Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

Latvia to Poland via Belarus & Ukraine – September/October 2016

Having put the time aside to do a three-week trip in eastern Europe it wasn’t until well into planning it that it was decided to cut it back and have a week in the California sunshine at the end of it; mainly because the person I was originally planning to go with could make it and I didn’t fancy 3 weeks in eastern Europe on my own as Autumn was beginning to set in.

Planning the trip was as much an adventure as the trip ended up being itself and having had no previous experience at all anywhere beyond Romania, Poland or Bulgaria it was hard getting used to the geography let alone the what worked what and where scenario! It took me a good 6 months to get my head around Belarus and the Ukraine but once I’d figured it all out things became a lot easier and with both countries having online ticket booking systems it turned out to be a breeze getting that part of the trip sorted; the Belarus visa on the other hand was a bit more problematic!

I’d originally planned to start in Riga, Latvia, head into Belarus, then go into Vilnius, Lithuania, before heading back through Belarus to get into Ukraine. The guidelines for the Belarus visa are strict but if you are doing things independently you don’t need the letter of introduction and hotel vouchers are sufficient; only these must be booked direct with the hotel and not through Booking.com. I found out later that the vouchers (basically booking confirmation) should be on headed hotel notepaper and stamped by the hotel; which obviously prevents fraudulent bookings being made. So, armed with all my documents I headed off to the Belarus Embassy at South Kensington and was seen almost the moment I walked through the door; within minutes though I was heading back out with everything I’d walked in with, including my passport! The Embassy wouldn’t issue me with a double entry visa at that point as I couldn’t prove how I was initially exiting Belarus, how I was getting back in and then how I was exiting the second time either. Despite trying to explain that this was because train tickets didn’t go on sale until 30 days in advance, it made no difference!

This setback resulted in me deciding to bin Lithuania from the itinerary completely so the next time I visited the Embassy I was armed with train tickets for the whole of my trip, from entering overnight from Riga to departing overnight into Ukraine. I’d changed my hotel bookings around a bit to suit the new plan but had kept the same hotels I’d originally planned to use and as a precaution I’d even made a reservation at a hotel in Minsk for the night arrived into Belarus; even though I was planning to do an overnight. The good thing about all the hotel reservations is that they are just that and none are paid for in advance. This time though the same guy at the desk took exception to my hotel reservations as they weren’t all on headed notepaper and none had the hotel’s seal stamped on them! He told me that all the hotels know the rules and they should be issued correctly but when I pointed out to him that the website says that bookings should be made direct with the hotel and nothing at all about how the confirmation should be presented he went away to chat with someone. 2 minutes later he confirmed a visa would be issued for the requested period, he took everything I’d presented him with, including my passport, but the strange thing was there being no receipt at all given! I was told my documents would be returned in 7 days; and that’s exactly what happened.

With everything I needed I was still a little apprehensive about the trip when I set off but was well prepared as I’d spent a lot of time compiling simplifiers from the BCh & UZ websites as there aren’t any simplified timetables to download; these were invaluable during the trip.

 

Flights

Booked through Wizz Air direct

W6-2510 1850 Doncaster – Riga

 

Booked through Norwegian direct

D8-2361 1045 Warsaw – Gatwick

 

Hotels

 

Latvia

Riga – Hotel Rixwell Irina – 15 minutes from the airport by road and only across the road from Riga station. Staff spoke good English at reception. The room wasn’t big and had just enough room for the two single beds it had in it and the cabinets/desk along the wall. With the window closed it wasn’t so cold and despite their dormitory style appearance the beds were comfortable, even with the very small pillow provided. WiFi was free and breakfast was included in the room rate and was served up to 11am the following morning.

 

Belarus

Vitebsk – Vitebsk Hotel – about 1km away from the station it’s sign on the roof was visible from the station front. The walk to it took about 10 minutes and once on the bridge over the river I could see exactly where I was going when I figured out the neon lights were atop of the Hotel Vitebsk; obviously in Russian. The hotel is pretty imposing from the outside and has a massive foyer to boot. The receptionist seemed to be expecting me, so maybe she’d been the one that I’d made the booking with via e-mail? Thankfully she spoke good English and I was soon going through the process of being checked in. She needed a scan of my passport and visa and then had to stamp the back of my departure card and fill in the date of my arrival and departure at the hotel. I had to pay in full before going up to my room and paying with a card was no issue at all and took seconds. While the hotel has WiFi I had to pay for a scratch card, which gave me a login & password, which were thankfully numerical and not in Russian. The girl at reception showed me how to get connected, just in case I had issues with the Russian on the screen but once I’d managed to get my phone to connect to the modem in my room it was a breeze as there was an option for English the moment the browser is opened to login; 1 hour of WiFi cost me BYN1.05.

Mogilev – Hotel Metropol – 3.5km from Mogilev 1 station and 2.5km from Mogilev 2 station; 40 & 30 minutes’ walk respectively or approx. BYN3-4 in a taxi. I was very pleased with my room, which while it was very clean and well-presented it was also very basic and had nothing more than the bed a desk and a TV on the wall in the main area. In the small lobby area, there was a wardrobe and access to the bathroom, which was spotless, had piping hot water and all the toiletries you’d need to survive the night if you’d not brought any of your own. Breakfast was included in the room rate but didn’t start until 0700, by which time I’d be gone, and the free WiFi was very good even though the signal in my room was poor.

 

Ukraine

Kovel – Hotel Nashe Misto – a 10-minute walk from the station; outside the station, turn left at the mounted steam loco outside and keep going until you bump into it! The hotel staff were expecting me when I turned up as I’d already e-mailed them to advise of my late arrival and with the front desk being 24/7 there was no issue getting in to the place. The receptionist didn’t speak a word of English but things were sorted easily enough and I was in my room by 0200; which was a big room, clean and tidy and had a spotless and very modern bathroom; which for £8 was an absolute steal and I’d definitely recommend the place. WiFi was free and had a good signal and while didn’t know it at the time the attached restaurant served very good food, which was also cheap.

 

Poland

Warsaw – Ibis Reduta – only a 10-minute walk from Zachodnia station, straight across the park when you come out of the underpass that leads underneath the main road. I’ve found that the food at the new style Ibis Kitchens is very good and the food at the Reduta was no exception; even if the service was a little slow. It’s cheap, clean has a great kitchen and restaurant and offers a free welcome drink for Accor members; which can be used on alcohol.

 

Train Tickets

All purchased through respective railway websites in advance and printed at home, with local tickets bought at stations when required. Accounts need to be set up for Belarus & Ukraine but they’re very easy to use once done.

Latvia – http://www.ldz.lv/en

Belarus – http://poezd.rw.by/wps/portal/home/rp?lang=en

Ukraine – http://www.uz.gov.ua/en/passengers/reservation_purchase_travel_documents/

Poland – http://www.intercity.pl/en/

 

Tuesday 27th September 2016 (The journey to Riga)

From being dropped just inside the confines of Doncaster Airport’s car park to having bangers and mash in front of me, airside at Wetherspoon’s, took a mere 15 minutes; and it’s a fair walk across that car park! Last time it had taken twice that just to get through security, which this time didn’t have single person in line at all; it was a breeze.

My Wizz Air flight to Riga, departing at 1850, is the first plane out of the evening so it could explain the lack of people? Surprisingly the plane landed on time coming in and was more or less to time departing. As with all Wizz Air flights I’ve ever done it was like travelling in cattle class with the amount of noise and disrespect those with children had for others around them; one guy was even bouncing his kid up and down on the fold down tray in front of him! I’d initially been sat next to them but luckily there was enough room to spread out a little and my iPod drowned out most of the background noise for the whole journey.

We were on the ground 10’ early at 2310 and as I was at the back I was among the first off the plane and to immigration. Once through I was pleased to find a taxi driver holding up a sign with both my name and that of the hotel I was staying at. I’d only arranged the taxi at the last minute earlier that day, while I was reminding the hotel that I wouldn’t arrive until after midnight. The cost was €17 and was added to my hotel bill when I arrived. There were plenty of other taxis outside the airport arrivals hall so there wouldn’t have been an issue getting to the city centre.

The journey to the Hotel Rixwell Irina took 15 minutes on empty roads. The girl at the reception desk spoke good English so check-in was no issue and having paid my bill in full I headed up to my 4th floor room, via the stairs. When I got to my room door there was nowhere to put the key-card to access it so I ended up back downstairs and was apologetically handed a key for the door instead. I was soon back down though as I couldn’t close the window in the room and the main light didn’t work and I had to use the bathroom light just to see where I was going.

At the third time of asking I was accompanied by the girl from reception, who had a bunch of keys with her. One thankfully got the window lock to open so that the window could be closed properly. Try as she might to get the main light working though, it was a dead duck. One of the small side lights worked though so I was happy enough and 20 minutes after first attempting to get into my room I was finally settled.

The room wasn’t big and had just enough room for the two single beds it had in it and the cabinets/desk along the wall. With the window closed it wasn’t so cold and despite their dormitory style appearance the beds were comfortable, even with the very small pillow provided. WiFi was free and breakfast was included in the room rate and was served up to 11am the following morning. I was ready for bed when I got into it!

 

Wednesday 28th September 2016 (A day in Riga before heading to Belarus overnight)

As there isn’t much to do, in fact I’ll rephrase that; as there is nothing to do loco-hauled wise in Riga until the evening international departures to Moscow/St Petersburg & Minsk I decided to get up and head over the road to the station to watch both trains arrive. I had my alarm set for 0830 and had made a mental note that I’d be getting up at 0630 UK time; which ultimately cost me some sleep as when I noticed it was 0610 on my phone I began tossing and turning as it was nearly time to get up. It wasn’t until 0625 that I realised my mind was confused and that I actually had 2 more hours to sleep! It was one of those lightbulb moments and a moment of relief at the same time but it did me no good as I was already in tossing/turning mode and I just couldn’t get back to sleep properly!

I was up and showered with enough time to even get some breakfast before I headed to the station. Breakfast was very civilized and relaxed but it was one of those breakfasts where there appeared to be a lot to choose from yet there wasn’t actually much you’d eat and definitely not at breakfast; like rock hard French fries for example. Tea and toast with cheese sufficed and I was heading over the road to the station just before 0900.

Riga station’s façade is quite grand in size and inside the foyer its quite easy to get lost as there are numerous entrances to the platforms and it seems that everything is done by track number as opposed to platform number anyway. There are plenty of screens advertising both arrivals and departures and it wasn’t hard to pick out that train 1/37 from Moscow/St Petersburg would arrive on track 1 and that train 87 from Minsk would arrive on track 10. When I got up onto the platforms I found that track 1 and track 10 are next to each other with tracks 1 to 9 being the main through platforms and tracks 10 to 12 being bay platforms adjacent to track 1.

There were plenty of EMU’s and DMU’s around and LDZ Cargo TEP70-0234 was a couple of minutes early arriving with trains 1/37 1704 (P) Moscow/1720 (P) St Petersburg – Riga. It was load 14 and took up most of the platform space in track 1. It was a cold morning so I hung around at the top of the stairs which led away from the bay platforms of track’s 10-12, where there was a nice flow of warm air coming up from below. No sooner had TEP70-0234 backed out with the Moscow/St Petersburg set did the announcement for the arrival of train 87 2225 (P) Minsk – Riga and I was surprised to watch it arrive into the bay platforms with only 3 coaches; it was bang on time and headed by LDZ Cargo TEP70-0230.

Before I left the station, I scanned the stock to find out where my coach would be for my journey to Minsk that night, as I had done with the Moscow/St Petersburg set as I’d be heading out to Krustpils on that for the Minsk train forward.

I’d been a little apprehensive when setting off on this trip as I had no Belarussian currency or Ukrainian currency and had been expecting it to be a bit of a faff having to get on arrival into each country; the added bonus of doing that of course is the fact that you can’t but anything until you have it! Imagine my surprise when as I was exiting the station I noticed a money exchange place and it listed by Belarussian BYN and Ukrainian UAH. Stupidly I’d thought that the Belarussian currency was a closed one and that it couldn’t be bought outside of Belarus; I was wrong and when I exited the station I was in possession of both Belarussian and Ukrainian currency and that was something else knocked off the list of things to do on arrival into countries.

Back at the Rixwell Irina the breakfast room was empty so I sat in it with a cuppa while contemplating what to do with the 7 hours I had to spare until my 1730 departure to Krustpils. My mind was soon made up when I found a Riga walking guide in the brochure I’d got from reception. It basically took in all the sights of the old town in one hit and guided you to them in a sensible manner. First though, as check-out wasn’t until 1200, I had an appointment with the bed in my room for an hour or so!

I checked out at 1200 on the dot and the hotel were happy to keep my big bag for me. I was asked to leave it with the other bags around the side of reception in the hallway; it wasn’t under lock & key and anyone had access to it but it was still there when I got back and there were even more bags there then.

The walk from the Rixwell Irina to the old town is about ½ a mile and took about 10 minutes. My old town walking guide told me to start at the House of Blackheads, so that’s where I started. As with all written directions its quite hard to follow them if not familiar with the surroundings and couple that to the crappy attached map, I needed a little help with navigation from ME Maps; but with all three for help I managed to follow most of it and ended up at Riga Castle as the walk intended. The whole walk only took about an hour and included sights such as St Peter’s Church, Riga Cathedral, Pulvera (Gunpowder) Tower and of course Riga Castle, which isn’t much of a castle at all at the bottom end of the old town. The whole walk was a nice stretch of the legs and Riga’s old town is definitely worth spending time in, even if only to spot the buildings that reach for the skies with their domes or spires; there are plenty of them.

I was ready for something to eat and had initially been heading for TGI Friday’s when I came across Charlie Pizza, which had the biggest pizza menu I’d ever seen. The staff spoke English and had to give me more time to finish reading the extensive menu. My spaghetti bolognaises came with a twist of chorizo, was very tasty and the cheese stuffed pizza bread as a side topped it off nicely with the whole meal, including a drink, coming to just €11.20.

Unfortunately, it had started t rain while I’d been enjoying my meal and even more unfortunately, while I was walking back to the hotel I managed to fart and follow through and spent the whole walk back trying not to walk like John Wayne; and probably doing very badly! Luckily clean boxers were on hand in my bag, that was thankfully still where I’d left it! By the time I left the hotel I only had 2 hours before departure of train 2/38 1730 Riga – Moscow/St Petersburg and having got some snacks for the rest of the day I waited it out in the station confines watching Riga pass by.

It had got colder and the rain was heavier by the time the stock was backed into track 1. It was a long walk to the front to spot LDZ Cargo TEP70-0203 at the head of the train and my coach 13 was in the middle of the load 14 rake. By the time I’d got a photo in the rain and walked back to coach 13 everyone previously queuing had boarded. Tickets don’t seem to make much difference and I only had to show my passport to board the train and there wasn’t another ticket check once on board. I had a bay to myself at the back of the coach and with Krustpils being the first stop I was left to my own devices. As coaches are used for both sitting and as two-tier sleeping berths there are two different numbering systems, the top one is for when used as sleeping berths and the bottom ones for when being used as a seating only coach. I learnt this the hard way but there was no harm done.

Not far outside Krustpils we came to a stand for a few minutes and then moved forward at a slow pace until we came to a stand again. Then there was a lot of blowing the brakes up and destroying them, which continued for a few minutes and then we began limping forward but eventually got up to running speed. I thought we’d had brake problems en-route and didn’t think much of it until I was ambling down the massive platform in the pouring rain and strengthening wind at Krustpils. Initially I noticed a void at the front of the train, where it seemed the driver had pulled up well short; that void turned out to be a pair of 2TE10’s attached to the front of the TEP70 and by the time I got to the front of the train they were just being detached; 2TE10U-0221 a&b + 2TE10U-0190 a&b, with all four units running and a driver in each set. Quite what the hell had gone on was anyone’s guess and both the shunter and member of staff on the train I managed to speak to didn’t speak a word of English. The whole moment was over quite quickly as the 2TE10’s shunted into the adjacent yard to let the train continue on its journey and only slightly late at that. The 2TE10’s eventually went forward themselves, after what appeared to be a good looking over, all four were working. Now I have two questions, one, WTF? And two, did they or didn’t they…? My only thought on the matter is that the 2TE10’s had been having brake trouble and that we actually assisted them, which could/would explain the blowing up of the brakes when we attached to them? Other than that, I’m at a loss but we did get up to speed once they were attached so I can only assume the TEP70 had a bit of a helping hand once we got underway again? Too many questions and absolutely no answers; I guess that was my welcome to the eastern extremities of Europe?

While I stood in the confines of Krustpils station building, alone, I’d been given something else to contemplate while waiting at Riga for the train; the announcement of a possible farewell tour for the Network Rail Class 31’s on 30th December and thankfully that took up more of my time while I tried to figure out how I was going to get the time off, get to/from it and whether I could do it off nights and onto nights if not. While I was still in Latvia I made the most of my Three at home free calls and data!

I’d like to say the 2h40m fester went quickly but it didn’t. The rain did eventually stop though, just in time for my train to Minsk arriving. There must have been about 15 freights pass through in the time I was there, heading in either directions and all with 2TE10’s or 2TE116’s. When I saw the road come off at least I knew which platform to stand on and when LDZ TEP70-0234 brought train 88 2020 Riga – Minsk to a stand I was the only person to bard at Krustpils and nobody alighted; it had been an interesting fester.

On board, I now used the top set of seat numbers, on the Belarussian stock, to find my berth 45, which was a lower side berth. Immediately after departure I was given a Latvian exit slip to fill in and a Belarussian entry & exit slip, both of which were attached. In the main compo areas luggage can be stored under the seats as they lift up, in the side berths though stuff has to be pushed under the seats as they don’t lift up. The table folded down easily enough to make the bed and I was pointed to mattresses and blankets, which were neatly stowed on the luggage racks up above. Bedded was handed out and a very decent bed was soon laid out, which included a nice soft pillow. I couldn’t get to sleep though as I was a little apprehensive about the Belarussian boarder grip and just dozed until I heard our TEP being detached and when I felt the bump of the replacement BCh engine backing on I went to investigate. It was 2315, we were at Daugavpils and BCh TEP70BS-083 in all its red splendor was now in charge of the train.

