Wednesday, 18th July 2012
During the night, our train had carried us from Krasnoyarsk to Novosibirsk, a distance of 762 km. En route, we'd been booked to stop at Bogotol and Mariinsk but I didn't wake for either stop. At Mariinsk, we left the Krasnoyarsk Railway and entered the West Siberian Railway. We also left the 25 kV a.c. electrified area because the earlier date of the electrification of the West Siberian Railway means that it operates at 3.3 kV d.c. I started the day with an early morning cup of tea in my cabin followed by my usual breakfast in the Restaurant Car. We rolled into the huge station at Novosibirsk a little before 9.00 a.m. and our group met up on the platform for our sightseeing trip.
On the platform, we found an interesting building with windows all round displaying a full-size wooden replica of an early steam locomotive built in 1836 and used in Russia. It was clearly a Stephenson 'Patentee' 2-2-2 (although the Russians count axles, not wheels, so they call it a '1-1-1'). The model was very nicely executed and was in close accord with known drawings of 'Patentees', except that this one was presumably for 5 foot gauge.
Outside the station, we were then divided into two groups - a coach would take one group around the city and visit the famous Opera and Ballet House whilst a smaller vehicle would take three of us with our charming lady guide around the city and then to the railway museum. I would have loved to have visited the Opera and Ballet House but, of course, there was too much to learn at the West Siberian Railway Rolling Stock Museum.
Novosibirsk, which was only founded in 1893 with the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway, is the fourth largest city in Russia with a population now exceeding 1.6 million, so you may not be surprised that I found much of the city nondescript, although I was surprised to find some log cabins near the centre.
The nine spans of the original railway bridge across the River Ob have been replaced but one of the nineteenth century spans has been preserved in a small park on the river bank, just to the south of the bridge. We stopped to have a look at this before carrying on to the Railway Rolling Stock Museum.
The preserved span from the original railway bridge over the River Ob at Novosibirsk. The present bridge is in the background.
Next, we took the dual carriageway south towards Akademgorodok. This is the university and scientific centre set up in the 1950s to ensure that the Soviet Union developed the resources of Siberia and stayed ahead in the arms race. I was sorry that we didn't have time to visit Akademgorodok which I gather is not quite so elite now, but still a pleasant area. Certainly, the urban handscape gave way to wooden houses and then pine forest. We passed the entrance to Young Pioneer Camps, set in the forest, which aimed to provide summer holidays for young people. In the Soviet era, the costs were often sponsored by the State because of the parents' employment but our guide suggested that today they were just expensive.
Our destination lay just to one side of the dual carriageway near Seyatel Railway Station. The West Siberian Railway Rolling Stock Museum is an open-air museum so we were fortunate that the day was warm and sunny. The exhibits were displayed on a series of parallel sidings with wide, concrete footpaths between the tracks. The contrast with the abandoned appearance of the Ulaan Baatar museum (described here) was complete. Our lady guide said we'd less than an hour at the museum, for we'd a fair journey back to the city and our train was due to leave at 12.12 p.m. I knew I'd not be able to do a photographic survey of all the exhibits in that time but I set off on my own, at the trot, to do the best I could.
My aim was to get information 'in the can' (a bit of a misnomer in these days of digital photography) for study later. Just under an hour later, we met up and made our way back to our waiting vehicle, pausing only for me to purchase the limited information on offer at the ticket office.
Our driver made a splendid run back to the city. Traffic speeds in Russia are not very high (the condition of many roads does not permit it) and legal limits of 80 km/h may be posted on even the better roads. We parked for a few minutes for photographs in Lenin Square, near the Opera House and the famous statues, including one of Lenin with coat tails flying in the Siberian winds.
The driver had to change his planned route back to the station because one main street had been closed near a building on fire. It looked serious and I counted five fire appliances as we made our way to the station.
Despite the detour, we arrived at the station in good time and made our way to the 'Golden Eagle' after a fairly packed morning. Soon, our train was moving out of the city. We crossed the wide River Ob, where we could see the preserved span of the old bridge which we'd visited earlier in the day and continued we continued west as lunch was served. After lunch, George gave a lecture on the Russian Orthodox Church.
When we stopped at Barabinsk in the late afternoon we were allowed off the train, so I scooted round making my usual photographic record.
On the move again, I carried on taking photographs for a while before joining the Russian Class in the Bar Car to learn a Russian Song. At 7.30 p.m., we enjoyed another Dinner in the Restaurant Car. As we came nearer to Omsk, there seemed to be interesting things outside, so I kept taking pictures, right up to our arrival in Omsk.
After a brief stop at Omsk for water, we were off again but, this time, I'd had enough (anyhow, there wasn't enough light for photographs) so I went to bed.
'West Siberian Railway Rolling Stock Museum' (colour pamphlet in English).
Set of 30 colour postcards of exhibits at the West Siberian Railway Rolling Stock Museum (text in Russian).
(The pamphlet and postcards are available at the Rolling Stock Museum).