FolkestoneJack's Tracks

A pause at Wenecja

Posted in Poland, Wenecja by folkestonejack on April 24, 2016

A three hour pause in our programme provided ample opportunity to explore the sights in Wenecja. It is only a small village with just 300 inhabitants but it has a particularly delightful setting amongst the Biskupińskie, Weneckie and Skrzynka lakes. It is also home to two noteworthy sights – a narrow gauge railway museum and a medieval castle. A further attraction, an archaeological open-air museum, is to be found just down the tracks at Biskupin.

The open air narrow gauge museum in Wenecja

The open air narrow gauge railway museum in Wenecja

The collection at Wenecja lays claim to the title of Europe’s largest 600mm gauge railway museum, though I imagine that this is a relatively specialist league of museums! I was pleasantly surprised to see that this did not follow the usual Eastern bloc arrangement of lines of locos one after another. However, the display of the locos in the open air can’t be doing them much good in the preservation stakes.

A degree of careful thought has clearly gone in to the layout of this place with the locos arranged with consists that give a much better sense of how these locos spent their working lives. For example, the Tx-1116 locomotive made by Henschel & Son (Kassel, 1918) is displayed at the head of a logging train (with real logs on the wagons).

One particularly striking exhibit is the Belgian locomotive No. 2179 ‘Charles’ made by Les Ateliers Metallurgiques Nivelles with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement. It was one of six miniature pacifics built for the Brussels World Expo of 1935 but made its way east after being seized by German forces during the Second World War.

I must admit that looking at ‘Charles’ today you would think that this was a locomotive that has spent a lifetime in exhibitions and in amusement parks, but the reality is far removed from this. The locomotive was used on military systems by the German forces and then in the reconstruction of Szczecin by the post-war Polish regime, before twenty five years of hard labour on the railway systems at the sugar factories at Ostrowy and Chełmica. A particularly sorry photo of ‘Charles’ at the end of her operational life can be seen on the Wciąż pod parą website.

Besides the larger exhibits there are many smaller items that are easily overlooked, such as a hand-cranked water pump with a beautiful Lion’s head spout.

Wenecja Castle

Wenecja Castle

I took a few moments to visit the 14th century castle that overlooks the railway station at Wenecja. In truth, there is not much to the castle itself but there are a variety of siege devices and a siege tower that could make for interesting viewing if you have a few moments to spare.

After leaving the castle, I took a wander up to the late-19th century Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Kościół Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Wenecji) which looked rather resplendent in a short lived burst of sunlight. At night the place looked quite remarkable with a sea of lanterns illuminated across the graveyard.

A tomb in the churchyard

A tomb in the churchyard

Our lunch stop also gave us time enough to admire the photographs of Poland’s narrow gauge railways on display in the dining room and museum shop, including a spectacular viaduct over the Brda river at Koronowo. If only that were still part of an active narrow gauge railway today!

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