Saturday, 13 June 2009

Czachówek junction

A day later, I returned to Czachówek to take some snaps of the junction. I arrived in good time to photograph the Pilawa-bound train we took a day earlier (above) as it turns off the Radom line onto the Skierniewice to Łuków line (PKL line no. 12, which runs west to east). Just once a day does an east-bound passenger train come this way.

Above: From the forested triangle of land to the north of Line No. 12, a photo of a Warsaw-bound train. Standing here, I am aware of trains moving through the forest in all directions; I can tell where they're coming from, but not where they're going. Below: One of the most interesting trains passes this way, the Vltava, the Moskva Belarusskaya to Praha Hl. n.* service comes through Czachówek (some time after 6pm).
This exotic, one-a-day service, which takes 31hrs 23mins, leaves Moscow at quarter to midnight local time, goes through Viasma, Smolensk, Orsha, then through Belarus stopping at Minsk, on into Poland, calling at Terespol, Biała Podlaska, Łuków, Pilawa, Włoszczowa, Katowice and Zebrzydowice, before crossing the border into the Czech Republic, and arriving in Prague just after 5am. Surely one of Central and Eastern Europe's great train journeys.
The return train* passes through Czachówek around 9am each morning on its way back to Moscow. These trains are made up of Russian, Czech and Polish carriages and (for the Polish stretch) are hauled by Polish EU07 or EP07 electric engines. The gauge changes at Terespol, where broad-gauge bogies are swapped for standard gauge ones.

Meanwhile, within the forest at Czachówek junction, I can hear the rumble of yet another train. It's heading my way, but will it swing north or continue east? It's a CTL Logistics tanker train, and it carries on straight, down the line to Pilawa and Łuków.

Above: The Skierniewice-Łuków line, looking east. Built in the early 1950s, it had, as any infrastructure investment did in those day, a primarily military purpose - getting Soviet tanks west, bypassing Warsaw, that nest of potential spies and saboteurs. Today the line is under-used, at least the new Warsaw-Góra Kalwaria-Pilawa service will put some of this track to good purpose.
The line's history is fascinating, told here (in Polish). At a time when Stalin was planning to goad the west into war in Korea, building this 100-mile strategic military rail connection of was of utmost importance. No other piece of railway infrastructure investment in Poland, other than the electrification of the Warsaw-Katowice line, was given greater priority during the period of the Six-Year Plan.
(* a dead link means the timetable's changed or the service no longer runs)


Dyspozytor said...

Great series of articles about the Czachowek - Pilawa line. However Czachowek had SIX railway stations, not four!

See Gora Kalwaria revival on Behind The Water Tower.

Michael Dembinski said...

Not entirely sure about that - certainly there was a Czachówek Zachodni, there are signal boxes situated on the sites of what the Baza Kolejowa map has marked as 'Czachówek Południowy CZP11' and 'Czachówek Zachodni'. There are remains of a curved platform on the north-east quadrant.

Reader A.P. of Lewisham, London, has provided a link to this page which shows a junction with identical configuration in Filton, nr. Bristol. Not in forest though.

Island1 said...

"Moskva Belarusskaya to Praha Hl. n." That would be a journey. Maybe one day.

One thing I miss about living in London is the ability to easily get on a train and take a (short!) trip to somewhere interesting (St. Albans, that kind of thing). I've never been able to figure out if this is possible from Krakow. Any idea where I could look to find out? Everywhere I've heard of seems to be about 9 hours away, regardless of its distance.

Michael Dembinski said...

"Any idea where I could look to find out?" A good question. The PKP online timetable system ( is predicated on knowing where and when you want to travel - no room for serendipity. Unless you type in "Kraks Gl" and look at departures hour by hour. You could look at regional railway maps; drift down to Chabówka or Sucha Beskidska. Kraks has many lines running out of it - choose wisely, and the local trains will reward you well, and for a few modest zlotys.

Anonymous said...

Great blog!

May I ask you a question?

Why did you move to Poland?


A. Belluzzo

Michael Dembinski said...

In answer to your question, A. Belluzzo, I was offered a job in Warsaw in Feb 1997, our children were still pre-school, my wife like me was also keen to move to Poland. After 12 years, we don't regret leaving London one bit.

Anonymous said...


I regret

A. Belluzzo

Island1 said...

Thanks Micheal, I'll look into those.

Katz said...

Hi Michael,

It's only recently that I've come across your blog.

I've yet to read all the entries on Czachówek, all seem to be very interesting, including the story about the line built on Stalin's orders. Czachówek Południowy is part of my "kraina dzieciństwa" - we have had a "działka" in Obręb for more than 30 years now (my paternal grandfather's side of family is originally from there) and as a kid I used to spend part of my summer there every year with my retired grandparents. Sometimes we would travel by car with my dad but often we would take the good old yellow-and-blue EN57 from Warszawa Główna (!) to Czachówek Południowy.

If someone had told me back then that I'd be reading some Brit's interesting thoughts on this area in a couple of years' time, I'd have laughed in his face!

Life is full of surprises.