Tarnów station – where World War 2 began?

This relatively unassuming junction station in south-east Poland is definitely not on the tourist trail.  But it was the scene of one of the most significant events in 20th century history.


This is the first in a series of articles that I intend to write that encompass not specifically the traction that can be experienced on the continent, but some of the interesting and noteworthy places that you can visit whilst travelling behind them.  This one isn’t so much to encourage you to specifically make it your destination – as, frankly, there’s not a lot to see! – but purely to inform you of the significance of one of the stations your train may briefly stop at.

Tarnów station lies on the main line from Kraków, through Rzeszów and Przemyśl to the Ukrainian border.  It’s not a major station by any stretch of the imagination and it’s fair to say that many people will pass through it, even call there, without particularly registering the fact.  Yet, at 23:18 on Monday 28th August 1939, something happened there that, it has been argued, led to the deaths of approximately 3% of the world’s population, by triggering World War 2.

The political situation in Europe was worsening by the day, and nowhere more so than Poland.  Its capital, Warszawa, was preparing for war, with defensive measures already being put in place.  The Treaty of Versailles had given Poland access to the Baltic Sea in the form of a corridor through West Prussia, which cut off East Prussia from the rest of Germany.  Hitler had reneged on his word regarding Czechoslovakia, and it was feared that he would do the same regarding the non-aggression pact between Germany and Poland by attempting to take both this corridor and the semi-autonomous city state of Danzig (present day Gdańsk) by force, having asserted that ethnic Germans in Poland were being persecuted.  The German warship SMS Schleswig-Holstein sat just off Danzig, on permanent standby to launch the Nazis’ first attack.  It was still hoped that war could be averted, though.  On the morning of the 28th, Sir Neville Henderson, the British ambassador to Germany, flew to Berlin to hand-deliver a message to Hitler in response to his claims on Danzig and West Prussia.

Meanwhile, a half-German-half-Polish locksmith from Bielsko-Biała by the name of Antoni Guzy was making a journey of his own – to Tarnów station.  Its status as a junction station, on routes that were seeing large-scale movement of troops mobilising for the possibility of war, meant that it had assumed a particular strategic importance.

Guzy, unemployed in his native Poland, had joined the Gewerkschaft Deutscher Arbeiter (“Union of German Workers”) with the aim of finding work within Germany, and it is thought that he had been “groomed” within it to carry out this task.  Certainly, on the day of the attack, he met with a German by the name of “Neumann” who led him to two heavy suitcases in a vault in Kraków and had given him his instructions.  He was to travel to Tarnów, leave the cases, then return to Kraków and report back.  Following “Neumann”‘s instructions, Guzy deposited the two suitcases in the luggage room at the station and went to catch the 23:02 “Luxtorpeda” express railcar back to Kraków.  However, this train was delayed, meaning that he was still at the station when the time bombs in the two cases exploded at 23:18.

20 people died in the blasts, and a further 35 were injured.  About a third of the station building was destroyed.  The dead did not even include many (if any) soldiers, a troop transport having departed a few minutes before.  Guzy was easily identified as the man who had left the cases, apprehended and – it is thought – executed by firing squad shortly after.

That is pretty much the extent of most of the information on this incident that you’ll find online.  What isn’t necessarily explained is “why”, or “what happened next”.

Aside from aiming to disrupt the flow of troops across Poland, the motive is perhaps not entirely clear.  However, it formed part of the Nazi strategy within “Operation Fall Weiss” outlining the process by which Poland would be invaded; the invasion would in fact start before the declaration of war.  This “invasion” was to not merely take the form of boots on the ground but also an invasion of the Polish psyche.  This act was one of several intended to discredit and demoralise the Poles.  It is highly unlikely that “Neumann” would have been waiting for Guzy’s return.  Guzy’s status as a Polish-born man would surely have suppressed the suspicion he was doing the Nazis’ bidding.  More than that, it gave credence to Hitler’s claim that he would be invading to protect the German-born Poles.  In these respects, it was considered a “success”.

At 04:48 on Friday 1st September 1939, the SMS Schleswig-Holstein finally opened fire on Danzig.  Two days later, the British, French, Australians and New Zealanders entered the war.  The rest really is history.

East German “Taigatrommeln” in North Korea

With the Koreas in the news headlines at the moment, I thought I’d take the opportunity to explore a story that has interested me for some time.

