FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Sightseeing in Kyiv

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 26, 2008

On my last full day in Kyiv I started with a morning walk out to St Volodmyr’s Cathedral and then carried on to Kyiv Fortress (unfortunately closed) and the national museum of Chernobyl with its tragic tale of the consequences of the disaster in 1986.

In late morning I caught up with a local guide who took me to a branch of the Ukrainian fast food restaurant Puzata Khata off Kreschatik. The name seems to translate as “Pot-bellied Peasant House” which might not sound inspiring but this proved to be an unexpected highlight of the day. The restaurant serves a range of Ukrainian dishes and it was great to try some of these. As we left an old lady berated us for having eaten in the restaurant, saying that we ought to go to our families for properly cooked Ukrainian dishes not a place like that!

Orthodox Church of Our Lady Pirogoshcha, Podil

In the afternoon we took a walk that took in Andreyevsky Spusk, Podil (with the delightful Orthodox Church of Our Lady Pirogoshcha which was restored in 1998) and the monument to the friendship of nations (constructed in 1982 to commemorate the unification of Russia and the Ukraine).

A Russian and Ukrainian worker hold aloft the Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples

The arch seemed like an appropriate landmark to have visited on my last day and I began to think about a return to the Ukraine, partly to see Lvov properly but also to explore the Crimean coast. That’s for the future though, now I only need to get my case packed and prepare for the flight home.

Architectural adventures in Kyiv

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 25, 2008

The morning started out with a self-guided tour of the city to find some of the more interesting architecture in the city, starting with the remarkable House of Chimeras which is decorated with all manner of sculptures from frogs to lizards which struck me as a little disconcerting – not least the snake sliding down the wall! I’ve never seen anything quite like it, though a little later I saw equally bizarre and creepy decorations at Richard’s Castle on Andreyevsky Spusk.

The house of chimeras

A snake descends from the house of chimeras

Detail from Richard's Castle

After leaving behind the unusual sights of these buildings I headed out of the city centre towards the other major attraction in the city – the Kievo Pecherskaya Lavra. Along the way I passed the distinctive Hotel Salyut which is a great example of Soviet architecture, even if it has seen better days! The intriguing design extends to the interior as the rooms of this circular building are accessed off a spiral ramp.

Hotel Salyut

The lavra is an amazing complex awash with churches and shrines, as well as a series of underground chapels in caves that are accessed by tunnels running underneath the complex. I bought a candle to light the way and followed some locals into the cave system, though many areas are now restricted to true pilgrims as an understandable reaction to the increasing numbers of tourists (like me!).

Lane inside the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra

Kievo Pecherskaya Lavra

Troitskaya Church

After leaving the lavra I headed on to the Golden Gate, the heavily restored fortification that was built in 1017-1024 and which was once served as the main gateway into Kyiv. Although the museum was shut I grabbed a couple of shots in full tourist mode!

Golden Gate, Kyiv

Finally, I headed to the last attraction of the day – St Sophia’s Cathedral – and spent some time inside the church admiring its decorated walls and mosaics. I was exhausted by the time the sun set but felt I’d got as much as I could out of the day.

St Sophia's Catherdral, Kyiv

Sightseeing in Kyiv: Soviet construction and destruction

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 24, 2008

A walk along Khreschatyk gave a great view of post-war Stalinist architecture, with a series of apartment blocks adorned with epic archways and topped with decorative red stars. In contrast, street level on and off the main drag delivered all manner of commerce with everything from fast food outlets to luxury car showrooms. I took a detour off Khreschatyk in order to check out the last remaining statue of Lenin.

Statue of Lenin in Kyiv

I also visited St Michael’s Monastery, a striking blue building with golden domes. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a historic building, but in fact it was only reconstructed in 2001 after the original building was demolished by the Soviet regime in the 1930s. A fascinating display inside the monastery illustrated the destruction and reconstruction.

St. Michael's Monastery

The golden domes of St. Michael's Monastery

In the evening I headed to the opera house to see my first opera – Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, which would be performed by the National Opera of Ukraine. It was a remarkable production though I was slightly bemused by the coach party who turned up, saw the first act and then never re-appeared!

