The International Steam Pages
The Kratovo Children’s Railway, 2012
Harvey Smith was based in and around Moscow off and on from 1997 to 2014 and has now moved to St. Petersburg. Apart from this report he has also posted information on other attractions in Moscow and the rest of Russia, there are links at the bottom of the page.
Harvey Smith reports on his visit to the Kratovo Children’s Railway on 10th June 2012.
I would thoroughly recommend this trip.
Firstly, it can be tied in with a visit to Lenin’s 4 wheel railway carriage at Leningradski Station. Komsomolskaya Metro Station serves Leningradski and Kazanski Stations. My directions are on the Moscow Railway Miscellany webpage. It can also be tied in with a trip to see steam locomotive Ov 7024 at Sortirovochnaya. My directions for locomotive Ov 7024 are also on the Moscow Railway Miscellany webpage. The second stop on the way out of Kazanski is Sortirovochnaya station. Just walk over the long footbridge over the marshalling yard to the depot and have a look around the depot for the locomotive. Sadly for a steam fanatic the Kratovo Children’s Railway has only 2 TU2 diesel locomotives.
I had always wanted to see a real children’s railway. They were designed to train children in railway jobs. The railway industry was seen as a strategic industry for wartime emergencies in the USSR. Sadly my earlier attempts to visit a children’s railway had been in vain. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk only had an oval of track in their park, one station, and I have no recollection of it being run by children. Dushanbe in Tajikistan had 50 metres of narrow gauge track and a platform in a park near the station, but that was it. There was no locomotive or rolling stock. Dushanbe is not even listed as having a children’s railway, so I am uncertain what the track was for. In Baku I got to the children’s railway 1 month after the track was ripped up and the locomotives and rolling stock were removed. I later found them in a yard on the outskirts of the city See the webpage Steam Age Relics in Azerbaijan 2010. So finally I was going to see an interesting piece of post Soviet Russia.
To get there go to Komsomolskaya Metro. Come out and follow the subway into Kazanski station. As you enter the ticket hall choose one of the first 5 ticket booths (Kassa) on the right. The journey to Otdyh (not Kratovo) takes 50 minutes. You can go the next stop to Kratovo but you will have to walk to the railway. At Otdyh it is right next to the Big Railway station. At Otdyh go up the steps out of the railway station go left at street level. Go first left and walk to the road. The Children’s Railway station is then on your right. Walk down the main road and there is a gap in the fence and a path that you can use to access the station. The fare on the children’s railway was only 50 roubles return. The price of the ticket from Kazanski to Otdyh was 125 roubles return. So if you want a cheap day out it makes sense.
It should be explained that all the jobs requiring some level of safety competence are performed by adults. The operators of the level crossing were adults as was the locomotive driver. Older adolescents also perform more safety orientated roles. Ticket collecting, selling of tickets and conductors jobs are all left to the children. It is all quite delightful. The children were all well behaved and responsible in performing their roles. The railway was not so much staffed by children as overstaffed by children. All seemed very keen, polite and serious. When I got to Pionerskaya (Kratovo end) I found a railway school. So the operation is clearly a Moscow Railway education scheme to prepare children for jobs on the railways. A good idea. I put my head in the school building, but saw nothing of interest. The picture on the wall in the lobby was a typical Russian landscape rather than a railway theme.
The line is 4,962km long. It has 3 stops:
None of the stations have nameboards. I got the names off the route map on the official website and on the inside of the carriage. There was also a halt in the wood, but we did not stop there. Whether it was a request stop I do not know.
The other passengers were mainly families with young children. But a few people were obviously using it for local transport. At the intermediate station a solitary woman got out and got in her car. She was clearly using the train for local park and ride. Similarly I noticed people without children having a cheap day out. The area is quite pleasant. It was clearly once heavily wooded with tall pine trees and a lot survive. The journey passes through a wood and finishes in a park and the suburban houses also have leafy gardens (some with surviving pine trees), so it is a nice escape from Moscow. We also passed a traditional Russian Orthodox Church. Its architecture was very vernacular and traditionally Russian. I deliberately walked back to find things of interest. I called in the church and was surprised to be told it was only 10 years old. A priest was outside blessing cars parked by the railway with holy water. Perhaps he also blessed the locomotives? There was also a red brick hotel on the route.
The entire trip took only 15 minutes. The locomotives were TU2-129 and TU2-078, although TU2-078 was in its shed. Reference to some photographs I found on the internet shows that the locomotives were refurbished in 2005. From further internet research states I found that the locomotives were produced at the Kaluga Machine-Buliding Works (Kalugaputmash) from 1956 to 1959, (281 locomotives were built). The carriages were all built in 2005. They are miniature versions of the real thing with typical Russian corrugated steel sides, curtains in the windows, and photos from times past displayed inside.
The buildings have all been recently constructed or reconstructed. At Unost (Otdyh end) a statue of Lenin survives. At the Pionerskaya (Kratovo end) there is the depot with a carriage shed and locomotive shed arranged in a T with a turning triangle running around both.
So if you want to see something very Russian and escape Moscow on a cheap and interesting day out visit the Kratovo Children’s Railway. You never know one day they may get a steam loco. The railway started in 1937 and reference to the official website reveals photographs all sorts of interesting steam locomotives that were once used on the line. There is always hope that Russian Railways will borrow a steam locomotive from Pereslav museum or acquire one from elsewhere so that steam can return to this enchanting railway. I also hope that a steam “retro-train” might be run to the Kratovo Children’s Railway. Extending the railway to Kratovo Station on Big Railway or perhaps extending around the lake and park at Kratovo seem good ideas too.