Czlowiek na torze (1957) Script


MAN ON THE TRACKS This film was made possible with help from Polish railroad workers.

Directed by

Who got on?

Are we running late, Conductor?

No, but a new track is under construction. Thank you.

That's enough! Don't overdo it.

It's two kilometres downhill from here on.

What a ride! If only the old man could see it now.

Fifteen atmospheres on such lousy coal!

It's 10:15. Lemiesze is ahead.

I hope they've finished the platforms.


One light. We're clear to go.


That crazy engineer! Everything's gone haywire!

What happened? Man on the tracks!


Look at the semaphore.

Where's the second light?

Yes, it would have been a real disaster at that speed.

Many people would have died.

The engineer saw only one light.

I don't understand.

That's true. You aren't a railway worker.

Let me explain, Comrade Karas.

The switchboard gave the signal to proceed at low speed.

That is, the semaphore's two arms were up, with two green lights.

Which means, break hard or risk derailment.

But there was only one light, meaning the track is clear.

He turned off the second light to cause a crash.

Who turned it off?


Did anyone catch him doing it?

You're accusing an old engineer... ...of sabotage!

You see, Orzechowski had some grievances with the railway.

No, I don't see it...

He turned off the light to cause a crash?

And then jumped under the train?

Before we accuse someone, we have to learn all the facts.

Of course. That is why we are here.

I propose that Comrade Karas, of the Regional Committee, chair this meeting.

Since we don't know much about this, I think Comrade Tuszka should start.

Let me start a few years back, comrades.

I knew Orzechowski before the war.

I was an engineer's assistant at that time.

That's when I met Orzechowski for the first time.

I had heard of him before. My friends were scared of him.

Tuszka? Yes?

This is Engineer Orzechowski.

He'll be replacing your mechanic while he's on sick leave.

He treated his assistants as if they were servants.

No matter how hard you tried, he always found some mistake.

Naturally, he got on my case from the beginning.

What's this? The bolts are loose!

The bearings will go.

He was crazy when it came to bearings. I didn't want to argue with him.

I was afraid he'd tell the dispatcher all about it.

That could have hurt me.

He acted like a squire when he was on the locomotive.

He kept looking for mistakes everywhere.

Whenever he spoke, he shouted.

It's dirty! Your mechanic has spoiled you.

He gave orders by gesture. "Turn on the water!"

His assistants had to shut up and work.

For the whole way, he wouldn't let you relax.

Luckily, we weren't together for long.

He was a tough man, wasn't he?

Yes. I remembered him well.

That's what it was like back then. He could have changed.

Men like him don't change.

Everyone changes... But listen to this...

Last autumn, I came to this station. Things were very bad, comrades.

Work was purely routine.

I had clear instructions to introduce new work habits.

I had to teach coal efficiency, longer runs, and limits to repairs.

The longer you're here, Mr Supervisor, the more you'll be convinced.

New ideas are not accepted easily over here.

Whose locomotive is that?

That one? It's Orzechowski's.

You might have trouble persuading that man.


Wait a minute...

Jankowski! Come here.

Touch the rod.

It's hot.

Hot? You melted the bushing, you fool!

I'll teach you to tend the locomotive!

Orzechowski is a true expert.

He knows the locomotive like the back of his hand.

He notices everything!

He's from the old Warsaw-Vienna run.

He doesn't skimp on coal and won't touch the locomotive.

A job for you, sir.

These morons still haven't learned how to service a locomotive.

Engineer, could I have a moment?

My name is Tuszka, but we've met before.

I don't remember.

That doesn't matter, it's not about the past.

I was told you know the locomotive like the back of your hand, but you're lagging behind when it comes to saving on coal. Why?

I ride the way I always have.

Precisely. Don't you see what's happening around you?

Times have changed. It is in your interest to...

I use as much coal as I need to. And they do the repairs.

I'm always on time. Has someone been complaining?

No, but they're scared of you, and that's not so good.

I teach the way I was taught.

You had to train for eight years back in the old days!

Back in the old days...

Wait a minute, now I remember! We used to ride together.

It's not about that.

You have to finally realise what we expect from you.

I do understand. Goodbye, Stationmaster.

I decided to start watching him. I suspected foul play, and that he intentionally kept the locomotive under repair.


Jankowski, where's your engineer?

