The International Steam Pages

On borrowed time – or, Smurfs rule ! – Poland 1990

Robert Hall continues his accounts of travel round Poland. You may want to look at the other accounts:

These tales relate entirely to 21st Century experiences:

You may also want to read his Polish Steam Primer or view maps of the route taken.

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

On the whole, the period since the end of World War II – now not far off the classic biblical human lifespan – has been a fairly miserable one for those railway devotees who love steam traction, and / or charming rural common-carrier railway byways. Just once in a while, though, during those decades, Fate which usually seemed cruel, appeared briefly to relent, and let something go right for the “soppy-sentimental brigade”. An instance of this – which a couple of years previously, everybody would have ridiculed as a scenario far too good to be true – was the situation in Poland at “the turn of the nineties”. Amazingly, when Communism in Eastern Europe collapsed (a phenomenon which in itself struck many observers as amazing), Poland -- alone of all nations in that reach of the continent -- still had a better-than-tiny amount of steam in “fully real” daily public line service. One had to seek it out in the relatively few areas of the country where it still obtained: and by then, it was down to a small handful of classes – Ol49 2-6-2, Ty2 / Ty42 “Kriegslok” 2-10-0, and (in a couple of remaining pockets) TKt48 2-8-2T; and on a couple of narrow-gauge sections Px48 0-8-0; running with varying degrees of intensity – but within those limits, the bread-and-butter daily steam show, still went on. Furthermore – at the end of the 1980s, PKP still had in traffic, including with passenger services, the majority of its historical rail mileage, taking in a multitude (by then very often diesel-worked) of remote country branch lines of standard, and narrow, gauge. Think the equivalent status of British Railways as at the mid-1950s… (This – only without the survival of steam -- remained true at Communism’s end, of certain other lately-Soviet-bloc countries too.)

With the casting-aside of Communism, and an assortment of its attendant strange ideas (such as the “gricer = spy” meme); there was for enthusiasts, the wonderful situation of a certain amount of steam still in daily normal commercial service in Poland, and pretty much blanket freedom to chase and photograph it. Some of those guardians of security who had long waged a bitter fight against railway photographers, were a little slow to get the message that that stuff was now “out of the window”; but in the main, it was suddenly Billy Bunter let loose in the (albeit a bit spartan) tuck shop.

This “Indian summer” of steam-plus-the-branch-lines, lasted for some two and a half years: from Communism’s getting its marching orders in early summer 1989; to late 1991. Things remained relatively stable up to the end of 1990: ’91 turned, from early on, into a bad, sad year, with remaining steam strongholds falling one by one; and in late ’91 / early ’92, a sudden holocaust of the more rustic and marginal standard-gauge branch passenger services. Plentiful daily steam was kept running as per policy, from Wolsztyn depot on a quasi-museum basis – with a slight touch of a similar scene, at a few other spots originally slated for that purpose; but for the purist, “totally genuine” PKP steam would seem to have ended in spring 1992, with the last steam workings on the couple of branches thus served, from Jarocin depot. And from then on, as regards standard-gauge closures it was “rapidly down right into the sewer”, year after year. Many of PKP’s remaining narrow-gauge sections soldiered on remarkably well for a few years; but that came decisively to an end in 2001, when the state railways renounced all narrow-gauge involvement.

I made a couple of visits to Poland in this time of what I think of as the “uncovenanted mercy” – one in 1990, another in 1991; a planned second one in ’90 had to be called off owing to personal circumstances. Rail travels in Poland were accomplished by means of the wonderful (now no longer available in a straightforward all-lines context) Polrailpass rover ticket.

My 1990 trip that did happen, was a fairly action-packed week. As well as catching what Polish steam I could, I wanted to take a look at the steam-worked 750mm gauge “next door”, near Dresden: hence a flight to Berlin, and very early on 29th April, crossing at Checkpoint Charlie into what still was, and would remain for a short while, the German Democratic Republic (though shorn of its sinister connotations); thence express Berlin – Dresden, and a delightful 2-10-2T-hauled return ride over most of the 750mm Kurort Kipsdorf line. Departed Dresden in the evening, on long-distance train heading deep into Poland via the Görlitz / Zgorzelec border crossing. Plan was, to “play it what way it went” – various potential disembarking-points once into Poland: Węgliniec might have offered possibilities with the branch striking northwards from there, into the Żagań / Żary area which reportedly still had a steam presence. As things in fact proved; in midst of second successive night not in a bed (this not planned – result of the way things had gone in Berlin), I was dimly aware of train’s calling at Węgliniec at an ungodly hour; but the idea of staying put in relative comfort, set up a stronger call; I thus remained on the train until early-morning-but-not-horribly-so, arrival at Wrocław.