Gallery: Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Kyiv

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 24, 2008

Sights and sounds of the motherland

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 24, 2008

It’s hard to imagine any visit to Kyiv that doesn’t lead to the titanium colossos that is the Rodyna Mat (the nation’s mother) and the Great Patriotic War Museum. It was certainly the first place that I wanted to see once the new day dawned. Fully re-charged after a good night’s sleep I headed out to Arsenalna on the metro and walked the rest of the way to the park, guided by the towering statue.

Rodyna Mat

The 62 metre high statue is as amazing up close as it is from a distance, glinting in the sunlight with her sword and shield. Unfortunately, the lifts up to the viewing point in the statue’s right hand were closed (possibly permanently?) but most people were here to see the statue from the outside, which is where it is at its most impressive. In any case, the whole park is quite extensive so there was still plenty to see without this.

It is difficult to convey the scale of the place or the atmosphere in pictures, not least because stirring and sombre martial music plays across the complex as you wander round, somehow altering the way you look at the sculptures poised at the height of their courageous struggle for freedom.

Sculptures in the concrete memorial complex

I wandered around the fascinating war museum (at the base of the statue) and around an outdoor exhibition of vehicles and equipment. The memorial hall was particularly poignant with its towering lists of names, remembering those soldiers and workers from the home front accorded hero status.

The visitors on the day I visited were a real mix – from a company of soldiers through to families with their children, many of whom were clambering over two brightly painted tanks outside the museum.

Detail from a brightly painted tank outside the museum of the Great Patriotic War

After an interesting morning exploring the park I headed back into the centre of town to check out some of the more historic sights – ahead of a night at the opera (a first for me!).

Kyiv in slow motion

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 23, 2008

After a week of almost constant travel it was good to arrive at the Hotel Ukraina for a post-tour city break. It felt like a real old fashioned Soviet hotel with a dezhurnaya behind a desk on each floor to keep an eye on whoever was coming and going. This was a practice I had heard about before I went to Russia a couple of years ago, but hadn’t actually seen until now.

I was pleased to find that I had a spacious room to relax in, though it did take a while to get used to a bed that was static and didn’t provide the occasional jolt. The view was quite stunning as well – it certainly made a change from pulling back the curtains in my compartment to see a petrochemical freight train rumbling past!

Hotel Ukraina

The view from my room in the Hotel Ukraina

I had a bit of time left in the day so spent some time wandering around Maidan Nezalezhnosti and checked out my emails at Optika internet cafe (after I figured out how to use the cyrillic keyboard!).

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Kyiv Pass and Darnitsa

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 23, 2008

Our train had reached Kyiv by the early morning and our numbers began to thin when the Japanese party left the train around 6am. The rest of us had a slightly more civilised start with breakfast served at 7.30 am ahead of our slow crawl into Kyiv Pass which we reached at 8.50am.

Mosaic at Kyiv Pass depot

On arrival we transferred to a couple of coaches which would take us out to a couple of the depots in Kyiv before taking us onward. Our first stop was Kyiv Pass depot where we spent about half an hour (9.30am to 10am) exploring the yard with a rich variety of diesels on display. However, the most distinctive features of the depot (at least to my eye) were a mural near the entrance featuring the familiar emblems of the Soviet Union and a plinthed Fdp20 steam locomotive just outside.

After our time ran out we moved on to Kyiv Darnitsa Depot for just over half hour (from 11am to 11.33am) which was a little more lively. Indeed, electric loco VL80-2737 arrived at Kiev Darnitsa Depot during our visit and helpfully set up a wonderful 3 loco shot in front of one shed.

Three VL80s at Kyiv Darnitsa Depot

Finally, the tour reached its conclusion and the coaches headed on to the airport and the city centre. I had opted to stay in Kyiv for a few more days to get the most out of my trip so my journey ended at the Hotel Ukraine with a prime location just off Maiden Square in the centre of Kyiv.

Kolomiya to Ternopol

Posted in Chortkov, Kolomiya, Ternopol, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 22, 2008

The final day of the tour dawned, but more poignantly than that, this was also to be the last day of steam hauled charter passenger trains on the Ukrainian mainline. To that end, the consist for the final day was somewhat unusual – featuring six locomotives (four steam locomotives and two diesels). The information about the fate of the steam locomotives was a little confused, ranging from a cutter’s torch in a scrapyard to preservation in a museum at Donetsk. I really hope it was the latter.

