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12 January 2024

Thirty-five Years Difference, or When the Haffuferbahn Railway Was Launched

Magdalena Pasewicz-Rybacka

The opening dates of the Haffuferbahn Railway, as found in scientific studies or on the internet, range between 1867 and 1902. A thirty-five-year difference is indeed significant, so it's worth taking a closer look.

 

It should start with the fact that the year 1867 (mentioned, for example, in one of the conservation studies) is an unrealistic date. In the sixties, although the idea of constructing an independent railway line along the lagoon might have been sprouting in some minds – disregarding the earlier plan to build a section of the Eastern Railway on this route – there were no concrete plans for this investment yet.

 

On the other hand, the year 1902 was mentioned by Marga Garnich in her booklet 'Liebelei mit Kleinbahnen.' Also, in several other studies, the beginning of the 20th century is cited as the date of launching the HUB, but it is not specified more precisely.

 

Fortunately, the most common is the correct year of the opening of the Haffuferbahn Railway, which is 1899. Preliminary work started in 1896, and the actual construction in 1897. The entire line was planned to be completed by the end of the following year, but prolonged works caused that the line was ultimately launched at the very end of the 19th century.

Fragment of the Haffuferbahn Railway. Drawing from M. Garnich's booklet 'Liebelei mit der Kleinbahn'

 

As far as this point is concerned, most studies agree, but problems begin with establishing the daily date. You can encounter really different variants, but most often there is information that the Elbląg–Frombork section was launched on May 20, while Frombork–Braniewo on September 7. This is reported by several scientific studies, as well as by Polish (and German) Wikipedia. However, this is a mistake.

 

The dates themselves are not wrong – indeed, they were certain milestones in the history of the operation of the Haffuferbahn – but the events attributed to them do not entirely match. Construction work was carried out on the entire line simultaneously, moreover – the sections lying on the eastern side caused even fewer problems than those located between Elbląg and Frombork (due to the greater distance from the dangerous waters of the Lagoon) and were completed earlier. Therefore, there was no reason to delay the opening of the final section of the route. May 20th, therefore, marked the opening of passenger traffic, but not on the mentioned section, but on the entire line. Newspapers reported at the time:

 

Haffuferbahn trains run from Elbląg at 8:35, 13:30 (temporarily only on Sundays), 14:33, and 19:05 (only to Frombork), from Braniewo (Eastern Railway station) at 10:50, 14:00, and 21:20 (only to Tolkmicko). In addition, trains run at 6:05 from Tolkmicko to Braniewo, at 21:00 from Frombork to Braniewo, at 4:46 from Frombork to Elbląg, and at 21:20 from Braniewo to Tolkmicko.

„Der Gesellige”, 20.05.1899

 

As you can guess, the second date marked the opening of freight traffic (which, by the way, was supposed to start on July 1, but prolonged technical inspections delayed this date several times) and the commissioning of the city section in Elbląg.

 

Ogłoszenie w „Altpreussische Zeitung” z 8.08.1899. W tekście podano błędną datę roczną (1898).

Announcement in 'Altpreussische Zeitung' from 08.08.1899. The text gave the wrong year (1898).

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