Sacrificial buffer stops at Munich Hauptbahnhof

Across Europe a common theme at major railway stations is dead end platform tracks ending at buffer stops, with the main passenger concourse behind. But there was one thing I didn’t realise – sometimes the buffer stops are designed to give way if a train crashes through them.

Munich Hauptbahnhof, by siegertmarc via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by siegertmarc via Wikimedia Commons

This July 2009 incident at Munich Hauptbahnhof is one example, when an ICE train overran the platform track and crashed into the end of the platform.

Photo via Münchner Merkur

Pushing the buffer stops into the middle of the station concourse.

Münchner Merkur has more details:

As the federal police announced, the 51-year-old engine driver sprained his arm. The 220 travellers were initially unharmed. The accident occurred at 8.39 on track 15 of Munich Hauptbahnhof. “Of course, people are already frightened,” said police spokesman Berti Habelt. The train pushed the bumper about four meters into the ticket hall, with five floor slabs being moved along the platform. “It has rattled properly,” said Habelt. However, there could be no question of panic among the passengers, especially since the braking train was not very fast.

And noted that it was not the first such incident at the station.

The official response – some new signs, and yellow paint:

Since Wednesday, there is a yellow “No stay here!” sign on all railings at Munich’s main station at the end of the 16 platforms.

The Deutsche Bahn (DB) tightened the security arrangements – a reaction to the ICE accident on Friday a week ago. “We want to point out on the tracks in the main hall that people should move on quickly,” said Franz Lindemair, spokesman for DB Bayern. The space at the railings, which are immediately behind the buffer blocks, invites many train drivers to linger or even to sit down.

A dangerous undertaking, as it turned out on Friday eight days ago: There was an ICE from Lichtenfels could not slow down in time, crashed into the buffer and tore five floor plates from the anchorage. The 185 meter long train (5400 hp) came only four meters behind the actual breakpoint to a halt.

And that is precisely why the train is now reacting and intending to secure this area in the future. Lindemair does not even think about what could have happened if someone had been there. Then the accident would certainly not have gone so well. All 220 passengers remained unhurt, only a DB-Zugbegleiter sprained his wrist. According to DB, the cause is still unclear: technical or human error? The investigations of the Federal Police are still ongoing. The amount of damage is still open. But it should be in any case in the six-digit range.

Back to the station hall: The signs alone should not be enough. “We will also paint yellow hatchings on the floor tiles next week,” Lindemair announced. The safety zone will amount to five meters and the approximately 400,000 people at the main station will point this out every day: on the way to or from the train, this area will pass quickly. Or even better: it’s best to go straight for it!

An example of such signs is here.

As well as the painted lines.

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Russia’s ‘robotic fire-fighting train’

As well as ‘conventional’ fire-fighting trains used to put out the flames anywhere conventional fire trucks can’t reach, the Russian Railways have also started rolling out a fleet of ‘robotic’ trains that can be used to fight fires in railway tunnels, and other places where fire fighters can’t go.

The first train was ordered in 2010, intended for use on the mountainous Adler to Alpika-Service railway, the main passenger artery for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Between 2011 and 2015 a total of 84 new fire trains were manufactured, with a further 25 new fire trains to be manufactured in 2016.

The ‘robotic’ part of the new trains is the LUF 60 wireless remote controlled mobile firefighting machine, manufactured by LUF GmbH of Austria, and modified for rail use.

The LUF 60 clears the path for advancement up to a distance of 300 m by incorporating a high capacity positive pressure ventilator and a “water beam” fog. This combination clears away smoke, heat, toxic gases and reduces the intensity of the fire, allowing fire fighters and rescue teams to follow safely. Using state of the art control elements ensure easy handling and high precision operation.

As a high performance machine, it is highly flexible and easy to handle. The very short time it takes for the LUF 60™ to control a tunnel fire reflects in the minimal damage to the tunnel structure itself and its associated infrastructure. The diesel powered LUF 60™ is a rugged machine that can withstand the rigors of severe operating conditions and confines spaces.