Elsewhere on this site I have asserted that the remaining class 143 electrics are the only (standard gauge) locos built for the former East Germany that remain in passenger service – however this is a little disingenuous on my part!  It’s almost certain that there are more.

Following the withdrawal of the final examples by the nascent Deutsche Bahn in the mid-1990s, 31 class 220 diesel-electrics – Russian-built “M62” locos formerly known as Deutsche Reichsbahn class 120, not to be confused with the former Deutsche Bundesbahn class 220 diesel-hydraulics – were exported to North Korea, where by all accounts they remain in front-line service.


An ex-DR M62, now numbered 내연 706 at Pyongyang on 05/10/13 (Photo: Clay Gilliland from Wikipedia used under Creative Commons licence)

North Korea

The country known as North Korea – officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – came into existence as a result of Japan’s surrender at the end of the Second World War; when the USA occupied the southern half of the Korean peninsula and the USSR the north.  Separate governments were established in 1948, with North Korea under the leadership of Kim Il-Sung – although it is still not universally recognised as a state, notably by France.  Korean hostilities have continued ever since, but if the headlines are to be believed, a peace treaty can be looked forward to later in 2018.

We in the West have an image of the “hermit kingdom” as a very secretive and possibly even paranoid land, but really we know very little about it, and that certainly fuels a great deal of interest in it.  The UK government currently advise against “all but essential” travel there – although accompanied guided tours do occur, including ones tailored to a railway interest.

North Korea does have a fairly extensive railway network, a lot of which was constructed during the years of Japanese occupation.  It certainly suffered in the same way as Poland, East Germany et al in terms of the Russians dismantling infrastructure to transport it back to the USSR to use it there.  On top of that, extreme damage was caused to what remained during the Korean War.  Although the Russians did not play an active role in that conflict, they played a very major one in North Korea’s post-war reconstruction, and this included its railways.

M62s in North Korea

As briefly touched on in this article (ostensibly about the Swedish-built NoHABs supplied to Hungary in 1963), the standard Russian medium-power diesel locomotive from the early 1960s was its “M62” type – 2,000 hp diesel-electrics with Kolomna power units.  Comecon rules dictated that this rugged, spartan design was to be a “one size fits all” solution for any of the Comecon nations’ railway administrations that wanted a diesel loco in that power bracket.  Consequently, they were supplied to Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Mongolia and Cuba as well as domestically.  North Korea was not a Comecon member, but it did hold official “observer” status, and as part of the Russian effort to help rebuild the North Korean railways, they had a fleet built too.

Between 1967 and 1974, 64 class “K62” (the Korean version of the M62) locos were built in Voroshilovgrad for North Korea – 59 standard gauge, and 5 broad gauge to be used on the routes around Tumanggang at the Chinese border.  The Koreans named these new locos “Sinsŏng”.

In the 1970s, the North Koreans reverse engineered one of the K62s, and then set about building their own “ersatz” version, the Kŭmsŏng class.

In the late 1990s, as a result of severe economic problems (brought about in no small part by the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe) partly restricting the availability of fuel for diesels and partly also prohibiting the repair of some of the diesels in the poorest condition, some members of both the Russian and North Korean-built fleets were converted to electric locos – the Kanghaenggun class (see photo here).

European Exports

With a requirement for diesel locomotives, but the economic situation prohibiting the construction of new ones, North Korea employed a creative solution.  With the post-1989 age seeing many of the Eastern European M62s laid up in favour of newer traction, and this type being the existing basic diesel traction of North Korea, they looked to import some of the recently-withdrawn machines.

Between 1996 and 1998, 31 class 220s were sent from Germany to North Korea (220 008 / 043 / 048 / 086 / 087 / 114 / 119 / 159 / 180 / 211219 / 234289 / 290292 / 296 / 305 / 317318 / 319322 / 332 / 334 / 335 / 342 / 345 / 362 / 367 / 371 / 372 / 375).

In 2000, 13 Polish class ST44s followed – (ST44 72 / 103152325518 / 549649673 / 840 / 929 / 937 / 947 / 999).

These locos have been renumbered into the 내연 7xx series, although I haven’t (yet) seen any details of how their new identities correspond to their old ones.

