Railroad cars of past eras

Older people remember the various wooden passenger railcars that ply our railways until the early 60s. Some of these railcars were built during the time of the Russian Empire. In addition, there were many three-axle railcars built at the end of the nineteenth century. They were converted into two-axle railcars in the 30-50s of the twentieth century.

Other two-axle and four-axle cars were already of Soviet construction and were manufactured from the second half of the twenties to 1941 inclusive. All this old passenger fleet, accumulated over more than half a century, amazed with its diversity.

Railroad cars of past eras
Railroad cars of past eras

Later, immediately after the Second World War, with the beginning of the mass construction of metal railcars both at the Soviet factories and at the factories of the socialist camp for the USSR the construction of railcars with wooden bodies was discontinued. However, they continued to work and carry passengers for about 20 years. Old raicars, especially two-axle ones, were used in suburban traffic. And although in the post-war period large-scale work was carried out to completely switch the entire rolling stock to automatic couplers, this modernization affected the old type passenger railcars only partially.

Mainly Soviet-made railcars were converted into automatic couplers. They were immediately designed and built with a backbone beam and the ability to install an automatic coupler. In addition, back in the 30s, the frames were partially redesigned with reinforcement of the cantilever parts for the possibility of installing automatic couplers on four-axle mail wagons of the old type with a wooden body. The railcars of the Polonso system were also converted into automatic couplings, in particular, saloon railcars for VIP officials. The rest of the railcars of the outdated passenger fleet remained on screw ties with through harness and free-carrying Sprengel frames. There was no point in carrying out expensive repairs with a complete rework of the frame for the center beam for outdated railcars that were living out their days.

This work was carried out for covered two-axle wagons of the freight fleet, which still had to continue to work in the already new conditions of transportation.

Railroad cars of past eras
Railroad cars of past eras

As more and more metal wagons entered the railway, wagons with wooden bodies were more and more excluded from the fleet and were transferred to various departments and on industrial routes, as well as for the economic service on the tracks of the Ministry of Railways. Yes, they came to work as service cars for the needs of many other departments of the railway.

Some of the cars were repurposed for bath cars, laundries, bakeries, mobile autonomous radio stations, track meters, classrooms, etc., and some were used for housing for railway workers, or as trains at enterprises. For example, in the 70s and 80s, instead of multistorey brick dormitories, whole warehouses of old 2- and 4-axle passenger and freight cars of outdated types, in which families of railway workers lived, could be seen at the track machine stations.

By the early 1990s, almost all of this railcars was finally liquidated. Some of the wagons were simply destroyed, and some were sold for garages, sheds or country houses, for garden plots for the same railway workers. Until now, hundreds of old wagon bodies across the country can be seen in this role. Among them there are also real rarities that are more than a hundred years old.

Railroad cars of past eras
Railroad cars of past eras

So, for example, recently, lovers of history and technology of railways, who constantly conduct search expeditions, in the city of Lyubotin discovered a body, albeit in a deplorable state, but nevertheless clearly an old railcar in Ukraine built in 1874. This railcar is actually the same age as the appearance of railways in Ukraine, since their mass construction began in the late 1860s. At that time, all rolling stock was purchased from foreign factories, since there was no domestic production yet.

This railcar was built in Berlin at the Pflug plant. It was a three-axle passenger railcar with a wooden body. It had characteristic convex side walls. The frame of the railcar was of wood-metal construction, with the use of oak cross-beams and longitudinal metal I-beams. At the same time, the buffer bars are made of channels. The most interesting thing is that this railcar was never converted from 3-axle to 2-axle. According to local residents, the railcar body was delivered at school №7 in 1968 as a utility room. Today the railcar is over 140 years old.

Despite everything, at the enterprises of Ukrzaliznytsia, several dozen old-type passenger and freight railcars have also survived to this day. Some of them are still on the rails, others have survived without running gear as various premises and warehouses. Many of them are not used in any way and are actually abandoned to the mercy of fate awaiting write-off or have already been written off, but not yet destroyed. Of course, almost all of them are now in a deplorable state, but nevertheless they can be restored. In the past few years, Ukrzaliznytsia has stepped up activities to preserve old railway equipment and create museums on the roads.

It is necessary to make every effort to preserve these rare railcars, otherwise we may lose forever unique samples of railway equipment, some of which have been preserved in the last copy. Oddly enough, there are more steam locomotives in Ukraine than old railcars, and this despite the fact that we have about a hundred steam locomotives taken together. It is necessary in the near future to determine the base for the concentration of rare railcars, their parts and components.

First of all, to transport those of them that are not used in any way at the enterprises of Ukrzaliznytsia, especially passenger ones, and also to study options for possible replacement of the currently used railcars with other, more modern ones.

Railroad cars of past eras
Railroad cars of past eras

At first, it is enough to simply concentrate future exhibits in a protected area, and protect them from looting and the effects of atmospheric precipitation. After study and restoration, all of them can be used in retro movement, filming, anniversary events, museums. It’s no secret that today in filming they use not the railcars that are needed and correspond to the era, but those that exist or are generally forced to build decorations and props instead of real railcars.

In the museums of Ukrzaliznytsia, there is not a single 2-axle railcar among the railcars of the passenger fleet, and only saloon railcars of 4-axle type have survived cars. The only retro railcar, which today is operated with a steam locomotive in Kharkov, inside, unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the real historical interior. Unfortunately, the two-axle memorial railcar, on the territory of the Kharkiv-Sortirovochny department, is actually a model, because it only has a frame with buffers and chassis. Only a few railcars in Ukraine have survived on pedestals with either steam locomotives or stand-alone ones. Among them, the only 2-axle box railcar (NTV) of pre-revolutionary construction is located in the wagon depot Podolsk Od.z.d. Such a rarity should not stand in the open air and grow old.

In the city of Dnipro, close to the Metrostroiteley metro station, on a pedestal without proper maintenance there is a fake armored platform built on the frame of the only unique pre-revolutionary 2-axle platform that has survived in Ukraine, in which axle boxes with split-type bodies have been preserved. There are no such axle boxes on any other car in the former CIS. On this carriage, 12-leaf springs, and buffers with claw-type cups and wheelsets with forged centers and double spokes, and a through harness with a turnbuckle of the 19th century model have been preserved. This rarity must be restored by dismantling the fake armor, which has lost all meaning, and kept as a working exhibit.

In Ivano-Frankivsk, the last in Ukraine 18-meter mail wagon with a wooden body on wheelchairs of the Pullman system built in the early 20th century has survived. Next to it is the body of the last surviving restaurant railcar built in the 1930s. In Kazatin, the body of a unique wagon for transporting fruits, such as the Southwest Railways, of the early 20th century, has been preserved.

There are many others that have survived, including captured wagons, that deserve to be preserved and restored to working condition. In a word – while we have something to save, we need something to be proud of!

Railway magazine “Railway Supply”

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