Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday Night Steam

We're off to Poland tonight! All aboard for a great video!

Published on Apr 10, 2014
UPDATE: Since May 2017 the regular steam engine hauled trains are back in daily service!

Until April 1th 2014 for over 100 years steam engine hauled regular trains have been running between the polish cities of Wolsztyn and Leszno. Commonly known as Plandampf. On April 1th 2014 Poland stopped being the only place in Europe, were normal gauge steam locomotives were used in
everyday service.

Feb/Mar 2014

PKP Class Ol49 (Locomotive Class), Wolsztyn (City/Town/Village), Leszno (City/Town/Village), Rail Transport (Industry), Railway, Steam,Train ,Steam Locomotive, wolsztyn, ol49-69, leszno, parowóz, parowozownia, bw wolsztyn, Poland, Polska, dampflok, dampflokomotive, polen, Trains

After WWII, most numerous passenger locomotives in the PKP inventory were elderly Ok1 (Prussian class P8) and Ok22 (its direct derivative, built in Poland on the basis of German design). Their combined number exceeded 500. These machines, despite their age, still proved very useful, especially with light local trains. Their tractive effort was, however, comparatively low in view of growing demands, and economy left something to be desired, particularly due to low boiler pressure of only 12 bar – the principal shortcoming of these otherwise very successful and reliable machines. New and modern locomotive for such service was thus necessary.
Design of the new machine, designated Ol49, was submitted by the Fablok factory of Chrzanów and accepted in 1950. Axle arrangement was changed from 2-3-0 to 1-3-1, in order to accommodate wide firebox (intended to burn low-grade coal) and at the same time keep axle load within moderate limits. Such arrangement was not very widespread in Europe, at least with passenger locomotives; only Austrian and Hungarian railways ordered 1-3-1s in considerable quantities. It was more popular in the USA (known there as Prairie), but few, if any, line locomotives of that layout were built there after 1910: Pacifics ran better at higher speeds and Mikados were better balanced. Single-axle lead truck (in the case of Ol49, of Krauss-Helmholtz type) resulted in somehow uneasy running, the more so that the main rod was usually connected to the second pair of drivers, located near the center of gravity, so that such machines were prone to yaw. Moreover, Prairies were usually ‘tail-heavy’. In Ol49, weight distribution was almost perfect (17.0 tonnes on each driven axle and 15.95 tonnes on each idle axe in working order), but there was some tendency to slip, as coupled axes were shifted forward and power was transmitted to the second pair of drivers by a short main rod. For these reasons, Pacifics were preferred with passenger trains, but it was difficult to accommodate large firebox with this layout without considerable increase in length.
As far as speed and weight were concerned, Ol49 was in the same category as its predecessors, weighting in working order 82.9 tonnes without tender (Ok1 and Ok22 – 78.2 and 78.9 tonnes, respectively) and having the same maximum speed set at 100 km/h. Boiler pressure was, however, increased to 16 bar and rated power was, in comparison with the Ok1, about 40 percent higher. This gave considerably better economy, but with smaller cylinder diameter (reduced from 575 to 500 mm – the smallest in Polish passenger engines) tractive effort was in fact slightly lower. Experience gained with earlier locomotives built by Fablok right after the war, namely Ty45 and Pt47, was used to a great extent, and certain features were patterned upon those of American Ty246s, which certainly influenced Polish locomotive design. In fact, Ol49 was to have belonged to the family of six post-war normalized Polish locomotives, of which two never materialized.
First machine, Ol49-1 (s/n 2603) was delivered in 1951. Production lasted only until 1954 and totaled just 116 examples. Three were exported to Northern Korea in 1953 (s/n 2977, 2978 and 3001, all built in 1952) and fourth followed in March 1954. Korean engines were fitted with Janney knuckle-type couplers and different pilots, but were otherwise identical with Polish machines. Their service life was rather short, as they were withdrawn in late 1970s. In PKPservice, Ol49 never supplanted Ok1 and Ok22: these three classes in fact served together. All machines were fitted with small smoke lifters, mounted on the smoke-box top, but these differed in shape. Ol49-1 to 70 (except Ol49-58) had kinked, inward-sloping smoke lifters (with additional kink of the upper edge in Ol49-4 to 11), while in remaining examples they were almost vertical. However, of machines that still exist, Ol49-79, -80, -93 and -11 have ‘older’ smoke lifters, while Ol49-60 has ‘later’ ones. Modifications during service were few. Feedwater heater, used in first machines, proved unsuccessful (due to rapid scale buildup) and was later deleted. Friedmann injector was replaced by Nathan one in later examples. Twelve machines (including prototype), based in Olsztyn, were converted to oil firing from 1965 onwards, but this was not widely adopted and coal firing was soon reintroduced. Ol49s were used with new tenders, purpose-designed for this class and designated 25D49; due to excessive heating of axle journal bearings, roller bearings were introduced in service, and in many tenders during overhauls entire undercarriage trucks were replaced with modified ones, adopted from freight cars. These, however, deteriorated running qualities and maximum speed while running tender first was later reduced to 45 km/h. Despite better economy and more modern design of the Ol49, railway engineers tended to prefer older Ok1s, which were considered more reliable and offered better running qualities.
Ol49s were sometimes used with trains heavier than previously envisaged, even with express ones, although their running qualities were not entirely satisfactory for that purpose. Moreover, due to small diameter of cylinders, their startup was rather slow. Five machines (Ol49-2, Ol49-30, Ol49-62, Ol49-94 and Ol49-101) were written off as a result of crashes and accidents. Supplies of new diesel locomotives for passenger trains were, by comparison with freighters, much delayed, so this class was one of the last to be withdrawn from regular service with PKP; this took place in early 1990s, so they outlived Ok1s and Ok22s by more than ten years. This certainly had a positive side-effect: as their withdrawal took place in the period of growing nostalgia for steam, comparatively many of them avoided scrapping. According to rosters quoted in SS vol.104, in 1988 PKP inventory still included 81 Ol49s and in 1990 – 73. According to the same source, 51 machines still existed in 1999. SK 4/99 lists 31 existing engines of this class, plus 17 more as wrecks – many have later been scrapped. The list compiled by ‘Doctor’ ( gives 34 preserved machines in 2008 – almost 30 percent of all serving with PKP, probably the best result in Poland! Unfortunately, three Ol49s included in this list have been scrapped recently. Ol49-48, preserved (in fact, in a very poor condition) at the Piotrków Trybunalski loco depot, was captiously bought dirt cheap from PKP in early 2004 and immediately sold for scrap, which caused much stir among Polish railway fans. Over two years later the same happened to the Ol49-18, which after withdrawal had been used as a stationary boiler at the Łukówdepot and later was plinthed there. When repair works at the Gniezno depot were closed down in mid-2009, the wreck of Ol49-32 was also qualified for scrapping, which was completed in October 2010. The largest ‘herds’ of Ol49s in Poland can be found in Wolsztyn and EłkWolsztyn depot has seven machines; Ol49-7 ‘Bob Wyatt’, Ol49-23, Ol49-69 (in fact Ol49-99, re-numbered in 2001) and Ol49-111 are kept in working order and are still sometimes used with local trains, while Ol49-60, Ol49-81 and Ol49-85 are on static display. In Ełk in 2004 there were as many as nine of them, one (Ol49-4) intended for preservation, the rest (Ol49-3, 9, 11, 38, 61, 80, 93 and 102) rusting on an abandoned siding. As far as I know, Ol49-3 was still operational in 1999. In September 2005 Ol49-93 was transferred to the Industry and Railway Museum in Jaworzyna Śląska. In January 2006, Ol49-38 (with erroneous designation Ol49-27) was taken from Ełk and plinthed in Korsze, to commemorate important contribution of railways into the development of this town. Finally, in May 2006, Ol49-4 was transferred to the Skierniewice depot, to become a part of the railway stock collection maintained by the PSMK society.
In 1993, Ol49-77 (3188/1953) was sold to Denmark and is now plinthed in Randers. Three years later, Ol49-12 (2614/1951) followed, this time to Stoomcentrum Maldegem, Belgium; this machine retained its original designation and was used with special trains. Due to boiler certificate expiration, Ol49-12 was withdrawn in 2005 and moved to static display. In May 2017 this engine was, quite surprisingly, purchased by a Polish private company, with an intention to restore it in service. In May 2010 Ol49-60 was transferred to Leszno for external refurbishment – there were plans to put it on static display at Rundhaus Europa in Augsburg, Germany, but they failed to materialize.