The Latvian border control came at Indra and was quite straightforward, with my passport being briefly scanned before being handed back; I was even wished a good trip. An hour after departure we were at Bihosava and the Belarussian border control commenced. Most people on the train were Belarussian’s travelling home but there were some Latvians also. Dealing with my passport took longer than anyone else’s but I wasn’t asked a single question during the time it was in the boarder control guard’s hands. It was just stamped and handed back to me after he’d processed it, long with my exit card. Afterwards my bag was halfheartedly searched, along with a few others in the coach; whether that was just to show they weren’t singling me out or not I don’t know. Now legally in Belarus I could relax a little and just before the border staff got off the train one reminded me that I needed to register when I got to my hotel in Vitebsk. I then managed to drop off to sleep virtually straight away, after spotting an M62 over in the yard with a set of stock.

 

Gen for Wednesday 28th September 2016

LDZ Cargo

TEP70-0234        1/37 1704 (P) Moscow/1720 (P) St Petersburg – Riga, 88 2020 Riga – Minsk Pas. (to Daugavpils)

TEP70-0230        87 2225 (P) Minsk Pas. – Riga (from Daugavpils)

TEP70-0203        2/38 1730 Minsk – Moscow/St Petersburg (assisted 2TE10-0221 & 0190 into Krustpils from about 7km out)

 

BCh

TEP70BS-083      87 2225 (P) Minsk Pas. – Riga (from Daugavpils)

 

Photos from 28th September 2016

 

Thursday 29th September 2016 (Arrival into Belarus then onward from Minsk to Brest and Grodno)

I was vaguely aware that we were at Polotsk, manly as I heard the clunking as the loco was run round, next thing I knew I was sitting up in my berth at about 0730, 49 minutes from Minsk and I was the last to surface by the look of how well prepared everyone else was to get off the train. Arrival into Minsk was spot on time and I headed straight to the front to make sure the loco hadn’t changed; it hadn’t and TEP70BS-083 was still in charge on arrival at Minsk.

I had 1h09m before my 0928 departure to Brest and went for a wonder within the station confines. I’d been expecting Minsk to be a dungeon type station with platforms downstairs for some reason and it was a pleasant surprise when it was an outside station. Downstairs there are three levels to the station environment and platforms can be accessed from both above and below while the ticket offices are all at platform level. As I had an international ticket to exchange for my journey out of Belarus to Ukraine I went to get this sorted and having no clue which window of the 13 or so to choose I just went to an empty one. The woman at which spoke no English but when my ticket was handed over she knew exactly what to do and soon printed a proper ticket and handed it back with my original inter ticket. While I was there I thought I’d go the whole hog and try and get another ticket sorted as tickets to Lyntupy can’t be booked online, only as far as Pastavy. Despite her lack of English and my lack of Belarussian she understood that I wanted to change/extend the ticket to Lyntupy and asked for my credit card. Thankfully I’d got the one I’d booked all the tickets with on me and my original ticket was cancelled with the money being credited back to the card. A new ticket was issued and the same card used to purchase it. Simples? The only none simple thing was understanding the new ticket, it’s a lot easier to figure out your coach and berth number on the internet reservations; mainly because it’s in English as well!

Another job sorted I had a bit of time to get some snacks for the journey and settled for breaking in to my Belarussian Rubles. From the off the €80 I’d exchanged in Riga looked like it much be too much as two sarnies only cost BYN3.68, about £1.20. Having found from the screens that my train to Brest would depart from track 5 I was soon back on the platform to find it and electric ChS4T-546 had just detached from the stock, having arrived with the inward working of 682b 0406 Brest Central – Minsk. Soon afterwards TME2-002 shunted the portion off 051b St Petersburg – Minsk onto the rear of the set for my 681 0928 Minsk – Brest and ChS4T-546 was soon bolted to the other end for the journey southwest. While I waited to board the train TEP70-0290 arrived with 372 1830 (P) Lviv (Ukraine) – Mogilev 1.

Initially I thought there might be an issue when my berth 45 was booked in coach 5, as there were only coaches 1 to 4 in the formation, but when I boarded coach 4 I was directed to my booked seat/berth and nothing more was said. The coach wasn’t full when we set off from Minsk and the attendant was soon round collecting people’s tickets, except mine, which I soon realised was so she knew where people were getting off. After that she was round taking orders for tea/coffee, which I realised when she started putting them on people’s tables. I ordered what I thought was tea and found out to be coffee, which cost BYN0.64 for a full cup as you’d expect at home; it was about 30p.

The journey was very civilized, despite the children in the bay behind me, and it passed in no time. One thing I did realise en-route was that I was going to need to understand some of the Belarussian alphabet as all station signage was in it and as luck didn’t have it, it wasn’t listed in my Lonely Planet and I now didn’t have access to the internet to download it! Maybe McDonald’s at Minsk would be getting a visit the following day when I got back there; assuming they had WiFi?

I had two ned moves in mind that afternoon, one involved going all the way to Brest for train 650b 1435 Brest – Mogilev 1 back out to Zabinka for an EMU back in, the other, which is the one I opted for in the end was to get off at Zabinka on the way in and do train 675f into Brest behind mine. If all else failed at least I then had the back-up of the EMU into Brest anyway.

When I got off at Zabinka the coach lady did look a bit confused but I assured her, with gestures only, that everything was ok and that I knew what I was doing. I had no problem buying a ticket at the station for train 675f into Brest and as I expected there to be communication issues I went to the window armed with a piece of paper with the gen already written on it; it works anywhere in the world. I was the only one that boarded the load two train that was 675f at Zabinka but a few got off. It was worked by a very colourful TEP70-0428, with what turned out to be a miserable driver.

When we got into Brest I legged it round to track 1 for a photo and then used the stairs at the end of it for some elevation. While I was up there I was vaguely aware of someone talking in a loud voice and when the whistles started I soon cottoned on that it was the driver shouting out of the cab window of TEP70-0214. Of course, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, which was obviously about my photography, and put my camera away anyway as I’d finished doing what I wanted to do. When I got back down to platform level he decided to have another go out of the window and I reminded him that I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying; the only word I could actually make out was photography, with an accent on it. He was suitably dismissed when I just shrugged my shoulders and walked off. Having read the only other report from Belarus recently I’m surprised I got challenged so early on in my trip as others seemed to have no problems at all. Maybe it was because Brest is a border control area, maybe not? Either way the station building is very photogenic from the road bridge at the Warsaw end of the station; from where I went for a wonder to try and find something to eat as there wasn’t a great deal at Brest station itself.

ME Maps had found me a pizza place 500m from the station, needless to say everything on the map up until the pizza place was exactly where it was shown; but there was no pizza place! Disappointment reigned and I eventually found myself in a supermarket near the station’s Moscow end exit, which is via a foot over bridge. Cheese slices and bread? Go on then! It seems that plastic bags at supermarkets don’t come free in Belarus, just like back in the UK. Forward thinking had me packing my stuff into a Home Bargains carrier bag and carrying it around Brest station for an hour or so before boarding my train out.

The sun came out when I got back to the station so I found myself back on the road bridge to get some better photos of the station and as I came down train 124 Terespol – Brest was being announced as arriving and I was withered when PKP IC EP07-410 rocked up with two BCh coaches. As the station is split in two, by the main station building, the trains to/from Terespol and a few locals use the Warsaw side of the station and the main line trains use the Moscow side. I found EP07-410 in platform 1 of the Warsaw side, surrounded by security staff. I was sensible on this occasion and asked if I could take a photo before doing so. I was denied so I walked away and took away the temptation with doing so.

There were at least 3 ChME3’s shunting in the carriage sidings by the station, ChME3-3324 was shunting the RZD stock together, and then into track 2, to form train 4 1740 Brest – Moscow and ChME3-3887 shunted the stock into track 1 to form my train 606b 1715 Brest – Vitebsk Pas. which has a portion on it for Grodno that gets detached at Luninets and attached to 609b 1656 Gomel Pas. – Grodno there for the forward journey to Grodno. The train was load 7 with the front coach showing Brest – Mogilev so obviously gets detached at Mogilev. The 2nd to 5th coaches were Brest – Vitebsk and the rear two coaches were Brest – Grodno, with my coach being the 2nd from rear, coach #29.

I’d forgot what type of berths I’d booked on most of the trains and was pleasantly surprised when I found myself in a 4-berth compo with locking door. I was on my own out of Brest as TEP70-0214 got the train underway. The compo’s are snug but have plenty of storage space with there being enclosed storage space under the lower berths as well if the seats are lifted up. While the mattresses, pillows and blankets were already neatly stashed on the upper berths the coach attendant came to me after departure. Of course, I couldn’t tell what she was saying but understood it was something to do with sleeping and bedding; she apologized, went away and returned with a piece of paper with 1,50 BYN written on it and that’s what it cost me for my bedding, a whole 65p!

My bed was soon made up, while I had the room to do it, and I sat reveling in my space with the compo rattling away nicely as the fold out steps to the upper berths just wouldn’t sit right and not rattle. The smell from the stoked fire at the end of one of the coaches was also wafting through the coach; taking me back to days when I woke up to that smell back in the 1980’s! The hot fire was good for one thing though and was heating up the coaches’ boiler and a cup of tea was duly purchased from the coach attendant, which was a full-sized cup, or actually glass, and served with an English breakfast teabag. I was even asked if I wanted sugar! It cost a mere BYN0.50, which is about 20p. Along the way cheese sarnies were made up and a real cranks meal of tea, cheese sarnies, crisps, fizzy pop and sweets went down a treat; of course, the waistline probably wasn’t thinking so afterwards!

By Luninets I was still in the compo on my own and most of the compos still remained completely empty. As we’d be shunted to another train there I guessed that would be me in my own compo for the rest of the night; and I was right. When we came to a stand I got out onto the platform with a few others, their plans were to have a smoke, mine was to figure out what was going to happen to or portion and I could already see headlights approaching the rear of the train as I scoured around. ChME3-5449 was soon upon us and attached to the stock yet the coach attendants didn’t seem too bothered when the driver blew his whistle after the two Grodno coaches were detached from the main Vitebsk train; and they just continued their conversation on the platform. I jumped on and into the vestibule just before it started moving and soon realised why they weren’t concerned as the two coaches were pulled clear of the main train by about 3 coach lengths and then ChME3-5449 buggered off back into the yard at the side of the station; where there were at least 3 different ChME3’s shunting wagons about and it was interesting watching them draw a train load of mixed wagons out of the yard and shove them back over the hump to get them all hump shunted to where they needed to be. There were what looked like a few petrol type wagons that went flying down the yard on their own accord, which is a little concerning as in western Europe they’d have “not to be hump shunted” plastered all over the side of them!

TEP70-0214 departed Luninets on time with 606b 1715 Brest Central – Vitebsk Pas. and once it had gone I was ushered back onto the Grodno stock by my coach attendant and again soon heard and felt the reason why she’d got me back on board and closed the doors. I was itching to go and see what had attached to the opposite end of the coaches but didn’t want to piss the attendant off too much so decided to wait until we were back in the platform and attached to our Grodno bound 609b 1656 Gomel Pas. – Grodno; we were drawn out of the station at about 2150 and sat there until 609b arrived at 2225. Then we shunted back in and attached to the rear of the train, at which point I was poised to get off with the coach attendant when we started moving back away from the train again. She was just as confused as me but after we’d dropped another coach into the adjacent platform and then had been attached to the rear of the train again all became clear when ChME3-7149 was immediately detached again to put what appeared to be a testing coach back onto the rear of the train. I’d managed to spot the ChME3 through the window of the partition door long before we were properly attached to the train and I was so glad I hadn’t decided to go to bed before the shunt took place. The only thing left to do was leg it up the platform to get the loco number at the head of 609b as it had been too dark to spot it on arrival; and it was a good job I did go down the 10 coaches to find TEP70BS-147 at the head of 609b at is wasn’t at the head of it when I got off the following morning!

Very pleased with the fact I had a compo to myself on departure from Luninets, I locked myself in and clambered in to bed, more than ready for it!

 

Gen for Thursday 29th September 2016

TEP70BS-147      609b 1656 Gomel Pas. – Grodno (to Baranovichi – TEP70-0465 forward)

TEP70-0214        606b 1715 Brest Central – Vitebsk Pas. (from Brest)

TEP70-0290        372 1830 (P) Lviv (Ukraine) – Mogilev 1 (into Minsk)

TEP70-0428        675f 0537 Gomel Pas. – Brest Central

 

ChME3-5449      shunt Grodno portion off rear of 606b at Luninets

ChME3-7149      shunt Grodno portion from 606b onto 609b at Luninets

 

ChS4T-546           682b 0406 Brest Central – Minsk Pas., 681b 0928 Minsk Pas. – Brest Central

ChS4T-559           650b 1435 Brest Central – Mogilev 1 (from Brest)

 

ChS8-064 1&2 (RZD) 4 1740 Brest Central – Moscow

 

EP07-410 (PKP) 124 1512 Terespol – Brest Central

 

Shunting at Brest Central Carriage Sidings

ChME3-3324, ChME3-3887 + at least one other ChME3

 

Photos from 29th September 2016

 

Friday 30th September 2016 (Grodno to Vitebsk via Minsk for sightseeing)

I woke seconds before my alarm was going to wake me anyway at 0500. With everything already prepared Wallace and Gromit style I fell out of bed and was instantly ready to get off into the cold at Skidziel; and 5 minutes later the platform was alongside the train. For the second time during the trip I managed to confuse the coach attendant by getting off short of the destination on my ticket but she seemed appeased when I gestured to her that I knew what I was doing and off I went to check the loco, which had run round somewhere overnight. When I got to it though it was a different colour and had morphed into TEP70-0465 at some point during the night. When it departed for Grodno I figured out that it must have been at the run round point of Baranovichi and then went to get a ticket for train 623b into Grodno. The lady selling it again spoke no English and again I had the details already written out on a piece of paper; and again there was no problem getting a ticket for the train at short notice. Had I been bowled for whatever reason, the train I was doing back out of Grodno stopped at Skidziel anyway so it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

15 minutes after TEP70-0465 departed with 609b, TEP70BS-115 rolled in with 623b 1858 (P) Vitebsk Pas. – Grodno and was rolling into Grodno with the train 40 minutes later at bang on 0602. Like Brest, Grodno has a nice-looking station façade, from the inside anyway, I never ventured outside the station as I didn’t have time. TEP70-0465 was still in track 1 with the set off 609b and TEP70BS-048 was just being attached to the front of 630b 0625 Grodno – Minsk Pas. After photting TEP70-0465 with no problems I went to phot TEP70BS-048 at the opposite end of the station and was asked not to by a member of station staff, after I’d taken a few I might add. Maybe it was just the border areas that had photography restrictions after all? Although this was something I’d find out to be not true at Minsk later in the day.

Coach 5 on 630b 0625 Grodno – Minsk Pas. had an English-speaking coach attendant, who showed me to my empty compartment, in essentially what was an empty coach but for one other person and on departure from Grodno I’d already paid my BYN1.50 for bedding and was all made up. It was almost 1030 by the time I dragged my arse out of bed and lifted the blind to see what was going on in the outside world. It had been a much-needed bonus sleep and all the better for being in a compo devoid of others.

Arrival into Minsk was spot on time at 1129. TEP70BS-115 still headed my 630b from Grodno and the only other loco in the station was electric ChS4T-603 attached to the stock to form 607b 1330 Minsk Pas. – Brest Central. With that being that I went in search of the left luggage lockers to store my bag for the day while I had a look around Minsk. I’d been reading in my Lonely Planet on the train journey in, which is an extract form a dated Eastern Europe version, that you have to exchange money for tokens to use the lockers, which are still from the old Soviet era and are only operated by old Soviet coins; which are the tokens! I was considering exchanging more than I needed to, to keep some of the coins but my plan was scuppered when I found a nice new left luggage room, manned by people who neatly stacked luggage on shelves and gave you a token to represent where it had been stored. Before handing luggage over though you must pay BYN1.00 at the cash counter and hand the receipt over with your baggage to prove you’ve paid. It’s a bit like the Indian Railways cloak rooms but with less bureaucracy and a little more efficient; but not as cheap! At about 80p it was still about 7 times dearer to store your bag at Minsk station than it is at Delhi Junction!

Big bag out of the way I was free to do some wandering. I’d had to use both my Lonely planet and E Maps app in conjunction to figure out where I wanted to go as the ME Maps app only shows most places written in the Belarussian alphabet so I couldn’t search for anything. Still I got there in the end and had everything bookmarked. The furthest I got from Minsk Pas. station was about 1.5km and my meanderings took me into Pl. Nezalezhnastsi, where the very prominent Belarusian Government building was lit up well in the late morning sunshine and the red bricks of the Church of Saints Simon & Elena reached out above the trees that surround it. The whole square is very clean and well maintained and people were all over it tending to flowers and plants as I wandered through it to head down the main street of Pr. Nezalezhnastsi towards Oktyabrrskaya Pl. On the way there I passed by the impressive KGB building, which still exists in Belarus and was never disbanded after the USSR collapsed.

Oktyabrrskaya Pl. is supposedly the main square in Minsk but for me it’s less impressive than Pl. Nezalezhnastsi but houses the impressive concert hall known as the Palace of the Republic and the Trade Unions Culture Palace, two buildings which contrast in both size, shape and perspective. As I walked further down Pr. Nezalezhnastsi I passed by the Belarusian State Circus building on my way to National Academic Grand Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus; I’m sure Grand Opera House would have been easier to say or write! Still, as with most buildings I’d already seen, it was impressive and the sun made its white façade stand out while I pointed my camera at it.

Finally, I headed back across the river and to Pl. Svabody where the impressive Holy Spirit Cathedral stands tall, having been there since 1642. Alongside which is the former Bernadine Church, that now houses city archives and on the square, is the Town Hall. Right at the side of the square was a word written on the side of a building that I recognized, “pizza”! Planet Pizza rustled up a very good pizza in no time and even had a fully English menu. There were even 4 different local beers on tap so it would have been rude not to try the Zatecky Gus Dark. My pint and pizza came to BYN13.51 which is about £6. After which I took a steady walk back to Minsk Pas. station as it had clouded over and become a little cooler.

There was a queue to collect my bag but with two people constantly handing bags back it went down in no time and I was on the platform in time to find electric twin set ChS8-072 1&2 waiting to depart with train 64 1550 Minsk Pas. – Novosbir G, TEP70BS-172 waiting to depart in the adjacent platform with 648b 1544 Minsk Pas. – Gomel on load 18 and TEP70BS-049 just about to depart over the back of the station with 660b 1536 Minsk Pas. – Mogilev 1. I managed to get photos of everything before being told not to by one of the shunters on the platform. As I’d finished it didn’t concern me at that point and I went for a wander and discovered TEP70BS-083 at the opposite end of the station with the stock to form 629b 1650 Minsk Pas. – Gomel.

