The International Steam Pages

Museum Steam in Latvia 2007/9/14

In September 2014, Gerry Roff found L class 2-10-0 0312 on display at Riga Museum, most likely it is one of the locomotives James Waite saw back in 2007.

James Waite (main report below) was back in July 2009 and adds this update:

My first call was at Jelgava loco shed to see Ml-657, the Heeresfeldbahn type loco which used to be on a plinth there and the two dumped L class 2-10-0's. Alas the plinth was empty and the two L class locos were nowhere to be seen. I hope they haven't been scrapped. I found Ml-657 the next day on display inside the railway museum at Riga. It had been excellently restored. I particularly liked the logs in the bunker, a nice touch!

As a postscript to what follows, a second locomotive (Gr 319) has now been sent to Gulbene for repairs as 332 has to be returned to Estonia in 2009. Thanks to P.Klaus (10th October 2007) for this information and the pictures of it at work at an earlier date and being unloaded on arrival (this picture by T.Altbergs):

James Waite reports:

Latvia's main museum is the railway museum in Riga Its only steam exhibit is a broad-gauged Kriegslok. I was there early on a Sunday evening when the museum was closed but the loco can be seen through the fence from the road outside:

Latvia has six preserved Feldbahn-type 0-8-0T's in five locations. They are :-

ML-611 600mm gauge (Henschel 14437/1916), originally preserved at Uzvara co-operative farm, Bauska, ex-HFB 694, now at the Museum of High Seas Fisheries, Ventspils. 
ML-631 600mm gauge (O&K 7999/1915), at the Museum of High Seas Fisheries, Ventspils, Latvia (ex-HFB 483)
ML-635 600mm gauge (Schwartzkopff 6799/1919), preserved at a small railway museum at the site of Viesite N.G.Station, Latvia (ex-HFB 2484) 
ML-628 690 mm gauge (OK 8150/1916), at the Jugla Museum of Ethnography, Riga
ML-629 600 mm gauge (OK 8271/1917), at the Agricultural Museum, Talsi, Latvia (ex-HFB 853)
ML-657 600 mm gauge (Esslingen 3887/1918) formerly at Jelgava Latvian Railways (mainline) Depot, Latvia (ex-HFB 2305), but in Riga railway musuem.

There's a a circular track here at this rather strange museum at Ventspils devoted mainly to a large variety of fishing boats. The track is probably about 2km long. ML 631 is a runner together with a 1970's-built Russian diesel with ML 611 derelict. The loco runs with three carriages which look authentic. One of them even has a woodburning stove (not in use when I was there) a nice Russian touch! There used to be a network of 600mm gauge railways serving the area to the north and east of Ventspils built using Feldbahn equipment and I guess that the stock comes from there. There was a similar railway at Bauska which in close to the Lithuanian border which I guess may have been the original home of ML 611. The museum is on the southern side of the town close to the beach. Latvia has a good map publisher and their national road atlas has street plans for all the towns of any size which are detailed and accurate. This museum and the circular shape of the track are marked on the Ventspils page.

The agricultural museum at Talsi is about 30 miles east of Ventspils. Talsi was on the same 600mm gauge system as Ventspils. The loco and train are outside the museum proper and accessible when the museum is closed. It's located in an industrial estate pn the left hand side of the main road out of town to the south west - it feels an unlikely location until you get there. The museum is marked on the page for Talsi.

The Viesite museum is a real delight. It's on yet another old 600mm system in the south of the country. The loco stands next to a water column in the old passenger station, much of the track of which is still in situ. At one end of the yard there's an old brick-built engine shed with a wooden goods shed alongside. I gather that both contain small exhibits though I was there about 7.00pm when it was closed. Incidentally, and fortuitously, this is probably the best time of day to photograph the loco. The museum is not marked on the map. The main road bypasses Viesite. Approach from the south and there's a brown tourist-type sign pointing to the left just before the centre. The museum is a short distance down a dirt track from the sign. 

Jelgava engine shed had the Feldbahn loco on a plinth at the entrance. Alongside it are two L class 2-10-0's dumped . No problem gaining access here. The depot is on the east side of town - the turntable and associated sidings are marked on the street map (see July 2009 update at the top of this page).

I didn't get to the ethnographical museum in Riga. It's on the northeastern side of the city and is quite a major tourist place written up in the Lonely Planet and probably other guide books as well.

That leaves the Gulbene-Aluksne 750mm Railway in the north east of the country, the last surviving commercially run narrow gauge line in the Baltic States. Their regular services are worked by two Ty7 type diesel hydraulics. They now have a PT-4 preserved loco (332) which lives in the mixed gauge roundhouse, a short distance away from the narrow gauge shed. So far as I could see it's normally locked away though the staff are friendly and helpful and it might be worth asking to view it if in the area. The loco belongs to the Estonian Railway Museum at Lavassaare and is on loan to the line. It was restored to running order at EU expense as a tourist initiative with input from a number of preserved railways including the Midland Railway at Butterley. It operates on a few Saturdays each year, the dates for 2007 being at (link is dead). Unfortunately the loco runs chimney first straight out of the sun for the whole length of the run so photography is difficult. I rode on the train but with only eight passengers it was hardly busy. The crew light up the loco around 10.00am and probably the best photo opportunities are as the loco comes off shed around 1.30pm and goes back after the run around 5.00pm. The station itself is a wonderful construction, it was built in 1926 in what is basically Art Nouveau style (Riga has many Art Nouveau buildings) and designed by one Professor Peteris Feders who apparently was a leading architect in Latvia at the time. The rusty L class stored here is of much less interest.

Rob Dickinson