He just left.

You've come for repairs with these tiny issues!

The engineer ordered us to.

The engineer... You're wasting your own pay!

The engineer has to be obeyed.

I noticed that Orzechowski was avoiding me.

I couldn't get hold of him.

And I began to suspect that he was setting all the men against me.

I decided to change his assistant, thereby breaking up his little team.

I stayed late just to await their return.

It should have been done like that from the beginning.

I was afraid that he wouldn't accept Zapora, a tough activist whom I could trust.

My bag!

Good evening.

Good evening.

Are you happy with your new worker?

Thank you. I will train him.

Good night. Good night.

Zapora, how was the first run?

Not so good. We were late and didn't save much.

That's not good.

I'm doing my best. Next time should be better.

I'm counting on you, Zapora.

Don't worry about your engineer.

A month later, we began a competition among all the locomotive teams.

Orzechowski, as usual, began to revolt.

Remember, comrades...

Tomorrow's meeting is in the new hall.

We'll be there.

I see things improving, comrades, slowly, and with some difficulty, but they are.

Our meeting today should help that process.

There are still those among us, who aren't doing what's in their best interests.

By wasting coal, they are robbing themselves of good pay,

not only by earning less, but also by wasting valuable property which belongs to the People's Republic.

Now comrades, let's decide on some tasks for your teams.

Come on, comrades, don't be shy!

There should be no hesitation here.

My team will sign a contract to burn inferior types of coal.

Now it should pick up.

Nowak and I are ready to sign a contract like that.

We call on our engineer, Orzechowski. He's tough, he could save a lot.

I won't sign anything!

Wladek, come back! Wladek!

What a bastard! Wasn't I right, Secretary?

Quiet, please, comrades!

What we have witnessed is an insult to all Polish railway men!

I would like to thank Comrade Krokus for his contract.

Are you here to see me? Yes.

Come in.

I'll handle this myself.

So you've come to see me, at last.

Sit down, please.

A moment ago, you revealed your intentions in front of everyone.

We won't tolerate open hostility.

I'm responsible for this station.

It's 1950, Engineer Orzechowski.

I know what year it is! I won't take this anymore!

Take Zapora off my team, or I'll resign!

Why's that, Mr Orzechowski?

I don't need your spies around me, Mr Tuszka!


Yes, I agree with you.

I think it's better if you retire.

Retire from the railway? From the locomotive.

Your nerves aren't good.

I understand.

He never came back to the station.

One moment. We'll call you in.

People said he was sick. Sciatica or something like that.

Supposedly, he hid it from people.

He complained at the office, and they even asked me about it.

But I gave them the facts and they agreed with me.

He was a saboteur, comrades. A declared enemy.

I wouldn't be surprised if he was the one who turned off the light.

He even organised resistance against the stationmasters.

I knew nothing of this.

There were rumours around the station.

People talk about anything... even the weather...

Have you had any cases of sabotage, Comrade Tuszka?

Yes, we've had some. Sand in the bearings.

The leading teams? Yes.

No-one was caught, though.

But now you know who was behind it, don't you?

Excuse me for a second.

No, I can't right now. Take the OKL.

I'm sure it's ready. I checked it myself.

Excuse me, so many things to do, and so little time.

But Orzechowski never came?


And Zapora didn't complain, either?

No, he had too much ambition.

Maybe Orzechowski was ambitious himself.

I followed my conscience.

It may not have been enough.

Maybe you should have gone to them, if they weren't coming to you, to check out what was happening.

You were quick to fire him after 40 years of work.

There were facts, Comrade. Orzechowski was a problem.

Everything is clear to me now. Orzechowski wanted revenge.

He turned off the light to kill Zapora and derail the train.

He's worked on the railway 20 years longer than you have.

He couldn't have done it.

He would have broken a law that no-one would ever dare to.

He died under the train.

He probably understood what he'd done at the end.

Someone else might have done it. And Orzechowski saw him.

So this person pushed him in front of the train? Like in a mystery novel?

We don't know enough yet.

Let's hear what Zapora has to say.


What is it?

That's what we'd like to know.

Tell us about Orzechowski.

I've had enough of this!

Please transfer me away from here, Stationmaster!

I don't want to be here any longer.

Why not?

Because of Orzechowski. Will you transfer me?

