Friday, 31 May 2019

It's the 31st of May and where's the viaduct?

Another deadline has come and gone. The viaduct carrying ul. Karczunkowska over the railway line at W-wa Jeziorki station was meant to have been opened in late-December 2016; late-December 2017; August 2018; December 2018; March 2019 and now May 2019 and it still isn't. Not a bad thing, mind you; once it is open it will mean far more traffic tearing up and down Karczunkowska, which still has no pavement for a crucial 200m of its length between ul. Nawłocka and Trombity.

When will the viaduct be open? There's still much to do. For starters, the final layer of asphalt needs to be laid. No fewer than 13 pedestrian crossings with zebras and road signs need to be put down. Road markings - the white lines - need painting. The cycle path along the south side of the viaduct needs to be completed. Around 30m of balustrades have be installed on either side of the viaduct between the steps down to platform/street level. Four level-access lifts need to be installed. And this is just the viaduct - the park + ride is nowhere to be seen (although the access road to it has just had the first layers of asphalt applied). The bus loop is nearly done but requires asphalt. Station signage is being put up - plenty of new signs, white on dark blue, the process will not take long.

Signing off the entire project and opening the bridge to traffic will take ages. The case of the 100m-stretch of ul. Sokola (part of the Trasa Świętokrzyska) between ul, Jagiellońska and ul. Targowa is worth bearing in mind. The construction work was completed in December 2017, and opened 17 months later because the acoustic screens were deemed unacceptable to the authorities. The level-access lifts at Czachówek Południowy station are still not ready, a year and half after the rest of the work there was completed.

A frantic burst of activity this morning, but to no avail - another deadline missed.

Yesterday these signs below were awaiting placement - now they're up.

Get used to them! All of a sudden, Karczunkowska looks like an important thoroughfare, rather than a pavement-free local byway that most villages of Podkarpacie would be ashamed of.

Below: this morning - the signs are up. No balustrades or safety barriers over the tracks, only temporary measures.

Below: this time on Wednesday, 30 May 2018. Progress but at a slow pace.

Below: up top - waiting for the last lick of asphalt; the first application of a cycle path.

Below: looking down at where the Park + Ride will be; parking for 67 cars. Like, less than a bus-full of people. Other than providing an access road to the P+R, paved and lit, work to actually build it has not even begun. Note the lack of permanent balustrades to the left - still waiting for these, only temporary barriers at the moment.

Well guys, no rush. Just come up with yet another deadline, and miss it... I won't miss the extra volume of new traffic.

This time two years ago:
My mother's school - subject of exhibition at national army museum

This time three years ago:
Stormy end to May

This time four years ago:
Where's it better to live: London or Warsaw?

This time five years ago:
Jeziorki, magic hour, late-May

This time seven years ago:
Świdnica, one of Poland's lesser-known pearls

This time ten years ago:
Spirit of place

Friday, 24 May 2019

Spitalfields and Smithfields - more from the City

Friday in the City and the chance to explore; I am often visiting the City on business and rather than head back to Ealing from the nearest Tube station, I meander westwards on foot, each time choosing a new route. There is so much to see, so much to discover, and such a rich history that is visually and intellectually rewarding.

Below: peak Spitalfields, hipster capital of London, where old brick has been put to new use. A once run-down area within walking distance of the skyscrapers of the City's financial heart has become a Most sought-after location.

Right: here we are, right at the edge. In the background and to the right, the steel and glass of a modern financial hub; the NatWest and RBS buildings on Bishopsgate. In front of them and to the left, the early Victorian brick and cobbles of Spital Yard. The 'Spital' comes from St Mary's Hospital, founded in 1197.

The district was associated with weaving, cloth-making and garment manufacture with successive waves of immigrants since the 17th century - Huguenots, Jews and Bangladeshis - establishing themselves and their businesses around here.

The gatehouse to St Bartholomew-the-Great church. There are two parishes side by side; St Bartholomew-the-Great and St Bartholomew-the-Less, formerly the parish church of Bartholomew's Hospital, ('Barts'), the teaching hospital, founded by the Augustinian Friars in 1123. The entire complex stands between Smithfield Market to the north, the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) to the south-west and the Bank of England to the south-east.

