Poland: the Wolsztyn Experience part 4


The last full day Monday 4 May was also an early start and a 2.5 hour coach trip to Znin, to ride a charter on the narrow gauge railway. Two engines in steam greeted us (Px38-805 and a green tank), and a diesel  was on the scheduled runs. The train stopped at various strategic points to allow a bit of line siding of the run pasts. Half way along we stopped at the open-air museum for 600mm locos. There were loads of them, in landscaped areas. Across the rails was a castle and various pieces of siege apparatus.

Znin 600mm railway museum

We skirted a lake and passed an archaeological museum, then it was back on the coach to the Europa again, where I had sautéed cod and veg (best so far). Back at the Motel, the bar was shut so I never got to have a vodka.

Wuppertal lift

We also found out that the German railways were on strike, so we would be travelling to Wuppertal by coach! So, no concrete works and an 8am start to the border, where we picked up a German coach. After several comfort stops (70c for a pee, but a 20c voucher to spend in the shop!) we eventually arrived at the Inter-city Hotel where a stroppy waiter reluctantly gave me a salad! After little sleep in my single room with single thin pillow, the next morning, after breakfast I had a quick ride of the dingle dangle train - the Wuppertal suspension railway (Schwebebahn) - from Kruse station to the next one along and back. Thank goodness for lifts!

Wuppertal Schwebebahn
Then it was through the narrow one-way streets and on to Brussels where we caught the Eurostar home, and Curt's PV / birthday bash!

More photos on Flickr.

Wuppertal suspension railway (Schwebebahn) from Alan Fred Pipes on Vimeo.

Poland: the Wolsztyn Experience part 3

Wolsztyn steam parade 2 May 2015 from Alan Fred Pipes on Vimeo.

Saturday 2 May was the day of the Steam Parade. After making some secret cheese and tomato sandwiches at the Montana, we set off to the station where we were to go on a short excursion pulled by a big tank engine 2-10-2 OKz32-2.


Back at Wolsztyn, the road from the station to the shed was lined with stalls selling souvenirs, beer and sausages. People were climbing all over the static locos to get good views, despite signs telling them not to. The Poles are very happy for people to cross the lines willy nilly, but today barriers were up.


We were ushered into a VIP area at the shed, viz an area with some wooden benches but opaque barriers, guarded by security. No VIP bar! We had cheer leaders and a band then the parade proper, which this year comprised just three locos - Ol49-69, OKz32-2 and an 0-6-0 tank TKh49-1 - with TKt48-18 on its way. So they steamed up and down, individually and coupled up until the finale when all three raced up the tracks whistles blowing. Then it was a beer and a walk to the Europa where I had Alaskan white salmon and some 9.5% porter.

Buffet bar

On Sunday 3 May, it was another early start and back to loco Ol49-69, but this time with newer rolling stock with comfy seats, and a buffet bar! It was along the line to Zbaszynek and on to Miedzychod, then Gorzow Wlkp. and Bogdaniec and back with stops along the way to take on water from fire-brigade bowsers. Near Skwierzyna we spotted a scrapyard full of tanks and guided missiles! Some of the party were line siding, jumping out of cars and vans to take passing shots and videos of the train.


Then it was to the Europa again, where I had a rather leathery piece of hake and spuds.

More photos on Flickr.

Poland: the Wolsztyn Experience part 2

0149-69 near Wolsztyn from Alan Fred Pipes on Vimeo.

First day proper was Thursday 30 April, with three short trips planned. Our loco was Ol49-69. Now, Polish locos have a strange numbering system. The first letter O denotes mixed/stopping train traffic (Polish: osobowa - passenger), the second letter l (lower case L) means it has a 2-6-2 wheel arrangement and a number between 20 and 99 means a Polish-ordered steam engine, the number standing for the last two digits of the year in which the type was approved for production. The final number is the the engine's number in the class, in this case 69. Tank locos have an extra K, thus TKt48-18 is a freight locomotive (Polish: towarowa) with wheel arrangement 2-8-2 designed in 1948, number 18.


On the way back from the final outing, to Stefanowo, I had the opportunity of riding on the footplate. It cost a tenner and was well worth it; driving cost £70! Back at Wolsztyn, we walked to Howard's guest house where we had a free beer. That evening we had dinner at Locomotiva, by the lake. I had salmon.

Salmon at Locomotiva

Friday 1 May was a very early start - 5am to catch the train to Zagan. It was the same loco and the same ancient carriages with wooden seats. We stopped at Zielona Gora and went to find a plighted loco in a park. It was all very quiet, as it was still early and a bank holiday.


At Zagan,  we took a coach to the Stalag Luft 3 museum (another tenner), where the Great Escape happened. Line bashers went on to Lubsko on a freight only line. After a video in the visitor centre, we checked out the exhibits and models, and bought postcards in the gift shop. The coach then took us to see the site of the tunnel Harry, 1km down a lane (and 1k back again). There were many bits of the old camp still visible amongst the trees, including the concede bases of the huts, a reservoir and the hospital. We then went to see a memorial to the chaps who were caught and executed.

Stalag Luft 3 Harry tunnel

Back in Zagan we were treated to a womens' bike race around the streets. We got back to Wolsztym about 8.15 then it was the coach to the Montana for a buffet supper (same as last time) but with big squidgy dumplings, and beer.

Fish, spuds and dumpling at the Montana

More photos on Flickr.

Poland: the Wolsztyn Experience part 1

Berlin station

Based on my last couple of trips and memories of previous years, I can state categorically that coach travel is the most boring - slow traffic jams, nothing to look at on the motorways, comfort stops etc - and train travel the best, with high speeds and stations we pass through or change at in interesting towns and cities. Just saying…  From the train, Poland is tall churches and thin trees, fields of yellow rape and green barley, the odd deer or stork making an appearance, and elaborate allotments. You might even see a 'plinthed' (dead) steam loco or two along the way. Or lots, in the case of Wolsztyn. I'd seen a video on YouTube of the 'parade' - up to 17 locos hitched together passing at high speed, all whistles blowing, and a quick google led me to Railtrail's Poland Steam Explorer.

Driving the Gniezno diesel!

We were to set off on Tuesday 28 April and meet at 10am outside the Eurostar. I was nervous about delays so went up the night before and stayed over at Rob's in Mile End. I met a couple of the other tourists (spotted the luggage labels) and we set off for Brussels at 10.58, where we changed for the Koln train. In the shadow of the cathedral we changed again, for Hanover, and spent the night at the fabulous Andor Hotel Plaza, where I had my first vegetarian meal (pasta) and German beer. After an early start and a splendid breakfast of absolutely everything you could think of, including five types of honey, we set off for Berlin, where we changed for Poznan in Poland, throwing our cases off at Zbaszynek.

Gniezno diesel

The reason for that was that we went on to Gniezno, to ride the narrow gauge line there. Unfortunately the steam loco wasn't available, so we had a diesel… but, I was allowed to drive it for a while, with the driver standing behind shouting instructions! Meanwhile in the first-carriage buffet, a woman was cooking up sausages and cabbage stuff for everyone. We veggies had to wait, but when it came we had fried fish and a stir fry of vegetables, all cooked from scratch in pots and pans. After the half trip, we travelled back to Poznan thence to Wolsztyn, to be greeted by dead locos on either side, then to the Motel Montana and a buffet supper, including what I discovered was more fried fish amongst the meat. My room was 31, in the end block.

Fish and stir fry on the Gniezno train

More photos on Flickr.