk.

An irresistible goal for a narrow-gauge nut, was the 750mm system meeting the main line at Ciechanów and Mława. Still – just – in the land of the living today; in ’84, busy with freight, and retaining vestigial passenger services – using for all this, a mixture of steam and diesel traction. At that time, this system featured PKP’s only passenger service running in isolation from the rest of the system (its route linked to the rest of its 750mm network, but over freight-only trackage): 28 km between Przasnysz and Maków Mazowiecki, a little more than an hour’s run, served by one working each way per day – leaving Przasnysz early in the morning, and departing Maków M. for return run at 1330. A line which just had to be done ! Playing safe, I got an extortionately-priced taxi from Ciechanów to Maków M. (running for a while alongside the track – still in situ but looking definitely out of use -- of the system’s former line due east out of Ciechanów). Reached Maków M. in very ample time for the 1330, which turned out to be hauled by an Lxd2 Bo-Bo diesel: steam would have been nicer, but consider self a realist – 1984 wasn’t 1954. The working shaped itself as a mixed train: loco, five standard-gauge wagons on transporter trucks, guard’s / luggage van, and one green-painted bogie coach. Said coach was some three-quarters full on departure from Maków M. – progressively emptied between there and the main intermediate point (one-time junction of the line from Ciechanów): for the rest of the run, I was the only passenger.

Things so sorted out that I ended up hitch-hiking from Przasnysz (a place, one feels, high in the keenly-contested league of Poland’s least pronounceable / spellable place-names) to Ciechanów; where I witnessed the last of the day’s two passenger workings each way on the 750mm section between there and Grudusk, arriving at 1932: small Lyd1 0-6-0 diesel loco hauling three coaches and a van – but as we know, no G.

South-east Poland high spots: in 1984, this area was one of the last where the class Pt47 Mikados (PKP’s post-World War II express class par excellence) were running daily on truly long-distance, and in some cases, actual express, trains. Wonderful ride behind one of the class, on the “Karpaty” (Warsaw – Bucharest -- Sofia) express, for the 200-odd km between Skarżysko Kamienna (end of electrification) and Przeworsk (beginning of ditto). Slower, but longer (270 km), and equally delightful, behind another of the same class, Tomaszów Mazowiecki (end of the “wires”) to Rzeszów. Wonderful “steam-everywhere” feeling – Pt47, Ty2, TKt48 2-8-2T – in the “lozenge” of lines between Rzeszów, Jasło, Zagórz and Przemyśl. All seemed quite zippy and efficient, in a rather dispirited way, involving usually glacially slow schedules on which losing time would require great ingenuity. There stays in mind a delightful vignette of Zagórz junction at about 0615 on a Sunday morning. I had just arrived on the 0408 from Jasło, behind a Ty2; a TKt48 was awaiting departure on the 0620 up the branch to Łupków; and I caught the 0632 “corridor train” from Zagórz through a corner of the USSR, to Przemyśl, headed by a Ty2 – a journey deserving of a piece to itself.

In 1984, the cross-country route Przeworsk to Lublin was an epic in its own right. All local passenger over it seemed to be steam – basic rule apparently was, Ol49 for the 75 km from Przeworsk to Rozwadów, Pt47 for the 103 km on to Lublin. That was my experience on the unforgettable (all-stations, a five-hour journey) 1400 Przeworsk – Lublin (double-deck coaches, giving great visibility from the upper deck) -- encountering plenty of southbound steam passenger workings at crossing points on this single-line route. An additional pleasure hereabouts was: by 1984 in Poland, the great majority of freight had gone over to diesel haulage; steam performed on local – and occasionally, express / long-distance – passenger, and “not a lot else”. It had become a rare treat to witness steam freight action. This was something which seemed to persist in these parts, more than mostly happened elsewhere: several Ty2-hauled freight workings were observed, as well as a considerably larger number behind diesel locos.

As regards the north-west of Poland, visited in the latter part of the tour: for one thing, that part of the country played host to a type which had mostly vanished elsewhere – class Ty43 2-10-0, “heavy” version of the “Kriegslok” (German class 42). Gniezno was reputed to be the best place to find this class – working local passenger on the branches north of the town. Indeed they were: 0925 Gniezno – Nakło nad Notecią was Ty43-hauled; likewise its southbound counterpart, crossed at Damasławek 38 km to the north. At this junction at the same time, was a 0l49 on an eastbound train on the intersecting west-to-east secondary route. A serpent in this particular Eden, was a ST44 diesel, light engine (a class nowadays “on the way out”, with many impassioned devotees – but “this is now, that was then !”) A Ty43 was also noted on a passenger working on the “loop route” which ran out of Gniezno, to the west of the Gniezno – Nakło branch.