The radio-controlled unit has additional back-up manual controls in the event of a power supply failure. High mobility as well as flexibility is guaranteed by a crawler track system, which enable it to go up and down stairways as steep as 30° and is easy capable of “bulldozing” a normal family car out of the way.

This video provides an overview of how the train works.

While some more photos of the new train can be found on the website of the ‘The Departmental Security Service of Railroad Transport of the Russian Federation’ for the North Caucasian Railway:

Further reading

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Track laying trains of Russia

My my journey across Russia by train I came across a curious looking piece of equipment parked in a siding – a track laying machine.

Russian Railways track laying machine in the sidings at Новки-1 (Novki-1) railway station

Called a Путеукладчик in Russian, here is a similar machine at work laying track for a new railway line.

Photo by Из якутии, via Wikimedia Commons

Russian language Wikipedia explains how these trains work:

Track-layer trains consists of a locomotive, a laying crane, flat wagons equipped with rollers for moving packages of rail-sleeper track panels, and one or more trolleys for transporting track panels along the train.

The laying crane is a self-propelled machine with a horizontal cantilever boom, under which a track panel is placed on the trolley. On the boom hoisting and traction winches are installed.

With the help of the traction winch, trolleys traverse the train and pick up the top track panel, lifted by the hoisting winch. Then the panel is carried out on the trolley along the boom forward and is laid onto the pre-prepared ballast. After docking this panel with the previously panel, the laying crane and wagons run over the newly laid panel and and loads a new panel.

Tracklayers can also used as to dismantle a railway, picking up each track panel, loading it onto the train, moving backwards, and repeating the process.

Track panels come in lengths of 25 or 12.5 meters, with the machine working at up to 1.2 km/h, with each panel taking 1-2 minutes to lay. The load capacity of the cranes is up to 21 tons.

Or you can watch this video of a model КЖУ-571 tracklayer at work.

Here a model УК-25 tracklayer is at work building a new railway.

While this pair of track layers is renewing an existing railway – one machine removing the old track panels, while the second one lays new ones.

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Celebrating five years of Euro Gunzel

It is hard for me to believe, but 2018 marks five years since I started this blog.

VGF S 228 passes the giant Euro at Willy-Brandt-Platz in Frankfurt

Conceived after my returning from my month long trip to Europe as a way to make share the 19,856 photos of trains, trams and trolleybuses I took along the way, it has since branched out an exploration of what makes the railways of Europe tick.

After a slow start, in the five years since I’ve published a total of 113 posts, a figure that grows every second Thursday when I publish a new post.

Thanks to every reader, and the 172 email subscribers so far, and here’s to five more years!

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Шаропоїзд – a Ukrainian monorail that ran in a trough

Monorails are a mode of rail transport that is yet to break into the mainstream, despite decades of research and development on a wide variety of track standards. Most monorail trains are suspended from a track, or run on top of it, but in the 1930s Ukrainian engineer Nikolai Yarmolchukom came up with something complety different – the Шаропоїзд.

Popular Science, February 1934

Called Шаропоїзд, Ukrainian-language Wikipedia described it:

Шаропоїзд was a monorail train design created by an engineer Nikolai Yarmolchukom in 1932- 1934. The train moved on ball-shaped wheels with built-in electric motors, which were located in semicircular timber troughs. A 1/5th scale model of the train was built to test the concept, and travelled at speeds of up to 70 km/h. It was assumed that the full-scale design would reach speeds of up to 300 km/h, running on concrete tracks.

The track and wheel design can be seen in this cutaway drawing.

Popular Science, February 1934

With this newsreel footage showing the 1/5th scale train running on the test track.

Junctions were possible – using what appears to be a stub switch.

Power was supplied by three overhead wires, which suggests a three-phase AC system powered the train.

In October 1933 Russian magazine Ogoniok ran a piece on this unusual monorail train (via Russian Wikipedia):

The train on the ball
(October 20, 1933)

As early as 1924 inventor N. G. Yarmolchuk planned to use the ball principle of motion on transport. Vaguely it seemed to him – it would be a ball, a hollow ball, inside which mechanisms, the necessary devices, people. At first, thus, the ball transport was a completely utopian venture. Five years passed. The former engineer was already a student, he studied at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University , and then at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, and by 1929 the idea of ​​ball-electro-tray transport had matured completely.