L 2-10-0 5141 at Kostrytzevka

Su 2-6-2 251-86 and L 2-10-0 5141 double head at Kostrytzevka

Our route to Ternopol took us to a viaduct over the Dnestr at Kostrytzevka, which was used for two rather haphazardly organized runpasts (we were all instructed to re-board when news of the second runpast came through…). I dashed up the hillside but was too late for the shot I intended.

Once the runpasts were completed we re-joined the train and made our way across the viaduct. From the comfort of our coaches we could see a few intrepid photographers standing in the bitter cold of the Dnestr. After going to such lengths I hope they were rewarded with a good shot!

Intrepid photographers in the Dnestr

After heading away from the Dnestr we made stops at a field north of Torske for a runpast with all 6 locos (which I captured very badly on a video which can be seen at and then at a field somewhere else with the diesels detached (I didn’t catch the name of any stations that we passed to have even the slightest clue where this was!).

Su 251-86 leads a runpast in a field somewhere between Torske and Chortkov

Em 735-72 in a field somewhere between Torske and Chortkov

In the early afternoon we arrived at Chortkov for a water stop and to allow a local train to cross, followed by a false start which would turn out to be the last opportunity of the day to get some photographs in daylight. The platform was packed with passengers waiting for the local service though it was difficult to tell which was the stranger sight to them – the hundreds of mad foreigners or the sudden appearance of four steam locomotives!

DR1A diesel multiple unit at Chortkov

The water stop attracted plenty of attention from those locals (both two legged and four legged!) still around after the service train had departed. It was noticeable that they still had a working water crane here and I wondered how long ago steam had disappeared from these parts, or whether this was only still here for the benefit of charter railtours like ours.

The Su and L took water at Chortkov watched by an attentive local audience

Apart from the work going on around the steam locomotives our lengthy stop held few attractions besides people watching and a wander round the yard (with highlights such as a snowplough to check out!). Finally, we got our last false departure and then clambered back on the train around 3.20pm. Our onward journey took us beyond sunset and into darkness.

Su 2-6-2 251-86 in steam at Chortkov

Our arrival at Ternopil was heralded with much whistling, hooting and blaring of horns so it was just as well that it was early evening! It was an appropriate way to end the steam hauled section of our railtour. The steam locomotives departed around 7pm and we left Ternopil behind at 8.20pm with ‘electric thrust’ (which generated enough power for us to have fully working light in our compartments for the first and last time on the tour!). Our run through the night would take us from Ternopil back to Kyiv with a scheduled arrival time of 8.44am.

Ternopil Station

Rakhov to Kolomiya

Posted in Delyatin, Kolomiya, Rakhov, Tatariv, Ukraine, Voronenko, Yasinya by folkestonejack on February 21, 2008

After our early start to the day at Berlibash we returned to familiar territory at Rakhov around 9.15am and spent a little while here before retracing the route back to Kolomiya. The combination of light snow and grey skies made the place seem gloomier than it had in the fading light of the previous day. Nevertheless, the view across the valley as we headed north was quite spectacular even under such poor conditions. The river that ran through it looked as though it had a series of icebergs floating midstream, though I’m sure it was just a series of small snowy islands!

The station at Rakhov

Turntable at Rakhov

We retraced our steps to Yasinya by late morning where we discovered a wonderfully rural scene with cockerels wandering amongst the tracks and a family carving the carcass of a pig stretched out on a wooden rack in the open air. At times it felt like you were stepping back into time, particularly with some of the local traffic – a horse pulling a wooden cart that looked like it had stepped out of the middle ages or on another occasion, pulling a sleigh. The area provided a wonderful landscape of wooden cottages, wonderful wooden hay stores and animal shelters. The 21st century wasn’t entirely absent though – many of the cottages had sprouted satellite dishes!

2M62 at Yasinya

Em 0-10-0 and Er 0-10-0 double header

In the early afternoon we enjoyed a false departure and two run pasts at Voronenko, which I thought was a great spot. In particular, the sight of the L in steam within a snowy landscape bordered by forest somehow seemed very appropriate. We waited a little for a regular passenger service to cross here which gave me a little chance to explore. At the station there was a small sobering memorial which I assume recorded those who gave their lives during the Second World War.

