The International Steam Pages

OAO Apsheronsklesprom, (Apsheronsk Forestry Railway) Russia, 2009

Thomas Kautzor reports on his November 2009 visit - no steam, but railways of this quality are endangered species.

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

There is an on line map of the system here!flash (added 13th May 2013)..

The narrow gauge (750 mm) Apsheronsk Forestry Railway once had a total length of 127 km. It was opened in 1937 to supply wood for the sawmill in the small town of Apsheronsk, located in the Northern Caucasus, about 110 km southeast of Krasnodar. The railway, like so many at that time, was built with forced labor.

The railway’s headquarters and workshops are in Apsheronsk, which is connected to the Russian rail network by a short non-electrified branch line (goods traffic only) that continues to nearby Neftegorsk. The old station building is now used by a dental practice. The large 3-track workshops have an air of dereliction, with many rusting wagons and a few coaches standing around in the yard beside it. Also present outside the workshops is a hot-air blowing snowplow. From here the narrow gauge railway goes south through the plain, passing the small station of Samurskaya (km 24), where a now-lifted branch once extended to Guamka and Lago-Naki. At km 31 the major settlement of Chernigovskoye is reached. This part of the line is closed to commercial traffic and nowadays only used to transfer stock to the workshops. The large sawmill at Apsheronsk is not supplied by rail anymore, and the twice-weekly passenger trains which extended to Apsheronsk have been suspended since last year due to the poor track condition and competition from the parallel tarred road, which ends here.

Another sawmill is located at Chernigovskoye. A few diesel locomotives are staged in its yard, as well as a spare railcar and two wooden snowplows. The passenger train (a railcar with covered van) starts from in front of the small old station building, in the middle of the village square. There are two shops here where food supplies can be bought for the trip into the mountain. From here on, the railway rises into the mountains. At the Wolf’s Gate gorge a concrete monument commemorates the Red Army soldiers who died on the line during WWII. At km 40, the train diverts temporarily onto a 2.5 km-long branch to serve the village of Kushinki, where a PV-51 coach is used as station building and shop. Back at km 40, the line continues along the river. After the station of Ryezhyet (km 44), the railway crosses the river on a large bridge, after which the line rises steeply on an escarpment along the side of the valley. At the top of the climb, I was able to get my first glimpse of the snow-covered mountains surrounding us. After a while the railway again follows the river, passing forest worker settlements and the stations of N-Tub’ih (km 48) and SR-Tub’ih (km 52), before crossing the river on another large bridge and entering the small village of Shpalorez. Here the train turns on a wye, before backing up into the center of the village. Here, bread and other supplies for the two local shops is unloaded, as well as the mail for the post office. During the wait for the return trip in the afternoon, the two-man crew undertook to service the engine and tried to fix a problem with the gearbox (it was difficult to get into reverse). During the long wait the crew of two Sergeis were very friendly and offered to share their lunch with me (as well as some drinks).

The two pairs of daily trains run to the following schedule:

07.00 19.00 Chernigovskoye  06.35 18.20
09.35 21.35 Shpalorez  04.00 15.30

Many passengers only traveled sections of the line. The one-way fare for the entire line is RUB 56. Women tend to prefer sitting in the cab of the TU6P railcar (Kambarka), while the forest workers favor the trailer. The trailer is home-built (converted from a flat wagon) and has a large compartment used to transport sacks of foodstuff and equipped with two benches on the sides, as well as a smaller compartment for oil drums. Bread for the shops in Shpalorez, as well as mail for the post offices in Ryezhyet and Shpalorez is transported in the cab of the railcar. This was brought to the train by a postal van in the morning shortly before departure.

The large rail-connected timber yard across the river from Shpalorez is not served anymore, since that company bought some brand new Kamaz lorries which take the wood directly to the sawmill at Apsheronsk. Logs are still transferred to the railway at SR-Tub’ih, where a loaded 6-wagon train was waiting to be picked up, as well as at Kushinki.

Locomotives in use on the line include TU7-2185, TU7-2540, TU7-2629, TU7-2632 and TU7A-3219 (all Kambarka). Two of these were seen at Chernigovskoye, two inside the workshops at Apsheronsk and one stored in a small shed at Samurskaya. For passenger services the following three railcars were said to have been used on the line: TU8P-0005, TU8P-0053 and TU8P-0085, as well as the unidentified TU6P used during my visit. A GMD4 railcar (a lorry on rails) can also be used to supply the shops along the line.

By car, Apsheronsk is a 1½ hour drive from Krasnodar (110 km). There are about six daily bus connections between the two cities. Lodging can be found right next to the bus station, and there is also a large Sanatorium on the riverbank in Apsheronsk. A morning bus leaves Apsheronsk at 06.00 to connect with the 7:00 train from Chernigovskoye. In the evening as well, a bus waits for train passengers wanting to continue to Apsheronsk.

Here are Thomas's pictures, broadly in chronological order - refer to the text above for the descriptions.

Rob Dickinson