History of the Urban Transport Enthusiasts Club
The Urban Transport Enthusiasts Club was officially established in early 2011 as a result of a decision of the registry court. The founding meeting of the new association took place a few months earlier, in September 2010, and it was a result of talks during several meetings in one of the premises at Wróblewski square in Wrocław. At that time, a dozen or so people decided to set up an independent organisation that would deal with the monuments of public transport in the Lower Silesian voivodeship. After experiences in acting as part of another organisation and cooperation with Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne (MPK, Municipal Transport Company) in Wrocław, the founders decided to become completely independent. The lack of parking space for the rolling stock meant that the first tasks of the association were not so much to obtain trams and buses for historical purposes, but above all to search for space where the vehicles could be stored.
2011 was not a good time to preserve the monuments of public transport in Wrocław. At that time, the Municipal Transport Company was transporting its former technical trams (rebuilt from historic Linke-Hoffman Standard and Konstal N passenger cars) outside its depots. This meant their rapid devastation and destruction. They were placed on the manoeuvring square of the former Popowice tram depot, where scrap collectors quickly stripped them of all valuable elements. The wagons could not be bought due to formal issues. The Municipal Transport Company did not agree to place any vintage trams or buses on its premises, and the parking halls at the Popowice depot (the only one not used by MPK) were occupied by Protram company, which could not sublet their facilities to other entities, such as the newly established Club. At that time, the Popowice depot itself was planned to be used for non-tram purposes. Some of people wanted to even scrap the old trams transferred there, so that they would not aesthetically spoil the way to the stadium while Euro 2012. So the new Club had to start its functioning in quite unfavourable circumstances.
The first purchases of the newly established Club were two buses: Jelcz M11 #DDZ U039 and Jelcz L11 #DZA U022 from PKS Dzierżoniów (state Car Communication Company in Dzierżoniów). The transaction was finalised in February 2011. The then authorities of PKS Dzierżoniów were kind enough to allow the vehicles to be parked on its depot at Kilińskiego Street, and this is where Club members received their first lessons in the repair of buses from helpful mechanics from PKS Dzierżoniów. Unfortunately, after examining both vehicles, it turned out that their condition is – to put it mildly – average. We found the Jelcz M11 bus to be a “driving corrosion”, while the Jelcz L11 might look better, but was out of order (e.g. the engine was making smudges of oil). Then we decided to repair the Jelcz L11 and dispose of the M11 – and on September 30, 2011, we took the M11 for scrap, and the engine and other parts obtained from it were used to fix our Jelcz L11. After that we managed to organise a longer ride for enthusiasts of public transport on the route: Dzierżoniów – Świdnica – Jaworzyna Śląska – Świdnica – Dzierżoniów. Later, the bus was placed at the PKS Dzierżoniów depot and stood there until 2013, when it was transported to the former factory hall in Jelcz, and later it was taken to the Popowice depot, where it stands until today (in the meantime, it stood for a while at the Dąbie depot).
In 2012, the Club managed to purchase the first tram. It was the #G-069 technical car from MPK Wrocław, previously stationed at the Dąbie depot. On May 25, 2012, the tram drove on its own from the Dąbie depot to the above-mentioned Protram company, located at the Popowice depot. Since then, the Club’s “adventure” with this historic building began, which continues to this day. The purchased Konstal 4N1 #G-069 was officially supposed to be the former passenger tram with the rolling stock number #1429, re-qualified in 1990. However, in the course of renovation it turned out that it was really a car with the number 1444. This was a normal practice in MPK, which changed the numbers of wagons during operation and quite often accounting entries did not match reality. After the purchase of the wagon, the Club started the tedious procedure of obtaining official approval for the use of Wrocław tram tracks, which turned out to be not easy. For example, the first application was denied due to the lack of an ITS controller in the tram (ITS – Intelligent Transport System). As a consequence initially journeys were made on the basis of conditional approvals issued for each trip separately. Meanwhile, at the end of September 2012, the car was repainted in blue, and it still has this colour today. It made his debut during the MPK Wrocław Open Day. On November 7, 2012, “Enusia”, as we called the #G-069 wagon, was inspected, and at the end of November we even managed to insure it (which was not without problems – proof of this may be that the policy was concluded with the insurer’s representative in Łódź, and not in Wrocław, where we met with a categorical refusal). Despite the lack of proper permission to use the city tracks, on January 13, 2013, we served as a “subcontractor” of MPK a special line on the occasion of the Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy (Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity) on the route Dąbie depot – Rondo Reagana – Grunwaldzki Bridge – Galeria Dominikańska – Szewska – Grodzka – Nowy Świat – Kazimierza Wielkiego – Galeria Dominikańska – Grunwaldzki Bridge – Rondo Reagana – Dąbie depot. The procedure of obtaining official approvals to use the tram tracks was closed in May 2013, i.e. about a year after the case began. Then we waited a few more months for the signing of relevant agreements.