We'll talk about that later.

Tonight, Orzechowski was killed by your train.

Tell us everything you know.

I didn't do it on purpose!

Let me start at the beginning.

I started working here four years ago.

It was 1946.

My father didn't come back from the camp, and I was left all alone.

I had to live on something.

At first, I went to the west to see what I could loot there.

But I didn't have much luck.

The problem here was that I didn't have a ticket.

Stationmaster Tuszka saved me.

It was because of him that I got this job.

I started working at the repair shop. I liked it, so I stayed.

By the time he became stationmaster, I was already working on the trains.

Who did you ride with?

Engineer Krokus.

And Engineer Glodek before that. He taught me how to drive a train.

He let me drive his 'teapot' train as much as I wanted, but even then, I wanted to drive the real thing.

The Teapot's gone mad! It'll blow up!


Come out here!

You're now on PT-47.

Really? With whom?

With Orzechowski.

There's an opening because Jankowski has been promoted.

Remember, this is a commitment. His team is in last place.

No problem, I can handle it.

But I'll miss Engineer Krokus. We made a good team.

That's too bad. You have to get ahead, Zapora.

We have problems with Orzechowski. Your job is to give the team a boost!

Good luck.

You won't be disappointed, Yardmaster! I'm sure of it!

He's checking out the bushings. Be careful, it's his thing.

So what? I've dealt with worse cases than your engineer.

Our engineer!

Good morning, Engineer. I'm Zapora.

Good morning. How much experience do you have on a locomotive?

Three years.

You probably want to be an engineer, don't you?

Why not?

Right. That's the way these days.

Do you know how long I had to wait?

Twelve years.

Did the stationmaster promise you something?

Hey, he wants you to turn on the water.

Why did you turn the throttle so high? The train could break down!

Did I ask you anything?

An assistant here works and shuts up!

Remember, even your stationmaster can't help you here!

I can defend myself.

Zapora! The rod is hot.

Did you fill it?

Sure I did. Before we left. Add some grease.

He wants to get rid of you.

Where are you going? We need steam.

Zapora, the air horn is stuck. You didn't check it, did you?

You can check it a hundred times, but if it wants to get stuck, it will.

So much for your punctuality. We'll be late by five minutes.

Slow down, sir. I'll go and fix it.

Sure, you'll fall, and I'll go to court.

Stay put!

Staszek, come on!

I was worried about you.

Check the pump first, next time.

Good evening.


Wladek, you haven't changed a bit.

Wladek Orzechowski, in person. Sit down.

If Engineer Jarzabek were here, we could man the locomotive.

He's already six feet under.

He was a tough man, but time still managed to rub him out.

He trained us well. A true master.

There aren't any more like him.

Retirement then was different. It'll be our turn soon.

Our time's up. What are you talking about?

Only if there's some young kid with a grudge against you.

That's the time we're in.

How's the family?

I remember Zosia in her teens.

Then you haven't heard...

I had her educated before the war. Now she's a doctor in Lodz.

She's smart. She gets praised a lot.

She makes good money, too, and tries to help me out.

I don't think you need any help.

I won't work like a dog.

I won't be an errand boy for a few extra zloty, and use crap instead of coal.

Hang on.

You became an engineer in 1914, didn't you?

Yes, a week before Sarajevo.

I envied you so much.

I even got drunk because of it!

I remember coming back in a cab.

I gave the cabbie a ruble. A whole ruble!

Then I climbed the stairs on all fours!

And my wife was seven months pregnant.

Those were the days.

Come on, Franek. Let's go chat.

Let me help you, Halina.

No, you don't have to. But it's much better with two...

Was that your old partner?

We rode for five years on the Warsaw-Vienna line.

With Engineer Jarzabek?

Yes, with Engineer Jarzabek!

Thank you for turning off the light.

Can somebody pick up my cap!

There are no servants on a locomotive.

Get out of here!


Get out! I'll manage by myself!

The old man's lost it.

Go home. I'll stay here for a while longer.

Engineer, do you have any work for me?

No, I can handle it.

All right.

Engineer, what's wrong?

Nothing. Get out of here.

You hear?


Good morning.

Good morning, Engineer.

Good morning.

This is Zapora.

It's a pleasure.

Have a seat.

No, thank you. We're going to the movies.

