FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The end of the steam commute

Posted in Poland, Poznań, Wolsztyn by folkestonejack on December 15, 2013

The past week has seen the end of one of the twenty first century’s miracles – the last steam hauled daily commuter services from a European city.

Poznań, the fourth largest city in Poland, had seen two return trips per day hauled by steam locomotives during the working week and what made these services remarkable was that they were regular scheduled services on the main line, rather than steam specials or heritage steam services on a preserved line. Unfortunately, neither Polish State Railways or the local authorities appeared to understand that the appeal of this line came from its unique position in offering easily accessible ‘real’ steam to visitors.

Pt 47-65 at Poznan

Pt 47-65 at Poznan

It was around ten years ago that I accidentally stumbled on the remarkable sight and sound of daily scheduled steam services whilst on a trip to Poland. One encounter was enough to fire up a long forgotten interest in steam railways and this resulted in another two holidays to Poznań to visit the railway – trips that I would not have made but for the railway and its unique qualities. Along the way I fell for the unexpected charms of Poland and the incredible hospitality of its people.

I am not old enough to remember the days of steam hauled commuter services in the UK and at the time of my visit my only experiences of steam had been of the heritage variety, so the spectacle of ‘real steam’ offered by Polish State Railways on this line was a real eye opener. It was quite something else to be able to wander down to the platforms at Poznań Główny and watch the early morning steam hauled service arrive from Wolsztyn, followed by the sight of hundreds of commuters emptying from its double-deck carriages.

Changing locomotives at Wolsztyn Depot

Changing locomotives at Wolsztyn Depot

It is not all doom and gloom. Steam services will continue on the line from Wolsztyn to Leszno, with two return trips a day, running seven days a week. I am sure that it will still attract dedicated enthusiasts, but how many tourists will come across the operation is harder to say. I will keep my fingers crossed that the change will put the operation on a more sustainable footing, rather than being a stepping stone to a further reduction of the service.

To find out more about the operation at Wolsztyn, check out the official website at Parowozownia Wolsztyn, the daily updates from Parowozy z Wolsztyna and the website of the Wolsztyn Experience which offers footplating courses out of Wolsztyn.

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