In addition, nine Slovakian class 781s made the move in 2000, which along with some ex-Russian machines are numbered in he 내연 8xx series.

Although travelling to experience these locos is not the easiest or even perhaps the wisest thing to do, it is at least nice to think that they are continuing to ply their trade long after they would otherwise have been cut up.


Have you ever been to North Korea?  (Even better, have you travelled on any of the trains over there, or have any further information on these locos?).  Please do leave me a comment below!

Locomore – A German Open-Access Operator

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182 517 at Stuttgart Hbf with the Locomore service to Berlin, 11/02/17 (JW)

Today, Thursday 24th August 2017 has seen the recommencement of an interesting loco-hauled service in Germany, which has not run since May.

The instigation of the “Locomore” open-access service from Stuttgart to Berlin and return in December 2016 was especially noteworthy as it was crowdfunded; the first railway operation of this type.

Running via Heidelberg, Darmstadt, Frankfurt-Süd, Kassel, Hannover and Wolfsburg, the operation consists of one out-and-back diagram running Thursdays to Sundays inclusive (LOC1818 06:21 Stuttgart Hbf to Berlin Lichtenberg and LOC1819 14:28 return).

From its introduction on 14th December 2016, the service was notable for being frequently reported as being fantastic from a customer service perspective, but also being quite poorly loaded, although this was improving as the service became better-known.

Motive power has always been provided by Class 182 (Siemens “Taurus”) electric locos from Hector Rail (in turn hired by them from MRCE Dispolok).  The locomotives to work the train were (in numerical order): 182 501, 182 509, 182 517 and 182 534.  182 509 is notable as the loco painted in the “Pan-European Picnic” livery; however, both it and 534 have now left the Hector Rail fleet.  Locos would stay with the train sometimes for months on end!

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182 509 sits on the blocks at Stuttgart Hbf, 05/05/17 (JW)

Unfortunately, in May 2017, Locomore GmbH & Co. KG filed for insolvency and the operation ceased, with the locos going back to Hector Rail and the stock heading for store at Neustrelitz works.

Happily, LEO Express (the Czech open-access operator known for running Stadler FLIRT EMUs mainly between Praha and Bohumín) has acquired the operation, and as of today, the service has restarted – using the same paths, locos and carriages.  The loco on LOC1819 from Berlin to Stuttgart today was, again, 182 517!

Hopefully this interesting service now has a stable and successful future ahead of it.

Various dates in 2017: DB V200 class “Warship” railtours


V200 007 (220 007) at Dagebüll Mole, 05/08/12 (JW)

My recent article regarding the current locations of the remaining ex-Deutsche Bundesbahn V200 class diesel-hydraulics attracted a great deal of interest.  This brief blog post will look at where and when you can travel behind them in 2017.

The two locos in operation this year are V200 033 – which is a “classic” V200 in that it retains its Maybach MD650 power units and Voith transmissions – and also V200 007 which is now Mercedes engined.

These are the tours in the haulage calendar currently advertised for their use during the rest of 2017, along with links to more information about each:-

Saturday 24/06/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), 06:30 Unna via Hagen, Bochum, Recklinghausen to Munster Hbf, for 78.468 (steam) forward to Emden and back, then V200 033 back to the pick-up points but in the same order as the morning, terminating at Munster, €84.  Operated by Eisenbahnfreunde Witten.  Link.

Saturday 19/08/17

V200 033 (ex-DB 220033), Nürnberg area to Chemnitz, details TBC.  Operated by Fränkische Museums-Eisenbahn.  Link.  Update 21/07/17: booking form has come out stating 216 224 to Plauen for 50 3648 forward, no mention of V200 any more.  No traincrew available for the V200.

Saturday 02/09/17

V200 007 (ex DB 220007), Lübeck to Westerland and return.  Operated by Historische Eisenbahnfahrzeuge Lübeck.  Link.

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), Recklinghausen Hbf to Cuxhaven and return, €79.  Operated by Eisenbahnfreunde Witten.  Link.

Saturday 09/09/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), Nürnberg via Bamberg, Gemünden, Aschaffenberg, Frankfurt Ost to Oberwesel and return.  In connection with the “Rhein in Flames” event.  Operated by Eisenbahn Nostalgiefahrten Bebra.  More details awaited.  Some here: Link.  Advised very reliably on 04/09/17 that this is cancelled, but the promoter’s page still carries booking information for it!