The new day – the last of April – was fairly unavoidably “off the gricing board”. With Wrocław reached, I took a stopping EMU the 34 km east to Oleśnica, ascertaining there by “clocking” a convenient train, that the local line onward to Kępno seemed still, as per British journals’ most-recent, worked for passenger by the class TKt48 2-8-2Ts. Back thence to Wrocław; and the necessity of sorting out my departure from Poland four days later. The general shape of the bash, an its flexible and “options-open” nature, had made it impossible to get in Germany, a return ticket to a Polish destination. Had to wait till I was in Poland, and then figure out, from whence I wanted to go back to Berlin. Recent circumstances had clarified this matter: wished (come the time) to make the Zasieki / Forst border crossing, not its Kunowice / Frankfurt-an-der-Oder counterpart.

Communism was gone; but some of its attendant phenomena, both “nice” and “nasty”, still obtained. In the latter category belonged, how miserably difficult and complicated it often was, to get any one of a great range of possibly desired services. I needed to buy, for the end – four days thence – of my spell in Poland, a ticket getting me “from Poland to Berlin”. The factor of the language barrier caused me to shrink from trying to explain at the booking office in Wrocław, that I wanted a ticket just from Zasieki to Berlin, because “come the day”, my Polrailpass would get me to the outer limits of Poland... I decided on the “Occam’s Razor” route: would simply buy a Wroclaw – Berlin ticket, which journey would in any case take the Zasieki crossing. Duly presented self in the booking hall at Wroclaw (Główny) station. Huge queues for every window – could have been a flashback to x years earlier, as regards the cliché-with-some-truth, that in the Communist world everything had to be endlessly queued for.

Determined to appreciate the experience as part of the masochistic visiting-the-Commie-bloc fun – interestingly preserved into the era of freedom – I took my place in a queue. This turned out to be a four-hour queuing ordeal. Made considerably worse by the presence a couple of places ahead of me, of a group of foreign nationals – clearly, by their passports in hand, from the Soviet Union – who had some highly complex travelling problem; which they discussed and disputed at great length, with the booking clerk. This business took up an hour or more. Though with a minimal knowledge of Polish, I could often get the general drift of what my Polish neighbours were saying; here, it was plainly to the effect of “for heaven’s sake, Ivan, sort this out at the information office – not here !” The “friends from the east” took no notice: they were going to resolve their problem at this location, let hell freeze over... When they finally went on their way, the staff put up a “temporarily closed” notice in the ticket window. They presumably took a well-earned break for a coffee or something stronger, and a moan about idiot Russians and their ways. Some half an hour later, business resumed, and at last my turn came. I stated my wishes – mixed pidgin-Polish and writing things down. The lady booking clerk let out a brief what I took to be “oh my God”, about my requiring a ticket four days thence; then rapidly and efficiently delivered the required item. Parting on good terms -- with hopefully mutual wishes for permanent Polish / British friendship, taken as read...

On my telling this story subsequently to a friend, he expressed the opinion that I’d have done better to go to accomplish this business at the city’s tourist office – where far less waiting would have been involved, and where I could have counted on someone competently speaking English, with whom the Polrailpass / Zasieki issue could have been addressed, probably letting me off unnecessary purchase of travel from Wrocław to the border. “Colour me stupid”, but at the time, this notion never entered my head. Anyway – who wants to be treated all the time as a pampered and privileged affluent foreigner, thus missing out on tastes of the reality of local life? For what remained of the day, I “chilled out” – including taking a tram ride or two -- and then had dinner and went very early to bed in the city’s – conveniently close to Główny station – “Grand Hotel” (not very grand, but adequate); reckoning on early rising, and an action-packed day, on the morrow.

