Europe’s last scheduled main line steam services look set to end in little more than a year’s time, with the timetable change on Saturday, 7 December 2019, when a three year agreement to maintain steam working from Wolsztyn in western Poland is due to expire.
With a number of the depot’s remaining steam loco drivers approaching retirement and unwillingness on the part of the Polish authorities to invest in sustaining the world famous museum depot, it seems increasingly certain that 2019 will mark the end of regular steam operations.
The museum depot and its large collection of locomotives, many badly in need of attention, is likely to survive, but future steam working is likely to be confined to the special train programme run by Poznan-based tour operator Turkol (www.Turkol.pl).
A new timetable introduced on Sunday (21 October 2018) sees steam haulage from Monday to Friday of the 06.17 and 11.33 Wolsztyn – Leszno services, returning at 08.17 and 13.25. On Saturdays there are two trips to Poznan, departing Wolsztyn at 07.42 and 14.05, and returning from Poznan at 10.22 and 17.14.
There are currently a trio of locos with boiler certificates that are used to operate the daily services. These are 2-6-2 Ol49 59/69 and 2-8-2 Pt47-65, although the Pt47 is currently undergoing extensive overhaul in the depot at Wolsztyn, which is likely to take until early next year.
Services during the week beginning 15 October were in the hands of Ol49-69, with passenger accommodation comprising two yellow and blue liveried coaches and trains run by regional operator Koleje Wiekopolskie.
By far the busiest of the weekday services is the early morning departure from Wolsztyn, which sets out on its hour long run almost empty, but picks up large numbers of students at the 11 intermediate stations and is “full and standing” by the time of its arrival at Leszno.
One disappointing feature of the current operation is that the locomotives are no longer turned (to save costs) at either Leszno or Poznan, meaning that the return journeys to Wolsztyn are normally tender-first, so severely curtailing the attraction for railway photographers.
For regular updates on Wolsztyn depot (in Polish and German), take a look at http://www.parowozy.com.pl and to learn about the renowned footplate experience opportunities go to http://www.thewolsztynexperience.org