The narrow-gauge railway in Ełk, Ełk
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The narrow-gauge railway in Ełk

Ełk

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The only narrow-gauge railway still in service in the region and one of the very last anywhere in Poland. The route of the railway leads along many historic parts of infrastructure, including the railway station and locomotive depot in Ełk (along with original interior fittings), bridges, flyovers, underpasses, an umbrella roof, railroad switches and suchlike. In addition, the railway station in Ełk also houses valuable examples of historic railway rolling stock (e.g. mail carriages and freight carriages, a plough etc.), including a number of locomotives entered into the register of movable historic monuments.

History

The Narrow-Gauge Railway in Ełk (German: Lycker Kleinbahn) was created for both economic and military reasons. Construction works started at the turn of 1911 and 1912. At that time a locomotive depot, a storehouse, and the construction administration building were constructed (the latter currently serving as the ground floor section of the Ełk Wąskotorowy station) to which a residential house was later added. In 1913 a new locomotive depot was built, while the old one was transformed into a workshop. During this year, an opening ceremony was held and the Narrow-Gauge Railway in Ełk began service; further works were discontinued due to the outbreak of World War I. The narrow-gauge railway station, in accordance with the previous practice, was located in the vicinity of the existing standard-gauge station. The narrow-gauge railway connected the city of Ełk with the nearby towns and villages. In 1918, passenger and freight trains resumed service. The maintenance and modernisation of the railway continued until the 1920s. The arrangement of the tracks, railway stations and stops made it possible for freight trains to run round the clock in an entirely seamless manner. The rolling stock of the Narrow-Gauge Railway in Ełk consisted of mail and baggage wagons, freight wagons and passenger wagons. An underground passageway was built during the period of World War II between the standard-gauge railway station and the narrow-gauge railway station in Ełk. The Narrow-Gauge Railway in Ełk was destroyed during the Red Army offensive in 1945. The buildings and other structures that were destroyed during that time included the buildings of Ełk Wąskotorowy station, the stops in Milejewo and Kalinowo and the bridge in Sypitki; in addition, the railway tracks along the entire length of the line had to be repaired. In 1950-1951 the gauge of the railway was changed from 1000 mm to 750 mm. At that time, the railway focused mainly on the carriage of suburban commuters. In 1952-1955 the rolling stock (carriages) was changed; in 1957 the name of the line was changed to Ełk Access Railway. 1975 marks the introduction of diesel locomotives; for that purpose, a fuel dispenser with an underground fuel tank was built at the Ełk station. In 1988 a comprehensive restoration of the tracks was carried out, although works along the entire length of the line were not completed. In 1991, the Regional Historic Preservation Officer in Suwałki entered the spatial layout of the railway system of the Ełk Access Railway into the register of monuments (from the Ełk Wąskotorowy station to the Turowo station and from the Laski Małe station to the Zawady - Tworki station). In 1993 the first train service for tourists was introduced, while a year later the so-called railway heritage park was established. In 1994, the standard-gauge locomotive depot complex was entered into the register, including the structures and area occupied by the narrow-gauge railway. In 2002, the Council of the Ełk City took over the management of the narrow-gauge railway, also restoring its former name: the Narrow-Gauge Railway in Ełk. Currently the Narrow-Gauge Railway in Ełk is used for tourist purposes. There are also plans for a Railway Science Centre to begin operations at the Ełk Wąskotorowy narrow-gauge railway station.

Description

The structures forming part of the Narrow-Gauge Railway in Ełk are situated in the territory of the city of Ełk and in numerous towns and villages and their surroundings in the area of the Ełk district through which the railway line runs (the Ełk, Kalinowo and Prostki communes). The total length of the narrow-gauge railway line is 48 km.The surviving structures located in Ełk include the brick buildings of a railway station, locomotive depot and handling station as well as a small cellar (the latter also being made of concrete and corrugated sheet metal) as well as a fuel dispenser with a steel underground fuel tank with a capacity of approximately 20 000 litres). The remains of a rail wye, still discernible in the configuration of the tracks, are located near the filling station; currently, this part of the tracks is used to keep dilapidated narrow-gauge railway wagons. Historic railway rolling stock was gathered in the area near the Ełk station (including both standard-gauge and narrow-gauge trains). Beyond Ełk, along the railway line, there are numerous historic technical structures connected with its functioning, i.e. a reinforced concrete bridge (between Sypitki and Pisanica), a steel bridge (near Sypitki), a steel and stone flyover (between Kalinowo and the Marze village), a steel flyover (near Milewo), concrete passages under the railway line (between Milewo and Turowo) as well as stone markers setting out the boundaries of the railway area (Milewo). In addition, the historic infrastructure of the railway also includes the auxiliary building of the old railway station in Kalinowo (currently used as a residential building), the station building with a waiting room and well with a cast iron well sweep in Turowo, an umbrella roof on a railway stop in the Grądzkie Ełckie village as well as railway junctions incorporating tracks made by Krupp and Insbergues in Turowo and Zawady - Tworki.

The railway is owned by the local government. The structures are open to visitors. The Municipal Centre of Sport and Recreation in Ełk organises regular tourist rides along the railway route (May - August) both for organised groups and for individuals, combined with a picnic in Sypitki where visitors may also take advantage of recreational infrastructure. The building of the Ełk Wąskotorowy railway station is used as a Railway Museum; historic rolling stock is on display in the vicinity of the station.

Compiled by Adam Płoski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Olsztyn, 28.08.2014.

 

Bibliography

  • S. Jasiński, Ełcka Kolej Wąskotorowa 1913-2001, Ełk 2002
  • B. Pokropiński, Koleje wąskotorowe Polski Północnej, Warszawa 2000, p. 143-159

General information

  • Type: railway infrastructure
  • Chronology: 1913
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Ełk
  • Location: Voivodeship warmińsko-mazurskie, district ełcki, commune Ełk (gm. miejska)
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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