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Children's Railways of the former USSR – Past and Present

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Gorky 1939-1948

Shunting on Rodina station
The Gorky Minor railway named in favor of Maksim Gorky
November 8, 1939
Full length: 11.2 kms
Length of the main line: 9.1 kms
3 stations: Pushkinskaya, Schastlivaya, Rodina halt: Mayakovskaya
Rolling stock: steam locomotives 63-type, 157-type
Signalling and communications: Electric token ring system, telephone, line telegraphy.
Engineering works: bridge over river Pzhavka (14 m.); a turntable at Rodina station; a reversing triangle at Schastlivaya station.

The decision to construct the line was approved on May 13, 1939 by the Gorky regional planning committee of Communist party VKP(b). Already on May 15, the committee of assistance to construction, of which the first secretary of the planning committee A.I.Shahurin became chairman, was created. The date of 1st October, 1939 was set for completion of construction. Design and exploration work began, which were carried out within the deadlines by design group of service of the Gorky Railway together with architectural-planning management of Gorky.

Construction actually began on May 30, 1939. Like all the other pre-war children's railways, the Gorky ChRly was construction by the "Komsomol Subbotnik" method. In total more than 36 thousand persons took part in its construction; not only the townspeople, but also inhabitants of neighboring villages, working voluntarily on the rest-day from their normal job.

Rodina staion.  1939

At the terminal stations, Rodina and Schastlivaya (the Native Land and Happy), two most beautiful stations - palaces - were erected in accordance with the plans of the architects Jakovlev and Anisimov. The two-storeyed station building topped with a round turret at Rodina was more than 40 metres long. On the building's ground floor were the bureau of the duty station chief, a waiting room, ticket offices, an information bureau, buffet, a first-aid post and bookstalls. On the second floor were the technical training rooms for use by study groups, the controller's office and a broadcasting centre, and - in the turret - a museum of the history of railway transportation.

Schastlivaya station. 1939

At the intermediate stations, Pushkinskaja and Mayakovskaya, less grandiose but not less beautiful wooden station buildings were constructed according to the plans by the architect Bazhan. So, Pushkinskaya station was designed to embody fairy tale themes, with carved fantasy scenes. Indeed, a team of the best carpenters from the Komintern collective farm at Borisoglebsky worked on creating it.

Pushkiskaya station. 1950s

The first train ran on the Gorky Small Railway on November 8, 1939. The railway was equipped with advanced communication facilities and the signalling system of those times. Telephone, cable, teletype communications were available. The movement of trains was carried out using the electric token ring system. The line had a well-equipped steam loco and carriage depot with inspection pits and repair shops, to which the name Chkalov was given.

Train with cowled steam locomotive LK-01 on Rodina station. 1939

Under special order the Gorky carriage depot constructed 12 coaches with soft seats equipped like the cars of the Moscow underground for the ChRW. And the "Red Sormovo" factory specially prepared two steam locomotives of type 63/65, by enclosing their boiler in a streamlined cowl. This streamlined design has made these steam locomotives resemble the very popular type of steam locomotive of those years, the IS - Joseph Stalin. On the ChRW they were designated LK-01 and LK-02 (Lasar Kaganovich). Apparently, the cowls were removed later; at least in later photos they are not so visible.

On August 7, 1941, the children's railway was closed, and all its property was transferred to a department of the Gorky Railway management engaged in professional training. For almost the whole duration of the war the line was used for training railwaymen of the national railways.

On August 25, 1944, the chief of the Gorky Railway issued order № 523/43 about restoration of children's railway, but little action was taken to implement it. Only after two years, a second order (№ 285/43 of July 25, 1946) about transferring the children's railway's property back to it was issued. The deadline for performing this order was specified as August 10, 1946, but unfortunately the exact date of the line's reopening is not known to us.

Track plan. 1939

The 9.1 km long Children's railway connected the Zheleznodorozhny area of the city of Gorky (Kanavino) with the car-factory district. In those years, the tram line that ran roughly parallel to it was very heavily overloaded, and so the townspeople began to use the ChRW as an alternative kind of municipal transport. In only the first year of operation the line carried more than 100 thousand passengers. For this reason the Gorky ChRW was repeatedly accused of excessive commercialisation and exploitation of child labour to the detriment of ideological and political education of young people.

In those years that was a rather serious accusation and, to avoid its consequences, the line's management gradually began to reduce the young railwaymen's range of duties. In 1947-48 only 45 young railwaymen (compared to 1200 pupils at the Tbilisi ChRW) were engaged by the children's railway, and only the instructors were occupied in operating passenger transport services. The result of this development was that the Gorky ChRW gradually declined and turned from the best children's railway in the country, with equipment of the highest quality, to the most ordinary narrow-gauge branch-line.

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