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

Posted in Trains | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Animal themed trains of Europe

Trains named for cute animals – during my time in Europe, I found two rail operators who did just that.

Double decked CityShuttle 'Wiesel' train operated by ÖBB departs the station with the loco on the rear

The first was the weasel on the side of ÖBB ‘CityShuttle’ trains in Vienna, Austria. From German language Wikipedia:

The ÖBB Nahverkehrs-Doppelstockwagen (commuter double-deck cars) are a double-decker commuter carriages were built in 1995 and are the backbone of transport in the eastern region of Austria. The province of Lower Austria decided to provide the ÖBB with financial support for the purchase of the first series of double-carriages. In return all vehicles of this series were equipped with a “weasel” logo.

'Wiesel' logo on a ÖBB double deck commuter carriage
Photo by ÖBB399, via Wikimedia Commons

While I found a dog on the side of a train south of Moscow, Russia.

«рэкс» (Rex) train stabled in the yard at Домодедово (Domodedovo)

From Russian language Wikipedia:

«рэкс» (REX: Region Express) is a company operating commuter express trains in the Moscow Region, established by the Central Suburban Passenger Company and Aeroexpress in 2011.

And from a article on rail operator Aeroexpress (Russian language):

The high-speed trains had a logo – a dog, as well as a corporate colour – blue. According to the designers, a new visual solution will allow the brand to break away from the stereotype of “green elektrichka” (electric trains).

Photo via

Posted in Trains | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Germany’s one woman freight railway

Across Germany there are many small rail freight operators, but there are none smaller than ‘Rail 4U’ – a one-woman operation founded by Barbara Pirch in 2001.

Photo by Rail 4U

In 2013 public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk covered her railway company (via Google Translate):

It is a lonely ride over rails with a steel monster, an old electric locomotive 194, built in 1954 – run by a woman. Barbara Pirch serves the locomotive with maximum physical performance. “Nothing is automatic here, everything runs manually.” Barbara Pirch from Willich near Düsseldorf owns Germany’s smallest railway company and is an absolute rarity here. With its two old electric locomotives, it transports freight wagons. It drives so-called ad hoc assignments for its customers throughout Germany, transporting cars, diesel, wood, gases or coal.

Your life is one on call, without comfort and planning security. Rarely does she know what the day brings. She sees no reason to deny the old locomotives just because they are old. The 46-year-old, who used to be a locomotive driver for the Deutsche Bundesbahn, bought her two locomotives in 2008. “This is real manual work and not a comparison to the modern ICE,” says the trained fitter, who repairs the locomotives herself. “The old electric locomotives are technically simple reliable and a modern locomotive would not irritate me”.

Their locomotives from the Reichsbahn period also make the hearts of many railway enthusiasts beat faster – but romanticism has less to do with their operations, says Pirch. “It’s a tough business on the rail and there is a big competition in freight transport.” It is true that freight transport by truck is still on the road, but it also grew by 5.4 percent in the German rail network in 2011. Since 1994, the rail network has also been open to private companies, with around 7,000 locomotives in operation in Germany, and currently some 400 railway companies exist.

Spiegel TV has also interviewed Barbara.

The company has two Deutsche Reichsbahn Class E 94 heavy electric freight locomotives – 194 158 and 194 178.

194 178-0 von Rail 4U mit einem Güterzug auf der Dillstrecke bei Sinn. (photo by Johannes Martin Conrad)
Photo by Johannes Martin Conrad, via Wikimedia Commons

  • 194 158 was built in 1944. In 1998 the locomotive was acquired by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Historische Eisenbahnfahrzeuge eV railway preservation group, then purchased by Rail 4U in 2001. 90 km/h top speed, 3090 kW power output
  • 194 580 was built in 1955 and has been in use since 2010 for Rail 4U. It was painted in the former blue / beige livery of the Deutsche Bundesbahn and received the operating number of 194 178, the only original painted in this colour variant, nicknamed “Blue Mauritius”. It has been out of service since June 2013 due accident damage. 100 km/h top speed, 4440 kW power output

Between 1992 and 2008 Barbara also owned DB Class V200.1 diesel locomotive 221 135.

