The periphery of Eastern Europe June/July 2017 (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia & Georgia)
This trip was a long time in the planning stages but the time put in was worth the effort and meant I could enjoy the trip more while I was there; as everything was already taken care of. I’d wanted to cover the periphery of Europe for a while and as I had the time to do it, I decided to cover as much as I could in one go and the trip would have me visiting Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia, as well as CIS (Commonwealth Independent State) countries Ukraine, Russia (including Kaliningrad), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus and ex CIS country Georgia, along with a brief jaunt into Romania.
Visas were needed for Russia (double entry), Belarus (single entry) and Azerbaijan (single entry).
The Russian Visa was the best part of £150 for a double entry, which doesn’t include using a tour agency to get the invitation paperwork required to get the visa either! It was a bit of a pain to fill out the form, especially when they ask that you list every country you’ve visited in the last 2 years; thankfully it’s limited to just 30! I used Real Russia for the letter of invitation and didn’t have to use the hotel’s I selected during the application.
The Belarus Visa was €60, which is now the set fee for as many entries as you like into Belarus. That said you still must go through the rigmarole of providing all your hotel details and arrival/departure details when applying. The problem with this, if you’re using trains to enter & exit, is that some of the cross-border train tickets don’t go on sale until 30 days before the train’s departure, so if you’re splitting your trip in Belarus it can be hard to provide all the travel details required. That said, this was my second visit to Belarus and I had everything I needed to present at the embassy in London and was in & out in minutes. Passports are turned around in 7 days and they post them back in the Special Delivery envelope you provide. Both times I’ve applied, my passport has arrived on exactly the day they said it would.
The Azerbaijan Visa costs US$20, application online took about 3 minutes and less than 24 hours later a PDF Visa was in my inbox. If only they were all like this.
Booked direct with the airline
W6-8004 Luton – Vilnius (Lithuania) – originally booked from Doncaster but flight times changed
W6-2509 Riga – Doncaster
PS601 Kiev Borispol – Baku (Azerbaijan)
BT725 Tbilisi (Georgia) – Riga (Latvia)
BT311 Riga (Latvia) – Tallinn (Estonia)
Vitebsk (Belarus) – Hotel Vitebsk – The walk to the Hotel Vitebsk is about 15 minutes at a steady pace, straight out of the station front, down the main road, over the river bridge and it’s on the right just at the other side of the river; its visible long before you get to it and if you know what you’re looking for you can even see it from the station front, even though it’s over 1km away.
Thankfully the girl at the front desk spoke fluent English and she even remembered me from my previous visit. I paid my bill for three nights in full at check in and bought an internet card, valid for 72 hours, for BYN3.40 at the same time. WiFi isn’t free but at about £1.30 for 72 hours I wasn’t complaining. It was decent enough for web browsing and online chat, which is all that mattered. The hotel has a very Russian feel to it and is a little rough around the edges but it’s cheap, has friendly staff and a restaurant and is conveniently located.
Mogilev (Belarus) – Metropol Hotel – It was a shame the Metropol is so far away from any of the stations. That said it is a straight line from either Mogilev 1 or Mogilev 2 stations and takes either 40 or 30 minutes to do the walk. From ‘1 it’s through the heart of town and from ‘2 it’s through a local neighbourhood; which looked very much like what Pripyat in Ukraine should have done before the Chernobyl disaster; the flats looked almost identical in design anyway.
The girl at reception was expecting me and was the same girl that had checked me in last time. My room was spotless, with a large bed, desk, fridge, minibar and a kettle with tea making facilities. The bathroom had all the mod-cons and a full complement of toiletries, along with a red-hot towel rail; which would come in handy later. The one and only thing missing was AC; and it was sweltering. With the large window opened though, it soon cooled down a little and I was soon abusing the WiFi; which made the WiFi at the Hotel Vitebsk appear like it was still stuck in the dark ages on dial-up. In fact, the Hotel Vitebsk was still stuck in the dark Soviet era, compared to the Metropol; the two were worlds apart. The food in the Metropol’s restaurant was excellent and freshly prepared by the chef; well worth the effort.
Iasi (Romania) – Hotel Arnia – is out of Iasi station to the main road, turn left, then right where the trams go, and it’s in front of you, just beyond the big Billa store. They guy at reception was expecting me and I paid my bill straight away. The room was a comfort twin for single use and it was massive, spotless and more to the point had very efficient air-con; which got put on high, as low as it would go, the moment I could figure out how to work it.
Chisinau (Moldova) – Cosmos Hotel – the Cosmos is like something time forgot, it’s Soviet façade and tired rooms all add to the experience I guess but the icing on the cake had to be the ancient ring-dial telephone in the room. While a change of plan resulted in my not actually staying at the hotel, I did use their facilities and a room to get washed up in. They kept my bag in the storage room and the room “I used” was similar in upkeep to that in the Hotel Vitebsk in Belarus. The who experience was very Soviet style but it did the trick; and I was provided with a carry-out breakfast box as I left before it started.
Kiev (Ukraine) – Premier Hotel Lybid – is a 20-minute walk from Kiev main station, just down the road from the Ibis. The place was very Soviet but had good WiFi, decent AC, a hot shower and more importantly, somewhere to relax for the day. This was an impromptu place to hide away for the day, not a place to sleep for the night and it cost UAH550 for a day rate. The room was clean and had everything I needed to relax for the day.
Baku (Azerbaijan) – Staybridge Inn & Suites – I’d booked an airport pick-up with the hotel that didn’t materialize, so I had to make my own arrangements. The reception to the Staybridge Inn & Suites is on the 5th floor of the building its located in and the guy checking me in was a little confused as to how I’d got there as the taxi driver, who was at the airport waiting for me, had only called in a few minutes before I arrived to say I’d not shown up. I explained the scenario to the guy at the desk and he in turn told me that the taxi driver had told him he’d been at the airport for an hour by this point. My response to that was to ask the guy at reception to tell him to hold his sign up and be in a prominent place, as I never saw him; was his loss, and he was given two chances as well.
I’d splashed out on the room a bit as I’d be using it quite a bit while in Baku and the suite I had was on the top, 15th, floor and it was huge, with a separate living area, kitchen facilities, huge floor to ceiling windows that overlooked Baku station and a good-sized bathroom. The AC had already been turned on for me, as it was still 27 degrees outside, and everything I could possibly need during my stay was in the room. At this stage though, the most important bit of it was the bed! Breakfast was plentiful in the restaurant and food generally in the restaurant was good.
Tbilisi (Georgia) – Hotel Tbilisi Central – Situated on the 6th floor of Tbilisi Central station, with access through a lift only. Check-in was simple and after collecting my bag (which I’d left in the left luggage storage room two days previous), I was shown to my room, which was down one level. It was a sizeable room had excellent air-con and very good WiFi. There were also toiletries in the bathroom and I set about abusing everything that was provided, the shower, the AC, the toiletries, the WiFi and the power sockets! The hotel arranged a transfer to the airport for me in the small hours, not the best journey I’ve had and I couldn’t figure out if the driver was just tried, pissed, or a combination of both; either way it’s not something I want to experience again!
Vilnius – Kaliningrad booked through Real Russia (with a hefty hike)
There isn’t really a choice if you want to book in advance as even though the tickets can be booked online at either the BCh or RZD websites, they must be exchanged at a ticket office in the relevant country; so, with Lithuania being my starting point there was no alternative, other than booking on the night and risking there being no room.
Russia – all long-distance tickets booked on the Russian Railways (RZD) website, after setting up a log-in. All tickets involving Kaliningrad had to be exchanged before travel. The website has just been upgraded and I had to use the old link to the ticket booking system to get it to work and even then, it wasn’t very forthcoming with displaying the PDF’s in the “My Bookings” area. Tickets are not e-mailed like other railway websites do.
Belarus – all long-distance tickets booked on the Belarus Railways (BCh) website, after setting up a log-in. Most of tickets booked on the BCh site are e-tickets but a few require exchange prior to travel. Booking tickets was easy and the booking engine is efficient, working first time, every time for payment. All tickets are e-mailed as well as held in your “My Bookings” area to download at any time.
Ukraine – all long-distance tickets booked on the Ukraine Railways (UZ) website, after setting up a log-in. Most of tickets booked on the BCh site are e-tickets but a few require exchange prior to travel. Booking tickets was easy but the booking engine isn’t as efficient as BCh’s. It works fine right up to the payment screen, where success is about 50/50. It generally works the second time though and only once have I had to try more than three times to pay for a ticket. All tickets are e-mailed as well as held in your “My Bookings” area to download at any time.
Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan – despite having online booking systems they never once worked for me, although I have read a couple of reports that people have managed to get it to work; but none in the UK! Tickets were booked at ticket offices in Tbilisi (Georgia), upstairs, where you take a number and wait your turn, unless booking local tickets only when you can just present yourself at windows 12 & 13. Tickets in Baku (Azerbaijan) are downstairs, where again a ticket is taken and you wait your turn. In Yerevan (Armenia) the booking office for long distance tickets is the left-hand one as you face the platforms and it opens at 0900. There is no queuing system but the number of available seats is shown on a screen in the waiting hall. All three places were harmless, had English speak people serving and I got everything I needed.
Moldova – The website itself is hard work but it does show available berths on the long-distance trains. The only train I could book a ticket for in Moldova, in advance, was the Chisinau – Bucharest train, which I bought in Bucharest a month before this trip commenced. None of the other long-distance trains are bookable outside Moldova (for internal Moldovan journeys) as they’re Moldovan stock; the only way of booking tickets for trains is at a ticket office, in person.
Monday 19th June 2017 (Doncaster to Vilnius; unfortunately, via Luton!)
When the taxi pulled up to take me to the station at 0730, I’d originally, in fact up until 7 days previous, been flying from Doncaster to Vilnius, so hadn’t been planning to leave the house until 1700 that evening. It was a most unwanted day travelling but I was left with no choice when Wizz Air dropped me an e-mail to tell me that my 1930 Doncaster to Vilnius flight was retimed to 2145 and now wouldn’t land in Vilnius until 0200 instead of 2335. As I was booked on the 0231 train from Vilnius to Kaliningrad I had to act. The options were to accept the changes and turn up for the rescheduled flight, change your flight at no cost to another reasonable flight within certain timescales, or had 120% of the cost of the flight refunded. I chose option 2 of 3 and went for changing my flight and was quite grateful at that point that Wizz Air flew Luton to Vilnius on the same day. As the flight was dearer than what I’d paid for my Doncaster to Vilnius flight I didn’t bother cancelling and rebooking. I still came out considerably worse though as the advance train tickets from Doncaster to Luton Airport Parkway, via London as it was cheaper than via Derby, came to more than what I’d paid for my flight! Coupled with the taxi to the station and the £2.10 single on the bus from Luton Airport Parkway to the airport, I was almost £60 worse off cash wise, and was setting off 9 and a half hours before I was going to do if my flight hadn’t been changed! My taxi driver must have known though as he ended up giving me a tip for the journey to town as I only had £20’s and he didn’t want to give me all his change so let me off with 80p and was quite jovial about the fact as well.
So, there I was, waiting in glorious weather and Doncaster station, with an hour to kill before my train to London. It’s not often said but I was grateful to be heading to Eastern Europe to get away from the scorching weather the UK was enduring and as I stared at my phone’s weather app, all the places I’d pre-selected on it were making Doncaster look like it should be some tropical paradise; topping the list at 30 degrees that day. Only Baku in Azerbaijan could come close at 28! At least the AC was working on the train to London as 91114 led the way; not literally speaking of course, as it was on the back of the train propelling.
It was sweltering in London and I found myself struggling to remember such a hot day in recent times. While I was walking around the concourse at St Pancras there was a minute’s silence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and almost everyone there stopped what they were doing to observe it. Luckily, I wasn’t relying on Thameslink to get me to Luton as there had been overrunning engineering work that morning and the service was well and truly down the pan. My 1129 St Pancras – Nottingham Meridian did the job though and I was straight out at Luton Airport Parkway to join the rather large queue for the 1200 bus to Luton Airport; it was wedged, steaming hot and bumpy but it got me there. Inside the airport, which is now even more of a building site than it had been on my last visit, about 2 years previous, things weren’t much different, the place was heaving with people waiting around for their gate to be advertised. Pretty much like cattle waiting to be herded this way and that, which I guess is what you pay for when flying low-cost and with Luton not having anything but low-cost airlines using it, I’ll say no more.
There weren’t any issues getting through security, despite the large volume of people already airside but there is now a distinct lack of food places airside and probably not enough to cater for busy periods. I took my chance with the gate call and went down to gates 20+ to get away from the masses; my gate turned out to be No.11, right at the other side of the airport. It was even more sweltering waiting in line to board, than it had been on the bus to the airport; and everyone was using their boarding cards to try and keep the sweat at bay.
We didn’t board until after departure time and after watching the duck-egg trying to get the steps up to the rear doors, there’s no wonder. He was less than hopeless. We were 50’ late taking off and as usual I didn’t know much about it as I’d been drifting in and out of sleep before we’d even taxied to take-off; at one point my nodding donkey impression had me waking as my head was heading towards the stowed tray table. It was a good recovery to save me from a face full of plastic. It was a rancid flight, as most Wizz Air flights are, with screaming kids, unhelpful parents and it was very windy as we came into land at Vilnius, 35’ late. I thought I was going to get my first aborted landing but the pilot put us down just in time and then wrestled to get the plane under control as it was braking.
Vilnius airport was a breath of fresh air compared to Luton, the steps were at the back door in no time, I was through immigration in no time and did the short walk from the airport front to the local LG Airport station (Oro Uostas) in no time. It took me no more than 10 minutes from plane doors to station platform. There were two departures left for the day, at 2037 & 2225. The single car DMU turned up from Vilnius quite well loaded but I was the only person on the train back into Vilnius. Tickets are purchased on board from the conductor, costing €0.70; which is an absolute bargain for the 8-minute run into Vilnius main station.
There wasn’t much going off at Vilnius, other than EMU’s and DMU’s doing their thing, but I did notice a customs point in the subway, which already had my train to Kaliningrad advertised on the electronic screen by the entrance door. I went to the Information point on the main concourse, where little English was spoken. Initially the woman thought I wanted to change my ticket for the next train to Kaliningrad, until I pointed out that it was for the next one; she was getting confused with the date on it as the train was after midnight. The customs check is nothing to worry about and she told me to be there at around 0205, with the train being at 0231.
I found a good place for food, straight out of the main entrance, straight down the road and Chili Pizza is on the corner in front of you. I’m pretty sure it’s a chain anyway as I recognized the menu from a place I’d used in Riga, Latvia. The staff spoke English, the food was good and they even had a wheat beer on draught. With nothing else better to do than relax I festered it out in the large booking hall waiting area, where spiders seem to rule the roost at night and I had the pleasure of watching some poor guy struggle to the coffee machine a few times with his walking sticks and then have to stand there to drink his coffee as he’d have only made it back with an empty cup otherwise; bless him. The station security staff seemed to be intrigued by me and I expected them to approach me on several occasions but they left me to my own and the station cleaned ended up cleaning up around me. I was sat waiting for almost 4 hours, doing plenty more nodding donkey impressions by the time I decided to go for a walk.
Moves for Monday 19th June 2017
|91114||Doncaster||Kings Cross||1E02||0548 Edinburgh – Kings Cross|
|222014||St Pancras International||Luton Airport Parkway||1129 St Pancras – Nottingham|
|HA-LYJ||Luton||Vilnius||W6-8004||1435 Luton – Vilnius|
|620M-009||Oro Uostas||Vilnius||2037 Oro Uostas – Vilnius|
Gen for Monday 19th June 2017
Everything at Vilnius DMU or EMU
Photos for Monday 19th June 2017
Tuesday 20th June 2017 (A day in Kaliningrad, Russia)
Not wanting to head through customs too early I ambled onto the platforms for a bit. The bar on the station was still going strong at 1am and there was nothing at all in the station area until LG TEP70M-0249 came from nowhere, reversed in platform 1 then shunted out to await 359 2044 (PPP) Adler – Kaliningrad arriving. Customs turned out to be nothing and all I had to do was flash my passport and train ticket and I was waiting on the platform, alone. There were about half a dozen people for train 359 when BCh TEP70BS-115 rolled in a few minutes early with the train of RZD stock. My coach was wedged but for the empty compo that my lower berth was in. I was joined by another woman while we were making our beds up the brakes were being blown back up after LG’s TEP70M-0249 had dropped on. I was a little surprised at this as I thought most trains from Belarus were through BCh loco to the Kaliningrad border? Maybe it had something to do with the volume of trains into Kaliningrad on this particular day as there were 4 trains each way; something I’d not calculated when planning which day I’d be in Kaliningrad and I’d clearly picked a good day for going into Kaliningrad.
Tickets for all RZD long distance trains can be booked online but quite a lot require you to exchange the booking for a proper ticket at an RZD station booking office. So, you can’t book tickets for anything in the Balkan countries on the RZD website if that’s where you’ll be starting your journey as you can’t exchange your ticket. I went through Real Russia online to get my Vilnius – Kaliningrad done but did all the rest myself as they could be exchanged in Kaliningrad. There was a considerable mark-up on the ticket price but for the that piece of mind its always worth it. Of note is the fact the RZD website isn’t the easiest to use, or should I say it’s temperamental instead. The new ticket booking page didn’t work for me but thankfully RZD left a link to the old ticket booking site; so, I could use that instead and it worked fine. Booking the tickets was easy, after registering an account, but the problem then became trying to find your tickets in the correct section of your account page. Most Eastern European ticket booking sites send you an e-mail with the PDF contained within it but the RZD site doesn’t do that and you must go back into your account to print out your tickets, whether they’re to be exchanged or not. It was frustrating but I managed to get there in the end. It could be something to do with the web browser you use I guess as some sites are designed around certain web browsers.
It was only just over 2 hours to the Lithuania/Russia border and I was sock on when the coach attendant woke me for the Lithuanian exit checks at Kybartai. As an EU citizen, not for long of course, my passport was the easiest to process and it was completely hassle free. Everyone else on the train had some sort of transit visa printed to A5 size, which I later saw coach attendants handing them out to people on the trains; so, they must be required for Russian/Belarusian citizens transiting through Lithuania. While passport checks were a breeze, the customs checks were not and they were very thorough both inside and outside the train. While everything was going on the LG TEP70 was removed from the train and I watched it pass through an empty road between some freight wagons while we sat waiting to depart. At this point, I could only assume that an RZD loco had replaced it but we trickled away from Kybartai bang on time and were in Nesterov, Russia, 20 minutes later, where the border grip was a bit more intense; for me anyway.
Thankfully on of the border staff spoke quite good English. He was one of the customs staff and helped with the processing of my passport. It didn’t help that the coach attendant hadn’t given me an immigration form to fill in; and I was so grateful it was in English when she did. It only took a couple of minutes to complete and then came the questions, the usual ones like “where are you going” and “what are you doing in Russia”, followed by “where do you live” & “where do you work” my answer to “which hotel are you staying at” was the one that got their attention. I’d originally planned to stay in Kaliningrad for a night but when it got to ticket booking time and I realised how good the service was on the day I was there, I cancelled the hotel and decided to head to Belarus a day early, overnight. It was a far better move and save almost a day, allowing me to plan Belarus better. The guy that spoke English seemed a bit concerned that I was only staying for one day but could see in my passport that my Belarus visa was valid from the following day and didn’t have cause to question me any further on the matter but he did as if I was going to by gem stones in Kaliningrad; which I found a bit odd as I didn’t even know there was a precious stone from the Kaliningrad area. He then seemed genuinely baffled that I didn’t know what he was talking about. Thankfully, that was the end of discussion and my passport was stamped, along with the entry/exit parts of the immigration paper and the exit part was given to me for safe keeping. His parting gesture was to ask why I’d been to Kosovo! Tourism being the obvious answer, not train spotting! That was it, I was in Russia and it had been pretty harmless, all things considered. From Nesterov it was just over 3 hours to Kaliningrad and I made the most of the time I had to get horizontal. It was a sociable train and there wasn’t any noise so, while it was a short sleep, it was solid sleep and I was quite refreshed when I woke 15 minutes from Kaliningrad.
I’d not seen any pictures of Kaliningrad station but it was a bit of a disappointment on the platform side of things. It was just a train shed with through platforms. Its saving grace was the very prominent advertisement that it was Kaliningrad, obviously in Russian, on the outside of the train shed canopy at both ends. That definitely redeemed its status. The downstairs of the station, with the platforms being elevated like in most German cities, was probably very grand at some point in its existence and in some ways still was but there was clearly building works going on and some areas were off limits, while others were in the middle of their renovation.
On arrival, I waited for the mad rush to die down and more importantly kept an eye on what the security staff were doing, as I waited by RZD TEP70-0475, which had worked 360 forward from Kybartai. There only seemed to be two security staff on the platforms and everyone I saw was young but didn’t seem to have had a military spoon shoved up their arse! While the RZD website says it’s not illegal to take photos on their stations, for personal use, I was still a little wary as people sometimes mistake the fact that you have a decent camera for something more than personal use; even more so now phones are used more and more for everyday photographs. When I seized my moment to get a picture of TEP70-0475 I did so discreetly and the camera was only out of the bag for 10 seconds. With one thing done I turned my attention to the next thing I needed to do, downstairs in the booking office.
I had just under 2 hours, from arriving in Kaliningrad at 0837, to be on the platform again for the 1028 departure out to Cherniakhovsk; and I needed every minute! The international windows (high numbered) only had two of 6 open and I didn’t initially realise it but the queue was back to the edge of the waiting area and everyone sat down on the benches facing the windows was part of the queue. From what I observed people were buying quite a lot of tickets based on the number of passports they handed over and for 30 minutes there was only one window technically available, as the other had the same person at it for the whole 30 minutes and then the woman serving had to take her allocated break; as advertised on each counter window. When I eventually moved myself to stand in front of the windows people started to come out of the woodwork, who’d clearly been waiting a long time as frustration was rife throughout the place. Luckily for me my pain was ended when two people saw that I had to exchange a ticket for the 1028 departure, at 1005, and let me go in front of them. At 1015 I had all the tickets printed that I needed to exchange, which included my Kaliningrad – Minsk for that night, along with 3 sets of out and back tickets for planned moves. The woman behind the counter clearly thought I was mad as she kept shaking her head as she looked at every printout systematically. If she had been able to speak English it would have been an interesting conversation but she was smiling when she handed them all over; probably as she shut her counter for her planned break the moment I turned my back!
Back up on the platform, where I half expected to find the same TEP70 I’d had in, waiting to depart with 080 1028 Kaliningrad – St Petersburg, I was pleasantly surprised to find RZD TEP70-0388 basking in the sunshine instead and sat adjacent was TEM18D-001; well that’s what the number on the side said anyway! It was too good a shot to miss and while the security staff were deep in conversation with the train attendants, the camera made its second brief outing of the day. I’d read on the internet somewhere that trains depart from Kaliningrad on Moscow time, not the local time, which is an hour behind Moscow. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and everything was running to the advertised times locally; otherwise train 080 would have departed while I was queuing downstairs.
The run to Cherniakhovsk was fast and smooth, other than when setting off from stations. The apparent reason for that soon came to light when I got off at Cherniakhovsk and found 2M62-0367a attached to the rear, which shunted to the shed as soon as the train departed. The 2M62 was in fact now dual-cabbed and yet still had its “A” prefix on the side. It had been shunting a saloon coach to the bay platforms at Kaliningrad when I got onto the platform and must have dropped onto the rear when I was plucking up the courage to get my photo at the business end of the train. I found two steam locos stabled at Cherniakhovsk, at the Vilnius end of the station, one of which had a plaque with the full gen on, the other had nothing at all other than 1959 visible on the metalwork on the side of the smokebox. There were two TEM18’s shunting locally at Cherniakhovsk, on in the adjacent industrial complex and the other, TEM18A-008, ran through with a short trip freight; just before the heavens opened and it pounded it down for a few minutes, then the sun came back out and it was steaming. Literally! The breeze was the saving grace but at least it wasn’t 30 degrees like it was back in sunny Donny!
RZD TEP70-0518 arrived promptly with 029 1720 (P) Moscow – Kaliningrad and was into Kaliningrad 5 minutes early; thus, the plus 3 onto the opposing working of 030 1351 Kaliningrad – Moscow was an easy make. Especially as it was cross platform as well. With TEP70-0517 at the helm, I was Cherniakhovsk bound almost straight away and the coach attendants that had just arrived on 029, waving to their counterparts across the way were now waving again as 030 set sail. Everyone seemed to know everyone in the attendant world and not one was grumpy or looking miserable. It was a lot smaller plus at Cherniakhovsk at the second time of asking and I didn’t even have time to go for a second look at the steam locos before TEP70-0391 was approaching with 079 1610(P) St Petersburg – Kaliningrad. Upon arrival at Kaliningrad I summoned up the courage to get the camera out for the third time and bagged a third shot of the day without hassle. At this point, there was a little time, just under 2 hours, before I needed to be heading back out on the last move of the day before being Belarus bound.
I failed at the first hurdle when it came to navigating Kaliningrad to try and find somewhere to eat as when I’d downloaded the offline maps for Russia, in the ME Maps app, I’d only done the ones for St Petersburg & Moscow and had clearly forgotten about the Kaliningrad one. Not to worry though, there was a McDonalds outside the station; I could see the sign from the platform. There was one problem with the WiFi though, all the instructions to access it were in Russian and you had to set up an account from what I could see. That ended my attempts to download the Kaliningrad maps and I ended up walking to a nearby supermarket to go old school; and returned to the station with a right bag of goodies, which would have to make do for dinner later as well as I’d have no time to do anything when I got back from Gvardeysk. It was only a plus 19’ onto my overnight to Minsk.
Timekeeping in Kaliningrad had been exceptional and nothing had been late, even if it had been on the go for nearly 4 days and travelled a couple of thousand miles! This last move was no exception and I was delivered back into Kaliningrad 5’ early, before the stock had even been deposited into the platform by TEM18D-001; which was poised to head in from the carriage sidings when we rolled by. My luck had run out at the end of the day with TEP70-0475 working 148 1729 Kaliningrad – Moscow and TEP70-0388 had brought me back in with 147 2210 (P) Moscow – Kaliningrad. When the TEM18 had brought the stock in for 360 1933 Kaliningrad – Adler, my camera braved it for one last time and I even got a photo of the steam loco in what looked like a museum compound at the Vilnius end of the station. TEP70-0518 was soon dropping on to work the train and the photos of steam locos I’d taken during the day may well have been my saving grace later on…..
I was shattered when I got on board train 360 and my bed was quickly made up with sleep following shortly after departure. At least this time I was given an immigration card to fill in for entry into Belarus, which is the same as the Russian one was and they’re common user. I had to be woken up by the coach attendant for the Russian exit border control at Nesterov and while I was minding my own business, waiting for those dealing with the passports to come through, the customs guy I’d been talking to in the early hours on my inbound journey came and plonked himself down opposite me. He’d clearly been looking for me, and the questions began.
Him – “What museums have you been to visit”
Me – “none”
Him – “Why”
Me – “because I decided to head out to Cherniakhovsk by train instead” of course I only told him about one journey
Him – “and that took all day? So, what did you do in Kaliningrad”
Me – “wasted 2 hours getting train tickets”, the truth, “had a walk to McDonalds to use the WiFi”, the truth even though I didn’t use it, “and went to the supermarket to get some food”, also the truth.
Him – “so why no visit to Kaliningrad”
Me – “I lost my maps”, not technically the truth but better than trying to explain I forgot to download them
He then moved on to a different tactic and started to ask about what I’d bought while I was there. At which point I figured out what his line of questioning was all about when he started asking about souvenirs and then the gem stones again. Of course, I had nothing of the sorts but that didn’t stop the contents of my bag having to be strewn across my berth to appease him; and even then, he asked about photos of places on my camera. When I said I’d not taken any of anything in Kaliningrad he then wanted me to show him the photos on my camera. At this point I had a split second to make up my mind whether to tell him or not and I wasn’t about to lose what I’d taken so came clean straight away about the fact he’d only see photos of the railway and that it was my hobby. There was only a dozen or so photos anyway and half of those were of the steam locos at Vilnius, Kaliningrad & Cherniakhovsk; so maybe the ones at Cherniakhovsk justified, in his mind, why I’d been there in the first place? Either way I was very relieved when he said ok and told me to put my camera away. Thankfully, that was the end of the grilling and he stayed around to translate for the passport grippers as they went through my passport. This time his parting question was about why I had various stamps in my passport from the Ukraine. I was glad to see the back of him and his mates when they went and the young lad sharing my berth area looked at me with confusion as they walked off. I was convinced he genuinely believed I’d gone to Kaliningrad to smuggle out some gem stones, or whatever it was he’d been on about in the early hours. The only thing I did smuggle out were some pastries for breakfast and a bottle of pop!
At Kybartai the Lithuanian entry grip was a lot less hassle and no questions were asked. It was done a lot quicker too and when we departed the window was open in the toilet, from where I could see a red LG TEP70 at the helm, having replaced RZD’s TEP70-0518. Despite setting my alarm for Vilnius to spot it, by the time it went off, 5 minutes before booked arrival, it was clear that we’d been in well early as by the time I got to the front of the train BCh TEP70BS-120 was just being attached to the train. Luckily for me LG TEP70-0332 was just shunting back through the station at the same time; otherwise I’d have been bowled by early running! I needed no persuasion to get back into bed at that point, to await the 3rd of 4 border grips on the overnight that gave no time for sleep!
Moves for Tuesday 20th June 2017
|TEP70M-0249||Vilnius||Kilbartai||359||2044 (17/06) Adler – Kaliningrad Pas.|
|TEP70-0388||Kaliningrad Pas.||Cherniakhovsk||080||1028 Kaliningrad Pas. – St Petersburg ???|
|TEP70-0518||Cherniakhovsk||Kaliningrad Pas.||029||1720 (19/06) Moskva Belorusskaya – Kaliningrad Pas.|
|TEP70-0517||Kaliningrad Pas.||Cherniakhovsk||030||1351 Kaliningrad Pas. – Moskva Belorusskaya|
|TEP70-0391||Cherniakhovsk||Kaliningrad Pas.||079||1610 (19/06) St Petersburg ??? – Kaliningrad Pas.|
|TEP70-0475||Kaliningrad Pas.||Gvardeysk||148||1729 Kaliningrad Pas. – Moskva Belorusskaya|
|TEP70-0388||Gvardeysk||Kaliningrad Pas.||147||2232 (19/06) Moskva Belorusskaya – Kaliningrad Pas.|
|TEP70-0518||Kaliningrad Pas.||Kilbartai||360||1933 Kaliningrad Pas. – Adler|
Gen for Tuesday 20th June 2017
359 2044 (PPP) Adler – Kaliningrad Pas.
TEP70BS-115 (BCh) into Vilnius
TEP70M-0249 (LG) Vilnius – Kybartai
TEP70-0475 (RZD) Kybartai – Kaliningrad Pas.
TEM18D-001 at Kaliningrad Pas. as station pilot
2M62U-0367a (dual cabbed) at Kaliningrad Pas. with a saloon
RZD TEP70-0388 080 1028 Kaliningrad Pas. – St Petersburg (2M62U-0367a on rear to Cherniakhovsk)
TEM18A-008 shunting at Cherniakhovsk + one other
2M62U-0337a/b at Cherniakhovsk
TEP70-0518 029 1720 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Kaliningrad Pas.
TEP70-0517 030 1351 Kaliningrad Pas. – Moskva Belorusskaya
TEP70-0391 079 1610 (P) St Petersburg – Kaliningrad Pas.
TEP70-0475 148 1729 Kaliningrad Pas. – Moskva Belorusskaya
TEP70-0388 147 2232 (P) Moskva Belorusskaya – Kaliningrad Pas.
360 1933 Kaliningrad Pas. – Adler
TEP70-0518 (RZD) Kaliningrad Pas. – Kybartai
TEP70-0332 (LG) Kybartai – Vilnius
TEP70BS-120 (BCh) Vilnius – Minsk Pas.
TEM18-255 at Kaliningrad Pas. with a short trip freight
TEP70-0475 @ Nesterov when 360 arrived
All freights seen were 2M62s
Photos for Tuesday 20th June 2017
Wednesday 21st June 2017 (Arrival into Belarus – a day in Hrodna and then overnight to Orsha)
The Lithuania exit grip at Kena was a breeze, where electrification works were well on the way to being completed, and entry into Belarus was even simpler at Gudogay; where M62-1304 sat purring away by our window. I was convinced it would be a loud one but never got to find out. When we departed Gudogay it was a little over 2 hours to Minsk and the whole night ended up being about sleep in 2-hour spurts. It worked quite well though, probably thanks to my long day when I flew out? I felt quite refreshed as I woke coming into Minsk but my journey wasn’t over. I’d clocked that there was a through coach from Kaliningrad to Gomel attached to train 360 and it was shunted off at Minsk; so, I’d booked a ticket in it beyond Minsk and was pleased that the shunt loco dropped on to remove it almost immediately after arrival. Unfortunately, it was TME3-004 and not a ChME3. The Gomel coach was shunted from platform 2 to platform 5 and made up with another couple of coaches already there. The whole train would ultimately go forward as 100B 0744 Minsk – Novooleksiyivka but I got myself off after the shunt, no questions asked; although there needn’t be any anyway as there was 90 minutes to departure time at that point and people were out smoking on the platform as well.
Unlike in Kaliningrad the previous day, my ticket office experience was excellent. I walked up to an empty window, all of which are clearly marked with what tickets they deal with, handed over my printout to exchange and was handed back a ticket for my Zhlobin – Chisinau journey, which was my exit strategy from Belarus, within 60 seconds. Even taking time to grab a quick bit, I was on the platform with plenty of time to spare before 673B 0701 Minsk Pas. – Hrodna departed. I soon figured out that it was a loco/rake share when BCh TEP70-0435 arrived with 626B 2138 (P) Vitebsk – Minsk and ran around the set to work 673B 0701 Minsk Pas. – Hrodna; which was only load 3 after a coach was shunted off by TEM3-004, once the TEP70 had ran around.
In the station area, it seemed like a good time to be heading to Brest if you wanted to do RZD engines as 95 Moscow – Brest was headed by RZD ChS4T-394 and 3 Moscow – Brest was headed by RZD ChS8-063; both of which had worked in from Russia and departed for Brest. If only I’d realised that on my last trip when I headed to Brest of a morning.
I was in a 4-berth cabin to Hrodna, which had two other people in it, who thankfully had the same idea as me and we all spent most of the journey asleep! It was a fast journey, covering the 337km in 4h44m and the scenery, once I woke up, was pretty standard Belarusian scenery of pine trees and greenery as far as the eye could see; if you could see the wood through the trees that was. 673B was prompt arriving into Hrodna and a nice day it was too. ChME3T-7095 was just pulling away with a short trip freight as we approached the station and ChME3T-7093 was just preparing to shunt a set of stock out as we pulled in alongside. It came back from the carriage sidings to collect the stock off 673B shortly afterwards.
Hrodna station building is impressive both on scale and architecture wise and it took me a while to find the left luggage room; which is on the right-hand side of the station if looking at it from the platforms. It cost me BYN1.50 to leave my bag in a large locker, which had to be locked via a snazzy computer screen and a data card. As all the instructions were in Russian only, bert had to help me out and then show me to tap my card on the reader when I returned for my bag and the locker would automatically open.
Big bag free, I had a scan at the arrivals and departures screens before heading off and one last glance at the station rewarded me with a shot of 2M62-0973a/b passing through with a freight before I headed off towards the old town to find something to eat. I basically came out of the station and turned left, then followed the road until I hit civilization. Hrodna is a clean place with a very laid-back atmosphere about it. On the way to where I’d discovered food places on the map, I passed a couple of nice-looking churches, a large park and a statue of Stalin, standing in front of the Hrodna Committee Executive building. The place sprang to life a bit further down the road and there were plenty of shops and places to eat. I chose a place called Retro Pizza, which produced an English menu when I asked and a couple of the waiters spoke decent English as well. The place was packed when I left and the pizza I had was nice as well.
Back at the station I didn’t have as much time to kill as I’d expected and immediately noticed that the border staff had cordoned off part of platform 1 for the imminent arrival of train 302 Krakow Głowny – Hrodna; a train that had only started running through to Belarus recently. PKP IC EP07-374 arrived on time with two PKP IC coaches and a decent amount of people piled out of them and straight into the immigration office. With so many border staff about I almost didn’t get a photo of the EP07 but just when I thought I was going to fail miserably an opportunity arose when nobody was actually on the platform; and when I say nobody, I mean nobody official.
It was puzzling me how the EP07 was going to run around. The platform it had arrived into was the only dual gauge one with standard gauge and CIS gauge tracks. Eventually it backed out and after detaching from the stock it ran through the back platform towards the carriage sidings/yard to reverse and then back through the back platform again, which is obviously also dual gauged, to get back onto the Polish end of the stock, before finally propelling it back into platform 1 for boarding. At boarding time, the platform was cordoned off again and there were probably more border staff around than there were passengers on the train when it departed as 303 1531 Hrodna – Krakow Głowny.
While all that was happening ChME3T-7093 had shunted the stock in for 674B 1512 Hrodna – Minsk Pas. and TEP70-0435 headed off back towards Minsk; whence it had come from that morning. 2M62U-0049a/b had run through the station with a freight while EP07-0374 was still sat in platform 1 and ChME3T-7095 ran through in the opposite direction with a short trip freight. Everything I’d seen local wise had been DR1A DMU’s and all to soon it was time to depart myself, the idea of the Hrodna move in the first place, being to do the track via Slonim to Baranovichi. As there were 4 departures towards Masty of an afternoon, the last of which being the train I was doing via Slonim, it meant I could do two of three trains on the way to Masty, stepping back at Skidziel. TEP70BS-010 had charge of 634B 1549 Hrodna – Mogilev 1 and deposited me on a windy platform at Skidziel. It wasn’t long before TEP70-0225 was arriving with 632B 1628 Hrodna – Gomel and shortly before it did, M62-1327 did from the opposite direction. It only had 1 wagon in town and shunted straight out to the sidings; where a crew change seemed to take place.
