ОПЭ1 electro-diesel locomotives of the former USSR

An electro-diesel locomotive is a unit that can operate from either an external electric power source, or standalone with an onboard diesel engine, and on the railways of the former USSR is an interesting example – the ОПЭ1 and subsequent developments.

Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Plant (NEVZ) archives, via Russian Wikipedia

Developed in the 1960s to work on the open cut mine railways of the USSR, electrified with 10 kV AC 50 Hz overhead lines, a ОПЭ1 locomotive can be made up of a mix of four different kinds of unit:

  • electric section (E) featuring a traction transformer, rectifier, pantograph, and driver’s cab.
  • autonomous power supply section (T) featuring a diesel-generator set from a M62 diesel locomotive, and driver’s cab.
  • motor section (M) featuring traction motors on locomotive bogies beneath a side dump freight wagon.
  • motor booster section (M) featuring traction motors beneath a shortened locomotive body.

Which can then be arranged in a variety of ways:

  • Three sections (electric locomotive, diesel locomotive and motor section) – the primary combination of traction units, able to work under overhead wires or autonomously (traction and braking in both modes are created by all 12 traction motors);
  • Two sections (an electric locomotive and diesel locomotive, without motor section) – able to work under overhead wires or autonomously (power from both modes with rheostatic braking by 8 traction motors);
  • One electric locomotive section (electric locomotive, without motor section or diesel locomotive) – work with the train in electric mode (4 traction motors);
  • One diesel section (diesel locomotive, without a motor section or electric locomotive) – powered by a diesel generator (4 traction motors, but no resistive braking provided).

Following the collapse of the USSR production of the ОПЭ1 locomotive slowed, with a total of 417 electric/diesel locomotive combinations, 52 motor dump cars, and 32 traction power boosters manufactured by the time production ended in 2002.

Photo by Вадим Анохин, via Wikimedia Commons

The design was further refined as the ОПЭ1А introduced in the 1970s, which saw the locomotive body shrunk, improving the visibility for the train driver in the reverse direction.

photo by Серёга, via Wikimedia Commons

More photos and video

ОПЭ1 locomotive shunts a rake of side dump wagons.

And related locomotives

The ОПЭ1 design concept was also applied to the ОПЭ2 electric locomotives developed in the 1970s – each features a ‘control’ electric locomotive coupled to two ‘motor dump cars’ to provide extra tractive power.

While American railroads call such locomotives slugs:

A railroad slug is an accessory to a diesel-electric locomotive. It has trucks with traction motors but, unlike a B unit, it cannot generate power on its own since it lacks a prime mover. Instead, the slug is connected to a powered locomotive, called the mother, which provides the needed electrical power to operate the traction motors, and the motor controls.

Which look much the same as the USSR examples already seen.

jpmueller99 via Wikimedia Commons


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A whistle stop tour of Sinaia railway station, Romania

As I travelled across Romania by train, the railway station at the mountain resort of Sinaia in Prahova County caught my eye.

Photo by Andrei Stroe, via Wikimedia Commons

Căile Ferate Române 4-6-0 steam locomotive 230-039 was plinthed outside the station.

CFR steam engine 230-039 plinthed at Sinaia railway station

Along with a 1948 Skoda VOS draisine (inspection railcar), supposedly converted from car once owned by communist leader Ana Pauker.

Ana Pauker's draisine (inspection railcar) plinted at Sinaia railway station

But a memorial plaque on the platform didn’t make much sense until I got home, and could research further.

Memorial plaque at Sinaia railway station in Romania

It read:

În acest loc a fost asasinat I.G. Duca,
președinte al Consiliului de miniștri.
Jertfa iubirei sale de neam și țară.
29 Xll 1933.

Which translates to:

In this place was assassinated IG Duca,
chairman of the Council of Ministers.
The sacrifice of his love for nation and country.
29 December 1933.

The plaque marks the spot where Romanian Prime Minister Ion G. Duca was assassinated by members of the fascist Iron Guard movement in 1933.

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German railfans exploring the world of rail

For many railfans their interest in railways ends at the border of their own country, with little interest in the trains found elsewhere in the world. But it seems that German railfans are an exception to this, being happy to follow trains wherever they run.

Trains everywhere!

I first noticed this when I was looking up the Richards Bay Coal Line in South Africa, and the only Wikipedia page on the subject was in German – nothing in English, and nothing in Afrikaans.

Photo by Pechristener, via Wikimedia Commons

A history of the tramways in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar – the German language page is three times as long as the English one.

