Crossing international borders by train

When I travelled across Europe by train, I crossed a few international borders. Some were simple, but others were more involved.

Arrival into Budapest by rail

The uneventful

My first border crossing by train was on my journey from Germany and Austria, and it was completely uneventful.

ICE 3 train arrives into Würzburg Hbf

As was that on my train from Austria to Hungary.

Arrival at Budapest Keleti station

All three countries form part of the Schengen Area, so no border checks occurred.

Papers please!

My first passport check was on my journey from Hungary to Romania.

CFR supplied locomotive ready to lead our train east from Budapest to Romania

Our train stopped at Lőkösháza on the Hungarian side of the border.

Border crossing for our train at Lőkösháza, Hungary

Where border officers checked our passports.

Hungarian police check our train at Lőkösháza station, on the Romanian border

We then stopped at Curtici on the Romanian side, so that their border staff could complete the same checks, and giving my passport a nifty little stamp with a train on it.

Changing gauge at the bogie exchange

On my journey from Romanian to Ukraine, we didn’t just need to stop for border formalities – our train also had to change gauges.

Spare wheelsets beside the bogie exchange facility at Vadul Siret

Europe predominantly uses 1,435mm standard gauge, while the railways of the former Soviet Union use 1,524 mm broad gauge. As a result at Vadul Siret our train was split up into individual carriages, lifted up by jacks, and the bogies swapped over.

And a crossing that no longer exists

I also caught a train from Ukraine to Russia to Rostov-on-Don.

'1118km' post on the Ukrainian Railways

Our passports were checked during our stop at Успенская station in the village of Авило-Успенка (Avilo-Uspenka).

But all that has changed since the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian War – today the only trains between the two counties head directly to Moscow.

Footnote: crossing from Poland and Germany

One rail crossing between Poland and Germany is the bridge over the Oder River.

Marked by a post in national colours at each end.

The bridge is the busiest rail crossing between the two counties, with around half of all border crossings using it.

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Another tram bent like a banana

A few years ago I found an articulated tram bent like a banana following a collision with a road vehicle, and now I’ve found another – this time in the Dutch city of Utrecht.


Donald Ikkersheim photo via ad.nl


Koen Laureij photo via ad.nl

The crash was covered in AD.nl.

Uithoflijn tram derailed at FC Utrecht stadium: ‘A terribly loud thunder’

Jeroen van Barneveld

February 16 2021

A tram on the Uithoflijn derailed near the FC Utrecht stadium on Tuesday morning after a collision with a delivery van from supermarket chain Jumbo. There were no injuries, reports the Utrecht Safety Region.

The tram ran almost completely out of its rails around 11 a.m. and ended up transversely on the Laan van Maarschalkerweerd. The emergency services came out en masse. A trauma helicopter was also called in to provide medical assistance.

Safety region Utrecht expects that the tram recovery will take hours. U-OV reports that the overhead wires are badly damaged and that there are probably no more trams running on the Uithoflijn today.

You can see the site of the crash on Google Street View – the light rail tracks crosses from one side of the road to the other at a set of traffic lights.

The Uithoflijn is an express tram line in the city of Utrecht, and uses CAF Urbos 100 trams.

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Four platform stations of the Moscow Metro

I’ve previously written about the standard interchange station design found on Soviet designed metro systems, and the non-standard platform configurations on the Moscow Metro – this time we look at the four track stations that offer cross-platform interchange.

Train arrives into Третьяковская (Tretyakovskaya) station

Кита́й-го́род (Kitay-gorod)

Kitay-gorod is located on Line 6 Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya and Line 7 Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya. It consists of two separate parallel station halls, connected by a central transfer bridge, and a combined escalator vestibule at each end.

Looking down on a arriving train

Cross-platform interchange is possible between northbound trains on the eastern platform, and between southbound trains via the western platform. For passengers wishing to travel in the opposite direction, it is required to use the transfer corridor linking the two platforms.

Interchange walkways link the different Metro lines

Третьяко́вская (Tretyakovskaya)

Tretyakovskaya is located on Line 6 Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya and Line 8 Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya. Tretyakovskaya was originally a two platform station before the connection with Kalininskaya Line was opened in 1986.

Island platform at Третьяковская (Tretyakovskaya) station

At that time a second hall was opened, forming a cross-platform interchange.

The two halls are joined by a passage located midway along their length and also by the shared vestibule.

Interchange passageways between lines 6, 8 and 2 at Третьяковская (Tretyakovskaya)

Каширская (Kashirskaya)

Kashirskaya is the interchange between the Kakhovskaya and the Orekhovskaya branches of the Zamoskvoretskaya line.

