Józef Tomicki

ID: 267

Józef Tomicki was an engineer who managed the Municipal Electric Tracks (Miejskie Koleje Elektryczne) in 1897-1901 and the Municipal Electric Facilities (Miejskie Zakłady Elektryczne) in 1901-1925 in Lviv. Under his leadership, the electrification of the city was launched.

He was born on 22 January 1863 in the village of Rulykiv, Kyiv province, graduated from gymnasium in Ternopil, and in 1891 completed his studies at the Karlsruhe Polytechnic, supplementing them with a year-long course of philosophy in Bonn.

In 1894, Józef Tomicki was appointed assistant to Alex Kern, an engineer from Vienna who managed the electric tram in Lviv. After Kern's departure from Lviv, on 20 October 1897 Józef Tomicki became the director of the electric tram, later transformed into Municipal Electrical Facilities (Miejskie Zakłady Elektryczne), which he headed till his death.

Under his leadership, the electric power industry in the city was reorganized; actually, it was at that time that foundations were laid for its successful operation for many years to come. Using Józef Tomicki’s biography, one can easily trace the milestones of the electrification beginnings in Lviv and see the process in the making. Two years after Tomicki was appointed the director of the electric tram, in 1899, he suggested laying powerful cable lines from the electric plant on Sakharova (then Wulecka) street to supply the city theater with electricity and to arrange a distribution point with a rechargeable battery in the theater basement. From this distribution point the electrification of buildings in the central part of Lviv began. In 1909, under the constant supervision of Józef Tomicki, a new electric plant was built at Persenkivka (now Lviv heat and power plant 1) and an AC power grid was arranged in Lviv. This made it possible to significantly expand the tram routes in the city and to bring the electric grids to the outermost areas of Lviv, as well as to start the installation of street lighting.

In March 1911, the Municipal Electricity Commission's supervisor Herman Feldstein, on behalf of the Lviv Magistrate, checked the costs of constructing the power plant and the AC network: "I think it is appropriate to give Director Józef Tomicki an absolutarium (the highest level of budget execution) concerning the  expenditures and to express our full approval and gratitude to him and his staff for carrying out such an extremely complicated, in engineering terms, business, which the new electric facility is."

The successful electrification of Lviv, which produced a considerable revenue for the city, led to the foundation of joint stock companies for intensive use of fuel and energy resources in other territories of the Lviv region. Józef Tomicki realized the benefits of this like nobody else. In Boryslav, there was practically no use of oil-well gas. In addition to the loss of this type of fuel, it also led to a great gas pollution of the town. On 26 July 1913 Józef Tomicki, together with Ignacy Mościcki, Gabriel Sokolnicki, Władysław Szaynok, and others (17 persons in all), founded the Natural Gas Ltd. company ("Gaz ziemny Sp. z o.o.").

Things went well, and in 1914 the company built a factory in Boryslav for processing gas into gasoline; "a light 0.66 American standard gasoline, new and unknown in Europe, which at first had no demand. Now we are unable to complete all orders," stated the company's 1916 report.

The report was signed by Józef Tomicki as the chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Natural Gas Ltd., which he presided in 1914-1921. In the same report, along with the successes in gasoline production, an even more important task was outlined: the construction of a large power plant that would run on oil-well gas in Boryslav. These plans fell on wartime, which made their implementation very difficult. For comparison, while the first gasoline factory in Boryslav was built before the war in 5 months and its construction cost 75 thousand crowns, the construction of the second one, at Tustanovychi, lasted for 18 months. It was put into operation only in the second half of 1917 and cost 500 thousand crowns. "In spite of the difficulties awaiting us, in 1917 we created the United Power Plant Ltd. company (Sp. z o.p. Elektrownia Związkowa), whose main purpose is the construction of a new power plant." In April 1917, Józef Tomicki joined the association, buying 5 shares with a par value of 1,000 crowns. He also joined the new company’s supervisory board. Its directors were Władysław Szaynok and Gabriel Sokolnicki.

To begin with, they bought an existing small power plant in Boryslav, purchased a plot for a new one and started designing it. The work was interrupted by the First World War. Due to lack of funds, the company had to cede the plot to the French oil company Premier, which completed the construction of the power plant in August 1922, but solely for their own needs associated with oil extraction. However, the initiators of its construction did not give up. In February 1923, the supervisory board of the company, consisting of Sokolnicki, Szaynok and Tomicki, applied for a license to transport electricity at the Boryslav-Drohobych  industrial hub. They also decided to contact the Premier joint stock company “to set up, with or without it, a power supply enterprise.” Finally, in 1924 such an enterprise named the Subcarpathian Electric Company (pol. Podkarpackie Towarzystwo Elektryczne S.A. we Lwowie) was founded. Józef Tomicki was a member of the supervisory board. In the following years, the Subcarpathian Electric Company began to transport electricity from the new power plant in Boryslav to Drohobych, Stryy, Sambir and Truskavets.