At Masty it was quite a busy period, especially as most arrivals had to run around and head back in the opposite direction. ChME3-3897 was sat in the sidings with a lengthy trip freight the whole time I was there, although the shunter doing the run rounds on the passenger stuff did seem to be preparing the train in between times. First to arrive was TEP70BS-0115 with the penultimate afternoon departure from Hrodna, 078B 1704 Hrodna – Moskva; this was the only train that didn’t run around, other than the DR1A DMU that followed it on a Hrodna – Lida. TEP70BS-081 caught me unaware as it rolled in with the opposing working of the train I was doing, 057B St Petersburg – Hrodna. Then when my 058B 1733 Hrodna – St Petersburg appeared from around the corner I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing as the loco front looked like it had the same pattern as an M62 does. As it got closer though, I could hear the loud drone of the TEP60 and soon found out that it was TEP60-0448. Quite where that had been hiding at Hrodna, I don’t know, as I’d not spotted it on shed when departing on 634B.
I’d like to say it was a pleasant journey on board 058B to Baranovichi but it wasn’t. It was bordering on ridiculous and got more and more like a sauna as the sun beat down on the outside of the train and there were no windows to open and seemingly no air-con! I did have the pleasure of chatting to a French guy, who’d married a Russian woman and was travelling from Hrodna to St Petersburg to see friends there. I thought I’d heard them speaking French but wasn’t quite sure. It turns out that he speaks French and English and his wife French and Russian. While he can now read and almost understand Russian, he can’t write it at all. They were a strange couple and he’d clearly had a drink as every time he opened his mouth he spoke quite loudly; all his wife would do was tell him to be quiet. So, the conversation was quite limited as a result. Talk about whipped bless him!
I’d had grand plans of getting horizontal quite early but the heat on board prevented that, so when we arrived into Baranovichi Palieskija I got myself out onto the platform for some much-needed fresh air. TEP60-0448 was soon detached and running around, so I thought, while TEP70-0425 arrived with 371B 1540 Mogilev 1 – L’viv. TME1-021 was lurking nearby with a coach that it then shunted onto the rear of 371B; this was a Baranovichi – L’viv coach and had nobody on it when it was shunted on. Meanwhile ChS4T-555 ran into the station and someone ran up to the cab to give the driver his orders. My attention then turned back to my train as TEP60-0448 was poised in platform 1 and didn’t look to be going anywhere soon. The little TME1 had disappeared as well but the fact that there were shunters waiting at the rear of the train and people stood on the platform further along, where there were no coaches, soon had me investigating. 3 more coaches, again Baranovichi starter with nobody on when shunted on, were dropped onto the rear by TME1-021. While my attention was drawn to the rear of the train I’d missed the electric dropping on to the business end. ChS4T-555 would explain why the TEP60 had shunted off and now resided in platform 1, doing nothing.
Back on board it was like someone had taken a no heat loco off and replaced it with an ETH one as the air-con was now on and cooling the coach down nicely; surely it hadn’t been working all along but just not switched on? It was nice to be getting to be on an overnight that didn’t have border grips along the way, although my alarm was set for 0315 as I’d be getting off at Orsha at 0327! Less than 5 hours doss then……
Moves for Wednesday 21st June 2017
|TEP70BS-120||Vilnius||Kena||360||1933 (20/06) Kaliningrad Pas. – Adler|
|TEM3-004||Minsk Pas. Platform 2||Minsk Pas. Platform 5||Shunt Kaliningrad – Gomel through coach from 360 to 100B|
|TEP70-0435||Minsk Pas.||Hrodna||673B||0701 Minsk Pas. – Hrodna|
|TEP70BS-010||Hrodna||Skidziel||634B||1549 Hrodna – Mogilev 1|
|TEP70-0225||Skidziel||Masty||632B||1628 Hrodna – Gomel|
|TEP60-0448||Masty||Baranovichy Palieskija||058B||1733 Hrodna – St Petersburg Vitebski|
|ChS4T-555||Baranovichy Palieskija||Minsk Pas.|
Gen for Wednesday 21st June 2017
Electrification works at Kena
M62-1304 @ Gudogay with a freight (loud)
ChS4T-544 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk
ChS4T-601 360 1933 (P) Kaliningrad Pas. – Adler (from Minsk)
TME3-004 shunt Kaliningrad – Gomel thro coach from 360 to 100B at Minsk
ChS8-063 (2/1) (RZD) 003B 2203 (P) Moskva – Brest (arr & dep Minsk)
ChS4T-394 (RZD) 95B 2000 (P) Moskva – Brest (arr & dep Minsk)
TEP70-0435 626B 2138 (P) Vitebsk – Minsk, 673B 0701 Minsk – Hrodna, 674B 1512 Hrodna – Minsk Pas.
ChME3T-7093 Hrodna station pilot
ChME3T-7095 Hrodna freight yard pilot
2M62-0973a/b @ Hrodna with a freight
2M62U-0049a/b @ Hrodna with a freight
EP07-374 (PKP) 304 1046 Bialystok – Hrodna, 303 1531 Hrodna – Bialystok
All locals at Hrodna were DR1A DMUs
TEP70BS-010 634B 1549 Hrodna – Mogilev 1
TEP70-0225 632B 1628 Hrodna – Gomel
TEP70BS-115 078B 1704 Hrodna – Moskva Belorusskaya
TEP70BS-081 057B 2146 (P) St Petersburg – Hrodna
TEP60-0448 058B 1733 Hrodna – St Petersburg (to Baranovichi P.)
ChS4T-555 058B 1733 Hrodna – St Petersburg (from Baranovichi P. – Minsk)
TEP70BS-145 627B or 629B 1705 Minsk – Hrodna
TME1-021 shunt Baranovichi – L’viv coach to 371B & 3 coaches to 058B
TEP70-0425 371B 1540 Mogilev 1 – L’viv
Photos for Wednesday 21st June 2017
Thursday 22nd June 2017 (A trip down the Lepel branch from Orsha)
The coach attendant gently woke me before my 0315 alarm did and made sure I knew Orsha was the next stop. We arrived into Orsha a few minutes early, which I was grateful of as I only had a plus 8’ onto my plan A move; I wanted to check the engine that I’d arrived with though as anything through Minsk is fair game for a loco change. Sure enough one of the digits had changed on ChS4T-555 to make it ChS4T-545, so I was glad I had checked. Luckily as well, I’d spotted TEP70-0223 at the head of 634B 1549 Hrodna – Mogilev 1; which of course was the very same train I’d done out of Hrodna the previous afternoon. The plan was to do it to Sklou for 083A 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel behind to Mogilev 1. Just in case I missed 634B, or if it was dud, I’d booked my ticket on 083A from Orsha instead of Sklou as it was only about a quid more anyway.
It was like entering a sea of tranquility as I walked into the coach on board 634B and I found myself almost tip-toeing through the coach so as not to disturb anyone. I wasn’t on board long so didn’t bother paying the BYN1.50 for bedding and just relaxed on the mattress for the short journey. The coach attendant still came to make sure I was up and ready to get off though. I didn’t have too long to wait at Sklou either, for TEP70-0357 to arrive with 083A 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel. The idea of doing this train, assuming my plan worked, was to book a ticket through to Bychau on 083A as it had a portion for 613B 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk, which was shunted straight across at Mogilev 1. 083A, so I found out while doing my research, is also the train that the St Petersburg – Riga portion is conveyed on as far as Novosokolniki, where it joins with the 001P Moscow – Riga.
There wasn’t a drama when getting on at Sklou with a ticket from Orsha, just a look of confusion. The language barrier curbed any discussion that might have followed and I was soon horizontal for the short journey to Mogilev 1, where I had to make sure I was up myself of course, as the attendant assumed I was going to Bychau. Things couldn’t really have gone any smoother on arrival at Mogilev 1. TEP70K-0260/TEP70K-0325 were sat, both running and both crewed, with my train back to Orsha, 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk, and ChME3T-7112 was sat outside the station waiting to drop down onto the back of 083A and shunt the two coaches across to 613B. It was one of the most efficient shunting moves I’ve done and from arriving to getting off after the shunt was less than 10 minutes; and we shunted a way out of the station as well. TEP60-0149 was the train engine on 613B and 2M62U-0312a was sat in the bay with 6562 0628 Mogilev 1 – Orsha; which would have been my back-up had the shunt not made the pair of TEP70’s on 606B. This time I did pay for bedding, even though it was only 1h40m journey but it was worth it to get that bit more sleep.
At Orsha the pair of TEP70’s were removed in favour of TEP70-0372. It was turning out to be a nice morning as the sun go up and I had about an hour to kill before my 0918 departure to Lepel’. Orsha station is as dramatic as Hrodna and certainly looks the part, inside the station building its as well signed as any other BCh station and in English as well. I got myself a ticket for the only train you can do to Lepel’ if you want to return that day; the turns are two out and backs from the Lepel’ end with the set staying there overnight. It cost BYN2.19 for the 132km, 3-hour journey; yet my breakfast was still cheaper! Tickets for local services are bought from the windows at the Mogilev end of the building with Interregional & International tickets available in the centre of the building. There’s also a very handy list of departing trains with the availability left on them, right up to almost departure time.
Had I not already been processing how many things I had to do that morning, I’d have probably figured out that a taxi out to the first station on the Vitebsk line would have been a good idea. Especially as at least two people had asked me if I’d wanted a taxi. 2M62-1126b arrived with 611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha and was turned around for 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk; which surprised me as I’d not seen a Polotsk 2M62 at Vitebsk on my last visit, let alone Orsha. If only I’d got that taxi eh? I watched on as people boarded, hoping it would stay on the Vitebsk circuit, at least until the following day, so I could get it in. 2M62U-0312a soon arrived with 6562 0628 Mogilev 1 – Orsha and was turned around for 6563 0853 Orsha – Mogilev 1. A 2-car DMU MDL-006 formed 6184 0900 Orsha – Krasne and then came the time where I had yet another shunt move to contend with when, surprise, surprise, ChS4T-555 arrived with 658B Brest – Vitebsk. From which the Kommunary portion is split off in the platform and drawn clear of the foot crossing in the middle of the station. This then forms 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary. Last time I found this out by accident and was still allowed onto the train before the shunt took place. This time was no different and ChME3-5337 was soon buffering up to the stock. Pretty much in the same fashion as last time I’d done it, the staff just walked alongside the train while the coaches were drawn off; all their doors were still wide open with the footsteps down. This made a quick getaway for me and I was soon happily perched in my seat on board 6171 0918 Orsha – Lepel’ with 2M62-1159b leading the way.
The train was quite busy on departure from Orsha but there were still plenty of seats. A lot of railway staff seemed to be using the train to get to places along the line as most had some sort of kit with them. The line was fast too, which I guess it had to be to cover the 132km in 3 hours, stopping at so many places along the way. Other than the odd town along the way the line was just another line in rural Belarus, surrounded by greenery and trees. I couldn’t help but think what it would be like doing it in the thick of winter with snow around? Despite having bought a ticket, I needn’t have bothered as the grip was “does anyone want a ticket” in Russian of course!
A few shacks outside Lepel’ we overtook a freight with 2M62-0971a/b. This turned up at Lepel’ about 45 minutes after we arrived and deposited its freight in the sidings adjacent to the station; and then the 2M62 went about shunting it all about. It was like hump shunting but without the hump. That was about it entertainment wise and for a place with 2 departures a day it has a grand station building and a booking office that is open all day. Again, I bought my BYN2.19 ticket back to Orsha and again the grip was a crawl over. BYN2.19 is less than a quid by the way…..
I spent quite a lot of the return journey dozing after I’d made up some DIY cheese & crisp sarnies; and another pleasant journey was had by all. 2M62-1159b was quickly shunted out of the platforms and into the shed so the loco could take fuel. 2M62U-0308a was sat waiting to take me forward to Vitebsk with 6618 1747 Orsha – Vitebsk and a ticket for the 84km journey cost BYN1.42. MDL006 2-car DMU was sat waiting to depart with 6186 1751 Orsha – Krasne and 2M62-1238a replaced 2M62-1159b for 6173 1823 Orsha – Lepel’. In the short time I was at Orsha two Moscow – Minsk trains stopped, both with through RZD traction; 025 Moskva – Minsk with ChS4T-452 and 017 Moskva – Minsk with ChS8-059. On departure from Orsha I was already dozing and that’s pretty much how the 90-minute journey went.
Upon arrival into Vitebsk I didn’t have a great deal of time to get my act together. A quick scan of the station revealed 2M62U-0270a had arrived with 6637 1711 Polotsk – Vitebsk and was already on the screens to go back out with 6619 2014 Vitebsk – Orsha. There didn’t seem to be a lot going on freight wise in the yard but RZD 3M62-0063 was sat in the platform, waiting the road to shed; having clearly arrived with a freight. I walked to my hotel thinking that the 3M62 would do nicely on my planned move out to Liozna soon.
I’d stayed in Vitebsk before and had used the Hotel Vitebsk on my previous visit. It was easy enough to book by just sending an e-mail direct to them and they confirmed my reservation within minutes. This confirmation is then used when you apply for your Belarus visa, in lieu of invitation documents. Which are not needed if you produce hotel vouchers, but the Belarus Embassy will not accept reservations made through booking.com and other online booking agents. It must be done direct with the hotel. The walk to the Hotel Vitebsk is about 15 minutes at a steady pace, straight out of the station front, down the main road, over the river bridge and it’s on the right just at the other side of the river; its visible long before you get to it and if you know what you’re looking for you can even see it from the station front, even though its over 1km away.
Thankfully the girl at the front desk spoke fluent English and she even remembered me from my previous visit. I paid my bill for three nights in full at check in and bought an internet card, valid for 72 hours, for BYN3.40 at the same time. WiFi isn’t free but at about £1.30 for 72 hours I wasn’t complaining. It was decent enough for web browsing and online chat, which is all that mattered. After check-in, it was time for me to start asking some silly questions as my evening, and very early morning, moves relied upon the correct answers being given.
Basically, the whole reason for being in Vitebsk was to cover trains 039B Polotsk – Moscow & 039Sh Moscow – Polotsk. On my last trip, I’d spotted the Polotsk – Moscow with RZD traction working it out of Vitebsk and the train had even been a regular BCh TEP60 from Polotsk to Vitebsk too. Moreover, the RZD traction I’d seen was predominantly 2M62’s, with the only RZD TEP70 I saw being inside the 2M62’s but crewed and running. Both trains stopped in Belarus, at Liozna, before crossing the border to Rudnya and Smolensk, the problem was that the only train that stopped at Liozna after 039B in the evening was the last train to Zavolsa and there was nothing to get out to Liozna on for 039Sh of a morning; so, you can see why the question mattered at the hotel?
My questions at the hotel reception were met with a great response and the girl there couldn’t have been more helpful. She struggled to understand why I wanted to head out to Liozna in the evening, taxi back and then taxi out to Liozna again early in the morning; but she sorted me out with what I needed and assured me that the taxi would be waiting at Liozna when I arrived at 2126. Obviously, I had to trust her but she did write me down the hotel’s number just in case I needed it. With that minor issue sorted, I headed up from the very Soviet reception area, I a very Soviet lift, to my very Soviet room. It was a bit 1970’s, but then isn’t everything Soviet? Other than a bit of road noise from the main road down below and the fact that the door could probably have been unlocked with a pen, it was fine. There weren’t any mod-cons, no AC and no toiletries but there was a bar of soap, the towel rail was hot, there was piping hot water and there was a fridge & TV. At the end of the day, it had everything I needed and I wasn’t going to be hanging around reveling in things so after a quick connection to the WiFi, which even remembered my login numbers from last time, to clear the backlog of whatever detritus I had waiting for me, and a quick derance, I was soon heading back to the station.
There are plenty of little eatery type places at Vitebsk and there are numerous supermarkets on the main road, so I wasn’t going to starve. There isn’t a single restaurant though, anywhere between the station and Hotel Vitebsk, so the mini pizzas from the station would be sufficing for food that night, whether I liked it or not. On the train front, 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva was being announced when I got to the station and TEP70-0369 arrived spot on time with it. It was promptly removed and the 2M62 I could see lurking beneath the footbridge at the Orsha end of the station was soon dropping on. As it was curved track where the 2M62 stood, I actually thought that it was the 3M63 I’d seen earlier waiting to back down; but no such luck. I was pleased with 2M62U-0227b/a though and joined the train for the short 48km journey to Liozna. I have to say, I was still a little apprehensive about my taxi at Liozna but my mind was soon at rest as I spotted it in view as we rolled into the station. The driver spoke a little English and was at least able to confirm my name and that he was taking me to the Hotel Vitebsk. My taxi had the word Skoda plastered on its side in big letters. 25 years ago, nobody would be seen dead in a Skoda and if you had one you were considered a peasant! How times have changed eh? Although in the railway world Class 90’s hadn’t gone up in my estimation since they were built and the timing for those was great when they were given the nickname “Skoda”! Don’t quite know why I needed to add that in there but I was thinking it in the taxi and thought I’d share that though with you……
Google Maps showed the journey from Liozna to Vitebsk to take 53 minutes; we did it in 45 minutes and I was back in the hotel by 2215. I thanked the hotel receptionist for her help when I got in and confirmed that my morning taxi was booked for 0300. There was method in the madness in that at least once I got onto 039Sh at Liozna at 0413, I could get horizontal for a couple of hours in my lower berth that I’d booked.
Moves for Thursday 22nd June 2017
|ChS4T-545||Minsk Pas.||Orsha Centralna||058B||1733 (21/06) Hrodna – St Petersburg Vitebski|
|TEP70-0223||Orsha Centralna||Sklou||634B||1549 (21/06) Hrodna – Mogilev 1|
|TEP70-0357||Sklou||Mogilev 1||083A||1720 (21/06) St Petersburg Vitebski – Gomal|
|ChME3T-7112||Mogilev 1 Platform 2||Mogilev 1 Platform 3||Shunt through portion from 083A to 613B at Mogilev 1|
|TEP70K-0260||Mogilev 1||Orsha Centralna||606B||1715 (21/06) Brest Centralna – Vitebsk|
|ChME3-5337||Orsha Centralna||Platform 1 shunt||Draw Kommunary portion off 658B to form 661B at Orsha|
|2M62-1159B||Orsha Centralna||Lepel||6171||0918 Orsha Centralna – Lepel|
|2M62-1159B||Lepel||Orsha Centralna||6174||1403 Lepel – Orsha Centralna|
|2M62U-0308A||Orsha Centralna||Vitebsk||6618||1747 Orsha Centralna – Vitebsk|
|2M62U-0227A||Vitebsk||Liozna||039B||1830 Polotsk – Moskva Beloruskaja|
|Taxi||Liozna||Vitebsk||Pre-arranged with hotel|
Gen for Thursday 22nd June 2017
ChS4T-545 058B 1733 (P) Hrodna – St Petersburg (Minsk – Orsha)
TEP70-0223 634B 1549 (P) Hrodna – Mogilev 1 (from Orsha)
TEP70-0357 083A 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel
ChME3T-7112 shunt Soligorsk portion 083 to 613 at Mogilev 1
ChS8-050 (RZD) 095B 2000 (P) Moskva – Brest
ChS8-072 (RZD) 055BF 2123 (P) Moskva – Gomel
TEP60-0149 613B 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk
TEP70K-0260/TEP70K-0325 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (to Orsha)
TEP70-0372 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (from Orsha)
2M62U-0312a 6562 0628 Mogilev 1 – Orsha, 6563 0853 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 6569 1720 Orsha – Mogilev 1
ChS8-052 (RZD) 63B Novosibirsk – Minsk Pas.
2M62-1126b 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk
MDL-006 (DMU) 6184 0900 Orsha – Krasne, 6186 1751 Orsha – Krasne
ChS4T-555 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (to Orsha)
TEP70-0265 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (from Orsha)
ChME3-5337 shunt Kommunary portion off 658B to form 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary
2M62-1159b 6171 0918 Orsha – Lepel’, 6174 1403 Lepel’ – Orsha
2M62-0971a/b arrived Lepel with a freight and then shunted it all round in the yard by the station
2M62U-0308a 6618 1747 Orsha – Vitebsk
ChS4T-452 (RZD) 025B 0946 Moskva – Minsk
ChS8-059 (RZD) 017B 1018 Moskva – Nice Ville
2M62-1238a 6173 1823 Orsha – Lepel
2M62U-0270a 6637 1711 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 6619 2014 Vitebsk – Orsha
3M62-0063 at Vitebsk
TEP70-0369 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva (to Vitebsk)
2M62U-0227a/b (RZD) 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva (from Vitebsk)
Photos for Thursday 22nd June 2017
Friday 23rd June 2017 (Vitebsk Day 1 – staying local to Vitebsk)
I was dead when the alarm went off and had slept solid from getting in bed, to it going off! My taxi was already waiting in the car park outside, when I got down to reception, and it was still the same girl there from when I’d checked in the previous night. There wasn’t any big lettering on my Skoda taxi of a morning and the driver spoke no English at all. He understood my instructions to Liozna Railway station though; which was about all I could must in Russian! He was a bit of a gnome, although I didn’t knock him as it was quite foggy in patches. The journey took a little longer than the previous night but I still had plenty of time to kill while waiting at Liozna. There was definitely a need for a coat on this morning and I wasn’t begrudging carrying it around for 3 weeks already; especially when it had been 30 degrees when I’d departed the UK.
When stood on your own, waiting for something you know could well be the same engines that you’d had out the previous night, you can’t help but think positive thoughts; especially when it was misty and cold. These kinds of moves set the days karma in motion and more to the point set your mood. If its dud there’s the thought that you’d wished you’d stayed in bed and were now knackered for nothing, if its new then you were tired for a reason but it was one worth getting out of bed for; oh, the anticipation. Or am I the only one that thinks this way?
I could hear 039Sh 2029 (P) Moskva – Polotsk approaching before I could see it, because of the fog, and once it came into blurry view my eyes were peeled on the number on the front of the leading half of the 2M62; at least at this point I could be grateful that it was a 2M62 and had turned up. It was soon evident, even though I couldn’t read the number, that it wasn’t 2M62U-0227 as my eyes couldn’t spot the blurred shape of a 2 or a 7 at all. When 2M62U-0007a/b came into clear view I was pleased I’d made the effort but was looking forward to getting into my berth; and so much for not being able to see a 7 eh?!
The coach attendant had her electronic reservation list with her as she greeted me onto the train and I’d already realised that there doesn’t seem to be a need for tickets with the electronic reservation tickets as they only want to confirm your ID matches the name on their list. My bed was made up in seconds, having paid the BYN1.50, for bedding, to the attendant the moment I’d boarded. The next thing I knew, the same attendant was waking me up 10 minutes before Liotcy; now that was some good doss, short, but good; now the day could begin. Once I’d checked to see what had replaced the 2M62 at Vitebsk. TEP70-0210 was the nag and as it departed I headed down to the car park area to utilize the toilet, if you can call it a toilet. It was as simple as they come, in the form of a hut with a wooden door, which did have a lock on the inside, and nothing but a 2ft round hole cut into the floor. As it was quite dull inside I couldn’t see to the bottom of said hole while I stood having a piss; but it was deep! Rancid intrigue almost had me getting my torch out to shine down the hole but sense had me walking out of the door the moment I’d finished; where I could breathe again!
I was minding my own business when the level crossing beeping announced that 625B 2128 (P) Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk was on the approach and I didn’t immediately register that there was quite a racket coming from the direction it was approaching from; when my brain engaged I realised it was a TEP60 and sure enough in rolled Orsha’s TEP60-0750. At Vitebsk, it pulled in alongside RZD 2M62U-0143, which was waiting the road onto the shed and buggered off before I could get to phot it. Just departing as we arrived was 2M62U-0313a with 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha, which I needed, and sat in the adjacent platform was 2M62U-0261a with 6632 0702 Vitebsk – Polotsk; which I chose to do out to Hrysany after buying a ticket from the separate ticket office for local tickets. This is to the right of the main station building if looking at the station from outside at the front. What I realised on the way to Hrysany was that the chances of me needing what was coming back in were next to nothing as 2M62-0313a was my last Polotsk 2M62U; so, unless the roaming Polotsk 2M62-1126b was still around I figured out that it was going to be a pretty dry day on the red pen front if I stayed in Vitebsk all day.
On the way back into Vitebsk, with 2M62U-0271b on 6631 0508 Polotsk – Vitebsk, I was looking at what ‘0313b might come back on and figured out a half decent move to get it in. A visit to the ticket office at Vitebsk was in order to make sure I could do what I wanted but before heading there I spotted TEP60-0750 still in the station area when I got back, it had detached the leading coach from the train, which was an inspection coach with crew in it, and looked like it was about to set sail somewhere. Ultimately it stayed local to Vitebsk all day and I saw it with its inspection coach three more times after it departed.
Most big ticket offices have a large interactive screen, about 40 inches worth, which is a big screen linked to the BCh website. Luckily it has an English option, like the website, unluckily the English option doesn’t come with an accompanying English keyboard. The way round that, I soon figured was to look up a specific train number, which I knew stopped at the shack I wanted to look at and then select the station from the schedule list. The only thing I couldn’t do was list station to station trains but it wasn’t an issue. I had come prepared for most eventualities and had printed little booklets for every day I was in Belarus, listing station to station trains for all the ned leaps around each main station I’d be using and then to the next main station in every direction, as well as individual station lists for every station I needed. As with all best laid plans though, there’s one you miss as you don’t think you’ll need it and Bahusheusk, between Vitebsk & Orsha, was the one. Thanks to the 40-inch screen and Vitebsk though I now knew I could do 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel to Bahusheusk, where I was originally planning just to do what I hoped would be ‘0313a back to Vitebsk. Having use of the computer showed me that I could do 689B to Bahusheusk for 6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha forward to Luzki, 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk back to Bahusheusk for 658B Brest – Vitebsk back into Vitebsk.
There’s a big screen on the wall, to the left of the website machine, listing seat/berth availability for the next 24 hours’ worth of departures from Vitebsk. There was plenty on 689B from Vitebsk and armed with a piece of paper listing train numbers, from where to where and that day’s date, I presented it to the woman at the counter; who spoke no English. There was no drama though and I was soon in possession of tickets for 689B to Bahusheusk and 658B back. The move worked a dream with TEP70-0369 working 689B up, 2M62U-0270a 6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha forward and 2M62U-0313a produced with 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk as expected. TEP70K-0322 topped the morning off nicely as it dropped me back into Vitebsk with 658B.
There’s a bit of a lull at Vitebsk of an afternoon so I chose to head out to Liotcy for the second time of the day. It was a means to an end move really but last time I’d done it I’d at least been treated to a freight passing through while I was there. After buying my outward ticket from the booking office I was rather pleased when Polotsk’s 2M62-1126a dropped into the station to work 6636 1156 Vitebsk – Polotsk. This had me wondering if my eyes had been deceiving me the previous day and that I’d actually seen ‘1126a and not b then? Still, it was different for a standard Polotsk 2M62 to break the 2M62U monotony in the Vitebsk area and to have seen a Polotsk one at Orsha the previous day must be something of a rarity? I’m not sure why the standard Polotsk 2M62s stick around Polotsk and the 2M62U’s do all the Vitebsk work but the same goes for the Orsha 2M62’s only working the Orsha based locals and never straying north or south and the Mogilev 2M62U’s never stray north of Orsha. That said after my wait at Liotcy, which did involve another trip to the bog, where intrigue still didn’t get my torch out of my bag, and after 2TE10M-3551b/a had hammered through on a freight heading towards Vitebsk, Polotsk 2M62-1126b turned up with 6635 1154 Polotsk – Vitebsk. Maybe not as rare as I thought then?
The afternoon was dead in Vitebsk so I decided to head out to Lucosa, where I thought I’d have about 90 minutes to phot any freight that might turn up. My evening move was sorted and I planned to head towards Rudnya at 1715, so didn’t need to rush about too much. 7171 1448 Vitebsk – Orsha is limited stop but stops at Lucosa on the way out of town. What I didn’t realise as I departed Vitebsk was that the next train back from Lucosa was a lot later than I needed and that the next train to stop there was 6643 1715 Vitebsk – Rudnya! It was also an interesting time for paranoia to play a part on the day.
After photting 2M62U-0271b before it departed Lucosa I then walked to the station building area, trying to get my bearings as Lucosa had two platforms, one on the main line that runs straight through and the other on the curve of the line towards Orsha. In the distance, the line towards Orsha joins another line that links the Zavolsa/Rudnya line to the Orsha line that also avoids Lucosa with a curve off it. My lack of understanding of the railway geography would prove to be my downfall that afternoon but I still didn’t realise it by that point. My attention was taken elsewhere when a couple of smartly dressed fed-looking types walked by me in the station area. Normally I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid but the fact that I recognized the female of the two started me thinking. I’d seen her leg it over the foot crossing at Vitebsk in front of an approaching freight, before heading out to Lucosa. They both looked a little lost but continued walking straight by me and towards the rear of the station; so, I assumed they were possibly on their way home and thought nothing of it for a while.
I decided that the Zavolsa/Rudnya platform was the best place to reside for any freight action and there were three along in no time at all. First off was one of the Vitebsk yard shunters, TME3-036, with a short trip freight. This ended up bringing a massive freight to a stand in the platform on the curve, coming off the Orsha line. 2TE10M-3547a/b then really struggled to get the length train on the move again; thanks to the tight curve and weight of the train. They were literally juddering up and down and slipping all about the place until they got to grips with the train. Meanwhile 2TE10MK-3110b/a came through in the opposite direction with another well loaded train and Lucosa was not a quiet place for a few minutes! While loud though the 2TE10’s for me are just sheer noise with nothing about them. In fact, their drone is at such a tone that even the reverberations from it get on my nerves and hurt my ears; for all the wrong reasons. Still, they are machines and do what is asked of them and if one turned up on a passenger in Belarus I’d be pleased with it. In a settling gesture, the driver of the 2TE10 that had struggled away off the curve even waved at me as he trickled by at a snails’ pace. Rain then stopped play and I wondered back to the station area to take refuge; which was when paranoia part two took hold. Sat there, side by side, just minding their own business were tweedled-dee and tweedled-dum; now tell me I wasn’t paranoid!?
I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary at that point and was poised to buy a ticket back to Vitebsk, when the timetable on the wall revealed, or more likely didn’t reveal 6616 1459 Orsha – Vitebsk on it. The timetables were soon out and it was then that it sank in that there were two ways off the Orsha line into Vitebsk, with Lucosa being on the deviation. The direct route from Krastyanka via Miadzviodka is used more often than the deviation from Krastyanka via Lucosa. Now what had thrown me was the fact that my station lists hadn’t shown some of the Orsha trains to stop at Lucosa but the individual train schedules did. On closer inspection though I figured out that the individual schedules were correct but randomly listed both Lucosa and Miadzviodka on them all. The way to tell what stops where is to understand that when the arrival & departure times are the same the train doesn’t stop there, and there’s a dash in the stopping time column. Lesson learnt, I was soon trudging my way on foot back to Vitebsk station; it was only a 6.5km walk! Note to self, read shit carefully next time you want to just randomly write times on printed sheets, because you think they stop!
Paranoid or not, I left the two goons sat on the bench at Lucosa and that was the last I saw of them; whether that was the last they saw of me I can’t comment on. Whether they were tailing me or not, it makes for a good bit of a story to tell. I did keep looking over my shoulder on the way back though, just in case. What this lengthy walk did give me, was a chance to have a look at the Memorial to the Liberators of Vitebsk; which I’d only seen from a distance and it looked like something an alien species would plant in the ground upon landing to say they’d conquered your planet. It was a bit like the space ships the Necromancer landed in, in the Chronicles of Riddick! It was impressive nonetheless and had an air of calm about it with two large pools of water in front of it.
It’s hard to think when walking around Vitebsk that there were only something like 17 buildings still standing after the Nazi’s all but flattened the place on the way towards Moscow. On both sides of the river, which splits the place in two, the city looks quite prosperous, is very well presented and also very Soviet. There are various massive signs about the place, on grass verges, promoting wellbeing and on both the main bridges over the river there are still Soviet hammer & sickle motifs in the metalwork. If you look closely there are still plenty as part of the brickwork on prominent buildings as well. Overall though, Vitebsk is a very pleasant place, even if during my time there I struggled to find a restaurant to eat at but did find a sign for McDonald’s; some 3km in the opposite direction to where I was going!
Thankfully, rain stopping play when it had at Lucosa had given me enough time to sort myself out and get back on track with the afternoon. Although, had I chosen to do so, I could have just got on 6643 1715 Vitebsk – Rudnya at Lucosa but with my shadows there it was probably as well that I didn’t. And taking things into considerations for the evening I opted to head via the hotel and dump my bag there, before heading to the station to go towards Rudnya. I figured that if there was some sort of scenario at Rudnya, which is in Russia, then I’d be better at pleading my case without a camera and all the train info in my back. Plus, I’d just carried the damn thing for 6.5km and was glad to see the back of it!
When I got to the station I had a quick scan on the platforms to see what was going on. 2M62U-0261a was sat with 6617 1724 Vitebsk – Orsha, ‘0313a with 6638 1726 Vitebsk – Polotsk and ‘0262a with 6643 1715 Vitebsk – Rudnya. While minding my own, I watched a 2TE10 pass through Vitebsk with no less than 59 loaded coal wagons, which had 75t on the side; so that’s just the 4425t trailing then!
With my paranoia trip being in the distant past, I bought a ticket to Rudnya without issue and boarded 6643. I must admit, I had my reservations about the move anyway and with my head not being where it should be in the common-sense stakes, my want to do the track got the better of me and at Zavolsa, once the doors had closed, I was Rudnya bound whether I liked it or not. At the end of the day, I was just a dumb tourist, doing what tourists often do, dumb things! If it wasn’t for the fact that I had a valid Russian visa in my passport, I’d have been doing nothing of the sorts and as we approached Rudnya my paranoia got the better of me again and it was a very tense 18 minutes on Russian soil; technically! I never actually got off the train and spent the whole time willing the doors to close. There are connections at Rudnya in both directions, both into and out of 6643/6646, to Smolensk. This is where I assumed that Russian/Belarusian border control is carried out, don’t quote me on that though. Nothing looked very official at Rudnya, although the station security staff looked a lot smarter, and people just wondered off down the tracks on arrival into Rudnya so I guessed that things were a bit lax and if you mingled in then things would be perfectly fine; I probably stuck out like a sore thumb though so was better staying put and was very grateful when the doors closed and the little 2M62 started shoving back towards Belarus. I’m not so sure things would have been so tense had my paranoid mind not been overthinking things at Lucosa earlier but I was concentrating on other things as I headed back to Vitebsk; like wondering what would present itself on 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva when I got back.
Having already sorted the taxi back form Liozna out at the hotel, when I’d dropped my bag off earlier, I was all set when 2M62U-0262a rumbled back into the platform at Vitebsk, to reveal what I initially thought was 2M62U-0143 at the head of 039B. As I’d seen it earlier in the day my mind made up its own when enough figures were in sight to process what it was seeing but it was actually 2M62U-0243b/a. While I’d been focusing hard on the 2M62, I’d completely missed the fact that there was an RZD TEP70 inside them and it was too late to get the number by the time I realised it was there. With only 6 minutes before departure I had to leg it round the front of the train to spot TEP70-0177, which was running and had a crew in it. Having seen this combination on my last trip to Vitebsk I assumed that 039 was used as a free ride back to Russia for any wrong ended RZD locos off freight work? As booked, I was towards the rear of the train again and had to hot-foot it to the back before the footsteps were raised and the train departed without me.
I was greeted at Liozna by the same Skoda driving taxi driver as had picked me up the previous night and made him hang around long enough to confirm that all three locos were powering out of Liozna. I guess in those situations where there are crewed locos running inside the train engine(s), it purely depends on the type of driver as to whether he feels the need, or even wants to be bothered to power. I’ve been in India where drivers have been whipped up to power with a second loco and I’ve been at the Nene Valley Railway where a miserable bastard of a driver wouldn’t power with 31165 when it was inside with 40106 as the leading loco. This situation was on the right side of the power handle scale and I headed back to Vitebsk in my Skoda listening to some local radio station, in Russian of course, which played more music that I knew, with English lyrics, than of the local Russian language type.
I was back at the hotel by 22:10 and the taxi was booked for the morning to take me back out to Liozna for another stab at the 039 Polotsk – Moskva – Polotsk bingo train. As my original plan had been to spend the whole day in Vitebsk doing local trains the following day, I had a talk with myself on the way out towards Rudnya and figured out that my time would be more productive and better spent in the Orsha area instead. It didn’t take me long to book what I needed to online on the BCh website; and the hotel reception kindly printed my tickets out for me. I went to bed hoping for another successful day the following day.
Moves for Friday 23rd June 2017
|Taxi||Vitebsk||Liozna||Pre-arranged with hotel|
|2M62U-0007A||Liozna||Vitebsk||039Sh||2029 (22/06) Moskva Beloruskaja – Polotsk|
|TEP60-0750||Liotcy||Vitebsk||625B||2129 (22/06) Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk|
|2M62U-0261A||Vitebsk||Hrysany||6632||0702 Vitebsk – Polotsk|
|2M62U-0271B||Hrysany||Vitebsk||6631||0508 Polotsk – Vitebsk|
|TEP70-0369||Vitebsk||Bahusheusk||689B||0815 Vitebsk – Gomel|
|2M62U-0270A||Bahusheusk||Luzki||6613||0825 Vitebsk – Orsha Centralna|
|2M62U-0313A||Luzki||Bahusheusk||6612||0900 Orsha Centralna – Vitebsk|
|TEP70K-0322||Bahusheusk||Vitebsk||658B||2029 (22/06) Brest Centralna – Vitebsk|
|2M62-1126A||Vitebsk||Liotcy||6636||1156 Vitebsk – Polotsk|
|2M62-1126B||Liotcy||Vitebsk||6635||1154 Polotsk – Vitebsk|
|2M62U-0271B||Vitebsk||Lucosa||7171||1448 Vitebsk – Orsha Centralna|
|Walk||Lucosa||Vitebsk||6km, 1 hour|
|2M62U-0262A||Vitebsk||Rudnya||6643||1715 Vitebsk – Rudnya|
|2M62U-0262A||Rudnya||Vitebsk||6646||1908 Rudnya – Vitebsk|
|2M62U-0243B||Vitebsk||Liozna||039B||1830 Polotsk – Moskva Beloruskaja|
|Taxi||Liozna||Vitebsk||Pre-arranged with hotel|
Gen for Friday 23rd June 2017
2M62-1126b 6635 1154 Polotsk – Vitebsk
2M62-1126a 6636 1156 Vitebsk – Polotsk
2M62U-0261a 6632 0702 Vitebsk – Polotsk, 7181 1520 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 6617 1724 Vitebsk – Orsha
2M62U-0261b 6634 0857 Vitebsk – Polotsk
2M62U-0262a 6642 0548 Zavolsa – Vitebsk, 6643 1715 Vitebsk – Rudnya, 6646 1908 Rudnya – Vitebsk
2M62U-0270a 6610 0530 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6614 1219 Orsha – Vitebsk, 7182 1457 Vitebsk – Polotsk
2M62U-0271b 6631 0508 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 6641 0820 Vitebsk – Rudnya, 6644 1056 Rudnya – Vitebsk, 7171 1448 Vitebsk – Orsha
2M62U-0308a 6601 0512 Ezerishche – Vitebsk, 6602 0827 Vitebsk – Ezerishche, 6604 1520 Vitebsk – Ezerishche
2M62U-0313a 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6615 1124 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6616 1459 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6638 1726 Vitebsk – Polotsk
TME1-016, TME1-018, TME1-024, TME1-038, ChME3-3856, ChME3-3857 ChME3-3899, ChME3-5473 shunt locos Vitebsk
2M62U-0007a/b 039Sh 2029 (P) Moskva Bel. – Polotsk (to Vitebsk)
TEP70-0210 039Sh 2029 (P) Moskva Bel. – Polotsk (from Vitebsk)
TEP60-0750 625B 2129 (P) Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk, then worked an instrumentation train in Vitebsk area all day. Which it detached from the front of 625B on arrival.