While waiting for the stock to arrive for my train I noted that train 701 1641 Minsk Pas. – Brest Central was formed of a pair of new Flirt EMU’s; which if you try to book tickets online for you’ll be able to tell which trains are hauled based on the coaches you can reserve in. The stock for my 704b 1642 Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk Pas. non-stop service was in by 1615 and had, surprisingly, TEP70BS-107 as its power. I’d been expecting the train to be electric to Orsha Central for a diesel forward from there but as the train is non-stop I guess Belarusian Railways want to make the journey time as fast as possible so it’s obviously diesel throughout; and I suspect this train could be the only one to be diesel down the Minsk – Orsha electrified main line?

My coach, coach number 5, was full and was an open two tier sleeping berth coach. There was still plenty of room to move though once everyone had sorted themselves out and just before TEP70BS-107 got the train under way, twin set ChS8-057 1&2 arrived, right time, with 652b 1157 Brest Central – Minsk Pas. with ChS4T-433 dead inside.

704b must have been some sort of premium service as tea cost BYN0.75 and not BYN0.50 as it had done on every other train thus far, it also came in a polystyrene cup and not a glass mug; but I’ll let them off as it had the BCh logo and a picture of a VL80 on it so it went into the depths of my bag for safe keeping. Needless to say, it didn’t even make it to the hotel in Vitebsk in one piece!

I’d half expected some sort of stop at Orsha Central anyway, or to go via one of the avoiding routes to avoid Central station completely and I was glued to ME Maps while we approached, staggered through the station and out onto the main line at the other side of Orsha; without even so much as a minor deviation off the main route and just as 2023 clicked over on the clock on my phone we came to a stand in the platform at Vitebsk. Without any sack in the schedule TEP70BS-107 had done exactly what 704b 1642 Minsk – Vitebsk should do and run non-stop all the way; which was pretty impressive to say the least.

Despite being keen to get to my hotel, curiosity got the better of me when a very well presented Vitebsk station’s excellent departure screens displayed what trains were going from what platforms as I staggered over the footbridge with the rest of the train. I was soon changing direction to go and have a glimpse at the first DDB1/DR1B push-pull sets I’d seen on the trip and there were two sat in adjacent platforms with 2M62U-310b on 6640 2041 Vitebsk – Polotsk and 2M62U-270b on 6606 2120 Vitebsk – Ezerishe. On the train in I’d already figured out that I could do a fill-in move if I so desired, with two being available. One was 6640 to Liotcy for opposing working 6639 back in, arriving at 2209 or the other involved doing 6645 2110 Vitebsk – Zavolsa to Lucosa for 6620 1946 Orsha – Vitebsk back in, arriving at 2140. Not only did the second option allow me to check-in at the hotel first, it was also a very quick out and back and had me back half an hour earlier so that’s the desperate option that I went with.

While I was heading out of the station I noticed a train in track 1 that seemed to have three engines on the front and again curiosity got the better of me. The train was 039 1830 Polotsk – Moscow and at its helm I found RZD TEP70-0570 topped by RZD 2M62U-0243, both with crews in. In theory it was actually possible to do the train from Vitebsk as it had a stop at Liozna, which is within Belarus, before going over into Russia. Whilst it wasn’t actually a dead-end move, the only train to stop there before the first inbound Zavolsa – Vitebsk train the following morning was 6645 2110 Vitebsk – Zavolsa going out behind it; and judging by ME Maps Zavolsa was a one-horse town! Needless to say I was soon hotel bound.

Vitebsk station front was lively, well-lit and there were even a few taxis waiting in the car park. There were people queuing for buses near the main road and trams were running along the centre of the main road in either direction. I didn’t realise it at the time but while the Hotel Vitebsk was about 1km away from the station and its sign on the roof was visible from the station front. The walk to it took about 10 minutes and once on the bridge over the river I could see exactly where I was going when I figured out the neon lights my eyes were drawn to were atop of the Hotel Vitebsk; obviously in Russian.

The hotel is pretty imposing from the outside and has a massive foyer to boot. The receptionist seemed to be expecting me, so maybe she’d been the one that I’d made the booking with via e-mail? Thankfully she spoke good English and I was soon going through the process of being checked in. She needed a scan of my passport and visa and then had to stamp the back of my departure card and fill in the date of my arrival and departure at the hotel. I had to pay in full before going up to my room and paying with my Supercard Mastercard was no issue at all and took seconds. While the hotel has WiFi I had to pay for a scratch card, which gave me a login & password, which were thankfully numerical and not in Russian. The girl at reception showed me how to get connected, just in case I had issues with the Russian on the screen but once I’d managed to get my phone to connect to the modem in my room it was a breeze as there was an option for English the moment the browser is opened to login; 1 hour of WiFi cost me BYN1.05. There are options for 10 hours and 24 hour as well but as I only needed the time to chat to my wife back home 1 hour was enough; unfortunately, I managed to pick the only time of the week she was out all night to try and contact her!

With little else to do other than lounge in the hotel I decided to head back to the station to get something to eat from one of the many café type places there and couldn’t resist a quick late night move when I came across 2M62U-308b waiting to depart with 6645 2110 Vitebsk – Zavolsa. It was only a 30-minute move out and back to Lucosa and with only a plus 12’ there it seemed harmless enough so on I got. I’d not figured out by this point that there was a ticket office for local train tickets at the station front and had assumed they were bought on board. My ignorance didn’t matter though as I wasn’t gripped on the way out or back. I was constantly glued to my ME Maps, from departing Vitebsk to arriving into Lucosa, just to make sure I didn’t end up in the middle of nowhere. It was after all the first stop and stations were surprisingly announced on board. The 12 minute wait flew by and 2M62U-261a was soon rolling in with 6620 1946 Orsha – Vitebsk and I was back in Vitebsk before I’d even managed to finish what I’d bought to eat!

Once back at the hotel I had a much-needed shower and a change of clothes were sorted for the morning. I then spent an hour figuring out what my bash was going to be the following morning; as we all know best laid plans are subject to change and the more you scan a timetable the more pops out at you. One thing I did realise while I was looking was that some of the local trains around Vitebsk hadn’t shown up on a station departure list, yet were shown as stopping on the individual schedule for the train; which added in more moves than I’d realised.

Satisfied that I knew what I was doing the following morning, in a fashion, I ended up in bed for about 2300 and after my extended sleep that morning I wasn’t remotely tired and found myself having to get up again 30 minutes later to try and find some extra bedding as it was freezing in bed with just the quilt. Strangely the radiator in the bathroom was on but the one in the room wasn’t and I couldn’t find anywhere to turn it on either, so the blanket I found was added to the bed and I was sock on moments later.

 

Gen for Friday 30th September 2016

TEP70-0465        609b 1656 (P) Gomel Pas. – Grodno (Baranovichi to Grodno)

TEP70BS-048      630b 0625 Grodno – Minsk Pas.

TEP70BS-049      660b 1536 Minsk Pas. – Mogilev 1

TEP70BS-083      629b 1650 Minsk Pas. – Gomel Pas.

TEP70BS-107      704b 1642 Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk (non-stop)

TEP70BS-115      623b 1858 (P) Vitebsk Pas. – Grodno (into Grodno)

TEP70BS-172      648b 1544 Minsk Pas. – Gomel Pas. (load 18)

 

2M62U-0261a   6620 1946 Orsha – Vitebsk Pas.

2M62U-0270b   6606 2120 Vitebsk Pas. – Ezerishe

2M62U-0308b   6645 2110 Vitebsk Pas. – Zavolsa

2M62U-0310b   6640 2041 Vitebsk Pas. – Polotsk

 

ChS4T-603           607 1330 Minsk Pas. – Brest Central

ChS8-057 1&2    652b 1157 Brest Central – Minsk Pas. (ChS4T-433 dead inside)

ChS8-072 1&2    64 1550 Minsk Pas. – Novosbir G

 

2xFlirt EMU         701 1641 Minsk Pas. – Brest Central

 

RZD

2M62U-0243 a&b + TEP70-0570 39b 1830 Polotsk – Moscow (from Vitebsk)

 

Photos from 30th September 2016

 

Saturday 1st October 2016 (A day around Vitebsk before overnight to Lyntupy)

An 0545-alarm call wasn’t really what I needed yet despite the relatively short night’s sleep I felt quite refreshed and was up and dressed in a shot. It was still cold and walking around without clothes on wasn’t nice at all. As check-out at the Hotel Vitebsk wasn’t until 1200 I left my big bag in the room as there was lull in local train arrivals/departures at around 1100 so I’d be back to pick it up then.

It was a brisk walk to the station, through deserted streets and with a cold Autumn chill in the air. When I got there, it was surprisingly busy for an early Saturday morning and I soon realised that tickets for local trains were purchased in a separate ticket office to the right of the main station building, which opens from 0620 to 2120. There were quite a few windows open and to save time and hassle I resorted to writing my destination down on a piece of paper again, which worked a treat every time. The only slight issue is that the ticket price isn’t displayed anywhere when going through the transaction so I had to gesture at the coins in my hand until I was holding the right one to hand over for my fare. It wasn’t really an issue though and my first ticket of the day was soon in hand; I was ready to rock…..

One thing Vitebsk does well is advertise what’s going off; everywhere! Inside the local ticket office were more screens than needed but the whole gen for the day was there, which put away any doubts I may have had about some trains not running and there was also an ever-changing screen with details of forthcoming cancelations; which I suppose were due to engineering works? Luckily none of these affected my day out. Before I even left on my first train I figured out that the big screen at the bottom of the stairs at the main entrance to the station was going to come in very handy and in some cases would allow me to work out what would work what next, based on the platform allocations.

I was soon on board 6611 0649 Vitebsk – Orsha with 2M62U-0261b as its power. When I say on board, that’s all it was as there weren’t any seats left by the time I got to the train with less than 10 minutes before it would depart; which I found strange for a Saturday morning but this wedge-out would continue all morning with both inbound and outbound trains, right up to late morning. It was only a short journey out to Lucosa and bizarrely enough I was the only person to get off there. 10 minutes later 2M62U-0271a was arriving with 6610 0530 Orsha – Vitebsk; which was again standing room only. Upon arrival into Vitebsk the set was shunted out of the platform and I never saw 2M62U-0271a again all day and the same went for 2M62U-0261b, which I’d had out of course.

There were three local rakes in the station and the screens were all displaying what was what so it was easy to work out what my next move was and I bought my next ticket from the local ticket office for it, which had slightly bigger queues than it had earlier that morning. There were 5 windows open and each was 10 deep but the queues moved along quickly and my hand-written destination on paper worked easily enough again. 2M62U-0270a was in track 2 platform 2 with 6641 0820 Vitebsk – Rudnya, 2M62U-0261a was in track 7 platform 3 with 6613 0815 Vitebsk – Orsha and 2M62U-0271b was in the main platform, track 1 platform 1, with 6634 0842 Vitebsk – Polotsk and with the latter being my choice I had an hour to kill so went back to the hotel to attempt breakfast in the restaurant. Unfortunately, it was a wasted walk as neither the restaurant staff spoke English, nor was the menu in English so breakfast was going to have to come from elsewhere.

6634 0842 Vitebsk – Polotsk is only a plus 4 onto 6633 0655 Orsha – Vitebsk at Hrysany and I had just enough time to watch 2M62U-0271b leave with 6634 and cross the tracks to watch 2M62U-0262a arrive with 6633. I was getting the hang of the standing room only lark and it did save me getting gripped on my two early journeys into Vitebsk; which saved me the grand total of about 5p! With a lull in proceedings at Vitebsk I’d figured out I had enough time to walk back out to Lucosa to cover 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk coming back in. My ME Maps App said it would take 45 minutes to walk and I had 1h26m to do it in so a pleasant amble followed as the sun crept through and warmed the cool air up. It was one of those mornings where it was cold but the sun made you feel hot and with both a jumper and a coat on, coupled with the walking, I didn’t know what to leave on and what to take off and ended up with a bit of a dab on by the time I got to Lucosa. The route took me back by the Hotel Vitebsk so I checked out on the way and left my big bag with reception, which cost me BYN0.85 (about 35p) for the privilege. The walk was that leisurely that I even had time to get the camera out while I walked over the river, towards the hotel, where there are great views of a church perched on the hilltop. I won’t say I wasn’t knackered when I got there as I was, but I felt refreshed for the walk. There’s something about a nice long walk in the cold but I was glad to be having a minute when 2M62U-313b arrived with 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk.

My attention turned back to the Polotsk line trains and it paid off when I found 2M62U-0262b with 6636 1159 Vitebsk – Polotsk. Rather than do it for any distance I decided to go for the hour fester at Liotcy, which some express trains stop at. Ticket in hand I managed to get a seat for the first time that morning; with the rush seeming having subsided. One thing I was wary of was that none of the stations had anything other than their Russian spellings and I’d still not brushed up enough on the Russian alphabet to be confident about what I was reading. That’s where ME Maps came in very hand as the stations on there are shown in their English spellings, unlike anything else on the maps I might add! So, with phone permanently in hand so I didn’t lose my GPS position, off we set. The map was excellent and if you’re quick enough and can pick out the station names, the next stop is  announced the moment the train doors are closed at the previous one. I was probably flapping about nothing but am always grateful for my ME Maps.

Liotcy is a small village but has no less than three local shops within 2 minutes of the station, one of which is even in the station building. It was a cracking photo of 2M62U-313b departing, in full sunshine, and a quick walk afterwards revealed that none of the local shops really had anything I wanted and just as I sat down on a station bench to wait it out, after buying my ticket for the return journey, the level crossing siren started to sound and I could hear something in the distance. 2M62-1097 a&b were soon along with a lengthy freight, which again was a cracking photo in the full sunshine. I’d highly recommend the location to anybody want to catch a few freights and even the locals with 2M62’s in the morning sun. Unfortunately, that was the only freight that came in the time I was there and 2M62U-308a picked the 60 seconds when a massive cloud was blocking the sun to turn up with a spot-on time 6635 1154 Polotsk – Vitebsk!

It was on that journey into Vitebsk that I learnt two things, one was that the grippers on the trains, which there were always two of, only asked if you needed a ticket, not to see it. When I presented mine, the woman looked at me as though I’d got two heads and then reiterated the same word to me over and over, which must have been her explaining that she only wanted to know if I didn’t have a ticket, not to see the one I had; it was like being lectured at school for doing something wrong! The second thing I learnt was not to rely on any of the toilets working as none did on that particular set and I guessed it was probably the same on all the rest so I started to use the facilities where I could and even though it was BYN0.50 at Vitebsk station they were spotless, had hot water and soap at the sinks and the hand dryers worked a treat.

My original plan for the day had been to do both the Ezerishe and Rudnya lines, I won’t call them branches as both lead into Russia and the fact that Rudnya is actually in Russia put me off contemplating the Rudnya move anyway and doing it as far as Zavolsa for a 1h35m fester seemed to defeat the point so the spinning about of a morning came into play instead and at this stage in proceedings I was well pleased with how things had worked out and with fewer options in the afternoon and the fact that things would start repeating anyway I decided to do the Ezerishe move anyway. The woman selling me the ticket happened to be the same on I’d bought my Liotcy ticket from and once she’d read the station name on the piece of paper pressed up against her window she just giggled to herself, issued it and pointed at a BYN2.00 coin in my held-out hand.

In the main station building there is a buffet that sells a whole host of bits, including fried chicken, French fries and mini pizzas, all of which are warmed up on purchase, in a microwave. Each mini pizza was only BYN1.56 (about 60p), which set me on until later that evening and they were quite nice too. In the downtime I had a walk in the area around the station and found a decent supermarket to gather supplies at later; out of the station to the main road, turn left and it’s on the next corner on the right.

Vitebsk station is very busy with freight all the while and I had time to get some photos in the afternoon downtime, while I waited for the stock to arrive to form 6604 1517 Vitebsk – Ezerishe; which came off 6603 1058 Ezerishe – Vitebsk arriving at 1244 and was shunted out of the station to the yard which lies immediately south of the station and rather conveniently has a nice road over-bridge at the south end of the station as a vantage point. Which is better for photos of stuff coming through the station as opposed to out of the yard as there’s a load of pipework obscuring the view looking south. Among the things to see that afternoon were no less than 5 TME1’s constantly shunting the yard, which involved coming in and out of the station all the time to get over the hump; these were TME1-001, 016, 017, 018 & 036. Add to that a load of ChME3’s. of which I managed to note ChME3-2168 & 5473. In the mix with freight workings were various 2TE10’s & 2TE116’s and the strangest sights I found were an RZD 3M62 arriving from the south with a freight, which then shunted into the station allowing for a nice photo. Then came a lengthy freight with 2TE116-0908 a&b / 2M62-0908 a&b, what are the odds of that combination eh?! And that folks was all I had time to spot before my chariot arrived in the form of the expected 2M62U-270b, to work 6604 at 1517 to Ezerishe.

It wasn’t a run at blistering pace but it was a nice amble through the countryside and by the time we arrived at Ezerishe I was the only person in the front coach, behind the engine; which was dull as dishwater I might add. It had been a warm journey with the sun glaring through the windows and it was nice to walk around outside without a coat on. While I went to buy a ticket for the return journey I realised what the green signal had been in the distance, towards Russia, when I came back out when a freight passed through headed by a 2TE10 or 116; I’m not clever enough to tell them apart from the side and it’s a pain the numbers only being on the front of most locos!

It was only a 21-minute turnaround at Ezerishe so I used the local facilities, not wanting to trust the on-train ones, which are free at all outlaying stations and quite rightly so as they’re literally a bog door with a hole in some concrete behind them! Make of that what you will but it still amazed me that people managed to miss the hole and shit around the side of it instead! The journey back to Vitebsk loaded up at pretty much the same places as it had emptied out on the way out and the train was quite well loaded by the time we arrived into Vitebsk. Where my evening jaunt to the supermarket resulted in bread and cheese being bought again, which was merely as a precaution for the following day as I would be travelling on local trains for most of it and didn’t know when or where I’d have the opportunity to get anything to eat or drink.

