PKP Ostbahn. 2022.

Kraków 2022-01-20


Prussian Eastern Railway.

Ostbahn railway network. 2022. The work by Karol Placha Hetman
Ostbahn railway network. 2022. The work by Karol Placha Hetman

TKb1-1479. 2021. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
TKb1-1479. 2021. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

Description of the photo: Similar steam locomotives ran on the Ostbahn in the 19th century.

The German word "Ostbahn" has two different meanings. The first is the Prussian Eastern Railway. The second is the General Directorate of Eastern Railways, railways in the General Government during the occupation in Poland. This first meaning was and is the pride of the Germans. The Germans do not want to remember the latter meaning.

Let us explain ourselves at the beginning. If the German army had not started the Second World War, the Germans would still have traveled calmly from Berlin to Konigsberg. And over a beer, they remember the good old days and make sentimental journeys, often renting Retro trains in Poland. The Germans are conceited people who treat other nations superior. They themselves oppress their weakest citizens. They were the first in the world to introduce eugenics and concentration camps. With their national characteristics, they are close to the Russians.

In the Kingdom of Prussia, King Frederick William IV was a supporter of the construction of railway lines. The king participated in all important railway events in Prussia.

The concept of building the Ostbahn network was created in 1842. However, various concepts clashed about the route, and most of all about its financing. Ostbahn was to open Prussian territories east of Berlin with the cities of Gdańsk, Königsberg (Królewiec), Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), Thorn (Toruń) and the cities of Eydtkuhnen and Alexandrowo (Aleksandrów Kujawski) on the border with Russia. The classic Ostbahn route was to run from the old Berlin Ostbahnhof to Küstriner Platz through Küstrin (Kostrzyń), Kreuz (Krzyż), Schneidemühl, Dirschau and Königsberg (Prussia) to Eydtkuhnen on the Prussian-Russian border.

The main idea was to connect Berlin with Moscow and St. Petersburg. Although the goals of the two empires were never quite equal. Officially, the Ostbahn was created to connect Berlin with Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and further east. The Prussian part of the railway was to end in Ejtkunami (now Czernyszewskoje). Geographic coordinates: 54 degrees 38 minutes N 22 degrees 44 minutes E. Next, the railway of the Russian Empire was to be built. Prussian, the main part of the railway route was to be from 790 km to 810 km, depending on the chosen route options.

The Ostbahn was not the first Prussian railway undertaking. The construction of an important railway line Berlin - Szczecin began early, and it was extended to Stargard Szczeciński (now Stargard). The 180 km long Stargard Szczeciński - Poznań route was already planned and implemented. The line Berlin - Kostrzyn nad Odrą was also built. From Kostrzyn, there were already railway routes leading to Wrocław and Vienna.

The works on the Ostbahn started in 1846, when in Krzyż, on the 93 km of the Stargard Szczeciński - Poznań route, the construction of a large station and a railway line to Piła, which is 64 km away, began. But soon the work was discontinued and returned to them in 1848.

As no private investors were found on the railroad to the relatively sparsely populated areas of East Prussia, the Ostbahn was built as a state railroad. The draft of the relevant decree was submitted to the parliament in mid-1847. The procedure took over two years. After the administrative changes, the decree was adopted as an act on December 7, 1849.

The revolutionary riots in Berlin in 1848, as well as the prevailing unemployment and progressive impoverishment of the population played an important role in the construction of the Ostbahn. In the spring of 1848, state offices came up with the idea of ​​removing the rebellious and unemployed Berliners from the city and using them to build the Ostbahn.

In June 1848, new construction workers came to Dragebruch near Kreuz (Krzyż). By September 1848, the number of employees had already increased to 1,300. Worked 12 - 14 hours a day. The workers were quartered with local farmers. The workers were supervised by engineers delegated from Berlin. The work went relatively quickly.

Most of the Ostbahn routes are planned as double-track. Only a few were single-track. European tracks with a gauge of 1435 mm were used. The distance between the track axes between one track and the other was 4.00 m. The sleepers were made of pine wood, 2.50 m long. The total width of the track was 10.40 - 11.00 m. The single-track track had a minimum width of 4.50 m. on the gravel bed, and in the places where the gravel was washed away, on the ballast bed. Drainage ditches were made on both sides of the track. This was the case when the line was laid in flat terrain. It was more difficult to build a railway line in undulating terrain, where embankments or cuts had to be made. Then, much larger masses of soil and rock material had to be transported. Initially, the rails were made of iron, and later they were replaced with steel rails. This is where the name of the Iron Railway comes from. The biggest problems were the execution of bridges over the rivers. Bridge abutments were always built taking into account the double-track line, although the bridge span was initially laid for one track. In general, in Pomerania, the construction of railway routes was relatively easy and allowed for very long straight sections. Few buildings were built on embankments and ditches. Telephone lines were built along the track.

Krzyż - Piła was the first section of the Ostbahn trail. Then the trail led to Bydgoszcz. (Piła - Bydgoszcz 88 km). The first train arrived in Bydgoszcz on July 27, 1851. The route from Kreuz (Krzyż) to Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) was inaugurated by King Frederick William IV, who traveled this route on a special train and was happily welcomed at all stations.

As part of further expansion, station buildings and dispatcher buildings for passenger and goods traffic were built at the stations. At large stations, water towers, equipment for carburizing steam locomotives, additional side tracks, loading ramps and warehouses were built. Buildings that served as flats for railroad families were also erected. The basic equipment at the stations was a telephone and a telegraph. Trains ran on the so-called "scepter" and according to schedule. Shaped entry and exit signals were installed at the stations.