London's rich mediaeval history was mostly destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 but St Barts survived.
Right: the word 'bedlam' comes from the corruption of the word Bethlehem, which by 1460 had become Europe's first psychiatric hospital. This plaque is to be found by the Liverpool Street entrance to Liverpool Street station.

The words 'hospital', 'hostel' and 'hotel' derive their etymology from the same route (the dropped 's' replaced by the circumflex over the 'o' as in the French spelling of hôtel. Originally, "hostels of God," early mediaeval hospitals provided hospitality to guests - pilgrims - and patients alike. Only after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the late 1530s did the roles of hospital and pilgrim's rest begin to diverge.

Left: the entrance to the Museum of the Order of St John - the Knights Hospitaller, located in Clerkenwell in the old priory gatehouse, built in 1504. The museum tells the story of how the monastic order was founded in the 11th century during the First Crusade in Jerusalem to look after Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land - and how it subsequently turned into what is now St John Ambulance Brigade. The brigade's logo - the Maltese Cross - seen on the pavement - shows the continuity of the organisation spanning almost one millennium.

Left: Lowndes House, No.1 City Road. Built in 1929 in an imperial style that would already have appeared dated at that time when modernism was the rage, this was the London headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Singer's UK manufacturing facility was in Glasgow. Compared to other Singer buildings - such as the one in St Petersburg - quite modest. Singer was one of the first American multinational corporations, with a global reach well before WW1. Today, the Grade II listed building serves as a Travelodge hotel.

Below: O joy! I walked the length of Spitalfields' Elder Street, expecting that a good street landscape would be spoilt by modern cars. But no! A Bentley S1, built between 1955 and '59. And how perfectly placed, at the end of the street...

...standing next to a Morris Minor Series II convertible (1952-56)! A marvellous sight! Both displaying the patina of decades of driving.

Below: onwards from Spitalfields to Smithfields - and another classic, somewhat younger (late 1970s, so only 40 years old) MG MGB Roadster passes the meat market.

Left: at Smithfields, to find the house in which lived Sir John Betjeman. It's here - at 43 Cloth Fair, the entrance being on Cloth Court. This was his London home from 1954 to 1972, with an interlude (1958-59) living at Rotherhithe while the flat was being refurbished following a fire. A fine location from which to explore the City, Those 18 years saw many historic buildings making way for steel-and-glass offices.

Right: blue plaque over the door to Sir John Betjeman's flat. His youthful explorations of the City of London were described in Chapter VI, his autobiographical poem, Summoned by Bells; he would visit the City's churches on Sundays, drawn towards the more obscure ones.

Below: Christ Church, Spitalfields, a Hawksmoor design. It was one of a spate of churches erected as a result of the work of the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches. Not 50 but 12 arose in and around London in the first half of the 18th century; this one in particular to minister to Huguenots who had fled France to England to avoid religious persecution at home. To the left of frame in this photo, Spitalfields Market. Street food and street fashions.

By the 19th century, the mission of Christ Church had changed with the coming of a new influx of immigrants - Jewish refugees from the Russian Pale of Settlement. The London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews was active in this parish, as can be seen in many of the plaques inside the vestibule, commemorating Jews who had converted and those who ministered to them (below).

Left: another literary 'JB' - John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress. Here is his grave, at the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground. As with the works of John Betjeman, I was introduced to Pilgrim's Progress at school. All I can remember of Bunyan's book are the words 'Slough of Despond'. Also buried here are Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, and William Blake.

16,000 paces walked today - a good result.

This time two years ago:
That tune going round your head now...

This time three years ago:
The eyes... the eyes... 

This time four years ago:
New old terminal open at Okęcie airport

This time six years ago:
Arrogance vs. humility 

This time seven years ago:
Warsaw looking good ahead of the football-fan influx

This time ten years ago:
Heron over Jeziorki

This time 12 years ago:
Present rising, future loading

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Betjeman The Bonus of Laughter - Vol. 3 of Bevis Hillier's biography

Hillier's books have been my bedside and travel companions since February; three months on, I have finished and feel greatly satisfied, yet sad that this literary journey has reached an end.

The first volume describes the childhood and youth of John Betjeman, his life at Oxford, his first jobs and the poetic influences that led to the publication of his first book of poetry. The second volume charts Betjeman's rise to prominence - as a journalist, broadcaster and poet. In the final volume, Betjeman reaps the rewards of his work; recognition, honours, the onset of old age, illness and death.

