Communism may have been a drag, but you can thank it for preserving many steam-hauled train services in Poland, both on narrow and on standard gauge tracks, and today Wielkopolska remains one of the few places in Europe where you can ride a genuine steam engine-powered rail service.
After World War II, steam power continued to be viable in Poland by virtue of its low cost and the fact that it did not require the electrification of the rails in order to run. With huge shipments of coal, steel and other raw materials needing to get from the industrial towns of Silesia in southern Poland to the northern ports on the Baltic coast, steam was the answer and regular steam-hauled services ran across Poland into the 1990s. Although most of these services and their rolling stock have been shut down in the post-communist era, one such anachronism remains - the steam depot in Wolsztyn, located some 70km southeast of Poznań. Thanks to a fanatically dedicated group of English steam heads, with the steadfast cooperation of Polish Railways, steam engines are still repaired and make nostalgic journeys on standard gauge tracks from Poland’s last surviving steamyard. Wolsztyn’s historic steam depot is open to the public and steam train rides are available frequently, especially in the spring and summer, through several railway tourism organisations. As such, a visit to Wolsztyn is essential for rail buffs, and it’s an experience you won’t get anywhere else in Europe, so catch this train while you can.