The cylindrical car has two points of support in two balls located under the car in front and behind. Developing an enormous speed – up to 250-300 kilometres per hour – the cars are not afraid in the way of abrupt changes in the profile: like a “roly-poly toy“, Forcibly dumped, immediately assumes the usual position, only the external force is eliminated.

After the report of the inventor to the Council of Labor and Defence, a special bureau with a staff of specialists was created. Provided extensive, specially fenced field for experimental work and a million rouble budget.

89 people – engineers, technicians, masters, carpenters, locksmiths – built a wooden pilot track with a length of 3 kilometers, models of cars, and a small electrical substation. And now, in 1933, Yarmolchuk’s idea was tested and confirmed practically.

You can climb into a small model tin car. Lying down you fit in it. For convenience, a soft mattress is placed inside the toy car. You race not in a straight line, but in a circle. The car slightly rolls and straightens again: counteracting the centrifugal element.

If the toy tin cans rush along the simplest wooden track at a speed of 70 kilometre per hour, then the real operational train will actually perform a 300 kilometre per hour speed.

The idea of ​​the invention has already been tested on an experimental laboratory track. The Council of People’s Commissars obliged the People’s Commissariat of Railways to build a 20-25 kilometres long experimental operational railway using Yarmolchuk’s design.

As did US magazine Popular Science in February 1934.

Fragmentary and conflicting reports from Russia of a revolutionary new type of railway under secret test there, which aroused the curiosity and interest of the American engineering world, have just been followed by the first complete details of the new system, and actual photographs of a working model in operation.

Fully as remarkable as advance reports, the system proposed by M. I. Yarmanchuk, its inventor, calls for streamlined trains running at 125 miles an hour on giant, flattened spheres, twelve feet in diameter, instead of wheels. Each car is supported by two of these spheres, one at each end, and they are whirled by electric motors contained within their shells and mounted on the rigid axles. Since the centre of gravity of the car lies below the axle, the car is not top heavy and will not easily overturn. A single curved trough of reinforced concrete serves as a track, entitling the strange system to be classed as a monorail.

According to the inventor, this track should cost no more than a standard automobile highway to build. To test his scheme, the inventor has built and operated successfully near Moscow, a model railway with twenty-four-foot cars on a mile-long track. Plans are now under way to construct a thirty-mile railway on the same system, with 120-foot cars.

But the train was not to be – again from Ukrainian Wikipedia:

In August 1933 the Council of People’s Commissars approved a resolution “On the construction of a pilot Yarmolchuk rail system in the direction of Moscow-Noginsk“. However, the same problems faced by other monorail (high of cost and complex switching tracks) as well as problems with snow blocking the trough in winter led to the project being abandoned.


More 1930s footage of the test train can be found here:


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Registration plates on Russian trucks and vans

During my time in Russia I noticed something curious – trucks and vans always had their registration plate number repeated in big letters on the rear of the vehicle.

Registration plate details repeated on the back of Russian trucks

I saw them on the back of big dump trucks.

Dump truck carting away a load of snow

As well as small vans.

Russian vans and trucks often have their registration plate repeated in big letters on the rear of the vehicle for easier identification

But this stuck truck didn’t.

This is one stuck truck - with leaking fuel to boot!

Turns out repeating the registration plate number on the rear was once a government requirement – from Russian Wikipedia:

Until July 1, 2008, the registration plate issued to a truck or bus should have been duplicated on the back of the vehicle in large print. Since July 1, 2008, this requirement has been cancelled.

The original wording of the ПДД (Rules of the Road Traffic) dated October 23, 1993 was:

On motor vehicles (except trams and trolley-buses) and trailers, registration plates of the appropriate model must be installed in the places provided for this purpose, and in cars and buses.

In addition, a receipt for the state technical inspection is placed in the lower right corner of the windscreen.