This book shows the arc of his career reaching a zenith and then falling back to earth as infirmity, and the demands that came with the role of Poet Laureate, dulled his edge. Entering the eighth and final decade of his life, we see a man confined to a wheelchair wrestling with the great existential question - is there a God?

Betjeman's poems were not taken seriously by the literary establishment in his time. Heavyweight academic books about English poetry in the 20th century have been written that do not even mention him. He is often dismissed as a 'popular' poet; "the low-brow's middle-brow," "idly snobbish and trippingly traditional" "harmless writer of light verse" by those who could be bothered; others affected to ignore him. Typically his poems outsold theirs by twenty to one.

But ignore Betjeman you cannot. He gets to the bones of the human condition, love and death, the universally applicable subjects, with a simplicity of language learned from journalism that takes practice and sympathy for the reader. He is the pre-eminent poet of place; his descriptions of towns, villages, churches, landscapes, resonate with the reader to the extent of being able to share the qualia of being there.

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of Betjeman was his religious questioning. He wanted to believe in God - a high Anglican God - but was troubled with doubt throughout his life, doubts that intensified with age. He was born in an age when almost everyone believed; by the time he died in 1984, few English people truly believed in the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, or in a heavenly afterlife. His angst-ridden contemplation of the Eternal and Infinite gave his poems an edge that conscious and sensitive spirits can identify with.

For these two reasons I admire Betjeman's poetry so much.

"It's easy to be difficult," said Betjeman of T.S. Eliot's phrase "the desirability of poetry's being difficult." Being difficult in poetry was fashionable at the very same time that being difficult was fashionable in art and classical music, observes Hillier.

A significant part of the third volume deals with Betjeman's later career as a preservationist; he engaged wholeheartedly in the campaign to save the Euston arch, which failed to do so. The bitter lessons learnt were deployed in later, successful, campaigns to preserve iconic Victorian architecture - the best known of which was St Pancras station.

The book expounds on the massively important role of Jock Murray, his publisher, who almost existed so that Betjeman's poems could reach their public. 'Jock' (full name John Arnaud Robin Grey Murray) was the sixth generation of John Murrays to run the publishing company. The seventh sold it - today the John Murray imprint, once Queen Victoria's personal publisher, belongs to the French conglomerate, Lagardere.

I found the way the footnotes were presented rather tiresome; when reading the narrative, my focused attention is distracted by a superscript number referring me to the notes section at the back of the book, which in itself, in volume 3 alone, runs to 84 pages. Looking up the note requires abandoning my train of thought, flicking to the notes section, trying to find the chapter heading (only in the second volume is the reader aided in this by a guide at the top of the notes pages referring to the pagination of the main body of the book), and I know that when I finally get there, I have less than a 50/50 chance of learning something new and interesting rather than just finding it's yet another 'ibid'.

Sadness in parting with this book after three months is tempered by the knowledge that I can dip into my various collections of John Betjeman's works with a new understanding. Above all, I ended the book with the insight that this is a work of biography as it should be understood - would one want such a work about one's own life? In today's online world of social media, it may well be possible to extract such a fine granularity of detail about everyone's lives, and in future use clever algorithms to put together biographies in book form about us all.

This time two years ago:
Birds and their young, Jeziorki

This time three years ago:
"Distinguish joy from pleasure" - wise words

This time seven years ago:
A post about a book about a film about a journey to a room

This time nine years ago:
Mr Pheasant trumpets his presence

This time ten years ago:
Balancing on the Edge of Chaos

This time 11 years ago:
Zamienie and the encroaching tide of Development

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Electric cars for hire by the minute

Is this the start of a revolution? Our electricity supplier, Innogy, has launched an electric car-hire scheme in Warsaw, placing a fleet of 500 BMW i3 cars at the disposal of any driver with the Innogy Go! app in their smartphone. Full information (in English) here.

The white-and-lime-green cars are becoming a common sight on the streets, people are getting used to them. By-the-minute car hire has been around in Warsaw for a few years (Panek and Traficar), but having electric ones that can zoom along bus passes is an advantage. And Innogy Go! only charges by the minute, not by the kilometre.