Up very early accordingly next day, “on the merry morning of May” (happily, the Grand was understanding about early departures) – still a public holiday in recently-Red Eastern Europe. Around the turn of the 80s / 90s, the more enlightened (or more idiotically sentimental, depending on one’s point of view) people with decision-making access on PKP, had seen the potential re tourists, especially from the West, visiting in order to delight in regularly-scheduled steam operation: plans were laid for this possibly to continue to happen, after steam phased out elsewhere, at four venues. These were, most-famous, Wolsztyn ; in the south-west, Kłodzko and Jaworzyna Śląska; and in the far north-east, Ełk. At the latter three, such events happened at a basically lowish level, and fluctuating-ly, for a few years; but it was only at Wolsztyn that the idea truly “flew” at length -- and in my estimation, only so, because of the keen involvement of Western entrepreneur / enthusiasts. In 1990 though, Jaworzyna depot was – at least reportedly -- running some regular steam passenger turns, per the described “museum depot” programme. According to the British “learned journals”, steam working from Jaworzyna had been phased out; then was, shortly after, reinstated to some extent, in the above “museum” context. This struck me as a little off-puttingly phoney; but I was geographically very close to the reported action – a few hours given to it, wouldn’t hurt. 

Off along the electric main line from Wrocław due west to Legnica (retracing steps – to which I’d been basically oblivious – of early the previous day) -- hoping for the 0817 Legnica – Jaworzyna to be hauled by a Jaworzyna steam loco, as per the journals. It wasn’t: said working, awaiting departure, had an SP42 diesel at its head. Maybe this was because it was May 1st -- public-holiday-timetable choppings-and-changings; if so, a certain failure in mentally joining the dots, to be observed on the part of those responsible; but at that date, the whole recreational-steam idea was new and unfamiliar in Poland. Or maybe as at early summer 1990, the 0817 was always, and would be always lifelong, diesel. No way to know, and no way to alter “what was” – too bad: next train back to Wrocław, and Plan B – eastward once more to Oleśnica.

PKP’s last-surviving standard gauge tank loco type, the 2-8-2Ts of class TKt48, had been getting rare by the late 1980s; as at 1990, there were only a couple of restricted areas in which the class still ran. By general acclaim, best-remaining of same, was PKP’s “timetable 318”, a little way east of Wrocław. A neat little secondary-lines system whereon (as tested the previous day) the TKt48’s handled all passenger traffic; and some of the freight was reputedly Kriegslok-hauled (none of this latter witnessed by me in my time there). In spring 1990, table 318 encompassed the 46 km line from main-line junction Oleśnica, to Kępno (site of loco depot); and the 42 km from Kępno to Namysłów, situated on an east – west subsidiary main line. 

Table 318 in 1990, had a definite “pecking order”. Oleśnica – Kępno was a respectable (single-track with plentiful passing-places) mini-main-line – all its trains were double-decker-stock TKt48-hauled all-stations locals (a half-dozen each way per day), but moving along at a fair clip, on well-maintained track. After continuing with diesel traction for a good many years subsequent to steam’s finishing at this location early in 1992, I understand that passenger services between Oleśnica and Kepno are no now more. Kępno – Namysłów, though, was a classic example of an utterly-hopeless, “had-Communism-not-been, abandoned three decades earlier”, appearing to receive minimum maintenance under a collapsing system, PKP lowest-grade branch line. Three workings each way per day, two hours scheduled to cover the 42km distance, TKt48 plus three single-decker coaches crawling -- often deliberately so, in order not to get ahead of schedule – along weed-grown track. Astoundingly to me, the late-afternoon train which I rode on from Kępno on this branch, was fairly well-patronised; it wasn’t till 1991 that I ever travelled on a PKP rural local train which didn’t have, at worst, a fair sprinkling of passengers.

This TKt48 patch had until recently been more elaborate: had described what American ranchers would call a “lazy A” shape, by reason of a 30 km line from Syców on the Oleśnica line, to Bukowa Śląska on the Namysłów ditto (two workings each way per day); plus, the system had an isolated outlier, “outshedded” Kępno TKt48-worked, Ostrzeszów – Namysłaki (three workings each way per day). In the last couple of Communist years and the year or so succeeding, PKP engaged in a minor “Beeching episode”, withdrawing at any rate passenger services, from a number of highly-marginal rural lines. The two abovementioned, were victims of this small purge; so to my regret, no longer available to the traveller in 1990. I’d be willing to bet that in their last years, these two were – along with dozens of other branch lines up and down Poland – in as “sickly” physical condition as Kępno – Namysłów.