Sources (all German language)

Posted in Trains | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Funding Russia’s suburban commuter train routes

I’ve written about the three tiers of Russian rail service before – and today I am looking at the middle tier of suburban trains. Known as электри́чка (Elektrichka), they run along tracks shared with freight and long distance passenger services, and stop at all stations along the way. Reliant on government funding to run, recent funding cutbacks have seen the withdrawal of these services to many remote villages, stranding residents.

Class ЭР2Т (ER2T) electric multiple unit ЭР2Т-7129 departs for central Moscow

Elektrichka services have a long history in the former Soviet Union, running out of big cities such as Moscow to nearby commuter towns and neighbouring satellite cities, as well as linking other smaller destinations, on journeys up to a few hours in duration.

електри́чка (suburban electrical multiple unit) train outside the city of Ясинувата (Yasynuvata)

As well as stopping at major stations served by long distance trains, elektrichkas also stop at simple platforms in isolated areas known as “stopping places” (Russian: Остановочный пункт). Often shorter than the length of the train and located, these platforms often lack permanent staff or lighting.

Railway halt at Сосонка, Ukraine

In 2016 Russia Beyond the Headlines, a part of the State owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, published a piece on the funding crisis facing suburban services.

Suburban lines axed as local governments hit with new subsidy burden
Nikolai Shevchenko
November 5, 2016

Russia’s vast distances put demands on transport links unknown in many other parts of the world, giving railways unprecedented importance.

But rail links are costly to build and maintain. In 2014, the federal government transferred the burden of subsidizing suburban trains to local authorities or cut services. Deprived of essential links, many local people took direct action, barricading lines to stop other services running and triggering nationwide headlines. In a remote Siberian village in the Lake Baikal region, Russia’s Trans-Siberian service came under threat as residents staged protests aimed at restoring local services. Many of these disputes were resolved, but the challenge to local rail services in Russia remains.

Unconditional obligation

The current conflict over regional rail links, which have long been regarded as a transport network vital to national cohesion, is rooted in a complex system of financial and management relations.

Suburban trains, as well as all other passenger trains in Russia, belong to Russian Railways (RZD), which is one of the largest transport companies in the world and the biggest in Russia. RZD has the responsibility of operating suburban railway lines despite their unprofitability. The financial losses suffered by suburban electric services are the result of a federal policy that caps fares nationwide, keeping down prices for commuters across the country. Russian Railways has long been compensated from central government coffers for the losses that accrue.

In 2014, however, the federal government passed a law transferring the obligation to compensate Russian Railways to local governments, which effectively switched the financial burden from Moscow to the regions. From that moment on, thousands of people throughout Russia faced a threat to what for many was their only available means of transport. Lacking resources to subsidize the railway operator on the level set by Moscow, regional governments sought to cut costly routes.

Railway wars

“Since the beginning of this year [2014], 150 commuter train routes have been cut. Most often these places lack even country roads and whole villages cease to exist along with the electric trains,” wrote Novaya Gazeta correspondent Yelena Racheva in March 2014, after she had spent a week in Dolzhitsy, a remote village in the Pskov Region, which had been cut off from all the other settlements in the region.

The situation has only worsened since then. In 2015 Russian Railways planned to cut a further 300 commuter trains in a total of 39 regions, according to a report by RBK. Regional governments supported the decision, attempting to replace the trains with bus routes. The federal government intervened in 2015 and the closed routes were reopened. However, the future of suburban lines remains unclear.

Posted in Trains | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Shower and laundry trains for the Russian army

Sitting, dining and sleeping carriages are a common sight around the world. But in Russia the army operates a special type of train – the банно-прачечный дезинфекционный поезд (БПДП). Translated to English, that is the “bath and laundry disinfection train” or “bath on wheels”.

Photo from Russian newspaper Вечерняя Москва (Vechernyaya Moskva)

The first “bath on wheels” was deployed to the railways of Russia in 1904, with 38 such trains in service by the time of the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. A handful of bath trains remained in service throughout the Cold War and survived the demise of the USSR, being deployed to Chechnya in 1994, as well as the Second Chechen War in 1999, still with steam locomotives in tow to provide the hot water!