There was still time for an evening move to Lucosa and when I found 2M62U-310a waiting with 6619 2014 Vitebsk – Orsha it was a win, win situation as I knew it would be 2M62U-270a coming back in with 6646 1912 Rudnya – Vitebsk, which topped the day off nicely. While I was waiting I spotted my first TEP60 of the trip and heard it before I clapped eyes on it arriving with train 039 1830 Polotsk – Moscow. It was 1970 built TEP60-0391, one of the oldest left in service in Belarus, and beneath a decent paint job the years of old paint jobs were showing through in lumps and bumps. Luckily for me the staff wasted no time at all in getting the TEP60 off and I was able to get a quick photo of RZD 2M62U-0007 a&b after they’d backed on to work the train forward into Russia; giving me the impression that 039 might actually be booked an RZD 2M62 from Vitebsk into Russia after seeing it twice with 2M62’s?

My final Lucosa move of the day went without a hitch and as suspected 2M62U-0270a dropped me back into Vitebsk with 6646 1912 Rudnya – Vitebsk and it went back with 6645 2110 Vitebsk – Zavolsa; unlike its counterpart 2M62U-270b on the Ezerishe circuit that was replaced by 2M62U-0308a for 6606 2120 Vitebsk – Ezerishe and 2M62U-0271a came out of the woodwork to work the final Polotsk departure of the day 6640 2040 Vitebsk – Polotsk.

After fueling the fire with two more pizzas from the station buffet I waited it out on the platform for my overnight to Lyntupy, not quite realising at the time that it was going to be a bit of a rail tour in its own right. While I was watching TEP70-0384 being attached to the stock for 626b 2138 Vitebsk – Minsk, TEP70-0214 arrived with 601b 934 Polotsk – Gomel. The stock for 626b had two portions on it, which turned out to be the three coaches behind the engine from Vitebsk. The leading coach was for the only train of the day to Druja and the 2nd & 3rd were for Lyntupy. These would be joined at Krulevshizna by a Druja portion off the opposing working of 625b from Minsk to Vitebsk. The two portions would then head from Krulevshizna to Lyntupy as 619b with the Druja portion splitting off at Varapajeva and running forward on its own as 617b to Druja, which is the only train of the day to Druja and doesn’t return until the opposing working later that night! It all sounded very complicated but looked simple enough on paper; my biggest headache was figuring out how the hell I was going to get all the engine numbers and to figure out just how things went down at Krulevshizna. It would be an adventure if nothing else……

On departure from Vitebsk 626b only had about 8 people in my Lyntupy coach and the other was completely empty; and stayed that way throughout the entire journey. The coach was an open two-tier sleeping coach, with nobody in any of the side berths and opposite me was an old lady who turned out to be no bother at all and had her bed made up and was dossed out within moments of departing Vitebsk. There was nobody in the upper berths anywhere in the coach and it was that sparsely used throughout that it stayed that way. Knowing I had serious potential for a sleepless night if I was to try and get all the engine numbers I wasted no time in getting my bed made up and getting horizontal; with the alarm set for 0200 as I couldn’t risk relying on being naturally awake when we got to Krulevshizna. I was awake at Polotsk and could hear the TEP70 running round, next thing I knew we were approaching Krulevshizna in the small hours and I’d woken before the alarm went off so spared everyone an unwanted intrusion into the night’s sleep!

 

Gen for Saturday 1st October 2016

TEP60-0391        39b 1830 Polotsk – Moscow (to Vitebsk – RZD 2M62-0007 a&b forward)

 

TEP70-0205        658b 2030 (P) Brest – Vitebsk

TEP70-0209        689b 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel

TEP70-0214        601b 1934 Polotsk – Gomel

TEP70-0232        625b 2132 Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk

TEP70-0384        626b 2138 Vitebsk Pas. – Minsk Pas.

 

TEP70BS-115      704b 1642 Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk

 

2M62U-0261a    6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6614 1217 Orsha – Vitebsk, 7182 1458 Vitebsk – Polotsk

2M62U-0261b    6611 0649 Vitebsk – Orsha

2M62U-0262a    6633 0655 Polotsk – Vitebsk

2M62U-0262b    6636 1159 Vitebsk – Polotsk

2M62U-0270a    6641 0820 Vitebsk – Rudnya, 6644 1056 Rudnya – Vitebsk, 6643 1713 Vitebsk – Rudnya, 6646 1912 Rudnya – Vitebsk, 6645 2110 Vitebsk – Zavolsa

2M62U-0270b    6601 0515 Ezerishe – Vitebsk, 6602 0834 Vitebsk – Ezerishe, 6603 1058 Ezerishe – Vitebsk, 6604 1517 Vitebsk – Ezerishe, 6605 1729 Ezerishe – Vitebsk

2M62U-0271a    6610 0530 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6640 2041 Vitebsk – Polotsk

2M62U-0271b    6634 0842 Vitebsk – Polotsk

2M62U-0308a    6635 1154 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 7171 1448 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6618 1746 Orsha – Vitebsk

2M62U-0308b    6601 0548 Zavolsa – Vitebsk, 6606 2120 Vitebsk – Ezerishe

2M62U-0310a    6637 1715 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 6619 2014 Vitebsk – Orsha

2M62U-0313b    6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6615 1122 Vitebsk – Orsha

 

RZD

2M62-0007 a&b 39b 1830 Polotsk – Moscow (from Vitebsk – replaced BCh TEP60-0391)

 

Photos from 1st October 2016

 

Sunday 2nd October 2016 (Lyntupy to Druja via Aleshcha)

As we approached Krulevshizna I was on the lookout as best as I could be for anything lurking outside the station that might be waiting to do a shunt move with our train but didn’t see anything at all. As we hit the platform end though TEP70-0232 was just departing with the opposing working of 625b 2132 (P) Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk Pas. which would of course include the Druja & Lyntupy portions off 620f 2050 Lyntupy – Krulevshizna. What 625b also conveyed was a Druja portion of its own so that must have been lurking somewhere in the station area but I couldn’t see it on arrival. All that was there was an M62 running round a freight but it was too dark to see its number.

The coach attendant clearly had no intention of opening the doors in my coach as she was locked inside her cabin, then of course came the inevitable bump of something attaching to the rear of our train. When we set off moving backwards I hung on for a moment just in case it was only one of those drawing off the train shunt moves but when we left the platform I decided to walk through the two coaches to the rear of the train and have a look out of the partition window to see if I could spot the loco number; I got as far as the end of the deserted next coach before being stopped in my tracks by the coach attendant, who clearly had nothing better to do that night than to stop me from seeing what was on the end of the train. So off I trundled back to my berth.

As luck had it the coach attendant from next door came to get me when we started to shunt back into the station and we had one of those I don’t understand what you’re saying at all conversations but fully understood the situation moments. When she took me down to the door in her coach I even wrote out in Google translate “5 minutes” and she seemed happy with this. Once on the platform I understood why she stopped me from walking through the train as the Druja portion coaches off 625b, that I couldn’t find on arrival, must have already been sat outside the station somewhere waiting for us to arrive; and when we had ChME3-1888 had dropped onto our portion and shunted what would become 619b 0300 Krulevshizna – Lyntupy into the adjacent platform. I had to be quick to get its number as it was soon detached and running back out of the station with the Druja portion from 620f 2050 Lyntupy – Krulevshizna for Minsk and then dropped it onto the rear of 626b Vitebsk – Minsk; which I did check next and it still had TEP70-0384 leading the way.

I was trying not to outstay my welcome on the platform as the coach attendant who’d let me off had finished chatting with her colleagues on 626b and was sat in her cabin, thankfully having left the door open for me to get back on. Initially there was no sign of a forward loco to work 619b 0300 Krulevshizna – Lyntupy and when a headlight appeared from round the corner of the station, which I didn’t know at the time was Krulevshizna shed. When a pair of M62’s appeared I didn’t think much of it as they reversed in the station and headed off south. When I noticed a headlight turn on in the distance though I was intrigued and sure enough said M62’s started to head back towards the station and dropped onto my stock for 619b; now I hadn’t quite been expecting that!

The M62’s weren’t multi’d up but did have a crew in each as M62-1162 led M62-1551. With this formation for 619b I was now quite confident that I could get back on the train and get some sleep; having assumed that at Varapajeva M62-1162 would run round to the rear of the train, detach the Druja portion and work forward from there as 617b 0436 Varapajeva – Druja. The coach door was closed behind me when I re-boarded and I was in bed moments later. The next thing I knew was when the coach attendant was shaking my foot to wake me at 0545, 30 minutes before arrival into Lyntupy. Other than the coach attendant and me there was only one other person left on the coach and I’d not heard a peep when everyone had got off; probably at Pastavy?

Arrival into a deserted Lyntupy station was smack on time at 0615 and sure enough just me and the one other passenger alighted. M62-1551 was indeed still with us as suspected and I assumed at that point that M62-1162 had done the Druja portion; which in the end I’m not sure it did but that’s another story! It was a typically Russian scene at Lyntupy as M62-1551 ran round its two coaches, it was dark and had just started to rain and one of those ancient round fronted vans tore away from the station with the other passenger from the train while the shunter rode down to the points on his bike to allow the M62 to drop back onto its train. It was typically Russian and yet in Belarus and only 5km from the Lithuanian border.

After grabbing a quick photo once M62-1551 was back on its stock I was thankful that the door to the station building was open to get in out of the rain and cold. It was at that point that I started to get a little concerned about what should, would and could happen next. I’d arrived into Lyntupy on one of two arrivals per day and had expected something to be there waiting to work 6660 0740 Lyntupy – Krulevshizna local train, which should be formed off the inbound 6659 1740 Krulevshizna – Lyntupy the previous night, arriving at 2021. There was nothing else at Lyntupy station, other than me, the station building and the stock I’d just arrived on! In the nice clean waiting area come booking office the arrivals and departure boards had everything on it, except for 6659 1740 Krulevshizna – Lyntupy and while I was standing contemplating what could be a difficult day ahead, what appeared to be the station manager came out of the back room, looked at me, went to do something else and then went back into the office from whence he came. I was sure that if I’d spotted a foreigner in my station building seemingly waiting for a train that I’d tell them if there wasn’t one, but I was still a little concerned. Then the station lights went out and the outside was plunged into total darkness as the rain got heavier and pounded on the station building’s roof. What the lights going out did highlight was that the cab lights were on in the back cab of M62-1551 and I could see someone in it reading a paper. That then got me thinking, and the thought hadn’t crossed my mind at all until that point, that it would make sense to use the stock off the overnight to work 6660/6659 to Krulevshizna and return and after all the timings fit and it could be done.

No amount of pacing up and down the waiting area was going to make the situation present itself to me but when someone, who was clearly a passenger, walked into the building at 0720 the relief was immense. Moments later the same guy who I’d seen earlier came out of the back again, went into a different office and returned to the back with what appeared to be a roll for his ticket machine. The ticket window was duly opened and we were away, well she was anyway as the guy at the window didn’t understand what I’d printed on the piece of paper I’d put up against the window for him and I wasn’t attempting to pronounce Krulevshizna. Thankfully the woman who’d just bought her ticket to Pastavy could understand what I’d written and translated for him and I was soon in possession of a ticket to Krulevshizna for the grand total of BYN1.92 (about 80p).

As it started to get light outside the rain started to slow and eventually stopped, while others arrived for their morning train out of Lyntupy. I was still half expecting a DMU to arrive empties from Pastavy at that point, that was until the coach attendant opened the door of the train to the coach I’d vacated earlier; and everyone waiting was soon o the move. The coach attendant couldn’t quite believe it when she watched me get back on the train. Little did the Lyntupy locals realise that they had the best local train on the Belarusian network and even hot drinks were served by the coach attendant en-route, most moments after M62-1551 departed Lyntupy.

Only one coach was in use from Lyntupy and it was quite well patronized until Pastavy, where most got off and only about half of them were replaced by others. I managed to keep a compo to myself for the whole journey to Krulevshizna, where we arrived spot on time and M62-1551 was detached and went straight onto shed. It wasn’t there for long though and was soon back off, shunted into the yard, behind a load of wagons and was last seen heading off south with a single fuel wagon. The two coaches off 6660 remained in the platform and the coach attendants went for a walk to the local shop over the road to gather some supplies of their own. A forward ticket to Polotsk was duly purchased and then I had a brain wave while looking at my timetable stuff.

Krulevshizna should have two departures within minutes of each other, one being my 6626 0902 Molodechno – Polotsk and the other being 6623 0930 Polotsk – Pastavy with the latter making the former at the first shack north of Krulevshizna. A stroke of luck had me talking, in the loosest sense of the word, to a railway guy who was curious as to what I was doing and the next thing I know I’m in his car to Zamossa; which seemed like a sensible thing to do at the time! He kindly dropped me at Zamossa shack, which was about a 15-minute journey from Krulevshizna as the road isn’t as direct as the railway. He wasn’t going to take any money from me but I insisted he take a nice crisp BYN5.00 note and basically forced it on him and thanked him profusely for his kind gesture. He went away smiling and I had a 15-minute wait for 6623.

Zamossa station was nothing more than a crossroad in the middle of nowhere with a hut on the platform and I was thankful when 2M62-1229b arrived right time with 6623 and even more pleased when 2M62-1096 arrived into Sypy, which is equally as much of a shack in the middle of nowhere as Zamossa, with 6626 0902 Molodechno – Polotsk. Both locos had been on the Krulevshizna end of the trains and the back coach of 6626 was almost empty when I boarded. I did get a bit of a strange look from the gripper when she looked at my ticket, that I’d bought earlier in Krulevshizna; and I’m sure she then went back to her colleague and discussed how the foreigner she’d just gripped had a ticket from a place he clearly couldn’t have bought it from! Little did she realise…….

The journey through to Polotsk was comfortable and the train never filled up at all. Upon arrival, there was only one other set in the station, which had 2M62U-310b attached and already had its destination blinds set for Aleshcha. With no other moves available at all it would have been rude not to have bought a ticket to Aleshcha and done the move; so I did. While waiting around for a crew to open up the set a couple of different 2TE10MK’s ran light through the station, 2TE10MK-3553 & 3371. I was careful getting photographs of them as the freights they’d both arrived with were being given a thorough going over by the Polotsk Customs and Border Security staff. There was also a sign on the station that advertised, in English, “Customs Area” so it made sense to be careful.

I made use of my time in Polotsk as my far-fetched plan was to head from Polotsk to Druja by road after returning from Aleshcha and a look around outside the station revealed both a bus station, adjacent to the station, and taxi’s in the station car park; where walking around came with its perils as not only were leaves falling from the trees, so were the conkers! After I heard the first one go with a right bang on top of a car I soon got myself to somewhere a little less perilous and was walking around the bus station moments later. It had 12 stands and not one of them had Druja mentioned on the list of buses that departed from it. My only option was to approach a taxi driver and see what happened and the driver chose me in the end as he’d seen my milling about and took a punt on asking me if I wanted a taxi. That was as far as the English, even though he’d actually said Taksi, went. He did understand Druja though when I said it as he repeated it back but he didn’t understand my “how much” so I resorted to Google Translate for a little help and once I typed out the how much and how long to get to Druja we were communicating. He responded by writing in the dirt on his car window, which I read as 1h30m and he pulled out a BYN20 note to indicate his price for the journey and then flashed me five fingers, which I read to be BYN25. At basically a tenner for a 100km journey I thought it was a steal but when I actually sat down later and worked out that each 1km was about BYN0.10 then I’d paid well over the odds in theory. However, I was happy and all I had to do was now tell him that I didn’t want to go now and that I needed him to meet me in the exact same place we were standing at 1740, after I’d returned from Aleshcha. Google Translate sorted that out for me too and as I walked back to the station I was quite confident that I’d sorted a taxi out to take me from Polotsk station to Druja at 1740 that evening for BYN25. I did have a back-up if all else failed which was to return to Vitebsk and stay there the night again; the Hotel Vitebsk had been primed just in case.

It had turned into a nice sunny afternoon, a far cry from the pouring rain at Lyntupy earlier, and the journey to yet another Russian border area was a nice afternoon jaunt. Most of the branches I’d done thus far had been as rural as they come, with very little in the way of housing and any major population at all; the Aleshcha branch was no exception. As seems to be the norm with these types of branches there is somewhere en-route that’s the main place along the line and the Aleshcha branch had one of those places too. This resulted in the train being almost empty on arrival into Aleshcha, with only about 10 people getting off on arrival.

There was pretty much nothing in the station area at all and with only an hour there, there wasn’t really any time for walking around. The two grippers and the driver set up shop for their break in the coach by the 2M62 and I could hear them laughing and joking while I was sat outside on one of the station benches in the warm afternoon sunshine. This seemed to be the thing to do in Aleshcha as everyone turning up sat in the sun until a few minutes before the 1633 departure time. The station building was well presented and the station gardens looked tended to yet the booking office was now permanently closed and judging by the note in the booking window I’d say this had been from the start of 2016; with 2016 being the only thing I could understand of the whole page of spiel. There was even a station dog of two, who clearly knew when to get fed as they roamed around until people threw bits for them. There were even some station “facilities” but they were over the road from the station just nestled in amongst the trees and again were just simple holes drilled through concrete with a shed door to keep the outside from watching you do your business. Nothing happened during my hour at Aleshcha but I did get a little excited when the foot crossing siren started to go off and assumed that a freight might be coming; it was a false alarm though and I soon realised that it was sounding due to the signal being pulled off for us to return to Polotsk; just the 15 minutes before departure and the noise was really spoiling the whole karma of the place.

The journey back to Polotsk was as per the outward and some of those that had travelled up with the train on its outward journey got back on to return to Polotsk on its return journey; some of whom recognized the fact that I’d done the same! Arrival into Polotsk was spot on time at 1733, at which point there were 3 sets of 2M62’s in the station. 2M62U-262b had arrived with 7182 1458 Vitebsk – Polotsk and 2M62-1096 was sat waiting to depart with 6663 1741 Polotsk – Bihosava.

I wasted no time, other than to take a quick photo as my moment of truth had arrived. Outside the station, surprisingly, the taxi was exactly where I expected it to be but there was no sign of the driver. Then from out of nowhere he came, chucked his cigarette away and unlocked the car as he said just one word to me; “Druja”. That was that, I was in it for the long haul now and my fate for the night was now in the hands of my driver. As always, I knew exactly where we should be going as I’d looked at ME Maps earlier to figure out the distance and time it should take and he virtually followed the route on my phone’s screen the whole way there; which was a bit of a relief. There was no conversation, for obvious reasons, and his 1h30m, as well as ME Maps’ 1h30m had been a little optimistic; although when we departed at 1745 there was 45 minutes of leeway at the Druja end. Our arrival was at 1930, more because the driver wasn’t the most exciting of drivers than the fact that ME Maps had lied about the time it would take. I did have to do a little directing to get him to the station but other than that the journey had been relaxing and straightforward. The agreed fare of BYN25 was handed over and I bode my driver farewell and walked onto the station.