The Club started 2013 with one bus that was not running and a newly renovated tram, which, due to formal reasons, was not fully able to move on the city tracks. It was not a positive situation, but in May 2013 the Club became a user of another tram. Konstal 102Na #2069 was first rented from the Klub Sympatyków Kolei (Railway Supporters Club) in Wrocław, and a year later taken over. Then the Club entered it in the register of monuments and received the first subsidy for the renovation. Repairs began at the Protram company and continued there until 2016, when it declared bankruptcy. A few days before that, Protram, without consultation, issued an invoice for several thousand zlotys for the alleged storage of trams and care for them. After the declaration of bankruptcy, the syndic took over the dismantled parts from the #2069 tram as liabilities, which forced the Club to pay in order to retrieve its property. Another problem was the fact that the Club already had a subsidy for the next stage of the tram renovation, but there was no contractor (Modertrans Poznań, after a long negotiations, finally refused to take the job; the famous “we are on vacation, we will contact you when we return”). Finally, in November 2016, the tram was taken to Kraków, where the renovation was continued in the local Municipal Transport Company. Everything was finished in spring 2018 when the #2069 tram officially returned to Wrocław and its premiere after the renovation took place on April 22, 2018. Works on the tram renovation were financed mainly from the funds granted by the Municipal Conservator of Monument as part of competitions for the renovation of objects entered in the register of monuments.
2014 was a year of big changes for the Club. It was connected with several events that took place at that time in Wrocław’s public transport. This year, five years after purchasing Mercedes Citaro, the Municipal Transport Company leased new Solaris Urbino buses, closed the bus depot at Grabiszyńska street and the Dąbie tram depot, and selected a subcontractor for part of its services. Thanks to the acquisition of new vehicles several entire series of buses were decommissioned, such as Ikarus 280, Volvo B10MA, Jelcz 120M and Jelcz M180/B10M. The Club decided to buy an Ikarus as this type of buses has been operating for the longest time in Wrocław’s transport. Moreover, these buses are quite easy to maintain (although there was also hesitation at the Jelcz M180/B10M, but the simplicity of the bus structure was decisive). In the end, two buses with inventory numbers 5320 and 5324 were purchased from MPK, the latter being immediately intended for parts. On the other hand, the end of the regular operation of the Dąbie depot allowed for the parking of newly acquired vehicles at this building. Initially two Ikarus buses, and later all the Club’s buses, were garaged in the southern hall of this depot. Club left the Dąbie depot in July 2018 due to the fact that the new tenant – the “Tratwa” association – had different plans for the buildings.
In 2015, the Club already had two running buses: Ikarus 260 imported from Hungary and Jelcz M121MB from the A-BUS company, as well as the above-mentioned Konstal 4N1 tram, which enabled doing a more serious rental, such as transport service of a scientific conference at the Wrocław University of Technology. The perception of historic public transport vehicles by residents and officials in the city began to change a bit. Although two years earlier the historic trams on Legnicka street were usually perceived only in terms of troublesome scrap that needs to be disposed of, in 2015 people started thinking about establishing a public transport museum. Some of the decaying carriages at the manoeuvring square of the Popowice depot were moved under the roof. At that time, the Club started preparations for the renovation of the #5320 bus, which in 2017 went to a repair company in Bralin (the bus is staying there until today – 2020). In the meantime, the Club managed to obtain a Jelcz 080 social bus with a Jelcz P-080 trailer, thus recreating a prototype set of vehicles produced in Jelcz in the early 1980s. In 2019, we managed to gain money for the renovation of this set and the Jelcz 080 bus also went to Bralin.
Since 2016, the Urban Transport Enthusiasts Club has been providing special transport for the Night of Museums and until 2018 it was one of a few opportunities to ride the Club’s vehicle fleet on a regular line. In 2016, the Club made its debut with the Konstal 4N1 #1444 tram and the Jelcz PR110 #003 bus (obtained from Iława), and in 2017 Konstal 4N1 #1444, Jelcz PR110M #003, Jelcz M121MB #110 and Ikarus 260 #3932 were in service. A year later, there were so many buses to choose from that the Jelcz M11 bus bought from Głogów, Ikarus 260 and Jelcz PR110 run on the line organised for the Night of Museums, and the Jelcz M121MB #110 bus was waiting as a reserve vehicle. The tram line in 2018 was operated by Konstal 4N1 (“Enusia”) and Konstal 102Na trams. The latter most often appears on the seasonal Heritage Tram Line, which the Club has been operating since 2018.
