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By train from Rotterdam to Kiev and back

After a period of collecting tickets, the moment of truth on february 8, 2007: our train trip Rotterdam - Kiev was about to start. Due to the weather alarm (heavy snow) and our experience as operational railway employees, we decided to modify our itinerary a bit. After all, Netherlands Railways have a habit of cutting the timetable by 30% the moment one snowflake is detected on the eastern border, temperature is going to exceed 25 C or windforce is going to be higher than 8 Beaufort. Where have the days gone that trains and tracks (and executives) were made of steel and could handle some snow?

First leg was the 10:17 Intercity to Amersfoort but this service was cancelled because of... snow! With reason, because already a thick carpet of about 1 centimeter was formed on the tracks! Wow! Next chance was the 10:32 service to Groningen which would barely guarantee the connection on IC143 to Berlin. Since we had no choice (and are well-connected with the dispatchers..) we managed to make our connection in Amersfoort.

Railion 189 061-5 takes over IC143 in Berlin HBF Train indicator Berlin Zoög. Garten Our Japanese travelling companion Timetable D29 / D30

The ride to Berlin was smooth and arrived in Berlin Hauptbahnhof at 5:12pm on the dot. DB has not too many issues with some snow... Train 143 changes direction in HBF and continues to Angermünde, to our surprise headed by Railion locomotive 189-016.

We wanted to "do" our next train D345 Berlin - Kiev from beginning to end, meaning we had to board in Berlin- Zoo. Scheduled departure 10:22pm so plenty of time for a schnitzel XXL. Some shopping in the local Aldi and back to the platform to see the action. Too dark for some decent pictures, alas...

Our allocated beds were 32 and 34 in carriage #267. Some confusion, even with us seasoned travellers, because this train has two identities. Train D345 from Berlin to Dorohusk on the Polish-Ukranian border, and then onto Kiev as train D30. Since UZ (Ukranian Railways) have their own two-digit system of identifying car numbers you deal with two sets of data. Carriage #267 turns into #08 in Ukraine.

Polen - Ukraine, Polish side Polen - Ukraine, Ukranian side Bogie shed Jagodin (Ukraine) Kovel, 2M62-0161 will head D30 till Korosten

D345 is sleeping car only. All carriages are ex-USSR, types T2 and T3 (the number of berths per compartment). We shared our T3 with an elderly Japanese lady whose English was at the same level as our Japanese. No problem though for some conversation. it turned out she was on her way to Moscow to continue on the Trans Siberia Exress to Vladivostok. We agreed on swapping berths so she could have the lower one. Climbing the middle or upper bunk requires some strength.

Coal refueling in Kovel Our provodnik and provodnitsa of car 267. Kovel Destination shield

Most cars on the West-European routes are equipped with A/C. Ours was. This means the windows cannot open. In conjunction with the still present coal-fired heater and a ventilation system that only operates when the axle-driven generator produces power during riding, the atmosphere turns foul in short time. Ideal for spreading germs. More on this later...
Each car has its own provodnik (male) and/or provodnitsa (female). Always operating in pairs. Their responsibility is the wellbeing of their customers, departure procedure, ticket checks and keeping the car tidy. Besides their official duties they also seem to participate in some trading but this is mostly in the westbound direction. This will be made clear on the way back.
Our provodnik was very kind, but the provodnitsa was a downright bitch with a mean streak. Most likely the quality of our car contributed to that. Everything rattled and resonated while in motion. I had to press a metal cable conduit to the wall with my left foot to minimize the worst sound in our compartment while Pete wedged the window frame into its recess. Charming!

10:45am: Arrival in Dorohusk. The Polish elektroloc EU07-112 was shunted away and replaced with diesel banker SM48, suited for transborder traffic into Ukraine. Slowly passing the bridge over the river/border. Both sides of the borders heavily guarded, taking of pictures strictly forbidden!
A few miles away from the border the train is shunted into the bogie-change shed at Jagodin station. Ukraine uses Russian gauge which is about 10 centimeters wider than our EU-standard. The drawgear is replaced by Russian auto-couplers. No photos allowed, militia all over the place. and they look serious...

The entire process of covering the three kilometers, border control trouble included, takes three hours. Peter suggested I could have flown Amsterdam - Kiev in this timespan. I know, I did it many times... Beyond Jagodin we spead eastward with an average speed of 52 km/h, measured with portable GPS. Scheduled stops in Kovel, Rafalowka, Sarin and Korosten. During this last stop the 2M62 diesel was replaced with Skoda-built "elektrowoz" (=electric horse) ChS4-107 which covered the final 160 kilometers in just under two hours.

We entered Kiev Pass on the dot: february 9 - 10:53pm. Our welcoming committee (Gennadi and Natalia) was on the platform to meet and join us on the subway to Akademgorodok. A long-overdue shower, followed by a (very) late supper/wodka-tasting.

