After defying all those who cast doubt on its survival, scheduled steam services from the remarkable Wolsztyn depot in western Poland now look secure for 2021.
Despite heavy reliance on a handful of semi-retired drivers, the twice daily weekday service on the 46km (29-mile) route to Leszno and Saturday services on the 80km (50-mile) route to Poznan will continue for at least another year.
Paying a visit to Wolsztyn last week (20-22 August) steam services were running well and in the hands of 2-6-2 Ol49-59 after the recent failure of Wolsztyn depot’s other working loco, Pt47-65, which is currently in works at Leszno.
As elsewhere, passengers are required to wear a mask while travelling on Polish trains, but otherwise all seems quite normal and passenger loadings seem pretty good, with the steam services attracting increasing attention and patronage.
Under the current timetable, weekday steam departures from Wolsztyn are at 06.12 and 11.59, with return services departing Leszno, and sadly running tender-first, at 08.05 and 13.49.
The single Saturday service to Poznan departs Wolsztyn at 06.12 and returns (tender-first) at 10.02, but a timetable change at the end of August should see the second Saturday Poznan service restored, leaving Wolsztyn around 14.00 and returning at 17.00.
A further timetable change during October should mean another temporary return of steam working between Wolsztyn and Zbaszynek, on the Berlin-Warsaw main line, when further upgrading work is due to take place on the Leszno route.
That work has already seen replacement of much of its worn-out track, but there are signs that its manned level crossings may be automated and the work could also see replacement of mechanical signalling at the line’s two remaining passing places, Nowawies Mochy and Wloszakowice.
Wloszakowice is one of the most photogenic locations along the Leszno line, and with the early morning steam service scheduled to wait for six minutes here, there is time to dash south down the road alongside the line and get a shot of the departing train passing signals at the end of the lengthy loop.
Another fine photogenic spot nearby is on the gradient leading up from Boskowo, which is a brisk 30 minute walk from Boskowo along the main road leading past the hotel and leisure attractions, up a hill and then heading left and walking round an unfenced ploughed field.
For anyone staying in Wolsztyn and wanting to sample the steam services but avoid the early trip, there is the chance to pay a lunchtime visit to the resort of Boskowo by taking the 11.59 steam service that gives you plenty of time (12.46 – 14.20) for a leisurely lunch on the hotel terrace overlooking the popular beach and lake, before a steam-hauled return to Wolsztyn.
Fares on local rail services are good value, with a Wolsztyn-Leszno return costing PLN 25.80 (£5.40) and Wolsztyn-Poznan PLN 36.60 (£7.60), with anyone aged 60 and over eligible for a 25% reduction simply by asking for a “bilet senior”.
Details of services in the Wolsztyn area can be found on the website of regional rail operator Koleje Wielkopolskie (www.koleje-wielkopolskie.com.pl) and for regular updates on steam operations look at www.parowozy.com.pl. Information about the world-renowned footplate experience courses is at www.thewolsztynexperience.org
For a comfortable and reasonably priced place to stay in Wolsztyn I can recommend the Hotel Kaukaska, on the edge of town and just seven minutes’ walk from the station (www.kaukaska.pl)
Wolsztyn is a delightful and attractive small town (population 12,500) that is easily reached from the UK by plane and train via Poznan or Berlin. It boasts two attractive lakes, a number of excellent restaurants and a museum dedicated to its most famous son, the Nobel-prize winning physician Robert Koch.