Em 0-10-0 735-72 and Er 0-10-0 797-86 at Voronenko

D1 diesel multiple unit at Voronenko

L class steam locomotive 5141 at Voronenko

Another couple of runpasts took place at Tatariv, with the L once again the star of the show. I thought she looked superb heading straight towards us in the wintry landscape with the mountains in the distance.

L class steam locomotive 5141 approaches Tatariv

Our next stop came at Delyatin which we reached just after 3pm. After a 40 minute wait we photographed a false start and then re-boarded for a real departure at about 4pm. In the time that we were stationary a number of local children came out to look at the locomotives. It reminded me how lucky I am – although I am too young to have seen steam in day-to-day use in the UK I have at least had the chance to experience steam on charters like this, which will be an option that will finish here in the Ukraine with this trip.

Em 0-10-0 735-72 is observed by local children at Delyatin

Our return to Kolomiya should have been the end to the day’s travels, but there was now a problem with the supply of water for the carriages on the train. It was proposed that the train would leave Kolomiya after 10pm and head to Ivano-Frankovsk to collect water and recharge the batteries before returning to Kolomiya ready for the morning start – quite an exercise in time and logistics. However, in the end a way to resolve the problem was found using a standpipe. Overnight the train was shunted back and forth so that each carriage could be filled with water from the standpipe. I defy anyone to sleep under those conditions!

Sunset at Kolomiya

Berlibash – centre of Europe

Posted in Berlibash, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 21, 2008

After a good night’s sleep our train rumbled south in the early morning gloom, heading towards the Romanian border. Our destination was Berlibash – the geographical centre of Europe.

The railway line runs across a bridge overlooking the geographic centre and it was originally planned that our train would stop here and we would take the steps down, however it seemed that these were iced over and particularly treacherous so instead we disembarked into a snowy field and made the short walk past a customs post (manned by soldiers who seemed not much older than teenagers) and down the road to the monument(s). I would have to say that the centre of Europe doesn’t have much going for it, but it was an interesting diversion!

Kolomiya to Rakhov

Posted in Delyatin, Kolomiya, Rakhov, Tatariv, Ukraine, Yaremcha, Yasinya by folkestonejack on February 20, 2008

The early morning light provided a lovely glint on the engines as they were coaled and readied in the depot at Kolomiya before our departure. Today we would be taking a triple header of the Em, Er and L from Kolomiya into the Carpathian mountains for what would undoubtedly be the most scenic territory of the trip.

Em 735-72 on the turntable at Kolomiya in the early morning light

In order to create the best photographic opportunities freight wagons and box cars would be placed immediately behind the three steam locomotives, followed by three restaurant cars for the international contingent and then two diesels to ‘assist’ where required. After our departure a second diesel hauled train would depart with our restaurant cars, overtaking us midway. And so, it began…

We had made it to Delyatin by late morning and proceeded to get some shots around the station. There were a couple of rather wonderful posters on a nearby building which I couldn’t resist photographing and then found a good spot to see a false start from the triple header (after a local passenger service had first passed through). Somewhere amidst all this a rather surprised local engaged me in a conversation of sorts and after managing to communicate that I was from England shook hands… I have to admit that if this had been my village I too would have been rather overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of over a hundred foreigners!

Ukranian Railway Posters

D1 diesel multiple unit at Delyatin

L 5141 at the front of the triple headed train at Delyatin

We clambered back into our carriages around midday and continued our journey south to Yaremcha where we stopped for a half hour break which allowed the pursuing diesel to overtake us with the sleeping cars. I took a little wander into the neighbourhood and checked out a relatively modern orthodox church and a striking war memorial. In more than one place there were signs of construction work and those that had been here a decade earlier remarked just how much had changed. After a pleasant walk I returned to the trackside ready to capture the false departure and then re-boarded the train.

Orthodox church at Yaremcha

Triple header at Yaremcha

You may be wondering whether 120+ photographers managed to avoid getting in each others shots. Truth be told the answer is no – it’s sometimes impossible given the terrain, but I think it all the more remarkable that we managed successfully more often than not. On those occasions where I had to give in I chose to capture the madness of the moment, as at Tatariv where I got a shot showing the photoline as they took their own shots of the triple-header passing through.