Saturday 23/09/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033) and 01.202 (steam), Rosenheim via München and Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Innsbruck, then return via Rosenheim to München.  Operated by Eisenbahn Nostalgiefahrten Bebra. More details awaited.  Some here: Link.

Saturday 30/09/17

V200 033 (ex-DB 220033), 07:45 Stuttgart Hbf to Titisee and return, €85.  Operated by UEF.  Link.

Saturday 09/12/17

V200 033 (ex DB 220033), Hamm to Bremen and return, €55.  Operated by Museumseisenbahn Hamm.  Link.

There is also to be a Christmas special with V200 007, although details of date or destination have not yet been made public.

15th May 2016 – Maybach MD870 power on the main line


15th May 2016 saw “Lollo” V160 002 (DB 216 002) work a mainline railtour from Treysa to Klein Mahner and back, to the delight of a large contingent of British enthusiasts on board.

British modern traction enthusiasts have been travelling to foreign shores in significant numbers to feed their interest for over 40 years.  Although – as I hope this website will show you – the decision to make this first trip can be the gateway to an almost infinite number of different railway experiences, the first time that many ventured overseas was in search of things that reminded them of home; exported ex-BR “EM2” electrics in the Netherlands, for example, or Vulcan Foundry-built 8 and 16-cylinder English Electrics in Portugal.  But one of the oldest and most enduring subjects of our attention have been the Maybach-powered diesel-hydraulic locomotives of the former West Germany.

The “Western” class diesel-hydraulics of British Rail were the first modern traction type to gain a significant following, and after D1013 and D1023 drew to a halt at London’s Paddington station at 23:41 on Saturday 26th February 1977, it was assumed that the glorious sound of Maybachs would never again be heard on the front of a train on the main line in the UK (that assumption, by the way, was wrong!).  That was an experience now to be found only overseas, predominantly in West Germany with the Deutsche Bundesbahn V200.0 class of locomotives, which were built with twin MD650 power units and Voith transmissions and were the forerunners of our own “Warship” locos.  These lasted in main line passenger service until 1984; you can still rely on a sizeable British booking on most railtours hauled by preserved machine V200 033 even now.

The V200.0s may have been almost identical to BR’s Swindon-built D800s, not least visually, but they were certainly not the only Maybachs that Deutsche Bundesbahn had had.


V160 002 at Salzgitter Bad, 15/05/16 (JW)

It’s a commonly-repeated misconception that the Vorserienloks (prototype batch) of Class 216 – the first ten machines of the “V160 family” that eventually totalled 800 locos, some of which are still in use on front-line passenger work today – were the same as BR’s D7000 “Hymeks”.  This is not strictly true – the German machines were indeed built with Maybach MD870 power units, as were as the “Hymeks”, but they had Voith as opposed to Mekydro transmissions, and this does make an appreciable audible difference.

The last of this small batch of 10 machines, nicknamed “Lollos”, worked its last train for DB in 1981.  This was not the end of the story, though, as five examples escaped the cutter’s torch – one for preservation (V160 003, although this has now sadly lost its MD870), and four for private non-passenger use – three of these ended up in Italy, and one, V160 002, in Spain.

This article is not a history of Maybach traction in Germany, however (that will come at a later date).  This is a review of a railtour hauled by a truly hellfire locomotive.


V160 002 worksplate detail (JW)

A bit of historical scene-setting first, though: V160 002, later numbered 216 002, was repatriated from Spain by a private individual in 2010 and restored in the works at Neustrelitz.  It emerged in 2015 in almost-original condition, and as well as some work on main line freights for RailSystems RP, worked passenger trains at a special event on the Kurhessenbahn in the September 2015, a trip paired with V200 033 in April 2016, and some heritage-themed shuttles between Coesfeld and Dorsten in May 2016. Its first proper solo railtour, however, was scheduled for 15th May 2016, and this was immensely popular with British enthusiasts.  A fair few, like me, had never even had the chance to ride behind a “Hymek” on the main line, so it was a totally new experience.

This was a trip starting at Treysa and running via Kassel, Göttingen, Hildesheim, Oker and Vienenburg to Braunschweig.  The run between Hildesheim and Oker was with the express intention of commemorating the reign of the DB class 218 “rabbit” locos, which had been withdrawn from service on the much-loved Hannover to Bad Harzburg route which used this section of line, at the end of 2014.