The numbers and letters of the registration plates must be repeated on the back of the bodies of trucks, trailers (except for trailers for cars and motorcycles) and buses (except for very small ones). The height of the digits is not less than 300 mm, the width is not less than 120 mm, the thickness of the stroke is 30 mm, the size of the letters is 2/3 of the size of the digits.

The trams and trolley-buses are marked with registration numbers assigned by the relevant departments.


Russian seller of rear registration number stickers.

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Fire-fighting trains of the Russian Railways

Russia’s rail network stretches the length of the country, from cities to mountainous forests. Fires can happen anywhere – even in the middle of nowhere – so the Russian Railways have their own fleet of fire-fighting trains, to put out the flames anywhere conventional fire trucks can’t reach.

Photo by Сергеев Павел, via Wikimedia Commons

The trains are painted red with white stripes, and stabled at major railway stations – a maximum of 80 kilometres apart on class 1 mainline railways, up to a maximum of 160 kilometres apart of class 5 branch lines.

Since 2005, they have liquidated almost 10.5 thousand fires, rescued 462 people. From the destruction 96 locomotives, 684 cars and tanks with cargoes, 392 units of tractor equipment, as well as almost 1337 buildings and structures worth about 2 billion rubles were saved.

Each train has a full time crew of 6 fire-fighters, but additional staff are available to respond to incidents:

  • railway police serving at the station on which the fire train is stationed;
  • off-duty fire train crew living near the train station;
  • volunteer fire brigades members;
  • as well as employees of Russian Railways.

Each train also has a ground facility at the home station to provide:

  • educational and administrative facilities (training class, base or post of GDZS, heat-chamber, etc.);
  • training rooms (a band of psychological training firefighters, a 100-meter obstacle course and a training tower);
  • workshops (for cleaning and drying fire hoses, a workshop for maintenance and repair of fire and special rescue equipment, a point of charging fire extinguishers);
  • sanitary and domestic facilities (for rest and food, for drying special and combat clothing, shower, toilet, restorative complex, etc.);
  • warehouse (for storage of fire and special rescue equipment, fire extinguishing agents, fuel and lubricants).

Fire-fighting trains are divided into two categories:

  • Category 1 specialised: equipped for the removal of dangerous goods from accident scenes
  • Category 2: general fire-fighting only

Over 300 fire-fighting trains are posted around the Russian Railways network, with around 80 of them being specialised category 1 trains.

A typical fire train consists of:

  1. Pump wagon (ВНС) to house personnel, fire pump, power generator, fire extinguishers, breathing apparatus, and other fire extinguishing equipment;
  2. tank wagon (ЦВ) for storage of water, 60m³ – 73m³ volume
  3. tank wagon (ЦВ)

Category 1 trains also have an extra wagon for the accommodation of additional fire-fighting and rescue equipment, fire suppressants, and other materials; and pumps to transfer dangerous goods from damaged tank wagons.

To prevent the water from freezing in the tanks, pipe coils are installed, along which hot water from the boiler circulates.

Each pump wagon is equipped with two fixed СПУ-40/100M pumps, with a flow rate of 50 l/s. This allows each fire train to supply 15,000 m³ of foam, to attend to flammable and combustible liquid spills up to 1000 square meters, or to supply a standard fire hose with water for 40 minutes.

Further viewing

A quick look at a fire train at work.

And a detailed tour of a modern Russian Railways fire train.

Sources (all Russian language)

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Tram stops in Russia

Tram tracks are quite obvious when they run down the street, but in Russia finding a tram stop can be a tad tricky.

Moscow tram #2095 passes another tram on the reserved track outside VDNH

Where the tram tracks are separated from road traffic, they aren’t too hard to find.

Picking up passengers at Komsomolskaya Square, Moscow tram #4325 on route 50

But this tram stop on a Moscow street disappeared among the three lanes of traffic.

Intending tram passengers cross three lanes of traffic: Moscow tram #1269 on route 3

I had the same trouble out in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg.

ЛМ-2008 tram number 1410 drops off passengers on route 45

With passengers having to walk out into traffic.

