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

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Park station. Night view. foto by D.Sutyagin
Mala Pivdenna zaliznytsa
Malaya Yuzhnaya railways

Opened: November 8, 1940, Reopened: August 5, 1945
Length: 3.8 km
Location: runs from "CPKiO" to M.Gorky in the Forest park in the northern part of the city
2 stations: Park, Lesopark, 1 halt Memorial
Engineering works: the locomotive depot, two bridges, an overpass
Rolling stock: diesel locomotives TU2-054, TU7-3198, 6 carriages Pafawag, 6 carriages PV51, 1 freight car
(earlier: steam locomotives LK83-01 (series Yu83), LK-159-02 (series 159), Kv4-039, diesel locomotive TEU-3-001 (TU2-125), 12 Pafawag coaches (2 sets of 6 cars: "Orlenok" and "Pioneer")
Address: Ukraine, Kharkov, Sumskaya street 81, Children's railway
Tel.: +38 (0572) 46-62-65, 43-31-84
General Manager: KLIMENKO Roman Vasilievich
Official web site:
Reference information: guide to schedules and prices


The opening of the first children's railway in Tifilis in 1935 created a wave of designing and construction ChRW in many cities of the Soviet Union. And Kharkov was no exception. In 1936 the Laboratory of railway modelling at the Kharkov Palace of Pioneers has started development of the project of the children's railway. Some variants were suggested. Most serious of them were two. According to the first of them the road should pass through the Taras Shevchenko Garden, from the veterinary institute building to an entrance to the Zoo. Under the second project the road should pass a ring around of stadium of the Palace of Pioneers in Dinamovskaya street. In May, 1936, Pioneers from 12 cities where construction ChRW was planned were invited to a meeting which was organised by academician V.N.Obraztsov. At the meeting the questionof how to make ChRW not simply an interesting toy, but also a business useful to the whole country, was discussed.

After the meeting the Kharkov ChRW project has undergone essential redefinition. Under the new project the children's railway was planned to be located there where it now is - from the Gorky Park to the Forest Park in the city's northern surburbs. In the autumn of 1940 the building of station designed by architect E.A.Lymar' at station Park, locomotive depot, bridges and other infrastructure including approximately 1.5 kilometers of the line was constructed. The formal opening of the ChRW was held on November 8, 1940.

For transportation of passengers one train-set consisting of steam locomotive "YuP" and several carriages was used. (Unfortunately, the true type and number of the steam locomotive is not known to us.)

On June 22, 1941, fascist Germany perfidiously attacked the Soviet Union. Because of the real threat of capture of Kharkov by fascist armies, the Children's railway was closed, having worked only a few months. It was not possible to evacuate the rolling stock from children's railway. To prevent the enemy from making use of the steam locomotive, it was disassembled. As in the summer of 1941 everybody still hoped the war would soon end, all the fittings were removed from the steam locomotive, carefully protected and hidden underground close to Park station. But the occupation of Kharkov turned out to last much longer than had been expected…

After Kharkov was liberated, on August 23, 1943, the children's railway represented a rather sad sight. The station building at Park station appeared half ruined - in it there were no almost all internal partitions, a roof has almost failed. The locomotive depot and signal box had completely burned down; the white stone bridge was blown up. From the rolling stock there was only the skeleton of the unique car which had burnt out completely from within.

Ruined Park station. 1945

And Kharkov has not less suffered from hands of fascists. Naturally, first of all it was necessary to restore the city. Only in April, 1945 the authority took the decision to restore the ChRW and to extend it by two kilometers. By July, 1945, the work was completed: the station building had been completely repaired, a new passing loop had been installed at Park station, and the wooden locomotive depot had been constructed on time. To the children's railway had been transferred one four-axle carriage and a little two-axle one. Because of the severe shortage of sleepers, the new section of the line was laid on essentially increased distance between cross sleepers. It was supposed that this would not prevent trains to run on the new route, though with a severe speed restriction.

The most serious problem was the lack of a steam locomotive. As a result of long searches, it was possible to find at Kolomak station a steam locomotive that had worked on a children's railway before the war. However, this steam locomotive appeared to be severely damaged by an explosion, only the tender had remained is whole. To restore this steam locomotive was practically unrealistic; it was necessary only to search for a replacement for it.

It was not possible to find any narrow-gauge steam locomotive in the vicinity of Kharkov. Fortunately, the Kishinev line agreed to give one Yugoslavian steam locomotive Yu83 from Izmail depot. A single steam locomotive of this type (83-040, serial No. 5003, built in 1929) arrived in the USSR as a trophy during the World War-2. Incompatibility of spare parts for Yu83 with domestic narrow-gauge steam locomotives made the operation extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the Kharkov ChRW had no alternative. The steam locomotive was transported to Kharkov, extensively repaired and renamed as LK-83-01 (in favor of Lazar Kaganovich).

Steam locomotive LK-83-01. 1940s

Regular running-in movement before opening showed that the builders' hopes were not justified - the new site of the line was scarcely suitable for the load of a train. After long discussions it was decided the day of opening of the restored line would be August 5, 1945; all the same limited to one train on the line, and on the new site it should run at a speed of no more than 5 km/h. Further trains should go only on the old site. The line worked in this way till November 8, 1945, then it was closed again for reconstruction.

During the winter water columns were mounted in the locomotive depot and between the tracks at Park station, the new section of the line was relaid using the quantity of sleepers and ballast stipulated by the standard. The rolling stock was expanded with a covered two-axle luggage van constructed in 1910, which till now can be seen in a siding at Park station. The reconstruction carried out at that time has allowed to start running on the whole line in the same way as is carried out now.