2M62U-0143a/b at Vitebsk off a freight
TEP70-0384 057B 2146 (P) St Petersburg – Hrodna
TEP70-0369 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel
TEP70-0435 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk
DL3-003 (DMU) 705B 0832 Polotsk – Mogilev 1
TEP70K-0322 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk
TEP70BS-083 713 1535 Vitebsk – Minsk Pas.
2TE10 through Vitebsk with 59 loaded coal = 4425t
2M62-0243b/a + TEP70-0177 (RZD) 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva (from Vitebsk)
TEP70BS-106 704B 1643 Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk (non-stop)
Photos for Friday 23rd June 2017
Saturday 24th June 2017 (A change of plan – A day in Orsha vice Vitebsk)
It seemed a bit easier to get out of bed, than it had done the previous morning, probably as I was already awake and aware of the time. It was déjà vu time when I walked into reception, it was foggy outside and the taxi was already waiting for me outside the front doors; it wasn’t the same driver though. It was like Groundhog Day heading out towards Liozna and I found myself drifting off in the car. The fog never let up though and it was another morning where a coat was required. Despite the fact I’d booked the tickets for the same move the following morning, I’d already decided, while I stood tired in the cold, that I wasn’t doing the move for a third time the following morning; enough was enough. Although when 2M62U-0030b/a rolled into Liozna with 039Sh 2029 (P) Moskva – Polotsk, my somber mood did perk up a little and had me thinking otherwise.
For the second morning in a row I managed to sleep straight through the Vitebsk station stop but was awake before the attendant had to wake me for Liotcy. As I stepped off the train I thought I’d heard a bit of a din coming from up front and it wasn’t a surprise, under the circumstances, to find TEP60-0??? Up front. While the TEP60’s are less hurtful on the ears than a 2TE10, they are still dronie engines but it certainly said good morning to Liotcy as the driver caned it out of the station; not something you see often in Belarus.
There were developments on the bog front at Liotcy and someone had managed to miss the whole completely and left me a nice turd to admire while I had my morning piss! Thankfully that was the last I saw of both the turd and Liotcy bog on the trip. I can’t say it was a pleasure but I’ll take a hole in the ground over nothing any day of the week. The bog on board 625B 2129 (P) Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk was much more sociable for my morning crap than what I would have had no choice but to use at Liotcy if the train had arrived 5 minutes later! TEP70-0732 did the honours back to Vitebsk while I showed the bog who was boss!
Unlike the previous morning, 625B made 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha, just. You’d have had to be quick and in the right place on the train for the footbridge to make 2M62U-0261a before it set sail though. 2M62U-0308a was in with 6632 0702 Vitebsk – Polotsk but I gave the move a miss in favour of getting a spot of breakfast before heading to Orsha; I didn’t miss much when 2M62U-0270b rolled in with 6631 0508 Polotsk – Vitebsk.
TEP70-0384 had already dropped onto the 3-coach set for 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel when TEP70-0265 arrived with 057B 2146 (P) St Petersburg – Hrodna, which I did forward to Orsha and was horizonal for most of the way. At Orsha it was all go with 2M62-1229a sat waiting to depart with 6171 0918 Orsha – Lepel’ and ChS4T-603 was just arriving with 658B Brest – Vitebsk. It was removed and ChME3-3747 was soon attached to draw the Kommunary portion clear of the foot crossing in the middle of the station. On this occasion, I just stood in the doorway while the coach attendants walked alongside the train, then got back off to do a bit of viewing and pondering. TEP70-0210 had attached itself to the other portion to work 658B Brest – Vitebsk forward and TEP70-0370 attached to the Kommunary portion to work forward as 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary. Meanwhile ChME3-3747 had shunted a through Brest – Murmansk coach off 658B and deposited it into the sidings by platform 3, where the footsteps were immediately opened for people to get on/off as they pleased; it would sit there for the next 4 hours and be attached to 066B 1021 Minsk – Murmansk, which got me thinking. I’d only planned to stay in Orsha for the morning and was going to head back on 066B anyway as I had a reservation forward from Vitebsk to Ezerishe on it. As luck had it, or more like a top judgement call, the coach that had been deposited in the sidings off 658B was my coach on 066B from Orsha to Vitebsk. As there wasn’t much need to do Ezerishe, as I’d done the previous year, I flagged ‘1229a on the Lepel, rather than attempt to rush back from the first shack to make 661B and would have a much more relaxing afternoon instead; and head back to Vitebsk on a local later.
While buried deep in timetables, thanks to the 40-inch BCh website screen not working at Orsha, I completely missed 782B 0724 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 creep in behind 661B’s set and was a little confused when I saw a short load 2 push-pull set in the platform. Investigations revealed that it was indeed 782B, formed with a driver trailed and one other coach, with 2M62U-0258b bringing up the rear. I’d had a ChME3 on two coaches vice DMU on a Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 on my previous visit, so wondered if the new DMU’s weren’t doing so well? Either way, it was food for thought as I needed ‘0258b.
It was a pleasant journey on 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary with TEP70-0370, which gave me a bit more time to figure out what to do when I got back to Orsha. It was short but sweet stop at Pahodzina and I was soon heading back to Orsha on 2M62-1227a working 6534 0858 Krichev 1 – Orsha. Since my previous visit the timetable on the Krichev line has had trains cut out as there used to be a local departure in front of 661B, which got overtaken by it before Krichev 1. There are reductions in the service of the whole length of the line in the coming weeks too, which is probably for engineering works, so whether the two are linked I don’t know; exactly the same happened on my previous visit with the service truncations/cancellations in the middle of the day too; which almost bowled me out at Krichev 1 and it pays to check the BCh website on a station line-up when you’re in the country as the planned cancellations and alterations are always shown on a station line-up.
Back at Orsha I made a bee-line for the coach I’d watched being shunted off 6B earlier that morning. The rear door was still open and the footsteps were down. Some guy was hanging around in them as if dithering about getting out or not. When he watched me scoot over the ballast to the door, he clambered down as I clambered up. Of course, there were questions asked when a stranger appeared in the coach. These were soon stemmed on production of my Orsha – Vitebsk ticket for the very coach I was standing in. That cured things and I was allowed to take my seat, I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was. I was glad I had when ChME3-3910 drew up to the coach to shunt it onto 066B 1021 Minsk Pas. – Murmansk. The opposing working of 065B Murmansk – Minsk Pas. had gone only a short time before, having been worked into Orsha by TEP70-0369 and then onwards to Minsk by ChS4T-603. 066B arrived into Orsha with ChS4T-599 and TEP70BS-084 was poised to drop on while ChME3-3910 did its thing; putting the coach at the front end of the train. I used my excuses to get back off the train for a quick photograph of the ChME3 and of course never re-boarded; making myself scarce behind the rather large steam loco that is plinthed at that end of Orsha station.
The afternoon would now be a bit more relaxed than it was going to be and I was pleased that Orsha just kept throwing their 2M62’s at me, when 2M62-1228b was thrown into the mix for 6537 1357 Orsha – Krichev 1, which I did out to Zubry; mainly because I could pronounce the station name when buying my ticket! It wasn’t too big a fester there and when 2M62-1238a, which I’d seen at Orsha a couple of days ago, produced with 6536 1315 Krichev 1 – Orsha it was turning out to be a very productive day; especially with 2M62-1229a to cane in on its way back from Lepel’. As it turned out to be quite a hot afternoon I couldn’t be arsed to make a mad rush of the walk from Orsha to Vaskovshina for ‘1229a coming in so took a taxi driver up on his offer of a taxi but made him put it on the meter. In the usual taxi driver style, he told me it was broken, until I started to walk away of course. I followed our journey on ME Maps and to be fair to him, he couldn’t have taken a more direct route so at least he got a tip in the end. For a couple of quid, it was worth it though and when ‘1229a dropped me back into Orsha, regardless of what happened for the rest of the day, I’d really enjoyed it thus far and was very pleased I’d made the change to my plan to spend the day in Orsha instead of Vitebsk.
When 2M62U-0270b rolled out of Orsha with 6618 1747 Orsha – Vitebsk, 2M62-1229b was in position to work 6173 1823 Orsha – Lepel’ and ‘1229a had gone straight to shed after arrival from Lepel’. The journey back to Vitebsk was a bit of a sleeper journey and my neck knew about it when we got there. I knew my luck had to run out at some point and when I spotted an RZD TEP70 on Vitebsk shed, with its lights on being prepared, I just knew it was going to be TEP70-0177 for 039B. With my taxi already booked though there wasn’t really much need to not do the train as I’d end up paying for it anyway as he’d be on his way there shortly; I’d already confirmed with the driver the previous night that he’d be coming to get me again and hadn’t needed to involve the hotel on this occasion. I stood on the station footbridge waiting for 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva to arrive as it would make for a nice photo off the footbridge if it stopped in the same place as the previous night; when I hadn’t had my camera, or the time to get a photo even if I’d wanted to. While waiting Polotsk’s 2M62-1154 arrived with a single coach from somewhere and ran straight through the station with it. Then TEP70K-0322 arrived with 039B and stopped well short in the platform, making my vantage point utterly pointless with all the posts and wiring in the way, not to mention the fact it was too far away without a decent zoom. It was very random and sure enough the BCh TEP70 was replaced by RZD TEP70-0177; as suspected. My luck had run out but I’d achieved more than I could have expected on the 039 Polotsk – Moskva – Polotsk bingo train walked down to the rear of the train to take up my residence in my usual seat.
We were away on time and the journey to Liozna went just like the previous 2 had but on arrival into Liozna I nearly dropped a very big bollock while gibbering with the taxi driver on the platform. It was only when the steps were lifted for departure that I realised that there was more than one engine on the front of the train and I had to leg it to the front as the train was setting off to find out what the fuck was going on. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when, very relieved, I got to the front in time to find not a 2M62 on top of the TEP70, which was shut down this time, but only the 3M62 that had been in Vitebsk station when I’d got back from Orsha. It all made sense as to why the BCh crew had pulled up short at Vitebsk now but I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t felt them back on. Brake tests are carried out twice before departure anyway so there was no need to get giddy about a last-minute brake test as it was normal. 3M62-0054 bumbled off with 039B I was so relieved that I’d spotted the extra engine on the front, before it was too late; it would have turned a god day into a disaster of one, in one fell swoop, had I ended up watching the train leave with what I’d just spotted heading off into the distance and not knowing what it was. I’d have put two & two together though and suspected it would have been 3M62-0054 but would never actually have known of course. The fact was I did and during the journey back to the hotel I reflected on what had been a completely make-shift day; and was well chuffed with myself. Despite the massive bonus on 039B I was definitely not getting up for 039Sh the following morning, the lack of proper sleep was catching up with me and it was time to claw some back; so, a lay-in to 0600 it was. I’d booked 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Brest to get to Mogilev the following morning but had decided to head to Orsha early to cover the ChME3 on the 658B/661B shunt instead. Unfortunately, 057B St Petersburg – Hrodna didn’t run the following morning so it would have to be the 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha local instead, which was the only train to get me to Orsha in time for the shunt.
Moves for Saturday 24th June 2017
|Taxi||Vitebsk||Liozna||Pre-arranged with hotel|
|2M62U-0030B||Liozna||Vitebsk||039Sh||2029 (23/06) Moskva Beloruskaja – Polotsk|
|TEP70-0372||Liotcy||Vitebsk||625B||2129 (23/06) Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk|
|TEP70-0265||Vitebsk||Orsha Centralna||057B||2146 (23/06) St Petersburg Vitebski – Hrodna|
|ChME3-3747||Orsha Centralna||Platform 1 shunt||Draw Kommunary portion off 658B to form 661B at Orsha|
|TEP70-0370||Orsha Centralna||Pahodzina||661B||0956 Orsha Centralna – Kommunary|
|2M62-1227A||Pahodzina||Orsha Centralna||6534||0858 Krichev 1 – Orsha Centralna|
|ChME3-3910||Orsha Centralna Sidings by Platform 2||Orsha Centralna Platform 1||Shunt through Brest – Murmansk coach onto 066B|
|2M62-1228B||Orsha Centralna||Zubry||6537||1357 Orsha Centralna – Krichev 1|
|2M62-1238A||Zubry||Orsha Centralna||6536||1315 Krichev 1 – Orsha Centralna|
|2M62-1229A||Vaskovshina||Orsha Centralna||6174||1403 Lepel – Orsha Centralna|
|2M62U-0270B||Orsha Centralna||Vitebsk||6618||1747 Orsha Centralna – Vitebsk|
|3M62-0054B||Vitebsk||Liozna||039B||1830 Polotsk – Moskva Beloruskaja|
|Taxi||Liozna||Vitebsk||Pre-arranged with hotel|
Gen for Saturday 24th June 2017
2M62-1228b 6537 1357 Orsha – Krichev 1
2M62-1238a 6536 1315 Krichev 1 – Orsha
2M62-1227a 6534 0858 Krichev 1 – Orsha
2M62-1229a 6171 0918 Orsha – Lepel’, 6174 1403 Lepel’ – Orsha
2M62-1229b in position at Orsha for 6173 1823 Orsha – Lepel’
2M62U-0258b 782b 0724 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 via Orsha (load 2 push-pull was DMU turn)
2M62U-0260b at Orsha
2M62U-0261a 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk
2M62U-0261b 6610 0530 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6614 1219 Orsha – Vitebsk
2M62U-0262a 6642 0548 Zavolsa – Vitebsk
2M62U-0262b 6602 0827 Vitebsk – Ezerishche, 6603 1058 Ezerishche – Vitebsk, 6604 1520 Vitebsk – Ezerishche, 6605 1734 Ezerishche – Vitebsk, 6640 2050 Vitebsk – Sumilina
2M62U-0270a 6637 1711 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 6619 2014 Vitebsk – Orsha
2M62U-0270b 6631 0508 Polotsk – Vitebsk, 6641 0820 Vitebsk – Rudnya, 6644 1056 Rudnya – Vitebsk, 7171 1448 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6618 1747 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6606 2058 Vitebsk – Ezerishche
2M62U-0271b 6601 0512 Ezerishche – Vitebsk
2M62U-0308a 6632 0702 Vitebsk – Polotsk
TME1-018, TME1-023, TME1-024, TME1-036, TME1-037, ChME3-2308, ChME3-3902 shunt locos at Vitebsk
2M62U-0030b/a 039Sh 2029 (P) Moskva Bel. – Polotsk (to Vitebsk)
TEP70BS-084 039Sh 2029 (P) Moskva Bel. – Polotsk (from Vitebsk)
TEP70-0372 625B 2129 (P) Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk
TEP70K-0260 057B 2146 (P) St Petersburg – Hrodna
TEP70-0384 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel (to Orsha)
ChS4T-595 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel (from Orsha)
ChME3-1658, ChME3-3747, ChME3-3910, ChME3-4425 shunt locos at Orsha
ChS4T-603 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (to Orsha)
TEP70-0210 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (from Orsha)
ChME3-3747 shunt Kommunary portion off 658B to form 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary and the Brest Murmansk through coach to siding by platform 3; to be attached to 066B Minsk – Murmansk 4 hours later!
TEP70-0370 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary
TEP70-0369 065B 2025 (PP) Murmansk – Minsk (to Orsha)
ChS4T-603 065B 2025 (PP) Murmansk – Minsk (from Orsha)
ChS4T-394 132B 0428 Brest – Moskva
ChS4T-599 066B 1021 Minsk – Murmansk (to Orsha)
ChME3-3910 shunt thro coach ex 658B from siding onto 066B
TEP70BS-084 066B 1021 Minsk – Murmansk (from Orsha)
TEP70-0265 605B 1553 Vitebsk – Brest
2M62-1154a/b arr Vitebsk with 1 coach (Polotsk locos)
TEP70K-0322 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva (to Vitebsk)
3M62U-0054a/v/b + (TEP70-0177) (RZD) 039B 1830 Polotsk – Moskva (from Vitebsk)
TEP70BS-120 704B 1643 Minsk Pas. – Vitebsk (non-stop)
Photos for Saturday 24th June 2017
Sunday 25th June 2017 (Vitebsk to Mogilev via an unexpected Krasne, Russia)
The 0600-alarm call was a welcome change and I slept solid from getting in bed to it going off. Checking out at the Hotel Vitebsk was as simple as handing over the key and walking out of the front door; which I’m always grateful for. It was a pleasant morning walk to the station and it looked like it was going to be a nice day as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky but it was still quite cool as a result. About right the morning weather changes when I’d not gone to Liozna. The local ticket office was empty and it was easy to get my ticket to Orsha, without having to write it down on a piece of paper; even I can do a decent enough job of pronouncing Orsha, even if my Russian accent did have a Yorkshire twang to it. The 84km, 2-hour journey cost BYN1.42 with 2M62U-0308a leading the way on 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha. When I got to Orsha I was surprised by what I found.
2M62U-0260b was already sat in to work 6563 0853 Orsha – Mogilev 1 and ‘0308a was turned straight round to work 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk. What got my attention though, and only as I was looking around to see what might work 6171 0918 Orsha – Lepel’, was 2M62-1227b sat in waiting to depart with 6184 0903 Orsha – Krasne. I thought I’d noticed a Krasne sign on the side of one of the sets the previous day but couldn’t quite make it out in the yard; and at this point I was wondering if the Krasne service is 2M62 at a weekend and the 2-car DMU in the week; which was parked up right down at the bottom end of the yard, not going anywhere. A quick scan in my MG Ball atlas that covered Belarus, revealed Krasne to be right on the Belarus/Russia border but still inside Belarus, on the main electrified line from Orsha into Russia; so, I was good to go.
I wasn’t going to have any issues getting my pronunciation of Krasne right as I took a photo of the destination board on the side of the cab on my phone and presented it at the ticket window. Randomly I got two tickets for my troubles and just assumed at that point that the lassie issuing them had done the first one wrong and corrected herself by adding on; so to speak. That should have been the first alarm bell! The tickets combined came to BYN1.45 for the 51km journey and I was well pleased to find 2M62-1227b bolted to the back of the train.
The journey was pleasant and the train not wedged at all and it wasn’t until we departed the last shack before Krasne that I realised I might have wanted to get off at it; especially when I started to notice RZD signs by the side of the line. Sure enough, when we rolled into Krasne, decorated in RZD livery to the hilt, I realised my morning could be about to take a turn for the worst. Now, when you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, doing something you shouldn’t be doing, your mind can be a pain in its own ass as it automatically thinks that everyone and everything is looking at you, as if you’ve done something wrong or shouldn’t be. It’s not nice at very thing was happening to me the moment I saw the two station security guards come out of their building to meet the train. There was no passport control that I could see but the BCh trains arrive into a side platform and the only way to the opposite side of the station was down the platform and across the foot crossing, right in front of the security staff. As I got off the train, I was at the far end of it, furthest away from the foot crossing. There were a good number of people on the platform so I had time to think for a second as I ambled down the platform. The decision I came to was to just get back onto the train in the next coach and sit it out. I’d have to just buy a ticket on the train back to Orsha then, instead of using the ticket office. As I skulked back onto the train, I noticed people had got off at the same doors I had and instead of heading towards the foot crossing, they’d turned the opposite direction and just started walking down the tracks.
Soon after I’d boarded, where I was sat hoping that one of the ticket girls didn’t recognize me and start asking questions, a 3-car RZD EMU arrived from Smolensk and after a few minutes people started boarding my train for Orsha, which put my mind a rest a little bit. To try and calm the nerves I read anything I could find from my bag, which turned out to be Lonely Planet guide books for Latvia & Estonia; I never looked up once and every time the door opened my mind had me thinking there would be a figure stood by me soon enough demanding an explanation. To add insult to injury the train didn’t depart on time, which just fuelled my paranoid state a bit more; until finally, the door closed and we started moving back towards Belarus. The ticket girls were soon doing their thing and I was relieved to see a different girl doing the coach I was in and even more relieved when everyone in the coach was buying tickets from her; so, had I gone to try and find a ticket office it might have been a bit of a disaster in the making.
I wasn’t prepared for the Krasne move at all and relied upon one source being correct. There were signs, which I ignored, quite innocently, with the tickets being sold as two pieces, which was the same on the return, ME Maps couldn’t locate Krasne when I did a search so I assumed it was my spelling at fault. When I scrolled through the map towards the Russian border I assumed that Krasne was a one-horse town and didn’t even show up on the map for that reason; I know now that it didn’t show up as it’s in the Smolensk region of Russia and I’d not got that downloaded for offline use. Having been to Rudnya, intentionally, and Krasne, unintentionally, I can confirm that the state of mind was the same when at both places, whether I intentionally chose to go there or not. Having done this kind of thing in India before, I never had any reservations about what I was doing and felt fine in myself both times there. Obviously, the stigma attached to the Eastern Block plays a big part in how you process situations; and they don’t take prisoners in these parts!
Back at Orsha, where I was very pleased to be, I only had a short while before the bonus 6391 1149 Orsha – Mogilev 1 local; which only ran at weekends. Otherwise the next Mogilev bound train would have been the 1447 local; or I’d had to have attempted to get a ticket for 705B Polotsk – Mogilev 1, which is a nice shiny new AC Pesa DMU turn. 2M62U-0311a did the honours for the 74km, 1h51m run to Mogilev 1; which cost BYN1.26. With there being an afternoon lull at Mogilev, I was glad to make the plus 9’ onto 6585 1349 Mogilev 1 – Asipovichy 1. Not only as it was another new Mogilev 2M62U, in the form of ‘0263b, but because the walk from Mogilev 2 to the Hotel where I was staying was 2.5km, not the 3.5km that it is from Mogilev 1.
As we arrived into the bay platforms at the north end of the station, where all the Orsha locals go from, it was a long walk to the other end of the station and my plus 9 dwindled to a plus not a lot by the time I was in spitting distance of the train, and had collected its number of course. My attention was caught by M62-1161, which was attached to a single car Pesa DMU at the side of the station, right next to my train. As I departed with 2M62-0263b, I couldn’t help but wonder if the new Pesa DMU’s were having some reliability issues and that may be the 2M62 had been dragging it about on one of the other Pesa turns; what with 2M62U-0258b out on another turn with its load 2 push-pull set?
I hadn’t deliberately set out on my journey to not buy a ticket but with time running away at Mogilev 1, I just got on and was going to buy one when I got gripped. As we approached the platform at Mogilev 2 though I’d still not been gripped but could see the grippers working their way towards me from either side and they met at the doorway I was stood in. For my sins, I was charged the standard BYN0.16 fare for the 3km journey and then hit with a fine of BYN0.47 for not having a ticket in the first place; which for those that are ok at math’s, I’d just paid 4 times the actual fare. That was a whole 25p in pound sterling! I wasn’t going to be effing it again that afternoon let me tell thee.
My hotel of choice in Mogilev was the same one I’d stayed at on my last visit, the rather nice Hotel Metropol. It was a shame it was so far away from any of the shacks though. That said it is a straight line from either Mogilev 1 or Mogilev 2 stations and takes either 40 or 30 minutes to do the walk. From ‘1 it’s through the heart of town and from ‘2 it’s through a local neighbourhood; which looked very much like what Pripyat in Ukraine should have done before the Chernobyl disaster; the flats looked almost identical in design anyway.
The girl at reception was expecting me and was the same girl that had checked me in last time. My room was spotless, with a large bed, desk, fridge, minibar and a kettle with tea making facilities. The bathroom had all the mod-cons and a full complement of toiletries, along with a red-hot towel rail; which would come in handy later. The one and only thing missing was AC; and it was sweltering. With the large window opened though, it soon cooled down a little and I was soon abusing the WiFi; which made the WiFi at the Hotel Vitebsk appear like it was still stuck in the dark ages on dial-up. In fact, the Hotel Vitebsk was still stuck in the dark Soviet era, compared to the Metropol; the two were worlds apart.
I take back what I said about the Belarus Railway website earlier, I’d never previously had any problems booking tickets on it but it took me more than one attempt on every ticket I booked that afternoon, with one taking 9 attempts to pay; and its always the bloody last one that does something like that! Maybe it was because I was in Belarus and the internet wasn’t as strong, who knows? With everything booked for Tuesday, the hotel kindly printed out all the tickets for me when I e-mailed them all to them. The idea was to not spend a whole day in Mogilev and extend my overnight through to Orsha to get better doss; and to cover the shunt turn on 661B. Which would hopefully be the first of a few shut turns covered that day, if I’d booked my tickets correctly.
Back to the matter at hand and thanks to the BCh website not playing ball, most of my relaxing time had gone down the pan and I was soon heading back to Mogilev 2, this time with only the one bag and at a slower pace. M62-1527 was being prepared in the station, which has a massive yard at the side of it, and I was straight in to buy my BYN0.16 ticket to Mogilev 1 to save on the shenanigans. Thankfully 2M62U-0264a turned up with 6586 1309 Asipovichy 1 – Mogilev 1, the first of the two trains for Mogilev 1, as I’d forgotten that the Zhlobin – Mogilev locals were all worked by Gomel based DR1A DMU’s; until I watched DR1A-177 arrived behind me with 6558 1359 Zhlobin – Mogilev 1.
Mogilev 1 has its mad times where there are loads of departures in a short space of time and then its lulls, with nothing for a couple of hours. Between 1624 & 1644 there are four local arrivals of each of the lines that Mogilev 1 serves. Then there are four departures between 1736 & 1745, three of which depart between 1744 & 1745, all going back out to the same four places. In the meantime, Pesa DMU’s worked 784B 1701 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1 and 719F 1720 Mogilev 1 – Polotsk. 2M62U-0258b was hiding in the north end bay at the time and was eventually shunted through the station to work 776B 1906 Mogilev 1 – Kommunary. So, no Pesa DMU being hauled by an M62, unfortunately. TEP70-0313 arrived while I was waiting to depart again, with 689F 1345 Gomel – Vitebsk.
Not everything that works into Mogilev 1, local set wise, goes back out on the next opposing working and I was grateful when 2M62U-0264a was shunted straight out of the station and 2M62U-0315b shunted back in, from the carriage sidings north of the station, to work 6587 1745 Mogilev 1 – Asipovichy 1. On a normal day, doing 6587 out to Mogilev 2 would have involved a walk but as it was a Sunday there were a load more trains running; which only ran at weekends, or even only on Sundays, making Mogilev a good place to be to do the locals at a weekend. So, I was able to head back in from Mogilev 2 to Mogilev 1 on the SuO 6516 1721 Drutsk – Mogilev 1, with yet another new Mogilev 2M62U; this time ‘0307a.
At Mogilev 1, ChME3-7112 was hard at work and having shunted two coaches into the north end bay platforms, to add to something later, it then shunted 2 coaches into the main platforms, which it would later add to 605B 1553 Vitebsk – Brest, and they were available for boarding before the shunt takes place too; which was duly noted! Having seen 2M62U-0260b on the Orsha – Mogilev circuit earlier, I’d worked out that it should arrive into Mogilev 1 with 6569 1720 Orsha – Mogilev 1; which it did and went forward with 6695 1929 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2; which was my cue to head back to the hotel and get myself something proper to eat for a change. Despite the Krasne scenario, it had been a good day and a solid one on 2M62’s. None of which made any noise, I might add, but I’d enjoyed the day either way.
The hotel restaurant at the Metropol doesn’t open until 6pm and I was the only one in there when I got there at about 2030. It was a classy restaurant and I felt a little out of place but the waiter spoke good English and the menu was also in English. The food the chef made me was absolutely cracking and I thanked him personally later. The pasta with chicken and creamy sauce just wasn’t enough so I had to have a desert. Not only did they have Tiramisu but they actually made it fresh, so I had 15 minutes to finish my beer before it came. It was well worth the wait though and if you’ve been following the Tiramisu chronicles of Romania, a couple of months ago, then making Tiramisu fresh should put a stop to any restaurant “not” having it available.
Stuffed, I probably worked most of it off when I washed my clothes in the red-hot shower, using their toiletries as a cleaning agent. It worked a dream and the red-hot towel rail now didn’t have any towels on it! As I wouldn’t be in the hotel overnight the following night, there was plenty of time for them to dry properly, so I wasn’t concerned. I was ready for my bed when I got into it, I was knackered. The 20.66km I’d walked during the day probably hadn’t helped matters….
Move for Sunday 25th June 2017
|2M62U-0308A||Vitebsk||Orsha Centralna||6611||0652 Vitebsk – Orsha Centralna|
|2M62-1227B||Orsha Centralna||Krasnoye||6184||0903 Orsha Centralna – Krasnoye|
|2M62-1227B||Krasnoye||Orsha Centralna||6183||1027 Krasnoye – Orsha Centralna|
|2M62U-0311A||Orsha Centralna||Mogilev 1||6391||1149 Orsha Centralna – Mogilev 1|
|2M62U-0263B||Mogilev 1||Mogilev 2||6585||1349 Mogilev 1 – Asipovichy 1|
|2M62U-0264A||Mogilev 2||Mogilev 1||6586||1309 Asipovichy 1 – Mogilev 1|
|2M62U-0315B||Mogilev 1||Mogilev 2||6587||1745 Mogilev 1 – Asipovichy 1|
|2M62U-0307A||Mogilev 2||Mogilev 1||6516||1721 Druts – Mogilev 1|
|2M62-0260B||Mogilev 1||Mogilev 2||6695||1929 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2|
Gen for Sunday 25th June 2017
2M62-1227b 6184 0903 Orsha – Krasne, 6183 1027 Krasne – Orsha
2M62U-0258b 785F 1512 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1, 776B 1906 Mogilev 1 – Kommunary
2M62U-0260b 6563 0853 Orsha – Mogilev, 6569 1720 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 6695 1929 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2, 6696 2028 Mogilev 2 – Mogilev 1
2M62U-0263b 6585 1349 Mogilev 1 – Asipovichy 1
2M62U-0264a 6587 1309 Asipovichy 1 – Mogilev 1
2M62U-0270a 6610 0530 Orsha – Vitebsk, 6613 0825 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6614 1219 Orsha – Vitebsk
2M62U-0307a 6516 1721 Drutsk – Mogilev 1
2M62U-0308a 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk
2M62U-0311a 6391 1149 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 6396 1512 Mogilev 1 – Sklou, 6395 1742 Sklou – Mogilev 1, 6392 1831 Mogilev 1 – Orsha
2M62U-0311b 6567 1447 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 6570 1744 Mogilev 1 – Orsha
2M62U-0315a 6596 1744 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1
2M62U-0316a shunting on shed at Mogilev 1
DR1A-177 (DMU) 6558 1359 Zhlobin – Mogilev 1, 6559 1736 Mogilev 1 – Zhlobin
DMU 784B 1701 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1
DMU 719F 1720 Mogilev 1 – Polotsk
TEP70-0313 689F 1345 Gomel – Vitebsk
TEP70BS-081 660B 1536 Minsk Pas. – Mogilev 1
ChME3-7112 shunt Mogilev portion onto 605B Vitebsk – Brest at Mogilev (boarded in platform before shunt)
ChME3-3697, ChME3T-6925, ChME3T-7107, ChME3-7112, ChME3T-7191 shunt locos at Mogilev 1
ChME3T-6986 yard pilot at Mogilev 2
Photos for Sunday 25th June 2017
Monday 26th June 2017 (An evening in Gomel to sample more RZD power)
I had grand plans of walking to Mogilev 2 station for 6580 0353 Asipovichy 1 – Mogilev 1 into Mogilev 1, that was until I saw the rain when I got to the hotel reception. It was absolutely hammering it down and there was water running down the street. Needless to say, I got a taxi instead and got wet enough just getting from the hotel front door to the taxi, let alone from the taxi to Mogilev 2 booking office; to get my BYN0.16 piece for around the corner.
I was half expecting something different to appear from Asipovichy, as they have sets out there on Soligorsk turns, so they have to cycle round. When 2M62U-0316b turned up, it was another one that Mogilev just wanted to throw at me. Its ex twin ‘0316a had been shunting about, on its own, in the station area the previous night and was found attached to a set when I got into Mogilev 1. Where thankfully, the rain had slowed to just normal rain pace; if there is such a thing?
Gomel DMU DR1A-166 arrived with 6560 0354 Zhlobin – Mogilev 1, 2M62U-0260b with 6561 0512 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 2M62U-0307b with 6591 0432 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 and a single-car Pesa DMU was heading away with 780B 0649 Mogilev 1 – Kommunary when I was on the approach. My ride for the morning was TEP70BS-081 with 659B 0720 Mogilev 1 – Minsk Pas. Bizarrely the best way to make a move out of getting to Gomel for the evening of what I’d hoped would be RZD entertainment, was actually via Minsk as trains over the Asipovichy 1 – Gomel section are a bit thin on the ground. In fact, after I got off 659B at Asipovichy 1, the next train towards Gomel was390B 1215 Minsk Pas. – Anapa; which I was going to Minsk for!
Asipovichy had plenty going on in the ChME3 stakes with ChME3’s 6341, 7161 & 7436 hard at work shunting the yards with ChME3-4165 & 6977 on shed, accompanied by M62-1609 and one other that I couldn’t quite see the number of. With there being two trains into Minsk, it would have been rude not to step off one for the other, so I did TEP70BS-106 to Puchavichy on 647B 0631 Gomel – Minsk Pas for TEP70-0428 forward with 669B 0421 Gomel – Minsk Pas. It was only a plus 20’ at Minsk but there were no dramas and I was pleased to find TEP60-0630 just being attached to 390B 1215 Minsk Pas. – Anapa, as I got there.
The TEP60 was making quite a racket just sat in the platform so I’m guessing it would have been heard in the front coach? I of course, was in the very rear most coach, away from the drone thankfully. It was a very uneventful journey, on which I kept myself occupied getting my crap in order. The woman in the berth opposite me was going throughout from Minsk to Anapa, which was a 48-hour journey. She didn’t quite know what to do with herself and she had a long, long way to go when I got off the train that evening. The two that had the upper berths booked seemed as equally at a loss as they seemed to think it was ok to wedge out my lower berth and strap themselves in for the afternoon. Common sense got the better of them eventually and they both ended up laying out in their upper berths, and both got a telling off the attendant for using the roll-up mattress and pillow without having paid for the bedding to go with it; which I could see coming from the moment they rolled them out. They didn’t look as if they rode on trains much and it looked like a new experience for them; they needed to get out more!
On the approach to Gomel I got my phone out to check on ME Maps whereabouts we were and found out that we were taking the scenic route into Gomel, via the Micha loop into the station. This puts on quite a distance on the normal direct route and I was trying to measure just how far on the map. In the end, I realised that it was actually accounted for in the km’s on the BCh schedule for 390B as the distance from Minsk to Gomel was 6km more than any other train I had a print out for, over the same route.
On shed at Gomel was RZD 2M62U-0227, which I’d had out of Vitebsk earlier in the trip, and one other RZD 2M62. RZD TEP70-0484 was just coming off shed and ultimately replaced TEP60-0630 on 390B for the run to Briansk in Russia. There were also two new RZD 2TE25’s on shed, 2TE25K-0185 & 0187, along with BCh ChME3-6895.
It was all go at Gomel, with shunt moves and the likes. TEP60-0630 was removed from the front of 390B and then TME3-019 shunted a Minsk – Gomel coach off the front of the train, before RZD’s TEP70-0484 dropped on. Meanwhile, at the rear of the train, TME3-020 was shunting 2 Vitebsk – Anapa through coaches from 689B Vitebsk – Gomel, onto the rear. While over on the other side of the station, TEP70BS-117 was about to depart with 609B 1656 Gomel – Hrodna and TEP70-0227 would be following close behind it with 083B 1716 Gomel – St Petersburg. And over in the carriage works, while standing on the footbridge, I spotted TEM2UM-013 shunting carriages about; as is the norm in a carriage works. While I’d been faffing on the footbridge, DMU DR1B-506 had shunted in to work 6412 1720 Gomel – Krugovets and DR1B-507/508 had shunted in behind it to work 6076 1753 Gomel – Dobrush; which would be my unit back to Gomel after the RZD TEP70 had delivered me there.
I was glad to get to stretch my legs at Dobrush, which is as far as you can go towards Russia in this direction, while in Belarus, but I never made it to the front before 390B was on its way to Anapa. After the DMU arrived from Gomel though, I was treated to 2TE25K-0010 running through with a Gomel bound freight; and the DMU provided me with cover from the station security guard. I’d been to Dobrush once before, arriving by road and departing by train, and it’s quite a relaxing place; with the main road from Gomel running right by the station. The station is very well kept and there are plenty of nicely attended flowers on show. Even the station toilet looks nice, from the outside. Inside it’s just another concrete base with a hole chiseled out of it for you to crap through. Randomly, there was no rancid smell, so at least someone is doing something to keep them up to standard!
My ticket back to Gomel was only BYN0.48 and it was a quick and easy journey; very much a means to an end to get me back to Gomel. And when I got back, just dropping onto 076B 2019 Gomel – Moskva was a 2M62; which had me thinking I was going to have a dud RZD 2M62. But no, it wasn’t a dud one, but it was one I’d seen a couple of days earlier at Vitebsk also; 2M62U-0143. So, I guessed that the Smolensk 2M62’s were fair game at either Vitebsk or Dobrush and of course Dobrush, on the right day, was the easier of the two places to have a go at getting the RZD locos in.
I didn’t have time to immediately bother with the 2M62 as I needed to get my arse into gear as TEP70BS-084 rolled in with 676F 1020 Brest – Gomel. The coach I was booked in from Gomel to Dobrush on 076B was a through coach from 676F to 076B and TME3-019 was just dropping onto it when I got to it. The attendant was still at the door though and there was no problem getting on board before the shunt took place. What doing the shunt did mean was no time to do anything else, no photos and no food from the decent buffet on the main platform; and all for some tin-pot piece of red crap really! There weren’t too many TME1s or TME3s about and I was surprised BCh were even interested in new shunt engines with so many ChME3’s about; and with so many of them, it would cost a lot to replace them.
I was back at Dobrush in no time and was soon attempting to get to the front of the train before departure; I failed again! Either I’m getting too old, the trains are getting longer or there’s a conspiracy against me getting to the front of trains these days, before they depart? Once it departed, tranquility fell upon Dobrush. There wasn’t a sound at all when there were no cars passing on the main road, not even that background city humming you get; it was nice to just sit there and have nothing to worry about and nothing in my head for a while. The noise that eventually broke the silence was the pattering of rain on the platform, which was always going to happen with the way the skies were darkening.
Other than pace the platforms and use the hole in the ground a couple of times, my 2h30m wait at Dobrush went unhindered. There were a few other people about when 067B 2038 Saratov 1 – Brest was due but I had to use my torch on the loco’s number as it arrived with the train, as there wasn’t enough light to focus on it for long enough to process the digits. RZD TEP70-0280 topped the evening off nicely and another day had almost passed by, having gone completely to plan.
At Gomel, while the RZD TEP70 was being removed from the front of the train, TME3-020 shunted a Saratov 1 – Gomel coach off the rear. When I walked down to the front to check what was going to work forward, I could hear it before I could see it and assumed that it would be TEP60-0630; having had it into Gomel earlier. I assumed wrong though, as TEP60-0151 dropped onto the train. And that really was the end of the day as my 4th TEP60 of the trip eased out of Gomel. Tomorrow was another day and it was going to start very soon.
Moves for Monday 26th June 2017
|2M62U-0316B||Mogilev 2||Mogilev 1||6580||0353 Asipovichy 1 – Mogilev 1|
|TEP70BS-081||Mogilev 1||Asipovichy 1||659B||0720 Mogilev 1 – Minsk Pas.|
|TEP70BS-106||Asipovichy 1||Puchavichy||647B||0631 Gomel- Minsk Pas.|
|TEP70-0428||Puchavichy||Minsk Pas.||669B||0421 Gomel – Minsk Pas.|
|TEP60-0630||Minsk Pas.||Gomel||390B||1215 Minsk Pas. – Anapa|
|DR1B-508||Dobrush||Gomel||6077||1902 Dobrush – Gomel|
|TME3-019||Gomel Track 5||Gomel Track 6||Shunt thorugh Brest – Moskva coach from 676F to 076B|
|2M62U-0143B||Gomel||Dobrush||076B||2019 Gomel – Moskva Belorusskaja|
|TEP70-0280||Dobrush||Gomel||067B||2036 (25/06) Satarov 1 – Brest|
Gen for Monday 26th June 2017
2M62U-0260a stabled Asipovichy 1
2M62U-0260b 6561 0512 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 6691 0734 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2
2M62U-0307a 6582 0737 Asipovichy 1 – Mogilev 1
2M62U-0307b 6591 0432 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1, 6590 0740 Mogilev 1 – Krichev 1
2M62U-0315b stabled at Asipovichy 1
2M62U-0316b 6580 0353 Asipovichy 1 – Mogilev 1
DR1A-166 6560 0354 Zhlobin – Mogilev 1, 65xx 0817 Mogilev 1 – Zhlobin
DR1B-506 6412 1720 Gomel – Krugovets
DR1B-507/DR1B-508 6076 1753 Gomel – Dobrush, 6077 1902 Dobrush – Gomel
DMU 780B 0649 Mogilev 1 – Kommunary
TEP70BS-081 659B 0720 Mogilev 1 – Minsk Pas.
TEP70BS-106 647 0631 Gomel – Minsk Pas.
TEP70-0428 669B 0421 Gomel – Minsk Pas.
TEP70BS-147 630B 0625 Hrodna – Minsk Pas.
TEP60-0630 390B 1215 Minsk Pas. – Anapa (to Gomel)
TEP70-0484 (RZD) 390B 1215 Minsk Pas. – Anapa (from Gomel)
TME3-019 shunt Gomel coach off 390B at Gomel
TME3-020 shunt 2 Vitebsk Anapa thro coaches off 689B to 390B at Gomel
TEP70-0224 689F 1345 Gomel – Vitebsk
TEP70BS-117 609B 1656 Gomel – Hrodna
TEP70-0227 083B 1716 Gomel – St Petersburg
2M62-0179b (UZ) 094B 1413 Minsk Pas. – Odesa Holovna (from Gomel)
TEP70-0207 606B 2011 Gomel – Brest
TEP70BS-084 676F 1020 Brest – Gomel
TME3-019 shunt thro Brest – Moskva coach to rear of 076B at Gomel
2M62U-0143b/a (RZD) 076B 2016 Gomel – Moskva
DMU 719F 1720 Mogilev 1 – Gomel
TEP70-0280 (RZD) 067B 2038 (P) Saratov 1 Pas. – Brest (to Gomel)
TEP60-0151 067B 2038 (P) Saratov 1 Pas. – Brest (from Gomel)
TME3-020 shunt Saratov – Gomel coach off rear of 067B at Gomel
TEP70-0225 622B 1911 Minsk Pas. – Gomel
ChME3-2269 station pilot at Mogilev 1
ChME3T-7191 yard pilot at Mogilev 2
ChME3T-6977, ChME3-4165, M62-1609, M62-xxxx on shed at Asipovichy 1
ChME3-6341, ChME3-7161, ChME3-7436 yard pilots at Asipovichy 1
ChME3-1165, ChME3-1532, ChME3-1571, ChME3-4090 yard pilots at Zhlobin
ChME3-6895, 2TE25K-0185, 2TE25K-0187, 2M62U-0227 on shed at Gomel
TME3-019, TME3-020 station pilots at Gomel
TEM2UM-013 shunting carriage works at Gomel
Photos for Monday 26th June 2017
Tuesday 27th June 2017 (A day trying to get ChME3’s in at Zhlobin, Orsha & Mogilev 1)
I had barely clambered into bed by Zhlobin, thanks to two young lasses that were clearly having issues making up their upper berths; in dumb teenager kind of way. I kept out of the way while they pissed about and was actually quite grateful as I wanted to be awake at Zhlobin anyway as my coach would be shunted off 067B, dumped for nearly 3 hours and then shunted onto 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk. And there was no messing about when 067B arrived into Zhlobin. We passed a ChME3 on the way into the platform and ChME3-1165 was almost upon the rear of the train by the time we came to a stand. It shunted us to the adjacent platform, where I could hear the staff scotching the coach, before buggering off to do something else. Better safe than sorry, I set my alarm for the time that 606B should arrive into Zhlobin but the chugging of the ChME3 and the jolt of it attaching woke me anyway. I wasn’t surprised to find a different ChME3 when I peered through the vestibule window, down to its number. I’d managed to spot 6 there earlier in the day but had only been able to get the numbers of 4. Once ChME3-1571 had done the honours I was out like a light, for some very much needed sleep.
I was awake at Mogilev 1 and had half expected to be woken anyway as I had split tickets, one to Mogilev 1 and another forward to Orsha; but I’d made sure I booked the same berth forward when doing my online reservation at the Hotel Metropol the other day. As awake I got up and went to have a scan at what was happening as Mogilev 1 is busy when 606B is in the house. I found TEP70-0315 at the head of 606B and it was just being removed when I got there for ChME3T-7176 to shunt 3 Brest – Mogilev 1 coaches off the front of the train. The same TEP70 then dropped back on for the run to Orsha. ChME3T-7176 then shunted two through St Petersburg – Soligorsk coaches from the rear of 083A 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel to the rear of 613B 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk; the front portion of which is formed off 055BF 2123 Moskva – Gomel. 055BF, 083A & 613B were all lined up nicely, waiting for their booked departure times and it was like looking at a BCh locomotives through the ages scene with TEP60-0149 heading 613B, TEP70-0285 heading 083A and TEP70BS-206 heading 055BF. With all the excitement, I needed to get my head down again, as I just couldn’t take it. Next thing I knew I was being woken by the coach attendant 20 minutes before Orsha.
TEP70-0315 was straight off the train and TEP70-0265 was soon hooked on for the forward journey to Vitebsk. 2M62U-0307a arrived with 6562 0628 Mogilev 1 – Orsha and then shunted straight to the carriage sidings. 2M62U-0260b then shunted out of the carriage sidings to form the return working of 6563 0853 Orsha – Mogilev 1. 2M62U-0271b arrived with 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha and when back to whence it came from with 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk. It seemed to be back to normal with the Krasne turn being the 2-car DMU MDL-006 and 2M62-1227a shunted out of the depot and into the station to work 6171 0918 Orsha – Lepel; leaving 2M62-1229a stabled in the yard spare; probably to work the evening Lepel turn.
ChS4T-600 arrived into Orsha with 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk and I was soon boarded to ned ChME3-1730 in as it shunted the Kommunary portion clear of the foot crossing to form 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary, which TEP70-0223 worked and TEP70-0372 dropped onto the Vitebsk portion to work forward with 658B to Vitebsk; and with nothing to do for a while I moseyed around the station looking for things to phot. I just wasn’t quick enough to get up onto the footbridge in time to get a shot of RZD ChS8-057 arriving with 360 1933 (P) Kaliningrad – Adler, so I walked down to the other end of the station to get one instead. As it was parked behind a post I was going to wait for it to depart for a better shot and took some more shots of TEP70-0372, in full bling sunshine, with the prominent Orsha station building in the background. I even got a couple more of the plinthed steam loco L36-0111 with other things in the shot. Orsha station is quite arty for things like that.
While minding my own, sauntering about waiting for the RZD ChS8 to depart with 360, I caught a glimpse of a security guard walking down the platform by 658B, with some purpose to his walk. Not wanting to be the purpose of his getting a shift on, I sauntered my way over to the steam loco and began admiring it, closely! Between the tender and the loco I could see the security guard talking to the driver of TEP70-0372 and sure enough, the next sighting of him was when he was immediately behind my, talking at me in Russian. With the language barrier, he just demanded my documents, so naturally I handed over my passport. He then demanded my visa, which if flying into Minsk nowadays you don’t need but I didn’t tell him that, I just turned the pages in my passport until he was looking at it. As he couldn’t communicate with me I thought he summoned a colleague that could but no, he spoke no English either but it seemed he had a smartphone that could take pictures of my passport, Belarus visa and Russian visa. I asked if there was problem and the answer was no. I could hear them mentioning photographs between themselves but at no point was it mentioned to me but I got the impression, from what I’d seen, that the driver of TEP70-0372 had reported me to them; the miserable twat! All they wanted to know was where I was going, they took their crappy camera phone pictures and let me on my way. And you’ve guessed, I didn’t get a photo of the RZD ChS8 departing, nor did I take another photo at Orsha before I left!
I was getting a little concerned while technically in the custody of some of Belarus’ finest as it was getting close to departure time for 782B 0724 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 and I’d seen it arrive while I was at the other end of the station. I was in a bit of a predicament there as my ticket for 782B was only to Sklou and I’d told them I was going to Mogilev. I’d aired on the side of caution with the tickets though, just in case 782B had actually been a DMU, and booked my next ticket on 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Brest from Orsha to Mogilev and not from Sklou; it was also sat in the station waiting by the time I was allowed on my way. D they not let me go when they did, I was going to have to watch 2M62U-0258b leave with 782B as I didn’t want to try and explain my choice of tickets to them and would only ever have produced the Orsha – Mogilev ticket for 658B if I’d been asked for one.
As was the way though, I made 782B and was soon Sklou bound with ‘0258b for my troubles. Inside the 2-car push-pull set there was nothing different to any other push-pull set, other than it was probably a bit cleaner and all the curtains were attached and drawn. The regional business class services are all supposed to be new trains with AC so I wondered if there was some sort of refund for BCh not providing customers with the service they expected? I’ll bet not, but for me it was a better service so I had no qualms as I raced through the countryside, on an almost empty train, with the windows open and fresh air blowing through my hair…..
TEP70-0224 was soon upon me at Sklou and at Mogilev 1 I was straight off and onto the coach that stood in the adjacent platform. It was a though Mogilev 1 – Adler coach that would be attached to 689B at Mogilev and detached at Gomel to go forward on something else from there. I needn’t have bothered rushing though as ChME3T-7176 first detached the coach I’d been in from the rear of 689B, which I hadn’t realised was in fact a Vitebsk – Adler through coach. It then shunted this onto the coach I boarded in the adjacent platform and put both back on the train. It amazed me, when I got back off the coach, that despite people having been on the platform to board the Mogilev starting coach, they’d stood and watched the shunt move take place and boarded afterwards, when they could have been settled and ready to go by the time they did board. I’m pretty sure boarding of the coach was announced while I was there; of course, I could be wrong as I don’t speak Russian.
That was enough excitement for one morning and I walked the 3.5km back to the Metropol from Mogilev 1. It took me about 45 minutes at a steady pace and my room was like a sauna when I got back. Again, the large opening window cured that after a while and I found my clothes were nice and dry in the bathroom; still on the red-hot towel rail where I’d left them. With time on my side, I used the nearby Pizzaroni restaurant for a spot of lunch and they even had a menu translated to English. The pizza I had was spot on and that and the beer I had only came to £2.50; it was practically a giveaway and I’d be using them again later that night as it was good food and a lot cheaper than the hotel.
I hadn’t noticed before but there was a large supermarket just up from Pizzaroni, which got utilized to stock up on stuff for my 24-hour journey through to Chisinau, Moldova, the following day. My relaxing time was over all too soon, then it was time to head back to the station for some afternoon/evening moves, all of which had been planned and booked in the Metropol two days previous. It wasn’t anything exciting but again, I’d realised that spending a full day in Mogilev doing the locals wasn’t going to reward me with much now I’d had quite a lot of the Mogilev 2M62’s. TEP70-0286 did the honours with 371B 1540 Mogilev 1 – L’viv, a train that was going to be my exit strategy on my previous visit to Belarus but seemed not to run when I wanted it to so I had to exit via other means instead. I was only doing it to Niasiata, for what turned out to be TEP70BS-008 back on 660B 1536 Minsk Pas. – Mogilev 1; a train which I’d seen reported previously as being a TEP60 quite a lot. This had me thinking that it was possibly the transfer turn for the TEP60 that seemed to work 613B/614B Mogilev – Soligorsk – Mogilev as it seemed to be quite a solid TEP60 turn. I’d had one on it on my previous trip and both times I’d seen 613B before departure at Mogilev 1 on this trip it had been TEP60-0149. Either way, 660B wasn’t a TEP60 on this occasion and I spent the journey back to Mogilev 1 getting my moves and photo scribblings in order; before I forgot what I’d done!
The last bash of the day was going to be 605B 1553 Vitebsk – Brest to Bychau, mainly so I could do the shunt move when the Mogilev 1 – Brest portion was shunted onto it. It was looking like it was going to be a bit of a dud move when ChME3-7112 ran through the station towards the shed/carriage sidings but I was saved by the horn when ChME3-7092 came bumbling out of the depot carriage sidings/works, after depositing the breakdown crane in there, and dropped straight onto the portion to attach to 605B. When TEP70K-0325 arrived with the main train, the steps were put up and any further people attempting to board were denied and directed towards the rear of 605B. By the time they’d boarded, I’d got my crap out and was strapped in for the journey south; quite pleased with how the day had gone, having had no less than 5 different ChME3’s during it.
At least TEP70BS-082, working 055B 1820 Gomel – St Petersburg, was a new one, otherwise the evening move would have been a waste of time and to be honest I probably should have just got off after the shunt with ‘7092 and gone back to the hotel as I was starting to fade a little now. As time was knocking on I got a taxi back to the hotel, for the £1.20 it cost, and was straight to Pizzaroni; where this time I had pasta with pesto and it was cracking. As was the freshly prepared strudel I had afterwards, which I only had as they didn’t have Tiramisu!
Back at the hotel, I was more than ready for bed and pack all my crap ready for a quick getaway the following morning and then got down on my hands and knees to wash my boxers, socks and t-shirt in the shower. I was hoping that the towel rail would have them dry by the morning; time would tell eh?
Moves for Tuesday 27th June 2017
|ChME3-1165||Zlobin Shunt||from 067B||Through Satarov 1 – Vitebsk coach shunted off 067B & onto 606B|
|ChME3-1571||Zlobin Shunt||to 606B|
|TEP70-0315||Zlobin||Orsha Centralna||606B||1715 (26/06) Brest – Vitebsk|
|ChME3-1730||Orsha Centralna||Platform 1 shunt||Draw Kommunary portion off 658B to form 661B at Orsha|
|2M62U-0258B||Orsha Centralna||Sklou||782B||0724 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1|
|TEP70-0224||Sklou||Mogilev 1||689B||0815 Vitebsk – Gomel|
|ChME3T-7176||Mogilev 1 Track 2||Mogilev 1 Track 1||Shunt Mogilev 1 – Adler coach onto 689B|
|TEP70-0286||Mogilev 1||Niasiata||371B||1540 Mogilev 1 – Lviv|
|TEP70BS-008||Niasiata||Mogilev 1||660B||1536 Minsk Pas. – Mogilev 1|
|ChME3T-7092||Mogilev 1 Track 2||Mogilev 1 Track 3||Shunt Mogilev 1 – Brest portion to 605B Vitebsk – Brest|
|TEP70K-0325||Mogilev 1||Bychau||605B||1553 Vitebsk – Brest|
|TEP70BS-082||Bychau||Mogilev 1||055B||1820 Gomel – Moskva Belorusskaja|
Gen for Tuesday 27th June 2017
2M62-1227a 6171 0918 Orsha – Lepel’
2M62-1229b stabled at Orsha
2M62U-0260b 6563 0853 Orsha – Mogilev, 6569 1720 Orsha – Mogilev 1, 6695 1929 Mogilev 1 – Mogilev 2, 6696 2028 Mogilev 2 – Mogilev 1
2M62U-0271b 6611 0652 Vitebsk – Orsha, 6612 0900 Orsha – Vitebsk
2M62U-0307a 6562 0628 Mogilev 1 – Orsha
2M62U-0311b 6564 0855 Mogilev 1 – Orsha
2M62U-0316a stabled at Mogilev 1
MDL-006 (DMU) 6184 0900 Orsha – Krasne
ChME3-1165 shunt Saratov 1 – Vitebsk thro coach off rear of 067B at Zhlobin
ChME3-1571 shunt Saratov 1 – Vitebsk thro coach onto rear of 606B at Zhlobin
TEP70-0315 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (to Orsha)
TEP70-0265 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (from Orsha)
ChME3T-7176 shunt 3 Brest – Mogilev 1 coaches off front of 606B at Mogilev 1 then 2 thro St Petersburg – Soligorsk coaches from rear of 083 to 613B
TEP70-0285 083A 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel
TEP70BS-206 055BF 2123 (P) Moskva – Gomel
TEP60-0149 613B 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk
ChS4T-600 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (to Orsha)
TEP70-0372 658B 2029 (P) Brest – Vitebsk (from Orsha)
ChME3-1730 shunt Kommunary portion off 658B to form 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary
TEP70-0223 661B 0956 Orsha – Kommunary
ChS8-057 (RZD) 360 1933 (P) Kaliningrad – Adler
2M62U-0258b 782b 0724 Krichev 1 – Mogilev 1 via Orsha, 776B 1906 Orsha – Kommunary (load 2 push-pull Pesa DMU turn)
TEP70-0224 689B 0815 Vitebsk – Gomel
ChME3T-7176 shunt Vitebsk – Adler thro coach off rear of 689B at Mogilev 1, pick up Mogilev 1 – Adler coach and attach both back to rear of 689B
TEP70-0286 371B 1540 Mogilev 1 – L’viv
TEP70BS-008 660B 1536 Minsk Pas. – Gomel
ChME3T-7092 shunt Mogilev portion onto 605B Vitebsk – Brest at Mogilev 1 (boarded in platform before shunt)
TEP70K-0325 605B 1553 Vitebsk – Brest
TEP70BS-082 055B 1820 Gomel – Moskva
ChME3-5337, ChME3T-6355, ChME3-6921, ChME3T-6986, ChME3T-7092, ChME3-7112, ChME3T-7176, area pilots at Mogilev 1
ChME3-1930, ChME3-3749, ChME3-5337 + 2 more, TME3-009 & TGM2 3D44-431 on turntable shed at Mogilev 1 with TGM4B-0626 on the fueller
ChME3-1658, ChME3-1730, ChME3-3747, ChME3-3898, ChME3-3907, ChME3-4427, ChME3-4428, ChME3-4430, shunt locos at Orsha
Photos for Tuesday 27th June 2017
Wednesday 28th June 2017 (The start of the long journey from Mogilev, Belarus to Chisinau, Moldova)
The 0500-alarm call was about as welcome as a hole in the head but I got over it and dragged my sorry ass out of bed. The shower didn’t wake me up and my clothes on the towel rail weren’t fully dry. On the plus side, checkout took minutes and the taxi to take me to Mogilev 1 had arrived before I was even in possession of my receipt; despite them telling the receptionist it would be 10 minutes.
I was still half asleep while processing what was going off at Mogilev 1, with my cunning plan being to do the shunts of both the Moscow & St Petersburg portions of 613B 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk and then involve all three trains on my way to Zhlobin; and the way to do it was book tickets on 613B twice, once in the Moscow portion and once in the St Petersburg portion, then a ticket on 055BF 2123 Moskva – Gomel to Bychau, use the previously bought 613B ticket Bychau – Rogachev and finally a ticket from Rogachev to Zhlobin on 083A 1720 St Petersburg – Gomel; this meant technically booking tickets for 613B twice but hopefully nobody would realise. Although I’m sure some questions would be asked when I boarded 613B, having already done so once at Mogilev 1 for the shunt?
While it sounds simple enough, it probably is simple enough when you don’t have two bags with you, but nonetheless I set off on the right tracks when TEP70-0313 arrived with 055BF and was instantly allowed into the coach I’d booked. I couldn’t see the ChME3 until I got back off though and was pleased with ChME3-7107; they seem to have an endless supply at Mogilev. In a morning, there are too many shunts in a short space of time to get away with just one shunt loco and ChME3-7107 buggered off to shunt a Brest – Mogilev 1 coach off the front of 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk; which TEP70-0379 had arrived with and was immediately detached to allow the shunt to take place, before being put back onto its train.
In a strange turn of events, TEP70-0314 dropped onto the front of 613B 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk and not TEP60-0149 that I’d been expecting. When TEP70K-0251 arrived with 083A, I could see the “other” ChME3 approaching in the distance, while ‘7107 was doing its thing with 606B. I strongly suspected that it was ChME3-7112, based on the fact it had yellow writing on the side of it, but I had no choice but to get on and check it afterwards as there’s an RZD coach on the rear of 083A which gets left at Mogilev 1 and I couldn’t see out of the window to check what it was as it backed down. In another strange turn of events, what I’d suspected was completely wrong and there is more than one ChME3 at Mogilev with Sergei written on the side of it in big yellow letters; and ChME3-6925 was just pulling the RZD coach off to the carriage sidings when I spotted it, while hurrying along to board 083A, which was only minutes from booked departure time.
Mad rush and excitement over, I spent the morning then dozing on every train I did on my way towards Zhlobin. There were no questions asked by the coach attendant when I boarded 613B at Bychau, mostly because it was a different one to the girl who’d let me on to do the shunt at Mogilev earlier. Everything was spot on time and I was dropped into Zhlobin with 2 hours to kill before my journey to Moldova would start.
I attempted to stand on the footbridge to get some photos but the heat beat me. While up there though, I did get a shot of VL80S-581 running through with a freight and as I walked back down, in search of some shade, I could see 5 different ChME3’s shunting in the yard and while in the Zhlobin area I spotted 9! TEP70-0428 was the only thing to come by while I was there, with 094Sh 1542 (P) Odesa Holovna – Minsk Pas. and EMU 3LR-009 graced Zhlobin with its presence while working 716B 0708 Minsk Pas. – Gomel. As everything else is still diesel between Minsk & Gomel, despite the wires clearly being on now, I assume that BCh don’t have enough electrics to cover the Minsk – Orsha & Minsk – Gomel trains in full?
For my parting gesture from Belarus I’d booked my berth on 061B 2040 (P) St Petersburg – Chisinau in a BCh coach instead of a CFM one; with the two BCh coaches for the train being through coaches from Minsk to Chisinau and are shunted from 100B 0744 Minsk Pas. – Novooleksiyivka to 061B at Zhlobin. As 061B arrives first at Zhlobin, I was on the ball and got myself to the correct platform and towards the rear of 100B when it arrived. The coach attendant opened the door when the train stopped but wasn’t going to drop the steps. Once I showed her my ticket, she glanced towards the rear of the train to make sure the shunt loco wasn’t about and then dropped the steps to let me on. As there were two coaches shunted off, I had to wait to see what the ChME3 was until after the shunt. Quite where ChME3-4168 had come from, I don’t know, as it hadn’t been one of the ones shunting the yard that I’d been watching. Still, it was a nice parting gesture to Belarus and when TEP70-0425 set off with 061B I was Moldova bound but would spend most of the journey travelling through the Ukraine.
I’d splashed out for a lower berth in a 4-berth compo and the other lower berth was already occupied. Most of the other compartments were unoccupied completely. As the lady in my compo was knocking up a spot of lunch, I decided to join her and set about making up some cheese sarnies. It was only a 2h40m run from Zhlobin to Slovechno, where I’d exit Belarus, and my computer kept me occupied until then.
Every other border grip I’d had thus far on the trip had been simple and painless, this one however, had me on edge even though I had nothing to be on edge about! The first person that took my passport scanned through every page, handed it back and then came back for a second go; and he wasn’t even the person processing the passports. Then some girl turned up, with nothing but a large magnifying glass, and went through it with a fine toothcomb; which I think she took great delight in doing right in front of me. What she was expecting to get out of it, or find, I’m not sure. Nobody else’s passport went through the same scrutiny and when the person actually processing the passports turned up he could have saved her a job as scanning it obviously proved that it was real and I could hear them comparing my passport details to match the visa in my passport also. 10 minutes after handing it to the first person, the third person handed me my passport back and it was safely back in my pocket. The guy doing the processing did make a point to tell me that once he stamped my passport that the Belarus visa was no longer valid and I couldn’t reenter the country. Then it was onwards to the Ukraine.
The Ukrainian border control is at Ovruch and not the border station of Berezhest and the Ukrainian way of doing things is to take everyone’s passport, process them and hand them back afterwards. This was completed in a matter of minutes in our coach and I had another entry stamp into the Ukraine, with a little train sign on it, to go with the ones for Jagodin I already had; and all were on the same page. As it got towards departure time I got the impression that there was some sort of scenario going on down the corridor and eventually two guys were hauled into a compo by the border staff and all I could figure out was that their documents weren’t in order and that they were going to Moldova; I wonder if they didn’t have the correct documents to allow them to transit through Ukraine. Ultimately, they were hauled off the train with their luggage, 10 minutes after departure time and were last seen on the platform surrounded by men with guns. Getting hauled off a train at a border crossing trumps my passport being closely scrutinized any day!
Even though we were only 12’ late from Ovruch, we lost time on the stagger to Korosten and there was no time to bum around on the platform as a result. The coach attendant wasn’t initially going to let me off and it was only thanks to someone asking to smoke that she opened the door. Thankfully, with the train reversing at Korosten, I was now only a stone’s throw from the front and had no issues getting a few photos as UZ 2M62-1247b dropped onto the train to work forward to Koziatyn 1. When it first dropped on though I couldn’t find any markings to show whether it was the a or b unit and a fresh paint job seemed to have covered the old marking up. Luckily the driver’s window was wide open and sure enough, above the number in the cab was the “b”; proving that it was indeed the b unit as there technically wasn’t a b end of course.
It was a nice relaxing journey through the countryside towards Koziatyn 1, but for the screaming kid in the compo two down. At that point, I was hoping he wouldn’t be keeping me awake at any point during the journey; which still had three more loco changes to go through yet. Thankfully, other than a bit of a run up and down the corridor with his sister before bedtime, it was quite a chilled journey; but for the border checks interfering with sleep.
Koziatyn 1 is a v-shaped station and the station building itself I in the V. No time was wasted removing 2M62-1247b from the train and I could see the ChS4 electric poised to drop on. It revealed itself as ChS4-196 and quite why the loco change even takes place is a bit of a mystery as the section where the electric works from Koziatyn 1 to Zhemerinka is only 1h46m worth of journey; and 20 minutes is allowed to swap locos at Koziatyn 1 and then another 23 minutes at Zhemerinka to do the next loco change.
I’d been lucky to be at the front of the train, after the reversal at Korosten, but that would change at Zhemerinka when the train reversed again, and it almost cost me collecting some loco numbers. 2TE116-775b was the forward loco from Zhemerinka, again with no visible marking on the outside to confirm if it was the a or b unit. I had to be thankful that the drivers cab window was open again, and the cab light on, to be able to see the “Б” symbol above the number in the cab again; and was thankful for small mercies as the OCD wouldn’t be able to compute not knowing which loco I’d just had, even if it did have a number on it; it might as well not if it wasn’t carrying the full gen!
After departure from Zhemerinka it was bedtime and the next thing I knew was when the coach attendant was gently shaking me on the shoulder for the Ukraine exit border check at Mohyliv Podilskyi; when it was then the following morning, but only just.
Moves for Wednesday 28th June 2017
|ChME3T-7107||Mogilev 1 Track 1||Mogilev 1 Track 2||Shunt thorugh Moskva – Solighorsk coaches 055BF to 613B|
|ChME3-6925||Mogilev 1 Track 3||Mogilev 1 Track 2||Shunt thorugh St Petersburg – Solighorsk coaches 083A to 613B|
|TEP70-0313||Mogilev 1||Bychau||055BF||2123 (27/06) Moskva Belorusskaja – Gomel|
|TEP70-0314||Bychau||Rogachev||613B||0627 Mogilev 1 – Solighorsk|
|TEP70K-0251||Rogachev||Zlobin||083A||1720 (27/06) St Petersburg – Gomel|
|ChME3-4168||Zlobin Track 5||Zlobin Track 6||Shunt through Minsk – Chisinau coach 100B to 06B|
|TEP70-0425||Zlobin||Slovechno||061||2040 (27/06) St Petersburg Vitebski – Chisinau|
Gen for Wednesday 28th June 2017
2M62U-0259a 6562 0628 Mogilev 1 – Orsha
TEP70-0313 055BF 2123 (P) Moskva – Gomel
ChME3T-7107 shunt thro Moskva – Soligorsk portion off rear of 055BF to form front portion of 613B at Mogilev1
ChME3T-7107 shunt Brest – Mogilev 1 coach off front of 606B at Mogilev 1
TEP70-0379 606B 1715 (P) Brest – Vitebsk
TEP70-0314 613B 0627 Mogilev 1 – Soligorsk
TEP70K-0251 083A 1720 (P) St Petersburg – Gomel
ChME3-6925 shunt thro St Petersburg – Soligorsk coach off rear of 083A to form rear portion of 613B at Mogilev 1 – also an RZD St Petersburg – Mogilev 1 coach
3LR-009 (EMU) 716B 0708 Minsk Pas. – Gomel
TEP70-0428 094Sh 1542 (P)Odesa Holovna – Minsk Pas.
TEP70BS-150 100B 0744 Minsk Pas. – Novooleksiyivka
ChME3-4168 shunt thro Minsk – Chisinau coach from 100B to 061B at Zhlobin
TEP70-0xxx 061Sh 2220 (P) Chisinau – St Petersburg (from Korosten – passed between Korosten & Ovruch)
061B 2040 (P) St Petersburg – Chisinau
ChME3-4168 shunt thro Minsk – Chisinau coach from 100B to 061B at Zhlobin
TEP70-0425 Zhlobin to Korosten
2M62-1247b Korosten to Koziatyn 1
ChS4-196 Koziatyn 1 to Zhemerinka
2TE116-775b Zhemerinka to Mohyliv Podilskyi
2TE10M-1225a/b Mohyliv Podilskyi to Ochnita
2TE10M-2941a Ochnita to Chisinau
ChME3-4167 shunt stock out at Chisinau
ChME3T-6986, ChME3-7112, ChME3T-7191 + 1 other yard pilots at Mogilev 2
ChME3-1571, ChME3-1611, ChME3-1939, ChME3-2161, ChME3-2309, ChME3-4090, ChME3-4168, ChME3-4314, ChME3-5685 Zhlobin area pilots
ChME3-1379 Kalinkovichi station pilot
ChME3-5350 at Ovruch
2M62-1014 through Ovruch with a freight towards Belarus
ChME3-3630, ChME3-3634, ChME3-5285, ChME3-5347 at Korosten
2M62-0962b at Korosten
2M62U-0343b at Koziatyn 1 (Fastiv 1 depo)
Photos for Wednesday 28th June 2017
Thursday 29th June 2017 (A brief encounter with Moldova, then into Romania for the night)
Train 61 St Petersburg – Chisinau had yet another loco change at Mohyliv Podilskyi and this took place while the passport checks were being carried out. The grip was as straight forward as they come with no questions asked at all and with my passport back in my possession it was straight back to sleep; it wasn’t even worth flapping about the loco(s) that had just replaced 2TE116-775b as they were a good 10 coaches from me and I’d now technically exited Ukraine so couldn’t get off the train to wander about.
At Ochnita though, it was a different story as the Moldovan entry border control is done on board the train and I can only assume the staff got on at Volchinec, 10 minutes after Mohyliv Podilskyi, as I didn’t see or hear one before then. The good thing about that is that the moment we arrived into Ochnita I was allowed off the train, the bad thing about it was that I wasn’t quick enough to get to the other end of the train to find out what had worked the train over the border. Standing, at what would now be the back of the train again with the train reversing at Ochnita, I was beginning to think I’d shit it and would be heading deeper into Moldova without knowing what I’d just had into the country; just as a headlight came on in the distance. I could then make out the shape of what turned out to be 3TE10M-1225a/b when they ran back into the station. Relieved, I headed back to the front of the train, where my coach was, to find that 2E10M-2941a had dropped on while I’d been flapping at the back of the train. With all the loco changes and passport grips now over it would be plain sailing to Chisinau and I attempted accumulate as much sleep as possible.
Arrival into Chisinau was spot on time at 0902 and 2TE10M-2941a was quickly removed from the train. I tell thee, if you’re not quick in these parts you will miss getting loco numbers! From arriving, I only had 2h35m in Chisinau, before I began my day’s moves by heading towards Ungheni. During that time, I attempted to get all the train tickets I’d require while in Moldova but couldn’t. I was told to use Kasa #10 and the woman there spoke good English, she sold me the tickets I needed that originated from Chisinau but explained that I should buy my tickets originating from Ungheni there as there is a levy to pay if they’re issued in Chisinau; which is more than the price of the ticket! I was assured there’d be no issues with availability and left the booking office happy.
Right outside the station front, actually part of the station building, is the nearest money changing place, where I got MD22.20 to £1. There are plenty of other places along the road leading away from the station front, on the right-hand side; all giving very similar rates. As it was proper scorching hot weather, at around 30 degrees I’d say, I decided to walk the short distance to the Hotel Cosmos, which is visible from the station, where I’d be staying the following night, to see if they’d allow me to leave my big bag with them. Otherwise it was going to be a bugger carrying two bags in the heat from Baresti to Ungheni in the heat. Initially I thought they were going to say no but the woman initially thought I wanted to stay an additional night, which is why she was a bit cagey at first. When she realised I only wanted to leave my bag, as I’d asked, there was no problem. She then explained that they were full that night, hence her initial indecision until she grasped what I wanted.
Bag dumped, I was already melting and dripping with sweat and I’d not been anywhere. I negotiated my way back to the station through the maze of makeshift stalls laid out on the pavement. These were locals selling everything and anything they could, to anyone that wanted whatever tat they were offering. There were some really strange things of offer, like bits of computer circuit boards, wheels off pushchairs and even random bits of piping and other assorted bits of metal. It was all very intriguing and even the footbridge steps that led up to the bridge over the station wasn’t sacred. If there’s no room in the parking area then think outside the box!
I waited on the footbridge, in the blazing sunshine, for the loco to come off shed to work 047 1137 Chisinau – Moskva Kiev. In the meantime, the stock was shunted in by ChME3-4167, which then went back to shed, ChME3-6779 ran through with a short trip freight, which I later passed at Ghidighiai when on 047, and a DMU arrived with 828 0832 Ungheni – Chisinau. 3TE10M-1104b didn’t drop onto its train before 1115 but there was plenty of time to get back down to the platform after that.
I’d already gone through nearly 2L of water by the time I headed towards the train, so collected another 2L on my way; and was eternally grateful for it; it was like an over on board 047. The Moldovan’s don’t appear to be big up on air-con and it was fresh air or nothing, which is pretty hard to get into a train that only had a few inward opening droplight type windows. Which, let’s face it, are fucking useless! When the train was staggering there was next to no draught at all and when the train was moving along it didn’t make a difference as the air was hot anyway; and with the sun shining through the windows constantly, it was winning the battle. The only time I’ve ever been on a train, anywhere in the world, and sweat as much, was in Tanzania when we had to close the train windows at night otherwise kids would sneak in off the roof of the train and steal things from the compartments. Either way, it was utterly rancid and my 4L of water were much needed on the journey to Baresti.
It was only a 2-hour journey and I was ready to get off when I got there but then had the inviting prospect of walking the 4km from Baresti to Ungheni. With the recent addition of an Ungheni avoiding curve, not all trains go into Ungheni and reverse now but at least there’s a shack at Baresti that people can use for Ungheni on the trains that do avoid Ungheni. It’s a tin-pot shack in the back end of nowhere on the wrong side of a big derelict freight yard, with no road access. I was already going to scoot across the yard to get to where I needed to be but everyone else did it for me and there were well trodden pathways to where people had parked their cars. Even they had to drive of the beaten track to get to where they’d parked but it was only a short distance to the nearest road from there and once on it, it’s easy to get to Ungheni station, with just one left, a right and another left; it’s just a long way. I never saw a bus or a taxi during my walk, until I got almost to the station. There’s nothing much at all along the way but I was thankful of the tree cover, which allowed me to use my hat as a sweat mop rather than keeping my bald head from burning in the sun.
The walk took me about 50 minutes and I found Ungheni shack hidden away down some backstreet. If I’d not been using ME Maps I’d not have known it was there. There’s a plinthed steam loco near the station but not on it, which if you’re facing the steps to the footbridge that takes you onto the station, then turn left and its about 200 meters along the pathway. Wanting to get my train ticket for 342 Moskva Kiev. – Chisinau, I dissed all the fooderies until after I’d been to the shack. Ada at the ticket window there wasn’t willing to sell me a ticket for the same train, two days on the trot, from Ungheni to Sipoteni the first day and Ungheni to Chisinau the following day. It just didn’t compute with her that I actually needed them, so I thanked her for her help and told her I’d see her tomorrow as I walked off.
When your eyelids and shins are sweating, you really do know you’re sweating; and when the salt from the sweat dripping down your forehead starts to sting your eyes it’s been a bad day’s sweating. At this stage, I was only half way through it, so why not sweat some more and walk back towards life and get some more liquid and a spot of food to take on the train with me; I couldn’t get any more rancid. CFR 60-1355 was in the BG side of the station when I arrived back, having already run around after arriving with 1064 1312 Iasi – Ungheni and was ready to work back with its one coach as 1063 1700 Ungheni – Iasi.
When sheltering from the sun inside the station building, I found that with both doors open in the station building there was a fantastic breeze blowing straight through the middle of it and by the time 342 Moskva – Chisinau arrived my brow wasn’t dripping and I felt quite dry in comparison to how I had been. That was all about to change on board the train though, which was another sweatbox on wheels. So much so that it was impossible to tell the coach attendants apart from the normals on the train as they were all on the platform just wearing a pair of shorts and flip-flops. You wouldn’t get any of that disrespect in Belarus, then again, in Belarus the air-con would sort the problem out. Not only was the attendant in my coach not wearing a top, he was clearly under the influence and asking one of the guys he was with for more; he thought he was being discreet when talking loudly to him in earshot of me; I only needed to understand the word beer and could figure out the rest! I hung around on the platform until the loco had run around, just to make sure the same one went forward, as with being towards the back I didn’t fancy my chances of getting to the front before the train departed Sipoteni. It was the classmate of the 3TE10 I’d had to Baresti, 3TE10M-1104a, which was turned on the turntable over by Ungheni shed.
When getting up to get off at Sipoteni, I made a point of making sure the attendant remembered I was getting off, as he seemed more interested in sleeping off his drunken state; and the station stops hadn’t been very long on the way to Sipoteni either. While not showing so in the schedule for 047, it stops everywhere between Ungheni and Chisinau. I wondered if this was a recent change as there were signs at stations showing some recently discontinued local trains and there now wasn’t anything from Ungheni to Chisinau after the two morning trains; the local service in Moldova, was to say the least, shit!
I could hear 3TE10M-1249a, long before it came bowling into Sipoteni, in all its blue splendor. It was in a nice sky-blue livery, which made a change to all the green ‘TE10’s I’d seen so far. I was in coach 1, at the rear of the train, for the run to Ungheni and hadn’t realised I was booked in a 4-berth compartment for my journey to Iasi on board 105/401 1645 Chisinau – Bucuresti Nord. I’d originally planned to do 105/401 through to Roman in Romania, for the opposing working of 402/106 back into Moldova but found out when trying to get tickets for the trains in Romania a month earlier, that the train went twice a week from the start of June; so that scuppered that. Thankfully though, the train still departed Chisinau on the right day for me, so a forced overnight stay in Iasi it was; which in hindsight was probably the right move anyway but I was trying to be greedy on the ChME3 front, with the gauge changer shunts at Ungheni.
I was back into Ungheni in no time and the ‘TE10 was removed immediately. Some people, recently, have had the train engine shunt the stock into the gauge changer vice the usual ChME3. There was no messing about getting the train into the gauge changer, which is randomly adjacent to the station and in the open air and not a shed, like the one I’d been through at Jagodin. The CIS gauge shunt is done from the leading end of the train, as it arrives into Ungheni, which meant I couldn’t see the loco at all during the shunt moves. The stock is split over two roads and as my part was the first to be deposited, the other half then shielded my view of the station and with all the undergrowth and other crap in the way, I was only able to get ChME3-57xx as the loco ran back through the CIS side of the station back to shed. Having not spotted anything on shed earlier with the 57xx number series I was left with a quandary. I checked the Yahoo groups when I got to Romania to see if anyone else had reported having ‘ME3-57xx but they hadn’t; so, I was left with relying on my eyes as I passed back through Ungheni the following day; and could only hope that there was a ChME3-57xx on shed!
The SG ChME3 ran back the side of the train and I saw it shunt all the way back through the station to get to the Chisinau end of the stock, after the gauge changing was completed. I double checked when the loco buffered up to my coach and it was the same one I’d seen run by us; ChME3-4518. Only after the stock was deposited back into the station did the passport checks take place. I was questioned a little about where I’d been and what I’d done. It turned out the border guy had seen me at Ungheni earlier and was probably corroborating what I told him as he knew I’d have to have swapped trains at Sipoteni to get to where I was now. He was sociable enough though and wished me a happy journey after he’d stamped me out of Moldova.
While in the gauge changer I’d seen the CFR loco arrive light from Romania to work 105/401 forward to Iasi and was pleased with Sulzer 60-1118. We were away right time and went the 1.6km over the river to Ungheni Prut, where the Romanian passport checks took place. These were harmless and it’s always nice to be presenting an EU passport in eastern Europe as there’s never any questioning. While festering at Ungheni Prut, the storm that had been brewing, while we’d been at Ungheni, started to unleash its wrath in the form of constant lightening. It was very close on board the train and as rancid as every other train I’d been on when sat in the compo; so, I spent most of the journey in the corridor by the open window. Before we got to Iasi, the heavens had opened and it pounded it down. There was a lot of surface water around by Nicolina but the rain had stopped so I asked the attendant for my ticket and got off to do R6315 1831 Tecuci – Iasi in behind it; which as we were late away from Ungheni Prut, was right on its tail.
CFR 62-1304 did the honours into Iasi, which I didn’t realise was both NB and playing away from home, until I came across some posts on the CFR Yahoo group recently. As I was still in the mood on arrival at Iasi, I got a taxi back to Nicolina to do IR1665 1610 Bucuresti Nord – Iasi in. It cost less than a quid to do the 3.5km back to Nicolina by road and when CFR GM 64-0956 turned up, it was quid well spent. As IR1665 was 10’ late though, it rolled in just as the Sulzer leading the GM on IR1668 2315 Iasi – Bucuresti Nord blew up to depart; which probably did me a favour as I would have done it back out to Nicolina had I needed either and would probably have had to walk back! So, as it happened I walked the short distance to the Hotel Arnia, which is out of the station to the main road, turn left, then right where the trams go, and it’s in front of you, just beyond the big Billa store. They guy at reception was expecting me and I paid my bill straight away. The room was a comfort twin for single use and it was massive, spotless and more to the point had very efficient air-con; which got put on high, as low as it would go, the moment I could figure out how to work it. My clothes must have been twice as heavy as they should be after absorbing all the sweat they’d had to during the day and they were straight into the bath and thoroughly cleaned; before being hung on hangers, which hung nicely on the shade of the tall lamp, which I positioned in the middle of the room right in front of the air-con blower! Bed followed shortly afterwards…….
Moves for Thursday 29th June 2017
|3TE10M-1225a||Mohyliv Podilskyi||Ochnita||061||2040 (27/06) St Petersburg Vitebski – Chisinau|
|3TE10M-1104b||Chisinau||Beresti||047||1137 Chisinau – Moskva Kievskyi|
|Walk||Beresti||Ungheni||5km, 1 hour, 35 degrees!|
|3TE10M-1104a||Ungheni||Sipoteni||342||1047 (28/06) Moskva Kievskyi – Chisinau|
|3TE10M-1249a||Sipoteni||Ungheni||105/401||1645 Chisinau – Bucuresti Nord|
|ChME3-5740||Ungheni CIS Gauge Platforms||Ungheni Gauge Changer|
|ChME3-4518||Ungheni Gauge Changer||Ungheni Standard Gauge Platforms|
|62-1304||Nicolina||Iasi||R6315||1831 Tecuci – Iasi|
|64-0956||Nicolina||Iasi||IR1665||1610 Bucuresti Nord – Iasi|
Gen for Thursday 29th June 2017
DMU 825 0845 Chisinau – Ungheni
DMU 828 0832 Ungheni – Chisinau
ChME3-4167 Chisinau station pilot
ChME3E-6779 through Chisinau with a short trip freight
3TE10M-1104b 047 1137 Chisinau – Moskva Kiev.
3TE10M-1104a 342 1046 (P) Moskva Kiev. – Chisinau
60-1355 (CFR) 1064 1312 Iasi – Ungheni, 1063 1700 Ungheni – Iasi
ChME3-625, ChME3-3222, ChME3-4169, ChME3-4518, ChME3-5538 at Ungheni on shed
3TE10M-1042? demic on shed at Ungheni
105/401 1645 Chisinau – Bucuresti Nord
3TE10M-1249a to Ungheni
ChME3-5740 into gauge changer
ChME3-4518 out of gauge changer
60-1118 Ungheni to Iasi
62-1304 R6315 1831 Tecuci – Iasi
64-0956 IR1665 1610 Bucuresti Nord – Iasi
Sulzer/GM IR1668 2315 Iasi – Bucuresti Nord
Photos for Thursday 29th June 2017
Friday 30th June 2017 (Back into Moldova from Iasi, Romania)
I was up early, mainly as I couldn’t sleep with the bright sunshine lighting up the room. This resulted in a couple of things happening that morning, with one being me putting on slightly damp clothes; that just hadn’t quite dried in front of the air-con blower overnight. The other was a bonus move to Nicolina and back on two of the morning diesel turns. As I was quite late to the show at Iasi station I didn’t have time to get a ticket for IR1662 0600 Iasi – Bucuresti Nord and just bogged it instead; I did actually need to use it, so it was almost a valid bogging! Having had a GM on what should have been a 60 turn, the previous night, I was pleased to find 60-1039 at the head of IR1662 and having bought a ticket for R6413 0505 Vaslui – Iasi, I knew that it would be a Sulzer coming back in; having seen it topping IR1668 2315 Iasi – Bucuresti Nord as it departed Iasi. 62-0998 was a welcome lift back to Iasi for breakfast; and where better than McDonald’s, right outside the station.
Fuelled up, I opted to walk back to Nicolina for R6311 0445 Tecuci – Iasi. Its only about 3km and is a straight road. There are tram options as well as the obvious taxi option, but I don’t mind the walking. Another few pence later and I was Iasi bound again with 62-0768 on R6311. Following that I opted for the electric ned move to Letcani, which produced 41-0768 out on R5402 0914 Iasi – Bacau for 41-0655 back in on R5401 0455 Marasesti – Iasi. As R5401 was early into Iasi, I had enough time to get a taxi out to Nicolina, which only cost £1 and only just made IR1831 0600 Galati – Cluj Napoca; which itself left Nicolina early. GM 64-0980 was replaced at Iasi by electric 41-0815 and when I discovered 461058/41-0464 waiting to head out with R5605 1105 Iasi – Suceava Nord, it was another Letcani move; with 40-0799 back in on R5602 0920 Suceava Nord – Iasi.
That was me done then for a while and having seen 60-1355 arrive from Ungheni with 1061 0755 Ungheni – Iasi, I assumed that’s what I’d be having back into Moldova later; on the one coach that remained in the platform, where it had left it earlier. NB Sulzer 60-1396 & mini Sulzer 80-0541 were the station pilots for the day and were being kept busy as I headed out of the station and back to the Hotel Arnia for a clean-up and a cold shower. It was starting to get a tad warm by late morning and the temperatures apparently reached the high 30’s in Iasi that day! The massive Billa supermarket, in front of the Arnia, came in very handy and provided plenty of goodies for my return journey Chisinau. And at 1200, bang on the dot, I checked out of the Arnia, feeling fully refreshed and clean; at least until I was all sweaty and rancid again by the time I reached the station!
Sure enough, 60-1355 appeared for 1064 1312 Iasi – Ungheni and having bought my ticket earlier in the morning, from the international ticket window, I boarded as soon as it dropped onto its coach. Let’s just say it was an eye-opening journey, to say the least. Along the way to Ungheni Prut I noticed a burnt-out Sulzer by the side of the main line, just beyond Socola, but was on the wrong side of the train to get any more details; no idea how long it had been there. Further along, close to the border, at Holboca, over the way there were a load of yellow & blue liveried coaches, that looked in decent condition, with what looked like a GM with a nose attached to one set. Everything was off in the distance so I couldn’t see anything detail. Then we were rolling into Ungheni Prut, for the Romanian exit controls to take place.
The train was quite well loaded and there seemed to be a lot of shady goings on between certain compos. There was even money changing going on as well but I’m pretty sure, looking at how shady the women were, that it would have been a crap rate; so, I’d say wait until Ungheni and use the money changing place on in the station building. The border staff went through the compos systematically, starting from either end and meeting in the middle. There were no issues for me but one of the shady women had an extended talking to in the rear vestibule of the coach. It was like an oven in the coach when it stood but at least there were windows that were open throughout the corridor, which was way better than the ventilation provided by the feeble windows on the Moldovan stock.
Its only 1.6km from Ungheni Prut to Ungheni but once we’d crossed the river, the train was brought to a stand and on got the Moldovan border security, who again went through the coach, with one starting at each end of it. Arrival into Ungheni was only a couple of minutes early as a result of the full train and once detrained, everyone had to queue to go through customs. More shadiness occurred while in the queue and I’m sure one of the women attempted open my backpack while she was stood behind me. When in tight queues like that I’m aware of such on goings so it was soon off my back and being carried by hand. There were two people checking bags at customs and the queue got a bit out of hand eventually as the “women” started to barge their way through and jump the queue; which I was having none of, of course! It was only a half-hearted bag search and the woman checking mine wasn’t really interested in me but had she seen what I’d seen in the shop outside the station later than I’m sure she’d have checked harder; or of course, they all turn a blind eye?
In the ticket hall at Ungheni, I wasn’t the only person getting off the train from Iasi and buying a ticket through to Chisinau on 047 1047 (P) Moskva Kiev. – Chisinau but there were only 3 people making the extended journey, with everyone else dispersing. I went in search of some cold liquid and remembered the shop outside the station, over the footbridge, straight on and on your left at the end of the tree covered road. When inside the owner clearly had no time to serve me as she was counting out money to the woman who I’d possibly caught trying to open my back-pack earlier. Then it all made sense, the shadiness was all about smuggling stuff back in from Romania and then selling it to the shop owners in Moldova; and there was a hefty wad of notes exchanging hands. All the large bags the women had arrived with were empty when they left the shop!
As the sun was perfect for 047 arriving into Ungheni from the footbridge, of course, there was a loaded train of wood on the adjacent line blocking the view of it arriving. My attempts to get a decent shot of it arriving from outside the station confines failed miserably and I got bowled by a wall and a load of trees as I attempted to get to the railway between the plinthed kettle and the bus station. I even managed to bungle getting the loco numbers as well and was lucky they were slow in taking them off, as 3TE10M-xxxx a/b were just running under the footbridge when I got back to the station. Then I had one of “those moments” as I felt a drip coming from my bag as I descended the steps to the station.
My drip was only going to be one thing, as the only liquid I had in my bag was coke, and as the corner of my bag was soaking wet, I had no choice but to empty the contents onto the platform by the side of the train. Sure enough, it seemed I’d overused one of my coke bottles and the twist cap wasn’t secure enough. Luckily the leak hadn’t been extensive but it was enough to need to be dealt with and as the steps to my coach weren’t down at that point, I scooted into the bog of the next coach, leaving my crap in a pile on the platform; then came the shouting and commotion and the next thing I know, the coach attendant is manhandling me back into the coach. I managed to barge past him, aware that all my stuff was on full view outside and shake his grip off and then showed him the bog roll I’d borrowed, to clean my mess up; that seemed to clear the issue up and when I explained that I actually had a ticket for the train, and pointed to the next coach, it was then I realised that the steps weren’t down as it said Pectopar on the side!
Bag sorted and stuff put back in, I left Bert’s bog roll on his coach steps before boarding my own sauna of a coach. The bag was left in the sun to dry while I tried to stay out of it and hugged the coach side to get any draught at all that came in through the open window. It wasn’t quite a rancid as it could have been the coach was relatively empty and at least the coach attendant was quite sociable and not pissed! Other than the rancidity, it was quite a nice and relaxing journey. Upon arrival into Chisinau though, I had an unexpected decision to make.
Completely unexpectedly, M62-1257 was sat waiting to depart Chisinau, on a load 5 set of stock, forming 6820 1900 Chisinau – Basarabeasca. At that point, I didn’t even realise where Basarabeasca even was but was soon searching ME Maps for it. I didn’t have a clue what the stopping pattern of the train was and when I realised what time it was back the following morning I thought the M62 could well then work my train towards Odesa, once it was back. With my big back at the Hotel Cosmos, other than the fact I’d be flagging a hotel for the night, I didn’t have much to lose so went to the booking office, bought myself a ticket to Basarabeasca and spent the night on a train instead; well two trains actually. There were a lot more opening windows on the Basarabeasca set and it wasn’t half as bad as the Moscow set I’d just got off; when it was moving anyway. It wasn’t wedged, the staff were friendly and it was a pretty sociable journey to Basarabeasca; mainly as I spent most of it dozing as the heat had clearly taken it out of me during the day. I was glad of my trip to the Billa supermarket that morning when I got to Basarabeasca as I’d have had nothing to eat all night otherwise.
Moves for Friday 30th June 2017
|60-1039||Iasi||Nicolina||IR1662||0600 Iasi – Bucuresti Nord|
|62-0998||Nicolina||Iasi||R6413||0505 Vaslui – Iasi|
|62-0768||Nicolina||Iasi||R6311||0445 Tecuci – Iasi|
|41-0768||Iasi||Letcani||R5402||0914 Iasi – Bacau|
|41-0655||Letcani||Iasi||R5401||0455 Marasesti – Iasi|
|64-0980||Nicolina||Iasi||IR1831||0600 Galati – Cluj Napoca|
|461-058||Iasi||Letcani||R5605||1105 Iasi – Suceava Nord|
|40-0799||Letcani||Iasi||R5602||0920 Suceava Nord – Iasi|
|60-1355||Iasi||Ungheni||1064||1312 Iasi – Ungheni|
|2TE10M-0013b||Ungheni||Chisinau||047||1047 (29/06) Moskva Kievskyi – Chisinau|
|M62-1257||Chisinau||Basarabeascsa||6820||1900 Chisinau – Basarabeasca|
Gen for Friday 30th June 2017
CFR – Romania
60-1039 IR1662 0600 Iasi – Bucuresti Nord
62-0998 R6413 0505 Vaslui – Iasi
80-0541 & 60-1396 Iasi station pilots
41-0768/(62-0577) R5403 0450 Bacau – Iasi
41-0464 IR1766 1350 (P) Timisoara Nord – Iasi
62-0768 R6311 0445 Tecuci – Iasi
41-0768 R5402 0914 Iasi – Pascani
41-0655 R5401 0429 Marasesti – Iasi via
60-1355 1061 0755 Ungheni – Iasi
64-0980 IR1831 0600 Galati – Cluj Napoca (to Iasi)
41-0815 IR1831 0600 Galati – Cluj Napoca (from Iasi)
40-0899 IR1838 1800 (P) Timisoara Nord – Iasi
Desiro 2055 R6404 1044 Iasi – Barlad
461-058/41-0464 R5605 1105 Iasi – Suceava Nord
40-0799 R5602 0920 Suceava Nord – Iasi
60-1355 1064 1312 Iasi – Ungheni, 1063 1700 Ungheni – Iasi
60-xxxx burnt out near Socola
Holboca – over the way are blue/yellow coaches with what looks like a GM with a nose attached
CFM – Moldova
2TE10M-0013 b/a 342 1046 (P) Moskva Kiev. – Chisinau
ChME3E-6779 shunt stock ex 342 out at Chisinau
2xD1 DMU 6831 1758 Chisinau – Ungheni
M62-1257 6820 1900 Chisinau – Basarabeasca
Photos for Friday 30th June 2017
Saturday 1st July 2017 (Moldova into Ukraine, at Odesa)
The wait at Basarabeasca was only 2h30m and at 0202 I was Chisinau bound again. At 0620, 5’ early, M62-1257 rolled into Chisinau and the stock for my train 642 0811 Chisinau – Odesa was already in the station. I hot-footed it to the Hotel Cosmos to get my bag, and as I’d paid for a room by that point anyway, I tried it on; and was rewarded with use of a room for an hour and a breakfast box was made up for me when I got back to the reception. The Cosmos is like something time forgot, it’s Soviet façade and tired rooms all add to the experience I guess but the icing on the cake had to be the ancient ring-dial telephone in the room. I wasn’t complaining though as the cold shower, change of clothes, bag repack and general buggering about I did were all welcome; even the quick shave I managed to have!
I was back over at the station for 0750 and standing in line for a customs check, before being able to board 642 0811 Chisinau – Odesa. I didn’t even have my bag searched and was on the platform in moments. The area where the load 4 rake for the Odesa train is parked was cordoned off, so you couldn’t go anywhere but onto the train or back into customs, once on the platform. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the loco for 642 and was pleased when ChME3-4507 shunted off shed and worked its way onto the front of the stock, via a double reversal. What I hadn’t realised was that the whole time I’d been on the platform, my coach had been loading up and it was a free for all as there were no seat numbers on any of the seats. Luckily, I found a decent place in what was a 2 plus 3 seating arrangement and the coach had a micro-buffet at one end; which came in handy to offload a few of the remaining Moldovan Lei I had left.
As I was in the back coach, there was no thrash to be had from the ChME3, even if it had have been a loud one. It went well though and the line speed towards Transnistria, the self-proclaimed breakaway state within Moldova. I’d only been reading a in Lonely Planet the previous day that in previous years tourists have had to run the gauntlet as far as transiting through Transnistria went, with some have to pay hefty bribes to get through; or be sent back to whence they’d come from. It seemed that those times were in the past but as a result of there being no passport control to exit Moldova, the only border control we went through was at Kuchurgan, when entering Ukraine. From recent reports, the same happens going in the other direction, with no official entry stamp into Moldova, so technically you could enter and exit Moldova via Transnistria and not get any Moldovan stamps in your passport!
There were “Transnistrian” security staff at Tiraspol station but none boarded the train as it only stands there for a couple of minutes. Tiraspol station had everything signed in Russian still and there was no sign of anything in Romanian at all. They say that Tiraspol, and Transnistria in general, is like a sneak peek into what the Soviet era was like; as the place has not moved on. Although, Transnistria has developed its own currency, the Transnistrian Ruble, and its exchange rates are published daily in Tiraspol.
The Ukrainian border control was interesting for two reasons, one as it revealed just how many times some people had made the trip from Moldova into the Ukraine, when I cheekily glanced at their passports. Some had two pages full of just Ukrainian stamps. The Ukrainians always stamp at the back of your passport I’ve noticed from the few times I’ve been and it was evident again at Kuchurgan; and after a quick thumb through my passport, the woman doing the checks was straight to the back and after carefully reading my other Ukrainian stamps, in went the next one. She kindly left her computer on the table facing me when she was scanning everyone’s passport too, I’d always wondered what came up on the screen when they were scanned and half expected a long list for mine; but no, all that came up was the passport details and she checked them against the real thing in her hand. It was a bit boring really. Randomly, two guys were walking through the coaches with EU signs on their coats. On the back of them it said something along the lines of “EU helping to improve Ukraine/Moldova border relations”. I didn’t know quite what to make of that as the nearest EU country was probably Romania!
While the passport control had been carried out ChME3-4507 had been replaced by a UZ electric, which I found to be VL40U-1381-2 upon arrival into Odesa. And for those wondering if they should or shouldn’t be writing the extra number down, then yes is the answer as VL40U-1381-1 was on the buffers in a nearby platform as well.
Odesa station is quite impressive, even from the platform side. I’d not realised it was a dead-end only shack until I arrived and it was very busy with both people and trains. I had to get five of the tickets I’d booked online exchanged for proper tickets when in UZ land and when I walked into the booking office it was rammed solid, probably 15 deep at every window. The last thing I wanted to was queue for ages and be told I’m at the wrong window, so I went to the information window and the nice lassie there told me that I needed to use either window 10 or 14 for exchanging of Internet bookings. Window 14 had a huge queue but window 10 had no queue, which was because it was closed for lunch hour and wouldn’t reopen for another 25 minutes; so, I started my own queue and by the time the window opened again at 1300, it was a good 15 deep behind me and when the window next to it opened, as I walked away, there was a bit of a scrum started. The whole ticket issuing thing took 2 minutes and I was soon in possession of everything I needed for my stay in Ukraine.
It was scorching outside in the sunshine, 36 degrees according to the weather on my phone, and there was no way you could stand in it for long. The whole station area was crammed with the bucket & spade brigade making their way home after a week or two on the Black Sea; it made Skegness look like small-fry in comparison. With 8 departures between 1514 & 1637, there was no wonder the place was heaving. Then there was only 2 more to 2000 and there was a definite change about the place as the trains started to depart. The booking office could breathe again, you could find space in the shade and the large stack of bottled water at one of the kiosks inside the station, which looked like a bomb had hit it, could be tackled by the store owner in relative peace.
Looking outside the front doors of Odesa station, it looks like quite a nice place, a bit like you’d expect of Kiev. As soon as I saw the McDonalds sign, I knew where my lunch was coming from. It too was rammed, both upstairs and down, but the queues at the tills were shorter than those in Iasi had been and I was served quite quickly; thankfully by someone that spoke good English.
As it was that hot I never once ventured onto the platforms to see what was working out, as it was a long way to the end and back again. The first time I ventured onto any platform was when my 686 1620 Odesa – Izmail was put on the board and as it was only load 6 I didn’t have to walk too far to collect the loco number(s). 686 splits at Artsyz with the rear coach ex Odesa, randomly numbered coach 0, then going to Berezine while the other 5 go to Izmail. Randomly the schedule for 686 doesn’t have a booked stop at Artsyz on the way out but does on the way back!
VL80S-2396 (2/1) were the nags for the journey to Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi and sister twin set VL80S-2395 were in the station when 686 departed. The train wasn’t full but it was well frequented, unfortunately, even with the windows open, that would open, it was still like an oven and the towel that came with the bedding ended up being my sweat mop for the next few hours. I was quite lucky with a lower berth in the facing direction, which meant the breeze from the window was blowing onto me when the train was moving. Others in the side berths, not only had no breeze but also had to endure the sun on their side of the train as well. I don’t know about an enjoyment but it seems to me that travelling by train in the Ukraine in Summer is more of an endurance!
Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi came around quite quickly and I was soon out watching the loco change take place, with the driver of the VL80 actually bringing his locos to a stand after he’d shunted them off and engaged me in conversation. 2TE116-849a/880a replaced the electric for the run to Izmail but when they were bolted to the stock 880a, on the inside, wasn’t running. As I walked back down the platform in disgust though, it was started up and all was well in my little world again. They were like shit off a shovel with just load 6 to contend with and the driving style helped proceedings too; it’s a shame the locos were crap. They did produce a bit of clag when being hammered out of Sarata, where I got off for my overnight back north.
Sarata station was quite busy when 146 1800 Izmail – Kyiv Pas. arrived and the only thing breaking the silence in the meantime was a ChME3 shunting in the adjacent yard. As 146 appeared around the curve in the distance I counted 14 coaches; I was booked in coach 10. The platform wasn’t going to take 10, let alone 14 and when the locos came bowling in with the train, I was bowled myself. I managed to get 2TE116-720a as the front one but thanks to their being no number on the side of the inside one, all I could establish wads that it too was an “a” unit. My coach 10 was at least 3 off the rear end of the platform and I wasn’t the only one to be scooting through the undergrowth to get to my coach. It too was like an over and again I’d been the lucky one by having a forward-facing berth in a compo where the window opened. There was only one lass in the compo, that was until the drunk turned up. To be fair to him, he was harmless but you could smell it on him a mile away. Was in the berth above the lass opposite me and when he struggled to get his bed made up, he chucked a strop with his bedding and went to the attendant to get another beer; cos that will help!
I literally had to leg it to the front at Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, otherwise I would have missed confirming that the inside loco of the pair was 2TE116-1097a. They were just detaching and moving off the stock when I got to the front. While I was there I did myself a favour and waited for the electric to drop on and saved myself a walk at Odesa in the meantime. As it/they dropped on, it looked like another twin-set until the ensemble came over the points to reveal a VL80S twin and a VL40U on top of them and when 146 departed Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, VL40U-1290-1 led VL80S-2406 (1/2); both pans up and both crewed.
By the time I got back to the 10th coach, drunken bert had been turfed out of the lower side berth he’d tried to commandeer and had taken up residence in another lower side berth; along with another bottle of beer and a bottle of vodka for good measure! I dossed out soon after leaving Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi and thankfully the next I knew bert was in his own upper berth opposite me and snoring. As I woke up in the station at Odesa, I did myself another favour and went to spot ChS4-106 on the front, before going straight back to bed; not before walking back into the compo and coming across a woman getting changed into her loungewear!
Moves for Saturday 1st July 2017
|M62-1257||Basarabeascsa||Chisinau||6819||0202 Basarabeasca – Chisinau|
|ChME3-4507||Chisinau||Kuchurgan||642||0811 Chisinau – Odesa Holovna|
|VL80S-2369 (2)||Odesa Holovna||Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi||686||1620 Odesa Holovna – Izmail|
|2TE116-720a||Sarata||Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi||268||1800 Izmail – Kyiv Pass|
|VL40U-1290-1||Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi||Odesa Holovna|
Gen for Saturday 1st July 2017
CFM – Moldova
M62-1257 6819 0202 Basarabeasca – Chisinau
ChME3-4507 (CFM) 642 0811 Chisinau – Odesa (to Kuchurgan)
VL40U-1851-2 (UZ) 642 0811 Chisinau – Odesa (from Kuchurgan)
ChME3-3217, ChME3-4167, ChME3-4917, ChME3-6779, M62-1257, 3TE10M-01xx a/b & a couple of demic V units
ChME3-5335 at Bender 2 with a freight
UZ – Ukraine
ChME3-3030 at Kuchurgan with a freight
ChME3T-7010, 6976, 4993 at Odesa
VL80S-2395 stunting stock at Odessa
VL40U-1397-1 107 1935 (P) Uzhhorod – Odesa
VL80S-2396 (2/1) 686 1620 Odesa – Izmail (to Bilhorod)
2TE116-849a/880a 686 1620 Odesa – Izmail (from Bilhorod)
2TE116-720a/1097a 146 1800 Izmail – Kyiv Pas. (to Bilhorod)
VL80S-2406 (1/2) + VL40U-1290-1 146 1800 Izmail – Kyiv Pas. (Bilhorod to Odesa)
ChS4-106 146 1800 Izmail – Kyiv Pas. (from Odesa)
Photos for Saturday 1st July 2017
Sunday 2nd July 2017 (Rudnytsia to Pomichna via the Narrow Gauge & a ChME3)
When drunk guy walked back into the compo at 3am with the coach attendant, I wondered what was going off when he was attempting to slam the window shut. Then I realised it was hammering it down outside and drunk guy was probably getting wet with the window still open. It gave me an alarm call if nothing else and I was very pleased when we arrived into Slobidka a few minutes early. My whole day hinged on making a plus 13’ at Rudnytsia onto the 0405 Rudnytsia – Haivoron narrow gauge train. If it missed I had a back-up but it would put me back to square one at Odesa; as the train service from Rudnytsia isn’t very good, even on a good day.
So, into Rudnytsia we bowled at 0350, 2’ early. As I was towards the front of the train I could see the narrow-gauge train for Haivoron sat at the opposite side of the station building. I quickly nipped into the ticket office and paid UAH16 for the 77km journey to Haivoron, used my handy torch to spot the loco number and boarded while the crew were doing their final checks of TU2-179, which looked very clean and tidy. From the outside, the front coach had looked empty, that was because the occupants were all dossed out about the place and there was an interesting aroma coming from the coach when I opened the door to walk in. There were ada’s dossed everywhere, with their luggage, trolleys and the likes strewn about the place and piled up in the bog at the end of the coach. There were still a few seats though, so I was ok. On departure, bert came through doing tickets and I was the only person in the coach that had one! Once he’d buggered off, I joined the coach of ada’s and began to check my eyelids for holes.
It wasn’t the easiest stock to doss on, with slatted wooden seats but it sufficed and when the guard came into the coach to wake everyone up for Barshad, that was me awake as well; and I nipped off for a quick photo while the majority of folk on board made their exit. The load 3 set that TU20179 had in tow didn’t get up too much of a speed and I couldn’t hear anything from the engine but the train kept time and did exactly what the timetable said; and we were into the platform at Haivoron at 0749 on the dot.
With only 11 minutes before I needed to be on the 0800 Haivoron – Holovanivsk forward, I didn’t have much time to do anything, so I used my camera first, nipped to the booking office second and then used the remaining minutes to use the camera again. TU2-263 was sat waiting with 6290 0800 Haivoron – Holovanivsk, with one coach, and TU2-179 was just abandoned in the platform on arrival. The ticket I’d been given was hand-written in the booking office and then it was cut out of the booklet it was issued from, round various numbers, which I figured out to be the price of the ticket once it was in my possession.
Despite only being one coach, 6290 0800 Haivoron – Holovanivsk, which only runs on Fridays & Sundays, only had 7 people on board when it departed, including me. Again, I was the only person with a ticket when the guard did her rounds. She was an absolute treat as well and looked like Frankenstein! She had a right gob on her too as her rather loud phone conversation could be heard throughout the coach; I guessed by the fact that others were laughing that it was a rant as opposed to just a normal conversation. She was out and about at stops too, gathering things from trees near to the tracks and sharing her collection with the driver. Just like drunk man from the overnight though, she was harmless, but did have a lot of gold teeth!
When the sun came out, seconds after we departed Haivoron, even the local started to open the coach windows. It was a nice fresh breeze though, not a hot stifling one like it had been in Odesa the previous day. The TU2 could be heard at the front but I have to say I was highly disappointed in the thrash stakes; I’d expected something along the lines of a 2095 or something similar. TU2-263 sounded like a lorry starting away and seemed to be burning a lot of oil, judging by the white clag? It too was a spotless on the outside as ‘179 had been, so either both had been away for overhaul recently or Haivoron looked after them well? The scenery was just endless fields, of varying types, with no life around whatsoever. The only buildings I saw were station ones, other than in one place where there were two train man operated crossings and some form of village type life going on.
It was an enjoyable journey and one that came to an end early at Holovanivsk, where as we approached there were a couple of younger lads photting the train arriving; they were last seen boarding the coach for the return journey to Haivoron. TU2-263 was eventually shunted back out of the station to the loop, to allow the loco to run around, and the coach was then propelled back in. In the BG platform Pomichna’s ChME3-3617 was sat with one coach to form 6170 1057 Holovanivsk – Pomichna, which also only runs on a Friday & Sunday. The one coach was a platskartny and a very welcome coach it was too. I had my own compo all the way to Pomichna, got all my typing up to date, made my dinner, local style on the table and then even managed a bit off doss in the meantime; all while travelling on quite possibly the slowest train I’ve ever, ever, ridden on. Up until reaching the main electrified line to Pomichna we couldn’t have gone above 10kmph and even that might be an exaggeration; I kid you not, it was painful and I was glad I had stuff to keep me occupied throughout the journey. Others that have done the train have joked about wildlife overtaking them while bumbling through the countryside, it’s no joke as I watched a large beetle type thing fly right by us as if we were stationary!
I was a little sad to have to get off when we arrived into Pomichna, if only all local passenger train journeys were like that one; yeah, there wasn’t any thrash but it was a sociable bimble through the countryside with no hassle at all; and all for about 75p. ChME3-3617 was immediately detached from its coach and off it went. The coach was collected later by ChME3-6567, which was one of three shunt locos at Pomichna, the others being ChME3-1642 & ChME3-3005. A few of the normals off the one-coach-train headed straight for an Odesa bound EMU, with the other few dispersing. I’d originally planned to do one of the local trains to Dolynska and then head up to Fundikliivka but one of the express trains involved in the move, to get me to Kherson, had changed dates of operation and the move had to be superseded; and after I’d booked the ticket to Fundikliivka as well! Unbeknownst to me at the point of planning, some of the locals around Pomichna are VL60 electrics and when I ventured to the other side of the station building, from that to which my one-coach-train had arrived, I found VL60LK-1844 sat spare in the sidings and VL60LK-1873 sat with two coaches; the boards in the windows of which confirm it had arrived just before me, with 6232 Voenesensk – Pomichna and it later shunted its stock to the north carriage sidings, never to be seen again. Meanwhile, VL60LK-1984 shunted stock in from the north carriage sidings to work 6043 1645 Pomichna – Dolynska; which would have been the local I’d have done to Dolynska had I not been forced to rethink my plans. Not to worry though, out came the phone, which had a Vodafone Ukraine sim in it, which was still working from my trip in April, and I’d soon confirmed on the UZ commuter website that I could still do VL60LK-1984 out to the first shack, Vysocke, where it was a decent plus onto an Odesa – Pomichna local back; which in turn was still a plus 32’ onto my train out of Pomichna. As a member of the A-team used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together”!
I had to use my ME Maps to tell the woman at the ticket counter where I wanted to go but she understood when I pointed to the train outside the booking office doors. Although only a short journey, it was another sociable local journey in a platskartny coach, in my own compo. The journey back into Pomichna was on an ER9E EMU and not so pleasant; they really are just a means to an end for getting about on. In the short time I’d been gone from Pomichna, 4 VL80’s had arrived with varying types of freight and two were being paired up by the platforms as I waited for my train out of Pomichna.
The idea was to head north and have longer on an overnight towards Mykolaiv/Kherson as a result. The truth is, the way I was doing it was the only way to get to a Kherson bound train anyway and I had no choice but to get to Im. Tarasa Shevchenko. When I’d originally booked the trip, and put my plan together, the next express departure from Pomichna to anywhere had been at almost midnight and when my move via Dolynska was scuppered, I knew this. However, what UZ taketh with one hand, they giveth with the other and train 92 1346 Odesa – Konstantynivka became my get out of jail free card, which only started running in mid-April, when I was in the process of systematically booking tickets for the trip on the various online booking systems for each railway, in each country.
ChS4-185 was the traction on 92, which I did to Znamianka Pas. From there I had tickets booked on three trains that all went to Im. Tarasa Shevchenko, all within 50 minutes of each other. Unfortunately, the last one only stopped at Fundikliivka so I could only do two of the three. I had a little bit of time to kill in Znamianka and was lucky to find a decent pizza takeaway inside a minimarket outside the station. As I was short of cash, I confirmed with the guy behind the counter that I could pay with card and then pointed to the pizza I wanted, from the display above the counter. When it came to it though, I couldn’t pay by card and had to hand over almost 50% of the cash I had left; with the pizza costing UAH39, a little over £1! The result of that was me having to go to the cash machine on the way back to the station; which gave me exactly what I wanted, UAH500, in one bloody note!
Back at the shack, I watch local station vendors thread dried fish onto hooks, through their eye holes, while enjoying every slice of my pizza. I needed no persuasion to do VL80T-1499 to Fundikliivka, when the twin set rolled in with 793 1530 Kharkiv Pas. – Im. Tarasa Shevchenko; on only a load 7 rake; and when ChS4-067 arrived into Fundikliivka behind it, with 120 1220 Zaporizhzhya 1 – L’viv, I was then IT Shevchenko bound and confusion reigned upon arrival. My lower side berth was right in the middle of the coach and was surrounded on all sides by a big party of teenage girls. Drastic measures had to be taken to drown out their gibbering and giggling; but Metallica managed it!
It was only because I’d been following my progress into IT Shevchenko on ME Maps that I knew where I was when I arrived. Had I not done so then I wouldn’t have realised that there are two separate parts to the station, 300m apart and linked by a pathway. The part where I’d arrived on train 120, was shown on ME Maps as IT Shevchenko 2 and was separated from the main station by buildings and more railway. Having walked down the pathway, which links the two stations and which is not signposted from the No.2 shack to the No1, I was again glad I’d got my ME Maps on the go. The main station was busier, people wise, and better lit. the only train in the station was 794 0105 Im. Tarasa Shevchenko – Kharkiv Pas. with VL80T-1499 having already run around the short set ready to work back. Not wanting to get myself in a predicament, where I didn’t know where my train was going from, I went to the information window to confirm. Although no English was spoken, a glance at my ticket and the hand gestures confirmed my train to Kherson would indeed depart from the main station. I got the impression, based on observation, or more like lack of observation, that the “other” part of the shack was used for northbound Kyiv direction trains only; but don’t take my word for that.
Systematic southbound trains, came and went and the station was quite busy with both people and trains at around 0100. ChS4-193 departed at 0034 with 102 2048 (P) Kyiv – Kherson, ChS4-153 departed at 0054 with 76 2125 (P) Kyiv – Kryvyi Rih, ChS4-075 departed at 0118 with 294 1528 (P) Khemlnytskyi – Henichesk, VL80T-1499 departed at 0105 with 794 0105 IT Shevchenko – Kharkiv, and finally ChS4-097 turned up with my 298 2152 (P) Kyiv – Kherson. I was in an upper berth for the first time when travelling in Ukraine and found it quite hard to make it up, with being a short arse! By the time I’d done though, the train was on the move, the bog was opened and my earplugs were in. Thankfully the window in my compo area was open and there was a bit of a breeze as I drifted off to sleep. There would be two engine changes en-route to Snihurivka, where I was alighting, and to kill two birds with one stone I was planning on viewing the loco change at Apostolove to see what had gone on at Tymkove and what would work forward from Apostolove to Kherson.
Moves for Sunday 2nd July 2017
|TU2-179||Rudnytsia||Haivoron||6272||0405 Rudnytsia – Haivoron|
|TU2-263||Haivoron||Holovanivsk||6290||0800 Haivoron – Holovanivsk|
|ChME3-3617||Holovanivsk||Pomichna||6170||1055 Holovanivsk – Pomichna|
|VL60LK-1984||Pomichna||Vysocke||6042||1645 Pomichna – Dolynska|
|ER9E-656||Vysocke||Pomichna||6412||1057 Odesa Holovna – Pomichna|
|ChS4-185||Pomichna||Znamianka||092||1346 Odesa Holovna – Konstantynivka|
|VL80T-1499 (1)||Znamianka||Fundukliivka||793||1530 Kharkiv Pas. – Im. Tarasa Shevchenko|
|ChS4-067||Fundukliivka||Im. Tarasa Shevchenko||120||1220 Zaporizhzhya 1 – Lviv|
Gen for Sunday 2nd July 2017
TU2-179 6262 0405 Rudnytsia – Haivoron
ChME3-2377 shunting at Haivoron
TU2-263 6290 0800 Haivoron – Holovanivsk, 6291 1108 Holovanivsk – Haivoron
ChME3-3617 6169 0542 Pomichna – Holovanivsk, 6170 1057 Holovanivsk – Pomichna
ChME3-1642, ChME3-3005, ChME3-6567 shunt locos at Pomichna
VL60LK-1844 spare at Pomichna
VL60LK-1873 6232 1320 Voenesensk – Pomichna
VL60LK-1984 6042 1645 Pomichna – Dolynska
ER9E-656 (EMU) 6412 1057 Odesa Holovna – Pomichna
ChS4-185 092 1346 Odesa Holovna – Kostyantynivka
ChS8-018 (1/2) 792 1751 Kyiv Pas. – Kremenchuk
VL40U-1273-2 790 1751 Kyiv Pas. – Kropyvnytskyi (splits from 792 at Znamianka)
ChS4-xxx 84 1637 Kyiv Pas. – Mariupol
VL80T-1499 (1/2) 793 1530 Kharkiv Pas. – Im. Tarasa Shevchenko
ChS4-067 120 1220 Zaporizhzhya 1 – L’viv
ChS4-xxx 88 1220 Novooleksiyivka – Kovel
ChME3-2421, ChME3-5376 at Znamianka
Photos for Sunday 2nd July 2017
Monday 3rd July 2017 (A day in the Mykolaiv/Kherson area before heading back to Kyiv overnight)
I woke up during the stop at Kryvyi Rih and toyed with getting out of my berth to see what had gone on at Tymkove but the fact I was 10 coaches from the front put me off the idea; so, I stayed put. It was only just over an hour to Apostolove, so I dozed till then and scurried down the length of the platform before ChS7-117 was removed from the front. 2TE10UT-0030a/b were soon dropping on to replace them and I managed to get back to sleep in my upper berth again during the 2h30m run to Snihurivka; where train 298 sits for 18 minutes so there were no issues ambling to the front of the train for some photos.
The reason for the 18-minute fester for train 298 became apparent when ChME3-3807 dropped in, off the single line, with 6702 0806 Kherson – Apostolove. I was aware that some of the locals around Kherson where worked by ChME3’s and stock, thanks to previous trip reports; but I hadn’t seen this particular service mention at all. In flap mode, and gibber mode so it seemed, I had no time to get a ticket from the booking office and didn’t even know what the first shack was called that the train stopped at. The fact that I was a stupid tourist was probably what got me onto the train but again ME Maps showed the attendant at the door where I wanted to go and she was happy to sell me a ticket on board. As I had 2h15m to fester at Snihurivka, the only hardship at all was the walk back from the first shack to Snihurivka, with two bags! I still had plenty of time to recover in the shade and fully armed myself with the gen on local trains from the booking office, just in case I needed it later. For some random reason, every time I attempted to use the internet it directed me to a Vodafone page, no matter what site I attempted use, yet I was still able to use the messenger services, which of course needed data!
I can’t say I was best pleased when I noticed that 375 1928 (P) Kharkiv – Kherson was approaching with a UZ TEP70. I’d been expecting everything in these parts to be combinations of 2TE10’s and had seen very few reports of TEP70’s. The driver was bellowing out of the window to the station master, after he’d gone by me, and pointing to the roof of the loco; there was nothing out of the ordinary looking to me but then again, I wasn’t the driver. There was clearly something wrong with the TEP70 though as while I was buggering about in the booking office photographing local train departure boards, 2TE10M-2654a/b were being bolted onto the top of the TEP70, which was then shut down for the journey towards Kherson. A quick glance over the loco as I scrambled back towards my coach, at the back of the train, revealed a slick down the side of it; which I initially thought was oil. When I saw the steam coming from the roof though, I soon realised it was water and although technically not a failure on arrival, I think the driver was protecting the loco from being an outright failure, if/when it boiled over. I’ve not had anything boil over on me since 31128 when it worked a York – Bristol from York to Derby; where it promptly chucked all its water out! That was driver error though as the radiator ventilation grilles were closed so the boiling over was inevitable. It was hardly surprising that locos didn’t boil over more in these parts with the temperatures as high as they are, day after day.
Being at the back again resulted in the locos being off the train before I was anywhere near the front and ultimately the lot went to shed. My attention was immediately turned to the approaching ChME3 and its three coaches approaching from the opposite end of the station. Thanks to a recent trip report, I knew what this was and when ChME3-4082 arrived with 6702 1146 Brynivka – Kherson and promptly ran around, I was pleased that it formed 6703 1408 Kherson – Brynivka back out. Now this move I was prepared for and a ticket was duly purchased, although there were rafts of people queuing to get on when the set arrived into Kherson, and there were no ticket checks on boarding. To save on the rancidity factor I even had time to dump my big bag at the left luggage facility, which made it a lot easier on the walk back in, which took almost an hour at a steady pace; and I was dripping when I got back as there hadn’t been a great deal of shade to hide from the sun along the way.
With not too much time to spare, I managed to get myself some food and a lot of drink from one of the may shacks outside the station building, before collecting my bag and having to board my train. In the meantime, TEP70-0031 arrived with 766 0746 Kyiv Pas. – Kherson and I thought it was going to be run around to work back with the opposing working; but it dropped onto my stock to work 375 1530 Kherson – Kharkiv instead and I was surprised to see TEP70-0153 come back off shed to work 765 1557 Kherson – Kyiv Pas. which overtook 375 at Mykolaiv during its 25-minutes standing time there. It was a bit of a sweatbox on board 375 but nothing like the trains had been in Moldova and thankfully there were plenty of windows open to give a nice breeze when the train was on the move. As I was preparing to get off at Snihurivka, it was only as the train curved round towards the station that I realised I was going to have a 17-coach run on arrival at Snihurivka; it was no longer a TEP70 at the front of the train and I hadn’t even realised a loco change had taken place at Mykolaiv!
I was in the very back coach and to add insult to injury, it was the rear door of it that was being used to let me off the train. 375 only stands at Snihurivka for 2 minutes and I really wasn’t fancying my chances of actually making it to the front of the train before it set off, especially with two bags in the hot afternoon sun! As I ran, or at my age should I say bumbled, past the station master half way down the platform, she already had her baton ready to give the tip to the driver and I was still three coaches from the front when the tip was given. There was no problem getting the rear loco of the pair but I had to drop my bags and give it a last push to get the front one, as the train was already moving. I had to take a photo of the leading loco as it pulled away, in fear of not remembering what I’d watched depart by the time I got back to my bag to write anything down. Oh, to be 30 again! I was knackered. Anyway, the locos were 2TE10UT-0070b/0073b, after all that.
Thankfully, I had plenty of water and there was some shade from the sunshine by the station building. I was grateful that when 2TE10M-3448b/a rolled into Snihurivka with 133 1742 (P) Ivano-Frankivsk – Mykolaiv, via Kherson, that my coach stopped almost in front of me and I’d about recovered when I was dropped off at Kherson; having done a full circle, Kherson – Mykolaiv – Snihurivka – Kherson by that point. It wasn’t a massive plus, and I wouldn’t have entertained it if 133 had been late at Snihurivka, but with 2TE10UT-0032a/b ready for the off with 298 1957 Kherson – Kyiv when I arrived, I was soon making my upper berth up and relaxing in it as the train eased out of the station. The bonus move back to Kherson can only be done on certain days, when 133 runs. Having had a good day in the area, I was now on my last diesel-hauled train of the detour into Ukraine and would be Azerbaijan bound the following day. The day in Kherson had exceeded expectation, especially with the two bonus ChME3’s on locals. Depending on which day you attempt to plan a bash in the Kherson/Mykolaiv area will depend on what moves are available as some trains only run on select days, let alone odd or even, with there being more trains in the Summer period; which might make sense as to why TEP70’s were out?
By Apostolove I was ready for a leg stretch and didn’t have too far to walk to the front of the train, to find the 2TE10 just being removed and to then watch ChS7-218 drop on for the run to Tymkove; I’d bother with the AC loco that went on at Tymkove the following morning in Kyiv. I’d originally planned to get off 298 at Im. Tarasa Shevchenko at stupid o’clock, to do 148 Odesa – Kyiv forward as it ran via the diesel line to Cherkasy. Unfortunately, the Summer timetable brought with it a change in the days of operation of 148, from daily to just three days a week; and the day I needed it to run was not one that it did! So, I ended up booking another ticket on train 298, in the same berth, from Im. Tarasa Shevchenko to Kyiv and presented both to the coach attendant when I’d boarded at Kherson. Safe in the knowledge that the coach attendant understood I was going all the way to Kyiv, I was able to relax for the night, knowing I wouldn’t get woken up at Im. Tarasa Shevchenko and could actually get a good night’s sleep through to Kyiv instead.
Moves for Monday 3rd July 2017
|ChS4-097||Im. Tarasa Shevchenko||Tymkove||298||2152 (02/07) Kyiv Pas. – Kherson|
|ChME3-3807||Snihurivka||Yevhenivka||6702||0806 Kherson – Apostolove|
|TEP70-0156||Snihurivka||Mykolaiv||375||1928 (02/07) Kharkiv – Kherson|
|ChME3-4082||Kherson||Putejska||6203||1408 Kherson – Brynivka|
|TEP70-0031||Kherson||Mykolaiv||375||1530 Kherson – Kharkiv|
|2TE10M-3448b||Snihurivka||Kherson||133||1742 (02/07) Ivano Frankivsk – Mykolaiv|
|2TE10UT-0032a||Kherson||Apostolove||298||1957 Kherson – Kyiv Pas.|
Gen for Monday 3rd July 2017
VL80T-1499 (2/1) 794 0105 Im. Tarasa Shevchenko – Kharkiv Pas.
ChS4-193 102 2048 (P) Kyiv Pas. – Kherson
ChS4-153 76 2125 (P) Kyiv Pas. – Kryvyi Rih
ChS4-075 294 1528 (P) Khmelnytskyi – Henichesk
ChS4-097 298 2152 (P) Kyiv Pas. – Kherson (to Tymkove)
ChS7-117 (1/2) 298 2152 (P) Kyiv Pas. – Kherson (Tymkove to Apostolove)
2TE10UT-0030a/b 298 2152 (P) Kyiv Pas. – Kherson (Apostolove to Kherson)
ChME3-3807 6702 0806 Kherson – Apostolove
ChME3-4969 yard shunt loco Snihurivka
TEP70-0156 375 1928 (P) Kharkiv – Kherson (fail at Mykolaiv then dit to Kherson), 765 1557 Kherson – Kyiv Pas.
2TE10M-2654a/b 375 1928 (P) Kharkiv – Kherson (from Mykolaiv – TEP70-0156 dit)
ChME3T-7371 shunt loco in yard at Kherson
ChME3-4082 6202 1146 Brynivka – Kherson, 6203 1408 Kherson – Brynivka
TEP70-0031 766 0746 (P) Kyiv Pas. – Kherson, 375 1530 Kherson – Kharkiv (to Mykolaiv)
2TE10UT-0070b/0073b 375 1530 Kherson – Kharkiv (from Mykolaiv)
2TE10M-3448b/a 133 1742 (P) Ivano Frankivsk – Mykolaiv
ChME3-3014, ChME3-3147, ChME3-6115 shunt locos at Mykolaiv
2TE10UT-0032a/b 298 1957 Kherson – Kyiv Pas. (to Apostolove)
ChS7-218 (2/1) 298 1957 Kherson – Kyiv Pas. (Apostolove to Tymkove)
ChS4-042 298 1957 Kherson – Kyiv Pas. (from Tymkove)
Photos for Monday 3rd July 2017
Tuesday 4th July 2017 (Kyiv, Ukraine to Baku, Azerbaijan)
Upon arrival into Kyiv I was almost at the bottom of the stairs to the subway before realising I’d not checked what the loco was, which had re-engined 298 1957 Kherson – Kyiv at Tymkove. Luckily ChS4-042 was only just being detached when I got to it. With all day to kill in Kyiv, and having done all the sights a couple of months earlier when there with my wife, I’d made my mind up that I was going to try and get a room at the Ibis Kyiv Centre for the day and just chill. I did have grand plans to do some moves to/from Darnytsia but just couldn’t be arsed. However, the £75 the Ibis wanted put pay to that idea, so I just had breakfast there instead; and abused the charging facilities and WiFi at the same time. Ibis did do though, was recommend a place about 500m down the road, right opposite the Kyiv circus, called the Premier Hotel Lybid. I was glad I checked it out as they only wanted UAH550, almost a fifth of the price of that which the Ibis wanted; which I was happy to pay. The place was very Soviet but had good WiFi, decent AC, a hot shower and more importantly, somewhere to relax for the day.
It was 1500 when I checked out of the Lybid, fully refreshed, admin up to date, clean, and ready for the next chapter of my journey. Before heading to the station, I used a restaurant call Spaghetti, opposite the Ibis, that my wife & I had used a fair bit during our trip to Kyiv in April. It was almost deserted but sitting in the open-air part outside was quite nice and the food was good as well.
My flight from Kyiv to Baku, Azerbaijan, was at 2010 and to get to the airport I used the Skybus #322, which departs from right outside the back entrance (high numbered platform side) of Kyiv station. The buses are silver & purple and have 322 written on them, you can’t miss them. Tickets cost UAH80 and are bought from the driver, who comes around the bus before he sets off. The buses are air conditioned and the journey takes about an hour, dropping you right outside the departures at Kyiv Borispol Airport.
I hadn’t been able to check in online and discovered at the check-in desk it was as they needed to check my Azerbaijan visa before issuing me a boarding card. That done, I was asked to put my bag onto the belt to be weighed and despite only being 12.1kg I was told it would have to go into the hold. After discussion, I was told to take my camera & laptop out, as they are not included in the weight on Ukraine Airlines, and this brought my back down to 6.9kg; the max is 7kg! An authorization tag, for cabin hand luggage, was put on it and I was allowed to go.
Airside at Kyiv Airport I was impressed with the food places and even managed to force another bowl of pasta down at one of them. My flight to Baku was on time but others weren’t so lucky, with a Yerevan flight being delayed from 1800 to 2330 and worst still a Vilnius flight being delayed from 1930 to 0500 the following morning! Mine was boarded right time tough and ironically, I’d been given an extra legroom seat at the emergency exit row. After boarding was completed, I was sat with the middle seat empty, until some guy turned up and seemingly wanted both my seat and the guys on the other side of him and fidgeted the whole way; the annoying bastard! I got the impression he might have been a nervous flyer, hence the fidgeting, and he told me he’d been on standby for the flight as it was overbooked; one person was left behind to fly the following day, he told me.
Arrival into Baku, Azerbaijan was in good time and as there were only a couple of people that needed to use the Foreigner lane at immigration, it only took a few minutes to get through there as well. I had my photo taken, was only asked what the purpose of my visit to Azerbaijan was and my passport was stamped; 60 seconds at the desk, that was it, I was into Azerbaijan. I was staying at the Staybridge Inn & Suites, near to Baku station, and had arranged a taxi pick-up through them with the plane not arriving until 0035, local time in Baku. When I came out into the foyer though, there were plenty of name boards being held up but not one with my name on it. Not to be too hasty, I opted to get some money changed, which wasted 5 minutes, and then had another scan around the area; but still nothing with my name one. So, I exited the airport and had a look outside; nothing. Of course, there were plenty of taxi drivers wanting to take me into town and in the end, I had no choice but to run the gauntlet. When one quoted me the price of €20, which I was paying the hotel pick-up anyway, I went with him, in his London taxi. It was a lot nicer than black cabs at home inside though and at least the driver spoke good English. I followed our progress on ME Maps to make sure we were going where I’d asked and the journey took about 15 minutes. Of course, the taxi driver tried it on! He told me he’d made the receipt out for 30 and if I gave him another 10 he would give me AZN5 back in return. I told him where to get on and he scurried back to his taxi and drove off; which is quite unlike taxi drivers when they’re trying to extort foreigners! 0 he’d made the receipt out for was of course AZN30 and not €30. I think he wanted a €10 note so he could cook his takings and keep the €20 for himself as AZN30 is about £15, so about €13 maybe? Either way, I’d paid what I set out to pay and was soon inside the confines of the hotel.
The reception to the Staybridge Inn & Suites is on the 5th floor of the building its located in and the guy checking me in was a little confused as to how I’d got there as the taxi driver, who was at the airport waiting for me, had only called in a few minutes before I arrived to say I’d not shown up. I explained the scenario to the guy at the desk and he in turn told me that the taxi driver had told him he’d been at the airport for an hour by this point. My response to that was to ask the guy at reception to tell him to hold his sign up and be in a prominent place, as I never saw him; was his loss, and he was given two chances as well.
I’d splashed out on the room a bit as I’d be using it quite a bit while in Baku and the suite I had was on the top, 15th, floor and it was huge, with a separate living area, kitchen facilities, huge floor to ceiling windows that overlooked Baku station and a good-sized bathroom. The Ac had already been turned on for me, as it was still 27 degrees outside, and everything I could possibly need during my stay was in the room. At this stage though, the most important bit of it was the bed and I was soon clambering into it.
Moves for Tuesday 4th July 2017
|ChS4-042||Tymkove||Kyiv Pas.||298||1957 (03/07) Kherson – Kyiv Pas.|
|UR-PSM||Kiev Boryspol||Baku||PS601||2010 Kiev – Baku|
Wednesday 5th July 2017 (Day 1 of 2 in Baku, Azerbaijan)
I wasn’t up early for breakfast and just about made it for last orders, after nipping out to Bilajari on a Baku – Sumgayit local, which are all new Flirt ES2 EMU’s. Baku station looks to have been very recently rebuilt, completely, but with the old station front being incorporated into the new modern feature. It’s a very modern affair with concrete platforms, a large foyer area, which would rival even the best in western Europe, and a lot of security and cleaning staff to maintain it. There are loads of left-luggage lockers and by them, even a bizarre sleeper box. Within the building confines there are money changing facilities, with better rates than the airport, and there’s even a KFC, which has fluent English-speaking staff, I found out later.
Tickets for the local trains can be bought from the ticket machines near the local platforms or the ticket booth by the side of them. Tickets for all other trains are bought inside the station building, downstairs, and are done through a queuing system by issuing ticket numbers; a bit like waiting for your order to be ready at Argos! My priority was to get my ticket for the Baku – Tbilisi overnight for the following day and anything after that was a bonus. With already pre-written notes for what tickets I required, I was grateful that the queue wasn’t to big when I got there and I only had to wait a few minutes. I soon found out that the staff at the ticket counters spoke good English, and some were fluent. This made explaining my ticket requirements a bit easier when they looked at them and discussed between themselves in their local tongue. I made sure I was in possession of my ticket to Tbilisi before presenting them with my domestic requirements for that night. The Tbilisi train is only load 5 and had 1st class sleepers, 2-berth compos, 2nd class sleepers, 4-berth compos and 3rd class sleepers, open sleepers. Try as I might to book these online at the Azerbaijan Railway (ADY) website, I failed every time; so, don’t waste your time even trying. There had been one 1st class left when I’d tried in Kyiv but that had gone, so I ended up with a 2nd class lower berth in the middle of the coach I was reserved in; the good English making the place choosing a bit easier of course.
With my international ticket in hand, then came the presentation of the list of tickets required for the night’s bash. Once they understood the method in my madness, the issuing of the tickets was straightforward and didn’t take long, despite needing 9 tickets! None of which came to more than AZN2.50 and at least I was able to glean the ticket prices from the AZN online ticket booking website, if nothing else. With all the required tickets in hand, I was able to pay by card, before heading out to Bilajari on the 0800 EMU to do 38 1930 (P) Tbilisi – Baku back in. There were plenty of EMU’s back into Baku if required and the Sumgayit service runs at peak hours only, with nothing during the main part of the day at all. I didn’t need them though, despite train 38 being a little late, and when ADY VL10-1236 rolled in I got my first glimpse of an ADY loco-hauled train. Quite a few people got off at Bilajari and the run back into Baku was brief. ADY ChME3T-7024, recently overhauled by the look of it, was quick enough to take the stock straight out into the carriage sidings.
I made it back to the Staybridge Suites just in time for some breakfast, which had quite a selection of both hot and cold bits n bobs. I then spent the morning and most of the early afternoon lounging around in the room, catching up on sleep, admin and even booking a trip to Madrid to do the newly started Tren De Filipe II; which is worked by Alco DL500 321048. How’s that for dedication?
By 3 o’clock I thought I’d better do something with the day and set out to have a walk to the old town in Baku, which is about 2km from the Staybridge Suites. I went via KFC to fuel up the afternoon of walking, where my food came to a little over £3 for 5 strips and large fries. It was a very hot afternoon, high 30’s, and I stuck to the shade as much as I could. It was also very, very windy throughout Baku, which actually prevented me from sweating as much as I had in other countries recently. On the way to the old town, I walked through the main pedestrian shopping area and was quite surprised at how progressed Azerbaijan was, it wasn’t the dustbowl I’d expected and was quite an up and coming city; as well as McDonalds, there was even a Pap Johns Pizza place. Which I had to laugh about as their pizzas are pretty shit really and I won’t touch them at home when the guys on nights want to do takeaway. Everyone had a smartphone and is smartly dressed, mostly in western style clothing, and nobody looks poor. Everyone I spoke to throughout the day spoke good English too, so the education, in Baku at least, must be quite good.
Baku’s old town is just that and its surrounded by a fortified wall. There are numerous access points through it though and the cobbled streets within can lead you wherever you want. There are audio tours that can be bought that will narrate your walk round the old town, with numbered signs representing where you are in the itinerary, or you can just walk round and point your camera at things as you see fit; like I did. Maiden Tower is probably the main attraction in the old town, and it stands prominently by some of the old ruins of the old town, which are cordoned off to preserve their very existence. Views from the top of the tower are supposed to be good but as the sun was going down I didn’t bother going up and continued ambling around, coming out of the old town by Icarisahar Metro station and then walked back to the hotel from there. Evidence of the recent Azerbaijan Grand Prix could be seen along the way with hoardings and protective mesh still being up along some of the route that the cars take by the old town.
I was ready for a rest by the time I got back to the hotel and prepared myself for a night on the bash. Food in the hotel restaurant, while it took a while to get someone to take my order, was worth waiting for; the spaghetti bolognaise I had was plentiful and very tasty and set up for the night out I was about to set off on.
A quick look out of the hotel room window before I headed out, revealed three sets of stock already in the station for the night’s departures and when I got down I found VL10-1605 being prepared to work 37 2110 Baku – Tbilisi. There are 5 nightly departures, 4 of which are domestic and then the Tbilisi on top. There are other international departures to Kharkiv, Ukraine, and Rostov & Moscow, Russia that run on selected days of the week and/or during Summer. The domestic overnights are as follows: 666 2140 Boyuk-Kasik, 656/664 2210 Kocharli / Balakan, 98 2320 Aghstafa / Gazakh & 660/672 2335 Astara / Horadiz. My bash plan would incorporate all but the Aghstafa/Gazakh on the way out but on the way back, the trains were in the correct order to incorporate all of them.
The station area was quite busy with the amount of trains that would depart in the next couple of hours and all of the stock I saw was either 2-berth, 4-berth or open sleeping berths; there was no sit up and beg seating on any of the sets, that I saw. Windows on all of the sets seemed to open a lot better than those in Moldova or Ukraine had and the temperatures inside were quite pleasant considering the high temperatures outside. When VL10-1605 eased out of Baku with its Tbilisi train I knew that VL10-1215 would be rolling into Bilajari shortly after it with 666 2140 Baku – Boyuk-Kasik, as it was attached and ready before the Tbilisi left and I did that forward to Garadagh and then VL10-585 behind it, forward to General Alat with 656/664 2210 Baku – Kocharli/Balakan; then came the surprise of the night!
After a pleasant wait, I was minding my own business when I could hear a noise in the distance, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I thought it was a freight at first but when I could see coaches trailing in behind the loco I realised that the loco I could hear was one of ADY’s new Kazakhstan build GE TE33’s with 660/672 2335 Baku – Astara/Horadiz. I knew the Astara line was diesel only but I wasn’t expecting the train to be diesel out of Baku at all and a pleasant surprise it was when TE33-0287 rolled in with the train. I was booked in the Astara portion and was beginning to flap a bit when my coach number wasn’t among those that had gone by me at the front of the train; I had to confirm with a coach attendant in the Horadiz portion that my coach was towards the rear of the train, where randomly there were more Astara coaches; leaving the Horadiz portion in the middle of the train with Astara portions either side of it! There was obviously some sense in the train composition somewhere but I wasn’t making any of it. From where I was, I couldn’t hear much from the front of the train, but could tell that the TE33 was making a bit of noise at least; and it sounded quite rough & ready.
At Cesid Shrivan, I decided to attempt to change my plans, in light of what had turned up on the Horadiz/Astara train, and was quickly able to change my ticket from a Cesid Shrivan – General Alat to a Cesid Shrivan – Baku. Two reasons for the change, one to get some sleep and two to be able to get a photo of the GE, assuming it was one on the opposing working of course, upon arrival into Baku. Sure enough, TE33-0291 rolled in with 659/671 2010 Astara / 2105 Horadiz – Baku and this time my berth was in the Horadiz portion in the middle of the train. I was closer to the front but all the windows were closed unfortunately so sleep it was; and I was grateful of the 3-hours sleep by this point.
Moves for Wednesday 5th July 2017
|ES2-002||Baku||Bilajari||6001||0800 Baku – Sumgayit|
|VL10-1236 (1)||Bilajari||Baku||37||1930 (04/07) Tbilisi – Baku|
|VL10-1605 (1)||Baku||Bilajari||38||2110 Baku – Tbilisi|
|VL10-1215 (1)||Bilajari||Garadagh||666||2140 Baku – Boyuk-Kasik|
|VL10-585 (1)||Garadagh||General Alat||656/664||2210 Baku – Kocharli / Balakan|
Gen for Wednesday 5th July 2017
VL10-1236 37 1930 (P) Tbilisi – Baku (ChME3T-7024 stock shunt at Baku)
VL10-1605 38 2110 Baku – Tbilisi
VL10-1215 666 2140 Baku – Boyuk-Kasik
VL10-585 656/664 2210 Baku – Kocharli/Balakan
TE33A-0287 672/660 2335 Baku – Horadiz/Astara (Horadiz portion in middle of train!)
TEM2-1424, ChME3T-7024 station shunt locos at Baku
All Sumgayit services ES2 Flirt EMUs
All remaining services ER2 EMUs
Photos for Wednesday 5th July 2017
Thursday 6th July 2017 (Day 2 of 2 in Baku, Azerbaijan before heading to Tbilisi, Georgia overnight)
I was sock on when the attendant woke me on the approach to Baku and we were two minutes early arriving. After a couple of quick photos there was no shortage of taxi drivers willing to nip me back out to Bilajari to do 665 1850 (P) Boyuk-Kasik – Baku back in, which I had to buy a ticket for as well as all but one of my night’s ticket had gone in the bin when I’d decided to do the GE all the way back into Baku. I easily made VL10-1574 with 665 though and was soon heading back out to Bilajari again in a taxi, once back in Baku. There were announcements going one when I arrived into Baku on 665 and I got the impression that the inbound 655/663 Kocharli/Balakan – Baku & 97 Aghstafa/Gazakh – Baku were both late judging by the body language of those waiting and I wasn’t wrong as I made the Kocharli/Balakan at Bilajari, which should have departed there before the Boyuk-Kasik had arrived into Baku. As I had a ticket for the Aghstafa/Gazakh train behind, I flagged VL10-1138 with the Kocharli/Balakan and waited for E4S-345V with the Aghstafa/Gazakh instead; which was only about 5 minutes behind it but still about 20’ late itself.
At Baku, the Boyuk-Kasik and the Kocharli/Balakan sets were still in the platforms and TEM2-1424 was only just coming out of the carriage sidings to start the clear-out exercise. It had white smoke pouring from its dustbin size exhaust on the roof and didn’t look too health at all; unlike ChME3T-7024, which looked pristine. As I had a bit of time before my final move of the morning I got a few shorts of the electrics in the station and that’s when my luck ran out. As with photting situations, you know your luck has ran out when a group of four security staff walk by you on the platform and then the next thing you can hear are foreign voices behind you; of course, they’d stopped and turned around when they’d realised it was me they were looking for and it took a hand on shoulder to get my attention as even though you just know they’re beckoning you, ignorance sometimes makes the situation go away; this time it didn’t. None of them spoke English and they of course wanted me to erase the photos I’d just taken and beckoned for me to get my camera out and “clean” it. The third time I asked why and told them that I was just a tourist seemed to work in my favour and I was waved away; thankfully! That was a close one and while I’d been systematically backing up my photos on the trip, along the way, I’d not downloaded what I’d taken the previous day so could have ended up with nothing from Azerbaijan at all if they’d insisted on my camera coming out of my bag!
Luckily, I didn’t have to go anywhere near the main platforms again when I did the 0800 Baku – Sumgayit EMU out to Bilajari for the Tbilisi overnight back in and upon arrival with VL10-1581 I was quick to make myself scarce. After just making breakfast for the second day in a row, I used the additional 3 hours I got at the Staybridge Suites, for being an IHG member, to the max and spent most of the late morning and early afternoon in bed! I did get a rude awakening at 1230 though, asking why I hadn’t checked out and they were put very straight about the situation!
At 1500 on the dot, I checked out and left my big bag at the hotel, before wondering to KFC for lunch and then using the relaxation area, on the station’s upper level, to get my admin up to date. It was quite pleasant sitting near the doors as every time they opened there was a nice breeze. I just couldn’t be arsed to walk to the old town again in the heat, even though it was a little more overcast and the wind wasn’t as strong. I’d done all I needed to the previous day and spent the afternoon chillin’ like an FYC but just without a skinny latte to sip on while I abused the Starbuck’s WiFi. I had my cold diet Pepsi for that!
Having nipped to the supermarket for some supplies, I timed it right to arrive back at the hotel 10 minutes before their social evening started and after eating my food, I could help myself to whatever beer, wine or champagne they had laid out in the breakfast area. There were also a load of nibbles, so I could have probably chomped on those instead of ordering food. My time at the Staybridge Suites had been a pleasant one and as I left, I knew I wouldn’t be staying in another hotel for 4 nights and even that was a token gesture stay, with my flight being at 0410 the following morning!
The station area had transformed from dormant and sunny to busy and dull by the time I got to my train. Again, there were already three sets of stock in for the outgoing string of overnights and they were all in different platforms to what they’d been the previous night. Before my engine was shunted onto the train, TEM2-1424, with its dustbin exhaust port, shunted a coach onto the front of the load 5 set; which a load of dignitaries boarded hey looked set to be having a good feast judging by the amount of food loaded on.
VL10-1138, which I’d flagged at Bilajari earlier, was soon dropping onto 38 2110 Baku – Tbilisi and VL10-1581, which had worked in with the inbound Tbilisi overnight that morning, was dropped onto 666 2140 Baku – Boyuk-Kasik. My compartment for four thankfully had a guy in it that spoke good English, who was heading to Tbilisi to meet up with a friend of his from Oxford, who’d spent some time in Azerbaijan teaching English. The other in the compo spoke no English, just like the coach attendant on this occasion. No sooner had we set off did bert have his chicken dinner spread all over the small table in the compo and he insisted I have a chicken leg; when I refused, based on his actions I got the impression that he was telling me that if I didn’t take it then he’d stuff it down my neck. I, politely, had to shove his chicken leg wielding hand away before he ended up clobbering me in the face with it.
There was also a group of lads in the next compo that spoke decent English as well, one of whom had even been to the UK. It was good to have a decent chat with a group of people for a change and it certainly passed the time while bert and ada in the compo polished off all the crap he had spread over the table and then just sat chewing the cud. I could see it coming as well, and when bert asked the English-speaking guy in the compo to ask me to swap my lower berth for his upper, I was actually quite glad as I could get my bed made up at that point. I did joke with him about how much he was going to offer me and he even produced a 5 Lari note! Of course, I waved it away and the English-speaking guy told him I’d been joking all along. With the air-con working well in the compo, I was glad to get to bed after my overnight moves the previous night. It wouldn’t be for long though as it was almost midnight and we were due at Boyuk-Kasik for Azerbaijani exit border control at 0655.
Moves for Thursday 6th July 2017
|TE33A-0287||General Alat||Cesid Shrivan||660 / 672||2335 (05/07) Baku – Astara / Horadiz|
|TE33A-0291||Cesid Shrivan||Baku||659 / 671||2010 Astara / 2105 Horadiz (05/07) – Baku|
|VL10-1574 (1)||Bilajari||Baku||665||1850 Boyuk-Kasik – Baku|
|E4S-345V||Bilajari||Baku||97||2130 Aghstafa / 2050 Gazakh (05/07) – Baku|
|ES2-004||Baku||Bilajari||6001||0800 Baku – Sumgayit|
|VL10-1581 (1)||Bilajari||Baku||37||1930 (5/07) Tbilisi – Baku|
|VL10-1138 (1)||Bilajari||Boyuk-Kasik||38||2110 Baku – Tbilisi|
Gen for Thursday 6th July 2017
TE33A-0291 659/671 2010 (P) Astara / 2105 (P) Horadiz – Baku (TEM2-1424 stock shunt at Baku)
VL10-1574 665 1850 (P) Boyuk-Kasik – Baku
VL10-1138 655/663 2245 (P) Kocharli / 1855 (P) Balakan – Baku, 38 2110 Baku – Tbilisi (to Boyuk-Kasik)
E4S-345V 97 2130 (P) Aghstafa / 2050 (P) Gazakh – Baku
VL10-1581 37 1930 (P) Tbilisi – Baku (ChME3T-7024 stock shunt at Baku)
All Sumgayit services ES2 Flirt EMUs
All remaining services ER2 EMUs
Photos for Thursday 6th July 2017
Friday 7th July 2017 (A day in Tbilisi, Georgia before heading overnight to Yerevan, Armenia)
It seems that on cross border trains in Azerbaijan, you’re not allowed to maximise sleep as we were woken for the border control, at Boyuk-Kasik, an hour before the booked stop. Once there, our passports were collected by the border staff and customs declarations collected by the customs staff. Eventually we were systematically called to the end compo to be processed out of the country, with only two being allowed into the compo at once; which explains why I kept seeing people walk by our compo with their passports in hand. It was civilized enough but they took longer than the allotted stopping time and we were 15’ late heading towards Georgia as a result. ADY’s VL10-1138 had been removed and replaced by Georgian Railways (SR) VL11M-371a/b.