Unknown photographer, via Wikimedia Commons

A track plan for the MTR Light Rail system in Hong Kong – drawn by a German.

MTR Phase I LRV 1029 on route 615 in Yuen Long

As was the track plan for the Hongkong Tramway system.

Hong Kong tram #46 in Wan Chai

But why? Science and technology form a large part of German culture, which presumably combined with a open worldview means a German railfan is more likely to take an interest in the railways elsewhere in the world.


There is a German company called Tanago that runs guided railway photography tours to offbeat locations all over the world.

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Exploring the bizarre world of VDNKh

On the outskirts of Moscow is VDNKh – originally built by an exhibition centre to show off the achievements of the Soviet Union, by the time I visited in 2013 it was a bizarre mix of fairground meets flea market, set amongst a collection of Soviet architecture.

Entrance archway to the All-Russia Exhibition Centre

Established in 1935 as the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition (VSKhV) (Russian: Всесоюзная Сельско-Хозяйственная Выставка; Vsesoyuznaya Selsko-Khozyaystvennaya Vystavka), each pavilion showcased the achievements of a geographical region of the Soviet Union.

The park was further expanded in 1948 when the Soviet Council of Ministers issued a decree ordering a unification of VSKhV with the All-Union Industry Exhibition, which formed today’s Выставка достижений народного хозяйства (ВДНХ) (Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva (VDNKh)) – literally the “Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy”.

By 1989 the exhibition had expanded to an exhibition area of 700,000 square metres across 82 pavilions, many dedicated to a particular industry or field, but following the collapse of the Soviet Union the exhibitions were closed, replaced by a variety of tenants.

Exploring the pavilions

The centre has a diversity of architecture.

Heading past the Central Pavilion

The original pavilions are of Stalinist style.

Pavilions 58 and 59 - 'Ukraine' and 'Moscow, Tula and Ryazan region'

Some small and understated.

Pavilion 5: 'Latvian SSR'

While others were far grander.

Pavilion of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic

Some imitated buildings found elsewhere, like those of the resort city of Sochi.

Pavilion 2 'North Caucasus' now taken over by a shark aquarium

And of the Moldavian SSR.

Pavilion 10: 'Moldavian SSR'

But others are modern.

Pavilion 12: 'Trade Unions'

Over the years some pavilions had been renovated.

Pavilion 13: 'Health'

Receiving modernist facades.

Pavilion 15: 'Electronics and Communication'

That hide the original design behind.

Pavilion 14: 'Computer Science'

But today restoration is the order of the day.

Pavilion 18 under restoration: 'Republic of Belarus'

Into the fairground

I visited VDNKh at Christmas time.

Christmas tree outside the main entrance

An ice skating rink occupied the main square.

Ice skating at the All-Russia Exhibition Centre

With pony rides on offer.

Pony rides on offer

And sideshow games.

Pavilion 4: 'Kyrgyzstan' hides in the background

Food stalls.

Sideshows line the main avenue

Kids rides.

Not 'Red Bull' but 'Black Bull'

And a miniature train.

Miniature on-road train to carry shoppers to the far-flung pavilions

Beneath a ferris wheel.

'Moscow-850' Ferris wheel at the All-Russia Exhibition Centre

Then into the pavilions

If you look up on entering the pavilions, the ornate ceilings catch your eye.

Soviet realist paintings inside the pavilion

But look down and it’s a dive.

Retail stores retrofitted into the Central Pavilion

With a rabbit warren of shops occupying what were once grand spaces.

Rabbit warren of stalls down on the ground floor

Need a new remote control?

Need a new remote control?

A cheap watch?

Plenty of watches for sale

Camera equipment?

Selection of camera equipment on sale

A computer mouse?

Computer mice and other peripherals

A spare part for your sewing machine?

Hundreds of spare parts for sewing machines

Binoculars or a magnifying glass?

This stall specialises in binoculars and magnifying glasses

Pet supplies?

Pet supplies for sale in this stall

Or ladies fashion?

Women's fashion stalls inside this pavilion

It’s all here!

And the seedy underbelly

Fishing reels alongside replica pistols that shoot BBs.

Fishing reels alongside replica pistols that shoot BBs

Hunting knifes.

Need a hunting knife?

Tactical torches, stun guns and imitation pistols.

Tactical torches, stun guns and imitation pistols that shoot BBs

And the office for a stun gun manufacturer.

Shop for a stun gun manufacturer

Have you ever seen an odder collection of retailers?

