It crosses the central part of the country, from the coal mines and steelworks of Upper Silesia in the South to the Baltic Sea port of Gdynia in the North. The line is used mostly by freight trains: passenger connections on it are few. Constructed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it was the biggest investment of the Second Polish Republic.
The Coal Trunk-Line starts at the station Chorzów Batory, in the Upper Silesian city of Chorzów, heading towards north. After crossing almost 30 kilometers it reaches Tarnowskie Góry - a very important freight station located on the northern outskirts of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin.
Then, the line goes towards Kalety and Herby Nowe. And it is in Herby Nowe where the "correct" Coal Trunk-Line begins. The connection Chorzów Batory - Kalety had been built before 1920s, by the Germans, as these lands had belonged to Germany until 1921. Then, in 1926 a Kalety - Herby Nowe - Wieluń - Kępno line was constructed, thanks to which Upper Silesia and Poznań got direct connection, without the necessity of using then-German junction at Kreuzburg (Kluczbork).
From Herby Nowe, crossing strategic junctions of Chorzew Siemkowice and Zduńska Wola Karsznice, the Coal Trunk-Line reaches Inowrocław. From there it goes to Bydgoszcz, which had already been connected to Danzig (Gdansk) and Gdynia (via Laskowice and Tczew), but creation of Free City of Danzig made it difficult to keep regular Polish freight movement in the interbellum. Thus, another part of the Coal Trunk-Line between Bydgoszcz and Gdynia was constructed in the early 1930s, via Wierzchucin and Kościerzyna and the sparsely populated forests and hills of Kaszuby.
The Coal Trunk-Line ends in the Baltic Sea port of Gdynia, after crossing whole Poland from south to north (appr. 550 kilometers).
In 1921-1922 borders of the Second Polish Republic were finally established. Upper Silesia was divided (see: Silesian Uprisings) and the boundary left in German hands several crucial junctions, including Kluczbork (Kreuzburg) and Fosowskie (Vossowska). Without these centers, rail communication between Polish Silesia and Baltic Sea was virtually impossible. As coal was one of main Polish exports, and transit through Germany was not allowed (due to the Polish - German customs war in the late 1920s and early 1930s), construction of the new line was necessary.
On February 17, 1928 President of Poland Ignacy Mościcki signed a bill which ordered construction of the 255-kilometer line Herby Nowe - Inowrocław. For unknown reasons, the important industrial center of Łódź, located just a few kilometers east of the route, was not included in it. Instead, the Coal Trunk-Line crossed main East-West route (Warsaw - Łódź - Ostrów Wielkopolski - Poznań) in the vicinity of the town of Zduńska Wola. As a result, a huge nexus was built in Zduńska Wola-Karsznice, which until today is one of the most important junctions of the whole country. Also, a new settlement was built there, with several condominiums for rail workers and their families. Apart from the line itself, numerous stations along the way were built. Most of them resemble traditional Polish manor houses, with a very interesting architecture.
The Herby Nowe - Karsznice connection was completed by 1930, soon afterwards the route reached Inowrocław. As line between Inowrocław and Bydgoszcz had already existed, next step was construction of the last part - from Bydgoszcz to Gdynia, alongside Polish Corridor, without entering the territory of the Free City of Danzig. The whole Coal Trunk-Line was completed by 1933, and in 1939 it was connected with Częstochowa, due to the Chorzew Siemkowice - Częstochowa route, which was finished on April 23, 1939. Also, on the same day second track was completed on the sector between Zduńska Wola Karsznice and Chorzew Siemkowice. Among guests, invited for celebration of the opening of the Częstochowa - Siemkowice connection, were Polish minister of transportation, Juliusz Ulrich and minister of public works of France, Anatole de Monzie.
It must be mentioned that in the interbellum period, long distance passenger trains still used the Bydgoszcz - Danzig - Gdynia connection, crossing the territory of Free City of Danzig.
During the Second World War German occupiers did not regard the Coal Trunk-Line as a strategic one. For them, the most important were West - East routes, along which military transports were carried. Besides, since pre-1939 borders were voided, part of the line between Bydgoszcz and Gdynia was replaced by the Bydgoszcz - Tczew - Danzig - Gdynia connection. In spite of this, in early 1940s the Germans laid second track on the routes Herby Nowe - Siemkowice (55 km) and Karsznice - Inowrocław (156 km).
After the war, the Coal Trunk-Line again gained importance. Transports of Silesian coal to Gdansk and Gdynia were crucial for Polish economy, so by 1966 electrification of the whole route was completed. However, the original connection Bydgoszcz - Kościerzyna - Gdynia was abandoned by freight trains which go on the route Bydgoszcz - Tczew - Gdansk - Gdynia, and today is used only by local traffic.
Today, the Coal Trunk-Line is one of the most prosperous rail routes in Poland. Passenger traffic are few, but freight transports are very numerous, as this is the fastest way from industrial areas of Upper Silesia, Zagłębie Dąbrowskie and Częstochowa to the Baltic ports.
The Coal Trunk-Line was constructed by order of the Polish Government by the private company, French-Polish Railway Society (FPTK - Francusko-Polskie Towarzystwo Kolejowe). This company maintained the route Herby Nowe - Gdynia from April 24, 1931 until September 1, 1939. During that time, the line was not under authority of the Polish State Railways (PKP), the FPTK directed it from the headquarters in Bydgoszcz. After the war, the whole line was nationalized.
Most important stations located on the original route are Chorzów, Tarnowskie Góry, Kalety, Herby Nowe, Chorzew Siemkowice, Zduńska Wola Karsznice, Inowrocław, Bydgoszcz, Wierzchucin, Kościerzyna, Somonino and Gdynia.
The length of the line is measured from the junction at Herby Nowe to the port of Gdynia (e.g. from South to North). Not included is the connection Chorzów Batory - Herby Nowe (65 km.)
Dates of construction of the route:
Total length of the connection constructed between 1930 and 1933 - 448 km.