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

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Unfortunately, I don't speak English. And I can't update English version of my site on a regular basis.


Foto by P.Berdonosov, 1999
Opened: May 2, 1937
Track-length: 4.96 km
2 stations: Pionerskaya, Yunost', 1 intermediate station Shkolnaya
Rolling stock: Diesel locomotives TU2-078, TU2-129, TU7-2728, TU7-2729, 8 PV51 coaches;
formerly: steam locomotives VL-1, JS-1 (type 63/65), Rp-771, 3 wooden coaches
Address: 140130, RUSSIA, Moscow region, Kratovo, Tsentralnaya str., 5
Phone: +7(49646)3-62-89
General Manager: KOZINA Marina Borisovna
Info: timetable, price
Getting there: The Kratovo ChRW is about 45 km from central Moscow, near Otdykh station which can be reached by suburban trains from Kazansky Railway terminus (nearest metro station "Komsomolskaya"), which call at metro station "Vykhino".


On October  30, 1935 pioneers of Ramensky region near Moscow gathered at an annual meeting. One of the topics discussed was the call of Tiflis (Tbilisy) pioneers, who had built their own railway for education and training, to build similar institutions all over the country. The idea seemed so interesting, that on the very day of the meeting the council for support of pioneer railway construction in Kratovo was elected.

The council acted so resolutely, that just a week later it found support in the Moscow - Ryazan' Railway Department. "Young Railwaymen" hobby centers were organised in Kratovo, Bykovo and Ramenskoye schools. Guided by professional railwaymen, the schoolchildren completed the project and survey of future railway.

After the end of school year, on June 24, 1936, the pioneers began to build their own railway. Members of local Komsomol organisations helped children on most labor-intensive projects, but most of the work was fulfilled by pioneers. The members of Komsomol organisation of Moscow - Ryazan' Railway in their spare time overhauled three narrow gauge wooden passenger coaches and a 0-4-0WT steam locomotive (Orenstein & Koppel). The locomotive received designation VL-1 in favor of Vladimir Lenin.

Steam engine IS-1 on the Put' Ilyicha station. 1953

The first portion of the railway, 2.3 km long, with 1.8 km of mainline tracks was finished to November 7, 1936. On two stations, Put' Ilyicha and Shkolnaya temporary wooden structures were erected.

The theoretical training of young railwaymen and overhauls of rolling stock and locomotive continued all winter. In April 1937 everything was ready for the opening.

The railway was solemnly opened on May 2 1937. Veniamin Pasynkov, the active participant in the council of support from the very first day, drove the first train over the line.

In 1940 young pioneers built nearly 2 more km of railway line, new station building at Put' Ilyicha and completely new Kultbaza station with turning triangle for the locomotive. At Put' Ilyicha the locomotive was turned on a loop. The reconstruction was finished in time for Railwayman's Day, August 4. On that day the Moscow - Ryazan' Railway Department presented to the railway the club building near Kultbaza station.

The opening for the 1941 season was planned for June 22. Instead, the gathered public listened to the news of Fascist Germany's invasion in the USSR. In summer the railway continued working for some time, but was closed in August because of air raids.

In spring 1942 young railwaymen answered the call to substitute fathers and brothers who had went to the front. They participated in the construction and operation of narrow gauge logging railways in Bronnitsy, Faustovo and Khobotovo in Moscow suburbs. During war years these branches transported wood, used for manufacture of sleepers for trench railways.

For heroism and selfless work three pioneers received "Hero of the Soviet Union" ranks and 12 were rewarded medals "For Defense of Moscow".

After the war young railwaymen, again assisted, restored their railway to working order. June 14 1945 saw resuming of traffic, and all restoration work was completed only in summer 1947.

The length of mainline tracks reached 3.8 km, and the total length of all tracks - 4.96 km.

track plan

track plan caption: If you want to see how the track layout at a station evolved, put the cursor on its name and click Pionerskaya station Yunost' station (now) Put' Ilyicha station (formerly)

The motive power on the railway first consisted of only one second-hand 0-4-0WT of German origins. As this was not enough, not long before the war the second locomotive was added, Kolomna class 63 0-8-0. The locomotive received designation JS-1 for Josef Stalin. After the war the railway received the third locomotive, Polish Wp29-4582 0-8-0 of 1929, which received designation Rp771.

In 1950, in honour of the elections to a Supreme Soviet of the USSR, young railwaymen themselves constructed a light rail-tractor and presented it to the Lestranskhoz of Pecherskaya railway.

