Pre-war photos of Pm36 are quite few. This one of
the Pm36-1 was taken in Chorzów shortly before departure to
…and this one after return and some minor modifications (source: Fablok archives via SK).
…and after arrival to Kołobrzeg; both photos
Pm36-2 in the Wolsztyn depot shed,
…and the same machine en face.
Side drawing of the Pm36-1…
…and of the Pm36-2; both drawings from PNP.
Pm36-2 sometimes hauls scheduled trains…
…and these two photos by Tomek Drzewiecki (thanks for permission!),
taken in September 2005, show it with a train to
Three more photos from the ‘Parowozjada 2006’ parade can be found here.
Of course, ‘Beautiful Helena’ participated also in the 2007 parade in Wolsztyn on April 28...
...when these two pictures were taken.
Needless to say, she was also starring in the 2008 Show.
Pm36-2, location and date unknown. Photo from my collection.
A very well-known factory photo of the Pm36-1 – I also have one in my collection.
This picture of the Pm36-2 was taken in Warsaw during the Public Transport Days on September 18, 2011. All railway fans frowned upon the large round table that commemorated 10 years of PKP Cargo. Photo by Chris West (thanks for permission!).
Again Pm36-2, this time with the ‘Piernik’ special train, photographed in Toruń on April 14, 2012 by Winicjusz Drozdowski (thanks for permission!).
Pm36-2 again, this time during its visit in Warsaw on June 17, 1995. Photo by Marek Niemiec (from my collection).
For over a hundred years domination of steam in railway transport was unquestionable. Weak and troublesome electric and diesel locomotives stood no chance in competing with steam engines, brought almost to perfection after a century of continuous development. Perhaps first serious threat came in 1933, when ‘Flying Hamburger’ two-car diesel train began its service between Berlin and Hamburg, almost 300 km, attaining an amazing average of 124 km/h. Operation of such trains was costly, but they surely presaged the things to come.
Steam locomotive manufacturers were obviously decided not to give up and prove that their machines were able to equal, if not surpass, such achievements. In Europe this led to appearance of a number of comparatively light and very fast express locomotives, designed for specific service demands: high speed with rather light trains, infrequent starts (and thus no need for high tractive effort) and – last but not least – modern and dynamic silhouette. British (LNER) class A4, German class 61 and Belgian class 12 are good examples; it is worth mentioning here that most of these locomotives had three driven axles, with the notable exception of the Belgian engine, which was the last 2-2-1 ever built. Many enthusiasts still view these beautiful, streamlined machines a peak in the development of steam traction. On July 3, 1938, LNER A4 ‘Mallard’ broke the world steam locomotive speed record, attaining 201 km/h.
These trends were certainly not ignored in Poland and in 1936 an experimental light express locomotive, designated Pm36, was ordered by the Ministry of Transport and designed by the Fablok bureau (two alternative offers submitted by HCP were rejected). Requirements included 140 km/h with a 300-tonne draft. The 2-3-1 axle arrangement was chosen, for the first time in Poland, although Pacifics were quite widespread elsewhere – previous Polish express locos, classes Pu29 and Pt31, had four driven axles. Although many foreign locomotives of similar performance had four-cylinder compound engines or three-cylinder singles, the orthodox two-cylinder layout with single expansion was chosen. Boiler pressure, for the first (and last) time in Poland, was increased to 18 bar, which called for the use of high-grade chromium steel. New four-axle tender, designated 32D36, had roller axle bearings and streamlined fairing which matched that of the engine. Wind-tunnel tests showed the fairing (which added 2.7 tonnes to the empty weight) to reduce drag by 48% at top speed.
Pm36 was designed and built for ambition and prestige rather than actual demands from PKP, which in fact had never ordered this engine: there were almost no railway lines in Poland suitable for 140 km/h, for which the new machine was designed. But it was certainly in line with current trends. Furthermore, it basically offered an alternative for old, light express machines, e.g. Pk1, Pk2 and Pk3, built before 1915, of which PKP had 52 examples, not to mention even older and weaker classes Pd1 through Pd5 with two driven axles, which numbered over 200. It could also supplant passenger locomotives, mainly Ok1s and Ok22s, with lighter express trains. Compared to standard Polish express locomotive, class Pt31, it was lighter by almost 11 tonnes and slightly shorter, but its tractive effort was lower by over 21%.
