Sochi construction before the 2014 Winter Olympics

My visit to Sochi was during the leadup to the 2014 Winter Olympics, so the city was in a state of flux.

Snow covered mountains tower over the Russian city of Sochi

Cranes soared into the sky.

New apartment blocks under construction before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

As new apartment blocks took shape.

Tower cranes at work above Sochi

As well as new hotels.

More new buildings under construction in Sochi

Adding to the skyline.

Tower cranes fill the skies over Sochi

The Port of Sochi was also being expanded.

Works continue on the new cruise ship terminal at Sochi

With a new cruise ship terminal built.

Work on the new Sochi cruise ship terminal underway

New freeways were built across Sochi.

Viaduct under construction for the Kurortny Prospect backup highway

With elevated viaducts passing over roads.

Viaduct for the 'Kurortny Prospect backup highway' through Sochi

And towering over houses.

Viaduct under construction for the Kurortny Prospect backup highway

The railway along the Black Sea coast linking Sochi to the rest of Russia was also upgraded.

Our 20 carriage long train snaking along the Black Sea coast at Вишнёвка (Vishnevka)

With a second track being built alongside the existing, doubling the number of trains that could run.

Construction equipment for track duplication works near Вишнёвка (Vishnevka)

And after the games?

After every Olympic Games comes the obligatory visit to the abandoned games village – in the case of Sochi 2014 nothing has changed, with the Adler–Krasnaya Polyana railway that links it to downtown Sochi now seeing a handful of trains per day.


The Russian Railways built 157 kilometres of new road and rail infrastructure for Sochi 2014 – this presentation has the full details.

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Builder’s plates on Russian-built trains

A builder’s plate indicates who built a particular piece of machinery, as well as the the model number, serial number, and date of manufacture. Here are some examples from the rolling stock of the railways of Russia and Ukraine.

ЭД4МК class Электропоезд (electric multiple unit) operated by Russian Railways.

ЭД4МК and ЭД4М class Электропоезд (electric multiple unit) trains at Sochi

Built by the Демиховский машиностроительный завод (Demikhovo Machinebuilding Plant)

Builders plate on a ЭД4МК class Электропоезд (electric multiple unit)

EЖ electric multiple unit on the Kiev Metro.

Dnipro (Днiпро) station as a Type 'EЖ' train arrives

Built by the Мытищинский машиностроительный завод (Mytishchi Machinebuilding Plant)

Builders plate on a Type 'EЖ' Metro carriage, No. 5158 built in 1970

And a (electric multiple unit) named Поэт Борис Корнилов (poet Boris Kornilov) on the Gorky division of the Russian Railways.

Type ЭД9М (ED9M) electric multiple unit ЭД9М 0265 between runs

Built by the Демиховский машиностроительный завод (Demikhovo Machinebuilding Plant)

Builders plate on type ЭД9М (ED9M) electric multiple unit ЭД9М 0074

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Ice fishing across Russia

As I travelled by train across Russia in the middle of winter, there was one thing I saw on every river I passed over – people going ice fishing.

Looking down on ice fishermen on the Volga River

They drive down to their local river.

Warning signs on a road leading down to the Volga River

Then tramp across the ice, bore a hole, and drop in a line.

Ice fishing on the River Neva in Saint Petersburg

Even thin ice didn’t stop them.

Ice fishing on the Быстрая Сосна (Bystraya Sosna River) at Еле́ц (Yelets)

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Setting sail on the Railklipper

What happens when you send a train out to sea? You get the Railklipper – a vessel built by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways) in 2005 to celebrate the country’s maritime history.

'MV Railklipper' out on the water (photo by Edwtie, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Edwtie, via Wikimedia Commons

Dutch-language Wikipedia has the full story:

Railklipper was the first sailing train in Europe that was included on a rail timetable. The vessel made it’s debut on the Amstel River at the Carré Theatre on 3 August 2005 under the name ‘SailTrain’. With a ‘home port’ was Utrecht Centraal, the vessel made a number of test runs through the Netherlands, where Volendam, Haarlem, Rotterdam , Dordrecht and Utrecht were visited.

From 17 to 21 August, Railklipper took part in the ‘Sail Amsterdam’ event, providing a passenger service between Amsterdam Central Station and the temporary ‘station’ Amsterdam-Javakade in the Eastern Docklands where the event took place. From 2 to 4 September, the Rail Clipper was present at the ‘World Port Days’ event in Rotterdam.

Photo by S.J. de Waard, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by S.J. de Waard, via Wikimedia Commons

The train itself was a Nederlandse Spoorwegen ‘V-IRM’ (Verlengd InterRegio Materieel) carriage, specially modified for use on the water. Again, from Dutch-language Wikipedia.

The Railkipper consisted of a head coach of V-IRM train set 9518 that was placed on the former ferry “Burgemeester van Lier”.

The vessel was approximately 32 meters long and 6.5 meters wide, and had a draft of 1.1 meters, with a total weight was 180 tons, and a top speed of 6 knots. The head coach had 60 seats. The Rail Clipper was controlled from the extra cab that was attached to the rear of the train, and adapted with a maritime steering system. A pantograph was installed on the roof for decoration.

The train was developed by employees of NS, in collaboration with the Maritime Technology department of the Technical University of Delft, technicians from hoist and transport company Mammoet, stand builder Exhibits International , and MAPS Originals.

On September 13, 2005 the head carriage was removed from the ferry to be able to form another train set (8656) with other V-IRM coaches. The text ‘Rail clipper’ still appears to be on the carriage.

The extra head from which the Rail Clipper was operated for on the water has also been preserved and is stored in the former car workshop in Amersfoort . This is regularly exhibited at the NS on an open day under the motto of Milieubesparing bij de NS (‘Saving the environment at the NS’). This head has been completely dismantled from the inside of the entire control unit, but the extra windows that were needed due to the maritime traffic laws are still in place.

Photo by Maurits90, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Maurits90, via Wikimedia Commons

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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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