So capitalism won?

Just take a look at the forest of foreign cars beneath the front gate.

Soviet realist architecture - amid a forest of foreign cars

Further reading

Russia Beyond have a piece titled Soviet Era Theme Park that dives deeper into the history of VDNKh.

Since my visit in 2013 the restoration of the park has accelerated, which is covered by The Calvert Journal in Empire state of mind: how do you update a vast Stalinist exhibition space for the present day?

The administration of the park and the Moscow City Government have so far displayed a marked tendency to restore the Exhibition to its condition in 1954, favouring Stalinism over Modernism. In 2014, the facades of two modernist facades were hastily taken down, in defiance of the law.

Russian-language Wikipedia has a list of pavilions and structures at VDNKh, with the history of each pavilion detailed on this interactive park map.

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A familiar looking face on the Ploiești Tramway

The tramways of Romania usually don’t get much attention from transport enthusiasts of the English-speaking world, but this Tatra KT4D tram in Ploiești, Romania did.

KT4D tram #075 in Ploiești, Romania
Photo by Smiley.toerist via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to the colour scheme – a copy of the white, yellow, red and blue livery found in Adelaide, Australia.

So how did the a colour scheme end up duplicated on the opposite side of the world?

Welcome to Adelaide

The ‘TransAdelaide’ livery in Adelaide has been used on buses since 2000.

#1112 stops for passengers at Klemzig Station, with another bus doing the same behind

And is also found on their fleet of Flexity trams, delivered in 2005 to the same design as Frankfurt.

Flexity 112 at Currie and King William Streets

Over to Romania

Unfortunately my exploration of Ploieşti consisted of a whistle stop tour by train.

Crossing a tangle of tracks at Ploieşti

Where the only landmark I saw was the Astra oil refinery.

Cooling towers at the Astra oil refinery in Ploieşti, Romania

But Wikipedia has a short history of the Ploiești Tramway:

The tram in Ploiești was opened in 1987 and originally consisted of six routes. 1998 saw route 105 close, and by 2003 only lines 101 and 102 were still in operation.

The initial fleet was Timiș 2 trams made by Electrometal Timișoara and V3A trams by ITB București Main Workshops. However by the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were replaced by Tatra KT4D trams from the town of Potsdam, Germany.

Modernisation works were started around 2014 and in 2016 the tram system was reopened, with modernised and up to date infrastructure.

Digging around the TransPloieşti internet forum gave me one lead – in December 2014 tram #105 was the first of the Tatra KT4Ds to be refurbished.

The first refreshed tram emerged in October 2015, and the comparisons with Adelaide followed soon after – I found this post by Cristian P. on the SkyscraperCity forums:

Schema de culoare e copiata de la tramvaiele din Adelaide.

Which translates to:

The colour scheme is copied from the Adelaide trams.

So why did Ploieşti choose these colours? I finally found an explanation in this article on the refurbishment program by Observatorul Prahovean.

Thanks to an internal program set up at TCE Ploieşti, operator of the Ploieşti Tramways, ten trams out of a total of 24, will be repaired and repainted into the colours of Ploieşti’s coat of arms (white, blue, red) and yellow, the colours of public transport common.

Which begs another question – what does the Ploieşti’s coat of arms look like?

The coat of arms of Ploiești consist of a blue shield, loaded with two golden lions, with a red tongue, which sustain a silver, uprooted oak tree. Everything is put on a red scarf with the inscription of M.V.V. (Mihai Viteazul-Voievod)

Coat of arms of Ploiești

I can see the resemblance, but no way did Ploieşti come up with the livery on their own!

Bonus video

One thing you won’t see in Adelaide is snow – here is KT4D #075 headed through a Romanian winter.

Further reading

Tram diagrams:

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Why was this barbecue on the tram tracks?

A few months ago I came across a photo on Twitter showing a barbecue along tram tracks, with a hotplate full of sausages sizzling away on top. So where was the photo taken, and what was the story behind it?

Photo by DelegueLata on Twitter

The barbecue looked cobbled together, just sitting on top of a small set of rail wheels.

Photo by DelegueLata on Twitter

The tweet was posted on May 15, and the caption being in French was my first lead.

Donc les cheminots ont fabriqué un barbecue roulant adaptable au rails du tramway pendant leur manif. Ils sont très forts.

Which translates to:

So the rail workers made a rolling barbecue that could be adapted to the tram rails during their protest. They’re very strong.

And one of the follow up tweets pinned it down to France.