Work to build a modern bath train commenced in the early 2000s at the Tver Carriage Works, entering service in late 2005 – the steam locomotive retired, with a diesel boiler to provide an autonomous source of steam.

Photo via the Tver Carriage Works website

The ВПД «вагон помывочно-дезинфекционный» (washing disinfection carriage) features showers, a change room, medical room, and even a hairdresser!


1 – ventilation unit
2 – shelf
3 – hanger
4 – locker
5 – water supply network
6 – steam boiler
7 – condenser tank
8 – vestibule
9 – hairdresser 10 – heating network
11 – cloakroom
12 – disinfection room
13 – shower room
14 – panel
15 – boiler room
16 – cleaning equipment
17 – cloakroom
18 – boiler

Technical characteristics of the car

Tare weight of the car
56.5 tonnes


Maximum speed
120 km / h

Self-contained steam supply
(Steam boiler on diesel fuel with a capacity of 500 kg steam per hour)

Number of places in the shower room and changing rooms: 15

Number of hairdressers: 1

While the ВП «вагон-прачечная» (laundry carriage) contains the equipment for washing, drying and ironing an army’s uniforms.


1 – ventilation unit
2 – exhaust fan
3 – air duct
4 – replaceable filters
5 – laundry rack
6 – disinfection burglar
7 – water heating
8 – washbasin
9 – sewing machine
10 – clothes rack
with ironing table
11 – transformer
12 – vestibule
13 – panel panel
14 – shield of carload consumers
15 – storage area for clean linen
16 – Laundry and disinfection section
17 – Drying ironing machine
18 – Drying machine
19 – Washing washing machine
20 – Scale
21 – Dirty laundry storage area
22 – Steam boiler
23 – Steam supply section
24 – Condenser tank
25 – Compressor
26 – Module compartment
27 – corridor
28 – folding table
29 – folding seat
30 – fire extinguisher
31 – board folding ironing

Tare weight of the car
57.5 tonnes

Maximum speed
120 km / h

Self-contained steam supply
(Steam boiler on diesel fuel with a capacity of 500 kg steam per hour)

Washing capacity of dry laundry
50 kg / hour

Storage of laundry
– 1.625 tonnes dirty
– 1.9 tonnes clean

Power consumed by the car
60 kW

This 2004 article from the «Независимое военное обозрение» (Independent Military Review) section of Russian newspaper «Независимая газета» (Nezavisimaya Gazeta) has the full story on the operation of the bath train.

Bath on Wheels
Евгений Лисанов
20 August 2004

The village of Petrovsk, that in the Yaroslavl region, is a place in its own way remarkable. Here, in the railway dead-end of the 1005th Central Warehouse of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, there is an unusual train – the 12th bath and laundry disinfection train (BCPP) – nicknamed “Bath on Wheels”.

The BAPP is a unique phenomenon in the Armed Forces. There are no analogues in any army of the world. But domestic military strategists realised its importance for the defence capability of the country at the beginning of the last century. As told in the Military Medical Museum of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, for the first time the train-bath appeared in Russia in 1904 and was intended for the needs of the Red Cross. Then it consisted of four cars: laundries with hand washing machines and disinfection chambers.

During the Russo-Japanese campaign, the mobile sauna served hospitals and infirmaries in the Far East. Although the staff was small – 14 people, the amount of work impressed: for 10 hours processed up to 400 kg of laundry, which, by the standards of that time, was quite a lot. The bath-laundry train was also actively used during the First World War.

Over time, the Armed Forces’ need for bath and laundry compounds only increased. If there were only 9 of them before the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Army, in the initial period of the war (1941-1942) the number soared to 100. Usually these convoys were located in the districts of the railway distribution stations of the fronts, where they were attached to the sanitary checkpoints.

In comparison with their predecessors, their structure also somewhat changed. In addition to the bath-disinfection department and laundry, the train got auxiliary carriages. As a result, it markedly lengthened. So, the bath-disinfection department included 4 wagons: changing room, shower room, disinfection room, dressing room. One of the wagons was equipped with two steam-formalin disinfectors for 60 sets of uniforms. Mechanical equipment was installed in four laundry cars. Two water tanks, a power plant with a metalwork shop, a kitchen, a dining room, a warehouse and a wagon for the personal train were included in the auxiliary. As a result, its performance has significantly increased. In an hour, up to 100 people could go through a full sanitization.