Track plan
Park station Memorial halt. It has one track only Lesopark station

In 1948 the road received 6 new four-axle carriages and an inspection car. And, at the end of the 1940s, one more steam locomotive - the series 159, received designation LK-159-02 (Unfortunately, we do not know the details of the destiny of this locomotive). In 1951, steam locomotive LK-83-01 was removed from operation, and instead of it the brand-new Hungarian steam locomotive Kv4-039, which has worked on ChRW till 1990, was transferred to the line.

The transition of domestic railways from steam to diesel and electric locomotives, which began in the middle of the 1950s, also had an effect on the equipment of the children's railway. In 1957 the children's railway has received as a gift the brand new diesel locomotive TU2-125 from the Kharkov factory of the transport mechanical engineering company Malysheva. The diesel locomotive is constructed by the Kaluga machine-building factory, but a little modernized at the Kharkov factory. As all rolling stock of the Kharkov ChRW was equipped with side buffers and a screw coupling, and type TU2 diesel locomotives were fitted only with the central buffer and side chains drawgear, a small adaption of the diesel locomotive was required. This was done by the already-mentioned Malysheva factory.

Besides the diesel locomotive was equipped at the factory with a full-width snow-plough , which made it unlike all other TU2 diesel locomotives. This diesel locomotive has received designation TEU3-001. In any case, this renumbering has subsequently caused a great deal of confusion to many fans of narrow-gauge railways.

TEU3-001 (TU2-125)

In 1986 the line received one more diesel locomotive - TU2-054 - which was immediately upgraded similarly to TEU3. This diesel locomotive is used till now. Approximately then, or slightly later, the line received diesel locomotive TU7-3198. Now the type TU2 and TU7 diesel locomotives are used alternately. In the 1960s, the wooden carriages were replaced by the four-axle all-metal cars constructed by Pafawag factory in Poland. And, one or two of the new cars were 'soft' class, which was noteworthy because the overwhelming majority of the Pafawag railway coaches imported into the USSR were hard.

In the beginning of the 1980s the road did obtain 6 all-metal PV51 passenger railway coaches constructed by the Demikhovskogo Machine Building Plant, from which one train-set (called "Yunist' Pivdenoy" (in Ukrainian) - "Yunost' Yuzhnoy" (in Russian) - "Youth of Southern railway") was formed. At the same time some of the railway coaches made by Pafawag were scrapped, and the second train-set "Ukraine" was formed from the remaining six. Since in comparison with the PV51s the Pafawag railway coaches have smoother running, they are used predominantly to the present day.

In accordance with the prevailing custom on the Kharkov ChRW, the new rolling stock immediately underwent upgrading: several PV51 railway coaches were re-equipped into soft class, and the end railway coaches of the train-set were equipped with side buffers and central screw coupler (one cannot fail to note the interesting special feature of the train-sets of Kharkov ChRW: on both train-sets only the end railway coaches are fitted with side buffers and screw coupler, and within the train-set the usual 'central buffer and side chains' couplers is used).

In 1996-97, the buildings at the station Lesopark (Forest-park) burned down. A small brick ticket-office building and shed were erected in their place. It was decided not to replace the work-place of the assistant stationmaster at Lesopark. The signal control-panel from the station Lesopark has been installed in the training centre at Park station, where it is now used for training purposes.

Information on the status of the points at Lesopark station has been provided in the electrical signal panel at Park station. Moreover, one set of points is operated remotely from Park station, and the second is operated locally by hand. Some sets of points at Park station have local control which as been transferred from the panel, located in the signal box building next to the depot. This has been done, in the first place, from considerations of safety, and in the second place, in order to provide one additional work site. The route from Park to Lesopark is subdivided into three block sections and is equipped with automatic block system with the Automatic Locomotive Signaling System (ALSN).

At the end of the 1990s this section was equipped with one additional stopping point, the halt known as "Memorial" . Unfortunately, it is located on a gradient, which is not very satisfactory. Therefore the majority of trains pass through it without stopping. Besides the common training course for ChRW, the Kharkov ChRW periodically organises different studies on how to deal with operations in special situations, such as where the train stops within the section, in the case of failure of the means of communication, etc.


The following material was used in the preparation of this account:
  • V.Angeleyko, N.Aleksandrov: Small southern, Kharkov, pub. YuZhD, 1947
  • Kharkov. Brief reference book, Kharkov, pub. Prapor, 1976
  • Kharkov children's railroad, Kharkov, Oblpoligrafizdat, 1990
  • Magazine "Ukraine" № 1, 1950
  • Magazine "Ogonyok" № 34, 1950
  • Newspaper "Socialistichna Ukraina", August 1, 1948
  • Newspaper "Bolshevik Yuzhnoy", August 17, 1948
  • Newspaper "Krasnoe Znamya", July 31, 1949
  • Newspaper "Krasnoe Znamya", April 30, 1950
  • Newspaper "Gudok", May 27, 1951
  • Newspaper "Yuzhnaya Magistral", № 53 (3443), May 1, 1952
  • materials from RGAKFD archive
  • materials from S.V.Dorozhkov's private archive
  • materials from N.A.Ermolaev's private archive
  • materials from Jiri Jindra's private archive
  • materials from T.Altbergs's private archive
  • materials from Kharkov ChRW archive
  • materials from web-site Transport of Kharkov

  • Links:
  • Malaya Yuzhnaya railway on the official site of the South railway
  • Mala Pivdenna zaliznitsa (Ukrainian only, Author Sergey Zemlyansky)
  • Malaya Yuzhnaya on the «Kharkov transportny» site
  • Yandex of quotation
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