Looking down on waiting passengers and an arriving train

It consists of two parallel station halls separated by a wall, each with an independent exit to ground level, and three narrow transfer footbridges between the island platforms.

Passengers change trains at Каширская (Kashirskaya) station

Парк Победы (Park Pobedy)

Park Pobedy is the interchange between Line 3 Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya and Line 8A Kalininsko–Solntsevskaya, as well as the deepest Moscow Metro station.

Type 81-740.1/741.1 "Rusich" train arrives into Парк Победы

It consists of two parallel station halls, each with their own escalators to the surface, but linked by a a pair of two-aisle transfer footbridges.

Interchange walkways between the two station halls

It opened in 2003 as a terminus of the Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya line, with one set of tracks laying idle until the Kalininsko–Solntsevskaya line opened in 2014.

Unused platform blocked off from the public

Петровско-Разумовская (Petrovsko-Razumovskaya)

Petrovsko-Razumovskaya is the interchange between Line 9 Serpukhovsko–Timiryazevskaya and Line 10 Lyublinsko–Dmitrovskaya.

And again it’s two parallel station halls, with their own escalators to the surface, but linked by pair of two-aisle transfer footbridges.

Station diagrams

The ‘Metro2’ website has an interactive track and station diagram for the complete Moscow Metro network. Here are shortcuts to the stations mentioned above.

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Battery-electric locomotives of the Moscow Metro

On the Moscow Metro can be found a curious piece of rolling stock – Контактно-аккумуляторный электровоз – battery-electric locomotives converted from retired metro carriages to haul maintenance trains through underground tunnels.

The seats have been removed from the passenger saloon.

Making way for banks of lead acid batteries.

A total of fifteen 81-717 / 714 metro carriages have been converted by «Вагонмаш» (Vagonmash ZAO) at their plant in St Petersburg, classified as 81-580, 81-581 and 81-582. The first two units entered service in 1992, with further units produced between 2002 and 2017.

Intermediate 81-714 carriages were used as a basis for the conversion, with driving cabs and marker lights retrofitted at each end. To allow the locomotives to work with various types of rolling stock, both ‘railway’ SA-3 knuckle couplers and ‘metro’ Scharfenberg automatic coupler were installed at each end.

Recharging of the batteries is possible via the 750V contact rail or from a 380V AC power supply, and once fully charged the locomotive can operate autonomously for 7-8 hours, with up to 30 starting and braking cycles per hour. On level ground the locomotive can haul up to 300 tonnes at 50 km/h, reducing to 70 tonnes on a 6% grade.

Footnote

The Moscow Metro is also fitting backup batteries to their newest trains so they can continued to the next station in the event of a power outage.

Saft won a major order from Metrowagonmash to provide a battery power system to provide emergency traction power for new rail cars destined for the Moscow Metro. The project is Moscow Metro’s first use of onboard batteries to prevent trains being stranded between stations in the event of a power outage.

Saft MSX nickel technology cells will be installed underneath the floor of the new ‘Moskva-2020’ coaches. The batteries enable trains to run on their own autonomous power for distances up to 6.5 km and on gradients of up to four percent – the maximum on the network.

Further reading

(All Russian language)

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Moscow Metro trains on display

Plenty of cities have railway museums filled with old trains on display, but on the 80th anniversary of the Moscow Metro they did something different – they brought the museum pieces to the people.

Wikimedia Commons has more about the exhibition.

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Moscow Metro, from 15-19 May 2015, two exhibitions of unique rolling stock of the metro took place on the centre track at Партизанская (Partizanskaya) station.

During the first exhibition, on May 15 and 16, decommissioned historic cars were displayed at the station, which were stored for the future exhibition at the Metro Museum and restored at the beginning of the exhibition. During the exposition, cars of types A type No. 1 (motor car) and 1031 (trailer), G No. 530, UM5 No. 806, D No. 2037, E No. 3605 and a battery-powered electric locomotive VEKA-001 were presented.

During the second exhibition, held on May 18 and 19, service and maintenance vehicles were exhibited at the station.

Type ‘A’ motor carriage 1 and trailer 1031.

Type ‘D’ carriage 2037.

Type ‘E’ carriage 3605.

Type ‘G’ carriage 530.

Moscow Metro sump pump vehicle ЗУМПФ 06.

КМП-65М railway crane №4.

МКЗ-01 track fixing machine.

УМ5 track measurement car 806.

Maintenance railcar AS1-19.

Battery electric railcar ВЭКА-001.

And АГМС diesel shunting locomotive №983.

Footnote

Partizanskaya station is one of two three-track Moscow Metro stations, the other is Полежаевская (Polezhayevskaya).

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Don’t drive into the River Volga!

