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Published: July 24th 2013
It probably wasn’t Gretchen’s idea of a fun day out but she was prepared to indulge my fascination and love of steam trains as long as we weren’t driving anywhere ourselves.
The sun was again shining brightly and we are starting to think that Poland is not such a bad place,weather wise, after all.
We are not absolutely sure that a steam engine will arrive pulling the 9.08am from Poznan when it rolls into Lubon station on its 1 hr 45min run to Wolsztyn stopping at all 14 odd stations,but we are hopeful.
We got ourselves down to the station well before the 9.20am departure and although the ticket office in the station building looked deserted,a woman appeared from nowhere to sell us tickets.We asked if the train would be hauled by a steam engine but she didn’t understand and although another young woman turned up to also buy a ticket and spoke English we don’t think she understood what we were saying in our Kiwi accent and we were left to watch down the line for the telltale sign of smoke to see if we were going to be riding a steam engine train.
by and then a remote sounding voice issued a message in Polish that we understood to be the imminent arrival of a train into the station.
Sure enough in the distance we heard the sound of a train whistle warning vehicles on crossings of its arrival and then Gretchen noticed the grey/black smoke of a coal fired steam train with its headlight blazing rocking down the long straight railway line towards us.So we were right and now for the day of sheer bliss riding a steam train!
The engine,an OL49 type 2-6-2 #59,built in 1953 and operates two trips in each direction from the steam engine sheds in Wolsztyn to Poznan.The other trips during the day are by a modern and characterless,diesel railcar.
There were only two carriages to choose from so we climbed into the first and sat by a window that was wound down so we could enjoy all the pleasures of the smell of the coal fired steam,cinders and all as we chugged through the countryside.
True to the timetable the train stopped at every little village station along the way and barely had time enough to pick up much pace between the
After each stop we got all the noises a train buff likes to hear,the chuff chuff of the engine as the wheels grip the iron rails for traction as it is asked to move from a standing start,the echo of the sound of the engine working as the train passed through a forested area to the decleration as we arrived into the next station.
It was the next best thing to arriving in heaven..........and I think Gretchen was even enjoying the experience too!
We pulled into Wolstyzn on time passing all the 15 odd steam engines in the very large and now principally unused rail yard that the steam museum owns and are in the process of restoring or waiting to be restored.We don’t think we have seen so many steam engines in one place at one time in recent years.The museum is struggling for money and it would be tragic to see some of these engines not get to be restored as once they are beyond repair there will be no comeback for them in the modern world of high speed electric or diesel trains.
With the engine standing waiting for a signal to
move out of the station and while the passengers disembarked we walked up to get more photos of the pulsating machine.One of the drivers noticed us with the camera and yelled down ‘English?’ to which we replied ‘no,we are Kiwis from New Zealand’.A big smile went across his face and he released the brake to slowly move the engine and its two carriages forward and out of the station.
We thought about visiting the steam museum for the couple of hours we had to fill in before the train returned us to Lubon at 1.30pm but after not being really sure where it exactly was located in the expansive rail yards we gave the idea away(well I had managed to get Gretchen onto the steam train I didn’t want to try my luck too far,did I?)
Instead we took a walk through the small rural town taking in the shops and services and found a cafe by the lakeside serving lunch.We spent a restful hour under a big shady umbrella enjoying a ligh lunch and drinks before it was time to wander back to the station for the return jouney.
On the walk back we came across
a rather amazing sight,a cemetery devoted to the graves of Russian soldiers killed in a battle in the last weeks of WW2 as the Red Army fought its way across Poland to liberate the country from Nazi occupation.
We have seen many war cemetaries devoted to many nationalities during our travels but this is the first where Russians were being commenarated.It may have been that the Poles would have preferred not to be liberated by the Soviets and therefore the cemetery was not quite up to the usual standard of care we notice with other ‘foreign’allied cemetaries such as in Crete or the D-Day beaches or it might have been simply that the bonds between the two adversies and allies of the past are not as strong as we New Zealanders have say with Greeks or Italians or even the French for that matter and our dead soldiers’ graves are meticuosly tended with great care,even after 70 odd years.
Steam engine #59 and its 2 carriages were waiting and ready for us when we arrived at the station for the return journey.
Odd things happen when you travel that you can never figure out and you don’t
question them(not that we would probably have been understood anyway) and purchasing our return tickets was one of them.We had paid 32.40Zloty for the two of us for the trip to Wolsztyn but were charged only 28.43Zloty for the return journey.And .43 isn’t divisible by 2!Oh well,the wonders of touch screen computers issuing railway tickets!!
The ride back home was just as enjoyable and although we thought we had worked out when the driver or his assistant would be blowing the ‘European’shriek of a train whistle for the road crossings from the trip to Wolsztyn,we still couldn’t get it quite right to capture the sound on video quite like we would have liked.
This time we sat up in the front section of the first carriage with the female conductor who spent much of the first hour on her cell phone,taking breaks to check that passengers had got on or off at each station before blowing her whistle and then returning to her cell phone conversation.
Gretchen was kept amused by watching an even bigger train buff than her husband,leaning far out of the window snapping photo after photo in the 1hr 45min ride back home.She was
still in disbelief when we alighted at Lubon that the guy hadn’t lost his head on a telegraph pole as the engine rocked its way along the line.
With the sun still shining we arrived back home after a thoroughly enjoyable day out(and that includes Gretchen too)and celebrated at dinner with our piece of steak.It wasn’t fillet or even rump for that matter but it was red meat and it would help the iron levels and re-energise us for tomorrows drive north again.
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