C’est le même écartement entre rails SNCF et tramway, c’est donc un outil détourné !!

It is the same distance between rails SNCF and tram, so it is a hijacked tool!

Further searching online brought me to a photo posted on Reddit on May 14, showing the same event from a different angle.

Photo by nerdastic on Reddit

Where a poster by the name of OoRenega asked:

Mais c’est à Nice ça non?

But it’s in Nice, no?

To which ElWeedoHermano replied:

Absolument, sur l’avenue Jean Médecin!

Absolutely, on Avenue Jean Médecin!

With the location pinned down, I headed over to Google Street View, where I soon found the same ‘Promod’ store seen in the background of the original photo.

As well as the ‘Bocage’ and ‘Crocs’ stores in the background of the photo posted to Reddit.

With the location and date, I was also able to find this news article by the France 3 Provence-Alpes network.

Railway workers demonstrated in the center of Nice on Monday “without train”

Laurent Verdi with AFP
Posted on 14/05/2018 at 15:15

Around 800 people, employees of SNCF and workers from other sectors demonstrated Monday in Nice against the reform of the SNCF. The demonstrators blocked a time the entrance of the town hall of the city.

Nearly 90% of the staff of the SNCF are on strike Monday in Nice according to the unions. Management also recognizes a particularly difficult day.

In Nice, a general meeting of the staff of the SNCF took place Monday morning at the initiative of the inter-union near the central station. About 400 people were present to discuss the social movement.

At the end of the general assembly, a procession of 800 people , according to the unions, marched in Nice to demonstrate against the reform of the SNCF. This procession was made up of SNCF staff and other sectors as well as political activists.

The protesters left the central station, went up Avenue Jean Médecin, to finish in front of the town hall of Nice as shown in this report by Nathalie Morin and Yannick Fournigault.

The network also posted footage of the protest.

In which I found the same tramway mounted barbecue that started my search.

Mystery solved!

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Rubbing the dog’s nose for good luck

The stations of the Moscow Metro are known for their ornate architecture, but Площадь Революции (Ploshchad Revolyutsii) station on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line has another form of artwork to offer.

Staircases lead down to the interchange passageway

A series of bronze sculptures.

Bronze sculptures along the Moscow Metro platform

For some reason the dog sculpture is the most popular.

Polished brass on the dog's nose

With every second person seeming to stop on the way past.

Rubbing the dog's nose for good luck

And give the dog a pat on the nose.

Moscow's most loved dog

Presumably thinking it will bring them good luck.

Good luck comes to those who rub the dog's nose

But a nearby rooster is also getting a similar amount of attention.

The rooster is also getting attention from Muscovites wanting some luck

But why so much attention?

«Архнадзор» explains the history of the superstition.

The tradition to touch the statue of a bronze border dog at Ploshchad Revolutsii station arose long ago, but at first it was just a student problem. One can understand: the students in the majority of their people are dark and disorderly, they remember about the exam three days before its end, when all that remains is to hope for only a miracle. And who else can pray for the miracle of the Soviet Komsomol https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komsomol – not the saints of the saints. So let the mystical patron of a lost Komsomol become a bronze animal, whose polished snout mysteriously flickers in the twilight of Moscow dungeons. In general, at first it was rather funny.

While also detailing the damage this ‘tradition’ has caused to the sculptures.

In the past ten years, the pilgrimage to the underground shrine suddenly became a nationwide action. Check for yourself: out of ten metro passengers passing along the platform, at least three will certainly attach to idols, and if someone does it in passing and in jest, then many are genuinely religiously zealous. At peak hours, the frequency of wiping each dog’s nose reaches 20-30 approaches per minute, and a queue forms.

Once the dog’s noses just glistened, and now they have completely lost the surface relief and are already beginning to lose shape. Pay attention to how finely and conscientiously the texture of these statues is worked out – the roughness of the soldiers’ overcoats, the furry dogs and everything else. The dog muzzles first lost their hair, then their noses – only holes remained, in a few more years they would not be there either. Roosters are rapidly losing feathers.

History of the sculptures

Russian language Wikipedia explains the history of the sculptures:

As Ploshchad Revolyutsii station there are 76 bronze figures depicting Soviet people, located on the pedestals in the corners of each archway. There are 20 different designs: 18 of them are repeated four times, and two – twice.

The sculptures were made at Монументскульптура (Monumentskulptura) in Leningrad under the guidance of prominent sculptor M. G. Manizer, with the team of sculptors including A.I. Denisov, A.A. Divin , A.A. Vetutnev, I. P. Ivanov, E. G. Falco, M. A. Vladimirskaya, V. A. Puzyrevsky.