Main technical data

Years of manufacture
1951 – 1954
Total built / used in Poland
1161) / 112
Tender class
Axle arrangement
Design maximum speed
Cylinder bore
2 X 500
Piston stroke
Engine rating
950 / 1290
Tractive effort
9 600
Boiler pressure
Grate dimensions
m X m
2.412 X 1.532
Firebox heating surface
Distance between tube plates
4 815
Number of flue tubes
Heating surface of flue tubes
Number of smoke tubes
Heating surface of smoke tubes
Evaporating surface, total
Superheater heating surface
Diameter of drivers
Diameter of idlers front/rear
850 / 850
Total weight, empty
75 100
Total weight, working order
82 900
Weight on drivers, working order
51 000
Weight with tender, empty
100 100
Weight with tender, working order
144 900
Maximum axle load
Axle base (with tender)
17 265
Overall length (with tender)
20 665
Brake type
Knorr, Westinghouse

1) Some sources erroneously give 115.

References and acknowledgments

-       Monographic article by Paweł Terczyński (SK vol. 9 and 10/2005);
- (website by Michał ‘Doctor’ Pawełczyk);
- (website by Tomisław Czarnecki);
-       AP, PPEPNPP.


(The site has some great photos, too!)


  1. I had to look up 12 bar. 174 PSI. 16 bar = 232 psi
    Good week to have a Polish FNS. Interesting locomotive. I don't recall seeing a 1-3-1 before. "Smoke lifter" was a new term to me. The little deflectors just above the rails on the front were unique.
    Good post.