Nizhny Novgorod is a historic Russian city located where the Oka River meets the Volga.

Looking west over the Oka River in Nizhny Novgorod

As you might expect, many roads lead to the water.

Warning signs on a road leading down to the Volga River

In the middle of winter there is no difference between snow and ice, so signs warn motorists not to drive out into the river.

But my favourite touch is this pair of signs.

Reading.

Н. Новгород

р. Во́лга

Which translates to.

End Nizhny Novgorod

Start River Volga

Haha.

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Hidden tracks of the Kiev Metro

The Kiev Metro is a relatively simple system – three independent metro lines running across the city, with passengers changing between them at one of three interchange stations. However trains do have a way of making their way between the lines, using hidden tracks that passenger services do not use.

Train arriving Khreshchatyk (Хрещатик) station on Line 1 of the Kiev Metro

Known as «Служебная соединительная ветвь» (service connecting branches) these single-track tunnels connect three Kiev Metro lines via a series of tight curves – their 150 metre radius is far shaper than the usual 300 metre minimum radius – resulting in a 40 km/h speed limit, with a recommended speed of 18 km/h.


Photo via zametkin.kiev.ua

The first connection to open was «ССВ-1» in the mid-1970s, linking Khreshchatyk (Хрещатик) station on line 1 with the under construction line 2 at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Майдан Незалежності) station; followed by «ССВ-2» in the late-1980s, connecting the new line 3 at Klovska (Кловська) station to the rest of the network via the «ССВ-1» tunnel.


Diagram by Олег Тоцкий

Trains using the connecting tunnels include:

  • transfers to the carriage repair plant at «ТЧ-1» Darnytsia from other depots;
  • delivery of new trains to «ТЧ-2» Obolon or «ТЧ-3» Kharkivske depots;
  • transport of new rail from the welding workshop at «ТЧ-2» Obolon depot;
  • until 2007, line 3 had no depot so trains were serviced at «ТЧ-2» Obolon depot;
  • until 1988, line 2 had no depot so trains were serviced at «ТЧ-1» Darnytsia depot;

Sources

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Catching the train deep under the Apennines

A major link in the Italian rail network is the 18.5 kilometre long Apennine Tunnel, passing under the Apennine Mountains to connect the railways of north Italy with those of Tuscany and central Italy. But it is notable for more than just length – second longest in the world when completed, and 16th longest today – but for a railway station located midway through the tunnel – “Stazione delle Precedenze”.

The first railway connecting these Bologna and Florence opened in 1864, via a steep and winding single track route over the Apennines.

However increasing rail traffic saw the need for a more direct route, so a double track “direttissima” (most direct) route was approved. Construction of the Apennine Tunnel commenced on this route in 1923, from three locations – the two tunnel portals, as well the middle.

The central shaft was located at the village of Cà di Landino.

With a funicular railway running through two 500 metre long shafts on a 27 degree incline to the tunnel itself.

On 5 December 1929 a ceremony was held at Stazione delle Precedenze to mark the breakthrough of the tunnel.

With the tunnel opening to trains on 22 April 1934.

Due to the length of the tunnel, the decision was made to build a station in the middle – “Stazione delle Precedenze”.

Two crossovers were provided in the station cavern to allow trains to change tracks, and two 450 metre long siding tracks beside the main double track tunnel, so that slow or failed trains would not delay other services.

All controlled by a signal panel.

Passenger platforms were also provided for the residents of Cà di Landino.

Accessed via 1863 steps!

Trains still used the Apennine Tunnel today, but Stazione delle Precedenze was closed to passengers in the 1960s – equipment rooms now occupying the site, the passing tracks having been dismantled, and the crossover points converted to remote control.

Further reading

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Turning a locomotive on a reversing star

There are many ways for a locomotive to be turned – reversing loops, turntables, and triangular junctions. But there is one bizarre track configuration that can also do the same job – a reversing star.


Google Maps

How they work

Reversing stars were common on the railways of Italy, where they are known as Stella di inversioneItilian language Wikipedia describes them further.

The reversing star is configuration of railway tracks in the shape of a five pointed star that allows the reversing of an asymmetrical rail vehicle, such as a steam locomotive, in a limited space.

The reversing star is functionally equivalent to a turntable or return loop. Identical functionality can be obtained through a star configuration with an arbitrary number of points, as long as they are odd. In reality, in addition to the pentagram inversion star, only the reversing triangle is used.

Being a fixed installation, the reversing star requires less maintenance than the turntable and therefore was for this reason preferred to it in some cases. Compared to the reversing triangle, more widespread in the United States , the number of manoeuvres required is greater, but the space occupied is much smaller. The dimensions are also much smaller compared to the return loop, but it has the advantage of being able to reverse an entire train.