Oh, the movies...


The sausage line was too long. I didn't have enough time.

I guess I should go and wait in line.

What? Is it my fault?

All you know how to do is talk.

Workers of the world unite.

Farmer, your enemy has contaminated your water.

Ever since we've exceeded the 6-year plan's tasks, our standard of living has increased.

Mother, protect your children from diarrhoea.



I'm shovelling!

Not like that! Shovel it sideways. It will work better.

You could probably have it running on shit, right?



Damn, a fifteen minute delay.

Only Saint Cecilia could stand you, sir.

Did I ask you anything, you little shit?

You can call your kids little shits, Engineer!

You're not good enough to polish my kid's boots.

I'm about through with you!

Engineer Jarzabek's days are long gone!

Long gone? I'll teach you!

We can go, Engineer.

Maybe we would make more money like that, but we're not going to agree to those contracts, right?

Orzechowski won't ever agree to those terms.

Don't you have to think sometimes?

What do you mean, think? Just like I said.

Talking about the same thing over and over is easy, but...

Don't forget, comrades.

Tomorrow's meeting is in the new hall.

All right.

We'll be there.

I see things improving, comrades, slowly, and with some difficulty, but they are.

Our meeting today... should help that process.

There are still those among us...

You could finish him off right now. Just tell them what happened.

Shut up! This is between him and me.

Hey, look at Gladek.

...robbing themselves of good pay, not only by earning less, but also by wasting valuable property which belongs to the People's Republic.

Now, comrades, let's decide on some tasks for your teams.

It will be a long time before we agree.

Come on, comrades, don't be shy!

There should be no hesitation here.

My team will sign a contract to burn inferior types of coal.

Nowak and I are ready to sign a contract like that.

We call on our engineer, Orzechowski.

He's tough. He would be able to save a lot.

I guess that your assistant is the real boss.

I won't sign anything!

Orzechowski! Wladek!

Quiet please, comrades!

What we have witnessed is an insult to all Polish railway men!

I would like to thank Comrade Krokus for his contract.

Where's Orzechowski?

At the stationmaster's.

The old man's in a lot of trouble, isn't he?

There he is.

Wladek, listen...

What's with him?

It's beginning again! No-one has the patience for this!

Who doesn't have patience?

You carried out your plan, you bastards!

You wanted my job, didn't you? I'll teach you a lesson!

Wladek! Calm down!

What's happening here?

What's the meaning of this?

Let's go! Hold on.

You can't drive in this condition. Someone will replace you.

Will he be back? No.

And that's it.

I took his place one month later.

People said I got him fired.

And then yesterday, that tragedy...

I don't want to stay here anymore. Transfer me, Stationmaster.

But why didn't you report the argument on the locomotive?

I understand.

In any case, we know what he did on the locomotive, don't we, Mr Konarski?

We also know he didn't incite any sabotage, Mr Warda.

There's also Salata. The lineman?

Yes, he's in charge of the semaphore.

He was arrested right after the accident.

Call him in, Stationmaster.

Unfortunately, the stationmaster has concealed the fact that he fired Orzechowski without any notice.

Orzechowski was a vengeful bastard. He turned the light off himself.

And then threw himself under the train?

You said yourself that he might have been pushed.

Lineman Salata.

Sit down.

Do you know why we called you here?

I don't.

I don't know anything.

I want to ask why you've locked up an innocent man?

What have I done? I do my job well.

The stationmaster can confirm that. He's known me for years.

That's the prosecutor's job. We're interested in something else.

Did you see Orzechowski yesterday?

I did.

He visited me.

How did he behave? The same as usual.

What does that mean?

The same as usual. The way he always does.

Do you know how he died?

I do.


It was what you might expect. He just threw himself...

A man's death is what you might expect?

So you could have pushed him?


Push him?


That's not true!

You were the only one near him when he died.

No. I wasn't.

He was near the semaphore and I was at my booth.

Mr Zapora is a witness.

I don't remember where Salata was.

I was running and I didn't see.

What do you mean, Mr Zapora?

I was at the booth shouting, "What happened?"

I don't remember. Many people were shouting.

Why would I have pushed him?

He saw that you had turned off the light.

Light? What light?

Don't pretend you don't know.

You turned off one of the lights before the train arrived.

That's impossible!

Believe me, it's not true!