Before going any further, a digression about electric vehicles.

A few years ago, I took a close look at the range-topping Tesla S at an event in Łódź. I was struck by how tinny the doors sounded when they closed. There is a reason (Toyota's hybrids also have doors which make a similar sound). The doors - the entire car body - has to be built as light as possible. With fossil-fuel-engined cars, if you need to put in an extra weighty feature to help make the car more attractive, you add a few cc to engine's capacity. "I want the car door to shut making the sound of a door of a bank vault!" says the car designer. "Yes," replies the car engineer, "to achieve that, the car door will have to have the weight of a bank-vault door." "Quite so. Make the engine bigger to compensate!" Easy enough to do with petrol or diesel, a tough ask on an electric engine - or more accurately, on the battery that powers it.

So electric cars have to be lighter, thus more fragile. And so, the vicious circle will be broken. In this, the automotive industry has been making ever-heavier cars more powerful - therefore kinetically more dangerous to other road users in a crash, leading to heftier safety cages, crash bars and other passive measures, making cars even heavier - therefore needing even more power, and with it more kinetic danger, leading to more defensive measures. A bit like the the naval powers building Dreadnought battleships with ever greater guns and armour. Or the nuclear arms race.

I have sworn never to buy a fossil-fuel engined car ever again. But then, do I really need to own a car - any car? I'm entirely happy pottering around Warsaw on London on public transport and on foot, and hiring a car when necessary.

Will I ever use an auto-na-minuty? On Tuesday after work I went to Ikea in Janki to check out a few things. I went by public transport and was there quick enough (SKM from W-wa Śródmieście to W-wa Rakowiec, from there a 15 tram to P+R Al. Krakowska, and from there a 711 bus to Janki.

Whoever was responsible for planning the shopping centres at Janki assumed that literally no one would want to get there by public transport. The bus stop is over 900m from Ikea! After my retail experience was complete, time to go home. The journey home (a mere 8km as the crow flies) took the best part of 90 minutes because of the vicissitudes of the suburban bus routes weaving around various villages calling at empty bus stops along the way. And it was bucketing down with rain. A good time to use an electric car for a short-distance journey. According to Google Maps, the journey home from Ikea in Janki should take 16 minutes by car (through Falenty, Łady and Dawidy Bankowe); at a rate of 1.19 złoty per minute, that would be under 20zł. Now, the cheapest rate taxi would be around 30zł for this ride. Is this an attractive saving? Your first ride is 1 grosz for the first 15 minutes... Now, that's tempting.

A fair-weather alternative to the electric car is a electric scooter (skuter as opposed to hulajnoga). Operated by Blinkee, these are cheaper, but you need to wear a helmet (in the box at the back). There are 200 of these scattered around Warsaw - find them using the app.

Below: the alternative, in the pouring rain.

Pricing: electric car vs electric scooters in Warsaw

Units Driving
per min
per min.
500 1,19 zł0.50 zł 236 zł
Blinkee (scooter)200 0.69 zł0.09 zł89 zł

This time last year:
Sunday shopping issue solved
[After a year of doing the Big Grocery Shop online, I won't return to doing it the old way! It's 25 minutes of my time to order, receive and unpack the goods, rather than 90 minutes including the 7.5 km drive there and back.]

This time three years ago:
Mszczonów - another railway junction

This time six years ago:
The Devil is in Doubt - short story, part I

This time seven years ago:
Stormclouds are raging all around my door

This time eight years ago:
Floods endanger Warsaw

This time nine years ago:
Coal line rarity

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Russia's Far East - maps and roads

Until not so very long ago, Russia's Far East had no year-round, asphalted road connection to the rest of the country. In 2010, Vladimir Putin officially opened a new road that finally allowed motorists to make the entire journey from Moscow to Vladivostok without having to cover a thousand kilometres off-road.

In my 1989 Atlas Avtomobil'skich Dorog SSSR, the gap is glaring. The Soviet motorist - unless an intrepid explorer with a rugged and reliable four-wheel drive vehicle - could not drive from one end of the country to the other. Below: the key map shows where the gaps are. Between the eastern edge of page 83 and the western edge of page 84 - nothing. To the south of the Amur river - China.