The Kępno – Namysłów branch lost its passenger service – possibly freight too – well under two years after my journey on it. I recall arrival at Namysłów main-line junction some two hours after departing Kępno – average of some 20km per hour rate of progress, heaven help us – and seeing there, in the opposite bay platform, the day’s last arrival on the corresponding branch line – likewise, three workings per day – from Jełowa to the south-east; a diesel loco on I think two coaches. (As at 1990, for every steam-worked ludicrous branch such as Kępno – Namysłów, PKP must have had four or five diesel-loco-worked exact equivalents.) Jełowa – Namysłów’s passenger service would have perished at roughly the same time as Kępno – Namysłów’s ditto. For those of us who don’t hold the creed of “if it isn’t steam, it’s nothing and non-existent” – oh to have been Bryan Morgan, who if I have things correctly, earned his bread as a writer, and was thus able to wander around gricing on the Continent for months on end; not constrained by, in the era when he was doing his thing, the highly niggardly amount of annual paid holiday which an employer would have granted. A railfan of that kind, in such a personal situation, could have found “heaven on earth” in the 1980s, peregrinating around Poland’s lesser rural lines – steam or diesel -- of all gauges. Said lines’ passenger schedules were so sparse, that the traveller would have needed a great deal of time at his disposal... I wasn’t Mr. Morgan; and the Jełowa – Namysłów branch’s passenger activities were finished for the day – so it was back to Wrocław by the next EMU along the main line.

This tour having been planned as open-ended – “see how it sorts out” – there were various decisions to take, at various points. With my being in Wrocław on the evening of May Day – going north to the Wolsztyn area, was the next move to make; but more than one way of skinning that particular cat. Wolsztyn’s system spread far and wide then: there was the possibility of going from Wroclaw north-west to Głogów, and getting from there a conveniently-timed train on to Wolsztyn, sure to be hauled by a steam loco from the said town’s shed. Or there was the alternative of one more bite at the table 318 TKt48-haven cherry. The previous day, I had been greatly taken with the busy (to risk alluding to Morgan once more, “bags of swank”) all-2-8-2T scene on the Oleśnica – Kepno line. That class being seen as on the verge of extinction (and not, per available information, to be found on the Wolsztyn system) – one more run Oleśnica – Kępno, in the end proved irresistible. By dint of very early rising the following day, I was duly on the 0621 Oleśnica – Kępno behind TKt48-146. Arrival at Kępno a little over an hour later, fed me neatly onto a northbound train on the electric direct main line from Katowice to Poznań. Kępno is a station on two levels: table 318 and its (still surviving) electric continuation eastward, “down below”: the proud main line from Poland’s industrial heartland to its third city, up top.

Off up the trunk line, with many stops, and various interesting things to see en route. Pleszew Wąsk. station was the junction for the 750mm gauge line running thence 3 km to Pleszew Miasto (“Town”): narrow-gauge stock and diesel motive power -- which handled all passenger trains on this line -- observed at the junction station. (This operation is possibly still in passenger service at the time of writing, under the aegis of the railway-operating firm SKPL. One of this line’s oddities is its being – nowadays, and in 1990, and for long before that – dual-gauge “from Wask. to Miasto”: passenger workings on the 750 mm, freight – handled by small diesels since decades back – on the standard gauge.) Also; “then and now”, this 3 km. the tiny remnant of a once much-longer 750mm system, which included a line from Krotoszyn, 36 km to the south-west – abandoned a few years previously to 1990, but track then still there, observable running under the main line south of Pleszew Wask. station. 

On northward, to Środa Wlkp. a little way south-east of Poznan. Junction for what was long one of Poland’s gricing gems – the 14 km 750mm gauge line Środa -- Zaniemyśl. For whatever reason (or – suspected often in Poland – non-reason), PKP kept this line in a seeming mid-century time-warp, including all-steam working, for a very long time; was so in 1990 and for several years thereon – even after closures elsewhere could have enabled the transfer of motive power, to dieselise the line for passenger and freight; likewise the “importing” of more modern coaching stock. It wasn’t even an official museum venue – the Light Brigade’s thoughts come to mind... Motive power was the standard class Px48 0-8-0. The line’s passenger provision in 1990, was half a dozen trains in each direction daily – a generous service, in the PKP narrow-gauge context.