As related earlier, a lot of time in the north-west was eaten up by “wearily up and down table 340”. All passenger on this table seemed to be diesel-hauled, also all freight north of Piła – there, and south thereof, though, the rare Ty43 class had quite a high profile. Examples were seen in yards near Piła on ballast / stone? trains, and working a couple of local freights between Piła and Poznań. “Best of the north-west”, though, was around Białogard.

Have had ever since first hearing of its existence, a fascination with the metre-gauge system in Poland’s far north-west corner – happily, still vestigially alive in the form of the line from Gryfice to Rewal and Pogorzelica, running for tourists in the summer season. A quarter-century back, much more of this network was still active – a portion of it running east and west from Białogard: that location, in standard-gauge terms, crossing-point of the main lines west – east, Szczecin to Gdańsk, and south – north, Poznań to Kołobrzeg on the coast. Reports from a few years pre-‘84, had set forth highly-enticing material about the metre gauge at Białogard, including proclaiming it then basically steam-worked. “Going to see”, was irresistible – it was still there in the passenger timetable: if it proved to be still steam, great – if it had been dieselised: still fun to cover.

On this particular bash for sure, “you lost some” – in compensation. “you won some”; the latter obtained with certainty, with the Białogard metre-gauge. At this time, metre-gauge passenger services ran east from Białogard to Świelino, and west to Sławoborze. Investigation showed that all passenger trains on both lines seemed to be hauled by class Px48 0-8-0s (PKP’s “standard” narrow-gauge steam class, which had long since become the only steam option on the dominant 750mm gauge – its metre-gauge version had arrived somewhat later on the scene). This motive power was the rather boringly modern and standard element on the Białogard m/g – its coaching stock was “you see it, but you have trouble believing it”. Everywhere else I ever went on the Polish narrow gauge, loco-hauled passenger stock was, at its least progressive, in the form of 1950s-design bogie coaches: “Spartan but adequate”, and basically well-constructed. That at Białogard, on both narrow-gauge routes, was four-wheeled, except for one bogie coach noted on one day only, and all appearing ancient and battered, and looking rather crudely built. This area, and its railways, were in Germany until 1945 and the “modifications” which that year brought in its train – would have surmised that the Białogard lines’ coaches dated from pre-1945 times on the system; save that German workmanship would have been expected to be better – all rather a mystery. The general picture got at Białogard was that on the whole, passenger was steam, and freight handled separately by diesel locos; a Lxd2 Bo-Bo, seemingly shedded at this venue, was seen busily doing its thing on freight. The only anomaly was one passenger working heading eastward, with a standard-gauge wagon on a transporter truck in its make-up.

Circumstances allowed only one return journey on the metre-gauge: the line west to Sławoborze was chosen – served by two workings in each direction daily. I went for the 1527 from Białogard, return run departing the outer terminus at 1740. A Px48 and a rake of the system’s primitive-looking passenger accommodation: bogie coach, four-wheel coach, and guard’s / luggage van. I opted for the four-wheeler: on a weird scene, “weird to the max” beckons. Departure was delayed for a few minutes, pending the Lxd2’s coming in with a freight train and thus clearing the line. An hour-and-a-quarter to cover the 30 km to the far end, with nine intermediate stops – train full to capacity on departure, shedding commuters / scholars as it progressed; was nearly empty on arrival at Sławoborze. A most agreeable narrow-gauge steam run, through countryside like much of that in Poland – unspectacular but pleasant.

