A traffic dispatcher – Chełm, 1919


In September 1918 in Poland organised takeovers of the railway network from the occupying forces commenced. The Railway Section attached to the Polish Ministry of Industry and Trade was to take over the lines previously administered by the German Military Railway Directorate in Warsaw and the Austrian Military Railway Directorate in Radom. In the territory under Russian rule it was the task of the Railway Workers' Mutual Aid Association operating in collaboration with the Polish Military Organisation. In the area where battles took place, after military squads had seized railway lines, their administration was the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport. The network was ultimately taken over after the Polish-Bolshevik war in accordance with the treaty of Riga signed in 1921.


In October 1918 the Regency Council appointed the Ministry of Transport in Warsaw with a railway section which on 8 February 1919 was transformed into the Ministry of Railroads. At the beginning of 1921 the ministry was composed of 7 departments and 4 autonomous divisions. The Seym appointed the National Railway Council to issue opinions and supervise the development of the railway network, change in tariffs, rules and regulations, and the Technical Council.


In the territory under Austrian rule railways were taken over by the Department of Transport of the Polish Liquidation Committee. In Eastern Galicia the network was taken over after the Polish-Ukrainian war and the fending off of the Bolshevik invasion. Many railwaymen, also those perfor-ming managerial roles in the railway directorates in Lviv and Kraków, were Poles, so the process of taking over railway lines was not very difficult. Articles 318-320 of the Treaty of Saint-Germain, conclud-ing the war, referred to the acquisition of post-Austrian railways by states formed after the break-up of the former monarchy. The hand-over of traction and rolling stock was to be carried out as of November 1918, but the assets were distributed by the Vienna Repartition Committee until 1924.


According to Article 371 of the Treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919, Poland was the owner of all railway equipment east of the Polish and German border. This was also applicable to lines in the territory under Russian rule, which were taken over by the Germans during the war, and on which the gauge was changed into a normal one. In addition, the convention signed between Poland and the Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk) in November 1920 put the railways in the territory of the Free City of Danzig under the administration of the Republic of Poland. With regard to the tense situation and revolutionary unrest in the territory formerly under Prussian rule, the connection between Greater Poland and Berlin had to be terminated, and the Commissariat of the Supreme People's Council in Poznań called Poles to take over railway lines and staff them with Polish people. The situation continued until April 1920, since in Pomerania German workers had to remain in service due to a deficiency of Polish staff.


In Silesia, which was to be subject to the plebiscite, the Secret Polish Railwaymen Association in agreement with the Commissariat of the Supreme People's Council in Poznań prepared its members to take over the railways. They prevented the transportation of the rolling stock and more valuable equipment to Germany. On 2/3 May 1921 in the night, the Third Silesian Uprising broke out. Railwaymen maintained in operation 528 miles (850 kilometres) of railway lines in the territory seized by the insurgents. Several armoured trains took part in the uprising, including: “Bajończyk”, “Górnik”, narrow-gauge “Kabicz” (or “Pancerka Kabicz”), “Korfanty”, “Lew”, “Lubieniec”, “Ludyga”, “Naprzód”, “Nowak”, “Nowina--Doliwa”, “Pantera”, “Piast” (formerly “Testart”), “Pieron”, “Szwoleżer” (formerly “Powstaniec”), “Ślązak”, “Tadek Ślązak”, “Ułan”, and “Zygmunt Powstaniec”. Pursuant to Art. 88 of the Treaty of Versailles and the provisions of the Polish and German convention signed in Geneva in May 1922, Polish railwaymen on 18 June 1922 took over railways in the area allocated to Poland as a result of the uprising.

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© Całość praw autorskich - Antoni Bochen, Filip Wiśniewski