This was to be my first journey on the Środa – Zaniemyśl line. In keeping with the general picture concerning “real” Polish steam’s last dozen years – the big variety and interest was on the standard gauge; narrow gauge, however delightful, was largely dieselised, and such steam as survived on it was down to the one class: I had basically not got round to “doing” this section. In 1984, while changing trains at Środa in pursuit of urgent other things, I had seen the steam 750mm in action, but time had not permitted travel on it. Almost unbelievably, the identical scene still obtained at Środa six years later; I was able to change at Środa Wąsk. station (standard gauge main line / n/g interchange) onto the 1338 for Zaniemyśl – Px48-1756, on two 1950s- vintage type 1Aw green coaches and a van. About three-quarters-of-an-hour, with five intermediate stops, run to Zaniemyśl terminus. Rapid run-round by the loco, and 1426 departure back to Środa.

The train was quite well-patronised, in both directions. As often remarked, in Poland I never experienced before 1991, a local passenger train – no matter how slow, inconvenient or infrequent -- with less than a good sprinkling of “customers”. For an assortment of reasons, it was never – until Communism was well in retreat – a replication of the British dismal situation of branch trains running all-but empty, until their understandable withdrawal. The Zaniemyśl line stayed till its end re PKP, open for freight; not a huge freight business, and basically handled as required on a “mixed” basis, by the passenger trains – involving standard-gauge wagons running on transporter trucks. In 1990, my journey both ways was passenger-only; but a transporter-borne standard-gauge bogie wagon containing ? chalk / lime / fertiliser? in the sidings at Zaniemyśl, was being unloaded into tractor-hauled trailers. On my Polish tour in July the following year, this line was visited again, involving the late afternoon / early evening Środa – Zaniemyśl “train pair” (Px48 as ever); to gricing participants’ delight, a standard-gauge open wagon on transporters was coupled on at Zaniemyśl, and ran as the train’s final vehicle on the return journey.

In 1990 I travelled on the 1426 ex Zaniemyśl, back as far as possible – one kilometre on the far side of Środa Wąsk. (interchange with standard gauge) was Środa Miasto – line’s terminus and site of locoshed. Said shed’s workforce were notorious until late in the day (beyond the end of Communism) for hostility to railway enthusiasts – not feeling “warlike”, I made no attempt to penetrate the venue. In happier times, but before such as I were in a position to go to Poland, this narrow-gauge line had run almost all the way from Środa to Poznań, on a route a little way north-east of the main trunk line (standard-gauge interchange a short distance outside the city) – Środa to Zaniemyśl was just the “terminating bit”. This glorious situation came to an end for passenger in the late 1960s and for freight some years later, leaving just the 14 km remnant – this still, as best can be discerned, functioning (after PKP’s 2001 pulling-out) under preservation – per my best information, “high days and holidays” rather than more regularly... more accurate up-to-date gen, would be welcome.

On along the electric main line to Poznań, where day’s proceedings concluded, and a hotel found for the following couple of nights. The succeeding day-plus was to be spent exploring the Wolsztyn steam-intensive area. In the light of planned future piece re all my experiences of same, “pause button pressed” here; to resume narrative with my departing from the Wolsztyn “patch”, the next day but one. 

That exit was accomplished on the 1200 Wolsztyn – Nowa Sól, headed by Ol49-14. This was my last day in Poland; flight out of Berlin booked for the following day. Plan was to travel through the Żagań reputed steam area, sampling such of its offerings as might be sampled, and catch the middle-of-the-night long-distance train taking the Zasieki / Forst border crossing, and thus get into Germany to make way back to Berlin. If the area proved to have lost all steam since latest reports, no disaster; occupy time there in whatever way, and come the hour, head for home. If steam found to be still at work, a pleasant final bonus.

The latter proved to be the case – this was one of my luckier tours. A quick run by local EMU from Nowa Sól to Zielona Góra, let me find the 1535 Zielona Góra – Bieniów – Żagań awaiting departure behind Ol49-68 of Żagań shed. (Subsequent observations indicated that by no means all passenger workings on this line were steam.) Pleasant branch-line all-stations run for about an hour on this train, to the junction of Bieniów. Change of trains here, on to the 1753 from Żagań to Lubsko via the direct route, hauled by Ol49-32.