And the scenes pictured:

The sculptures are arranged in chronological order from the events of October 1917 to December 1937:

Arch I

  • Revolutionary worker with rifle and grenade
  • Revolutionary soldier with a rifle

Arch II

  • Peasant in sandals, who took up arms
  • Revolutionary sailor with a gun

Arch III

Arch IV

Arch V

Arch VI

  • Birdhouse with chicken and rooster
  • Agricultural mechanic

Arch VII

  • Male student
  • Female student with a book


  • Female discus thrower
  • Footballer

Arch IX

  • Father with a child
  • Mother with a child

Closed arched passage (sculptures are only from the side of the platforms)

  • Pioneer with model airplane
  • Pioneers geographers

All the figures (except the figures of the pioneers) in order to fit into the limited vaulted volume of the arched passages are depicted either on their knees, or bent, or sitting.

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Barbed wire and guard towers protecting the bridges and tunnels of the Russian Railways

On my journey across Russia by train I passed through many tunnels and over many bridges, and noticed something strange at each one.

Crossing the River Don at the village of Донское (Donskoye)

Tall barbed wire fences preventing access beneath each major bridge.

Bridge over the River Don at Донское (Donskoye)

And guard houses at every tunnel portal.

Guardhouse for the Железнодорожный мост через реку Дон (bridge over the River Don) by the village of Донское (Donskoye)

I came across a Russian railfan forum, where the reason for these security measures was brought up.

VeschiiOleg wrote:
For example, the approach to any serious bridge is enclosed by a zone of alienation with barbed wire, signs and armed guards.

Vlad wrote:
We photograph the railway bridge, for example. The ВОХРовец is approaching us and politely is interested, but on what basis are you taking these photos?

VeschiiOleg wrote:
ВОХРовец, according to the statute of the guard service they do not have rights to leave the facility, those because of the territory he should not leave. But to call the police – easily. And if on the fence, there are inscriptions about the prohibition of filming, then they will be right.

So what are the ВОХРовец? It’s an abbreviation for Военизированная охрана – also known as Ведомственная охрана, Russian-language Wikipedia describes them as:

Specialised state departmental armed units responsible for protecting buildings, structures, vehicles, and cargo from unlawful attacks. They have the right to use military and service firearms, in addition to service dogs, handcuffs, rubber batons, and spike strips used to stop vehicles. Officials of state departmental protection (established by federal state bodies) have the right to draw up protocols on administrative offences, carry out personal searches, inspect items belonging to individuals, inspect vehicles and other procedural actions established by the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation.

The Russian Railways are protected by the «Ведомственная охрана железнодорожного транспорта Российской Федерации» (Departmental Security Service of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation) – who describe themselves as such:

The Federal State Enterprise “Departmental Protection of the Federal Agency for Railway Transport” carries out its activities on the basis of the Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation of June 27, 2009, No. 540 “On Approval of the Regulation on Departmental Protection of the Federal Agency for Railway Transport.”

The Federal State Enterprise “Departmental Protection of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation” for nearly 90 years has ensured the safety of the cargo being transported, the protection of objects and the fire safety of railway transport in the interests of the state, citizens and the company “RZhD” all along the steel highways from Kaliningrad to Sakhalin.

Today the departmental protection of the railway transport has 68,000 employees, with over 2400 objects of railway infrastructure protected, including more than 1900 most important ones.

More than 400 fire inspectors carry out fire prevention at stationary facilities and rolling stock. In constant readiness for action are 307 fire trains, including 67 specialised, with increased tactical capabilities to eliminate emergencies with dangerous goods.

They also show off their work protecting major bridges.

Photo by ‘Departmental Security Service of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation’, North Caucasus Railway branch

In addition to railway tunnels.

Photo by ‘Departmental Security Service of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation’, North Caucasus Railway branch

So why are such extensive security measures in place?

Someone on a Russian railway forum asked the same question, and were given various explanations:

Kirill N.Kravchenko
The fact that the railway bridges are so heavily guarded is understandable, no one doubts this is necessary. But I’ve always wondered: why are automobile bridges not so zealously protected?

Victor Mikhailov
In the event of an accident on the rail such as bridge collapse, the consequences will be much more significant compared to a road bridge. Any car will have time to stop seeing ahead of the obstacle. In addition road bridges are much more numerous than rail bridge, therefore it is impossible to protect all the bridges (where to find so many guards).