The photoline at Tatariv

The line provided some incredible views across a series of remarkable bridges and viaducts as we got deeper into the Carpathians, delivering what I expected to be the best photo spots of the entire trip. Indeed, when we made our way up the hillside we found that we weren’t alone in reaching this conclusion – some dedicated Ukrainian railway photographers were already in position waiting. I had to admire their tenacity having seen them valiantly chasing the train in cars that looked far from suited to the task!

L 5141 in the Carpathians

Triple header in the Carpathians

The hills are alive... with railway photographers!

The final stop before our day was run came at Yasinya. I took a moment to capture the scene as everyone spilled out of the train in readiness for the last runpast of the day. Once the three locos had performed for us we re-boarded and carried on to our destination – Rakhov – arriving in the last light of the day.


Chernovtsy to Kolomiya

Posted in Chernovtsy, Kolomiya, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 19, 2008

In the early afternoon we began our run to Kolomiya from Chernovtsy, which delivered up a few fields, stations and a bridge across the river Prut before the light finally disappeared. Once we reached Kolomiya we had the opportunity to enjoy a night shoot at the depot, which I really hadn’t come equipped for – nevertheless, it was nice to soak up the atmosphere of a loco on the turntable in the dark, illuminated only by the shed lights.

The Em and Er head a runpast over the river Prut


Posted in Chernovtsy, Ukraine, Vazkovtsy, Viznitsa by folkestonejack on February 19, 2008

In the early hours of the morning, around 4.35am, our train rolled out of the sidings at Chernovtsy to take us 102km to the south east in the direction of the Romanian border. I expect that few of us slept through moments like these with all the jolting involved but there was something satisying about being on the move again. Our destination today was Viznitsa, or rather it was the starting point for the real attraction – a morning of runpasts on the branch line.

Up to this point we had seen only the slightest layers of snow, but now we got this in abundance – if anything, too much! Our breakfast was served at 7am but like kids most of us really just wanted to be outside in the snow taking photographs of the star of our show – the L class steam locomotive that had been attached to our train in the early hours and which would haul us back to Chernovtsy by midday (before continuing on to Kolomiya in the afternoon).

L 5141 at Viznitsa

The L class were large and powerful freight locomotives built in their thousands in the post-war world of the 1940s and 50s. As many were produced it was not surprising that a number have survived into preservation in the Ukraine and Russia. Indeed, I have already seen static examples at the railway museums in St Petersburg and Moscow. Today, I would go one step better and see one in steam. I was really looking forward to this.

L 5141 on the Viznitsa branch line in a blizzard

We departed from Viznitsa at 8am, and made two runpats early on – one from a field and the second from the roadside a quarter of an hour later. The conditions were pretty diabolical as far as photography went. We had progressed from the pretty snow at Viznitsa to a full blizzard, which is reflected in the photographs. In some you can barely make out the locomotive amidst the blizzard! Thankfully it had eased off by the next stop, at a level crossing, around 9.40am.

L 5141 at a level crossing on the Viznitsa branch line

After the excitement we got back onboard and carried on to Vazkovtsy which proved a particularly atmospheric spot with a picturesque station, loading bays and level crossing (which in turn delivered a number of horse drawn carts!). This location saw a false start and a runpast, which are illustrated in the sequence below. In between all this a local passenger train passed through (we had to wait for this to cross our train as the branch line was single tracked).

L 5141 outside the loading bays at Vazkovtsy

L 5141 with Vazkovtsy station in the background

L 5141 runs past the level crossing at Vazkovtsy

L 5141 steams past our position at Vazkovtsy

At 11.05 we were once again back on board for the run back in to Chernovtsy, arriving just before midday. The schedule gave us an hour here before we would continue our journey on to Kolomiya.

L 5141 at at Chernovtsy

Whistle-stop tour of Chernovtsy

Posted in Chernovtsy, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 18, 2008

After leaving the depot at Chernovtsy our guides took us on a tour of the city by coach, pointing out the many architectural sights and monuments (including a plinthed Soviet T-34/76 tank). Unfortunately, it was not possible to get any decent shots from the coach but we did get a chance to get off at the end of the tour to take shots of the distinctive buildings at the University of Chernovtsy.

