SCHEDULED steam passenger trains on the Polish main line may cease completely from mid-2020.
The last remaining public passenger mainline steam services anywhere in the world are in Poland, operating from the famous museum depot at Wolsztyn, west of Poznan.
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The end of Polish steam has been reported previously, but it does appear to be true this time as long-time British-based supporters the Wolsztyn Experience have made clear on their website (thewolsztynexperience.org) and in advertisements in The RM.
The Wolsztyn steam depot survived into the mid-1990s with working steam as Polish national rail operator PKP had insufficient diesel locos (and at that time almost no DMUs).
As serviceable steam locos were still available, along with staff who could maintain and operate them, it was probably cheaper than bringing in diesel locos; whatever the economics Wolsztyn soon became famous and well known to steam enthusiasts from around the world.
The efforts of the Wolsztyn Experience to retain the use of steam and both promote the services, but also offer opportunities for people to learn how to operate steam locos, raised the profile further.
However, replacing the steam trains with modern DMUs was proposed by the regional government when it took over responsibility for operating regional trains, despite the same regional government advertising the steam trains as a reason to visit the area.
A three-year agreement from May 2017 to maintain daily steam-hauled services will expire in May 2020 and currently appears unlikely to be extended; most of the loco crews are retired ex-PKP employees working on short term contracts.
The depot at Wolsztyn has been transferred to a charitable foundation. It will remain open as a museum and will provide locos for main line steam charter trains.
If the Wolsztyn steam operation does cease it will leave Germany with multiple former East German narrow-gauge lines as the last place in the world with daily steam-hauled public passenger trains.
Read more News and Features in the December 2019 issue of The Railway Magazine –on sale now!