Novikov S.V.
It is easier for road vehicles to find a detour, or engineering troops can erect a temporary pontoon bridge. Blowing up a railway bridge means complete paralysis of the route until the bridge is completely restored.

I understand that we are talking about “big” unique bridges. Standard railway bridge across the small river should be restored in a very short space from pre-prepared sets. Actually, that’s why they are not protected.

But this Russian-language article in Евразия Вести suggests a much more likely reason – Soviet-era paranoia.

Following the October Revolution railway facilities of strategic importance were under the protection of the military department; protection of “external order, deanery and public security” was carried out by parts of the railway guard and the police. Cargoes, property and ways were under the care of watchmen, who were in full subordination to those whose good they had protected.

In order to strengthen the leadership, in March 1918 a special decree was adopted “On the centralisation of management, the protection of railways and the increase of their efficiency”. By the decree of the government of July 17 of the same year, under the People’s Commissariat of Railways (NKPS), the Office of Protection was established.

The squad on the ground included transport experts. They fought decisively against stowaways and those who tried to transport goods without payment, in addition to monitoring the efficiency of rolling stock use. It was envisaged to increase the number of protection staff to 70 thousand people.

The authorities could not tolerate chaos and theft on the railways. Looters cut the telegraph wires. Profiteers swarmed trains, like locusts. Hidden were robbers, bandits and other criminal element.

The NKPS was forced to take extreme measures. At the stations, warehouses, warehouses temporarily formed non-military protection. As for bridges and other structures not guarded by troops, as well as railway tracks, they went under the tutelage of local authorities, which formed out of brigade workers.

Some few propaganda videos

A video from the Voronezh branch to mark 95 years of railway guards, who protect the South Eastern Railway.

And from the Samara branch, who protect the railway bridge over the Volga River on the Kuybyshev Railway.


Ministry of Railways of the USSR directive No-298y «Типовые решения по оборудованию инженерными средствами охраны на искусственных сооружениях, охраняемых военизированной охраной МПС» (Typical solutions for equipping engineering facilities for protection on man-made structures protected by paramilitary protection of the Ministry of Railways) dated 2 February 1990 details the fencing standards around restricted areas.

In accordance with clause 2.1.1, the boundaries of the restricted area are protected by a barbed wire fence (tape or net) in 12 threads 2 m high. In the terrain, they are designated by warning signs 2 m high above the ground surface, installed along the fence line from the inside through every 50 meters in the enclosure of the restricted area can be arranged gates and wickets. In accordance with clause 2.2.3, on the watch posts, guided (rotary) floodlights of the PFS type (without lenses) or other narrow-beam floodlights are designed to increase the equipping of the terrain outside the restricted area. In accordance with paragraph 4.1, posts for the protection of artificial structures.

While the «По организации работы караулов ФГП ВО ЖДТ РФ» (Procedure for organising the activities of Departmental Security Service of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation) dated 21 September 2010 specifies the other security features required.

According to clause 2.4.1 of the manual a protection system is created to provide protection for the protected object, which includes: guard, posts, orders, locations and routes, surveillance sectors, engineering and technical means of protection, posts of service dogs, means and other forces. Equipment posts should provide the guard: a sufficient overview of all sections of the post and the surrounding area; sufficient illumination of the approaches to the object, its most important points; absence of lighting (blinding) by lighting systems of security equipment and guards; the possibility of centralised management of the entire lighting system or a group of fixtures, and in necessary cases, separate lamps (projectors).

Equipment of restricted areas includes: their fencing, checkpoint, warning signs, indicative and delimiting signs, a security lighting system, technical security equipment, postal communication and signalling, guard posts, defensive structures. Depending on the nature of the object and the conditions of its location, the fence is built around the perimeter of the site and the boundaries of the restricted areas. When erecting a fence, it must be taken into account that it must be rectilinear, without unnecessary bends limiting observation, not less than one and a half meters in height. To it should not adjoin any structures. In the darkness of the day, the approaches to the post and the protected object should be illuminated so that the sentry, being on the post or moving along the site of the post, was in the shade. In accordance with the established procedure, security lighting should provide illumination at the borders.

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Construction fail at the railway station

Recently I came across a viral photo on Facebook that showed a railway track dropping over the edge of a cliff, then continuing on below. So where was the photo taken, and why is the track layout so ridiculous?

I found a German-language internet forum where people were laughing at the same photo, which led me to the location pictured – Leipzig Hauptbahnhof, the central railway terminus of Leipzig, Germany.