After the war, the volume of bath and laundry jobs fell slightly. However, mobile baths have not been forgotten. Furthermore. They were modified somewhat. The current BAPPs consist of several segments. The administrative-economic group includes a wagon-staff, a wagon-warehouse, a dining car, water tanks, a wagon-power station, a hostel car.

The main group is bath-disinfection. These are wagons-sanpropusniki, a disinfection car, a shower room and a cloakroom car. The laundry group includes storage wagons with clean and dirty laundry, laundry facilities, a dryer and an ironing car. In total, the entire economy is housed in 19 wagons, which are fueled by steam from the locomotive attached for the duration of the operation.

The scheme of washing personnel, sanitizing laundry, developed many years ago, is still valid today. Here’s how it happens. A group of 30-40 people enters the sanitary checkpoint, hangs clothes on hangers, and the underwear leaves on the floor. While the staff is washed, the attire in the bath collects linen and carries it to a warehouse of dirty clothes. The scheme of changing clothes is built in such a way that the clean flows do not intersect with the dirty, explained in the Central Glove Directorate of the Ministry of Defense. After a shower, soldiers receive clean linen from the exchange fund. For everything about everything – an hour.

An integral attribute during washing is the medical officer, who determines the degree of contamination of the laundry. If it lodged, for example, lice, then it is placed in the disinfection room for disinfection.


Baths on wheels were also useful in peaceful conditions. The fate of the 12th BAPP, which is commanded by Major Sergei Zemlyansky, is noteworthy. From 1985 to 1989 he was stationed at Baikonur, servicing military builders, guard duty. After overhauling, he was again thrown to the responsible site. During the earthquake in Armenia he settled in Leninakan. His clients were servicemen, civilians.

In the 91st he again went to repair in Vologda. And a year later I went to a new place of registration in the village of Petrovsk.

A new twist on the fate of the 12th occurred in late 1994. Then in the North Caucasus, only notorious events unfolded. It should be noted that almost simultaneously with him, the third BAPP went to the rebellious republic. But for some reason the boss was left to give to him. So Zemlyansky had to manage two compositions at once. The fighting weekdays of the latter began with an unpleasant curiosity.

At the station Prohladnaya (Kabardino-Balkaria), the composition was established at a dead end. But the angle of inclination of the railway branch, as it turned out, did not allow draining the water from the car. Over time, it accumulated in such a volume that it nearly paralyzed the work of the whole train. They decided to weld a hole in the floor of the ill-fated car. During the welding work, the heater was lit. So the soldiers put out the fire, being … knee-deep in the water.

No less exotic vicissitudes occurred with the 12th train. In February 1995 he arrived in Ingushetia to serve refugees from Chechnya. But the comic situation was that the local population simply did not get the amount of laundry necessary for the full functioning of the bath on the wheels. Yes, and people: once or twice and obchelsya. So here he did not stay long, he headed for Chechnya.

At station Chervlennaya subordinates of Captain Zemlyansky, perhaps, for the first time felt the “charms” of wartime.

Sergey Valeryevich recalls:

– Somehow from a passing train some “joker” launched an illumination rocket, which landed in a pit with fuel oil. The flame enveloped the locomotive, then the tank with water flashed. It was not possible to save the tents with dirty laundry.

They extinguished the fire with the whole world: both the personnel and the guard of the station. And the local population did not remain aloof. And only after two hours managed to curb the raging elements. “It’s good that we pulled the car with fuel oil on time, and then …”, smiled the blue-eyed front-runner.

It so happened that on Chervlenaya the 12th performed a certain humanitarian mission. Chefs worked as chefs in agreement with the leadership of the North Caucasian railway in the dining-dining room. So the relationship with the local population quickly formed a warm, even friendly.

In Chechnya, the 12th worked for six months. The command came to the conclusion that it is no longer worth keeping two trains in the region. And in July 1995 he anchored and went to the point of permanent deployment. And Major Zemlyansky, having taken him to Petrovsk, returned, having accepted the leadership of the 3rd.