The next section Bydgoszcz - Gdańsk, 156 km long, was put into use in 1852. In 1853, the 134 km long section of Malbork - Elbląg - Królewiec was commissioned. At the moment, passengers were transported from Gdańsk and Tczew to Malbork by horse-drawn stagecoaches. This was the case until the bridges over the Vistula River in Tczew and the Nogat River in Malbork were built. In 1857, the bridges over the Vistula and the Nogat were put into operation.

In 1860, the railroad reached the village of Eydtkuhnen (Ejtkuny in Polish, and now Chernyshevskoye), on the border with the Russian Empire. At that time, the network was expanded by building new, shorter sections. In 1857, the section Krzyż - Kostrzyn - Frankfurt on the Oder was commissioned. In 1861, the section Bydgoszcz - Toruń (46 km) was built, extended a year later to Aleksandrów Kujawski by another 20 km. At the same time, a new rail-road bridge over the Vistula River in Fordon near Bydgoszcz was built.

In the period 1871-1873, the construction of the second line on the right side of the Vistula River from Toruń through Iława - Olsztyn - Korsze - Gierdawa to Wystruć (now Czermiachowsk), 320 km long, was completed.

Also in the period 1871-1873, an additional line was built: Piła - Złotów - Chojnice - Czersk - Starogard Gdański - Tczew, 185 km long.

In 1874, a new route was put into use: Runowo Pomorskie - Drawsko Pomorskie - Złocieniec - Czaplinek - Szczecinek - Człuchów - Chojnice, 158 km long. The construction was an initiative of the company "Pomorska Kolei Centralna", which brought together the cities of Central Pomerania.

In 1877, the Ostbahn network was 1,895 km. In 1880, the Ostbahn network was 2,210 km long, and in 1895 already 4,830 km. From 1849, the Ostbahn management was located in Bydgoszcz. In the period 1886 - 1889, a nice building was built for the management, which is located at what is now Dworcowa Street. In 1888, the management of the Ostbahn in Bydgoszcz was divided into three districts: Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk and Królewiec. At the same time, the railway in Pomerania was nationalized. The construction of the Ostbahn turned out to be a step in the right direction as it became part of the European rail link from Paris via Berlin and Konigsberg to St. Petersburg. Various international express and luxury trains, such as the legendary Nord-Express, traveled along the Ostbahn route. The Ostbahn railway was of great importance for the development of economic life in the eastern Prussian provinces and of great military importance, which was used during the Great World War and in the first post-war years.

Rebirth of Poland.

The rebirth of the Republic of Poland in 1918 did not suit the defeated Germans. Poland's narrow access to the Baltic Sea crossed the Ostbahn routes. Despite this, railway communication continued to develop. German trains passed through Poland, usually along the Chojnice - Trzew line. Polish trains traveled to Pruszcz Gdański, Gdańsk and Sopot. However, the Germans began demanding extraterritorial roads and railways, which was unacceptable for Poland.

Unfortunately, on September 1, 1939, the German army, together with the Red Army (September 17, 1939), attacked Poland, breaking all international agreements. The Germans took over the entire Polish railway infrastructure and the entire rolling stock. They did not enjoy their success for long. On January 22, 1945, the last scheduled express train from Konigsberg to Berlin, which was carrying mainly German refugees, passed.

From the turn of 1944/1945, Poland was under the occupation of the Red Russia. Much of the German rolling stock, mainly locomotives and freight cars, was seized by the Russian army. Thousands of kilometers of track were turned into a wide track to facilitate the supply of the war front. Hundreds of kilometers of tracks, along side routes, were dismantled and transported as "trophies" to Russia. When the Russian army handed over the railways to the Polish State Railways, most routes were restored to freight and passenger use. Some of the routes of the former Ostbahn were restored to the double-track line. Part from 1959, electrified. However, much of the main Osthban routes will not be electrified. It results from different economic assumptions of Poland than before Germany. The main routes of the Polish railways are north-south, not east-west.

After the socio-economic transformations in Poland in 1989, and more partnership relations between Poland and Germany, the term Ostbahn is used again among Germans. Polish railwaymen are happy to provide German tourists with train courses on the former Ostbahn routes, and even offer Retro trains. Retro line-ups are mainly compiled in Wolsztyn. Passenger carriages come from the 1930s, and steam locomotives from the 40s of the 20th century. The most popular route is the Kętrzyn - Gorzów Wielkopolski - Krzyż - Piła trail.

Due to Moscow's aggressive policy, it is currently impossible to organize a train of relations to Königsberg (Kaliningrad) itself. Russia has turned the Kaliningrad region into a huge military center with thousands of soldiers and weapons. Retro trains can go the farthest to Braniewo or Korsze. You can get to the Korsze station by regular PKP trains. Similarly, you can get to the following stations: Kętrzyn, Giżycko, Ełk.

The largest part of the former Prussian Ostbahn railway is currently located in Poland and is in operation. They are single or double track lines. The routes are systematically renovated and revitalized. They are adapted to new requirements and for disabled passengers. New high platforms are built. A modern rolling stock is introduced.

The remaining small part of the Ostbahn is in Germany, Russia and Lithuania. The Russia-Lithuania border station is now Nesterow, formerly Ebenrode or formerly Stallupönen. Eydtkuhnen station was completely dismantled. All station buildings were demolished.

The section of the line from Braniewo (formerly Braunsberg) in Poland through the Russian border station in Mamonowo (formerly Heiligenbeil) just before Kaliningrad has one track, one wide Russian and one normal Western European.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman