The International Steam Pages
Golden Eagle’s Caucasian VI Tour 2018
Mark Enderby joined Golden Eagle’s Caucasian VI tour which aimed to take 12 steam locomotives on a round trip from Moscow via various Russian Caucasian republics and also into the disputed territory of Abkhazia over 13 days. Despite the increase in loading to 14 cars and best efforts of Russian Railways to alter timings and impose speed restrictions, the task was completed (just) with steam locomotives on the head end throughout. There is a map of the route followed after the pictures.
Afraid I’m not an expert on Russian railways so any report is going to be lacking and there were people on the trip more qualified than me to make a report so apologies if I didn’t identify all the subclasses and the events during the night sections are a little fuzzy but I believe I recorded most events accurately.
The day before the tour TE-3162 was provided to take us the short distance from Rzhevskaya to Podmoscovnaya Museum Depot. 3 rusting locomotives were in the adjacent yard (believed to be ER). There was much activity here with locomotives being prepared for our train and some specially steamed ... P36-0120, 9P-19499, L-2331, SU-213-58, EU-699-74, b-2012 (Russia’s oldest working steam locomotive)
EU-699-74 was provided to return us to Rizhskaya station where it was too dark/late to identify any of the locomotives at the museum there.
The next day our departure from Moscow was behind TE-3162+SO17-324 as far as Voskresensk where P36-0120 and SU-213-58 (the latter provided from St Petersburg due to a second P36 being unavailable) were waiting to take us on to Astrakhan via Saratov. (At the Victory Park in Saratov is an armoured train with 0-10-0 'BP-1942', it's actually EU-706-77. Plinthed locomotives noted at Rtishchevo (L-0026) and Atarsk (EU-686-31). The P36 continued from Astrakhan with LV-0283 added during the night for the next leg to Grozny.
After a fascinating tour of Grozny, SU-252-20 and SU-250-64 provided power for the next section to Minerale Vody. The original plan was to take the direct route via Vladikavkaz but this line is no longer available so the longer northern route had to be taken. However, due to speed restrictions and the large number of level crossings, both locomotives ran short of water and we were finally halted at Priblizhyana just outside the planned changeover point of Prokhladny. Fortunately the P36/LV pair were following light and the P36 towed the consist the final few km where L-0073 and L-5259 were waiting to take us to Mineralniy Vodi. These locomotives then took the train up to Kislovodsk and back with an electric inside due to the steep grades and long tunnel on this line.
At Mineralniy Vodi, the P36/LV combo took over for Belorechensk (however the LV was removed during the night) where a side trip to the Guamka Gorge railway was made. Being a Saturday, the line was very busy with tourists. Tu8-0307 was working services with Tu8-0427 spare. The train goes approximately half way to a restaurant area where a petrol trolley takes visitors to a platform close to where the line is severed by the landslide.
From Belorechensk to Matsesta, on the Black Sea coast, the P36 was joined by L-0073 and L-5259. The latter two locomotives (tender to tender) then provided power from Adler for the short incursion to Novy Afon in Abkahzia. Back at Adler P36-0120 was added for the leg to Krasnador (with an electric added for the steeply graded section to Goryachy Klyuch) where P36-0218 was added. At Tikhoretsk we made a visit to the depot which services and restores all steam in the Caucuses region.
In steam here were FD20-1679, and 9P-22518. Also on the depot were P36-0110, LV-0522, LV-0233, FD20-2109, L-5282 and YeM-3747. Round the back of the diesel maintenance depot were SU-252-20, SU-250-64 and derelict L-1177, L-4132, E?-713-16, E?-743-31. SO17-12 remains at the station as a war memorial.
FD20-1679 and P36-0218 then took the train forward to Bataisk where the FD was replaced by ER-769-17 for a trip to Azov. The train then returned to Bataisk behind the ER. At Rostov, some members of the group went to the railway museum. The Pioneer Railway is not operating but Kch4-101 was seen plinthed in Station Square. From Rostov, the FD was planned to Salsk but suffered a hotbox and a diesel had to be provided from Ataman to Salsk where the 2 P36 took over with an electric attached inside – presumably to allow one or more water stops to be omitted and regain some time.
At Volgograd the electric was removed and the P36s continued forward. However 218 was clearly having problems and was swapped to the inside during the night. ER-743-64 was noted at the Panorama Stalingrad Museum. Both locomotives then continued for the rest of the tour to Moscow Paveletski (via Gryazi-Volg and Elets) but, due to further time being lost, a diesel was provided during the final night to avoid too many water stops. However this was taken off before the final section into Moscow.
So, depending on your views, the goal was achieved – over 5000km with 12 steam locomotives! Given the increasing difficulties in organising such trips, Tim and co and Golden Eagle are to be congratulated.
TE-3162 at Podmoscovnaya
P36-0120 at Podmoscovnaya
EU-699-74 at Rizhskaya station.
'BP 1942' at Saratov
LV-0283 and P36-0120 at Kara Bagly
SU-252-20 and SU-250-64 at Priblizhyana
L-0073 and L-5259 at Novi Afon
L-0073 and L-5259 at Gudauta
L-0073 and L-5259 at Novi Afon
P36-0218 and P36-0120 at Krasnador
LV-0522 at Tikhoretsk
9P-22158 at Tikhoretsk
SO17-12 at Tikhoretsk
FD20-1679 at Tikhoretsk
FD20-1679 at Kagalinz
ER-769-17 at Azov
Kch4-101 at Rostov-on-Don