Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Russian Far East


During the night the train went several 100 kilometers southwards and when we woke up we already noticed that it was not that cold and that the trees outside were still mostly green.

At the short stop at Arkhara (4:04 – 4:07) we passed a long container-train:

This long container-cars for two 40-feet-containers are relatively new in Russia, from the inscriptions we gathered that they have been built since 2006.

A tunnel between Arkhara and Obluche:

The line makes some serpentines, in the background you can see the tracks, which we had passed some minutes before:

Another tunnel:

As you can see, the train was running on the left track at this tunnel, the other track seemed to be closed for works.

Aproaching Obluche:

At Obluche (5:55 – 6:10)

The usual station market:

Detail of the inscriptions on the North Korean sleeping car:

Station building:

Leaving Obluche:

After Obluche we passed about five westbound freight trains, which were waiting on the other track one after each other. Maybe this had something to do with the single-track operation at the tunnel west of Obluche…
The distance between the end of one train and the locomotive of the following train was sometimes only about 200 meters – a real railway traffic congestion…

Here you can see a waiting freight train in the background:

Another freight train:

One more tunnel, the second tunnel-pipe was under reconstruction:

We didn't expect such a hilly terrain and tunnels here. Maybe the alignment would have been easier, if the line was built along the Amur-river, but the Russians had strategic reasons to build the line not too close to the Chinese border, which goes along the Amur river.

At Birobidzhan (8:48 – 8:51) – administrative center of the "Jewish Autonomous Oblast".

See and for more information.

An express-elektrichka to/from Khabarovsk:

At Birobidzhan two female train revisors boarded the train and of course the spent a lot of time in the Korean sleeping car. The checked all tickets and had some discussions with our conductors and the counted the number of passengers and luggage in each compartment. Of course it was too much, as only 35 kg of luggage is allowed per ticket. And there were only 7 tickets for the whole car, but luggage enough for about 50 or more tickets…
They were friendly to us, as we were the only passengers who didn't exceed the luggage limitations.
I don't now how the problem was finally solved, but I assume that the Korean conductors had to pay some fine ("shtraf"), maybe one part as an official fine, and rest inofficially… ;-)
We also think, that it was no coincidence that the revisors checked train no. 2 on a day, when the twice-monthly North Korean sleeping car was attached. I'm sure they know how to earn money…

When the train approached Khabarovsk it was diverted to the left track and we overtook several freight trains – another railway traffic congestion…

Freight train with new tanks:

Near Khabarovsk – you can see the rear of another freight train waiting on the right track:

The impressive single-track bridge crossing the Amur:

It is a combined road-railway bridge:

However, the railway line is single-track only. I've heard there there is also a single-track railway tunnel under the Amur river, but this is not used by passenger trains.

At Khabarovsk (11:00 – 11:30, that's 18:00 – 18:30 local time):

About 10 Koreans were waiting for the train here. They were no passengers, but just loading even more stuff.

The sleeping-car to Komsomolsk was uncoupled here.

In front of the station:

The North Korean sleeping car to Pyongyang:

It was quite a wonder that this tower of luggage (designated for a Russian postal-luggage train) didn't collapse, when the vehicle went over the bumpy asphalt…

The train some kilometres after we left Khabarovsk:

After Khabarovsk we planned to take a shower in one of the Russian cars. In the "Rossiya" there is one special car, where there is a shower. The evening before, when we went to the restaurant, we asked the conductor of this car about the conditions to use the shower. The price is 100 RUB and she asked us, at which time we would come, so that she can switch on the water-heating for the shower early enough. We decided to come there after Khabarovsk. It was about at the middle of our trip to Pyongyang.

Now I wanted to go the Russian cars, but I had to find out that due to the new luggage loaded at Khabarovsk the door to the next car was blocked:

I had to rearrange all that stuff to open the door for a narrow slot, just wide enough to get through…
Having a shower after 3 days on the train was then quite good… ;-)

By the way, on that day the temperature inside the sleeping car reached 20 degrees and also in the evening and during the following night it was not really cold.



Eurasia 2005: ~35.000 km by train from Europe via Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia to China and back to Europe via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan:

Total solar eclipse 2008: Trip to the total solar eclipse in the Altay mountains (1st august 2008), including a 6-day trekking trip: