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Reunification Express trip report

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Ollie12

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Before COVID closed down travel I was lucky enough to travel from London to Saigon by train through Russia etc. I've been writing a series of articles on the trip. If anyone is interested here is a link to the article. I'd vote the Reunification Express, particularly the section from Hue to Danang, as one of the most scenic train trips in Asia!

 

Seaboard92

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Before COVID closed down travel I was lucky enough to travel from London to Saigon by train through Russia etc. I've been writing a series of articles on the trip. If anyone is interested here is a link to the article. I'd vote the Reunification Express, particularly the section from Hue to Danang, as one of the most scenic train trips in Asia!


A great trip report. I am definitely adding this to the list of trains I want to ride before thirty. I was really hoping you would have the write up on the transsiberian on your website too.
 

Willbridge

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Mar 30, 2019
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Denver
In 2010 while waiting to board the Tomich in Moscow I helped two British girls get onto the "trans-Siberian" -- which was due out ahead of our secondary train. They were traveling from London to Hanoi and one of them was going to teach English there. Her friend was just along for the ride. They didn't know any of the languages en route. They did have the necessary visas, but otherwise I had the impression that they were just expecting someone to be standing around waiting to answer their questions.

As they were curious about everything, I did teach them a bit of rail terminology that can be useful to customers. The answer is in this photograph -- my father, who does not read Russian spotted it right away -- but I'll leave this for the first reader who recognizes a piece of Americana in the departure board.

2010 Russia 027.jpg
 

John Bredin

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Dec 18, 2007
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suburban Chicago (Buffalo Grove)
Random guesses:

*All the train numbers are even. Departures from Moscow even-numbered, arrivals to Moscow odd-numbered?

*There are two trains 30 and two trains 56, each departing at the same time with the same first word (destination?) but a different second word. I'm guessing sections, like the Lake Shore Limited or Empire Builder?

Not a guess but an observation: unless there's a whole other set of columns right of the ones shown, only one train departed in the morning, #16. (I'm not counting #44, everyone considers a 12:35 am departure as "really" the last departure of the previous day.)
 

John Bredin

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Looked closer and realized the double trains, 30 and 56, must be trains that split into sections. 26 leaves at the same time as 56 and the word with that one is the second word on the second line of 56. And 38 leaves the same time as 30 and again the words match.

ETA: And 24 & 34 leave at the same time with a common word.
 
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Willbridge

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Mar 30, 2019
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Denver
Random guesses:

*All the train numbers are even. Departures from Moscow even-numbered, arrivals to Moscow odd-numbered?

*There are two trains 30 and two trains 56, each departing at the same time with the same first word (destination?) but a different second word. I'm guessing sections, like the Lake Shore Limited or Empire Builder?

Not a guess but an observation: unless there's a whole other set of columns right of the ones shown, only one train departed in the morning, #16. (I'm not counting #44, everyone considers a 12:35 am departure as "really" the last departure of the previous day.)
You came very close with your first observation. This is the Moscow station that is the head of the line for the Trans-Siberian Railway, so all trains departing here are eastbound. Just as in the U.S. and Canada, eastbound trains are even-numbered.

In World War I a U.S. mission was sent to Russia to try to help them better operate the line from Vladivostok, where U.S. supplies for the Tsar's army were piling up. American rail operating men worked as far west as Omsk. It was a thankless job because - of course - some of the Russians hated taking advice, some of the Americans were undiplomatic, and then the October Revolution came, followed by chaos. You may know that there was an entire Czech army division fighting its way home from their Austro-Hungarian role on the Eastern Front by way of the Trans-Siberian Railway. So the Americans were always being accused of favoring one faction or the other, while they saw themselves as an essential part of getting post-war food relief to European Russia.

They pulled out division point by division point as the Bolsheviks got things under control. They left behind some North American ideas, apparently including train numbering conventions, big steam engines with pulling power and chime whistles, and centralized dispatching with train orders.

The column on the right of the board shows days of operation. Some of those trains run on alternating days to different destinations. Don't tell Amtrak, but some of these sleeping car trains run on stranger schedules than tri-weekly. The Deutsche Bahn has a good way of showing it visually. The attached calendar shows one Siberian train's departure dates in green. Quite a few depart on odd-days only or even-days only and are meshed with another train running another branch on the opposite days. So an American copy might be a Crescent that would go from DC to New Orleans on odd days and to Mobile on even days. (Shhhh!).

This is a lot easier booked in advance. On this 2010 trip I was in line to obtain a ticket in exchange for my home-printed voucher and the businessman in front of me got in a row about travel dates with the overheated agent (no AC in July, with the air hazy from forest fires). I could see that some of the queue and bystanders were anticipating the foreigner having trouble next, but it went smooth as could be. Had changes been necessary, though...

Train calendar.jpg
 
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Willbridge

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Looked closer and realized the double trains, 30 and 56, must be trains that split into sections. 26 leaves at the same time as 56 and the word with that one is the second word on the second line of 56. And 38 leaves the same time as 30 and again the words match.

ETA: And 24 & 34 leave at the same time with a common word.
Regarding Trains 24/34 I'm reminded that transport vocabularies are not usually included in our high school or college language classes, so I'm guessing from the dictionary definition that the meaning of the common words on the right hand column is "these trains run on specific days that require a calendar because there's no way we can fit the info into this display".

Regarding the hyphenated destinations, your surmise that these are split at some junction point is good. That's the case with Train 30. But the stations on Trains 26/56 are on the main line, so I'm not sure that the Russian Railways are consistent.

Regarding the evening departures, that used to be the case in the U.S., too, when there were multiple long-distance trains from a big city. Thus I was able to fly into Moscow and depart the same evening, without checking into a hotel and then catching a morning train. Even that daily morning train to Archangelsk leaves late enough for a breakfast in the hotel. The night departures were also good for movie scenes!

A trip like Ollie's requires planning and hoping not to run into those calendared oddities.
 
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Seaboard92

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I've noted those American traditions in the Russian Railway network before as well. All eastbound and northbounds tend to be even, while westbounds and southbounds tend to be odd numbered. And like you said the chime whistles on the steam engines are also a give away. Of course don't forget the USA built several steam locomotives of the Class Ye and I want to say there were over 3,100 of those built for them.

Russian train schedules are very interesting but they aren't too complex once you learn how exactly they work. The Rossiya (Train No. 1 and 2) Moscow-Vladivostok used to run every other day however they were just "Upgraded" to become daily trains with newer and more modern equipment. But the timecard was lengthened some 17 hours in the process of going daily. However an unnamed train No. 61/ 62 runs on the former schedule of the Rossiya and with it's former equipment.

Your departure board is from Kazanskaya? Казанская?
 

Willbridge

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I've noted those American traditions in the Russian Railway network before as well. All eastbound and northbounds tend to be even, while westbounds and southbounds tend to be odd numbered. And like you said the chime whistles on the steam engines are also a give away. Of course don't forget the USA built several steam locomotives of the Class Ye and I want to say there were over 3,100 of those built for them.

Russian train schedules are very interesting but they aren't too complex once you learn how exactly they work. The Rossiya (Train No. 1 and 2) Moscow-Vladivostok used to run every other day however they were just "Upgraded" to become daily trains with newer and more modern equipment. But the timecard was lengthened some 17 hours in the process of going daily. However an unnamed train No. 61/ 62 runs on the former schedule of the Rossiya and with it's former equipment.

Your departure board is from Kazanskaya? Казанская?
Moscow Yaroslavsky Station is the home of that departure board.

I enjoyed my trip to Tomsk, but by the time we get out of the pandemic it's unlikely that I'll have the opportunity to get in the eastern segments.

My home town, Portland, has a history with Siberian ports and the Trans-Siberian Railway and electrification projects, so I appreciate reading travel news and trip reports along that line.

I don't have a trip report of my 2010 visit, but do have videos of my still photos available:

Ticket to Tomsk

Tomsk 2010

Wire to Moscow
 

caravanman

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Nottingham, England.
Just watching "Ticket to Tomsk", an interesting trip! Obviously good that you could speak some Russian, did you get the impression that a tourist who only spoke English would struggle to get by?
I will have a look at the Tomsk and the Wire to Moscow next.
Thanks for posting!
 

Seaboard92

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I have yet to take the Trans Siberian yet but I believe passengers traveling eastbound will have slightly less trouble than westbound on passengers speaking English. The traditional way tourists seam to take the train is east to Vladivostok instead of west. That's one reason I'm planning on taking the train west instead. I'm actually fairly fluent in Russian because that's been my Covid Project until recently. One of my good friends is Russian so we've been communicating strictly in Russian at this point.

I'm actively planning to get to Russia this year if the border opens to enjoy the Moscow Christmas Market at Red Square, and to test out all four varieties of overnight trains between Moscow and St. Petersburg (Literally going to save on hotels that way by pinging back and forth every night). I'm also planning a summer time trip to check out the various Children's Railways along the Trans Siberian route. Making stops in St. Petersburg, Zhuskovskiy (Moscow), Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Chita, and Khabarovsk. I'm also planning on interviewing as many of the railroad students (Children), and railroad administrators (adults) to write an article about the concept behind the Children's Railway for an American train periodical.

So fingers crossed @Willbridge you'll get a trip report from me on the subject in the next year.
 

caravanman

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I enjoyed a trip on the "Childrens Railway" in Budapest, they still have some steam engines in use. The children do ticket and platform duties, adults actually operate the engines, etc. Originally set up to train youngsters for a career in the rail system.
Great that you can speak Russian, a great bonus I am sure.
 

Seaboard92

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I enjoyed a trip on the "Childrens Railway" in Budapest, they still have some steam engines in use. The children do ticket and platform duties, adults actually operate the engines, etc. Originally set up to train youngsters for a career in the rail system.
Great that you can speak Russian, a great bonus I am sure.
Berlin has a really interesting one from an operational stand point. They have three potential routes and can run up to four or five trains at a time. If you pick one of the days they are running the five there is one bottleneck that is incredibly busy. With a train passing every two minutes. It's a great concept and I actually want to write my article about it in hopes that we can bring it over here.
 

Deni

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May 11, 2008
Messages
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Before COVID closed down travel I was lucky enough to travel from London to Saigon by train through Russia etc. I've been writing a series of articles on the trip. If anyone is interested here is a link to the article. I'd vote the Reunification Express, particularly the section from Hue to Danang, as one of the most scenic train trips in Asia!

I do love that train a lot. Definitely agree with your point about the great scenery between Hue and Da Nang. One of my favorite countries to visit.
 

Willbridge

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I enjoyed a trip on the "Childrens Railway" in Budapest, they still have some steam engines in use. The children do ticket and platform duties, adults actually operate the engines, etc. Originally set up to train youngsters for a career in the rail system.
Great that you can speak Russian, a great bonus I am sure.
This and the Berlin (East) version were copied after the Moscow version.
 

Willbridge

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Just watching "Ticket to Tomsk", an interesting trip! Obviously good that you could speak some Russian, did you get the impression that a tourist who only spoke English would struggle to get by?
I will have a look at the Tomsk and the Wire to Moscow next.
Thanks for posting!
I think that Seaboard's approach to the language issue is best if one does not have other experience with Russian. And, I should note, when I was day-dreaming that trip I discovered how much the language had changed since my high school days. I had used it for work in emergencies, but nobody was critiquing it! I invested some time in practicing it and also memorized some map info. At my official destination -- they still wanted to know where I was going and why -- I was a guest of the English Language Club, which was sort of cheating on the language issue! Tomsk, the City of Knowledge, is home of the oldest university in Siberia, so there were other people around who knew English or German.

If one masters the alphabet it probably would work to be an independent tourist in Moscow, St. Petersburg, etc. where there are more English or German speakers. On the three-night ride into Siberia I only met one other passenger who spoke English and she was Polish. On the return two-night trip I met a retired Russian teacher of English and two young railway employees going to a training class; they were shy about trying, but could have helped me if needed. The young railwayman and the teacher are in the video.
 

mcropod

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Oz
Just watching "Ticket to Tomsk", an interesting trip! Obviously good that you could speak some Russian, did you get the impression that a tourist who only spoke English would struggle to get by?
I will have a look at the Tomsk and the Wire to Moscow next.
Thanks for posting!
Indeed! I'm going through your videos also at present, so thankyou.

But for the current shutdowns affecting global travel, I would have been a couple of days in to my trip from Vladivostok to St Petersburg, with overnighters along the way. I will look to re-book as soon as it is prudent to do so, but I suspect that won't be for a year or more. I am very grateful for your videos and written descriptions which have confirmed for me how much I'd like to make the trip.
 

Seaboard92

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I think Duolingo is a great way to practice before you take a trip anywhere in the world. I'm also thankful that I have multiple Russian friends spread evenly along the Trans Siberian that if I get in trouble I can reach out to someone who can help me. Lucky for me writing a story on the Children's Railways I've made several friends with similar interests to me. And its good practice for their english and my Russian.

I think if you could make an app that if you spoke into it automatically translated it to another language the developer could be incredibly wealthy. It would have so many business opportunities.


There is a map of all of the Children's Railway lines around the world. I've reached out to several thus far in hopes of having a very comprehensive piece on the subject. Of course before I finish the piece I have to ride each of the railways I'm profiling.
 

Seaboard92

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Indeed! I'm going through your videos also at present, so thankyou.

But for the current shutdowns affecting global travel, I would have been a couple of days in to my trip from Vladivostok to St Petersburg, with overnighters along the way. I will look to re-book as soon as it is prudent to do so, but I suspect that won't be for a year or more. I am very grateful for your videos and written descriptions which have confirmed for me how much I'd like to make the trip.

To help you with your trip planning seeing you probably like steam locomotives and all things railroad here is a helpful link.


Note this website has two versions. The English site just tries to sell you their luxury tour. Whereas the Russian site has various steam excursions around the country. The Circum Baikal Railway, and trips out of Moscow, and St. Petersburg by steam. If you need help translating things feel free to ask me. I would be happy to help.

As a non Russian citizen they also tend to charge you a bit higher which is unfair but the difference is so negligible because of the Rubles valuation it doesn't matter.
 
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