Dropping off tram passengers in the middle of a bust Saint Petersburg street

As well as on the narrower streets of Nizhny Novgorod.

Stopping for a tram passenger in Nizhny Novgorod

In some cases signage at the kerb indicated the location of tram stop.

Ready to depart a kerbside tram stop

But at other stops intending passengers have to look up to see the signs.

Middle of the road tram stops in suburban Saint Petersburg

In addition, timetable information wasn’t easy to come by.

Tram and trolleybus stop signs hang from overhead wires

The signs in the above example are from Nizhny Novgorod, with the stating the route number and operating hours – blue sign with ‘ТБ’ for trolleybuses, yellow signs and ‘TP’ for trams.

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Interchange stations on Soviet metro systems

Interchange stations on Soviet designed metro systems are a little odd for anyone accustomed to urban rail networks elsewhere in the world – the platforms for each line are treated as their own station, with their own street entrance, and their own name!

Moscow Metro

On the Moscow Metro the most complicated station is the four way interchange between lines 1, 3, 4 and 9.

Replica of the Moscow Metro's first train arrives into Библиотека имени Ленина (Biblioteka Imeni Lenina)

Here the platforms on each of the four lines has a separate name:

  • Line 1 / Biblioteka Imeni Lenina
  • Line 3 / Arbatskaya
  • Line 4 / Aleksandrovsky Sad
  • Line 9 / Borovitskaya

And just to make this station complex even more confusing, there is no direct path between Borovitskaya and Aleksandrovsky Sad – passengers have to travel via one of the two other stations to interchange.

The same practice of uniquely naming each pair of platforms is repeated at other interchange locations across Moscow, such as the three way transfers at:

  • Pushkinskaya, Chekhovskaya, Tverskaya
  • Turgenevskaya, Chistye Prudy, Sretensky Bulvar
  • Okhotny Ryad, Teatralnaya, Ploshchad Revolyutsii

As well as some of the two way interchanges:

  • Dobryninskaya, Serpukhovskaya
  • Sevastopolskay, Kakhovskaya
  • Krestyanskaya Zastava, Proletarskaya

But just to confuse matters, some two way interchange stations have a common name on both lines.

  • Prospekt Mira
  • Belorusskaya
  • Park Kultury
  • Oktyabrskaya
  • Paveletskaya

There are also some oddities where the platforms for two lines are named as one station, while the platforms for a third line have a different name:

  • Marksistskaya and Taganskaya (x2)
  • Chkalovskaya and Kurskaya (x2)
  • Novokuznetskaya and Tretyakovskaya (x2)

Then there is the station at Kiyevskaya – which serves has three lines but has a single name!

Saint Petersburg Metro

The naming conventions for interchange stations on the Saint Petersburg Metro are far more consistent.

Cross platform interchange between Line 1 and 2 at Tekhnologichesky Institut (Технологи́ческий институ́т)

The platforms for each line are always given their own name, with only two exceptions:

  • Ploshchad Alexandra Nevskogo – the line 3 platforms are called ‘Ploshchad Alexandra Nevskogo I’ while those on line 4 are called ‘Ploshchad Alexandra Nevskogo II’.
  • Tekhnologichesky Institut – a cross platform interchange is provided between line 1 and 2.

Kiev Metro

The Kiev Metro is a lot simpler to understand.

Zhytomyrska (Житомирська) station and waiting passengers

There are three transfer stations, each serving two lines, with each platform having a separate name.

  • Zoloti Vorota / Teatralna (Green Line – Red Line)
  • Maidan Nezalezhnosti / Khreschatyk (Blue Line – Red Line)
  • Palats Sportu / Ploshcha Lva Tolstoho (Green Line – Blue Line)

Why separate names?

The use of separate names for each line starts to make sense when you look at the standard design of Soviet metro stations – two tracks, an island platform in the middle, and a single escalator incline leading to the surface.

Sviatoshyn (Святошин) station on the Kiev Metro

While simple, this design was quite limiting if the station needed to be expanded into interchange facility, so instead a second parallel station would be built alongside for the new line, with underground walkways provided so that passengers can move between the two platforms.