I couldn’t give you an accurate list of the sights that we got fleeting glances of from the bus, but I believe we saw the Soviet war memorial, Chernovtsy Theatre and Shevchenko statue. I’m not sure whether we saw St. Nicholas Cathedral, though it’s slightly academic because even if I did I couldn’t have appreciated quite how distinctive the building looked with its twisted turrets.

It was a pity that we didn’t more time to explore the city, but with a trip like this it’s always difficult to squeeze in. The buildings will still be around in years to come, but the steam locomotives might not be.

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Chernovtsy depot

Posted in Chernovtsy, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 18, 2008

A short visit had been arranged to Chernovtsy depot. I think the intention was for this to be orderly guided visit, but it largely descended into a mass invasion into every corner of the yard…

Ivano-Frankovsk to Chernovtsy

Posted in Chernovtsy, Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 18, 2008

The day began with an 8am departure from Ivano-Frankovsk and a series of runpasts carried us through the day. Our timetables gave us a rough idea of where and when these would take place but there were plenty of deviations from the plan, so you always had to keep an ear out for an unexpected blast of the whistles signalling a runpast (usually accompanied by quizzical looks at whoever was around, as if to say did I just hear what I think I heard!?).

2M62 at Ivano-Frankovsk

Passenger service topped by a M62 and tailed by a 2M62

The locations for our runpasts included stations, fields and a bridge. The latter were, it seemed, the most carefully organised as bridges and tunnels are still regarded as strategic targets and special permission had to be requested by the company organising the railtour for us to be able to take photographs. You could see the importance attached to these locations as they were usually guarded – the set up varied as we made our way across the Ukraine but typically included guard huts, barbed wire and armed guards.

2M62U on a bridge over the Prut

Er 0-10-0 797 86 on the line between Kolomiya and Chernovtsy

Our lunch was just coming to an end as we arrived in Chernovtsy and the stop-start jolting that this involved seemed to have been perfectly timed to cause chaos as the waitresses tried to pour out coffee! Suitably refreshed we headed out to see the locomotives against the backdrop of the rather grand looking station, before boarding buses that would take us to Chernovtsy depot for a visit.

Er class locomotive 797-86 in the grand surroundings of Chernovtsy Station

Er class locomotive 797-86 sits in the platform at Chernovtsy

Lvov to Ivano-Frankovsk

Posted in Ivano-Frankovsk, Lvov, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 17, 2008

The journey from Lvov to Ivano-Frankovsk would take us most of the day, broken up with a series of runpasts. The plan sounded simple in theory – all the photographers would have to listen out for three long blasts of the whistle which would signal that the train had reached the spot for a runpast. The carriage attendants became quite practiced at opening carriage doors in the middle of nowhere so that we could scramble out into at chosen spot. Sometimes it was an easy drop down, on other occasions not so much – it was still much easier than the return, which usually involved grabbing the handrails and launching yourself up far enough to clamber on board.

Su 251-86 passing through a field somewhere on the line between Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk

The choice of photo stops was to some extent dicated by the size of the contingent and I think it was predictable that they would sometimes be a little dull (three locations that come to mind are a grass field, a muddy field and a field of black-earth!).

Su 251-86 is passed by a DMU at Vibranovka

The organisers were not photographers themselves so we would sometimes find that the runpasts would be in entirely the wrong place for the light, but you just had to make the best of the situation. It was an interesting challenge to make fields photographically interesting, which usually involved looking for some point of interest in the foreground or an interesting arrangement of telegraph poles. I wouldn’t say that I was particularly successful!

Su 251-86 at Glebovichy

A few old hands who had visited the area many times before confirmed that there were better locations but these simply wouldn’t work for the numbers on this trip. At least, not without World War 3 breaking out!

The gallery awaits a runpast...

...and my version of the shot

The pattern of the day then was one of relaxation in our compartments or in the corridors chatting as the world flew by, punctuated by the utter panic to get dressed for the cold and dash out to get to a reasonable spot for a photo. If I’m honest, it was rather fun… though from as far back as our carriage it was often difficult to make out what were three whistles!

Sights from the Ukrainian landscape (by train)

After our arrival at Ivano-Frankovsk Galina led a group of us on a tour of the compact city centre which took in the art deco Ratusha in Ploshcha Rynok (market square). I didn’t take any photographs myself on this occasion as night had already fallen. After a good walk we headed back to the train at 8pm ready for our evening meal.