The perversity attendant on this hobby; and the famous folk-sentiment “be careful what you wish for; you may get it” – and its cliché chum, “there’s no pleasing some people”. From my first visit to Poland, my favourite PKP class was the Ol49 2-6-2: quite elegant mixed-traffic locos. As recounted in piece about my 1983 visit to the country (a trip abounding in frustrations) – on that tour, Ol49 incidence was as minimal as it could have been, without being actually non-existent – hence fears for a little while after, that the class would “go extinct” before my ever seeing it at work again. As things panned out, not so – class Ol49 continued to prove Poland’s most long-enduring: in my bashes in the “uncovenanted mercy” era, most steam action witnessed was by class Ol49, to the point that I’d have liked to see a bit less of such from them, and a bit more from 2-10-0s. To misquote Belloc,

“The moral is (I think, at least),
The gricer’s an ungrateful beast.”

“Whatever” – all steam in-motion activity seen on this brief wander around the Żagań area, was Ol49. As stated, number 32 of the class, took me up from Bieniów to Lubsko – a venue visited three years earlier, when rather more was happening there, than as at the current trip. “Then”, there were passenger lines out of Lubsko in four directions; “now”, that obtained in two directions only. In April 1987, a Ty2 had been observed in steam at Lubsko, perhaps with freight haulage in the offing. In May 1990 , in brief turnround time at Lubsko, a Ty2 was likewise noted there, motionless but in steam. Conspiracy-theorists could perhaps hypothesise a prolonged masquerade to fool railfans into thinking more going on at this venue, than actually was...

Returning to recorded reality: after a ten-minute layover and run-round for Ol49-32 at Lubsko, off again on the 1835 departure for Żagań, which allowed a sampling of this area’s speciality – the linking of Żagań and Lubsko by an assortment of routes. Intervening closures had lessened the variety of ways to perform this exercise, which there had been three years before; but considerable changes could still be rung. The 1835 proved a wonderful example of a train which travellers in a hurry, would have been well advised to eschew. Back to Bieniów direct; loco ran round train there, and headed it along the branch to Żary, located on the main line between Żagań and the border. However, nothing so unimaginative as taking said main line to the destination. It was off at an average 20 km per hour, along the very overgrown and decrepit-looking 9 km branch to Jankowa Żagańska, where the Węgliniec – Żagań route was joined, and another run-round was necessary. This latter, more important, line was in decent condition, and the 12 km to Zagan was covered in sixteen minutes. All the same – almost two hours scheduled, to go a distance of 33 km as the crow flies ... still, where’s the fun in being a crow?

Steam in this Żagań area was plainly hanging on by a fairly slender thread; the majority of workings observed were diesel, and steam’s seemingly high profile was in all likelihood, partly due to the “Birmingham by way of Beachy Head” popping-up-everywhere tendency of local workings hereabouts. My final glimpse of the old order on my way out of Poland, was late at night, at Tuplice junction: the 2220 from the branch terminus of Łęknica, to Żary and Żagań, behind Ol49-49.

A trivial but diverting feature of the Żagań region in spring 1990 -- in parenthesis, PKP steam loco crews were given to tracing, in the accumulated grime and soot on their engines – chiefly on the smoke deflectors – personal embellishments (most commonly, wives’ and girlfriends’ names). A variant on this, “there and then” – Żagań depot seemed in earlyish 1990, to have developed a “thing” about those odd blue cartoon characters, the Smurfs. I saw on the smoke deflectors of at least one Ol49, quite skilfully-executed Smurf figures; and on the dashboard of a diesel loco, a splendid blue Smurf effigy. It crossed the mind to wonder whether this was just a random craze; or whether for some strange ideological reason, Smurfs had in Communist times been regarded as unacceptable, and Żagań’s loco crews were now celebrating their freedom to engage in whatever nonsense they might fancy.

Boarding at Tuplice (reached by a diesel-hauled local from Żagań) in the small hours, of the Krakow – Leipzig through train, which took me across the border-marking River Neisse (Nysa) to Forst, and Cottbus (change for Berlin). With the recent loosening-up of things in this part of the world, very large numbers of local citizens had the same idea as me – in their case, off into Germany to engage in sundry and assorted trading. An enormous number of passengers thus disembarked at Cottbus, to the irritation of Germans delayed from getting on the train there. I felt quite flattered to be mistaken by some of these gentry, for yet another such annoying Pole... 

Rob Dickinson