Steam hauled passenger services return in Poland

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One of the two locomotives now in use from Wolsztyn: PKP 2-6-2 Ol49 59 at Trzebiez, Szczecinski, in the north of Poland with a charter train in August 2013.
Keith Fender
WARSAW — Regular steam operations in Poland are back.

Services restarted on May 15 and now operate six days a week — with no scheduled steam services on Sunday — although the same locomotives often operate special charter services at weekends. On weekdays, two round trips operate south from Wolsztyn to Leszno whilst on Saturdays two pairs of steam services operate between Wolsztyn and the major city of Poznan. Currently two locomotives are available, both built in Poland in the early 1950s; 2-6-2 number Ol49-59 and 2-8-2 number Pt47-65

Steam ended in 2014 following the privatization of Polish rail freight operator PKP Cargo. The railroad company owns the famous Wolsztyn steam shop and locomotives the operation of regular steam operated passenger trains on the route from Poznan to Wolsztyn, in the west of Poland. The last active steam operation had ended on Poland's main line railways in the early 1990s but the Wolsztyn steam shop had survived and continued to operate local passenger and some freight using steam, partly as a museum, but operating regular services.

Several years of negotiations between the local regional government, which pays toward the operation of the passenger trains in the area, and PKP Cargo which employed the steam locomotive engineers at Wolsztyn have finally resulted in an agreement signed in June 2016 to re-introduce regular steam operated services. The Wolsztyn shop and locomotives have been transferred to a new heritage foundation funded by both PKP Cargo and local government.

The steam services from Wolsztyn have been supported for many years by the British-Polish Wolsztyn Experience company, which enables railfans to pay to learn to drive and fire a steam loco on the scheduled steam services to and from Poznan or Leszno. This operation has attracted world-wide attention and visitors from around the globe and helped to ensure local political leaders became engaged in ensuring the steam trains would return.

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