Górnośląskie Koleje Wąskotorowe Oberschlesischen Schmalspurbahnen Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railways

Website (C) 1997-2007 Jakub Halor


Prussian times        Between the two wars     After 1945

The end of PKP era     History of Gliwice-Racibórz passenger line 

Prussian times

Narrow gauge railways in Upper Silesia date back to the beginning of the XIX century, when the first horse powered railways have began. First sections of  30 prussian inch (785 mm gauge) were ready for service in 1851-1854 (30 inch rails had been used many years earlier in some factories in the area). In 1855-1856 first steam locomotives were introduced, with a 2-4-2T (1'B1'n2t) wheel arrangement. On secondary rails horses were still used. In 1860 transportation rights were leased by Rudolf Pringsheim, who... replaced steam locos with horses. Steam traction returned in 1872. There were tank locomotives (0-4-0T) Krauss&Hagans (17 locomotives 1872-75), later heavier T31 and T31.1 were introduced (1875-1900). Between 1884 and 1904 the Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railways system was nationalized. Maintenance workshops (which still exist) were built in Bytom-Rozbark. Lines grew quickly and reached total length of  138 km at 1901, and rolling stock consisted of 51 locos and 3693 freight cars. Next 203 km of length were established with the private factories as sidings. Dissolving rent agreement with Pringsheim in 1904 and integration of management by national Prussian administration gave excellent results. At the turn of the century the only typical passenger line on the Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railways Gliwice-Rudy-Racibórz was built, and was used until 1993. In 1919 the network reached a total length of 164 km, rolling stock consisted of 73 locos and over 6000 cars. The first superheated steam locomotive T38 (0-8-0T) started their service in 1915, first heavy T39 (0-10-0T) in 1919.

Total cargo transported in some of these years on the Upper Silesian N.G.R.:


Year 1860 1865 1870 1904 1916
cargo transported (ton) 520 075 734 386 1 034 125 3 783 855 4 716 614


Beetween the two world wars

After 1922 the Upper Silesian N.G.R. were separated into Polish and German parts, on the Polish side were left 2/3 of total length and a similar part of the rolling stock used.  The System was broken - the central point of Bytom and the Maintenance Workshops in Rozbark  left at German side, At Polish side north, south and east part of the system were separated by the border. In 1925-1930 new lines passing around German territory were built. In 1929 the first Polish-built heavy steam locomotives type Tw29 were bought  (6 units). On the German side the Upper Silesian N.G.R. didn't expand during those years.

Some values to comparethe  German and Polish Upper Silesian N.G.R. in 1931:


  Poland Germany Total
Total length (km) 125,4 62,4 187,8
Total employment 678 325 1003
...including management 41 12 53
Cargo transported (ton) 1 808 479 1 057 080 2 865 559
Number of cars 3 779 2 567 6 346


The world crises of 30's caused a reduction of employment - first in management (sweet 30's - today there seems to be a big management and a few workers...)

The system was integrated again, when the Germans occupied Silesia. The Workshops in Rozbark were modernized, and the railway station Maciejkowice after enlargement and equipping with two big signal boxes and a new locoshed in 1942 became the biggest station on whole narrow gauge network in the whole Poland and... so it is until today.

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Inside the signal box at Maciejkowice Station

A photo by K. Soida

After 1945

In January 1945 Soviet soldiers took over Upper Silesia. The retiring Germans blew up some viaducts  and dismantled many devices from workshops and railway sheds. Soviet soldiers caused even greater damages - burned up many stations with no reason, dismantled and robbed over 20km of rails. The rolling stock in use consisted of 51 steam locos and 6000 cars, of which only half was usable. The department of Narrow Gauge Railways of PKP (PKP-Polish National Railways) started transportation on usable lines and rebuilding of damaged sectors.  New, heavy tank locos started to work: Tw 47 and Tw 53 (10+10 units). In 1955 the Upper Silesian N.G.R. reached greater total length in their history: 233,5 km. The Upper Silesian N.G.R. played their role excellently: mass cargo transportation, first of all black coal. In 1955 the most traffic were carried (6022113 ton of cargo and 1789935 passengers, at this time 47,2% and 5,2% respectively of traffic on narrowa gauge railways in the country on ...1,6% of the total length of narrow gauge railways in Poland).