The election of Tomicki as the chairman of the Polish Electric Facilities at the organization’s 1st Congress in April 1919 also indicates his undisputed authority.

In the development of City Electric Facilities, Tomicki displayed a flexible policy, often making unexpected suggestions that were always effective after implementation. In 1903, the MEF, at its own cost of 20,000 crowns, built grids from the DC electric plant on Sakharova street to the Viceregency clinics (now the Regional Clinical Hospital) "provided their consumption would be at least 18,000 kWh per year for 10 years and they would guarante annual refunding 1500 crowns for invested capital." The calculations show that the clinics would refund a total of only 15 thousand crowns, i.e. 5 thousand crowns less than the invested means; however, the MEF got a regular consumer of a large amount of their product.

With the introduction of the AC grid, the DC grid became unprofitable. Therefore, when in 1912 the Provincial Marshal of Galicia asked to connect the infectious diseases hospital for free, Tomicki agreed on the condition that the hospital’s existing current collectors be switched from direct current to alternating current. In the late 1912, Józef Tomicki informed the Magistrate that the Provincial Department had switched almost all current collectors in hospitals to AC electric power.

The case of purchasing in 1909 a small private power plant in the courtyard of the Galician Savings Bank (now the building of the Museum of Ethnography), which was considered by the MEF as a competitor, is indicative. It was bought for 92 thousand crowns, although the equipment price was only 12 thousand crowns, that is, 80 thousand crowns were actually a compensation. Anyway, according to the sale contract of 14 July 1909, the bank guaranteed that it would not build a new power plant and would not buy electricity from another supplier, as well as would give the Municipal Electric Facilities the right to supply electricity to its former customers. The Magistrate undertook to perform at its own expense all the work of switching these customers from the Galician Savings Bank power plant to the MEF grid, up to electricity meters, and for the Imperial Hotel even after the meter, inside the hotel. For all former customers of the bank (including the Gaussman Passage), the MEF guaranteed a fixed price of 40 gellers per 1 kWh for a period of 10 years, from 1 October 1909. For comparison, the city's consumers paid 60 gellers per 1 kWh at that time.

In 1911 Józef Tomicki appealed to the Magistrate to allocate 6,800 crowns for the electrification of the Rukker cannery on Zhovkivska street, including the installation of a transformer substation. The MEF director estimated the cannery’s demand for the power supply of motors was 40,000 kWh per year, which, even at the price of 20 gellers per 1 kWh (the same as for the Mercury bread factory), would yield a gross income of 8,000 crowns per year. Otherwise, there was a threat that the cannery would build its own local power plant, and the MEF would thus lose a potential big consumer. The Magistrate supported this proposal.

Reflecting on the prospect of developing urban power grids in the surrounding area, on 10 December 1913 Józef Tomicki suggested that the Magistrate should extend the concession beyond the 5-kilometer city ring (Lviv border). "In the future, the city and its suburbs will require new sources of energy. Tentatively, water power (rivers) or peat fields to the southeast of Lviv can be considered as reserves. This will allow to obtain electricity from new power plants at a price lower than today and to use the Lviv electric plant in standby mode." In 1923 Józef Tomicki proposed to develop projects for the construction of hydroelectric power plants on the rivers Opir, Stryy, Dniester, as well as the electrification of pumping stations in Lviv’s water supply ring.

Unfortunately, that was the last thing he managed to do. Tomicki's health was seriously undermined by a family tragedy. The son of Józef Tomicki, Stanisław, was a pilot of the Austrian army and tragically died on 31 August 1918 in the sky above the Italian Tyrol, shot down by British planes. The death of the only child caused a rapidly developing heart disease. In early 1925, Józef Tomicki left for the alpine resort of Merano, Italy, where he died on January 22.

Józef Tomicki was a member of the state energy unions of Austria and later Poland, a consultant on the electrification of Krakow, Warsaw and other cities; he participated in the development of rules for the operation of power grids and safety. At his funeral on 3 February 1925, 300 MEF workers arrived in Krakow from Lviv, and all trams in Lviv stopped for 5 minutes as a sign of mourning at 11 a.m. when the funeral began.

After his death, part of what is now Kopernika street (from Bandery street to Nechuya-Levytskoho street) was called Tomickiego street. This name existed till 1950.

The wife of Józef Tomicki was Jadwiga Petrażycka-Tomicka, a well-known feminist and journalist (1863-1931).

In 1937, the Józef Tomicki Scholarship Foundation was established in Warsaw. At the first meeting on January 25 of the same year, the scholarship was granted to three students from the Warsaw, Lviv and Gdansk Polytechnics; each of them received 200 zlotys a month.

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Author – Andrii Kryzhanivskyi

Editor – Taras Nazaruk