In February 2017, the Club acquired another historic tram. This time it was a more heavily rebuilt Konstal 4N1 (ex #1434), on the basis of which in the second half of the 1980s the rotor plough was constructed. The tram, previously operated by the Zakład Torowy (Track Works), had been unused for several years. Thanks to the sponsor’s generosity it was preserved and is stored under the roof of the Popowice depot. In the following year, the Club purchased a wreck of the Konstal N tram with the inventory number G-072, which turned out to be the #G-085 technical tram made of the #1412 passenger car. Due to its technical state, we plan to restore it as a trailer passenger tramcar. In 2018, thanks to the involvement of the Social Participation Office of the Wrocław City Hall, all old trams standing on the Popowice depot square were finally transferred to a building. Soon the Popowice depot became the site of regularly organised Photodays and Open Days. The first edition of the Popowice Depot Open Day was organised by the Club in 2017 (the Club received the National Heritage Institute award for it) and since then it is always held on the first or second Saturday of September. During this event, the progress in the renovation of historic public transport vehicles is presented, the Club organises special lines operated by historic rolling stock and an exhibition of historic trams and buses takes place.
In 2019, during the Night of Museums, another vehicle was put into service – Ikarus 280.17, a Hungarian suburban articulated bus with the largest number of seats among the Club’s vehicles. It is sometimes rented for special trips, as it can seat up to 56 people. For comparison, the Jelcz M11 bus has 30 seats. In July 2019, another Ikarus 280.70E (rolling stock number 224) occurred at the depot, however, at the end of the year, Ikarus 280.70E with the number 5324 was scrapped. At the same time, since December 2018, thanks to the efforts of the Social Participation Office, the Club takes care of Konstal N tram with inventory number 1332, which was probably renumbered from the #1325 passenger tramcar. As a result, at the turn of 2020, the Club already had four efficient trams and six buses at its disposal, which allowed to carry over 500 people at a time.
In 2020, the Ikarus 260.43 bus from Germany was added to the Club’s inventory. It was planned to serve the Night of Museums in May, but the coronavirus pandemic caused the entire event to be postponed indefinitely. The bus was registered as historic in July 2020. The coronavirus pandemic also resulted in the cancellation of the Heritage Tram Line. Another problem was the fact that the service of the Jazz Tram (a regular event organised together with the Vertigo Club) was taken over by the Municipal Transport Company. In the second half of the year, a light appeared in the tunnel, because money was available for the long-awaited renovation of the Jelcz 272 MEX bus from 1972, called “Fredruś”. As a result of a competition, our society became the superintendent of the renovation process. On September 5, 2020, the Club invited to the next edition of the Popowice Depot Open Day, during which the line debut of the Ikarus 280.70E bus (#224) took place and the beginning of the renovation of the “Fredruś” bus was presented. In addition, two buses of the Urban Transport Enthusiasts Club went to Poznań, where they provided services to the local tourist line no.100.
At the end of the year, thanks to the support of the Municipal Conservator of Monuments, the renovation of the Jelcz 080 bus (started in 2019) was completed, which means that the eighth element was added to the fleet of operational historic Club’s buses. In the meantime, the renovation of Jelcz PR110M started, immobilizing it for a long time, but at the end of the year most of the work has been completed and it is planned that by the end of 2021 it will return to the roads, pleasing old vehicle enthusiasts. Two Konstal 105Na tramcars from MPK Częstochowa, purchased by one of our members, were a “Christmas gift” for the Club. They arrived in Wrocław on a specialized tow truck just before Christmas.
At the end of the Club’s history, it should be mentioned that the Club superintend the renovation of the unique Maximum tram from 1901, which is to be completed in 2021. The renovation has been carried out since 2015. The list of rolling stock owned and available to the Club in December 2020 is presented in the table:
|Number||Type||Data of purchase||Remarks|
|3931||Ikarus 260||2014.01||waiting for repair|
|2069||Konstal 102Na||2014.05||Rented from 2013.05|
|003||Jelcz PR110M||2014.06||In repair|
|5320||Ikarus 280.70E||2014.10||In repair|
|1192||Linke–Hofmann Standard||2015.06||rented from municipal goverment|
|1022||Jelcz P-080||2016.05||waiting for repair|
|1412||Konstal N||2017.02||waiting for repair|
|1332||Konstal N||2018.12||rented from municipal goverment|
|1258||Polonez Caro||2019.07||Accident Committee emergency vehicle|
|1274||Daewoo Lublin II||2020.05||Technical emergency|
When writing this story, it should be emphasised that the intensive development of the Club’s activity would not be possible without the support of the officials of the Wrocław City Hall, in particular the employees of the Department of Social Participation and the Office of the Municipal Conservator of Monuments.