The summer of 1996 turned out to be disturbing. Especially “hot” was in August. The militants then launched an attack on the headquarters of the federal forces in Khankala. Banno-laundry train was also delivered. During the bombardment, several grenades exploded under the wagons. Three people were injured. Victims could have been more, Major Zemlyansky believes, if the grenades got into wagons with people. While the “turntables”, stiffen accurately over the train, fired back, Sergey’s subordinates, biting into the ground, digging additional trenches. The attack was repulsed. As a reminder of that terrible incident in the carpet of the injured car, bullet holes and grenade splinters are still visible.

Not so long ago, the 27th bath and laundry train operated at the location of the federal group in Khankala, arrived here at the very beginning of the second Chechen campaign. And … in the end he rested, as they say, in a Bose – he was written off on old age.


Repair of existing bath and laundry trains, Major Zemlyansky is convinced, is economically inexpedient. Wagons made in the middle of the last century, developed their resource twice, morally obsolete and do not meet modern requirements. And the Chechen experience has revealed a number of fundamental shortcomings.

“When the 12th was withdrawn from Chechnya,” continues Sergei Valerevich, “serious problems arose with the wagons of the pre-war model, the operation of which was banned by the Ministry of Railways from the year 1995.

At the station, the fish running gear of one of them went out of order. The chief of the road section arrested him. So the ill-fated car had to be left at the station. Already in part, it was decided that it does not make sense to repair it.

They are also disadvantageous from the ecological point of view. For a day, as experience of military operations in Chechnya has shown, 200-250 tons of waste water were collected, and there is no suitable reservoir. Where to put it? I had to pour directly under the cars. Because of this, there were constant frictions with environmentalists.

But the most important drawback is the locomotive. At the dawn of the emergence of bath-laundry trains, it was not only a source of steam, but also a draft force of the whole composition. Over time, the railway industry stopped the production of not only locomotives, but also spare parts for them. They remained only in the bath and laundry farm of the Armed Forces. The most “young” now more than half a century, the rest – even older. For a long time, they have not produced a special refractory brick for furnaces. Instead, it uses chamotte, which does not withstand the thermal loads from burning fuel oil. And instead of the required month the locomotive can only work for a week. In Chechnya, while one was under repair, another worked.

But it’s too early to send the bath-laundry trains to the scrap, Zemlyansky is convinced. To date, the BAPP is the only mobile facility with tanks capable of holding 100 tons of water. This allows uninterrupted functioning of the entire bath and laundry facilities during the half-day.

Another plus. Located on the railway tracks, the train works in close cooperation with the services of the Ministry of Railways. This allows you to make various repairs in specialized workshops. For example, rewinding electric motors, turning the shafts to pumps, washing machines. In the field, these and other repairs can not be done – stationary ones are needed.

Now the Tver Rail Carriage Plant is developing a new generation train – BPDM-2000. They will include a dry-cleaning car, a sewage treatment car. But the locomotive will disappear. The cars are equipped with an autonomous source of steam – a KPP-500 boiler operating on diesel fuel. By the way, in the farm Zemlyansky already has several experimental cars of a new model. To date, 9 have been developed, and the whole composition will consist of 15. In the fourth quarter of next year, it is planned to conduct state tests of such a train with its subsequent adoption into service.

Further reading

All of the below is in Russian:

Posted in Trains | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Moving a nuclear reactor by rail

Plenty of freight is moved by rail, but something you don’t expect to see being moved by train is a nuclear reactor. But in 2016 it did – when the 330 tonne, 13-metre high and 4.5 meters diameter nuclear reactor vessel was transported from the Atommash plant in Volgodonsk, Russia to the under construction Belarusian nuclear power plant.

Photo via


Reactor vessel delivered to Belarusian nuclear power plant construction site

MINSK, 24 December (BelTA) – The reactor vessel for the first power-generating unit was delivered to the construction site of the Belarusian nuclear power plant on 24 December. Its installation will begin in 2016, BelTA has learned.

The reactor vessel was made by the Volgodonsk-based branch Atommash of the Russian company AEM Technologies. This piece of equipment weighs over 330 tonnes. It is 13 meters high, with the diameter as large as 4.5 meters. The reactor is a vertical cylinder with an elliptical bottom. The reactor core and the internal components will be located inside.