Posted in Lvov, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 17, 2008

The morning arrived early with the crackle of the train’s PA system relaying a morning greeting from Galina, the hostess of the train, rendered largely incomprehensible by the terrible quality of the system. Our breakfast was served at 6.30am and by 7am (or thereabouts) we had arrived at Lvov.

The double span roof of Lvov Railway Station

The cavernous interior of Lvov Railway Station

The freight yard at Lvov

The main railway station at Lvov was impressive with a double span roof but the first thing that hit any of us was the cold, which the sign on one of the span’s helpfully recorded at minus thirteen for us. Time to wrap up well and head out into the cold…

A cold morning in Lvov

Our first day began with a visit to Lvov West depot, though with it being Sunday it was far from the hub of activity that you might have expected on an ordinary day. Still, it was interesting to wander round and see what was lurking in each hall. After a while we all gradually drifted back to the main railway station in good time to watch the arrival of our locomotive for the day – Su 251-86.

Su 251-86 passes through Lvov station

Su 251-86 shunts back to couple up to the carriages for the railtour at Lvov

Ready to depart (with the help of a diesel or two...)

A little after 10am we headed out of Lvov and south towards Ivano-Frankovsk, which was scheduled to be our stop for the second night on board.

Hotel on wheels

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 16, 2008

At 6.45pm the signal was given for everyone to make their way out of the impressive waiting rooms to join train N981/982. It was a long, long train with 13 carriages (including three restaurant cars) but then it needed to be with something like 120 passengers and 45 staff. Tonight it would be hauled out of Kyiv by an electric loco, but for a large part of the tour it would be hauled by steam locos (with a diesel or two on the back).

Inauspiciously most of the train was in complete darkness, but in spite of this I managed to find my way down to coach number 12 and drop my stuff off. My home for the next seven nights would be compartment 6 which I was lucky enough to have to myself – a pleasant surprise. I’ve never done anything like this before so was more than a little nervous, but mixed in with that was excitement and anticipation.

One of the realities on board our ‘hotel on wheels’ was that the train simply wasn’t able to generate enough power to light the compartments at the slow speeds we would be travelling at. At least, that was the reality as far back as carriage 12! Never mind, it was a good excuse to stay a little longer in the restaurant or bar cars and to linger in the corridor for a chat as the Ukraine whizzed past.

Compartment 6 (with a rare burst of light at the end of the trip)

Our train left at 19:57 as we were sitting down to a welcome dinner in the restaurant cars. The first meal of the trip featured a fish hors d’oeuvre, salad, locker of pork with complex garnish and a pastry – served up with champagne. I was in no doubt that we would be well fed on this trip, with three meals a day inbetween all the photographic adventures…

Roll on Lvov!

London to Kyiv

Posted in Kyiv, Ukraine by folkestonejack on February 16, 2008

Around October last year I noticed an advert in one of the railway magazines advertising the last steam tour in the Ukraine. It sounded like my worst nightmare and the most incredible experience rolled into one. The thought of spending 8 days on board a train with over a hundred passengers sounded fairly horrific but on the other hand how could I miss this last chance to see five different classes of loco in steam!? The lure proved too great…

So, this is how I ended up on my way to Kyiv in the Ukraine today. I wasn’t alone in my madness – it was pretty clear that there were two distinct types of passenger on board this morning’s British Airways flight from Heathrow (BA0882). Firstly, there were well dressed Ukrainians heading home laden with expensive shopping and then there were the rail enthusiasts. Needless to say, it wasn’t too difficult to tell the two groups apart!

In the early afternoon we landed at Kyiv (Borispol) and I emerged into the utter chaos of the arrivals hall. All the waiting locals, taxi drivers and other hangers on had crowded around the exit doors so you really had to fight your way into clean air. After a little confusion I found my way out to the coach that had been arranged to take us to the distinctively shaped Kyiv-Pasazhyrs’kyi (Kyiv Passenger Station). The group of early arrivals settled in to a waiting room on the upper floor but it was destined to be a long wait as the process of gathering the 120 or so participants would continue throughout the day. Our train was not scheduled to leave until around 8pm so boredom settled in very quickly!