Druja station was in utter darkness, a bit like Lyntupy had been once the lights had been turned out earlier that morning, but for the cab lights on the M62 at the head of 618b 2000 Druja – Varapajeva; which I’d heard start while I was getting out of the taxi. When I got close enough to the loco to see its number I was immediately confused as it said M62-1573 when I’d been expecting M62-1162; so maybe M62-1162 hadn’t worked up to Druja with the inbound of 617b 0436 Varapajeva – Druja that morning after all? It wasn’t until later at Varapajeva that I figured out what might have happened.

Boarding commenced shortly after I arrived at Druja and the coach attendants had to use their torches to look at people’s tickets. When I say people’s, I mean the half-dozen or so that actually boarded the train before departure. Needless to say, it was an empty train on departure from Druja and I had a whole compo area to myself again and having paid my BYN1.50 for bedding I relaxed with a hot coffee, which having got into the habit of using Google Translate earlier I managed to order with Google Translate and got exactly what I wanted; a coffee with milk and sugar. Meanwhile the train ambled towards Varapajeva.

618b Druja – Varapajeva was first to arrive into Varapajeva and we were allowed of the train straight away. I didn’t wonder far though, just in case there was some random shunting to take place. There wasn’t though and when 620f 2050 Lyntupy – Krulevshizna arrived the M62 was detached and shunted back onto the Druja coaches, which it then shunted onto the front of its Lyntupy portion. M62-1573 wasn’t to be seen again after it shunted off the Druja portion on arrival at Varapajeva and M62-1589 remained attached to the marshalled train to continue to Krulevshizna with 620f on its own. Confused with proceedings, although not with the fact that M62-1589 was working 620f having watched M62-1551 disappear when it had go back to Krulevshizna earlier in the day, I became a little less confused when 620f departed Varapajeva when I noticed an M62 sat with what appeared to be an engineer’s train; could it have been M62-1162? Who knew? My brain hurt with trying to figure out what had or hadn’t gone off with the M62’s in the Varapajeva triangle so I relaxed for the little over an hour it took to get to Krulevshizna.

Proceedings at Krulevshizna were a little easier than they had been on the outward journey, we were allowed off straight away and once M62-1589 was removed and sent to shed a headlight appeared in the distance as ChME3-2012 dropped onto the portions. It wasn’t until TEP70-0290 arrived with 625b 2132 Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk Pas. that things started to move and the Druja/Lyntupy portions were shunted to 625b by the ChME3. It had been a long day and I was ready for some proper sleep, as opposed to upright dozing, so safe in mind that I’d got all the numbers I needed I retired to my personal compo area and was well and truly dossed out before the train even departed Krulevshizna; I didn’t even see the opposing working arrive as we departed!

 

Gen for Sunday 2nd October 2016

M62-1162 619b 0300 Krulevshizna – Lyntupy (to Varapajeva with M62-1551 running inside)

M62-1551 619b 0300 Krulevshizna – Lyntupy (from Varapajeva), 6660 0740 Lyntupy – Krulevshizna

M62-1573 618b 2000 Druja – Varapajeva

M62-1589 620f 2050 Lyntupy – Krulevshizna

 

ChME3-1888       Shunt Lyntupy & Druja portions off 626b to form 619b at Krulevshizna

 

2M62-1096a       6626 0902 Molodechno – Polotsk

2M62-1229b       6623 0930 Polotsk – Pastavy

2M62U-0271a   6636 1159 Vitebsk – Polotsk

2M62U-0310b    6658 1432 Polotsk – Alesheha, 6657 1633 Alesheha – Polotsk

 

Photos from 2nd October 2016

 

Monday 3rd October 2016 (Vitebsk to Mogilev via an unplanned move to Kommunary)

I didn’t think much of it at the time but I was woken by a bit of a din at Polotsk and on arrival at Vitebsk I soon figured out what the racket had been when I discovered TEP60-0391 being detached from the front of 625f; which was quite pleasing having seen it arrive the previous night into Vitebsk. With 1h02m before my next train I was well aware that I needed to collect my big bag from the Hotel Vitebsk and wasted no time in heading off through the morning mist to get it. While it was misty and quite atmospheric it wasn’t that cold and it made a change to savour to the walk to the Hotel Vitebsk rather than be in a rush to get there or back. Having handed my left luggage receipt over to the girl at reception she directed me to follow the security guard to collect my bag from their locked facility at the rear and downstairs of the hotel lobby; she was the fourth person who’d spoke English during my time in Belarus and was virtually fluent in it and had even been to the UK! She explained how hard it had been to get a visa for her trip, which sounded just as much of a farce as it had been to get mine to enter Belarus. You never know with these things who is dishing out the “the what goes around comes around” medicine in the visa stakes but it seemed equally as difficult for people to get UK visas as it did for us to get visas for some of the more demanding countries in the world.

I was back at the station within 45 minutes and had time to scour around the morning commuter arrivals and departures and managed to spot the following during the course of my two stints at Vitebsk: 2M62U-0308a with 6632 0710 Vitebsk – Polotsk, 2M62U-0271b having arrived with 6631 0508 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 2M62U-0271a arrived with 6610 0530 Orsha – Vitebsk and then worked 6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha and 2M62U-0261a with 66020834 Vitebsk – Ezerishe. TEP70-0313 also dropped onto the stock to work 689b 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel while I was waiting for 57b 2147 (P) St Petersburg – Grodno to arrive; which I couldn’t get off for en-route as 57b was non-stop to Orsha.

I half expected 57b to arrive into Vitebsk with RZD power but BCh TEP70-0266 arrived with it instead so it seemed that some cross-border trains into Russia used BCh power and some crossing into Belarus used RZD power. I was only on board for just over an hour’s run to Orsha and it passed in no time. By the time I’d got off the train at Orsha the TEP70 was already off the train and moments later ChS4T-546 was dropping down to work the train forward.

I had a quick scan inside the station building at Orsha and then went up onto the footbridge, which is as good a place as any to get your bearings. The main station buildings basically split the station in half. Other than 57b waiting to go, also in the station was an M62 with a single coach, that had disappeared before I managed to get its number, 2M62-1238b waiting to depart with 6171 0915 Orsha – Lepiel and in the far-right hand platforms was its old mate 2M62-1238b with 6535 0937 Orsha – Krichev 1, which I planned to get off my next train at Chodasy for when it overtook it.

The plan for the day was to end up at Mogilev, where I’d be staying the night, and rather than go direct I chose to do it via Krichev instead and when ChS4T-555 arrived with 658b 2030 (P) Brest – Vitebsk I went down onto the platform as my 661b 0956 Orsha – Kommunary was a portion off it. When I noticed a ChME3 dropping onto one end of the train I hurried along a little but fully expected to be withered while the set was shunted onto some other coaches somewhere to for 61b forward. Surprisingly as I walked down the train I found coach 11, which was marked as Brest – Kommunary, and was straight on board. It turned out that there was no other stock and the staff walked along the outside of the train, with the doors still open, while what I soon discovered to be ChME3-3900 drew the portion along the platform by about 3 coach lengths to clear a crossing in the middle of the station. And that, as they say, was that!

While I was looking through the timetable stuff I’d printed, to make sure my move onto 2M62-1238b was good, I figured out that if I did it out of Orsha to Parsyna I could do its opposing working back to Pahodzina for the train I was currently sat on forward to Krichev as booked. I didn’t need any persuading and was soon over the crossing and onto it. I had no issues buying a ticket on the train and was soon Parsyna bound with 2M62-1238b, having watched 2M62-1238a depart shortly before with the only return trip you can do from Orsha to Lepiel as the other return trip sits at Lepiel overnight.

It was only after departing Pahodzina that I realised the error of my ways and that the little move I’d planned was about to go down the pan as I expected to pass 6534 0850 Krichev – Orsha going the other way at any moment as the move I’d worked out made at Pahodzina and not Parsyna as I first thought. When I hadn’t passed it by the time we hit the platform end at Parsyna I was a little concerned but a stroke of luck bizarrely had 6534 arriving into the opposite platform at the same time, 15’ late. You’ve got to be in it to win it they say and in it I was. Having been double checking everything since realising my cock-up I knew that 661b had 15 minutes of standing time at Pahodzina and it was a plus 18’ off 6534 onto it; and if it all went tits up then I’d be heading back to Orsha and direct from there to Mogilev instead.

2M62-1159a delivered me back to Pahodzina with 6534 and there wasn’t a need to flap at all as 661b was only just arriving, itself 10’ late, with TEP70-0379. I did find it strange that there’d been no late running at all up until this point and two consecutive trains were late; although I wasn’t complaining. The standing time at Pahodzina was soon understandable as virtually the whole train got off! Which was again good for me as I could stretch out on the way to Krichev. The reason for the late running also soon became evident when 661b came to a stand on the main line between Pahodzina and Ciomny Lies and staggered forward at a slow pace for a while as it ran by an engineer’s train on the opposite line; worked by M62-1609. So, having picked up its time in the standing time at Pahodzina 661b was ultimately 10’ late into Krichev and 6535 0937 Orsha – Krichev was also delayed by it as it sat to wait for it to overtake at Chodasy as it was booked to.

On the approach to Krichev 2M62-0307b was sat at the depot with a crew in the 2M62 and then to my amazement I clapped eyes on a line of steam locos sat right over the back of the depot, which looked in decent condition and weren’t rusted, or didn’t appear to be so from a distance. By my reckoning there were at least 14 of them, in two, possibly three rows. I planned to do 6536 1315 Krichev – Orsha to Depo, the station right by the depot, so was thinking I might have time to try and get a glimpse at the steam locos on my walk back; and I assumed that 2M62U-0307b was being prepared on shed for just that train. I was wrong!

Having photographed TEP70-0379 depart Krichev 1 I was so glad I took a walk into the station building and a few things sunk into place when I did. On both this day and two days later not only was 6536 1315 Krichev – Orsha cancelled but so was 6595 1405 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1, the train I planned to do to Mogilev; as were both their inward workings. I assumed this had something to do with M62-1609 and its engineer’s train that had delayed us coming down?

While 2M62-1238b arrived, detrained and then shunted back out to shed I had a small window of opportunity to figure out what to do. The result being a bonus move to Kommunary, that I had planned to do originally and dismissed as it drops nicely into 785f 1512 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1. I discovered that this train is a nice shiny new DMU after I’d booked the ticket, which now I was randomly going to need anyway and when 2M62U-307b came in it ended up being late departing due to waiting for connections off the late 6535 from Orsha.

It was less than an hour’s journey to Kommunary, the entirety of which was spent trying to figure out what to do when I got to Mogilev later that evening. The late arrival into Kommunary meant a very quick turnaround and I couldn’t be arsed to put my shoes on and get off the train. Despite the best efforts of the crew the messing about with brake tests and the likes they must do to prepare the train before departure scuppered a right time departure on the way back too and it was only a plus 11 onto 785f at Krichev.

The plus 11 dwindled to a plus 2 onto 785f by the time we hit the platform end at Krichev 1 and for not the first time in the last 24 hours, confusion reigned when all that I could see in the main platform were two coaches with a ChME3 attached to the Mogilev end of them. It seems that I wasn’t the only person confused by this as even locals off the train from Kommunary were asking the staff gathered by the cab of ChME3-6986 if it was the train to Mogilev; and it only bloody was! Quite why it wasn’t the booked DMU remained a mystery, especially as there was a single car Pesa DMU on the shed. Maybe this little bonus had something to do with the engineering works also as the DMU diagram for this circuit looked a little complicated and involved Kommunary and even Mogilev to Krichev via Orsha so maybe something was out of place? Either way I reveled in my bonus, which was just rewards for the earlier two trains being cancelled on me and the equilibrium had tipped back in my favour after Belarusian Railways tried to take it from me.

Of course, the seat reservations on people’s tickets meant nothing but the train wasn’t wedged at all so there was room enough for all and I managed to get myself tucked out of the way in the compo behind the loco; but needless to say, I could hardly hear anything and got more thrash out of the jointed track all the way to Mogilev. I was wondering as we arrived if the ChME3 would work the next part of the diagram and do 782f 1701 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1 via Orsha but Pesa DR1-002 DMU did it and the ChME3 shunted the two coaches to the carriage sidings the moment everyone was off.

There were a selection of trains departing Mogilev 1 in the hour after I arrived and some careful planning had a bit of a move worked out based on what should potentially work back in later so as to maximise the number of engines I could get in. One of those trains was immediately scratched off the list when I found a DR1A DMU waiting to depart with 653f 1659 Mogilev 1 – Gomel. While walking down the platforms to spot the 2M62’s in the station I nipped into the station building to take a photograph of the screen to make identifying what was where a bit easier; which I needn’t have bothered doing as every train had a yellow board fixed to the side of the loco to show what circuit it was working. In the station were 2M62U-0309b with 6559 1734 Mogilev 1 – Zhlobin, 2M62-0263a with 6587 1745 Mogilev 1 – Osipovichi 1 and 2M62U-0259a with 6570 1743 Mogilev 1 – Orsha.

It had been a lovely day while out in the Krichev/Kommunary area but it had clouded over and was even threatening to rain, yet it was still quite warm and definitely not coat weather. Feeling a bit adventurous and like a bit of a walk of an evening I did 2M62U-0309b to Mogilev 2, where my red pen got the better of me and had me going forward to Haradscyna with 2M62-0263a behind it. ME Maps told me it would take about 40 minutes to walk from there to the Metropol Hotel, which itself was a 2.5km walk from Mogilev 2 or a 3.5km walk from Mogilev 1, so off I trudged with about 90 minutes to get from Haradscyna to Mogilev 1 via checking in and dropping the bags off at the hotel!

With the big bag the walk got a bit tedious towards the end but it took me roughly an hour in the end. I was sweating like a pig by the time I got to the hotel and while I checked in I got them to order me a taxi to complete the circle and take me back to Mogilev 1 to do something similar again. After a quick bag dump, derance and use of the facilities I was back down and straight into my waiting taxi. I had to get to the hotel staff to tell the driver where I was going as he couldn’t even understand Mogilev 1.

I arrived back at Mogilev 1 at 1915, having paid BYN3.00 for the 3.5km journey to the station, which started off at BYN2.8 before we even set off I might add! I had just enough time to get a pizza from the café inside the station building, which turned out to be excellent despite being warmed up in a microwave, before finding 2M62U-0312b in the platform having arrived with 6569 1717 Orsha – Mogilev 1 and over in the back platform was 2M62U-0315a waiting to depart with 6695 1929 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2; which I even decided to get a ticket for as there were no queues at the counters, which cost the grand total of BYN0.16 (about 7p).

From arriving at Mogilev 2 I had 1h12m to get myself to Haradscyna, from where a nice four engine move fell into place that would have me back at Mogilev 1 at 2213. It was to be another walk/taxi move! This time the walk from Mogilev 2 to the Metropol Hotel took 30 minutes and they were a little confused when I asked for another taxi, this time to take me to Haradscyna; which I had to show the hotel staff on ME Maps to make sure they told the driver the right place when it arrived. This time I left my little bag at the hotel and went out with everything I needed in my pockets and the taxi dropped me off at a deserted Haradscyna shack with 20 minutes to spare.

A nice simple late night move followed, with hardly anyone about yet I felt totally safe at all times. If female train crew can walk up and down trains with bags loaded with money at night then that to me shows how safe a country Belarus really is and I’d not seen any untoward behavior anywhere up to this point, no drinking on street corners, no smoking where you shouldn’t smoke, not even anyone arguing in the street. In fact, cleaners had been sweeping leaves up off the pavements while I walked around that evening and they were falling quicker than they could keep up but were perturbed by the fact at all and just went about doing what they were doing without complaint. Al in all the country had shown me that it was clean, pleasant and peaceful and that its inhabitants were sociable and respectful; even if I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying but you could hear it in their voices. I did get the impression that things were very strict in certain professions though, including the management of the railway and how every coach attendant would be stood outside their coach door come wind, rain or shine at every station and how the running brake tests were carried out prior to every movement taking place. It’s the simple things in life that make it ok and my night was made ok when four simple engines turned up one after the other…….

2M62U-0260a arrived into Haradscyna with 6588 1801 Osipovichi 1 – Mogilev 1 and deposited me at Mogilev 2 to await 2M62U-0264b arriving 15 minutes later with 6436 1803 Zhlobin – Mogilev 1, which I did into Mogilev 1 to find 2M6U-0312b still sat in the same place, waiting to depart with 6572 2126 Mogilev 1 – Orsha. This I did out to Palykavickija Chutary for a sort wait and ended up with 2M62U-0259a back into Mogilev 1 on 6571 2020 Orsha – Mogilev 1; which of course I’d seen earlier at Mogilev 1 with 6570 1743 Mogilev 1 – Orsha. Needless to say there was no way I was walking 3.5km back to the hotel at quarter past ten at night and my third taxi of the evening soon dropped me at the hotel. It had been a busy evening and by the end of it I’d managed to walk 19km during the course of the day and was more than ready for bed when I got there!

Having not quite had time to assess the facilities at the Hotel Metropol I was very pleased with my room, which while it was very clean and well-presented it was also very basic and had nothing more than the bed a desk and a TV on the wall in the main area. In the small lobby area, there was a wardrobe and access to the bathroom, which was spotless, had piping hot water and all the toiletries you’d need to survive the night if you’d not brought any of your own. Breakfast was included in the room rate but didn’t start until 0700, by which time I’d be gone, and the free WiFi was very good even though the signal in my room was poor; it sufficed for using WhatsApp to ring home though, as long as I didn’t wander into the bathroom! It was a shame it was another one of the many hotel rooms I’d stayed in that I wasn’t going to get the full benefit of. I did get the full benefit of the double bed though!