The manufacturer sent the product on its way on 14 October. Combined means of transportation were used to deliver the piece of equipment to the nuclear power plant. Heavy trucks transported it from the manufacturer to the Tsimlyansk water reservoir first. From there the vessel was shipped by river to Veliky Novgorod. A specialized transporter was then utilized to deliver the reactor vessel by rail to the construction site.

The manufacturing of the reactor vessel for the second power-generating unit continues. It is expected to arrive in Belarus in 2017. On the whole, AEM Technologies will make over 50 kinds of equipment for the Belarusian nuclear power plant. A total of over 4,000 tonnes of equipment will be made and shipped in 2013-2017.

The Belarusian nuclear power plant is a project to build an AES-2006 type nuclear power plant 18km away from Ostrovets, Grodno Oblast. The Belarusian nuclear power plant will have two power-generating units with the total output capacity of up to 2,400MW (2×1,200MW). In line with the general contract for building the nuclear power plant the first power-generating unit is scheduled for commissioning in 2018, with the second one to go online in 2020.

The YouTube channel for Белорусская АЭС features a video of the reactor vessel being moved by rail:

While Mikhail Krivyy of Velikiy Novgorod captured the transfer of the reactor vessel from barge to road, and then to rail.

Mikhail Krivyy also has a photo essay covering the transfer on his website:

The main object of transportation was the VVER-1200 nuclear reactor, manufactured at the Atommash plant in Volgodonsk. Its weight is about 340 tons with a volume of 348 m³. The reactor body resembles a cylinder and has a displaced center of gravity.

Cargoes of this volume are almost impossible to transport on ordinary roads. A large weight and volume requires the reinforcement of the pavement along the entire route. Even subterranean engineering communications and power lines that are inconspicuous to a simple sight cause problems. And bridges and overpasses are often an insurmountable obstacle for such cargo.

It’s easier when transporting by rail. But even here it is necessary to prepare the infrastructure and adjust the train schedule. On the way, traffic lights, signs, contact network supports and other infrastructure elements can be temporarily dismantled. The schedule changes not only for passing trains, but also oncoming ones.

The easiest way is to transport such goods on water. Even on a small barge, the reactor core does not look bulky.

As a result, it was decided to transport the reactor vessel through Veliky Novgorod. From Volgodonsk to the Volga along the Volga-Don canal. Further upstream, to the Rybinsk Reservoir. Then along the Volga-Baltic waterway to the Ladoga Lake. From there, along the Volkhov River to Veliky Novgorod.

At the plant, the reactor core was loaded onto a Cometto self-propelled modular transporter. In turn, the conveyor along with the reactor were loaded onto a barge. From Veliky Novgorod to the construction site of the Belarusian NPP the reactor was transported along lightly trafficked single-track non-electrified lines.

The railway wagon used to move the reactor is known as Schnabel car – this particular example had 32 axles with a carrying capacity of 500 tonnes – type ТСЧ-500М, model 14-Т001.


Posted in Trains | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s three tiers of rail services

Historically the USSR was served by three tiers of rail services: metro, suburban, and long distance. Each operated with a distinct style of rolling stock, even 20 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, these three families of train are still visible today across Russia.

Moscow Metro train paralleling the mainline railway outside Киевский вокзал (Kievskiy vokzal)


The first tier of rail service is the metro. These systems run right into the centre of cities, often via underground tunnels, with frequent services carrying large numbers of passengers, the trains having many doors per carriage, lots of standing room, and few seats.

Arriving train at a suburban Moscow Metro station

Only the largest cities in the Soviet Union received metro systems: Moscow and Saint Petersburg being the best known. However smaller systems were also built in the Russian cities of Nizhny Novgorod (1985), Novosibirsk (1986), Samara (1987), Yekaterinburg (1991) and Kazan (2005). Ukraine didn’t miss out: Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Kryvyi Rih received networks; as did Tbilisi in Georgia, Yerevan in Armenia, Baki in Azerbaijan, and Minsk in Belarus

But despite their geographical separation, these metro system all shared two aspects – a common railway station design philosophy, and the blue electric multiple unit trains built by Metrowagonmash and powered by the 3rd rail.