Until the mid of 60's narrow gauge railways at Upper Silesia made a great profit. From this time, slow decline of narrow gauge railways begun, caused by a lack of investments and enlargement of standard gauge sidings. Decline was partially rejected in early 70's, when world fuel crises highlighted the economical advantages of this branch of transportation. In the late 60s and 70s heavy diesel locomotives Lxd2 (25 units) were bought - to replace tank locomotives. The last of them, Tw 53 were in service until the late 80's. The great crises of 80's started destruction of narrow gauge railways. The fall of central planned economy, exhausting resources of coal mines and overall impotence at PKP caused a rush to liquidate anything which was non-profitable (?), non-typical (?) and NARROW GAUGE with no regard for the possibilities of reconstruction. Nevertheless, until the mid of 90's the Upper Silesian N.G.R. were complete local system connecting hundreds of industries: coal mines, steel mills, power stations and other factories at nearly the whole Upper Silesian Industry Area in the triangle formed by cities Racibórz-Miasteczko Slaskie-Katowice/Szopienice

Cargo transported and employment in some years:

Year 1955 1967 1970 1980 1989
cargo transported (ton) 6 022 113 >5 000 000 <5 000 000 4 315 625 2 322 587
total employment 1 638 1 344 1 213 886 504
Including management ? 83 ? ? 60 (Head office)



The last sidings were serviced by the system until May 2001, when national railway operator PKP decided to close all narrow gauge traffic. The coal from coal mines Centrum and Rozbark in Bytom was transported to Power Station in Chorzów and also - less frequently - to the coal stores in Tarnowskie Gory and Miasteczko Slaskie. Regular passenger train services  run on the Bytom-Miasteczko Slaskie line 2 or 3 times daily from June to September. The line runs through beautiful places- Dąbrowa Miejska, nearby beech reserve Seget, monumental coal mine in Repty, museum of steam machines in Tarnowskie Góry and Lake Chechło.

The big problem are the thieves, that started stealing rails in 1995, and until 1998 have stolen almost all the rest of unused lines.

In 2002 cities of Bytom, Tarnowskie Gory and Miasteczko Slaskie has taken over the line Bytom-Miasteczko Slaskie to preserve it from lifting by PKP. Since then, Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railways are own by communities. The traffic is operated by Upper Silesian Narrow Gauge Railways Association (SGKW)


Gliwice-Racibórz passenger line

Unlike the previously described sections in the Upper Silesian urban zone,   Gliwice-Racibórz line was used more for passenger service than freight trains that also were regularly used there. In 1899 the first section Gliwice Trynek-Rudy was ready. It was connected directly with the city trams in Gliwice (trams were also narrow gauge in Upper Silesia until late 40's). In 1903 the line reached Racibórz, and in 1907 was connected to the rest of the Upper Silesian narrow gauge network. In early years 30 steam locos of tram type were used, although in 1904 typical Borsig tank locos (0-6-2T) entered service on regular trains, and as type Txb2 were in use until 1956. In 1919 tank loco Tx6 (0-8-0T) was bought from Borsig, and in 1925 2 locomotives of type Tw9 (T40 tank loco built by AEG) - the most powerful locos in the whole of the Upper Silesian N.G.R. history. From 20's an electric loco in Gliwice and diesel railcars on the whole line were also used. After 2nd World War also 4 axles steam locos type  Pxu (0-8-0 from UNRRA) were used, and next to them Polish Px48 (0-4-0). After the "natural death" of last railcar and steam locos passenger line was serviced by heavy Lxd2 class diesel locomotives, unfortunately more economical new railcars were never bought.

Probably the last investment on the Upper Silesian N.G.R. was connecting   Gliwice Trynek station directly with city centre of Gliwice (Gliwice Srodmiescie station) in 1991. Station located near Silesian Polytechnics and 200 metres from main railway station was used in 1991-1992. Unfortunately line was told to be non-profitable (today we know the economical indexes were intentionally decreased by PKP) and was closed shortly after its opening...  Then the beautiful line Gliwice-Racibórz is out of service.

From 1997 on  thieves are stealing kilometres of rails at this line... The City of Gliwice is not interested in keeping historical railway.


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One of the last trains on the Gliwice-Markowice Raciborskie regular passenger line, 1993

A photo by A. Cichowicz

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The Maciejkowice station - a biggest narrow gauge station in Poland, 1998

A photo by J.Halor

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