 

Gen for Monday 3rd October 2016

TEP60-0391         625b 2132 (02/10) Minsk Pasazyrski – Vitebsk (from Polotsk)

 

TEP70-0266         57b 2147 (02/10) St Petersburg – Grodno

TEP70-0290         625b 2132 (02/10) Minsk Pasazyrski – Vitebsk (to Polotsk)

TEP70-0313         689b 0815 Vitebsk Pas. – Gomel

TEP70-0379         661b 0956 Orsha Central – Kommunary

 

ChME3-2012       Shunt Lyntupy & Druja portions off 620f and Druja portion only to 625b at Krulevshizna

ChME3-3900       Shunt Kommunary portion off rear of 658b at Orsha

ChME3-6986       785f 1512 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 (vice Pesa DR1 DMU)

ChME3-7112       Shunt 1 coach to 605b Vitebsk – Brest at Mogilev 1

 

2M62-1159a       6534 0850 Krichev 1 – Orsha Central

2M62-1238b       6535 0937 Orsha Central – Krichev 1

2M62U-0259a    6570 1743 Mogilev 1 – Orsha Central, 6571 2020 Orsha Central – Mogilev 1

2M62U-0260a    6588 1801 Osipovichi 1 – Mogilev 1

2M62U-0261a    6602 0834 Vitebsk – Ezerishe

2M62U-0263a    6587 1745 Mogilev 1 – Osipovichi 1

2M62U-0264b    6436 1803 Zhlobin – Mogilev 1

2M62U-0271a   6610 0530 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha

2M62U-0307b    6547 1251 Krichev 1 – Kommunary, 6548 1403 Kommunary – Krichev 1

2M62U-0308a   6632 0710 Vitebsk – Polotsk

2M62U-0309b    6559 1734 Mogilev 1 – Zhlobin

2M62U-0311b    6594 1450 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1, 6597 1757 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1

2M62U-0312b    6572 2126 Mogilev 1 – Orsha Central

2M62U-0315a    6695 1929 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2, 6696 2028 Mogilev 2 – Mogilev 1

2M62U-0316a    6596 1744 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1

 

Pesa DMU (DR1-002)      782f 1701 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1 (via Orsha)

Pesa DMU (DR1-004)      776b 1906 Mogilev 1 – Kommunary

DRA1 DMU                          653f 1659 Mogilev 1 – Gomel

 

Electrics

ChS4T-555           658b 2030(P) Brest – Vitebsk Pas. (from Orsha)

 

Photos from 3rd October 2016

 

Tuesday 4th October 2016 (Mogilev to Gomel via Soligorsk & Luninets overnight!)

Having slept like a log in my very nice room at the Metropol Hotel I was surprisingly refreshed after a hot shower and was downstairs in reception by 0630 and as I was getting a taxi to the station anyway, a brainwave had me getting one to Lupalava station, on the Mogilev – Krichev line instead of straight to Mogilev 1. By the time I’d paid my bill, some in currency I clearly wasn’t going to use and the rest with my Supercard, the taxi was waiting outside. Unsurprisingly the driver didn’t speak English but the hotel receptionist soon had him pointed in the right direction.

The journey took no time at all and I had plenty of time to find somewhere to hide out of the rain while I waited for 6591 0443 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 to technically be my taxi to Mogilev 1. While I waited, I spotted a headlight in the distance and was surprised when ChME3-2323 passed through with two coaches in tow, which I could only assume was 780b 0649 Mogilev 1 – Kommunary; which of course should have been a new DMU. Whether this was a balancing move to get the stock and a ChME3 back to Krichev I’ll never know but it did it all the same and there was nothing I could do about it other than watch the taillights disappear into the distance.

My punt paid off as 2M62U-0316a arrived into Lupalava propelling 6591 0443 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 and what’s more, so had my gamble as it was only a plus 12’ onto 659b 0720 Mogilev 1 – Minsk Pas. at Mogilev; but it was bang on time so there were no dramas and a few others also leapt from 6591 to 659b as well; which had TEP70BS-009 attached and ready for the off.

659b wasn’t wedged and coffee was soon being served after we’d departed Mogilev 1. The plan for the day was to cover the Soligorsk branch and then head to Gomel overnight via Kalinkovichi and then over to Luninets before starting to head in the right direction! The two-hour journey to Osipovichi flew by as I had my head buried in getting my gen up to date from the previous day, which was still scribbled on bits of paper rather than written anywhere sensible; and what’s more in a legible and understandable manner! En-route the only thing of note out of my window, other than the pouring rain, was 2M62U-0315b which we passed at Niasiata with 6582 0735 Osipovichi – Mogilev 1.

In stark contrast to the previous day, which had been warm & sunny and was even one of those days where spiders made a bid for it through the air and there’d been silk trails everywhere throughout the day, it was a typically Autumnal day; with constant rain an October breeze and yellow foliage was the dominant colour both on the trees and all over the platforms at Osipovichi. It was truly miserable and this type of weather, of course expected at this time of year, was the sole reason I’d cut my Eastern Europe trip back by a week and decided to get some California sunshine in at the end of it instead of spending more time in the Ukraine and then heading into Moldova and Romania.

After TEP70BS-009 had departed Osipovichi with 659b there really wasn’t a lot to do, other than shelter from the rain. Stabled on the Loco Shed opposite the station was M62-1527 and hump shunting in the yard behind that was ChME3-7161. Stabled just outside the station was a 2M62U and set. The only other train to arrive/depart while I was at Osipovichi was TEP70BS-048 with 647 0640 Gomel – Minsk Pas. and when my 613b 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk approached in the distance I assumed at first that it was a TEP70BS based on the high headlight; I heard the din of the TEP60 before I saw its rounded front mind and sure enough TEP60-0149 rolled into the platform. TEP60-0149 is actually 2TEP60-0049b and while it had 0149 in the front displays the metal numbers on the sides still show TEP60-0049 but BCh have tried to show it as 0149 by painting all the numbers the same colour as the loco and then painting the ones they need highlighted in white with only the right half of the second 0 being painted white to try and make it look like a 1! There is no sign of a “b” prefix anywhere on the loco now and it is evident where the metal number 2 has been removed before the TEP60, with two holes still remaining in the bodywork where it had been fixed in place.

613b 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk is actually formed of two portions off terminating trains at Mogilev 1 which are shunted together and renumbered for their onward journey to Soligorsk. These are 55f Moscow – Mogilev 1 & 83a St Petersburg – Mogilev 1. Bizarrely on departure from Mogilev 1, 613b runs south to get to Osipovichi and heads towards Zhlobin, yet doesn’t actually stop there so maybe takes the avoiding line round off the Mogilev – Zhlobin line onto the Zhlobin – Osipovichi line? Either way as it runs that route there is an option to do what I’ve done and do 659b at 0720 from Mogilev 1 direct to Osipovichi, departing 53 minutes later and still have 51 minutes there waiting for 613b to come the long way round!

My second empty train of the day had me getting camped out in a compo, which I had to myself all the way to Soligorsk. Not far out of Osipovichi we passed a DR1A DMU with 6522 0710 Soligorsk – Osipovichi which at that point put the move I had planned from Soligorsk in the bin and I’d resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to spend 1h44m in the cold, wind and rain at Soligorsk; which never let up all the way there. There wasn’t much in the way of scenery during the journey either with even the Autumnal colours of the trees looked glum in the crappy weather. On the approach to Soligorsk, which is a bit of a stagger, there are plenty of sidings and yards and the place looks very industrial.

On arrival into the dead end that is Soligorsk, which is the first dead end station with blocks I’d been into on the trip, a surprise was waiting for me in the form of 2M62U-0312a; which was waiting to depart with 6524 1255 Soligorsk – Osipovichi. So my move from Soligorsk wasn’t quite down the pan, however, I decided not to do it to the other side of Slutsk for the ding, ding move back to Slutsk. This decision was based on the fact I’d seen the DR1A DMU working 6522 0710 Soligorsk – Osipovichi and assumed it would work back to Soligorsk with 6525 1207 Osipovichi – Soligorsk. So after getting a few photos of TEP60-0149 on the blocks I boarded 6524 and decided to do it to the first shack of Budaunik. I’d figured out it was a stupid move before I even did it and was pretty much drenched by the time I got back to Soligorsk shack and into some form of shelter; which was the station’s ticket office. Still, no matter how bad you think your day is there is always someone worse off than you and I found that person outside the supermarket around the corner.

Unlike the rest of Belarus, Soligorsk gave an immediate impression of being run down and a bit seedier. There were guys hanging about out the front of the station drinking beer, which I hadn’t seen anywhere else in the country so far and the surrounding buildings looked as though they’d been thrown up for a purpose and were all just blocks and there was nothing of architectural interest at all.

Once I’d thawed out and dried off a bit I made a bid for the supermarket I’d found on ME Maps and right outside the front doors, laying in the pouring rain on the pavement and trying to take his boots off, was a man that pissed that he clearly thought sunbathing was the thing to do on this day of all days! He didn’t look phased by the fact he was getting soaked either and happily went about the task of trying to take his boots off while I went inside to get some bits for the return journey. When I came back out some guy had managed to pick the pissed-up guy up off the floor and was having trouble trying to keep him upright against a lamppost. I left them discussing the merits of his stupidity and made a bid for it back to the station, trying not to get soaked by passing cars as they drove through the deep puddles on the road.

It was 20 minutes before departure that the staff opened the doors to allow boarding of 614b 1426 Soligorsk – Mogilev 1 and at least there was shelter most of the way down the platform and under some trees at the end of it while I got a few photos. Despite my front coach only having 6 people in on departure the coach attendant took offence to the fact that I’d moved into a more sociable compo as opposed to the side seat I was booked in and shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes at me as she walked off! After I’d finished both making and eating my cheese and crisp sarnies I made sure the compo area was as spotless as it had been when I sat down and then moved to my booked seat. Needless to say, nobody sat in that bay at all while I was on the train.

To say TEP60’s are supposed to be loud, I was suitably underwhelmed having been right behind it from Soligorsk to Osipovichi. They are noticeably louder than theTEP70’s and do make a bit of a din while they’re running but as for thrash I’m not so sure there was any. I could feel the vibrations from it in my seat but that to me says that the noise its being converted to kinetic energy and being dispersed elsewhere and it was just like most other Kolomna’s with the noise being there somewhere but losing its poke while bouncing around the manifold inside the engine room trying to get out. For me thrash isn’t thrash without a growl or beat to the noise and while engines can be loud they lack interest with it; like CP Alstom’s and Deltic’s for two examples.

When we arrived into Slutsk I knew I’d played the right move in staying at Soligorsk when a DR1A DMU departed straight away with 6525 1207 Osipovichi – Soligorsk and back at Osipovichi 2M62U-0312a eventually shunted out to form 6524 1823 Osipovichi – Soligorsk; so it appeared that one Soligorsk turn was hauled while the other was DMU. In the sidings was 2M62U-0264a and 2M62U-315b had arrived with 6585 1349 Mogilev 1 – Osipovichi and formed 6588 1801 Osipovichi – Mogilev 1 back to Mogilev. The only other thing I saw in my 1h20m fester was Flirt EMU #003 arrive and depart with 748b 1704 Minsk Pas. – Babruysk, confirming that electrification had progressed beyond Osipovichi towards Gomel.

I don’t quite know what went wrong at Osipovichi but everything that departed during my time there was at least 5’ late but no more than 10’ late and there didn’t seem to be a reason for the delays. My 670b 1710 Minsk Pas. – Gomel Pas. was no different when it arrived 5’ late with TEP70BS-145 doing the honours. When I got to my side seat my headphones were soon in to drown out the noise from the four ada’s in the compo adjacent; who had a buffet spread all over the table and were discussing things rather loudly. The two empty Vodka bottles on the top of their bags under the table might well be able to explain that mind! And no sooner had they finished their loud food gathering and disperse did the child in the next compo start. Then the two ada’s left in the compo started to look a bit like they were trying to do some dodgy dealing and they went away with the Vodka bottled stuffed up their jumpers while another kept an eye out for the coach attendant. I was one of those journeys that couldn’t come to an end soon enough and not only were they loud, they stank of that stale smell and there was a strong smell of sweaty feet too!

Kalinkovichi was soon along though and I was out into the cold rain again, which stopped shortly after I stepped off the train. While I was at Kalinkovichi all the local trains I saw were DMU’s and the only other happenings were TEP70-0374 arriving and departing with 601f 1924 Gomel Pas. – Grodno, which had ChME3-7419 drop an observation coach onto the rear before departure; the same happened to my 603b 2012 Gomel Pas. – Brest Cent. With ChME3-1890 dropping a coach onto the rear before my second TEP60 of the day led the way to Luninets; TEP60-0152, which was also originally a 2TEP60, this one originally being 2TEP60-052b.

I was very grateful of the café on the platforms at Kalinkovichi and the two pizzas I had warmed up in the microwave, which cost BYN1.08 each, were just the job; and the hunger that I did have had disappeared once I’d devoured them. On board 603b I didn’t plan to pay for bedding as I was only on for a little over two hours but didn’t realise that the payment for bedding also included use of the mattress; so when I declined the bedding I was asked to put the mattress away as well. I clearly didn’t need it though as moment later I was sock on and the next thing I knew was the attendant waking me 10 minutes before Luninets.

 

Gen for Tuesday 4th October 2016

TEP60-0149         613b 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk, 614b 1426 Soligorsk – Mogilev 1

TEP60-0152         603b 2012 Gomel – Brest

 

TEP70BS-009      659b 0720 Mogilev 1 – Minsk Pasazyrski

TEP70BS-048      647b 0640 Gomel – Minsk Pasazyrski

TEP70BS-145      670b 1710 Minsk Pasazyrski – Gomel

 

ChME3-2323       780b 0649 Mogilev 1 – Kommunary

ChME3-1890      Shunt observation coach to rear of 603b at Kalinkavichy

ChME3-7419       Shunt observation coach to rear of 601b at Kalinkavichy

 

2M62U-0312a    6524 1255 Soligorsk – Osipovichi 1, 6529 1823 Osipovichi 1 – Soligorsk

2M62U-0312b   6561 0507 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 6691 0734 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2

2M62U-0315b    6582 0735 Osipovichi 1 – Mogilev 1, 6585 1310 Mogilev 1 – Osipovichi 1, 6588 1801                         Osipovichi 1 – Mogilev 1

2M62U-0316a    6591 0443 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1, 6392 0745 Mogilev 1 – Sklou

2M62U-03xx      6580 0353 Osipovichi 1 – Mogilev 1

 

DRA1 DMU         6522 0710 Soligorsk – Osipovichi 1, 6525 1207 Osipovichi 1 – Soligorsk

DRA1 DMU         6430 2025 Zhlobin – Mogilev 1

 

Flirt EMU             748b 1704 Minsk Pasazyrski – Babruysk, 747b 2011 Babrysk – Minsk Pasazyrski

 

Photos from 4th October 2016

 

Wednesday 5th October 2016 (Luninets (Belarus) to Sarny (Ukraine) via Gomel and Minsk!)

There was literally nothing going on when I got off at Luninets and I spent my 70-minute fester in the waiting room with about half a dozen others. When I couldn’t take any more of the snoring emanating from the corner of the waiting room I stood it out in the station lobby. Despite 610b 1939 (P) Grodno – Gomel Pas. being timed to depart Luninets at 0310 it arrives at 0240 and my bed was made up well before departure time; this time having paid the BYN1.50 for bedding. The morning started as the night had ended with yet another TEP60, this time a standard one in TEP60-0593. While laid in my bed I felt a jolt as something dropped onto the rear to detach the portion that would go forward to Brest on 605b 1553 (P) Vitebsk – Brest; the reverse of the shunt I’d done on my first night in the country.

I knew very little about the journey towards Gomel but at 0845 I thought it was probably about time to drag my arse out of my pit and wasn’t surprised to find that the train had emptied out overnight and there were only about half a dozen people left dotted about the place; and I was the only one left in bed. Although we were only 8km from Gomel according to ME Maps it took 25 minutes to get there; it was a right stagger. There was no messing about when it came to getting the engine off the train when the train arrived and it was a good job I went to investigate anyway as TEP60-0593 had morphed into TEP70-0265 between Luninets and Gomel. I can only assume that an engine change had taken place at Kalinkovichi as it was the only place with enough standing time for it to do so.

On Gomel shed as we arrived were a couple of RZD machines, namely 2TE25K-003 and 2M62U-004 along with a few normal M62’s scattered about, two of which were M62-1559 and M62-1575. TME3-011 was Gomel station pilot and it shunted every set of stock out that arrived; albeit only three did while I was there. TEP70-0425 arrived with 55f 2031(P) Moscow – Gomel and TEP70-0260 arrived shortly afterwards with 83a 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel. Other than the local trains, which were all EMU & DMU the only other train I saw before doing one was 716b 0711 Minsk Pas. – Gomel which was formed of a single Flirt EMU #005.

I’d not originally planned to do this as it simply hadn’t dawned on me, but; while I was figuring out what could or couldn’t be done on the locals at Gomel if anything was hauled, I discovered by accident that the train I was doing out of Gomel, which would have been a 3h30m fester, actually stopped at Dobrush, which is where BCh operate a local service to. I later found this to be a DMU and as luck didn’t have it there was no train out to Dobrush to make my 302S 1657 (PP) Adler – Minsk Pas. ME Maps showed the journey to be 29km and that it would take 30 minutes, with the route it showed more or less following the railway anyway. Not wanting to go out there and get bowled by not being able to get on I managed to get my ticket changed to Dobrush – Osipovichi in the ticket office at Gomel in exactly the same way I’d changed my Lyntupy & Druja tickets at Minsk at the start of the trip. With plenty of time to get there, there was no rush so I even had a little walk round the area outside the station before taking one of those that asked up on their offer of a taxi. I showed him Dobrush on the map, just to make sure he understood where I wanted to go and the taxi did what ME Maps said it would and got me to Dobrush in 30 minutes; just in time for it to start hammering down with rain.

When I saw the headlight approaching through the rain I couldn’t initially tell it was an RZD engine but the orange front of TEP70-0276 soon gave it away; my first RZD loco and without going into Russia. Like every other arrival into Gomel the staff wasted no time in getting TEP70-0276 off the train but at least I managed to phot it from the cover of the station canopy while BCh TEP70-0313 was arriving with 100f 0705 Minsk Pas. – Zaporizhzhya. TEP70-0209 was already sat outside the station ready to drop on and the engine change had taken place in the space of a few minutes.

From Gomel 302S was virtually full in my coach and that was where I managed to end up being seated opposite the first normal of the trip that spoke English; it was a welcome change to actually talk to someone on one of the journeys, ironically my penultimate long distance one! I learnt quite a lot about the history of Belarus during the journey and the one thing that stood out from the conversation was the fact that if you’re out of work in Belarus you actually have to pay the government for being so! It’s like being overdrawn at your bank and having to pay them the fees for being so! I also learnt that despite having their own language most people in Belarus speak Russian instead, which is thanks to their President. Finally, a useful bit of info as regards ME Maps is that the place names are shown in Russian but the English translation below is actually of the Belarussian name for that place and not the Russian shown! Which explains a lot as I was starting to get a little confused with what to call places.