First example, Pm36-1 (s/n 662) was outshopped in March 1937 and, after preliminary tests, sent to Paris, to be displayed at the XIIIth International Exhibition of Art and Engineering, where it was awarded the Gold Medal (although, frankly speaking, in the field of steam locomotives it had to compete only with two robust Soviet machines, FD and IS). Service tests began only after its return and revealed some shortcomings, including uneasy running at higher speed; modification of coupling between engine and tender eradicated this problem. It is not clear if design speed of 140 km/h was ever achieved (although there are reports of attaining 142 km/h with a 400-tonne draft). Pm36-2 (s/n 663) was, for comparison, built without streamlined fairing, supplanted by large, Wagner-type smoke lifters, remaining those of Pt31. Its tender, with the same designation, had slightly larger capacity. Initially Pm36-2 was fitted with a Chapelon-type double exhaust stack, which was later found to offer no significant advantages and replaced by a typical single one.
Pm36 was not ordered by PKP and the question whether it could have been built in quantity shall remain open. Most sources claim that both examples were used by PKP before WWII, but no traces in rosters have been found and most probably they were used only for service tests, including hauling the ‘Nord-Express’ between Kutno and Zbąszyń. Footplate crews were not enthusiastic: firing was judged troublesome and tiring, due to comparatively long distance between coal pile in the tender and grate. According to some sources, coal feeder was probably intended for possible production machines. In 1939, Pm36-1 was captured by Germans, impressed into DRG service and operated (with streamlined fairing removed) with fast trains. DRG service number 18 601 was, however, assigned only in 1944. After a serious boiler failure in 1941 or 1942 it was fitted with Riggenbach counter-pressure brake and used by LVA Grünewald test establishment for various experiments. Many sources claim that it was finally scrapped. According to some Russian sources, however, it was later impressed into SZD service and scrapped in 1952. Perhaps another mystery to be solved.
Pm36-2 was captured by Soviets and later by Germans, but I have found no information on its wartime service. DRG service number 18 602 was in fact never assigned. In 1944 it was evacuated to Austria, in 1947 returned to Poland and was impressed into PKP service as Pm36-1. Withdrawn in June 1970, it was transferred to the Railway Museum in Warsaw. In 1995, however, it was restored in service with its original number Pm36-2. Overhauled by InterLok company of Piła with financial support of British steam enthusiasts and christened ‘Beautiful Helena’ (after Ms. Helena Jones, who substantially contributed to its restoration), it was widely used with both scheduled and special trains. In 2003 it set the national speed record for steam locomotives, attaining 130 km/h – most probably, never to be beaten. Wolsztyn-based Pm36-2 is well-known among steam fans and even those not particularly interested in railways and locomotives will often claim that they have heard about it. Internet surfers will easily find many traces of its activity; two photos, taken by Tomek Drzewiecki (thanks for permission!), can be seen here. After boiler ticket expiry Pm36-2 was withdrawn in April 2012 and its current status is given as ‘awaiting repair’. With recent decision of PKP Cargo, which is still the formal owner of the engine, to suspend scheduled steam at the Wolsztyn depot, it is not sure if the ‘Beautiful Helena’ will steam again, which is expected to involve considerable expediture.
Pm36 is, in a way, a controversial machine. Some claim that it was a product of profound ambition, which ignored actual demands; the other will argue that it is the best steam locomotive ever built in Poland (which is not the case). From the technical point of view it compared well with foreign counterparts; aesthetically it was certainly excellent, if not perfect. Its contribution to the development and history of steam traction in Poland was marginal; but, by a strange decree of fate, it is certainly the most famous Polish locomotive.
Main technical data
1) Without fairing (Pm36-2)
2) Some sources give 130 km/h.
References and acknowledgments
- Monographic article by Paweł Terczyński (SK vol. 6/2001);
- Article by Tadeusz Suchorolski (KMD vol. 1/2001);
- www.parowozy.best.net (website by Michał ‘Doctor’ Pawełczyk);
- PNPP, LP.