Let's zoom in a little bit - the Soviet highway network had a huge hole in it between Chita and Khabarovsk - over 2,100km of gap. However, if you go east from Chita and west from Khabarovsk by minor roads not of highway standard but were asphalted,the gap shrank to just over 1,000km.

Below: the eastern edge of page 83 of Atlas Avtomobil'skich Dorog SSSR: Note the dotted line heading north-east out of Sretensk - the dotted line means no asphalt - in Russian as in Polish, 'gruntowa'. Beyond Gorbicha, there is no road. At all. Whatsoever. The black lines are the railways - the Trans-Siberian and the Baikal-Amur. As you can see, Russia's east and west were held together by just these two slender threads. Now a third is in place (since 2010), the connection of Chita and Khabarovsk by a main road - certainly not motorway standard - but something entirely acceptable in the Western world, given the volume of traffic using it.

Below: the western edge of page 84 of Atlas Avtomobil'skich Dorog SSSR: Two roads leading north-south, but nothing east-west. This was 1989, remember...

Below: Google Maps shows us the 1,004km of 21st-century asphalt that today joins together the road networks of Siberia and Russia's Far East. It might be long, but it's just seven metres wide. The only road connecting east and west.

Three years after the asphalting of the road was complete, Google sent a car with a camera mast to drive the length of it, taking photos for Google Maps Street View and for Google Earth. The result is fascinating. Unlike in Soviet times, when unauthorised possession of military maps was a criminal offence and the few maps available to the public were riddled with deliberate errors and small in scale, Google offers top-quality images and maps to one and all. Based on satellite imagery and backed up by cameras on the ground, we can now see into the lives of Russians living in distant provincial towns and villages like never before.

Much of it is ramshackle, rusty, potholed, improvised, crumbling; here and there some new buildings appear but this is not China. Rather this is slow decline.

Here is a small selection: Below: this is the point, north of Never (pron. 'N'yev'yer), where the road to Magadan, over 3,100km away, begins. Note - when the photo was taken, the roads were numbered M58 (Chita- Khabarovsk) and M56 (Never-Magadan); they were re-numbered P297 and P504 respectively in 2011, though the old nomenclature remain on photos taken in 2013.

It's a mighty long way down the dusty trail to Magadan, once gateway to the hell that was Kołyma. Double the distance between London and Warsaw. At least today it's accessible by road from 'mainland' Russia - in Soviet times, it was only accessible by sea during the ice-free months, and by air. No land routes.

Below: Magadan is well covered by Google Earth Street View. A desperate, hellish place even in high summer.

"Minus 40 is no frost. Forty kilometres is no distance. Forty percent is no alcohol" (Siberian saying).

The imagery is from 2013. After the rupture with the West following the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, it is unlikely that Russia will allow Google to update its Street View maps or to extend the coverage. So see what's available to see today, dragging the orange man symbol onto roads highlighted in blue on Google Maps (on picking up the icon).

Google Street View offers an excellent sense of 'being there'. A few weeks ago, I was riding through Góra Kalwaria, not far from Warsaw, and thought to myself - "I was here recently with Eddie. We were looking for the location of the pizza restaurant we used to stop at when he and his sister were small... but I couldn't recall driving here with Eddie... and then it occurred to me that we did this scouting online, on Google Earth Street View, and my recollection of that moment shared by the computer screen felt just as though we'd actually been driving through Góra Kalwaria!

This time two years ago:
Heavenly Jeziorki

This time  six years ago:
Why are all the shops shut today? 

This time seven years ago:
Jeziorki at its most beautiful

This time nine years ago:
Useful and useless in my wallet

This time ten years ago:
In search of the dream klimat - remote viewing made real

This time 11 years ago:
Zakopane to Kraków in 3hrs 45min

This time 12 years ago:
The year's most beautiful day?

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Day the Forecasters got it Wrong

I awoke with a start on Saturday morning - a clap of thunder very near, followed - in Hollywood style - by the sound of rain drumming on the metal roof. It was quarter to seven. I considered going downstairs to switch off the router and disconnect the computer, but with each passing minute, the thunder was getting more distant. The rain was still falling heavily. I went back to sleep, not waking until a little before nine - a hour or so later than I'd planned.

