What do Russians finance at payday lenders?

Following on from a previous post on a clever advertisement from a payday lender in Nizhny Novgorod, this advert from ТФБ-Займъ (TFB-Zaim) has another oddball list of reasons to borrow money at exorbitant interest rates.

Another advertisement for a payday lender on the Nizhny Novgorod Metro

I can understand car repairs, new tires and possibly painting the house. But furniture and gifts are on shakier ground – let alone teeth whitening!

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Roadside billboards in Russia

You’ve got to hand it to Russia – decades of communism haven’t affected their ability to get people to buy useless crap, if these billboards along the Volga River in Nizhny Novgorod are anything to go by.

More roadside billboards in Russia

‘High returns’ from «Сбербанк» (Sberbank).

More roadside billboards

Credit cards from «Райффайзенбанк» (Raiffeisenbank).

Roadside billboards beside the Volga River

And ice skates at «реал,-Гипермаркет» (Real Hypermarket).

Only 444 roubles for ice skates? Why not?

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‘Exit via the gift shop’ at the Church of the Savior on Blood

Exiting via the gift shop is something you expect to do at a museum – but what about at a church? However when I paid a visit to the Church of the Savior on Blood in Saint Petersburg, that is exactly what happened.

South elevation of the church

The church is best known for it’s mosaics – over 7500 square meters worth.

Central mosiac covers the floor

Stretching from floor to ceiling.

Central mosaic with the iconostasis (wall of icons and religious paintings)

Souvenir stalls line the entrance to the church.

Souvenir stalls outside the church, beside Mikhailovsky Garden

But the gift shop inside the church itself was what really surprised me.

Souvenirs for sale in the gift shop

But maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised, given the history of the building.

On October 30, 1930, the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee decided to close the church. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness.

After the war, the church was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.

In July 1970, management of the church passed to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and it was used as a museum. The proceeds from the Cathedral funded the restoration of the church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship.

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«Саквояж СВ» – inhouse magazine of the Russian Railways

Inflight magazines are a common sight whenever you fly, but the Russian Railways also have give their passengers something to read on long train journeys – inhouse magazine «Саквояж СВ».

РЖД branded teaset, and two copies of their inhouse magazine  «Саквояж СВ»

«Саквояж» is the Russian word for a leather travel bag – an related to what in the west is called a ‘carpet bag‘.

The «ЖД Медиа» (Railway Media) describes the magazine as such.

“Саквояж СВ” is the first in the country ground-based full-color full-fledged on-board magazine, distributed on the trains of OJSC “RZD”. Magazine Саквояж СВ is distributed in all first class carriages (individual copies for each passenger), as well as sleeping cars (one copy per table) of RZD long-distance trains. It is a bright monthly publication in the style of life-style and covers all aspects of life. The magazine allows you to waste time traveling and find useful information for passengers.

Circulation: about 400,000 copies
Published: monthly

Columns of leading journalists

Author’s columns set the style for the whole magazine. Leading Russian and foreign journalists share their thoughts with the readers about the most important issues of the present.

The most interesting novelties

Famous music journalists, film critics, and also commentators of the world of engineering and automotive industry talk about the latest releases and novelties.

Travel, city and country materials

Stories about the most famous railway stations and stations, detailed guides to cities and countries. Qualitative photo-reports about life in Russia and abroad.

Biographies of celebrities

The life path of famous people with all the turns, ups and downs. Stories about compatriots who succeeded abroad. Collections of citations of celebrities of the past.

Cognitive and popular science materials

Everything is new from the world of science and technology. Anything that will seriously change our life in the future and changed it in the past.


Actual characters of our time – filmmakers, actors, musicians, writers and politicians – talk with correspondents of the magazine “Саквояж СВ”.


Stories of famous writers, written specifically for the magazine “Саквояж СВ”.

The Russian Railways also publishes ‘Sapsan’ magazine – “The official journal of the Sapsan high speed train”.


Online version of the magazine.

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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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