It had been an interesting 3h30m journey but I was ready for stretching my legs at Osipovichi. After passing 2M62U-0312a en-route at Babruysk with a train I couldn’t identify it got me thinking if there was a ned leap I could do at Osipovichi when I got there and sure enough I had time to leap out to Osipovichi 2 for 6586 1309 Mogilev 1 – Osipovichi 1. Just shunting out of the platform as I arrived was 2M62U-0264a, which must have arrived with 6524 1255 Soligorsk – Osipovichi 1. I had no time to look around though and while it was only a short distance to Osipovichi 2 time was of the essence. There were three taxis to choose from at the station front and I was there in no time at all. 2M62U-0311b turned up with the train and remained in platform 1 on arrival into Osipovichi 1 to work back with 6588 1801 Osipovichi 1 – Mogilev 1.

It seemed to be a busy period at Osipovichi and things also seemed to be able to depart on time, unlike the previous evening of course. One shed were a couple of 2TE10’s and M62 and a ChME3 and M62-1527 was shunted out while I got a few photos. TEP70BS-049 briefly stopped with 660b 1536 Minsk – Mogilev and that was followed by TEP70BS-049 with 648b 1544 Minsk – Gomel, which departed with some guy chasing after it down the platform and when the train didn’t stop for him he took his frustration out on the staff on the platform, even though it had actually departed a few minutes late! I could hear him ranting from the station building a good 100m from where he was standing.

Thankfully I’d had better luck with my visit to Soligorsk the previous day with my TEP60 as 614b 1426 Soligorsk – Mogilev 1 arrived and departed Osipovichi with TEP70BS-009. Next up was my last train of the trip in Belarus; 371b 1540 Mogilev 1 – Lviv (Ukraine), which would be my home for the next 10 hours to Sarny in the Ukraine. TEP70-0435 completed a run of all new TEP70’s while I’d been in Belarus and while I’d seen some of the ones I’d had while travelling about everything BCh presented on a train I was doing was different from every other one I’d had before it and as we set off from Osipovichi 1 it seemed like an age since I’d entered from Latvia a week earlier and my time in Latvia was almost forgot along the way!

At Minsk I got off in the 32-minute downtime for a leg stretch, found TEP60-0149 just being attached to 650b 1435 Brest – Mogilev 1 having replaced a ChS4T electric. When I returned I found the coach full and my compo having been invaded by some red-faced twat who thought it was cool to be playing his music out loud on his new smartphone. Next to turn up was another red-faced twat who despite me insisting that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying to me, had to be told by the girl in the upper berth opposite to leave me alone. It turned out this particular twat was in the upper berth above me and he just plonked himself down on my seat; which didn’t bother me at that point as I had loads of stuff to do to prepare myself for crossing into the Ukraine and wanted to see if there was an engine anywhere en-route.

I got off the train again during the stop at Baranovichi but nothing happened there, other than TME1-020 shunting a coach onto the rear of the train, so I prepared myself for the Luninets stop to see if a loco change happened there. Thankfully bert had stopped playing his music by 2230, which he randomly did on and off, but he and the other red faced twat still kept on jibbering for a good while and were eventually told to be quiet by other passengers, at which point the one not playing the music went to bother someone else and wasn’t seen again until he returned to get his coat when he got off. From here onwards I managed to make a bit of a meal of things….

With all the good intentions of getting off and seeing what went on at Luninets, I didn’t set an alarm as it was only just after midnight; so it quite served me right when I woke 2 minutes before departure from Luninets and we were off before I could even figure out where my shoes had migrated to on the floor! Then we were heading south towards the Ukraine border and my exit from Belarus.

 

Gen for Wednesday 5th October 2016

BCh

TEP60-0149         650b 1435 Brest – Mogilev 1 (from Minsk)

TEP60-0593         610b 1939 (04/10) Grodno – Gomel (to Kalinkovichi)

 

TEP70-0209         302s 1657 (03/10) Adler (Russia) – Minsk Pasazyrski (from Gomel)

TEP70-0260         83a 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel

TEP70-0265         610b 1939 (04/10) Grodno – Gomel (from Kalinkovichi)

TEP70-0425         55f 2031 (P) Moskva Belorusskaja – Gomel

TEP70-0435         371b 1540 Mogilev 1 – Lviv (Ukraine) (to Luninets)

TEP70BS-048      648b 1544 Minsk Pasazyrski – Gomel

TEP70BS-049      660b 1536 Minsk Pasazyrski – Mogilev 1

 

2M62U-0264a   6524 1255 Soligorsk – Osipovichi 1

2M62U-0311b    6586 1309 Mogilev 1 – Osipovichi 1

 

TME1-020            Shunt coach to rear of 371b at Minsk Pas.

 

Flirt EMU             716b 0711 Minsk Pasazyrski – Gomel

 

RZD

TEP70-0276         302s 1657 (03/10) Adler (Russia) – Minsk Pasazyrski (to Gomel)

 

Photos from 5th October 2016

 

Thursday 6th October 2016 (Arriving into Ukraine and heading to Kyiv)

I didn’t need to be awake again en-route for any other reason than for the border grips and to get off at Sarny; which the coach attendants woke everyone up for. At Gorin’ the Belarus border grip took place, where of course there was no getting off the train, or even contemplating it. One of the border staff spoke a little English and seem quite pleased to chat while one of his colleagues processed my passport and stamped me out of the country. He’d read my exit card with the hotel stamps on the back and asked me what I’d seen in Vitebsk & Mogilev, which initially I thought was the usual border police questioning/prying but as the conversation progressed it turned out that he was actually interested in where I’d been and was very grateful of my comments about Belarus; apparently, they don’t get many English-speaking tourists traveling their way and don’t get to understand what foreigners in general think about Belarus. My passport was soon back in my possession and exiting Belarus was a simple, and definitely not an unpleasant one at all.

In typical BCh style train 371 Mogilev – Lviv rolled out of Gorin’ spot on time and there even appeared to be a call over the border control staff radios to alert them that it was 5 minutes to departure time. Minutes later we were entering the Ukraine at Udryts’k, where the border control wasn’t anywhere near as organized at it had been just across the border and it was 40 minutes after our arrival when the border staff doing the passport processing made it into our coach; with only a plus 33’ at Sarny for my train forward to Kyiv I began to think the worst might happen as it approached departure time and they’d only just started to process my passport.

When we arrived into Udryts’k I heard the brakes immediately destroyed and a couple of minutes later 2M62-1153 a&b were rolling by the window; which was a nice surprise. I can only assume they went on at Luninets while I wasn’t getting my ass out of my pit to check!? It would make sense for the TEP70 to be left there though and any old tat be used to the Ukraine border as it can then work back on a freight. 371/372 only run on odd dates in on direction and even in the other so the engine would have a fester if it were to just stand at the border to await the return working. I felt the clunk of something else going on the front of the train but didn’t see it so it must have been sat outside the station ready to drop on. Needless to say, I didn’t see what it was until Sarny.

At 0311, booked departure time from Udryts’k, I was beginning to fret a little about my connection at Sarny as my passport was still in the border guard’s hands; but then we started moving, spot on time. The border staff travelled through with the train to Dubrovytsia and got off there and all was well with the timekeeping; thankfully!

On arrival into Sarny it was immediately evident that I wasn’t in Belarus anymore, there were not station lights, the platform wasn’t pristine and there were no security guards or departure screens. What I was greeted with as I entered Ukraine was a knackered platform, with potholes everywhere, a pitch-black station, which resulted in me using my phone for light as I wondered down the platform to see what was at the front of the train, and it was bloody cold! UZ M62-1457 was at the head of 371 when it departed from Sarny; where I was the only person to get off the train.

I was glad I didn’t have long to wait in the cod at Sarny in the cold. If I’d missed my plus 33’ it would have been a nice fester until the 0815 Sarny – Kovel passenger and my move to Kyiv would have been in the bin; thankfully it wasn’t and 2M62-0961 a&b were soon along with 142 2146 (P) Lviv – Kyiv and I was straight into my berth in platskart, which was the only one free in the whole coach as I walked through it.

As I didn’t get to bed till nearly 0500 and needless to say was the last to surface in the coach, 30 minutes before arrival into Kyiv Pas. Upon arrival I counted just the 18 coaches on the train and found electric DS3-004 at the front; having replaced the 2M62 at Korosten. With not a great deal of time to hang around initially I had a quick walk outside the station and had no problem getting myself a taxi to take me to Darnytsia station, on the other side of town. Loads of taxi drivers were hanging around touting for business right outside the station doors and some were even on the platform asking folk the moment they got off the train.

The journey took 15 minutes to get to what’s technically the other side of town and I was soon on the platform awaiting the arrival of 781 Poltava – Kyiv Pas. which was on time with ChS4-117 at its helm. As I’d already booked all my UZ tickets online I didn’t have to worry about trying to get tickets for trains at short notice, which was one less hassle to deal with. The other hassle I soon wasn’t dealing with was my big bag, which got deposited in the left luggage facility when I got back to Kyiv Pas. This is downstairs to the left as you look at the front of the station building. It was UAH20 for the day and it took me a while to figure out why the guy I was paying wouldn’t take my money; I was trying to give him 20 Polish Zloty instead, which would have been better for him had he just took it of course!

Kyiv Pas. station is well equipped and quite well presented really and you’ll definitely not starve at it, with McDonalds, KFC and Domino’s Pizza all being in the vicinity as well as rafts of snack stalls all over the place. From the main walkway over the station you can look down into the railway museum, where there are a couple of steam locos, TE3-2068, ChME2-333 and ChS4-072 on display. It’s also a good vantage point to see what’s going on in the station area but it took me a while to figure out that all the local EMU’s use the dead-end station adjacent; which is outside of the main station, to the left.

I did have grand plans to take a stroll into Kyiv but it was a good 3km to the old town and quite hilly so rather than rush about and get all sweaty I gave it a miss and did some trains instead. ChS4-154 was soon in with 764 Odessa – Darnytsia, along with its nice modern A/C stock with plug doors. This conveyed me back to Darnytsia, where I got another taxi back to Kyiv Pas. Nothing was easy when it came to doing moves at Kyiv Pas. during the day but there was plenty to phot as stock was shunted in and out of the station and engines then put on them ready for their later departures. However even my photting got brought to an abrupt end when some woman, who could have been the duty station manager, told me to stop; in Ukrainian. When I questioned why she casually showed me her radio, beckoned towards the station building and then gestured with her hands; which basically meant that if I carried on she’d get on the radio and call security over; the miserable bitch! Nobody else had been bothered at all. I did sneak one more though, while she was walking away from me, of the VL80 I’d been waiting to phot once the sun came back out.

I only had one other move available before I departed at 1544 towards Kovel, which had ChS4-131 as on it long before departure. Also, sat on their train waiting for departure were ChS4’s 064 & 169 with 84 1321 Kyiv Pas. – Mariupol; 169 was panned down on the inside. When I got to Darnytsia this time, as I had a bit more time to get back to Kyiv Pas. I walked to the metro station and managed to successfully get myself back to Vokzalna on the metro, which is the shack for Kyiv Pas. station. After a much-needed trip to Domino’s Pizza, followed by a trip to a nearby supermarket, I picked up my big bag and by the time I got myself onto platform 1 the stock for 141 1544 Kyiv Pas. – Lviv was already in. DS3-018 was just dropping on to the load 18 rake and thankfully my coach was only a few from the front so I wouldn’t have far to walk at Korosten when the 2M62 went on.

This time I was in a 4-berth compo and what a nice relaxing journey it was. With the battery flat on my laptop all I could do was lay in my berth, listen to music on my Ipod and relax; which was pretty much what the couple in the upper two berths did from the moment we left Kyiv and the guy in the bottom berth opposite dropped his stuff at Kyiv and wasn’t seen again for about 6 hours! The engine change at Korosten was pretty efficient and 2M62-0940 a&b were already sat outside the station ready to drop on when we arrived. I’d toyed with the idea of getting off at Kovel at just after midnight but couldn’t resist going through to the next shack, Turiis’k, for the opposing working of 142 2146 Lviv – Kyiv Pas. back to get the extra 2M62 in. I’d been well rested from Kyiv to Kovel so another 90 minutes wasn’t going to take much of a toll. 2M62-1062 a&b had me back at Kovel in no time and it was then a 10-minute walk to the hotel Nashe Misto; which is outside the station, turn left at the mounted steam loco outside and keep going until you bump into it!

The hotel staff were expecting me when I turned up as I’d already e-mailed them to advise of my late arrival and with the front desk being 24/7 there was no issue getting in to the place. The receptionist didn’t speak a word of English but things were sorted easily enough and I was in my room by 0200; which was a big room, clean and tidy and had a spotless and very modern bathroom; which for £8 was an absolute steal and I’d definitely recommend the place. WiFi was free and had a good signal and while didn’t know it at the time the attached restaurant served very good food, which was also cheap. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t long after arrival that my head hit the pillow and likewise it was equally unsurprising that I didn’t set my alarm to get up for the early morning departures and was aiming to be at the station for the departures after 0800.

 

Gen for Thursday 6th October 2016

BCh

2M62-1153a&b                 371b 1540 Mogilev 1 – Lviv (Ukraine) (from Luninets to Udrytsk)

 

UZ

M62-1457                           371b 1540 Mogilev 1 – Lviv (Ukraine) (from Udrytsk)

2M62-0940a&b                141 1544 Kyiv Pasazyrski – Lviv (from Korosten)

2M62-0961a&b                 142 2146 (05/10) Lviv – Kyiv Pasazyrski (to Korosten)

2M62-1062a&b                 142 2146 (06/10) Lviv – Kyiv Pasazyrski (to Korosten)

 

Electrics

ChS4-046             84 1827 (P) Mariupol – Kyiv Pasazyrski

ChS4-064/169    84 1321 Kyiv Pasazyrski – Mariupol

ChS4-117             781 0609 Poltava Pivd – Kyiv Pasazyrski

ChS4-131             778 1342 Kyiv Pasazyrski – Shotska

ChS4-154             764 0542 Odesa Hol – Darnytsia

DS3-004               142 2146 (05/10) Lviv – Kyiv Pasazyrski (from Korosten)

DS3-018               141 1544 Kyiv Pasazyrski – Lviv (to Korosten)

 

EMU’s

744        0619 Lviv – Darnytsia

724        1335 Kyiv Pasazyrski – Kharkiv

725         0723 Kharkiv – Kyiv Pasazyrski

 

Photos from 6th October 2016

 

Friday 7th October 2016 (A day in Kovel then overnight to Warsaw)

I’d been toying with the idea of keeping the hotel room for the day but in the end went with leaving my big bag with reception for the day instead and when I walked out of the hotel if I thought I’d been cold at Sarny two nights previous, then I was freezing while walking to the station on this particular morning. It was a definite shock to the system after it had been nice in Kyiv the day before and the clobber I had with me wasn’t quite equipped to deal with temperature as low as it was; it couldn’t have been much above freezing! Even the walk to the station didn’t warm me up but it was reasonable enough in the waiting hall to attempt to get warm.

Folks on recent visits to Kovel had done track moves and mentioned that it wasn’t really possible to get all the locos that worked out of Kovel on the locals in the one day; well it definitely is if you don’t mind doing a bit of walking during the day! The day started with DMU DRA1-194 working 6055 0848 Kovel – Lviv, which let me say was by far the loudest thing I hard all day and I was actually quite withered by the noise it made when it came into the station. Both engines sounded quite meaty and were quite loud with it; it would probably have made a good bash but I opted for quiet M62’s instead…..

An ER9T EMU formed 6358/6357 0850 Kovel – Kiverchy – Luts’k and when 2M62-1001 came in, which was formed as a 2 coach DPL1 push-pull set, even with DPL1-006 on the front of the loco as well, the hoards descended and 6318 0832 Kovel – Sarny was full and standing in moments! The other train in the station was also full and standing but at least had heat as 6373 0835 Kovel – Jagodin was formed of M62-1397 and two platskart, one of which had the fire going to warm the coach through.

While I had a plan to do 2M62-1001 to the first station and walk back for the 0915 Kovel – Zabolotty I quickly realised that my plan could well be flawed when ME Maps seemed to route me through a field to get me part of the way back to Kovel. When I got off at 448km, 5km by rail out of town but more direct as the crow flies, I soon realised that ME Maps’ routing was correct as I went storming off down dirt tracks that cut through a rural housing area, which was really out in the wilderness! It was when I got to the main road back to Kovel that I realised I bitten off more than I could chew with the walk back yet every cloud has a silver lining and a mini-van pulled up behind me to drop someone off while I was hurrying along; it dropped me in the bus station outside the train station a few minutes later and cost pence!

Had I not got on the bus I would definitely have missed the 0915 Kovel – Zabolotty. As it happened I made it by a few minutes which was the second train of the morning formed of a DPL1 load 2 push-pull set; this time DPL1-004 with 2M62-1114 (also with DPL1-004 on the front). Again, this train was well patronized and for my second journey of the day I didn’t get gripped on board and alighted 2km after departing Kovel at Verbka; where yet more walking commenced. This time initially back to Kovel, which took about 25 minutes down the main road which runs up the back side of the station. There are a couple of entrances through the fencing and over the carriage sidings to get to the station so there’s no need to walk all the way round the long way to the station front. Once I’d had a rest and assessed what I was going to do next I set off walking back to 448km and had 90 minutes to do it in. It took me 60 minutes and when I got there with 30 minutes to spare there was already someone waiting for the train. By the time it arrived the platform was full of local Berts & Adas all chewing the cud about local things for local people!

My second 2M62-1001 of the day arrived with 6319 0815 Sarny – Kovel, formed with a load 4 DPL1 push-pull set numbered DPL1-005. There is absolutely nothing on either 2M62-1001 to identify the a or b unit so the only way to tell them part is by the DLP1 set number applied to each; common sense would have you thinking that DPL1-005 is 2M62-1001a and DPL1-006 is 2M62-1001b but that would just make too much sense eh? On board I was surprised to find the gripper stood over me while I tried to write my move down and she must have seen me photting the train as it arrived. I was even more surprised when she chung me and nobody else on the train at all; so quite how that worked I don’t know. Either way the short journey cost me UAH6.00 and I later found out that the fare structure for the locals is done on distance travelled but in stepped intervals; so for example 0-12km is UAH6 and so on. This turned out to be the one and only time I got gripped all day!