And how they are used to turn a train.

The star consists of five segments, two of which are usually connected to the main track for entry and exit, while the other three are dead ends. Alternatively, a single entry / exit track can be provided with four dead end tracks. There are a total of five sets of points, one at each vertex of the star, as well as three diamond crossings.

The locomotive coming from the mainline enters the star from the access track and proceeds on the first leg. After switching the points, the locomotive moves back to the second leg, then advances on the next leg and then moves back onto the exit track, returning to the mainline with the front facing the direction opposite to the one at the entrance.

At least five reversing stars were built on the railways of Italy.

Malles Venosta

Malles Venosta is in South Tyrol, and opened in 1906 as the terminus of the newly built Val Venosta railway. It closed in 1990, but reopened in 2005. The reversing star was built in 1930, and is still operational today for the use of tourist trains.

With at least one HO scale model version also existing.

Carbonia Stato

Carbonia Stato station in Sardinia opened as the terminus of the Villamassargia-Carbonia railway in 1956, with a reversing star provided instead of a turntable.


Google Maps

Today the line is used by tourist trains.

With steam locomotives using the reversing star.

Oristano

Oristano station in Sardinia opened as the terminus of the San Gavino Monreale railway in 1872. A reversing star was provided by World War II, with the remaining in place until 2013, when the tracks were dismantled.


Google Maps

San Candido and Brennero

Reversing stars were installed at stations of Brennero and San Candido following World War I, when the division of Tyrol under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which created a need for locomotives to be turned at the new national borders.

Both stations remain open to trains today, but the reversing stars have been removed.

Verona Porta Nuova

This one isn’t a true reversing star, but a complex arrangement of track to the west of Verona Porta Nuova station that allow a complete train to be reversed.


Google Maps

Further reading

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Moscow Metro curved, side and triple track stations

Each of the 232 stations on the Moscow Metro might have a unique look, but there is one design feature the majority share – two tracks flanking a central island platform. But how about the exceptions?

Ornately decorated central passage of the platform, with chandeliers above

Adopting a standard

Russian-language Wikipedia describes how the ‘standard’ station design came to be.

On 15 June 1931 at the meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union it was decided to build the Moscow Metro to improve the transport situation in the city. In November 1931, construction began on the first experimental site on Rusakovskaya Street. During the design, a debate arose about the type of future metro stations: whether they will have island or side platforms. It was decided to adopt a three-vaulted station with island platform design.

And so the design spread across the Soviet Union in the decades that followed.

Train streaks out of the platform

But what of the exceptions?

Side platforms

Eight Moscow Metro stations have side platforms, but only one of which is underground – Алекса́ндровский сад (Aleksandrovsky Sad).

Excluded from the initial plans for the first stage of the Moscow Metro, it was decided to build the station once the route had been decided, so the tunnel was expanded in size to allow curved platforms to be built beside the tracks.

Curved platforms at Александровский сад (Aleksandrovsky Sad) station

Four more stations with side platforms are located on the above ground section of Line 4Кутузовская (Kutuzovskaya), Студенческая (Studencheskaya), Фили (Fili) and Кунцевская (Kuntsevskaya).

Moscow Metro train on line 3 arrives at Кунцевская (Kuntsevskaya) station

Vykhino (Выхино) was built as an above ground station with side platforms.

Мякининo (Myakinino) was constructed on the second floor of a shopping mall.

And finally we have Технопарк (Tekhnopark) – an above ground station retrofitted to an already operational stretch of the Zamoskvoretskaya line.

Curved platforms

Six Moscow Metro stations have platforms located in a curve, and we’ve covered two already – Алекса́ндровский сад (Aleksandrovsky Sad) and Кутузовская (Kutuzovskaya).

Международная (Mezhdunarodnaya) and Выставочная (Vystavochnaya) stations were designed to “light metro” standards, but changed during construction to handle normal sized trains, requiring platform extensions alongside curved tunnels.

While Пя́тницкое шоссе́ (Pyatnitskoye Shosse) and Зя́бликово (Zyablikovo) were built from scratch with slight curves.

Triple track stations

And finally, the strangest station design – three tracks served by four platforms.

Партизанская (Partizanskaya) was built with such a configuration to handle crowds headed to a nearby stadium that was planned but never built.

While Полежаевская (Polezhayevskaya) was built as a junction station for a never constructed branch line.

Footnote

Meanwhile on the Nizhny Novgorod Metro there is a platform arrangement not found anywhere else in Russia – two island platforms and four tracks located in a single station cavern.

Московская (Moskovskaya) station: the only station with this layout in Russia

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