The International Steam Pages

The Rostov-on-Don Children's Railway, Russia, 2009

For more information on Children's Railways in the former Soviet Union in general please see - which lists known locations with some descriptions in English and some only in Russian. There are links to children's railway sites for other countries here -, some of the links are self evident but many will need translating! 

GR 185 is reported serviceable in March 2015, it is thought that the loco had had a period out of use.

If you enjoy quirky narrow gauge railways in general you'll enjoy Thomas Kautzor's other visits on the same trip:

James Waite continues to turn up in the strangest of places. Having visited the Nizhny Novgorod Children's Railway in August 2009, it was natural to visit the only other one that still has a serviceable steam locomotive, albeit not an original - one is preserved outside the main station. The link also contains a report of a visit to Rostov's broad gauge railway museum. Thomas Kautzor rode one of the country's steam hauled Retro Trains.

Thomas adds that the railway operates from May to the end of October to the following schedule:

  • Mo/Tu/We 10:00-12:00 & 14:00-16:00 (diesel)
  • Sundays 10:00-18:00 (2 trains - diesel & steam till 13:00)

James writes:

I thought you might enjoy these photos and notes from the Rostov-on-Don children's railway last Sunday (1 November 2009). Its working steam loco is Gr class 0-8-0 no. 185 (OK Babelsberg 15285/1948). Flew out on Saturday morning and came back Monday evening.

Like most of the Russian children's railways it's a 750mm gauge line. It forms a circuit, a little under 4km long altogether, which runs round the N. Ostrovkiy park in the east of the city. Trains run clockwise around the circuit. On its northern and western sides the no. 10 tram route runs parallel to it and the broad gauge main line to the east also runs parallel to a part of the tram route - three railways all pretty well alongside each other. They're three different gauges as well as the tramway system is standard gauge, the only one in Russia. A broad gauge branch used to cross the park to serve an industrial area to its south and some of its track is still there, including level crossings over the narrow gauge and the tramway. The depot is also in the middle of the park close to the broad gauge industrial branch. Most of the route is surrounded by tall trees which makes photography difficult when the sun is so low in the sky. The line crosses the forecourt of the city football club's stadium and then the forecourt of a shopping parade which are the only other open parts of the route. The only bridge on the route is a small girder structure over a footpath near the north western corner of the circuit.

The main station is at Solnechnaya at the south western corner of the circuit. There's a large building here, only a few years old, which houses facilities for training the children and the railway's offices. There's a small museum on the ground floor. Most of the exhibits have a general railway orientation rather than anything specifically of gricing interest though some of the exhibits repay closer study. One intriguing one is a large-scale model of a TU2 diesel made of semi-transparent plastic so that you can see the layout of the engine and transmission inside. Pobeda station, at the north eastern corner of the circuit, still has its original building from 1940. It's a most attractive location. There's also a small halt at Cherevichkina, close to the depot and alongside the broad gauge crossing on the northern stretch.

The railway's operating season is from early May until the end of October. The steam loco runs most Sundays in the summer and possibly less frequently in the autumn though I didn't manage to get precise info about this. Last Sunday the railway ran from 10.00am with two trains, one with the steam loco and one with a diesel, TU7A no. 3353. There's a train roughly every quarter of an hour which only allows about a ten-minute layover for each train before its next run. We were told that the steam loco would stop running at 13.00 but in fact it kept going until well after 15.00. As well as the wait between runs at Solnechnaya trains stop for several minutes at the other two stations.

In addition to the steam loco and the TU7A the railway also two TU2 diesels, no's 152 and 173 (Kaluga, 1958). They were in the shed when we were there, both looking absolutely immaculate. Apparently one of them had run the previous weekend. The railway has eight of the usual Russian PV51-type coaches and three new ones built last year with a somewhat larger profile - the blue and yellow ones in some of these photos which were running with the diesel. There are also two of the older Polish-built Pafawag carriages, both in derelict condition. One looked more or less complete including its wood- or coal-burning stove. The other was a grounded body behind the shed.

The railway crew were really friendly and helpful, true Russian hospitality. At the end of the day we were invited up onto the footplate to give the two lads looking after the loco an opportunity to practise their English while the shed lady set up a table with schnapps (to be drunk in one go!) and country-style bread, all really delightful.

The railway opened in 1940. Rostov was overrun by the German army in WW2 on their way to Stalingrad and the railway, like much of the city, was badly damaged. After the war it was several years before the whole circuit was restored and a reduced circuit was formed by laying a third rail along the broad gauge branch through the centre of the park. Much of the track was relaid with heavy-section ex-broad gauge rail in 2006 and CTC with colour light signalling and power-operated points, all controlled from the new building at Solnechnaya, was installed at the same time.

Gr no. 185 was one of three Gr's rescued in 1981 for future use in the North Caucasus region thanks to the initiative of Sergei Kononov, the director of the Rostov line at the time. It's had one or two brushes with officialdom since then who couldn't see the point of keeping it when it needed repair but has seen them all off! It was last overhauled in 2003/4. The others rescued in 1981 were no. 329 which went to the children's railway at Vladikavkaz but was never put back into working order and subequently disappeared, and 269 which went to Grozny, the capital of Chechnia. It was intended for a new children's railway there which was never built and moved in 1991 to the Pereslavl museum where it's now safe and sound.

Rostov has an excellent public transport system comprising trams, trolleybuses, motorbuses and minibuses and good route maps are readily available. We had no trouble getting around the city, mostly with little if any waiting. From the main bus station (next to the railway station) motorbus routes 3, 3A, 7, 7A and 67 and trolleybus route 9 run out to the children's railway with a stop opposite the south eastern corner of the circuit. The 7 and 7A buses and the 9 trolleybuses continue to the airport. The no. 10 tram has a stop opposite the depot and Cherevichkina halt and crosses the main line railway just to the north of the station.

We went out to supper at the Tamada restaurant in the park on Sunday evening, a smart place with excellent food and not at all expensive in the park. It's at the south eastern corner of the circuit and the railway runs through their garden. Strangely the management seemed not to count having a narrow gauge steam railway running through their grounds as one of their star attractions!


  • Soviet Locomotive Types, The Union Legacy by A.J. Heywood and I.D.C. Button, ISBN 91-7266-132-1 pub. 1995 Frank Stenvalls Förlag, Malmö
  • Russian Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives by Leonid Moskalev, pub. 1997 Zheleznodorozhnoe Delo
  • Russian Narrow Gauge Diesel and Electric Locomotives by Pavel Kashin, Vladimir Bochenkov, Valentin Balabin and Leonid Moskalev ISBN 5-93574-013-3 (Vol. 1) and ISBN 5-93574-014-1 (Vol. 2) pub. 2003 Zheleznodorozhnoe Delo
  • Our Children's Railways by Dimitry Sutyagin pub. 2009 Zheleznodorozhnoe Delo and Dimitry Sutyagin's website

Getting ready at the start of the day:

Here is a 'pen picture' of operations, if there were any 'children at work' they escaped the camera! Firstly, departing the depot branch then entering Pobena station, the only surviving one from the construction of the railway in 1940. Rostov was overrun by the Germans in WW2 and most of the railway was destroyed, as was most of the city:

At the north-west corner and crossing the broad gauge:

Crossing the forecourt of the shopping parade and passing the football stadium:

Near Pobena station and Tu7A 3323 in action:

And at the end of the day, a cab shot and group photo...

This has got to be the railway's 'master shot', with a little bit of help from the friendly tram driver:

Finally, for the sake of completeness, the TU2 diesels:

Thomas Kautzor has now added the 'broad gauge crossing plus tram' shot:

Rob Dickinson