At Kovel I decided to bite the bullet and get a photo of the CCCP works plate on 2M62-1001 the second and in doing so earned myself a telling off from a couple of army guys who just so happened to be stood in the smoking area watching me, while I had my back to them initially. When they began to walk down the platform towards me I was patiently waiting for them to get out of the way of the loco so I could get another photo but soon realised they were heading straight for me. They wanted to see my passport and were happy once they saw it was an EU one and left the questioning be but told me not to take anymore photos. When I question why they told me that Ukraine was at war with Russia, which isn’t really an answer but I wasn’t going to argue the toss with them and had to get a little more creative with the photos I took; which were all from outside the station premises after that point. It was a bit of a shame too as M62-1397 had arrived and run round to form 6375 1600 Kovel – Jagodin by the time I’d finished having my chat!

While I was pondering what to do I noticed a little shunt engine coming into the station with an ex works coach. This turned out to be TGK.2.1.8988, which deposited a coach into the rake of stock stabled just outside the station. Quick thinking had me walking down the main road outside the station towards the carriage works, which is half way between the station and the Nashe Misto. I was there before it came back and when it returned some track machine type thing shunted two coaches out into the yard area so the gronk could get onto the rear of them and then it propelled them to the station as well and attached them to the same rake of stock. I later saw a guy looking over the three coaches and connecting up cables.

Back at the station 2M62-1113, with DPL1-003 on the loco, was sat in ready to work 6303 1340 Kovel – Chervonograd. The short leap out to the first shack Fasti had me walking back to Kovel for the second time that day. Thankfully it had warmed up a little though and was actually becoming quite a pleasant day so I didn’t need all my layer on during the walk and back at Kovel I expected to find 2M62-1001 (DPL1-005) on 6320 1529 Kovel – Sarny. When I did I took a walk outside the station to photograph it departing then walked back to do M62-1397 on its two platskart coaches to Cherkasy; from where I walked back to Kovel; for the third time that day! I arrived back with about 10 minutes to spare for 6305 1710 Kovel – Izov, on which I found M62-1391 waiting with two more platskart coaches. When I got to Fasti this time I walked directly to Verbka to await M62M-1225-2 returning from Karmen Kashirsky with 962 1549 Karmen Kashirsky. When it did it was formed of the two platskart coaches it went out with but there were no freight wagons on the rear; 961 had gone out with a box wagon on the rear that morning. I almost didn’t get on the train and was probably lucky there was someone getting off as at least the door in the 2nd coach was opened. The steps were up before I got to it though ad it was only one because one of the locals shouted to the coach attendant that they were lowered again to get me on. I wasn’t chung after I was let on board and actually couldn’t get into the coach for all the locals already stood in the vestibule. The front coach was completely empty and everyone was wedged into the back one, probably because it would have been freezing in the front one with no fire going to warm it through. I stood be the nice warm glow of the fire in the rear coach for my short journey back to Kovel, from where I headed off to the Nashe Misto to get my big bag and had a cracking meal in the restaurant attached to the hotel; which has the odd English speaking member of staff and an English menu.

Having spent most of the day walking I was about all walked out so decided to get the hotel to book me a taxi to take me to 448km again to see what came back in on 6321 1605 Sarny – Kovel. I wasn’t expecting 2M62-1001 (DPL1-006) to be swapped at Sarny off 6318 0832 Kovel – Sarny but equally I didn’t want to sit and watch something new arrive into Kovel on 6321 when I could have gone for it. The taxi driver was utterly withered when I directed him down the dark mud tracks to 448km shack and of course I was greeted by DPL1-006 as expected. In the platform when I got back was a DMU off 6314 1734 Zabolotty – Kovel, which must have gone out with 6313 1422 Kovel – Zabolotty while I was walking back from Fasti for the first time of the day off 6303 1340 Kovel – Chervonograd. What I will say for the DMU is that it was by far the most entertaining thing I’d heard thrash-wise all day. I was actually very intrigued by it, it sounded very meaty and very similar to a class 50 in some ways; and that was both power cars at either end of it! It was a definite shame the M62’s sounded nothing like it otherwise they’d have been quite hellfire! During my afternoon I’d been scrutinizing what I’d seen and made the following observations of two of the locos! 2M62-1113 (DPL1-003) had 2M62-0530 underneath the number on its panel at the front of the loco and M62M-1225-1 had 2M62-1225 underneath its number on the panel at the front of the loco. Read into that what you want but………

That was almost my brief introductory bash into the Ukraine done with, all I had to do now was get myself to Kiverchy for my overnight rail tour to Warszawa. ChME3-4672 had just shunted the load 18 set in to form train 98 2016 Kovel – Kyiv Pas. and ChS4-069 was soon on the business end of the train ready for departure. I had the whole of coach 5 to myself to Luts’k and as we arrived into Kiverchy to run round, VL80T-1440a&b was just being given the tip to depart for Luts’k with 791 1625 Ternopil – Kovel, which I was on a plus 3’ for at Luts’k; which made easily and I was headed straight back to Kiverchy with the bonus VL80T to await the arrival of train D67 1648 Kyiv Pas. – Warszawa Zachodnia.

 

Gen for Friday 7th October 2016

M62-1391            6305 1710 Kovel – Izov

M62-1397            6373 0835 Kovel – Jagodin, 6374 1040 Jagodin – Kovel, 6375 1600 Kovel – Jagodin, 6376 1756 Jagodin – Kovel

M62M-1225-2   961 0900 Kovel – Karmen Kashirsky (mixed), 962 1549 Karmen Kashirsky – Kovel

 

UZ DPL1 sets at Kovel

DPL1-003 (2M62-1113)                  6303 1340 Kovel – Chervonograd, 6306 1637 Chervonograd – Kovel

DPL1-004 (2M62-1114)                  6311 0915 Kovel – Zabolotty, 6312 1155 Zabolotty – Kovel

DPL1-005 (2M62-1001 (2))           6319 0815 Sarny – Kovel, 6320 1529 Kovel – Sarny

DPL1-006 (2M62-1001 (1))           6318 0832 Kovel – Sarny, 6321 1605 Sarny – Kovel

 

DMU                     6313 1422 Kovel – Zabolotty, 6314 1734 Zabolotty – Kovel

 

Electrics

ChS4-069             98 2016 Kovel – Kyiv Pasazyrski

ChS4-084             78 1013 Kovel – Moscow

ChS4-107             84 1816(P) Odesa – Kovel

VL80T-1440a&b 791 1625 Ternopil – Kovel

 

D67 1648 Kyiv Pasazyski – Warszawa Zachodnia as follows:

ChS4-201             Kivertsi – Kovel

M62M-1225-1    Kovel – Jagodin

ChME3-4646       Jagodin – Jagodin Gauge Changing Shed

M62-1408            Jagodin Gauge Changing Shed – Jagodin

SM48-043 (PKP)               Jagodin – Dorohusk

EP07-434 (PKP) Dorohusk – Warszawa Zachodnia

 

Photos from 7th October 2016

 

Saturday 8th October 2016 (Kiverchy (Ukraine) to Warszawa (Poland) overnight then a day in Warszawa)

There wasn’t much to do in Kiverchy one VL80T-1440a&b had departed with train 791 for Kovel and I waited it out in the confines of the station building. The only thing moving was ChME3-5265 which was shunting about with the odd wagon here and there in the adjacent yard. The only train that passed through in the meantime was my D67 1648 Kyiv Pas. – Warszawa Zachodnia on its way into Luts’k; I didn’t even bother trying to get on at that point and just waited for it to come back. At which point the coach attendant in my coach was quite surprised when I presented him with a ticket, let alone one that was booked from Luts’k! He clearly wasn’t expecting anyone to get on at Kiverchy and I was the only person on the station at that point too! The coach clearly wasn’t that full and I was given a cabin to myself for the run to Poland; which was a bit of a bonus really and meant I wouldn’t be disturbing anyone when I frothed about getting loco numbers on what would be like a rail tour overnight!

ChS4-201 worked D67 to Kovel and was quickly exchanged for M62M-1225-1, where there was no issue getting off the train at all. At Kovel though I realised I was going to be at a disadvantage from that point on as after the UZ internal coaches were detached I found myself in the middle coach of the load three set of UZ coaches that would go forward to Poland; and it did become an issue for getting loco numbers from that point on!

On the approach to Jagodin the coach attendant made sure everyone was awake, at 0230 in the morning, and their berth doors were open for the border grip to commence. Passports were soon taken to be processed then nothing happened for a while. An M62 shunted through the station towards the yard with the two coaches off 6377 2033 Kovel – Jagodin and then I heard the ChME3 approach before it dropped onto the Dorohusk end of the train. Attempts to get through to the front of the train were halted by the border staff on the train, who just happened to be hovering at the front end of my coach. Words with the coach attendant fell on deaf ears too as he didn’t understand a word of English so a last-ditch attempt at using Google translate get across what I wanted had to suffice. Bizarrely this put some life into the attendants face but he was still at a loss as he gestured that he couldn’t walk through the coaches now we were on the move towards the gauge-changing shed. Then I noticed his mobile phone on the side in his cabin and gestured that he called the attendant in the front coach, while typing into Google Translate “look out of the front window”. Two minutes later he was writing down the number 4646 on a napkin while on the phone to his female colleague in the front coach! I knew this was a legitimate number based on other reports over the years and was well pleased with my initiative as once the ChME3 had split the train up in the gauge-changing shed it was never heard again, let alone seen at all!

As we departed Jagodin station for the gauge-changing shed we ran by SM48-043, which was waiting at the standard gauge side of the station, I could only assume at that point that it would be the loco to work D67 through to Dorohusk but my assumption turned out to be correct. As this was my first time through a gauge-changing shed I was intrigued by it all and it wasn’t long before the coach was up in the air and a load of clunking and clanging was going off beneath it. The whole process seems efficient enough but this overnight isn’t one for getting any reasonable amounts of sleep on, what with the border grips and then noise in the gauge-changing shed, so be warmed. Once back down on the fresh bogies it wasn’t long before a standard gauge loco was coming into the shed to shunt us out. Again, though it came onto the Dorohusk end of the train, shunted the three coaches back together and then drew us out of the Dorohusk end of the shed before propelling us back to Jagodin station. I’d clocked that the tone of the loco was different when it came into the shed and suspected that it was probably an M62 and M62-1408 at that; as it always seemed to do the standard gauge shunt on D67/D68. Still it needed confirming and I was grateful that my coach attendant was willing to ring his colleague again and sure enough he wrote 1408 down on the same napkin. SM48-043 was running when we got into the station and was shunted onto the front of the train once the M62 had disappeared. It was next seen shunting in the yard while we headed out of Jagodin and with passports duly returned we were away right time at 0457 for the short journey to Dorohusk in Poland, where we arrived right time at 0409; with the time-zone change between Ukraine and Poland!

Passport checks were straightforward at Dorohusk and the moment it was completed it was lights out time and I got horizontal. I found PKP IC EP07-434 at the head of the train when I got off at Warszawa Centralna some 5 hours later, after nearly solid doss all the way. There was definitely no time for complacency upon arrival into Warsaw and I was pressed straight into nedding mode with the surprising amount of EP07’s about. I’d already bought my PKP IC Weekend ticket online before I started the trip and had it printed and ready to go. I’d planned to nip to the Ibis Reduta near Zachodnia to dump my bag but I had to settle for dropping it in a left luggage locker at Warszawa Centralna for the morning and then heading to the hotel in the early afternoon; although that idea got cut down time wise thanks to some late running trains.

Having had a good morning of it I was ready for a more relaxing afternoon and fully expected a lot of stuff to start repeating itself but it was a relentless precession of fresh locos everywhere I turned; which kept me occupied and ensured I did a bit of running about for the whole afternoon. There wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary but I was surprised with how many new EP09’s turned up during the day for me. I guess the only thing out of the ordinary in the afternoon was the fact I managed to end up effing the Moscow – Paris from Centralna to Zachodnia, with Railpool 186143, by utilizing the toilet the moment I boarded the train at an empty door. At the time I didn’t actually realise that it was sleepers only and I shouldn’t have been on board but the coach attendant soon pointed that out when I stood at the door waiting to get off at Zachodnia. That’ll be the second time I’ve managed to do something like that; with the first being the Chisinau – Bucharest overnight into Iasi, which was a lot harder to get on and explain why we needed to be on it at the time! Lesson learnt though……

It was a positively miserable night by the time I was ready for giving up on the night. All day long Polish football fans had been turning up on trains at Centralna and every time they all chanted the same song out as though nobody else had sung it that day; they were last seen marching down a main road towards the national stadium, when my train went over between Wschodnia & Centralna. It was hammering down with rain; they were blocking the road and had a queue of traffic behind them and it just summed up the miserable night so it was time to call it a day and head off back to the hotel.

I’ve found that the food at the new style Ibis Kitchens is very good and the food at the Reduta was no exception; even if the service was a little slow. The place it only a 10-minute walk from Zachodnia station, straight across the park when you come out of the underpass that leads underneath the main road. It’s cheap, clean has a great kitchen and restaurant and offers a free welcome drink for Accor members; which can be used on alcohol.

When I went to bed that night it was then of my Eastern European adventure but it wasn’t home time as I would be heading straight to Los Angeles the following morning, via Gatwick for a 1h45m connection with Norwegian Airlines. Randomly it had actually been cheaper to book a Warsaw – LA flight with Norwegian than it had been to book the same flight I’d be boarding at Gatwick, just from Gatwick and by about £40! This was why I’d spent the day in Warsaw instead of going home earlier in the day after arriving from the Ukraine.

 

Gen for Saturday 8th October 2016

D67 1648 Kyiv Pasazyski – Warszawa Zachodnia as follows:

 

ChS4-201             Kivertsi – Kovel

M62M-1225-1    Kovel – Jagodin

ChME3-4646       Jagodin – Jagodin Gauge Changing Shed

M62-1408            Jagodin Gauge Changing Shed – Jagodin

SM48-043 (PKP)               Jagodin – Dorohusk

EP07-434 (PKP) Dorohusk – Warszawa Zachodnia

 

170009 (SKM)   Os31300               1611 Krakow Glowny – Warszawa Wschodnia

186143 (Railpool) 23                       1858 (07/10) Moscow – Paris Est

 

PKP

EU07-146             IC13113                0746 Terespol – Krakow Plaszow

 

EP07-335              TLK52100             1345 Bydgoszcz Glowna – Lublin

EP07-339              TLK10118             0443 Suwalki – Warszawa Zachodnia

EP07-344              TLK31112             1316 Krakow Plaszow – Ternopil

EP07-357              TLK81108             0625 Szczecin Głowny – Warszawa Wschodnia

EP07-384              TLK83105             0601 Bydgoszcz Glowna – Rzeszow Glowny

EP07-387              TLK91104             1212 Lodz Kaliska – Warszawa Wschodnia

EP07-391              TLK11114             0913 Terespol – Warszawa Zachodnia

EP07-1006           TLK15108             1403 Warszawa Wschodnia – Bydgoszcz Glowna

EP07-1015           TLK35104             1233 Rzeszow – Bydgoszcz Glowna

EP07-1027           TLK18101             1241 Warszawa Zachodnia – Kolobrzeg

EP07-1042           TLK17102             1918 Warszawa Wschodnia – Zielona Gora

EP07-1056           TLK38106             0712 Przemysl Glowny – Szczecin Glowny

EP07-1059           TLK35106             0311 Przemysl Glowny – Bydgoszcz Glowna

EP07-1065           TLK81100             0727 Kolobrzeg – Warszawa Zachodnia

 

EP08-012              TLK81106             1143 Szczecin Glowny – Bialystok

 

EP09-002              EIC105                   0922 Gdynia Glowna – Wien Hbf

EP09-007              TLK13110             1447 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow Glowny

EP09-009              TLK61110             1230 Wroclaw – Warszawa Wschodnia

EP09-018              EC104                    0809 Wien Hbf – Gdynia Glowna

EP09-028              EIC110                   1738 Warszawa Wschodnia – Ostrava Svinov

EP09-031              EIC3126                0820 Krakow Glowny – Warszawa Wschodnia

EP09-036              EIC8102                0607 Szczecin Glowny – Warszawa Wschodnia

EP09-044              TLK41112             0653 Raciborz – Warszawa Wschodnia

EP09-045              EIC3522                1429 Krakow Glowny – Gdynia Glowna

 

Photos from 8th October 2016

 

Sunday 9th October 2016 (Warsaw to home but not quite home……)

I always like the idea of getting trains done in two different countries in the same day so I chose to get up a little earlier than I needed to for my 1045 flight and do a quick spin to Warszawa Centralna and back before heading to the airport by train. It was a rewarding morning with two new EP07’s but I was relieved of 10 Zloty onboard the KM train to the airport when the guard refused to accept my PKP Weekend ticket; which I figured wasn’t valid anyway!

While my Norwegian flights to/from the US were cheap, Norwegian still doesn’t do online check-in for its long-distance flights and flights to/from the UK or US so it was back to the stone age as far as check-in was concerned but at least I was at the front of the queue; thanks to a bit of inside info on which desk I’d need to check in at.

The flight from Warsaw to Gatwick had already been advised via e-mail as being operated by an alternate plane about a week earlier and the plane provided by Air Explore was a long way from what I’d expected from Norwegian. I guess they knew that anyway as full refunds were offered at the time of their advice via e-mail. Still it got us to London, albeit late and for the second time in a year in Poland I got out to the tarmac to find a man with a spanner waist deep inside one of the plane’s engines! Luckily the wind was behind us to London and we made a bit of time up, allowing enough to scurry about at Gatwick Airport and make it comfortably to the 1345 Gatwick – Los Angeles flight; and the rest, as they say, is another story………………………..

 

Gen for Sunday 9th October 2016

PKP

EP07-1002           TLK28100             0455 Lublin – Szczecin Glowny

EP07-1041           TLK61200             2350 (08/10) Wroclaw – Warszawa Wschodnia

2 Comments

  1. Mike Grieves
    Posted 06/11/2016 at 9:40 am. Reply to this comment

    Really enjoyed your report.Very daring.I went to Latvia in 2015, you were lucky with so many freights at Krustpils,I went to Ukraine in 1995, can relate to some of the places mentioned.Both trips wit the same companion.

    Mike Grieves – fellow Brit.

  2. Jonathan
    Posted 06/11/2016 at 10:05 am. Reply to this comment

    Glad you enjoyed it Mike. As for Krustpils, quite possibly lucky with the amount of freight but definitely unlucky in that it was dark, cold and hammering down with rain! Given I was the only person on the station though they were at least something to keep my curiosity occupied every now and again…..

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