The second tier of rail service is the электри́чка (Elektrichka) – suburban electric train. These trains run at ground level along tracks shared with freight and long distance passenger services, and stopping all stations along the way.

Type ЭР9ПК (ER9PK) electric multiple unit ЭР9ПК 323

Elektrichka services can be found all over the former Soviet Union, running out of big cities such as Moscow to nearby commuter towns and neighbouring satellite cities, as well as linking other smaller destinations, on journeys up to a few hours in duration.

Thousands of elektrichka were built by the Rīgas Vagonbūves Rūpnīca in Latvia, with their various ЭР (электропоезд рижский) series trains still in service today. Each is powered by overhead wires, trains being made up of up to 14 motor and trailer carriages, with steps giving access from low level platforms, with three-across bench seating being provided to passengers.

Long distance

Finally, we have long distance trains. These services link major cities together, with journeys ranging a few hours, up to extended odysseys like the 45 hour long ride from Sochi to St Petersburg or the 9298 kilometre long Trans Siberian.

ЧС4T (ChS4T) electric locomotive ЧС4T 317 with a passenger train

These trains are made up of a mix of sleeping, sitting and dining cars; hauled by either electric or diesel locomotives, depending on the route being travelled. Three classes of sleeping carriage are avilable spalny vagon, kupé and platskartny (2-berth, 4-berth, and open bunk) with express services between major cities are allocated the newest, most luxurious rolling stock, while slower trains to lesser destinations being allocated older ‘hand me down’ carriages.

And the exceptions

As with anything, there are always exceptions: various narrow gauge railways used their own passenger carriages, while a range of Дизельные автомотрисы (diesel railcar) operated suburban services on non-electrified routes.

Into the modern era

The past decade has seen the Russian Railways modernise their network, with new trains usurping the existing long distance and suburban fleets:

  • Sapsan trains link Moscow and Saint Petersburg,
  • Allegro trains link Helsinki and St. Petersburg,
  • Strizh are a high speed locomotive hauled long distance train, and
  • Lastochka trains are a modern version of the elektrichka.
Posted in Trains | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russian strip clubs

On my travels across Russia I stumbled upon many things – strip clubs being one of them.

Floating on the River Neva, a strip club called 'Tutsi'

'Body Body' strip club in the Russian city of Sochi

Adverts for a 'Gentleman's Club' in the Russian city of Sochi

This sex shop featured sperm in their logo.

'Xtaz Sex Shop' - with sperm in their logo!

But this sign for ‘VD One’ was just a clothing store.

Unfortunately named store 'VD One' in Kiev

Posted in Everyday life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Riding the Kiev Funicular

Funicular railways seem to be quite common in European cities, and the Ukranian capital is no different. The Kiev Funicular is a 238 meter long railway opened in 1905 that links the top and bottom of a hill.

Bottom station of the Kiev Funicular

Here is the bottom station.

'П' (right) car waiting at the bottom station

A ticket office and barriers control access.

Ticket office and barriers at the bottom station

The track heads straight up the hill.

Waiting for the bottom station for the next train

The cars are marked ‘Λ’ (left) and ‘П’ (right).

'П' (right) car heads back up the hill

Passing each other at the central crossing loop.

'Λ' and 'П' cars pass at the central crossing loop

A drivers console is located each each end – this is the downhill cab.

Drivers console in the 'downhill' end cab

Each carriage has a stepped passenger saloon.

Inside the stepped passenger saloon of a carriage

The stations also having stepped platforms.

'Λ' (left) car stopped at the upper station


A model of the Kiev Funicular is on display at the upper station.

Model of the Kiev Funicular on display at the upper station

Posted in Tourism, Trains | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Newsagents: then and now

Here’s a traditional newsstand on the Kiev Metro.

Entrance to Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Майдан Незалежності) station

And the modern equivalent in Moscow – a bank of newspaper vending machines.

Newspaper and magazine vending machines on the Moscow Metro

Given how the internet has decimated traditional print media, how long until even the vending machines disappear?

Posted in Everyday life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment