Thursday, 25 August 2016

Planes and trains on pedestals and plinths

The Soviet Union and the countries of the Soviet Bloc produced vast fleets of combat aircraft in the belief that they could overcome the West by sheer force of numbers. Luckily for civilisation, this did not happen. By the early 1980s, numerical inferiority was more than made up for by superior avionics and computer-guided weapons systems (as seen over the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon in 1982, when Israeli F-15s and F-16s shot 100 Syrian MiGs out of the skies for no Israeli losses).

By the end of the decade, the Cold War was over, the the former Soviet Bloc, Poland included, was left with thousands of unwanted jet fighters. Some had long found new uses, such as this Lim-2, a Polish licence-built MiG 15 (below). Placed on a pedestal in Warka, it serves as a war memorial, dating back to 23 August 1969.

Below: a bit of Photoshoppery and the MiG 15 takes to the air.

Below: in much scruffier state, this Lim-5 (Polish licence-built MiG 17) graces a square in Nowe Miasto nad Pilicą. The pedestal is covered with advertising bills.

Below: a MiG 21 standing in a field on the western edge of the village of Nowa Brzeżnica on the DK42. Neither the aircraft, nor the house in the background, are present in the Google Street View imagery from September 2013.

Below: bonus pic for rail enthusiasts: a nicely preserved Px48 narrow-gauge steam engine with period carriage, in Przaska, further west along the DK42. The Google Street View imagery from September 2013 shows the loco in light grey primer, minus its headlamps!

This time four years ago:
Twilight, ul. Karczunkowska

This time seven years ago:
First hints of autumn in the air

This time eight years ago:
Slovakia - we were not impressed

This time nine years ago:
Jeziorki - late August cultivation

Sunday, 21 August 2016

That's it - Karczunkowska's closed.

As promised, I was there with my camera to capture for local posterity the moment the last train passed the level crossing at W-wa Jeziorki. At two minutes past midnight, running nine minutes late, the train from Radom to W-wa Wschodnia crossed ul. Karczunkowska...

...and for the very last time the barriers were raised to let a vehicle through, a van carrying the barriers that would be erected to close the roads off to traffic. More on this in a moment.

I had a chat with the level crossing keeper, who said that the hut would still be manned until Monday, with the barriers permanently lowered. On Monday, a team from PKP PLK, the rail infrastructure operator, will come and remove all the viable equipment (some of which can be seen in the two shots below taken from both side windows).

The shots have the flavour of an O. Winston Link photo - all that's missing is a Norfork & Western freight train hauled by a massive steam engine passing through. By Monday, all that will be left here will be an empty shell, to be demolished as it stands directly in the path of the viaduct.

I met Dr Marcin, who was distressed that ul. Buszycka and ul. Nawłocka had both been completely closed off by the road-builders' barriers. Now, given that ul. Buszycka is a cul-de-sac, this would have meant its inhabitants would have had their cars stranded. Below: the barriers in place. To get your car into ul. Buszycka would have meant dismantling this barrier as well as the one at the entrance to Buszycka itself (next turning on the right). A number of local residents were none too happy with this arrangement.

By the cold light of day, however, common sense had prevailed; the barriers at the mouths of ul. Buszycka and Nawłocka had been completely taken down and left to lie by the side of the road. The barrier across Karczunkowska had been partially dismantled, allowing access to Buszycka. If you click to enlarge this photo, you will see the level crossing barriers are down; they will remain down until finally removed. You can also make out on the right the path the new pavement will take - from ul. Nawłocka all the way to the station, all 380m of it. Progress!

Below: the temporary bus loop off the access road to Biedronka. The 209 is waiting to depart. Biedronka will suffer a massive drop in turnover, as few shoppers from Zgorzała, Zamienie and Dawidy Bankowe will do the 10km detour to come here. Commuters passing through will shop elsewhere on their diverted drive home,

While Jeziorki will lose the 715 and 319 buses, the number of 209s running in rush hours will rise from two to three and there will also be two L39s an hour throughout the day, although they will turn south onto ul. Puławska, requiring a clumsy change to catch a bus towards town.

The biggest question is: how long before the viaduct is completed and open? As I wrote, it took three years and two months to complete the viaduct carrying ul. Poloneza over the S2 expressway. But this is a more important road. Word from Ursynów town hall is that ul. Karczunkowska will reopen on 24 December ["W związku z przebudową trakcji na skrzyżowaniu z ul. Karczunkowską przejazd zostanie zamknięty od godziny 20.00 w dniu  20 sierpnia br. do dnia 24 grudnia br."] No mention in that sentence of the viaduct being opened - just that the overhead power lines will be in place by Christmas.

As usual with road closures, there are two types. Both are advertised with adequate signage. One type is hermetic - like on Baletowa or Krasickiego. You will not pass. Turn your car around and go back. The detour may be 10km long. But you cannot avoid it. The other type looks like the first - except you can drive right through, unhindered, slowing down for a bit of rough road surface. Because you can't tell until you get right up to the closure, there were many motorists driving up ul. Karczunkowska (2km ) to see there's no way across, then driving back (2km).

This time last year:
What happened to Poland's Amish?

This time two years ago:
PKP publishes plans for upgrade of Warsaw-Radom line

This time three years ago:
World's largest ship calls in at Gdańsk

This time five years ago:
Raymond's Treasure - a short story

This time six years ago:
Now an urban legend: Kebab factory under W-wa Centralna

This time seven years ago:
It was twenty years ago today

This time nine years ago:
By bike to Czachówek again

Friday, 19 August 2016

Warsaw remembers the PAST-a building capture

The Warsaw Uprising lasted 63 days, so for the duration there are many individual commemorations. Today I attended the 72nd anniversary of the capture by AK soldiers of the PAST-a building on ul. Zielna (conveniently next door to my office). Built before the WW1 by a Swedish telephone company that was later to become known globally as Ericsson, the building was the highest in Warsaw until the Prudential building was completed in 1934. The telephone company became Polska Akcyjna Spółka Telefoniczna (PAST) in 1922, and the building was colloquially known as PAST-a, as it is to this day (ask any taxi driver).

During the German occupation of Warsaw, the PAST-a building played a vital role, as the main west-east telephone lines linking the eastern front to Berlin passed through its cellars (a cross-section through the bundle of cables, several feet in diametre, is still present). Because of its importance, it was the scene of fierce battles throughout the Uprising.

The final, successful, assault on the PAST-a building (below) began at 03:00 on 20 August 1944. Mines were set off blowing open two openings through which AK soldiers entered the building, while a fire-pump, converted into a flame-thrower, was used to set fire to the upper stories. Twelve hours later, the Germans surrendered, the Poles took 115 soldiers prisoner. Having captured the building, the heroic AK soldiers held it right to the very end of the Uprising.
The AK unit that seized PAST-a, Batalion Kilinski, was led by Henryk "Leliwa" Roycewicz. A plaque in his honour was unveiled today. By coincidence, Colonel Roycewicz was an Olympic horseman, winning a silver medal at the 1936 Berlin games. So it was apt to have a squadron of Polish cavalry from 1939 present at today's event - and what an impression they made!

Left: Ułani (uhlans), light cavalry played an important role in the September campaign.

It must be remembered that Poland held out against the Germans longer than the French, and the Polish cavalrymen did not charge German tanks - a myth invented by an Italian journalist and perpetuated to this day. They were, however, successful in harassing German artillery which was then largely horse-drawn.

Below: lances raised, the crimson colours harking back to the Napoleonic era, the cavalrymen were indeed a stirring sight, mounted on their magnificent horses.

Below: outside the PAST-a building for today's commemoration which included the unveiling of the Henryk Roycewicz plaque and laying of wreaths. There were several veterans present.

Below: the wreaths are laid. Time for photographs and to move into the courtyard.

Inside, a ten-piece band, below, dressed in period costume, played the songs of the wartime years, the occupation, the uprising, and its aftermath. Very moving, a beautiful performance.

Below: with Peter Chudy (right) is Andrzej Szacurdalski, who fought in the battle as a 17 year-old boy. He recalls this very courtyard from the Uprising, and told us several insightful anecdotes. One was that because of his time spent in the countryside, he had learned to shoot, unlike most of the boys in the battalion, who'd get knocked over by the recoil when they first fired a gun.

There was a chance to chat to several veterans, all of whom had fascinating tales to tell, each adding a bit more detail to the the overall picture; history not so much written by the victors as by the survivors. The voices of the dwindling band of fighters will be accorded more importance with the passing years.

Twilight at the level crossing gates on Karczunkowska

Thanks again to Dr Marcin for pointing out that the level crossing gates and the hut from which they are operated become redundant as ul. Karczunkowska closes for the big remont on Saturday night. The hut (below) served as a posterunek odstępowy (Post. odst. Jeziorki) - or in English railway parlance, a block post. Until the rampa na kruszywa was demolished in 2008, the points leading to the sidings leading to the rampa were operated from here too.

Below: a Radom-bound train calls at the one functioning platform at W-wa Jeziorki - the newly-opened down platform, which also serves town-bound trains. The gates are down; traffic waits.

Below: looking east along ul. Karczunkowska from the path that led to the old platform. A full moon rises above the trees in the distance. Work on the temporary bus loop is proceeding well, and a pavement linking the bus stop for alighting passengers and PKP W-wa Jeziorki station has been promised, as has pavement between ul. Sarabandy and ul. Pozytywki.

Below: with the Radom train disappearing, the barriers lift. How long until the viaduct is built? The new 'up' platform will be to the left of the frame.

A bitter-sweet moment; sweet, because finally some serious infrastructure improvements are finally happening, but tinged with sadness that the character of this unique corner of suburban Warsaw will change.

Full details of what will happen from Sunday 21 August onwards on the ZTM website, here.

This time last year:
Drought. It was a dry summer.

This time three years ago:
Warsaw's ski slope at Szczęśliwice

This time four year:
On the road from Dobra, again

This time five years ago:
August storm, ul. Targowa

This time six years ago:
Warsaw Central's secret underground kebab factory

This time seven years ago:
Cheap holidays in other people's misery

This time eight years ago:
Steam welcomes us to Dobra

This time nine years ago:
New houses appear in the fields by Zgorzała

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Herons grey and white

I've mentioned the grey herons living in Jeziorki before, and noted the appearance this season of a black stork. But a white heron (or great egret) I've never seen in my life. Below: first off, the regular grey heron, of whom there are a couple of pairs nesting in Jeziorki. They are shy and tend to take off when they spot a human across on the other side of the pond. Note its neck in the third photo, fully retracted. Click to enlarge.

The great egret (below) has quite different plumage. It's less well camouflaged. Yet look at the neck - like a grey heron, the great egret bends it in flight into an 'S' shape. Great egrets are rare outside of south-east Poland, the north-westernmost extent of their breeding range, which extends from the Balkans, via Turkey, Ukraine, Iran and Mongolia, right across northern China to the Pacific. So very good to see one here!

Below: bonus pic - our two swans and their six cygnets are doing well. The young ones won't learn to fly until the late autumn.

In the meantime, the storks are heading off south, leaving their Polish nests and breeding grounds. Below: photo taken two months ago, storks' nest, near Lublin. Birds like herons and storks that have their nests above the ground learn to fly sooner than those, like swans, who nest at ground level. But then swans can live up to 20 years, herons and storks a mere five.

This time four years ago:
A return to Dobra

This time six years ago:
Kebab factory discovered under Dworzec Centralny

This time seven years ago:
The tail-end of communism - photos you would not believe today!

This time nine years ago:
By bike to Czachówek again

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Karczunkowska about to get bisected

Preparation work has been going on for a couple of months, but now closure of the railway crossing at W-wa Jeziorki looking like it's going ahead. Below: a new sign appeared this afternoon, warning motorists that road closure is planned from 18 August. That's Thursday.

I somehow doubt this will happen - there's no word yet on ZTM's website about the re-routing of the 715 and 809 buses that cross the tracks here - the new bus stops along ul. Baletowa have been built... but await signs, shelters, benches, timetables, waste bins etc.

Meanwhile (and thanks to Dr Marcin for the tip-off), the bus loop for the 209, L39 and term-time 319 buses by the station is being temporarily relocated by the Biedronka store (below), a full 350m from the platform at W-wa Jeziorki. Minor inconvenience for commuters using both modes of public transport. This work must have been done today, as yesterday was a public holiday and I was here on Sunday.

Below: photo taken looking west towards the existing bus loop (click to enlarge to see a bus standing over there); behind the bus loop the old, soon to be demolished, island platform at W-wa Jeziorki station. The new road, that will carry traffic towards the viaduct over the tracks, will be to the left of the drainage ditch that runs through the centre of the photo. It will cut through the existing bus loop.
Now, given it took three years and one month from start to finish of the viaduct carrying ul. Poloneza over the S2 expressway, plus another ten months after that to link the viaduct to ul. Ludwinowska with asphalt, something tells me this road closure will be an inconvenience for years to come.

There are only two possible detours. The southern one, via Nowa Iwiczna and ul. Krasickiego, will take you along a busy street with a 30km/h speed limit, lots of pedestrians, cyclists and schoolchildren. The northern route, via Dawidy and ul. Baletowa, has been newly widened at the eastern end between ul. Farbiarska and Puławska, allowing buses to use it, and with traffic lights to allow a left turn if you're heading to town. To get from one side of the tracks to the other by car (say, from ul. Gogolińska to ul. Buszycka), mean a 9.9km detour via Nowa Iwiczna, or an 8.7km detour via Dawidy. Click to enlarge.

Stacja Piaseczno on Facebook explains that the closure will not last the entire duration of the viaduct's construction. After preparatory work is done on the level crossing, it will be re-opened as a temporary measure until the viaduct is ready. However, we can expect further temporary closures during that time.

Meanwhile, prospects for a pavement for Karczunkowska any time before the viaduct opens look slim until the viaduct is finally open.

This time last year:
What I read each week.

This time two years ago:
Defending Poland, contributing to NATO

This time four years ago:
Balloon over Warsaw

This time six years ago:
Happiness, Polish-style

This time seven years ago:
And watch the river flow...