The 1740 back to Białogard had a reasonable number of passengers; including one individual “of a certain age”, with a rather doleful and “born-loser” demeanour, clutching a bottle of vodka. Plainly, I was recognisable as a foreigner, and the travelling locals took a friendly interest in me. Communication was expedited by the gentleman with the vodka’s turning out to be “the last German in Sławoborze”. Another thing consequent on the “events of ‘45”, when this part of the world, and other territories which had hitherto been the easternmost parts of Germany, were annexed and became the westernmost parts of Poland. The German inhabitants were expelled into what was still Germany – but not with 100% efficiency: a few got left behind, and subsequently wanted, mostly, to leave and move to West Germany, but were not allowed to. At all events, this particular “last German” seemed to be on good enough terms with his Polish neighbours; and happily interpreted between me and them. I was generously plied with contents from his bottle, and good accord and chat between the three nations, flourished on the return journey to Białogard. To quote Mr. Morgan again – in a different context, many years previously, and a propos “the next country but one on the left” – “it was all very vernacular”. Wonder whether what was in the bottle, was some kind of home-made brain-damage-mixture – any vodka can have pretty dramatic effects, but this stuff… the Sławoborze-and- return run was near the end of my tour; and what with the hooch; and considerable tiredness resulting from many successive nights in transit, not spent in a bed; memories of the next 24 hours or so, bear for me a bit of an “indulging in controlled substances” aura.

On south-west from Białogard, first on a three-coach local behind a Pt47, terminating at Świdwin; thence diesel express to Stargard Szczeciński (which in my “not-quite-all-there” state, I somehow identified with Calais). South-east thence on the Poznań line; but determination to wring the last drop of steam fun from the bash’s remaining hours, meant further “here-and-there”. In the happy (in this respect) days of a quarter of a century ago, there was a long cross-country line running 170 km west-to-east from Krzyż to Inowrocław, via several junctions. It has no passenger service now; but in ’84, it could be traversed throughout – usually various changes involved: the one working in each direction daily covering the whole line, took five hours (one way), six hours (the other), to accomplish this feat. Still – back then, most or all of the passenger workings on this line, were steam. Example of such – the 0312 all-stations Krzyż – Rogoźno Wkp. (73 km), hauled by Ol49-36. I travelled on it, eastwards as dawn gradually broke. At the junction of Bzowo Goraj, approximately mid-run, the 0440 for Piła was preparing to set out on its journey. This was another of PKP’s rather numerous branch lines with two passenger workings each way per day; and the 0440 was made up of Ty43-88, and one coach – a marvelously ludicrous-looking combination. I yearned to change on to that train and travel on it to Piła – would have been possible to do that, and be in time for my scheduled train home; but I had a yen for a bit more experience of the TKt48 2-8-2T class, and going to Piła right then, would have put that out of the window.

On behind Ol49-36, to Rogoźno Wkp., where the west-east route intersected with the Poznań – Piła – Kołobrzeg main line. The place had a bit of a desolate “feel”, at 6 a.m. – main-line tracks rather weed-grown, something of an “a***-end-of-nowhere” sensation; but there was in the station, a Ty43 on a northbound freight on the main line. Diesel-hauled southbound train soon showed up and took me to Poznań. Further south-east thence, to Jarocin: the branch north-westwards from there to Czempiń (30-odd km from Poznań, good main-line connections thereto) reputed then all-TKt48 on passenger. In this case, repute didn’t lie. The branch’s passenger service mostly divided at Śrem, the main community served en route – thus it was for me. Exhaustion was really winning out by this time, and a lot of the experience of this line was lost to me because of nodding off : but it was duly TKt48-47 on the 1345 from Jarocin to Śrem, decanting me there; and after various faffing-around, it was also TKt48-47 which headed the next train on from Śrem to Czempiń. I’d known about “this line and steam”; but not about the detail that for the majority of its route west (corrected from 'east', February 2011) from Śrem, the line ran roadside-tramway-fashion. For me, a great and rare delight – such scenes surviving, in any quantity, in venues close to home and far away, would be “more to enjoy, than to expect”.

I understand that though this line’s passenger service succumbed in the early 1990s, freight still runs at least between Czempiń and Śrem – there are indications of its being floated that the enterprising outfit SKPL, based at Kalisz, which runs various Polish minor lines of both standard and narrow gauge, might take over from PKP, operating of Czempiń – Śrem freight. One gets the general drift that though the Polish rail scene is a miserable one now, compared to how it was in 1984, all is not yet totally lost there – not to the extent that sentimentalists such as myself, see it as being in Britain. The future doesn’t tend to look good – however, the worst happens frequently, but not invariably. At all events, my last Polish steam ride on this trip, ended at Czempiń – there followed, return to home and boring sanity.

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Rob Dickinson