Photo by Clic, via Wikimedia Commons

That sent me down a German-language rabbit hole, that ended on a German model railway forum.

Photo by Marc Andre

Where they were asking the same question I was.

Can somebody tell me for what this “step” in the track is for?

And a half answer.

This is the museum track of the Leipzig Hbf.

The display includes steam locomotives.

Photo by Haering Juergen, via Wikimedia Commons

As well as slightly newer electric units.

Photo by Jörgens.Mi, via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia lists the exhibits.

On the site of closed track No. 24, several historical Deutsche Reichsbahn locomotives are on display:

  • Class 52 steam locomotive 52 5448-7
  • Class SVT 137 Diesel multiple unit 137 225
  • Class E04 AC electric locomotive E04 01
  • Class E44 AC electric locomotive E44 046
  • Class E94 AC electric locomotive E94 056

But the reason for the difference in track height eluded me – the answers didn’t seem right.

Apparently the platforms were raised, because in the pictures it is quite flat. I also remember that you had to climb up to the cars and jumped down when you were a kid.

Probably on this platform, for historical reasons, it has been refurbished to show how things used to be.

Until finally – one that made sense:

Because underneath the “elevated track” is the loading dock, garbage disposal, etc.

You can see for yourself if you just turn into the parking garage, or look from outside the station hall.

I think the track was used only as a “stylistic agent” with everything looks like the other tracks.

Further reading

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Freight trams of Europe

Trams are usually used to carry passengers, but across Europe there are a handful of tramway networks that also carry freight.

Pure freight

The best known in the English speaking world is the ‘CarGoTram‘ of Dresden, Germany.

 CarGoTram auf der Löbtauer Straße in Dresden (photo by kaffeeeinstein, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by kaffeeeinstein, via Wikimedia Commons

The CarGoTram commenced operation in 2001, transporting car parts 4km to Volkswagen’s “Transparent Factory” located in central Dresden, from a road served logistics centre. Each bidirectional trams is made up of five units, with services operating along the same tracks used by passenger services.

Lesser known is the ‘Cargo-Tram‘ of Zurich, Switzerland.

Cargo-Tram outside Zürich Hauptbahnhof (photo by Sunil Prasannan, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Sunil Prasannan, via Wikimedia Commons

This service commenced operation in 2003, travelling around the city collecting rubbish and recyclables from pick up points along the way. A redired passenger trams operates the service, towing two flat wagons loaded with rubbish containers.

A different type of freight service was the ‘Güterbim‘ of Vienna, Austria.

Pressefoto Votav via Vienna City Administration

A trial service commenced operation in 2005, transporting freight to Wiener Linien’s tram depots around Vienna, such as driver’s seats, wheelsets and brake blocks. A specially converted works trailer wagon was converted to carry the freight, towed behind a workshop tram. The trial ended in 2007, but I can’t find out what happened to it.

For tramway maintenance

Converting trams to assist with track maintenance is common.

This unit is based out of the Leonova depot (№2) in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Photo by Mikhail Blyoskin, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Mikhail Blyoskin, via Wikimedia Commons

This converted tram is from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Photo by Павел Падалкин, via Wikimedia Commons

This cut down passenger tram is from Tula, Russia.

Photo by Artem Svetlov, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Artem Svetlov, via Wikimedia Commons

Blurring the line between trams and trains

But the strangest operation I found was in Kharkov, the second-largest city in Ukraine, where they once used miniature electric locomotives to move mainline freight wagons through the streets.

Photo by Константин Марков, via Харьков транспортный

The “Харьков транспортный” website describes the history of this service:

Operation of tram electric locomotives began in Kharkiv in 1932, when the tram industry received two industrial electric locomotives of the type EPU (Electric Locomotive Industrial Narrow), manufactured by the Moscow Dynamo plant. Such electric locomotives were produced in the years 1926-1938 specifically to work on tram lines and access roads of industrial enterprises and fed from a 550-V contact network.

For many years, electric locomotives were used to deliver rail cars with cargo intended for the Kharkov confectionery factory “Kharkovchanka”. The latter is located one kilometer from the tram-railway “gate” of the station “Kharkov-Passazhirsky”, opposite the former Cargo depot. Wagons were transported along Chebotarskaya Street, where electric locomotives and passenger trams for a long time worked side by side, practically not interfering with each other.

