Poland: Wolsztyn, the world capital of steam train enthusiasts

In Wolsztyn, a small municipality in Western Poland, the Voivodeship Province, steam started to decline from the 1980s. Since 2016, this entire heritage has been preserved by the Local Government of the Wielkopolska Voivodship in Wolsztyn, through a cultural institution, the “Wolsztyn Engine House”. Thanks to this, steam trains are still connecting every working day Wolsztyn to Leszno, and on Saturdays Wolsztyn to the large city of Poznan in the north-east.

These convoys, usually consisting of two brightly coloured carriages, are pulled by Polish steam locomotives, usually the 0i49 (1-3-1) series. A different Polish engine is also in service, the Pt47 (2-8-2), from 1949.

 

Romania, in the footsteps of the last logging trains

Winters are cold and snowy in this historic region of Transylvania, close to the border with Ukraine. In the first days of February 2019, snow falls in large flakes and visibility is low when the convoy, pulled by locomotive No. 764 469 from 1955, a four-axle locomotives (0-8-0) from the Resita workshops, leaves Viseu de Sus. From Novat, the last village before going up the valley and its infinite forests (between 700 and 1500 metres above sea level), the metallic monster, roaring with effort, steamed under the branches of huge fir trees overloaded with snow – the track often in deep shadow. The “Mocanita” or “Train of the Foresters” will travel all day body and soul whipped by the icy wind, to complete the journey to Valea Babei.

In the neighbouring county of Bucovina, the weather is clear, blue sky, bright sunshine, the landscape white, sparkling. From Moldovita, to Argel, its terminus, the train will practically follow the entire route along the national road 176 where few horse-drawn carts carrying hay will pass by without paying too much attention to the locomotive launched at full steam.

 

Zimbabwe, with coal !

In the Matabeleland North Province, near the town of Hwange the largest open pit coal mine in the country, the Hwange Colliery, is still retains a prominent place on the world market. Almost all the coal extracted is transported by rail.

In the site is at work a relic, a Garratt class 16A 611 (2-8-2+2-8-2). Built in England, in Manchester, by the Beyer – Peacok factory in 1953. Despite its very poor condition and limited maintenance, it has found a second life here. Originally designed for freight transport, it is now used as a yard shunter. All day long, it scuttles back and forth, up and down, marshalling trains as and when they are loaded.

Garratts are unusual locomotives. Invented in 1907 by Herbert William Garratt, a British railway engineer, they are articulated to be able to pull heavy trains on narrow winding tracks. Commonly used in southern Africa during the British colonial era, this Class 16A was the last steam engine in daily operation throughout Africa.

 

Sri Lanka, an open-air museum

The Sri Lanka Railways, which originated from the Ceylon Government Railways created during the British colonial era, operate a railway network of about 1500 km, with a broad gauge system (1.676 mm). Unchanged until today, it is the only example of a Victorian era broad gauge railway still in its original state!

In the middle of the 19th century, the idea of building a railway line linking Colombo and the historic town of Kandy, in the heart of the country was born. The first railway branch, between Colombo and Ambepussa in the east, dates from 1864. The train reached Kandy in 1867 and in 1924, Badulla, passing through the village of Pattipola, at 1891 meters above sea level. This is the highest point ever reached by a broad-gauge railway.

At the end of the 20th century, the railways experienced a rapid decline. Steam locomotives were relegated to depots. In 1984, two entrepreneurs created “The Viceroy Special”, a passenger train operated by the “J.F Tours & Travels (Ceylon) Ltd”. Thanks to this today 2 locomotives series B1 251 and B1 340 (4-6-0) built in 1945 by the “Robert Stephenson & Co”, and a locomotive series B2 213 (4-6-0) built in 1922 by the English firm “Vulcan Foundry” (Lancashire) are part of the Sri Lanka’s railways heritage.

 

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