The rain was still pouring heavily at 10am, the drive was flooded. Without the heaviest rainfall so far in 2019. But none of the forecasters had predicted it for Warsaw for 06:45! I follow, Google Weather and the BBC, and Instytut Fizyki for real-time weather - yes, there were thunderstorms due for Warsaw, but not till the afternoon. Looking on the map, I had to scan much further south-east, down towards the Ukrainian-Romanian border, that's where this massive weather system was meant to be sitting.

Below: Thundery showers - for 14:00. Over seven hours early, they arrived. Weather forecasts often predict that rain would come earlier, and it arrives later. Sometimes a whole day late. But very, very rarely does it come earlier than forecast.

They all got it wrong - badly wrong - so wrong as to shake my faith in the supercomputers that predict our weather.

UPDATE: answer a question in a comment - here are two stills from the dynamic weather radar map found at Below: zoomed right out, showing Europe from the Atlantic to Moscow, the sweep of the radar showing clearly. Heavy rain in the western Baltic.

Below: zoomed right in, the last prognosis on Sunday evening, looking ahead to Tuesday morning at 08:00 CST. Warsaw and the south of Warsaw; medium overcast and patches of light drizzle (the sandy colour).

Further update - I notice that this year, whether it's in London or Warsaw, the supercomputers churning out forecasts on the basis of data from weather radars seem less accurate than in the past couple of years.

This time last year:
Carlo Rovelli's The Order of Time

This time five years ago:
W-wa Wola became W-wa Zachodnia Platform 8 two years ago today 

This time six years ago:
From yellow to white - dandelions go to seed

This time seven years ago:
The good topiarist

This time nine years ago:
Wettest. May. Ever.

This time 11 years ago:
[My last visit to Zakopane - good riddance to the place]

Monday, 13 May 2019

On cue, the Ice Saints

Here they come again - right on time. This week in mid-May brings the Cold Gardeners (zimni ogrodnicy in Polish, or eisheilige - ice saints - in German. Four days of below-average temperature, falling on the name's days of the following saints: St Pancras (Święty Pankracy, 12 May), St Servatus (Święty Serwacy, 13 May) and St Boniface of Tarsus (Święty Bonifacy, 14 May); the three days are rounded off with St Sophia's day, 15 May, known in Poland as Zimna Zośka (cold Zośka, the diminutive form of Zosia, the informal form of Zofia or Sophia).

The arrival of the Ice Saints yesterday afternoon was right on cue. At 1pm, the temperature in Warsaw was a pleasant 23C, by 9pm it had fallen to just 6C and would fall further; this morning it was 4.8C at dawn. Cold - and wet. The rain - forecast to continue falling until the feast of St Sophia on Wednesday - is overdue, the ministry of agriculture having issued a preliminary drought warning on Friday.

Below: the Physics Institute at the Warsaw University of Technology has a good website recording the past week's weather. You can see that massive sharp dip on Sunday (click to enlarge)

Below: set to continue - this is the short-term forecast from Temperatures slowly returning to May norms, but rain expected (heavy on Wednesday).

With the weather, so my spirits - am I merely more aware of something that affected me all my life, or has moving from England to Poland changed my emotional response to bad weather? On Saturday, I was unable to get my act together - I had intended to visit the classic car show at Nadarzyn over the weekend but somehow I felt that looking out of the window was the more attractive alternative. I did do two long walks before the Ice Saints arrived and the bruising skies finally yielded some heavy rain. This morning, and all day today, I have felt a particular indifference to everything. Time for an ale.

I need the sun, but the fields and orchards need the rain.

As disappointing a May as Theresa.


As I was doing my evening exercises, I noticed this chap at eye level with my bedroom window...

Here's a wider view to put this splendid phenomenon into context...

A not infrequent visitor to our garden, but I've never seen him perched so high!

This time four years ago:
Then and now: Trafalgar Square (recreating my father's photos)

This time six years ago:
Reflection upon the City Car

This time eight years ago:
Biblical sky

This time nine years ago:
Travel broadens the spirit

This time ten years ago:
Welcome the Ice Saints

This time 12 years ago:
On the farm next door

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Sułkowice station, changing.

Lying one station north of Chynów, Sułkowice is a village of a thousand souls, best know for its police-dog school. Below: looking towards the grounds of the school, just across the railway line.

