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From Behind The Iron Curtain - Poland

Pat Pettett

In the first in a series of articles, PAT PETTETT looks at Polish Railways since the Second World War.

Having grown up at the tail end of the cold war period, I’ve always been fascinated by the former eastern bloc countries, and of course, their railways! In this series of articles I’ll be taking a look at what is available to anyone modelling these countries, and concentrating on the more recent developments.

Due to the political history of the area, the railways there have traditionally been rather different to those of Western Europe – East Germany for example was still using steam locomotives well into the 1980s.

Part 1 - POLAND

Poland became a satellite soviet state after World War 2, and remained so until the start of the 1980s. At this point the labour union “Solidarity” was formed, eventually becoming a political force – by 1989 they were winning elections and this contributed directly to the fall of Communism across Eastern Europe.

After the war many of the railway lines were in a pretty poor condition, but the network had been well developed and profitable. The Communist era saw a decline in the condition of many lines, and poor funding saw Polish railways dropping behind western countries in terms of comfort and technology. In the entire Communist period only one major new line was built, the central trunk line running from Katowice and Krakow in the south to Warsaw further north. This was originally intended to carry on further north to the port of Gdansk on the Baltic Sea.

Notable Locomotives

Polish Railways

Possibly a familiar sight to most UK modellers would be the “Polish 80s” – in the late fifties and early sixties many locos were built in the UK, and subsequently under licence in Poland, that are an evolution of the British Rail Class 83 Electric.

Numerous variants were built, including double ended units for freight use. Production of these locomotives was still going on until at least 1994, despite the design already being over 20 years old by then! Much like the UK, nicknames are common amongst enthusiasts, with this loco style being known as “Anglik” (The Englishman). One example of Class EU07 has even been repainted in the original BR Electric Blue livery!

Polish Railways

Also of note is the ET22 Class – originally built as freight locomotives, they found passenger work as well when industrial production dropped after 1989. In production from 1971 to 1989, they hold the distinction of being the most numerous class of electric locomotive built in Europe, with 1183 examples being produced.

Recent Developments

The modern Polish railways are quickly catching up with more westerly countries, and variants of the most common European classes can be seen countrywide.

Polish Railways

The Bombardier TRAXX locomotives can be found in Poland under Class EU43.

Polish Railways

The new Vectron locomotives can also be found in use in Poland.

Polish Railways

The Eurosprinter class is also present (you may know it as a Taurus), and sees use with PKP Intercity.

Polish Railways

These locomotives haul one of the cross-border services, several manufacturers have made these coaches available.


PKP Cargo is the freight carrying subsidiary of PKP – it is the largest freight carrier in Poland, and the second largest in Europe. Common loads are coal, aggregates for construction, ores and metals, and intermodal traffic.

Cross-border traffic runs to many neighbouring countries (so can be used on many different layouts) – you can expect to see PKP stock in Austria, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Slovakia!

PKP Cargo uses more than 1300 locomotives, and some 44,000 wagons! Of these, around 28,000 are mineral wagons, and the second most common are flat wagons, for container and intermodal use.

Models Available

Piko offer an excellent range of PKP stock – locomotives, coaches, wagons, and Roco offer plenty too! With the cross border traffic, you can easily sneak a bit of colour onto your layout...

CLICK HERE to view the full range of PKP items available

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