Our prayers were heard: upon our arrival it started snowing heavily. Nice pictures in an around Kiev in winter. I have been in Kiev many times, all seasons, but never had snow yet! Obviously the ladies in Ukraine do not mind about snow. Winter or summer: still in miniskirts and high heels. Pete made pics to prove it but these will be for private collection only. This travelog is about a train journey, isn't is?

The week in Kiev itself will not be documented as it has no relation with the train journey. Some pics will give an overview, and we continue the travelog with the return trip.

Ploschad Pobeda, Kiev View from my apartment on Prospekt Palladina (western Kiev) The outbound traintickets! With the help of "our man" in Kiev Kreschatik, Kiev main street.

Across the Magistral Circular
into the forest: SNOW!
Day at the station: trainspotting CS4-065 CS8-073

Voksalna (Kiev Passazhirski) Meeting an old friend: elektrowoz WL80-1960 Teplowoz CME3-5349 Still around in Kiev: the indestructible ZAZ

Lenin still is there for his people. Metrostation Theatralna Metrostation Voksalna Subway EMU type "E" on the red line Akademmistechko - Lisova Metrostation Dnepro (red line)

Itinerary return trip feb 15:

D29 Kiev (08:02) - Berlin Gesundbrunnen (07:32 +1)
IC 144 Berlin Gesundbrunnen (08:18) - Amersfoort (14:23)
IC 546 Amersfoort (14:25) - Rotterdam CS (15:24)

On tram #8 from M. Lisova to M. Pozniaki: renovated Tatra 3 An original Tatra 3 Going back home: Kiev Pass CS4-078 heading D29 to Korosten

Though usually we do not like to double back over the same route, we made an exception as we would cover the Ukrainian part entirely by daylight.

Train D29 was pushed along platform 3 at 7:45am. Elektroloc ChS4-078 was heading till Korosten, to make place for the same 2M62 duet that took us here on the way in. Disproportionate amount of motive power as seen through my professional eyes: a double Co'-Co' with an estimated output of roughly 3000 kW for only 5 passenger cars, not exceeding 80 km/h and no need to negotiate steep slopes... About 1000 kW would be more than enough to do the trick.

We had a good car this time. Smooth ride, stable bogies, better overall condition. It touched the staff apparently as these were two nice guys, who even grew more friendly when they discovered we were collegues. We managed to engage in conversation with a mixture of Russian and German.

When we approached the Polish border, the senior provodnik came by for a chat and wanted some favor. Initially we could not figure out what, but after two drinks the penny dropped. "Are you willing to eacht take one carton of cigarettes across the customs?". We were willing, as long as Pete could keep one of the wall-timetables as a souvenir. Deal! In Kovel we were stationed for 50 minutes, crossing with train D30 from Berlin. A good opportunity to stretch our legs and buy some food.

An afternoon nap in our cozy T3 Motive power Korosten-Jagodin DMU D1-629 in Kovel. Local service to Sarni.

In Jagodin the same bogie-change routine. No way of leaving the train while this operation is executed since recently an accident occurred, inflicting a passenger who fell in one of the inspection wells.

During this operation we could observe the Polish and Ukranian customs officers do their thorough job. All cars were taken apart, all cavities visited, looking for contraband. Cigarettes, spirit and works of art have their special attention. The result was impressive. Six plastic bags resulted from our car alone. We were inspected as well, but we were clear. One carton of cigarettes and two bottles of wodka is legal.

Countryside Korosten - Sarni Personal survival kit ..caught a virus somewhere..?

Back in Poland, Dorohusk, where SM 48123 was replaced by Polish EU 07 - 068, which would lead train (now number IC-144) till Frankfurt an der Oder (Germany).

When we cleared Dorohusk the train became suspiciously lively. Many fellow-travellers with empty shoppingbags, digging up dusty black parcels from the coalstack... Our collegue came to collect his merchandise.

The journey through Poland was smooth and in darkness. We slept most of the way. My throat started to bother me seriously. Coughing and itchy. The temperature in this car is at par as the inbound car. Lack of oxygen does not help much.

Crossing Polish-German border at 5:13am. Our EU-passports are scanned by Polish immigration, no more entry/exit stamps..

Swift engine change, where German 101 130 took charge of the train till terminus Berlin Gesundbrunnen.

Comfortable connection: arrival track 8,

and boarding again same track, 15 minutes later.

IC Change of running direction in Berlin HBF, replacing engines again. This time 120-104 was our motive power, all the way to the Dutch/German borderstation of Bad Bentheim. Good class, these 120s. No trouble maintaining a steady "200" on the Ausbaustrecken.

Back in Germany.. 120 104-5 headed IC144 till Bad Bentheim Bentheim-Schiphol: eloc 1768 in control


Onno's multi-purpose rag took on a undefined color and smell, and was treated as toxic waste upon arrival in Rotterdam.
Peter blended in completely in Die Heimat and is addicted to Ukraine from now on and to the juicy applejuice originating from there.

Next time we take another route, and preferrably in one of the trajectory cars to Simferopol. Those are still without A/C thus offers windows that can be opened...

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oct. 18 - 2012