As I've reported in previous posts, the past eight months have seen intense work on the second stage of the modernisation of the Warsaw-Radom line, along the Czachówek to Warka stretch. 

Below: Looking south from the platform end at Sułkowice station towards Chynów, you can see clearly how work is progressing; the 'up' track has been lifted, the track bed is being prepared. It is Sunday and work is going on here and down the line at Chynów (on the horizon you can see an earth-mover removing old ballast and sleepers). This shot also shows how the 'down' track curves to accommodate the island platform (and indeed the pillars supporting the DK50 viaduct crossing the line). New platforms will mean straighter tracks and higher speeds between stations. Note too the difference between the old and the new supports for the electric traction cables

Below: looking north from Sułkowice towards Czachówek Południowy, an SM42 shunter runs light towards Chynów to meet a works train there. It has just a few minutes to make it to the points at Chynów to get off the single track before my Warsaw-bound passenger train passes through. Again, this shot shows how the line had to deviate around the island platform. When the modernised 'up' line is ready, the remaining half of the platform, which currently serves 'up' and 'down' services, will be demolished.

Below: wide view of Sułkowice station. To the left, the new track bed and the shaping of the new 'up' platform - still a long way before its ready. The fate of the covered waiting area is unknown - the 'down' platform (as at W-wa Jeziorki station) will be moved to the north, staggered in relation to the 'up' platform.

Below: I walked to Sułkowice from my działka as the sky filled with heavy rainclouds; passing through Grobice, I was struck by the similarity between the landscape here and my old atavistic memories of 1930s Kentucky...

Below: an hour or so earlier, sunshine, warmth - my back garden.

This time three years ago:
Warsaw in its May finery

This time seven years ago:
What's left of PGR Mysiadło

This time eight years ago:
What's the Polish for puncture?

This time nine years ago:
Welcome the Ice Saints

This time 11 years ago:
Like a Kodachrome

This time 12 years ago:
The future of cities

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Another rail bridge over Puławska for renewal

If you're going to Piaseczno by road, be sure to arm yourself with patience. This spring and summer (and most likely autumn too), ul. Puławska, notoriously jammed at the best of times, has become even more clogged up where the coal train line goes over the road. A week ago, demolition of the railway viaduct that carries coal trains from the sidings at W-wa Okęcie to the Siekierki power station via Konstancin-Jeziorna began. The purpose is to widen this choke-point, where Puławska narrows from three lanes to two. By rebuilding the bridge with a narrower central pillar, three lanes of traffic can pass under in each direction.

Below: looking north - the railway bridge has been dismantled entirely. Beyond it, a smaller structure that used to carry pipes across Puławska. It too will go, but won't be replaced.

Below: looking south: both spans of the railway bridge are down, but the offending central pillar remains; it won't be here much longer!

Below: to the west of Puławska there's a two-hectare patch of waste ground used only for dumping domestic rubbish. From here a view looking east under the bridge that used to carry pipes across the road (long since removed). Note the heaps of ballast removed from the railway track.

Below: view along the railway line looking towards the chasm left by the missing bridge. You can see one of the diggers in the distance. No chance of being hit from behind by a train! Siekierki has been well-stocked with coal; in the past weeks I could hear far more coal trains rumbling through the night than is usual; there's enough for summer months, but will the new bridge be ready for the winter?

I hope once the new bridge is up and Puławska's widened it will be time for a bus lane for the road - all the way from Piaseczno to Wilanowska.

Bonus shots - now and then; May 2019, May 2007; looking along ul. Karczunkowska towards W-wa Jeziorki and the railway line. How much change; new bus shelter, tennis school, garden centre, pedestrian crossing - but above all, the viaduct (another 'opening date' - end of May - will come and go). On the horizon of the 2012 photo, the radio mast of the old air traffic control radar base.

The old bus stop used to welcome the 319 (to PKP Jeziorki) and the 715 (to P+R Al. Krakowska). The 319 has been replaced by the 209 (which goes to Ursynów rather than Wilanowska); night buses no longer call at Jeziorki.

This time six years ago:
Thoughts about life occasioned by the birth of kittens

This time seven years ago:
Waiting for the footbridge on Puławska

This time eight years ago:
Lost in the wonder of it all

This time nine years ago:
Bicycle review

This time ten years ago:
A Celebration of the Garden