Transfer corridor on the Saint Petersburg Metro

These passageways are usually located one level above the station platforms, linked with stairs passing over the train tracks.

Interchange walkways between the two station halls

The number of staircases between platform and passageway varies.

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

But in all cases, a footbridge is required to carry passengers over the tracks.

Train streaks out of the platform

Another way to link interchange passageways with trains is via a staircase in the middle of the platform.

Intricately carved granite walls line the platform tunnel

Again, the width of the staircase can vary.

Staircase leads down from the Line 5 platform down to the interchange passageway for lines 2 and 4

With some busier stations having escalators to move the crowds.

Escalators lead down to the interchange passageway

But no matter which way the stairs go, there are always transfer corridors.

Still walking down the corridor towards Mayakovskaya (Маяко́вская) station on Line 3

They often curve along the way.

Yet another transfer corridor between lines of the Saint Petersburg Metro

Along with changes in grade.

Still walking along the interchange passageway

But keep going and going.

Long underground walkway linking the two metro lines

Until they eventually emerge at a railway station with a different name.

Arriving at Nevsky Prospekt (Не́вский проспе́кт) station on Line 2 via the transfer corridor from Line 3

Cross platform interchanges

Cross-platform interchanges are a much more passenger friendly way of facilitating these movements, but are rare in Russia – Tekhnologichesky Institut on the Saint Petersburg Metro was the first in 1963.

There are six examples on the Moscow Metro:

  • Kitay-gorod, between Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya and Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya lines.
  • Tretyakovskaya, between Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya and Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya lines.
  • Kuntsevskaya, between westbound Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line platform and termination platform of Filyovskaya line.
  • Kashirskaya, between Zamoskvoretskaya and Kakhovskaya lines.
  • Park Pobedy, between Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya and Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya lines
  • Petrovsko-Razumovskaya, between Serpukhovsko-Timiryazevskaya and Lyublinsko-Dmitrovskaya lines.

While the Nizhny Novgorod Metro has a unique arrangement – two island platforms located a single cavern, allowing passengers to change between lines 1 and 2, with a footbridge in the middle also allows for them to change direction.

Looking down from the footbridge at Московская (Moskovskaya)

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Inspecting the overhead wires on the Ukrainian Railways

As I travelled across Ukraine by train I noticed a few complicated looking contraptions parked in sidings along the way.

Ukrainian Railways track machine for accessing the overhead wires

With a small platform at the end of a scissor lift, these railcars are used to inspect and repair the overhead wires that power electric trains.

Ukrainian Railways 'АДМ-1215' class overhead line inspection vehicle

Here is a video of one such unit headed along the main line.

And the data sheet for a model 1АДМ-1.3 overhead inspection rail car.

The isolated work platform of the 1АДМ-1.3 rail car allows staff to work on the contact wires shutting down traction power.

Intended for:
– execution of installation, repair, emergency and recovery works of the contact network on electrified railways at 3.3 kV DC and 27.5 kV AC;
– transportation of wagons with various cargoes;
– power supply to consumers in the field;
– shunting work and transportation of workers’ brigades.

The railcar is a self-propelled two axle vehicle. On the front platform is a passenger cabin with a crane. On the rear platform – power plant and installation site.

The telescopic crane performs installation and dismantling of the contact system supports, loading and unloading of various cargoes.

The presence of cradles on the crane allows for the installation, repair and emergency-recovery work of the contact network on the adjacent track in the absence of power.

YaMZ-238 B-33 diesel engine


Power plant:
220kW (300hp)

Carrying capacity of platform:
4.5 tonnes

Maximum speed
100 km / h

Trailer load max. in shunting mode
300 tonne

trailer load max. in train mode
60 tonne

Passenger capacity

Total weight
35.5 tonnes


Despite the availability of overhead line inspection vehicles, sometimes staff still do things the low tech way – take a long ladder on a wheeled platform, and roll it along the tracks!

Railway staff inspect the overhead wires

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