In the second half of the 1990s, due to the fact that such carriages heavily worn out the rails and created problems for the passenger movement, a certain period of time (from 12:00 to 13:00 on weekdays) was allocated, when the passenger cars were sent to a detour along Kotlov street and a pier on Krasnoarmeiskaya street, and electric locomotives could quickly and unhindered to proceed with cargo. After the transportation was over, the condition of the route was checked and the passenger trams again followed their route.

In July 2001, the tram branch along the Chebotarskaya street was closed to the passenger traffic, after which it was regularly used only to deliver wagons to the confectionery factory. In 2009, the factory abandoned the services of “Gorelectrotrans”. The remaining “no-business” electric locomotives were put off from operation and relocated to the territory of the Saltovskaya tram depot. A few years later these cars were decommissioned.

Similar operations also occurred in other cities across the former Soviet Union, with Трамвайно-железнодорожный гейт (tram-rail gate) being the unofficial Russian langauge term for the junction of the tram and rail networks.

And some historical examples

Saint Petersburg, Russia operated a large network of freight trams until 1997.

Photo via Museum of Electrical Transport, Saint Petersburg

Here’s a quick summary via Russian language Wikipedia.

Petrograd was the first city in Russia where freight electric transport was established using trams, following the construction laid in the fall of 1914 to the Warsaw freight station. The second cargo branch in 1915 connected the warehouses in Badaevsky to Zabalkansky Prospekt. These early freight trams consisted of two platforms attached to a motorised tramcar that acted as a locomotive. Load capacity of each platform was 4 tons. By the end of 1921, the total length of the special cargo way had reached 13 km, and the number of 4-ton cargo platforms had increased by another 100. The average annual volume of traffic in 1918-1921. was about 250 thousand tons.

The place of 4-ton platforms of pre-revolutionary times began to come 10-ton. Thanks to this, in 1930, 40 tram freight trains carried 491.6 thousand tons of cargo. By 1933, the length of its tracks had almost doubled, reaching 5.9 km, including 3.6 km of tramways and 2.3 km of railways.

By 1940 the freight tram fleet consisted of 67 motor and 177 towed cargo platforms. The number of tram per route reached 43, each with a payload of at least 30 tons. In addition to 10-ton wagons, new 12 and 15 tons capacity wagons were entered service.

In 1950, tram trucking reached 1942.7 thousand tons, and in subsequent years remained at the same level. The cargo tram depot in 1956 daily issued on the line 47 trains, which served more than 20 enterprises and organisations of Leningrad. The amount of work done by the park for this year amounted to 40 thousand railway cars.

The maintenance of enterprises by freight trams was discontinued in 1997. The last serviced enterprise was Sevkabel , which has a base on the right bank of the Neva on the territory of the Neva freight station.

Moscow also had a freight tram system, but it was abandoned much earlier.

Photo via retromap.ru

Again, a quick summary via Russian language Wikipedia.

Cargo trams operated over the Moscow tram network from 1915 to 1972. The route was completed in May 1915 from the railway station of the Paveletsky railway station to the “Business Yard” beside Varvarsky Gate.

From 1916 to 1919, the number of freight cars grew from 51 to 167 units. During 1918, 15 motor and 24 trailer cars were converted into freight ones. In 1919, about 17 km of new routes were laid for freight traffic, and followed in 1920 by another 10 km, but from the middle of 1921 the volume of traffic began to decrease in connection with the transition to road transport.

At the end of 1931 there were 139 freight cars in the Moscow tram. The cars were used for the largest construction projects: the Moscow Metro and the Palace of Soviets. Specially constructed trains-trailers with the carrying capacity of 50 tons were used for transportation of metal trusses for the construction of the Crimean Bridge, the Bolshoy Krasnokholmsky Bridge, and the Great Ustyinsky Bridge.

The heyday of the freight tram came during the Great Patriotic War , when practically all trucks were mobilized to the front, by 1942 the total length of purely freight branches was 38 km.

After the end of the war, the volume of traffic began to decline sharply – in 1953 they became seven times less than in 1945. In 1951, 9.3 km of cargo branches were dismantled. Some revival occurred in 1954-1955, when it was decided to use freight trams on housing construction. In 1956, 127 freight cars were on the inventory, in 1960 – 67, in 1966 – 30, and in 1971 – only 7 wagons.

In 1972, the freight tram was officially discontinued – the last 7 cars, which were already used only for the needs of the tram network, were transferred from freight to service trams.


The German term for ‘freight tram’ is Güterstraßenbahn – German-language Wikipedia has a summary of former operations in western Europe.

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