The “Lollo” ran round at Braunschweig and headed south the short distance to Salzgitter Bad where, after another reversal, it gained the route to the tour’s nominal destination of Klein Mahner, home and operating base of the Dampflok-Gemeinschaft 41 096 e.V.

Klein Mahner was a familiar destination to those of us who had travelled on the “Stahlstadtexpress” railtour in May 2014, which itself had been operated as a farewell to Braunschweig’s 218 447.


323479 at a brief photo stop at Werlaburgdorf, 15/05/16 (JW)

However, on that occasion, the 218 had not been permitted to traverse the full line, and it had been the only motive power of the day.  This visit was to prove different.  One of the railtour coaches was uncoupled, and taken forward to the end of the line at the junction of Börßum and back by diminutive class 323 (Köf) diesel shunter, 323 479.  It was perhaps hard to believe that this loco was 82 years old at the time, its entry to traffic having been on 12th October 1933!

Back at Klein Mahner, we regained the V160 and set forth on a brief tour of the freight-only lines threading through the sprawling steelworks complex that sits between Salzgitter and Peine.  Some of us, again, were no strangers to this route – it also having featured on the 218 447 railtour in 2014 – but it was an interesting way to spend an hour or so, nonetheless.  The noise levels were ramped up a notch or several when we regained the main line, however, which was well-received by all!  Although there were to be two further reversals, that was the branch lines dispensed with for the day, and thrash and speed were sustained all the way back to Treysa.

I think it is no exaggeration to say that everybody who travelled on this railtour was very impressed with the loco.  The atmosphere on the train was brilliant, and apart from those with D1015 at the helm, it eclipsed every railtour I’ve travelled on in the UK in recent memory in just about every aspect.

I made a video of the day and uploaded it to YouTube, and it can be seen below.  It’s 24 minutes long, but it gives a good overview of the day, with plenty of MD870 thrash for you to enjoy!

V160 002 has recently re-entered traffic after a period out of service, and is advertised for a sensibly-priced and timed railtour from Piesberg (near Osnabrück) to the Christmas market at Goslar on Saturday 9th December 2017, followed by another on Saturday 3rd February 2018 from Münster Hbf to Willingen and return (link).

If you like your diesel-hydraulics, you will certainly not regret ensuring you are there!

“The Great Escape” – fact, fiction and Rabbits


Fans of the 1963 movie The Great Escape may find a little of extra interest to see whilst exploring southern Germany with 218 power.  An astonishing number of seemingly disparate scenes were filmed in and around the pretty town of Füssen, and the station itself was where the scene involving the death of David McCallum’s character Ashley-Pitt was filmed.

However, the true story on which the film was largely based also has links to the region, and specifically to routes and areas that the 218s have been synonymous with throughout their careers.  Although the camp, Stalag Luft III, was situated about 500 miles away – in the now-Polish town of Żagań, east of Cottbus and south of Poznań – two of the escapees actually made it all the way by rail to Bavaria.

Four days after the escape, on 29th March 1944, South African airmen Johannes Gouws and Rupert Stevens had almost made it to their destination – neutral Switzerland.  But they could not evade the Gestapo for long.  One was apprehended on a Lindau-bound express at Kaufbeuren, the other on a local train between Mühldorf and Rosenheim; history seems unclear which was which.  That they had dodged capture for so far and for so long was clearly against all odds, and it is tragic to consider that had the first managed to remain unidentified for just a little while longer on his train, then he would have reached Lindau, and actually been within clear sight of Switzerland and safety.


218415 at Füssen. In the film, the character of Ashley-Pitt collapsed in a heap about halfway down the length of the train, whereas one of the real escapees was apprehended just 25 miles away in Kaufbeuren. 17/01/15 (JW)

Of the 76 men who escaped the camp, 73 were recaptured, of which 50 were executed on Hitler’s direct orders.  Gouws and Stevens were to be among them.  Little is definitively known about their capture and what happened next, other than the fact that the Nazis are thought to have taken the cost of their cremation out of the money found on them when they were captured.  Urns containing their ashes were sent back to Stalag Luft III with only the date of 29th March 1944 and the location of München noted upon them.  Both men are buried in the Old Garrison Cemetery in Poznań.