In 1957 the railway received two modern TU2-078 diesel-electric locomotives and four all metal Pafawag coaches. In 1960-es modern centralisation system was installed. The steam locomotives were soon scrapped.

For some years at the beginning of the 1960s the Kratovo ChRW worked all year round. For clearing snow from the line, the self-propelled brush snowplough and the locally-made hinged snowplow for the TU2 diesel locomotive were available. For the manufacture of the hinged snowplow, some parts of the disused steam locomotive IS-1 were used. Unfortunately, the Kratovo ChRW very quickly returned to the usual mode of operation, in which trains ran only in the summer.

In 1971, the line was subject to major renovation, including installation of type R43 rails, no-relay Marshrut central control at Pionerskaya station, electric central control at Put' Ilyicha station, and the track between them was equipped with automatic locking. At the same time one of the passing tracks at Shkolnaya station was dismantled, which made it impossible to operate two trains on the line simultaneously. In 1972 on Kratovo ChRW the era of steam locomotives came to an end. The last of the steam locomotives - Rp-771 - was retired, and instead of it diesel locomotive TU2-129 was received from Shatura narrow-gauge railway. For a few more years Rp-771 could be seen on a siding at Pionerskaya station, but subsequently it was scrapped.

In 1979 eight new passenger coaches were bought for the railway, high concrete platform and the new building of off-school training center built at Pionerskaya station.

In 1982, the Pafawag coaches were replaced by all-metal PV40 coaches from the Demihovskogo factory, which have been retained till now.

In 1987 the railway received two TU7 diesel-hydraulic locomotives, which appeared unsuitable for the line because of long engine hoods, obscuring the view of the tracks in sharp curves.

Various alternative arrangements for traction were considered: powering of trains by two locomotives, either coupled together at the front of the train or with one at each end of it. It was necessary to discard the first variant at once as the tracks at terminal stations were not long enough to allow two locomotives to pass. In the second case, the job of shunting at terminal stations was reduced to zero, which would inevitably have an effect on the quality of training of young enginemen. So it was decided to discard this variant too, and both diesel locomotives were put into storage.

In the 1990s the diesel engine needed for major overhaul of diesel locomotive TU2-129 was removed from one of these diesel locomotives (TU7-2729). Since then TU7-2729 has been used exclusively as the source of spare parts for other diesel locomotives.

On July 19, 2002, the station building at Yunost' station was completely destroyed by fire. Up to the end of the season 2002, the points at Yunost' station has been operated manually, with the help of emergency arm, as station loud-speaking communication was absent.

In May, 2003 the signal system at station the Youth have been completely restored.In the middle of summer 2003 at station the new building with an easy canopy for passengers and a premise for the attendants of station is constructed.

Yunost station
New passenger building at Yunost' station.
foto by I.Bosnyakov. October 18, 2003.

Over the years the railway was twice renamed. First, from Small Lenin's Railway into Small Moscow - Ryazan' Railway, then - to Small Moscow (Kratovo) Railway. Station names were also changed. Kultbaza station was renamed Pionerskaya in 1950-es, and Put' Ilyicha - into Yunost' in 1992.

Today the border between city of Zhukovsky and settlement Kratovo passes by the children's railway.

The railway provides the 4-5 years long course of railway training, both practical and theoretical, for schoolchildren 11-15 years old. The trains run from June to last Sunday of August.


The following materials were used in preparing this report:
  • materials of the Central museum of a railway transportation (St.Perersburg)
  • materials from RGAKFD archive
  • The collection "Children's railways of Ministry of Railways of Russia", Moscow, TsDDZh, 1999
  • materials from A.K.Filippov and P.A.Strelkov's private archive
  • Small Moscow Railway, 1997
  • Report "Small Moscow - Ryazan' Railway", 1953
  • Newspaper "Vechernyaya Moskva", June 15, 1945
  • Newspaper "Vechernyaya Moskva", June 08, 1946
  • Newspaper "Vechernyaya Moskva", June 13, 1946
  • Newspaper "Moskovsky bolshevik", May 13, 1947
  • Newspaper "Moskovsky komsomolets", June 22, 1948
  • Newspaper "Pionerskaya pravda", № 61, August 30, 1948
  • materials given by Marina Kozina

  • Links:
  • Malaya Moskovskaya Railway (unofficial site, author Arthem Svetlov)
  • Young Railwaymen Club in Moscow State University of Railways (MGUPS / MIIT)
  • Yandex of quotation
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