I went to the semaphore before dusk.

I turned on both lights. They were on.

It was Orzechowski.

How do you know it was him?

He had lost his mind.

When the stationmaster kicked him out of...

...I mean, when he retired, he got drunk on the very first day. I remember it well.

I was closing the gate when he came by.

It was odd, since he should have been in Poznan.

I immediately noticed that he was drunk.

How did you know?

He could barely stand.

Wicek! The gate!

I'm so tired.

Why didn't you leave it at the station? I would have brought it.

Sure, I waited two days once.

Best regards, Engineer.

Why isn't Franka in school? You'll starve my kids to death, you bum!

Good morning, Engineer, I have fresh butter and boneless veal.

Even my wife was surprised that he was drunk at noon.

Then a train came past and the rush of air knocked him down.

Thank God he didn't fall under the train. God has mercy on drunks.

I went to help him up, and I could smell the vodka on his breath.

That's not true!

Orzechowski never drank vodka, even when it was offered to him.

After the meeting that day, he got on the train.

People saw him at the station.

You're hiding something, Mr Salata.

No, I'm not.

I don't know anything about the light.

He must have turned it off. Nobody else could have.

I didn't leave the gate. The stationmaster can...

Fine, fine. Tell us about Orzechowski.

Have you known him long?

Sure, he was my neighbour. And a close friend.

I visited him often.

Good morning, Engineer. I brought the meat.

You don't look well, Engineer.

No, I'm not ill.

Now that I'm here, can I bring up my request about the job?

I'm not going in to the station at the moment.

What do you mean, at the moment?

They won't squeeze me out! I won't let them!

I'll fight! Will they even ask your opinion?

Please, Mr Salata, my husband can't be bothered.

I'm going. Goodbye, Engineer.

I tried to cheer him up whenever I could.

But he was in a bad frame of mind.

It was getting worse every day.

He was drying up like a fish out of water.

And he was beginning to lose his mind.

Don't make him out to have been a lunatic.

The doctor diagnosed him as being highly agitated.

It's hard to say sometimes.

You'd rather say he was a lunatic, wouldn't you, Mr Konarski?

Come in.

Thank you.

What happened yesterday, Lineman Salata?

It was a disaster.

Evil infests us like vermin.

Yes, she has to go to the hospital straightaway.

Zosia. What's wrong?

It's really bad.

I don't think I'll make it.

Where are my things? In the booth.

Take the basket.

Wicek, the children.

Remember not to oversleep.

We're taking you to the train. I've called an ambulance.


Hurry up!

Wicek, remember the children!

Give me back the button!

Dad! She's pulling my hair!

Go inside!


Where are you going?

To the station.

At this hour?

Did your wife let you go?

I have to go.

You'll go, Engineer. You will.

But not right now. There's no train yet.

Come with me, instead.

You've really had it, haven't you?

I understand.

People have always kicked me around, too.

Even you, Engineer. You would pass, and hardly even glance my way.

Do you see how that affects people?

All right.

Now we're both in the same boat.

Will you have a drink with me? To this lousy life?

No, no. I don't drink on duty.

What duty? Have you gone mad?

They forced you into retirement.

Go and let the train through.

Your locomotive, with that Zapora, is on its way.

Maybe you could jump on it.

What happened? Man on the tracks!

That crazy engineer! Everything's gone haywire!

What do you think, Mr Konarski?

I don't know.

Would you have stopped if Orzechowski hadn't been in the way?


The train would have derailed at the switch.

It's better not to think about it.

Do you smoke?

I don't understand.

All I'm asking is if you smoke cigarettes?

Yes. That is, when I'm not on duty.

Do you have a light?

You don't have any matches?

No, I've got used to this lighter. Some people say it costs more, though.

You're sure you stayed away from the semaphore?

I swear!

I have some information which might interest you, comrades.

Orzechowski's watch was found undamaged between the rails.

And beside the semaphore, there was a matchbox with eight burnt matches.

There was no kerosene in the lower light.

That means that Orzechowski... Just a minute.

Maybe I should tell you what I think happened.

After the talk with Salata, Orzechowski left the booth.

We know he was very excited. He was hardly aware of anything.

But he undoubtedly noticed what any railwayman would have, that one of the semaphore lights was not working.

It's stuffy in here.