At Gardabani, on the Georgian side of the border, our passports were collected and processed elsewhere, before being returned to us on board the train. Once that was done, well within the allotted 1 hour stop, we were even allowed off the train; which was where I discovered that VL11M-371a/b had disappeared, with the dignitaries’ coach off the front, and had been replaced by VL11-778a/b in the newer silver/red SR livery. While getting back onto the train, I noticed a door open on the offside of the train and as I peered out, VL11-315b/a & VL11-751a/b came bowling in, both crewed and panned up, with one coach. I thought we’d passed something going the other way between Boyuk-Kasik & Gardabani; and maybe this was it returning? There were a few people on board, all of whom immediately handed over their passports to the border staff waiting on the platform; which was why the offside door of our train was open. I got my new-found English-speaking mate to ask the station staff where the train was going and he was told to Tbilisi at 1000, which wouldn’t be far behind us as we were now waiting time for no reason, and adding to the lateness. As we set off from Gardabani, 15’ late, I was studying the timetables I had created for Georgia and couldn’t find the train from Gardabani to Tbilisi anywhere, unless it was a retimed Gardabani – Tbilisi service. The timetables had recently been updated for the Summer timetable and I thought I’d checked everything off, having created my stuff from the Winter timetable; but I could have missed something as I was only concentrating on the loco-hauled stuff.
Outside the train, the heavens opened as we got closer to Tbilisi and the skies turned darker and darker; it was pounding it down and I had all day in Tbilisi, with a fair bit of walking to do. First things first though, I had a word with myself and got off at Tbilisi Junction to wait and see if the VL11’s really did turn up behind us. Isani Metro shack was close by if needed, although I would have got soaked if I’d had to walk to it! Sure enough though, the VL11’s did turn up out of the gloom and I got wet enough just legging it to the doorway and clambering onto the train. The ticket, bought on board, cost less than 1GEL and at this point I was grateful that I’d got some Georgian currency while in Poland in April.
On the way into Tbilisi main station it was evident that the railway was run down with the amount of crap laying about and on the way from Gardabani I was surprised at some of the old station buildings that were now completely gutted and left crumbling; but they just stood there as a reminder of what things used to be like in the “good old days”. Every siding was full of scrap wagons, some derailed, some off their wheels, some that badly decayed that they’d fallen in on themselves. Tbilisi Central station was no different and the sidings at the side of the station were full of knackered coaches, with quite a few VL11’s and 4E10’s in amongst them. If SR sold all their crap to a scrap metal man then they could use the money to repair the platforms, which were in dire need of repair. They had potholes all over them and in places they had sunken below platform level. Without electronic display boards, you could easily mistake Tbilisi Central station for an abandoned one; it makes Skopje, Macedonia look like it’s in good condition!
I had things to do when I got to Tbilisi, just like I had to do in Baku, Azerbaijan, I needed to get train tickets sorted as the online booking website for both Georgia & Armenia, as well as Azerbaijan, wouldn’t work for me; which meant that I needed to get my Tbilisi – Yerevan – Tbilisi tickets on arrival and as I needed the outbound for that night, I’d already come up with a back-up plan if the train was full.
Tbilisi station is quite confusing as integrated into it is a shopping centre and above it on the 6th floor is the Hotel Tbilisi Central, where I was booked in on Monday night. Getting to the ticket office was fine though and to buy anything but local tickets, you must take a ticket from the automated machine and wait for your number to be called and use the ticket window indicated. For local tickets use windows 12 & 13 but these can only be bought for travel on the day, with nothing for local services being sold in advance. Luck was on my side and the woman serving me spoke very good English, she told me this was because she’d previously had an English boss and had been able to use her English a lot more than she would have done otherwise. I initially presented her with a pre-written list of international trains that I required tickets for. There was space on the overnight to Yerevan, Armenia, that night and there are three classes of sleeper berth available, 3rd which is open sleepers, 2nd which is 4-berth compartment berths and 1st which is 2-berth compartment berths (both lower). I opted for a bit of comfort in 1st class and was told that I could only pay for the ticket in cash as the train was Armenian run and the Georgians weren’t allowed to take card payments for tickets on Armenian operated trains. So, while the ticket was being issued I nipped to the cash machine to withdraw enough money to pay for what I needed, with the ticket to Yerevan costing GEL107.44.
Again, as the Yerevan train is Armenian operated, Georgian Railways can’t issue tickets from Yerevan to Tbilisi, although the woman told me that on occasion SCR to release a few in each class for SR to sell; but even then, there is a hefty price increase for them being sold outside of Armenia and it’s a lot cheaper to buy the tickets at the point of origin. So that’s what I was forced to do, I only hoped there was space on the train back the following night as my plans relied upon it. With the international tickets out of the way, I produced another pre-written list of internal SR trains I needed to book and these were all done systematically and without issue. The whole ticket booking experience was very good and I had no issues whatsoever in getting what I needed, other than the Yerevan – Tbilisi ticket; but that wasn’t SR’s fault. Job done, and in possession of almost everything I needed I attempted to figure out how to get to the 6th floor of the station building to see if the Hotel Tbilisi Central would hold my bag until I needed to check in on Monday night.
It turns out that there is only one way to get to the 6th floor and that’s from the lift at the platform level, which is actually clearly signed but just not from the ticket hall level. The guy at the reception of the Hotel Tbilisi Central spoke fluent English and was more than happy to store my bag in the luggage room; which was a great weight off my shoulders for s few days; literally! All sorted, with everything achieved that I needed, I set about doing the one thing I had on the agenda for the day; finding what used to be the Tbilisi Children’s Railway in Mushtaidi Park and caning in their TU7.
During the time I’d spent in the ticket office, the rain had almost stopped and as I walked out of the station, down the potholed pathways, all the stall owners were sweeping water off their bit of pathway in front of where they were selling. There was still a lot of surface water about though and as the sun attempted to get through, this made it quite humid. It took me about 25 minutes to walk to Mushtaidi Park and when I got there I realised what it was all about. The whole place is simply an amusement park and what was the Children’s Railway was now just another attraction within the park; with the amusement park quite possibly being the only thing that kept the remaining bit of railway open to this day?
To do the train you have to buy a Mushtaidi Park electronic card for GEL1 and then top it up with whatever you need for the rides around the place; the train ride being GEL1.50. The card is swiped on entry to each ride and monies deducted as appropriate. The girl at the ticket booth spoke good English and told me that the next train ride should be at 1300 but it might not run due to the lack of people being in the park because of the downpour that had occurred; she suggested I return 15 minutes beforehand and buy my tickets then, if the train was going to run. Thanking her, I walked through the park to use the free toilets and realised that other than the security staff and ride operators, I was the only person in the park; it was like a ghost park and if the rains continued, I didn’t fancy my chances of having the rainbow coloured TU7-2044, which at least I was allowed to photograph at the time, if nothing else.
As I sat on the steps outside the entrance to the train ride, it looked promising when a guy came out and put up a sign at the entry gate. It looked less promising when he returned a minute later with a sign saying the next train would be at 1400. When I gestured to him, he basically gestured back saying look around, there’s nobody here; and I totally understood of course. So, I went for a walk and returned at 1330, at which point I wasn’t the only person in the park but there weren’t many. I could hear a commotion coming from where the swinging ship was and found it to be some Indian girl screaming her head off as she thought she was going to fall out. At least the operator brought it under control and stopped it as soon as he could to let her off; silly cow!
At 1345 some strange music was put over the loudspeaker system but the train ride and an announcement was made, I assume advertising its departure at 1400. My card was swiped at the gate as I entered and I sat in the driest seat I could find in the front of the three open sided coaches; for the thrash of course. Some guy turned up, started TU7-2044 up and at 1400 on the dot we set off and did the circle of the park, which is about 1.2km all in. The other two stations on the circular route are not used not and are just left to decay in their corners of the park, pretty much untouched other than a bit of graffiti. Once the circular route is completed, the train is reversed back into the platform and the TU7 shut down, then it’s all off, thanks for coming and have a nice day. There was no thrash of course, it was a complete totter and is really something to fill the time; it’s just a shame a TU7 ended up stranded there and not a TU2.
I’d spied McDonald’s on my ME Maps and it provided me with somewhere to while away a bit of time as well as some food; there was then of course the WiFi abuse and use of a clean bog before I left. My original afternoon plan had been to just do the 1750 Tbilisi – Poti EMU out to Khashuri for my booked overnight to Yerevan but while sat in McD’s I’d had a brainwave and figured out I could do the 1615 Tbilisi – Borjomi Park EMU out to the first stop at Didube, for the combined trains 11/17 Oruzgeti/Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi back in; and then still do my planned move with 35 minutes to spare.
The ticket office was nothing like it had been that morning, where I’d taken my ticket and my number had been instantly displayed, this time there were 53 people in front of me. Credit where credit is due though, it only took 15 minutes to get through to it being my turn; during which time, I bought a local ticket, from the local ticket windows 12/13, for the short journey to Didube on the 1615 Borjomi local. A first-class ticket, on the 1750 Tbilisi – Poti, cost GEL23.00, which I thought was a little on the steep side at the time. The ticket back from Didube to Tbilisi wasn’t worth paying for, it was disgustingly cheap and in comparison, while not AC, I had a ticket from Tsipa (just beyond Khashuri) to Tbilisi on train 11/17 for later in the trip, which cost GEL8. The wedged EMU dropped me at Didube and VL10-695 took me back into Tbilisi on 11/17 Ozurgeti/Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi; which to put in context cost less than my journey round the Mushtaidi Park earlier! ChME3-5287 was on hand to shunt the stock out off 11/17 as soon as VL10-695 was hooked off.
With a bit of time to kill, I headed out of the off-side of the station to use the Carrefour supermarket that I’d found on ME Maps and multi-tasked on my way back by getting some photos off the car park, looking down at all the demic electrics scattered about the place. E10-914 is even dumped in-between some of the stock, off its bogies, and looks like it’s been there a while. I wasn’t able to identify everything but there are two lines at the Didube end of the station and then three more dumped under the canopy at the opposite end of the station, with E10-914 being over the back of the demic stock lines. The following were identifiable:
11I-447, 11-143, 11-279 at the Tbilisi Junction end of the shack.
4E10S-933, E10-235, 4E10-1602, VL10-1159 & 11-675 in the lines at the Didube end of the station.
The 1735 Tbilisi – Batumi was a nice shiny new Stadler double-deck EMU and quite full. My 1750 Tbilisi – Poti was EMU GRS-005 and I was surprised at how nice it was inside the 1st class, with reclining seats, working AC and good strong WiFi. It made paying the £8 or so worth it for the 90-minute journey; which we set off on 5’ late. It started to rain again the moment we left Tbilisi and didn’t stop for a while. Dark cloud could be seen rolling in over the hills as we headed out towards Khashuri and the journey is very scenic; evermore so when its gloomy and dull, making it very atmospheric as we sped through the countryside. Yep, that’s right, we sped through the countryside, the line-speed was quite good but when we came to a stand, out of course, at Gomi, a few shacks from Khashuri, I had visions of waving at my overnight as it went by; but the flap was soon over and we were back up to speeding through the countryside and into Khashuri only 15’ late on a plus 54’.
In the station, I was immediately baffled when I found a load 2 set with a twin-set electric on either end. I soon figured out that VL10-1759 had arrived into Khashuri with 6447 1705 Zestafoni – Khashuri and VL10-1848 shunted the two coaches out of the main platforms and into a bay at the Zestafoni end of the station, right by where VL19-01 is plinthed. VL10-639/VL10-1607 were sat waiting to go with a freight and VL10-066 was sat beside them with a crew in it. On shed at Khashuri I noticed VL11-173, VL11-263, VL10-1599 and VL10-1841.
It was all go at Khashuri, what with the train I’d got off, the shunting of the stock ex 6447 from Zestafoni and the pair of VL10’s on the freight and my 201 1535 Batumi – Yerevan was approaching in the distance before I knew it. Surprisingly, it arrived with VL10-1241/VL10-690, the former in green, the latter in silver/red. My coach 15 was towards the rear of the train and unfortunately my compartment was right over the bogie at one end; on the plus side, I had it to myself the whole way to Yerevan though. Evil Edna was the coach attendant and what a miserable bitch she was; there wasn’t an ounce of customer service in her and she just grunted her way through the trip and threw things on tables without anything ever resembling a smile at all. Someone ought to tell her the Soviets had left town some time ago now!
Still, I was given a bottle of still water, a bottle of fizzy water, a box of sweets, my bedding pack and then an overnight pack, which included tooth brush/paste, comb, soap, cotton buds, wipes and even a pair of disposable slippers, like those you get in some hotels these days. After that I was left to my own devices and she then looked at me as if I had two heads when I got off at Tbilisi to have a nosey.
I just managed to spot VL11-747b/a before they departed with 602/654 2145 Tbilisi – Zugdidi/Ozurgeti. While I was spotting that the pair of VL10’s on 201 were removed and replaced by Armenian Railways (SCR) VL10-1303. I hadn’t expected the SCR loco to come all the way to Tbilisi, but there it was. Departure was prompt from Tbilisi and my compo seemed to be the only one that was single occupied as we rolled out.
Georgian exit border control was done on the train, on the move, and I’d seen the border staff getting on with their computers at Tbilisi. Passports were taken and returned some 45 minutes later, then it was lights out time until the Armenian entry border control at Aryum at just after midnight; this was done at the door of the compartments and I thought I was going to get questioned when the guy processing my passport noticed my Azerbaijan stamps but rather than question me he opted to scan the page with the stamps on it, stamp me into Armenia and wish me a pleasant stay. It was nice having the compo to myself and the air-con was working very well too as I turned the lights out for the night.
Moves for Friday 7th July 2017
|11M-371a||Boyuk-Kasik||Gardabani||38||2110 (06/07) Baku – Tbilisi|
|11-315b||Tbilisi Junction||Tbilisi Central||1000 Gardabani – Tbilisi|
|TU7-2044||Pionerskaya||Pionerskaya||1400 Pionerskaya – Pionerskaya via Radostnaya|
|ES-006||Tbilisi Central||Didube||686||1615 Tbilisi – Borjomi Park|
|10-695 (1)||Didube||Tbilisi Central||11 / 17||0920 Ozurgeti / 1215 Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi|
|GRT-005||Tbilisi Central||Khashuri||874||1750 Tbilisi – Poti|
|10-1241a||Khashuri||Tbilisi Central||201||1535 Batumi – Yerevan|
|VL10-1303 (1)||Tbilisi Central||Ayrum|
Gen for Friday 7th July 2017
TEM2UM-764 (ADY) at Boyuk-Kasik
11-715, 10-171 (SR) at Boyuk-Kasik
VL11M-371a/b 38 2110 (P) Baku – Tbilisi (Boyuk-Kasik to Gardabani) then disappeared with dignitaries coach?
11-778a/b 38 2110 (P) Baku – Tbilisi (Gardabani to Tbilisi)
11-257a/b at Gardabani with a freight
11-315b/a / 11-751a/b + 1 coach at Gardabani arr from Boyuk-Kasik then did 1000 Gardabani – Tbilisi
10-695 11/17 0920 Ozurgeti / 1215 Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi
GRS-002 (Stadler EMU) 804 1735 Tbilisi – Batumi
GRT-005 (EMU) 874 1750 Tbilisi – Poti
ChME3-5287 Tbilisi station pilot
10-1759 6447 1705 Zestafoni – Khashuri
10I-1848 shunt stock ex 6447 to bay platform
10-1241/10-265 201 1535 Batumi – Yerevan (to Tbilisi)
VL10-1303 (SCR) 201 1535 Batumi – Yerevan (from Tbilisi)
11-747b/a 602/654 2145 Tbilisi – Zugdidi/Ozurgeti
11I-447, 11-143, 11-279 dumped at Tbilisi under station canopy
4E10S-933, E10-235, 4E10-????, 4E10-1602, 4E10-???? Plus a few more dumped at Tbilisi on outside line (photted)
4E10-????, VL10-1559 + 1 more 10/11, 4E10-1635, 11-675 dumped at Tbilisi inside line
E10-914 off its bogies
11-173, 11-263, 10-1599, 10-066, 10-1841 at Khashuri
10-639/10-1607 with a freight at Khashuri
Photos for Friday 7th July 2017
Saturday 8th July 2017 (A day in Yerevan, Armenia, before returning overnight back to Tbilisi, Georgia)
Evil Edna didn’t even bother knocking to announce her presence as we were an hour out of Yerevan; and she just casually unlocked the compo door and turned on the light and beckoned that I should get up. She then went about making sure everyone got their bedding together an dit was handed back, pronto! She really was a twat and I was glad to get off at Yerevan. SCR’s VL10-1303 was still at the front of the train and the stock was shunted out while I dithered in the booking office, trying to figure out what time it opened; so, I could buy my ticket back to Tbilisi for that afternoon.
There are two booking offices at Yerevan, one I figured for local trains and the other for “the” international train. Neither had any indication, in any language, as to what time they opened for service and some guy told me that it was 10 o’clock. With that I headed outside the station for a nosey around. Yerevan station looks well from the outside but not so much on the platforms, where there’s no character at all to the place. The outside is very grand though and there morning market, on the roadway, was causing all kinds of chaos with traffic that wanted to squeeze buy. Not wanting to waste the time I had, I decided that I’d head back to the booking office and catch up with some admin while I waited; and at least I’d be first in the queue when it did open then. And a good plan it was as it actually opened at 9 o’clock, not 10 o’clock! W there was availability anyway, from the computer screen in the booking office and after I’d bought my 1st class ticket from Yerevan to Batumi one place was immediately knocked off the availability list. The cost of the ticket was AMD27400 and again I could only pay in cash, so had to withdraw the money from the cash machine in the booking hall foyer. I was allowed straight back to the front of the queue though and my ticket was issued immediately.
When I’d originally planned my trip into Armenia, the overnight between Tbilisi & Yerevan only ran every other night in each direction and didn’t run to/from Batumi; which is a Summer only thing. The resulting Summer timetable, while advantageous, only gave me until 1530 in Yerevan and not 2130 as per my original plan; so, I only had time to do one thing and there’d be no sightseeing. That one thing would be walking the 3.5km to the site of what used to be the Yerevan Children’s Railway, which I assumed now wasn’t. As it was 3.5km as the crow flew, it was more like 4 to 4.5km by the time I got there and the route from the station is pretty much straight through the centre of the city and then through a random single bore tunnel, when you get near to the railway, which clearly used to be for cars and is now pedestrian only; and its evident to see why when walking through it. Not only are the retaining walls bulging at the seams but the supports that are holding the retaining wall to whatever is behind it have started to give way and are coming away from the floor at the bottom of the struts. Looking down the wall, and seeing how uneven the surface it, it is only a matter of time before the retainer gives in and the walls collapse in on each other; and it’s not somewhere I’d like to be when that happens. It didn’t stop me using the same route on the return though, as of course, it will never happen to you!
As soon as I clapped eyes on the amusement park that sits above the railway station down below, it was immediately evident that this was another old Children’s Railway that was probably only in existence to this day because of the amusement park nearby. The steps leading down to the old station building, which is barely used and mostly cordoned off, aren’t signed at all and its only for the peak of the station building and ME maps that I knew where to head for at all. There was nobody there when I got there but TU2-096 was attached to two open sided coaches and 1937 Russian built steam loco L-0434 was stood on the adjacent road. In the bushes beyond the back of the train are two derelict old Russian coaches, which were probably in use during the Soviet days, when the railway operated as a Children’s Railway; one of the coaches still had the CCCP plaque on the side of it.
After a bit of waiting around some old guy set up a plastic table on the platform, with drinks and snacks for sale and a few other folks began milling about; which I thought was a good sign but all they wanted to do was get photos of their kids on board the train and then do one. I did manage to find out, thanks to one woman speaking English, that the first train would apparently operate at 11 o’clock; so, I hung around and waited. Eventually things started to look like they were happening, a young lad turned up, who was eventually to be the guard/ticket guy, and another guy turned up carrying large plastic containers, which I got the impression were fuel or oil for the loco. Eventually TU2-096 was started and I was pleasantly surprised when it roared into life. It sounded more like I’d expected a TU2 to sound and nothing like the dismal two I’d had on the Haivoron NG section in Ukraine earlier in the trip. So maybe the TU2’s in Ukraine are being silenced or re-engined on overhaul?
11 o’clock came and went and the first thing that happened was the third coach was attached to the rear of the set and the TU2 took the lot about 400m out of the station, where sleepers were unloaded from the rear coach. It was all shunted back into the station and the loco then shut down again. The ticket window was eventually opened and I was the first to buy a ticket, which cost AMD300, about 50p, but once I took up residence on board the train I was turfed off again. One guy had tried to explain why in German but eventually an English-speaking woman told me that they had to shunt the train out of the station again, which was why I had to get off. Once back in the train would only run when there were 10 people or more to ride it. The woman went on to tell me that she’d ridden the train back in the Soviet days when it was still a Children’s Railway and it was just as farcical then, she said.
When all said and done, the farce at least allowed me to get a few shots of the TU2 when it was shunting in and out and eventually the train was loaded up, when enough people were about, and departed at 1147. ME Maps and my Speedometer GPS app came in handy during the run, which took 10 minutes to do the return trip and was 0.94km in either direction. The line now runs to the second station on the line, although we couldn’t get off and the train simply reversed straight away and the TU2 push its train back. The other intermediate station just lay in ruins, like those on the Mushtaidi Park railway in Tbilisi. I had more thrash from the little TU2 on the 2km trip than I did on the 6-hour journey I’d done on them in Ukraine! I need to find a TU2 that sounds like ‘096 does, on one of the railways in Ukraine, or elsewhere in the ex-CIS countries.
Pleased with the morning’s activities, I headed back towards the station on foot, and Pizza Hut provided the necessary food, AC, WiFi and clean bog to utilize; before I headed back to the station for my 1530 Yerevan – Batumi service. EMU ER2K-621 was sat in the station waiting to depart with 686 1430 Yerevan – Gyumri and every other local I’d seen while in Armenia had also been one of the old ER2 EMU’s as well. No sooner had it departed did ChME3-5383 bring the stock in for 202 1530 Yerevan – Batumi and VL10-169 backed on almost immediately afterwards. The coach attendant on this occasion couldn’t have been any nicer, even if she didn’t speak English. The compartment was already laid out with the bedding and overnight kits, as well as the bottled water, box of sweets and this time tea cups and tea/coffee; and randomly a box of tissues. As we rolled out of Yerevan, I was the sole occupant of my compartment and was hoping it would stay that way all the way to Batumi; making the £45 price-tag for the ticket more than worth it. What I hadn’t realised on the journey to Yerevan, but discovered shortly after departure from Yerevan, was that there was very good free WiFi on board as well; which came in rather handy.
I was enjoying my relaxing and on departure from Gyumri noticed a load of demic ChME3’s stood on the equally as demic old roundhouse. The camera managed to get them all but one didn’t have any evidence of a number at all. The three it got were: ChME3T-6670, ChME3T-6381 & ChME3-5415. Demic on the shed, a bit further along, were a few VL8’s and some VL10’s, of which I managed to get VL10-1694 & VL10-1644. The line climbs away from Gyumri and the scenery on both sides of the train was worth pointing the camera at as well but once over the hill and descending, the sun disappeared and the cloud that made the photos quite atmospheric gave us a dull journey towards Georgia from that point on.
Exiting Armenia, less than 24 hours after I’d entered, was a simple affair and the border staff seemed keen not to delay the train by the time they got to my coach and breezed through it quite quickly; it was quite empty by then though anyway, with quite a lot of people having got off internally within Armenia. Once on our way from Aryum, it wasn’t too long before we were crossing into Georgia and arriving into Sadakhlo station. After sitting there for 15 minutes, it all became apparent as to how the border staff that ride out of Tbilisi with the opposing working, get back into Tbilisi; when SCR’s VL10-1709 arrived with 201 1535 Batumi – Yerevan. The moment the Georgian border staff had transferred trains, we were off; and their gripping commenced. Why they had to take our passports, process them somewhere else on the train and then hand them back an hour later; when everyone just wanted to be dossed out!? Still, it was a harmless exercise and my passport was the last to be handed back. It was then lights out and goodnight.
Moves for Saturday 8th July 2017
|TU2-096||Hayrenik||Hayrenik||1147 departure from Hayrenik|
|VL10-025 (1)||Yerevan||Ayrum||202||1530 Yerevan – Batumi|
|VL10-025 (1)||Ayrum||Tbilisi Central|
Gen for Saturday 8th July 2017
TU2-096 Yerevan ex Children’s Railway
ChME3-5383 ecs into Yerevan for 202
VL10-025 202 1530 Yerevan – Batumi (to Tbilisi)
ER2-621 686 1430 Yerevan – Gyumri
ChME3T-6670, ChME3T-6381, ChME3-5415 + 1 other demic at Gyumri roundhouse
VL10-1644, VL10-1694 + 2 demic VL8s at Gyumri shed
TGM4-1375, TGM4-2186, TGM4-2599 (Private Owner) at Alaverdi in some works compound
VL10-1709 (SCR) 201 1535 Batumi – Yerevan
Photos for Saturday 8th July 2017
Sunday 9th July 2017 (A full day in Georgia – Day 1 of 2 covering Batumi & Ozurgeti)
I hadn’t planned to be, but as I was awake when SCR VL10-025 eased into Tbilisi, it would have been rude not to have a walk and spot what would be working train 202 forward to Batumi. I’d already got my alarm set to get me up at Zestafoni to see what had piloted us from Khashuri, as every train is timed to have a loco attached and detached at Khashuri & Zestafoni; in both directions. I must have got lucky when the pilot loco went through to Tbilisi on my way down to Yerevan? With 10-690 up front, I retired back to my compo and was rather pleased that nobody else had joined me at Tbilisi, in fact there were only 4 of the 1st class compo’s occupied from Tbilisi. The alarm had to remain set for Zestafoni though; unfortunately.
The coach attendant, as nice as she was, was a little confused as to why I wanted to get off at Zestafoni and as she spoke no English I couldn’t even attempt to explain; she let me off anyway but did keep her eagle eye on me as I trotted to the front of the train. Where I found 10-066, which had been stabled at Khashuri two days previous, just being detached from the front of 10-690. I was straight back to bed then and the next thing I knew was when the coach attendant was knocking on the door to get me up for arrival into Batumi.
Batumi station is a huge, mainly unused, pie in the sky, waste of time affair, about 3km from Batumi itself; which is visible up the coast and has an impressive skyline. There were obviously grand plans for the new station but they didn’t last long, with cafes & a restaurant locked up and a lot of unused space going to waste and it didn’t seem right that Batumi got a brand-new station, which was underutilized, when Tbilisi was in desperate need of a complete rebuild before it fell to pieces and caused someone, or something, some harm.
There were plenty of taxi drivers, all vying for fares at the foot of the steps up to each coach. There was at least one café open, where things could be had for breakfast and I couldn’t buy a ticket for the 0825 Batumi – Kutaisi 1 local until new Stadler EMU GRS-012 had departed with 803 0730 Batumi – Tbilisi. The ticket cost a mere 1 GEL to Natanebi and when I asked the arrival time into Natanebi, the woman at the next window produced a hand-written list of times for train 683 0825 Batumi – Kutaisi 1; which showed it to be at Natanebi at 0929. I guess this proves that there are no proper timetables available, even to staff, for anything other than the express services which are listed and available from the SR website.
EMU ES-04 had comfy, soft seats, on board and was a pleasant enough ride for a local train. It even had toilets in use but they weren’t in the best of health. I did notice that at the end of each coach there were ticket machines and those getting on at wayward shacks went straight to buy their tickets; they were solely in Georgian script though so there was no way I’d end up getting the right ticket if I tried!
Natanebi is a junction station, with the Batumi – Samtredia line going south to north and the Ozurgeti branch heading off east, from just north of the station. Any trains using the Ozurgeti branch, coming from the Samtredia direction, must reverse and in the case of the two-daily loco-hauled services, run-round. The station itself had seen better days but wasn’t as derelict as some. The local dog population seemed to look after it and chased anything, or anyone away, that they didn’t like the look of; which included the local cow population chewing the cud on the platforms, on the tracks and in the undergrowth by the station buildings. The dog’s scare tactics didn’t seem to work on the chickens that were roaming about, who just stood their ground and stared the dogs out; it was all interesting to watch really.
I’d originally had grand plans of covering both the Ozurgeti & Zugdidi branches in the one day but that would have meant getting from Batumi to Ozurgeti by doing the 0730 Tbilisi EMU to Ukreki and then getting some form of road transport to Ozurgeti, to be on the train I was waiting at Natanebi for, out of Ozurgeti. Then doing the Zugdidi branch would have meant a lot of EMU mileage and a big fester in Zugdidi, for not a lot of gain; so, I opted for the easy move and was going to cover Ozurgeti only by doing the daytime Ozurgeti – Tbilisi to Rioni for the opposing working back to Ozurgeti and then the nighttime Ozurgeti – Tbilisi back towards Tbilisi; mainly to get the ChME3 shunt in at Samtredia, where the Ozurgeti portion is shunted to the Zugdidi portion.
10-695 arrived into Natanebi with 11 0920 Ozurgeti – Tbilisi and was instantly cut off and run around its three-coach train. The daytime seating coaches used on the Ozurgeti/Kutaisi – Tbilisi, and vice versa, are in a decent enough state but the windows were all open, meaning there was no working air-con. My coach wasn’t wedged so I moved to a different seat, one at a window that wasn’t condensed up, so I could at least see out of it.
Samtredia is a big place and on both sides of the main station there are big yards, there are wagons dumped everywhere and there’s one yard, just east of Samtredia, that is the size of Toton Yard and is completely unused, with wagons occupying every road; in various states of disrepair, some derailed and some so much part of the undergrowth that they would need cutting up on site. Still, there does appear to be a working yard at Samtredia and ChME3T-6896 was shunting a short freight around, while 10I-1169 was just dropping onto a lengthy freight in the yard.
My coach never filled up en-route to Rioni and I got off into a furnace; it was scorching outside, which explained the warmth inside the coach, even with the windows open. 10-408 was sat on one side of the train I’d just got off and 11-261a/b. I stood in the shade, waiting for the one coach portion from Kutaisi 1 to arrive as 17 1215 Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi, and be shunted onto train 11. This never happened and train 11 went forward with just three coaches from Ozurgeti, having not had a portion from Kutaisi attached. Bizarrely, just as train 11 started to move off, a 2-car EMU arrived into Rioni from the Kutaisi 1 line. There was no set number on it but it looked newly refurbished, with dates on all the components below sole-bar showing 30/06/17. The car numbers were 1101-03 & 974-04. At 1310 it headed off in the direction it came from, but followed the Samtredia line, and could have been heading towards Kutaisi 2? There were people on it and I couldn’t find any evidence on the timetable in the booking office to explain what it was. I initially though that the Kutaisi 1 portion for train 11 was now running as an EMU and when it didn’t make, there was a reason as the EMU was completely devoid of people, so there was nobody to connect. However, when train 12/18 0900 Tbilisi – Ozurgeti/Kutaisi 1 arrived with 4 coaches and the rear one was immediately split off, that put that guess in the bin. 10-408 shunted onto 11-261a/b and the pair were last seen waiting to drop onto the coach that had been left behind in the platform when train 12 continued on its journey towards Ozurgeti; with 11-748a/b at the helm.
The 2-car EMU didn’t turn back up before train 12 departed so the mystery remains. An ES2 EMU did arrive and depart with 634 1020 Sachkhere – Kutaisi 1 thought. That much I could figure out from the timetable. Which itself offered an explanation to something recently reported by someone else. It showed trains 6323 0920 Kutaisi 1 – Tikibuli and 6324 1305 Tikibuli as only running at weekends from 01/07/17, until “the end of repair works on the section”.
I spent the afternoon on board my train towards Ozurgeti dozing and was thankful I got a seat by an open window, although it was wedged from Rioni it emptied out by Samtredia and after 11-748a/b ran around at Natanebi, that was when the stagger started. It was an absolute totter down the whole length of the Ozurgeti branch, one to even rival that of the Holovanivsk – Pomichna train while on the Holovanivsk branch. The train wasn’t well used at all on the branch but the odd person did get off at the most wayward of shacks on it, the only one of any size at all being Ozurgeti itself. Most were just platforms and a hut, in the middle of nowhere. Ozurgeti station itself still has a sizable station building, much of which isn’t used anymore, although it is kept from decay, unlike others.
After getting a few photos of 11-748a/b on arrival, I noticed that both sections had a works plate, which didn’t seem to be the norm for any of the VL series twin electrics. Closer inspection revealed two things, one that the recent list posted has some rogue builder’s dates for some of the locos as the year of build was shown as 1986 and not 1981, and two that 11-748 might be having an identity crisis as both sections had 11-448 stamped on their builder’s plates! When I check a couple of other builder’s plates throughout the trip, all matched the number on the loco itself. It could well have been a mistake of course? Either way, whatever the loco was, it shunted the three coaches it had arrived with into the back road of the station and attached to the load 5 set in the main platform, to form 653 2135 Ozurgeti – Tbilisi overnight; which would join with 601 2215 Zugdidi – Tbilisi at Samtredia.
My quest for food that evening took me on a walking tour of Ozurgeti. The only notable building, what was possibly the town hall or something similar, was cordoned off round the whole of its perimeter. I found a couple of places to eat on my walk and settled on the first place I’d come across, which was a pizza place on the main road leading directly away from the station; on the right-hand side as you walk away from the station. I was the only customer during my time there and the pizza was good, and washed down with a good Georgian beer. There was a small local convenience store on the opposite side of the road, closer to the station, which allowed me to restock on fluid and snacks before returning to the station to wait it out; there wasn’t too much going on it Ozurgeti.
Just like Natanebi that morning, Ozurgeti had its own dog fraternity, which again kept order on the platforms and they also followed anyone around who might have a sniff of any food they liked. I watched them sniffing at people as they walked by, to see if they had any food, which would explain why they followed me initially; with my bad of food from the shop. One of the poor things had a scabby eye and looked like it might have been blind in one of them but they didn’t try and chase the cows off the platform, like the dogs at Natanebi, everything seemed to live in harmony at Ozurgeti.
The on-train staff were all sat under a tree playing cards until shortly before departure and the guy in my coach turned out to be an utter cock! Not an ounce of customer service in him and he barely managed to grunt at me, let alone acknowledge my ticket when I showed it to him. I was in a 1st class compartment again, which I kept to myself all night, and it was an hour after departure that Mr Happy came around for tickets, by which time my door was locked and I was dossed out. Boy, did he not like that and had a right go at me. I reminded him that if someone wanted to gain access they were more than capable of knocking on the door and locked it behind him as he trudged off down the coach.
My alarm was set for Samtredia as I needed to be awake for the shunt as it had been reported recently that the Ozurgeti portion got shunted onto the Zugdidi portion by a ChME3. Sure enough, newly painted ChME3T-6896 was sat at the Batumi end of the station as we arrived into platform 2. The Zugdidi set was already in platform 1 and while 11-748 was being detached from the front, the ChME3T was being attached to the rear. It then shunted the Ozurgeti portion out and propelled it onto the rear of train 601 2215 Zugdidi – Tbilisi. As soon as we stopped the door was opened and I legged it to the rear to check the ChME3, which was ‘6896, and then I walked towards the front of the train to check the train loco on 601. As I walked by my coach some guy stopped me and pointed towards the coach attendant, who was seemingly trying to get my attention. My earplugs were doing a good job of keeping him out! He started remonstrating with me about the fact my coach was there and my door was where he was pointing to and started getting a bit shirty; at which I lost my cool, told him I was going to the front of the train whether he liked it or not and then asked him what his fucking problem was! The wanker got the gist from my tone that I wasn’t impressed and shut up; meanwhile everyone on the platform is looking on, at almost 1am in the morning!
I found 10-627 at the head of 601 2215 Zugdidi – Tbilisi and had news for Mr Happy, this wouldn’t be the last time I got off to check loco numbers as with the train now being load 11, I was convinced that a pilot loco would be added at Zestafoni to work through to Khashuri. When I got up at Khashuri to check, there wasn’t a word said and 10I-234 was just being unhooked when I got to the front. I could then relax for the last 90 minutes of the journey to Mtskheta, where I’d be getting off to head to Borjomi to cover the Borjomi – Bakuriani narrow gauge electrics.
Moves for Sunday 9th July 2017
|10-690 (1)||Tbilisi Central||Batumi||202||1530 (08/07) Yerevan – Batumi|
|ES-004||Batumi||Natanebi||683||0825 Batumi – Kutaisi 1|
|10-695 (1)||Natanebi||Rioni||11||0920 Ozurgeti – Tbilisi|
|11-748a||Rioni||Ozurgeti||12||0900 Tbilisi – Ozurgeti|
|11-748b||Ozurgeti||Samtredia||653||2135 Ozurgeti – Tbilisi|
Gen for Sunday 9th July 2017
10-690 202 1530 (P) Yerevan – Batumi (from Tbilisi)
10-066 pilot 202 1530 (P) Yerevan – Batumi (from Khashuri to Zestafoni)
GRS-012 803 0730 Batumi – Tbilisi
ES-004 (EMU) 683 0825 Batumi – Kutaisi 1
ES-002 (EMU) 6306 0755 Ozurgeti – Batumi
10-695 11 0920 Ozurgeti – Tbilisi
GRS-xxx (Stadler EMU) 806 0620 Tbilisi – Batumi
GRS-xxx (Stadler EMU) 802 0800 Tbilisi – Batumi
GRT-xxx (EMU) 870 0810 Tbilisi – Zugdidi
10I-1169 freight in Samtredia Yard
Massive Yard just rotting away at Samtredia
2-car EMU (car No’s 1101-03/974-04) arr from Kutaisi 1 then head towards Samtredia at 1310 (all dates on EMU were 30/06/17)
17 1215 Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi portion did not run and no Kutaisi 1 portion was attached to train 11 at Rioni
10-408/11-261b/a 18 0900 Tbilisi – Kutaisi 1 (from Rioni – 1 coach portion detached from rear of train 12)
ES2-1060-backward 6 634 1020 Sachkhere- Kutaisi 1
11-748b/a 12 0900 Tbilisi – Ozurgeti, 653 2135 Ozurgeti – Tbilisi (to Samtredia where portion shunts to 601 2215 Zugdidi – Tbilisi)
11-748a/b units both have works plates with VL11-448 stamped on them!
