by Phil Marsh

Beautiful Helena stars in steamy art show in Poland

Published: 21st March 2014

How to drive and fire a main line steam train at 60 mph

Whenever a steam train operates on the UK national network, it will attract crowds and many will grab any opportunity to step onto the hallowed footplate. But very, very few people get the chance to actually drive or fire a steam engine at over 25mph, the speed limit on our UK preserved railways.

But just 750 miles from London, you can reach the mile a minute speed on a steam engine if you are lucky. This is the steam operation managed by The Wolsztyn Experience which has operated for nearly 20 years in Poland.

A few years ago, there were several different types of locomotives available to drive and fire, one of them at speeds up to 80mph. This is the only ‘Pacific’ type engine in Poland and is a green liveried Class PM 36 No. 2 and is in green livery. This engine had a top speed of around 85mph but has been awaiting an overhaul for the last few years.

Steamy art book about Beautiful Helena

This has not stopped an arty book being published about theis engine, named Beautiful Helena on one side and the Polish equivalent on the other. The book contains dozens of atmospheric photographs and from personal experience, can confirm that inside the half-roundhouse shed at Wolsztyn, especially in winter, there are some fabulous scenes.

The album is hardack format with a stylish, varnished dust jacket and pages made from art paper allowing good reproduction. The captions on the 80 pages are in English and Polish and the book measures 30 x 30 cm.

They said;

This album is an extraordinary story of a beauty of the detail. The photographer subtly shows us that even a giant machine has a soul.

Agnieszka Kalitowicz

Kuratorium Art Gallery

The album for every lover of Polish railways. The photographs contained in the album show in the endearing manner nearly a hundred ton locomotive with a design speed of 130km/ h. Unusual, high-quality photographs, arranged in a collective, multi-layered story. This unusual, valuable edition shows locomotives as they have become over the years. No embellishments or styling. A real treat for collectors.

Iwona Sroczyńska

Graphic Designer / Graduate of University School of Applied Art

The Wolsztyn Experience reaches two million miles.

Participants of the main line footplating courses in Poland have collectively covered two million miles over the last 20 years or so and the routes covered vary from year to year, although there are several core routes used.

Steam services in 2014 are two round trips between Wolsztyn and Leszno which takes 80 minutes in each direction, whereas in previous years, it was the 100 mile round trip to Poznan which took two hours each way. This is not preserved railway operating, it is to a public timetable with passengers using double decker carriages on scheduled services.

March 24 anniversary run

Poland also seeds a variety of main line steam special trains and in 2014, 21 will run, and perhaps the most noteable is ‘The Great Escape Anniversary’ service

The steam holidays are not cheap but include seven nights accommodation in single rooms, but not food or drivers’ tips and prices vary depending on the time of year. The cost is partly paid to PKP, Polish Railways as the subsidy for retaining the steam locomotives and associated infrastructure and staff. The experience is pretty much unequalled anywhere else!

Steam for two more years

The WE has announced that their services have been secured for a couple more years although 10 years ago, it was still possible to drive and fire steam hauled freight trains weighing up to 1000 tons.

The Polish special train operator Turcol is promoting the 21 special trains and on March 24th, the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 111, a special will depart Zagan at the exact time that the first escapees emerged from the tunnel.

Special trains in 2014

March 24th Poznan Zbaszynek Zagan & return.

April 12th Poznan Torun Bydgoszcz & return.

May 17th Wolsztyn Gniezno circle tour via Leszno. -

May 31st Poznan Kolobrzeg & return.

June 1st Poznan Pila Naklo Kcynia & return using vintage coaches.

June 13th Wolsztyn Poznan via Leszno + Poznan Freight Circle & return.

June 29th Wolsztyn Cigacice Zielona Gora Czerwiensk Zielona Gora & return.

July 5th Wolsztyn Leszno Ostrow & return.

July 6th /13th/20th/27th Aug 3rd 10th /16th/17th/24th/31st Wolsztyn Zbaszynek Miedzyrzecz Miedzychod Sierakow Lake & return.

July 19th / Aug 9th Wolsztyn Lagow & return.

July 26th Wolsztyn Wagrowiec & return.

Aug 16th Poznan Zbaszynek Miedzyrzecz Miedzychod Sierakow Lake & return.

Aug 30th Poznan Wroclaw Jaworzyina Sl klodsko & return.

Sept 27th Wolsztyn to Lubben (Germany) & return.

Nov 11th /23rd Wolsztyn Leszno Wschowa Leszno Poznan freight circle & return.

What’s running this year?

The operational locomotives vary from year to year and the main fleet is the Class OL-49 a 2-6-2 mixed traffic engine and Nos. 59 and 69 are in service. They will be joined by the huge 2-8-2 PT 47-65 in the next few months and the specials will use this engine which has been out of service for the last four years.

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