ChME3T-6896, 10I-403, 10I-749 Samtredia Yard
ChME3-5464, 10(E)-1629 at Samtredia Station Yard
ES-006 (EMU) 6305 1715 Batumi – Ozurgeti
10-627 601 2215 Zugdidi – Tbilisi
10I-234 pilot 601 2215 Zugdidi – Tbilisi (from Zestafoni to Khashuri)
ChME3T-6896 shunt Ozurgeti portion ex 653 to 601 at Samtredia
10-684 at Samtredia with a freight
Photos for Sunday 9th July 2017
Monday 10th July 2017 (Covering the Borjomi – Bakuriani narrow gauge)
Mr Happy had calmed down a bit by the time he had to let me know we weren’t too far from Mtskheta. The reason I was getting off there was as the Summer timetable change had meant that 601/653 Zugdidi/Ozurgeti – Tbilisi arrived into Tbilisi at 0629 and was now only a plus 1 onto the 0630 Tbilisi – Borjomi EMU and with train 601 dumping me at a deserted Mtskheta 10’ late, it was a wise move. I was the only person to get off the train at Mtskheta and there was absolutely no chance I’d have got the engine number, had I not already got it. The driver was blowing his whistle the moment the train stopped and I barely had time to get off, let alone take a stride along the platform, before the train was underway again.
That was me for an hour and there was nothing at all to do, in the immediate vicinity of the station anyway. It looked like Mtskheta had recently had a raised concrete platform built, workmanship of which was shoddy and it was falling apart at the seams now. It wouldn’t be long before someone went through the platform and onto the old low platform beneath it was my guess. There was still a low platform available but the loop it would be accessed from was full of demic wagons, as was the one at the opposite side of the raised platform. The station building looked relatively intact but was no longer in use; so, ticket on the train it would be.
After Stadler EMU GRS-012 went hammering through with 806 0620 Tbilisi- Batumi, ES-001 came bumbling along behind it with 618 0620 Tbilisi – Borjomi Park local service, for local people. Again though, it had comfy seating inside and working toilets. I didn’t bother with the ticket machines on board, mainly as I couldn’t read what they were saying. One of the grippers, when they did a full grip near Khashuri, was more than happy to take my 2 Lari coin, get my ticket for me, and give me 1 Lari back in change for the privilege. So that was 1 Lari for a 4-hour journey; about 35p!
As we passed through Khashuri, 10I-234, which had piloted my overnight earlier, 10-1715, 11-316a/b, 10-1607 & 10-1895 were all present, with ChME3T-6899 stabled over the back of the yard adjacent to the station. The journey from Khashuri takes a left turn towards Borjomi, where for the second day in a row I was subjected to a complete and utter stagger as the EMU negotiated the Borjomi branch. I wasn’t too bothered as most of the journey was spent trying to catch up on sleep that I’d not had the night before; and the slower the train, the better the chances of doss.
When we eventually rounded the corner into Borjomi Freight station, which is the station before Borjomi Park, the narrow gauge shed of the Borjomi – Bakuriani line comes into view. There were plenty of wagons dotted around and some demic looking coaches. Also visible from the train were the following ChS11’s – ChS11-011 dumped in the middle of the yard and then ChS11-01, ChS11-04 & Chs11-08 lined up outside the shed. Of which only ChS11-08 looked serviceable; and it was in the new livery as well. In the NG part of Borjomi Freight was ChS11-02 with two coaches forming 6469 1055 Borjomi Freight – Bakuriani. As I had 25 minutes before booked departure time, I took a quick jog down to the shed and started sniffing round the ChS11’s on it. I beckoned to some guy who was sat on his arse doing nowt and he just waved me on, so on I went; and managed to get pictures of all 4 ChS11’s on shed, including their 1966 works plates that were still on each one. Below are my findings with regard to the works plates; as you can see from the four below, the numbering of the ChS11 works plates doesn’t correspond to the actual loco numberings; so, make of that what you will!
Works Plate on SR ChS11-01 – #399
Works Plate on SR ChS11-02 – #409 (which looks like it has been changed from 0398? Or transferred from another loco and painted over?)
Works Plate on SR ChS11-04 – #410 (which looks like it has been changed from 407? Or transferred from another loco and painted over?)
Works Plate on SR ChS11-08 – #404
As you can see from the four above, the numbering of the ChS11 works plates doesn’t correspond to the actual loco numberings; so, make of that what you will!
ChS11-02 was in the old green livery and looked a little rough around the edges. It too had a 1966 works plate on it and the crew for it were sat chewing the cud on the platform; waiting for departure time. The two coaches on the service are different classes, some refer to them as local & tourist but I’d suggest they’re actually 1st & 2nd? You can tell the two apart as one looks immaculate and the other bit knackered. Essentially though, they’re both as comfy as each other, have the same opening windows, both have toilets, although they’re a bit dire, and the only difference is the cost. In the clean coach, its 2GEL and the “other” its 1 GEL. I opted for the “other” coach as there was more room and everyone was calm and not fussing about with their selfie stick and camera phone!
On board, I found a timetable for the line’s trains posted on the coach wall. It even included the mileages to 1 decimal place as well. What it did confirm was where the 1055 Borjomi – Bakuriani & 1000 Bakuriani – Borjomi crossed each other, which was important for me as I wasn’t doing the whole line and was doing one for one on the branch. The trains crossed at Tsagveri but I wasn’t risking the crossing place and thankfully Daba was between Borjomi & Tsagveri to potentially save me from embarrassment. None of the crew on board the train spoke English and when it came to buying tickets I had to show the ticket guy where I wanted to go on ME Maps. He then typed 035 into his phone and showed it me, which I thought was the cost of a ticket but it must have been the journey time as he still took 1 GEL off me when handing me a ticket.
The line out of Borjomi runs by the opposite side of the shed and there’s a steam loco plinthed by the level crossing opposite the shed and ChS11-09 was in the yard with a works train when we rolled by. The line then starts climbing straight away and twists and turns as it hugs the valley side. The best side for views is on the left-hand side going from Borjomi to Bakuriani and the right side from Bakuriani to Borjomi. The line reminded me a little of the Hershey Railway in Cuba and even on only 2 coaches, in the dry, the little ChS11 struggled on some of the curves and slipped to a stand twice; then made a meal out of trying to get going again. God only knows what it’s like in Winter when there’s snow about?
I was following the journey on ME Maps and as we approached Daba, I walked by the ticket dude, asleep in a seat at the rear of the coach. Luckily one of the veranda style doors was open, so I could get off ok. I managed to leg it to the front to get a photo as the train departed and everyone was waving out of the window at me as the train went by, including the ticket guy! And there I was, at Daba station, all on my lonesome, with not much else around. The station building was in a state of decay and clearly hadn’t been used in a long, long time. The doors to it were open though and it looked like the inside of some of the buildings I’d recently seen in Pripyat on my Chernobyl tour. It was probably a grand little building in its time but as with some many station buildings in Georgia, it was now a statistic; if anyone was keeping count of knackered station buildings?
As the train I’d got off only had 10 minutes to get to the crossing point at Tsagveri, I wasn’t expecting my return train to be on time going back to Borjomi. I could hear the screeching of wheels on the curves up above me as it approached and then the whistle. Cream and red liveried ChS11-06 rolled in with 6468 1000 Bakuriani – Borjomi Freight, a little of 10’ late. There were more people on board this train than the one going up and again, I was charged 1 GEL for the trip back to Borjomi, where we arrived 10’ late. There was no sign of ChS11-09 when we rolled by the yard and as soon as the train stopped in the station the staff were out to unhook the loco; which was immediately run around and the stock taken to shed.
My exit strategy from Borjomi had been to get to Khashuri by road, hopefully for the 1355 Khashuri – Zestafoni local. I’d spotted the bus stop right outside the station and more importantly, the taxi’s that were sat over the road from it. I had no problem getting myself a knackered old taxi to take me the 29km to Khashuri and the driver of said knackered old taxi was about as knackered as it was. The 2nd man’s side window didn’t open so I had to wind the rear one down to get a draught. This then had everything bert had on the back shelf blowing all over the place. About 2km out of Borjomi, bert decided it would be a good idea to stop at a local workshop and get his spare tyre out of the boot, which was duly repairs and blown back up in the workshop before we continued towards Khashuri. Luckily time was on my side and while on the road I had a brain wave. I was following our progress on ME Maps and figured out we could head 6445 1120 Zestafoni – Khashuri off at the pass, on its way into Khashuri and bert was quite ok following my directions as I guided us successfully to Tezeri 1 shack on the outskirts of town. The agreed fare of 25 GEL was handed over and I later saw bert outside Khashuri station when I got there off 6445, which was worked in by 10I-1848.
As I bumbled about getting photos and a ticket for the journey back out to Tsipa, I was grateful that 10I-1848 buggered off to shed and 10-1759 was bolted to the other end when I got back onto the platform. It wasn’t a long ride out to Tsipa, on the load 2 passenger rake, but it was another place that had a station building in ruins. Inside what used to be the booking hall though, I found a load of old Soviet newspaper underneath the wallpaper, which had been peeled off, and on one piece I found a page dating from 1966; and it was all legible, if you could read Russian! I bet some of the news from back then, that was very readable, would have made for interesting reading if I’d been able to understand it. Outside the station there was a natural spring, which had some form of concrete housing erected around it; it too dated from the Soviet era with the Soviet symbol and 1939 prominent in the concrete.
Before leaving Tsipa one of the guys hanging around on the platform seemed to be intrigued by my photo taking antics and attempted to ask me what I was doing, I think. When I said I was English, I heard his mate say “tourist” in a sentence and that seemed to appease him as for a moment I thought there might have been an issue and he was actually taking exception to me photographing. After that I didn’t have long to wait anyway and 10I-403/10-408 were soon poking their heads over the hill, which levels out in Tsipa station and then begins to climb away from it again, towards Khashuri. Train 17 1215 Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi must have had a portion to attach at Rioni as the approaching train was load 4; and it was wedged. I had to move some dossed out kids out of my seat and it looked like a big group of kids were returning from a football match as there were a load of footballs in a bag at the end of the coach.
It was a pleasant enough journey, despite the wedge factor, but unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the train when we passed all the castles and fortresses, which are on the left, in direction of travel when heading towards Tbilisi. There are probably more than what I saw but there were two in the Gori area and one at Ksani and a monastery near Mtskheta. I was pleased to be back in Tbilisi when I got there and after photting E10-934 coming off a saloon coach and ChME3-5287 collecting it, it was Hotel time as I was hanging and probably stank like I’d been on the streets for weeks, let alone 2 nights!
The guy checking me in at the Hotel Tbilisi Central was the same guy that had let me leave my bag in the luggage room. Check-in was simple and after collecting my bag, I was shown to my room, which was down one level. It was a sizeable room had excellent air-con and very good WiFi. There were also toiletries in the bathroom and I set about abusing everything that was provided, the shower, the AC, the toiletries, the WiFi and the power sockets! Once I was feeling human again, I nipped out to get a bite to eat and thought it would then be time for bed; but my dozing all the way from Tsipa to Tbilisi had buggered that idea and I was wide awake. My flight from Tbilisi to Riga, Latvia, on my way to Tallinn, Estonia, was at 0410 the following morning so whatever sleep I was going to get would be minimal anyway. So, I sorted a taxi out with the guy at reception, which would pick me up at 0130, and headed out to view 37 1930 Tbilisi – Baku.
10-171 dropped onto 37 with plenty of time spare before departure so I had no problem nipping up to the booking office to get a ticket to Tbilisi Junction, before it departed. I’d already figured out there was an EMU back but with Samgori Metro station adjacent to the mainline station then there would be no issues getting back. I opted to wait for 6416 2020 Gardabani – Tbilisi anyway and didn’t even get gripped on the way into Tbilisi.
As EMU ES-007 tottered into Tbilisi, 11-747b/a were just running through the station and were soon backing down to work 602/654 2215 Tbilisi – Zugdidi/Ozurgeti. As I was still feeling wide awake, it would have been rude not to and a I had plenty of time to get a ticket for the train, which I only did out to Mtskheta; which was as desolate as it had been 16 hours previous. After an hour there, EMU ES-004 turned up out of the darkness with 871 1830 Poti – Tbilisi; the last train of the night into Tbilisi. This time on arrival, I was ready for bed but would only be getting 2 hours sleep. As I walked through the hotel reception, I confirmed with the guy at reception that the taxi was sorted and he gave me the thumbs up; 2 hours later I’d be back in reception waiting for my taxi!
Moves for Monday 10th July 2017
|ChME3T-6896||Samtredia Platform 1||Samtredia Platform 1||Shunt 653 2135 Ozurgeti – Tbilisi onto 601 2215 ex Zugdidi|
|10-627 (1)||Samtredia||Mtskheta||601||2215 (09/07) Zugdidi – Tbilisi|
|ES-001||Mtskheta||Borjomi Freight||618||0630 Tbilisi – Borjomi Park|
|ChS11-02||Borjomi Freight||Daba||6469||1055 Borjomi Freight – Bakuriani|
|ChS11-06||Daba||Borjomi Freight||6468||1000 Bakuriani – Borjomi Freight|
|Taxi||Borjomi Freight||Tezeri 1|
|10I-1848 (1)||Tezeri 1||Khashuri||6445||1020 Zestafoni – Khashuri|
|10-1759 (1)||Khashuri||Tsipa||6448||1355 Khashuri – Zestafoni|
|10I-403 (1)||Tsipa||Tbilisi Central||11 / 17||0920 Ozurgeti / 1215 Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi|
|10-171 (1)||Tbilisi Central||Tbilisi Junction||37||1930 Tbilisi – Baku|
|ES-007||Tbilisi Junction||Tbilisi Central||6416||2020 Gardabani – Tbilisi|
|11-747b||Tbilisi Central||Mtskheta||602 / 654||2145 Tbilisi – Zugdidi / Orurgeti|
|ES-004||Mtskheta||Tbilisi Central||871||1830 Poti – Tbilisi|
Gen for Monday 10th July 2017
GRS-013 (Stadler EMU) 806 0620 Tbilisi – Batumi
ES-001 (EMU) 618 0630 Tbilisi – Borjomi Park
10I-234, 10-1715, 11-316a/b, 10-1607, 10-1895 at Khashuri at 0900
ChME3T-6899 Khashuri pilot
ChS11-02 6469 1055 Borjomi Freight – Bakuriani
ChS11-06 6468 1000 Bakuriani – Borjomi Freight
ChS11-01, ChS11-04, ChS11-11 demic on Borjomi Freight shed
ChS11-08 stabled on Borjomi Freight shed in new livery
ChS11-09 with a works train in Borjomi Freight Yard
10I-1848 6445 1120 Zestafoni – Khashuri
10-1759 6446 1355 Khashuri – Zestafoni
10I-403/10-408 11/17 0920 Ozurgeti / 1215 Kutaisi 1 – Tbilisi
E10-934 at Tbilisi on a Saloon
GRS-012 (Stadler EMU) 804 1735 Tbilisi – Batumi
GRT-xxx (EMU) 874 1750 Tbilisi – Poti
10-171 38 1930 Tbilisi – Baku
ES-007 6416 2020 Gardabani – Tbilisi
ChME3-5287 Tbilisi station pilot
11-780 201 1535 Batumi – Yerevan (to Tbilisi)
VL10-825 (SCR) 201 1535 Batumi – Yerevan (from Tbilisi)
11-747b/a 602/654 2145 Tbilisi – Zugdidi/Ozurgeti
Photos for Monday 10th July 2017
Tuesday 11th July 2017 (An early morning flight to Tallinn, Estonia, then overnight to Moscow)
The 0115-alarm call was about as welcome as a hole in the head, but it was a necessity. In reception, I was told, by the same guy, that my ride was here but he was just smoking in the back room so I had to wait a moment. By smoking I think he meant finishing off his beer! It was an interesting journey and I could tell the guy was tired by the way he was driving and I had to keep an eye on him all the way to the airport. It was one of those journeys you wanted to end asap and thankfully there wasn’t much on the road. The agreed fare was 35 GEL and it was duly handed over on arrival; whether he’d live to spend it, with how knackered he was, who knew; but without me to keep him awake on his way back, he was in the lap of the gods.
I’d never used Air Baltic before and was a little concerned, after my bag was weighed in Kiev, that it would be at Tbilisi, where the max weight of hand luggage, including camera and laptop, is only 8kg. I’d been invited to check-in online twice but hadn’t been able to both times, the girl at check-in aid that it wasn’t possible when flying from Tbilisi. When she asked about my baggage, I thought it was going to be the moment where I ended up €34.99 out of pocket. She didn’t seem interested at all and looked at my bag, handed me my boarding cards and wished me a good flight; now that was a result!
When it came to boarding time, we were invited to our boarding gate, where we stood for 45 minutes waiting, once through the gate we boarded a bus and sat on it at the gate for 15 minutes. Once by the plane we then sat on the bus for another 15 minutes and eventually people had to ask for the bus doors to be open as it was wedged and sweltering. We eventually boarded the plane 15 minutes after the booked departure time and took off 50 minutes late; which wasn’t good for my 45-minute connection at Riga.
I, and most of the rest of the plane, spent almost all of the journey to Riga asleep and when we landed at 0715, I feared the worst for my 0735 departure to Tallinn. Luckily the gates had been displayed on the plane so everyone knew where they needed to be and I could see my departure gate while waiting to get off the plane. Of course, it wasn’t as straightforward as walking from one to the other, we all had to go through immigration first and thankfully some woman turned up asking for passengers for Tallinn to come to the front and we were processed first. Then we had to go through security again, so my bag had to be emptied and I ended up running from there to the gate with my belt still in my hand. It was 0735 when I boarded the plane and I wasn’t the last to do so. The captain even announced there was a 10-minute delay while waiting for passengers from connecting flights.
The plane to Tallinn was a small propellered thing and with the flight time only being 35 minutes, I barely had time to drink the tea I’d bought on board. At Tallinn, everything was very efficient and as we had our own steps out of the plane, we were off in moments and I was out of the airport in 2 minutes; without any form of immigration checks.
I’d always planned to walk the short distance from Tallinn Airport to Ulemiste station, which was only 1km, but roadworks added a bit of time to that as most of the straightforward route had closed pathways for building works. Still, I was at the shack before 9 o’clock and that brought with it a bonus move. I’d not expected to make the 0902 unit towards Narva, which I could do to Tapa for the inbound 033 Moscow – Tallinn; the same set that would form my 034 1703 Tallinn – Moscow that evening. In for a penny, in for a pound and I was soon on my way to Tapa on board Elron’s train 220 0852 Tallinn – Narva, which was a well-used train.
At Tapa, I had a couple of hours to wait and was slightly disappointed that I didn’t see any freight action while I was there. What I did do though, was figure out what I was going to do with the 3 hours I had in Tallinn and my first choice became walk down to Patarei Prison on the seafront and then have a quick scan around the old town if time allowed.
Go Rail’s TEP70-0320 rumbled into Tapa with 033 Moscow – Tallinn and was 3 minutes early into Tallinn. ChME3-5371 was on hand to shunt the stock out and the TEP70 disappeared soon afterwards. I noticed a luggage storage sign as I was walking back down the platform and followed it to the Go Hotel Shnelli, just outside the station. They charge €3 to store a bag and I was soon heading towards Patarei Prison, a lot lighter. It was a walk that was utterly wasted as the Prison had closed to visitors earlier in 2017, so I headed back towards the old town, via the old Tallinn station. There I found two coaches that have been turned into restaurants, one of which had the buffer-beam number plate off ChME3-585 bolted to the side of it; which was easily removable with a spanner!
A quick sortie towards Tallinn old town was halted by rain so I headed back towards the large market place by the station to get some food and then some goodies for my overnight journey; and my 3 hours in Tallinn had flown by. Soon enough the stock was being dropped into the station again but this time by ChME3-5194, in a turquoise livery. I couldn’t be arsed to walk the length of the platform to phot it in the rain and waited for it to stop before going to spot the hag at the head of the train; which pleasingly, was a different TEP70 that which I’d had in earlier and TEP70-0236 looked a little scruffier than ‘0320 had.
The coach numbering on the train was been reversed and coach 19 was now at the Moscow end of the train, having been leading into Tallinn earlier; which was my coach for the journey to Moscow anyway. It was sociable on board and I was sharing a compo area with two women and a young lass, none of which were any bother at all. The Estonia exit border checks are done at Narva and were done at seat. After an hour there, where the Go Rail TEP70 was replaced by an RZD loco that I couldn’t get the number of at this point, we crossed the River, which separates Estonia & Russia, and arrived into Ivangorod a few minutes later; the impressive Ivangorod Fortress is visible on the left as the train crosses the river. Border control staff at Ivangorod take passports from everyone at seat and then do what they need before returning them prior to the train’s departure. The woman processing mine told me twice that my visa couldn’t be used again after this entry and when she handed it back she confirmed that I needed to exit the country no later than the 13th July; which I was going to.
Once we were ploughing our way into Russia I attempted to brave the front vestibule while the coach attendant wasn’t looking but failed on the first attempt as the door was locked. A simple turning of the lock soon gained me access though and I was greeted with the face of an M62 through the glass at the end of the coach. It was 2M62U-0012b/a, which had been waiting in the yard ahead of us when we’d arrived into Narva; I thought there’d been a slightly different tone at the front of the train when we’d started away from Ivangorod. Pleased with the bonus 2M62 action, I got into my pit, with every intention of getting off at St Petersburg for a look around, during the 1h09m we had there; but dossed completely through the station stop and woke up about 5 minutes after we’d departed, so more sleep followed.
Moves for Tuesday 11th July 2017
|YL-CSB||Tbilisi||Riga||BT725||0410 Tbilisi – Riga|
|YL-BAF||Riga||Tallinn||BT311||0735 Riga – Tallinn|
|2320||Ulemiste||Tapa||220||0852 Tallinn – Narva|
|TEP70-0320||Tapa||Tallinn||033X||2215 (10/07) Moskva Okt. – Tallinn|
|TEP70-0236||Tallinn||Narva||034X||1703 Tallinn – Moskva Okt.|
|2M62U-0012b||Narva||St Petersburg Glav.|
Gen for Tuesday 11th July 2017
ChME3-5371 Tallinn station pilot am – ecs ex 033X
ChME3-5194 Tallinn station pilot pm – ecs for 034X
TEP70-0320 (GO Rail) 033X 2215 (P) Moskva Okt – Tallinn
TEP70-0236 (GO Rail) 034X 1703 Tallinn – Moskva Okt (to Narva)
2M62U-0012b/a (RZD) 034X 1703 Tallinn – Moskva Okt (Narva to St Petersburg Glav)
EL2K-035 (RZD) 034X 1703 Tallinn – Moskva Okt (St Petersburg Glav to Moskva)
Photos for Tuesday 11th July 2017
Wednesday 12th July 2017 (A Day in Moscow visiting the Kratovo Children’s Railway, then overnight to Riga)
It was about 0800 when the coach started to wake from its slumber and the first thing everyone seemed to do on waking, was get a cuppa from the coach attendant; so, I joined them. The run into Moskva Leningrad station was pretty nondescript and upon arrival Mark Dixey was waiting on the platform to be my guide for the day. I’d only by chance, made Mark’s acquaintance through recent Facebook posts during my trip and as he lived in Moscow it seemed like a good reason to meet up and chew the cud; and the bonus for me was that Mark spoke fluent Russian so would be a good guide for the day. My plans didn’t change and Mark was happy to escort me to the Children’s Railway at Kratovo and suggested a different way to access the place, other than my plan of doing a local train to Kratovo and walking to the Railway’s Pionersky station. His plan was getting off the local EMU at the station before Kratovo, Otdykh, and the Children’s Railway’s Yunost station was adjacent to the main line Otdykh station.
Having arrived at Moskva Leningrad, we walked over the road to the Moskva Kazansky station, bought a return ticket to Otdykh for RUB 220, from a ticket machine, which was solely in Russian, and made our way through the security to the platforms; boarding the 1014 Moskva Kazansky – Platform Km47 local service, which took 57 minutes to reach Otdykh.
Upon arrival, the Children’s Railway station wasn’t immediately visible as there’s a big screen up between the main line station and the main road at the other side of it; we found the railway at the other side of the road and had to access the platforms via the adjacent wood and on at the far end of the station. Refurbished TU2-078 had just arrived with the load 6 train and was just being detached when we got our cameras out. There were quite a lot of people about and a return ticket of the line, bought from a child at the ticket office, cost RUB 160 each. Our attempts to get into the front coach were flawed by the fact there was a party getting on, which resulted in us having to find one of the few seats towards the rear of the train; which was wedged on departure at 1130.
There are two intermediate station between Yunost & Pionersky and each stop was done military style, with the child coach attendant opening the coach doors when whistled to do so by the loco and tickets were gripped en-route out of each station. There was an adult in each coach and during the journey she explained a few things in Russian. It’s only a 15-minute run from one end to the other and before we knew it we were getting off for photos at Pionersky.
TU2-078 was quickly detached and it then ran around the train by using the turning wye on the nearby shed; as there’s no points at the opposite end of the loop to get the loco onto the train without using the shed wye! While we were waiting for the loco to drop on we were told to get off the grass by the train security guard; when I pointed out the fact that there wasn’t a sign to keep off the grass, Mark translated her reply to be “I know there’s no sign, but just keep off it anyway”. She then started banging on about photos and told us we shouldn’t be taking photos anywhere other than on the platform, and that we needed permission for that with the number of Children about the place. When Mark started engaging her in conversation, it of course got around to the fact that we were train enthusiasts and he then started showing her photos from other places on his camera. She then told him that it was the railway director that told her to come and explain to us what we could and couldn’t do, so Mark asked her to thank her director for running a very good railway; and we proceeded to take photos when the loco dropped back onto the train.
We were unable to join any of the front three coaches again due to the party going back again and took up residence where we could; only to be joined by our security guard mate again but this time with a mate of hers. She, so Mark translated, told us again, what we could and couldn’t do and then went to fetch the railway’s director to speak to us; who basically asked if everything was ok and if we were being treated ok, before doing one back to her office. So, from that I couldn’t figure out if there actually had or hadn’t been an issue photographing but it didn’t stop us getting some more back at Yunost. The whole debacle had been witnessed at Pionersky by one the of the children manning the railway station, who was taking photos herself, and she couldn’t help but laugh as the security guard had walked away. When Mark asked her, in English, if she’d understood everything that was said, she replied “no”, in English; which clearly, she had.
Back at Otdykh we’d missed the lull in the morning Elekrika service and ended up flagging the first EMU back to Kazansky as it was wedged; the next one was only 23 minutes behind it and it had plenty of room for the hour journey back to the city. The guy standing on the draw-hook at the rear of the EMU we flagged clearly couldn’t be arsed to wait! With 3 hours to kill before my train from Moskva Rizhsky to Riga Mark took me via Red Square, where it started to rain, to craft beer place, on the 6th floor of a random building near Lubyanka Metro station. The place was known as Jaws, named after the brewery its beers came from, and had about 25 beers on tap and a whole host of others in bottles. There is an excellent pizza place in house and pizza and beer served as lunch; and a very good lunch it was too. The barman spoke decent English and even let me buy my Jaws Brewery pint pot for RUB 300; and it surprised me when he put it through the till!
We’d used the very good Metro system to get from Kazansky to Red Square and I’d bought a two-journey ticket for RUB 110, which is simply used to tap in for both the required journeys. Everything on board the Metro trains is signed in English as well as Russian and station announcements are all made in English as well; which is all well and good but the signage on the stations and outside them is solely in Russian so if you can’t figure out where you’re going in the first place then it all might as well be in Russian; as you need to decipher it to get onto the bloody trains in the first place!
Rizhsky station only has 3 main line trains a day and two of those leave combined. A large railway museum, full of steam locos, separates the dead-end platforms from the local, through platforms. The station area was wedged with people waiting out of the rain and there was plenty of dithering going on as people tried to decide whether they wanted to go through the security and onto the platform, or not; it wasn’t a hard decision but people will be people.
It was raining heavier by the time we got onto the platform and people were queuing from the coach doors, in anticipation of the attendants letting them board. RZD’s ChS7-053 (1/2) was at the head of 001P 1705 Moskva Rizhsky – Riga re was no problem photographing it before departure. Mark managed to barge his way into the length queue for my coach and we were in out of the dry pretty quickly; although again, people will be people and umbrellas were soon dripping onto the floor and seats, bringing the rain inside the train.
Shortly before my 1705 departure, Mark alighted into the rain and I thanked him for making my day a lot easier than it would have been had I gone it alone. My short time in Moscow had been enjoyable and I’d had just enough to time to casually fit the Children’s Railway and a spot of lunch in, without having to rush about the place.
Immediately on departure from Rizhsky, customs cards were handed out for entry into Latvia. Shortly after that two lists were passed down the coach, one to sign a declaration of how many bags you were carrying and the second was to fill in details of Latvian Visas. Google translate showed that I should have filled out the customs declaration in Russian block letters, but it got filled out in English, and the Latvian Visa details list wasn’t completed at all; with the coach attendant confirming that I didn’t need to complete it with having an EU passport. Soon after the form filling exercise, the attendant brought a round of teas to each compo; which I was very grateful of as the beer had made me thirsty and the free bottle of water on the table would be next to be downed, after I’d already polished off a bottle of coke!
We arrived into Volokolamsk soon enough and half the train ended up on the platform smoking, with me amongst them, collecting train numbers. ChS7-053 was soon detached and was off the train before I’d had time to nip back on board and get my camera. Waiting up ahead was an RZD TEP70, in a livery I’d not seen before. It was like a light pastel orangey/creamy livery and revealed itself as TEP70-0240 when it dropped on. So, after just 124km of electric the rest of the journey would be solid diesel all the way to Riga; 798km to be precise.
It had been raining outside but had stopped before we got to Volokolamsk. The matted rain affect, along with the mist patches hovering in the surrounding countryside, made it a very pleasant late evening to watch the orange sun set below the cloud as we took it all in our stride. The whole coach was silent and horizontal in their pit by 2200 and I had to set my alarm for 0100 to see what happened at Novosokolniki; after my failed attempt to get out and see what was going off at a similar time in St Petersburg the previous night.
Moves for Wednesday 12th July 2017
|EL2K-035||St Petersburg Glav.||Moskva Okt.||034X||1703 (11/07) Tallinn – Moskva Okt.|
|EDM4-0113||Moskva Kazansky||Otdykh||6538||1014 Moskva Kazansky – Platform Km47|
|TU2-078||Yunost||Pionersky||519||1130 Yunost – Pionersky|
|TU2-078||Pionersky||Yunost||522||1200 Pionersky – Yunost|
|EDM4-0095||Otdykh||Moskva Kazansky||6551||1244 Platforma 47 Km – Moskva Kazansky|
|ChS7-053 (1)||Moskva Rizhsky||Volokolamsk||001P||1705 Moskva Rizhsky – Riga|
Gen for Wednesday 12th July 2017
001P 1705 Moskva Rizhsky – Riga
ChS7-053 Moskva to Volokolamsk
TEP70-0240 Volokolamsk – Novosokolniki
TEM2UM-748 shunt Moscow portion onto St Petersburg portion at Novosokolniki
TEP70-0219 Novosokolniki – Zilupe
TEP70-0204 (LDZ Cargo) Zilupe – Riga
TEP70-0226 (BCh) 052B 1755 (P) Minsk Pas. – St Petersburg Vitebski (to Novosokolniki)
TEP70-xxxx (RZD) 052B 1755 (P) Minsk Pas. – St Petersburg Vitebski (from Novosokolniki)
Photos for Wednesday 12th July 2017
Thursday 13th July 2017 (A day getting pissed on in Riga before flying home)
I wondered what was going off when my phone alarm broke the otherwise silent coach karma. Luckily my brain engaged quick enough to turn it off before I disturbed everyone else. By the time I’d put my shoes on and been to the bog we were rolling into Novosokolniki and things began to happen quickly; and not how I expected them to either. I wasn’t allowed off initially and I couldn’t figure out why until we started to draw forward after a few minutes. Thinking nothing of it, I assumed that the train loco was shunting our Moscow portion onto the St Petersburg portion; which had arrived on 083A St Petersburg Vitebski – Gomel. When we dropped onto the St Petersburg coaches the doors were opened and people got off for their smoke while I scurried down the platform to figure out what had gone on; and was very surprised to find RZD TEM2UM-748 just being uncoupled from the front of the set. Moments after it did one, a headlight was turned on up ahead, and again I assumed this would be TEP70-0240 dropping back onto the train, but no, it was TEP70-0219; which then worked the two portions through to the Russian/Latvian border. Meanwhile, in the other platform, I found BCh TEP70-0226 to have arrived with 052B 1755 (P) Minsk – St Petersburg, which was worked forward to St Petersburg by another RZD TEP70, which I just didn’t quite manage to get to before it pulled away from me.
After all my running about, I was soon back to sleep when I got back on board and was surprised that the attendant in our coach didn’t wake anyone for the Russian exit passport control at Sebezh; and basically let the customs staff wake everyone when they wanted to look under their berths in the luggage compartment. The passport check was by far the most harmless I’d had at any of the Russian border posts and it could have been anywhere else in the world. It was quick and painless and I wasn’t asked a single question; and was asleep again before we even departed Sebezh, completely unaware of what the LDZ loco was that had replaced the RZD one during the stop.
The run from Sebezh, Russia, to Zilupe, Latvia, is quite a long one in border crossing time and the hour’s sleep was welcome. Again though, we weren’t woken by the coach attendant and the first I knew was when a group of customs staff were in our compo asking for our declarations, before turfing us out of bed to check the luggage compartments again. It was nice to be the one with the visa farce, possibly on the whole train, and my passport was processed in seconds and returned to me with a smile. Then it was back to sleep again, still with 4 hours to go before our booked arrival into Riga.
It was looking a bit grim outside as train 001P arrived into Riga but the rains hadn’t started by that point; we were a few minutes early and I was pleased to find LDZ Cargo TEP70-0204 at the front of the train. After a few quick photos, I headed down to the heart of the station and found the luggage lockers, which are signed all over the station. The cheapest lockers are €2 and as I didn’t have enough change I had to buy a coffee with the €50 note I had to get some change and it looked like I cleared the till out of all its change in the process. Bag dumped and coffee drunk I decided to hang around on the platform for a bit as we’d passed a few freights on the approach to Riga so it seemed to be kick-out time for freight. I wasn’t there long before LDZ Cargo 2M62-0924a/b were along with a lengthy mixed freight, which got stopped in the station for quite a while. That was the case, I decided to head down towards the rail bridge, that went over the river, and see if there was anywhere to get some photos of trains coming into town. It started raining a little as I walked down and the hour of my time was pretty much wasted as there were all sorts of posts, signals, tram wire and the likes obscuring any decent photo angle; so back to the station it was, again for nothing, so an early lunch beckoned. What big mistake it was walking into Riga old town!
I’d hoped to find a place I’d used when I was last in Riga but I was having difficulty finding it so settled on Mamma Pasta, which is right up my street. I was the first through the door and by the time I left there wasn’t a table free; there was a reason for it though. It was absolutely pissing it down outside and there was me with just a t-shirt and my coat in the locker at the station; and where were all the poncho & umbrella selling people when you needed them; hiding from the downpour like everyone else was trying to do. My good meal, I had no choice but to brave the rain and despite my best efforts to find a route with shelter on the way, I was drenched by the time I got to the confines of the station. I was more concerned about my bag than my wet clothes though as the water had managed to seep in so passport, moves book and anything else paper had to be rearranged and I took some time to compose myself at the station before doing anything else.
I hadn’t initially realised that the No.22 & No.222 buses picked up outside the doors of the back entrance of the station, mainly due to the fact that upon closer inspection I did find 22 listed on the bus stop but all the numbers were listed in a random order; which was why I’d not clocked it. It was a godsend as I’d have ended up getting soaked again when walking to the stop I’d seen it at earlier, while walking to the railway bridge. Tickets for the bus cost €2 if bought from the driver but only €1.15 if prepaid and on a top-up type card. I had to ask at the ticket office window, by the exit, where to buy tickets as there weren’t any machines near the bus stop. The little green Naversen shop, just to the left of the exit as you walk out, was the place and no sooner was I in possession of my ticket did a No.222 minibus turn up.
The journey to the airport took 30 minutes and the bus wasn’t full at any point along its journey. At the airport, I quickly passed through security and then used a Costa Coffee to lounge about in while charging everything I had. When I eventually did go through immigration I was glad I hadn’t done so earlier as there wasn’t much on the other side. My 1800 Riga – Doncaster flight was formed off a Bergen – Riga inbound flight, which was showing to land early and as a result we were all boarded in good time and ready for the off more or less on time. There was a bit of bag rage when we boarded, probably cos the dickhead that was dishing it out was pissed and had got on with his family at the front of the plan and had to fight his way to the back while everyone was boarding. After he’d very uncalmly rammed his bags into any inch of space he could find there were some words had by others and thankfully he ended up slumped in his seat and there wasn’t a murmur throughout the whole flight.
As I decided to leave my admin catch-up to be done on the flight, I wasn’t too pleased to find a seat with no try table! I will give the staff their due though, as part way through the flight when I ordered a tea, they did offer me an over wing exit seat for the rest of the flight but the woman next to me kindly let me use her tray for my drinks while I carried on with my typing. As Wizz Air flights go, it wasn’t as rowdy as some I’ve been on recently and there were quite a few kids about. As we started to make our descent, it was good to be heading towards my hometown, my own bed and a proper home cooked Sunday lunch, specially prepared by my wife!
Moves for Thursday 13th July 2017
|TEM2UM-748||Novosokolniki one platform||Novosokolniki other platform||Shunt Moskva portion onto St Petersburg portion|
|TEP70-0219||Novosokolniki||Sebezh||001P||1705 (12/07) Moskva Rizhsky – Riga|
|HA-LWZ||Riga||Doncaster||W6-2509||1800 Riga – Doncaster|