Moscow’s railway museums
Lenin’s train journey from his exile in Switzerland changed history. He famously rode in a sealed train across Germany and made a triumphant arrival at the Finland Station in St Petersburg in 1917. Lenin became the first leader of the Soviet Union in 1917. He died prematurely aged only 53 in 1924 and his last ever train journey is still commemorated by a museum at one of Moscow’s main stations.
In 2014, whilst I was on a layover day during a business trip to Moscow, my Russian business colleague took me for a look around the museum. It is located at Paveletskaya Station as this is where Muscovites came to see the body of Lenin arrive back in the city in 1924.
“The Museum of the Moscow Railway” used to be called the “Museum of Lenin’s Funeral Train” but it was renamed in 2011. It still houses the train, including its U-127 locomotive, but has been expanded to include lots of other interesting models and displays that tell the history of Moscow’s railways.
Paveletskaya is one of the nine main stations of Moscow.
There is something very enchanting about all of Moscow’s terminal stations. Most of them are beautiful historic buildings and usually have the bustle and excitement of people arriving from and departing to faraway places.
They also have a special atmosphere in winter with the snow laying on the platforms and the train services and passengers carrying on regardless.
I am quite familiar with Paveletskaya Stations as it is, via the AeroExpress train, the main gateway to Domodedovo Airport. The station also deals with trains from Baku, Almaty and Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad).
If we imagine the city of Moscow to be the face of a clock, Paveletskaya lies about 6 o’ clock in the south of the city centre.
Going clockwise the next terminus is Kievskaya at about 8 o’clock.
It handles trains to Ukraine and Moldova amongst other places.
Belorusskaya, at about 10 o’clock, is the gateway to Minsk and beyond that western Europe. I boarded my train to Berlin there when I first visited the USSR in 1988.
The station houses a moving memorial to the soldiers who left to fight Nazi Germany in 1941.
Two more stations, Slavyolovskya and Rizhsky, are on the north side of the city at about 12 o clock. The former is mainly a commuter station, but the later handles trains to Latvia, as its name, the Russian spelling of Riga, suggests.
Further round at about 2 o’clock three more termini meet each other across Komsomolskaya Square. They are all of elaborate designs and dominate the square so much that it is informally known as “Three Station Square”.
Leningradskay points north from the square and sends trains along the famous “October” railway to St Petersburg. Nowadays that trip can be completed in about 4 hours on the high-speed “Sapsan” trains. I have ridden the October railway twice; once to St Petersburg itself on the day train and once on the sleeper to Helsinki.
Yarolslavsky Station, to the right of Leningradskay, also points north but one of its lines eventually curves to the east and the station is used as the departure point of the trains to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian railway. I arrived here from Beijing back in 1988.
Across the square Kazanksky station points east and its tracks also link to the Trans-Siberian railway. It serves as the terminus for some of its trains too
The ninth major station is Kursky which is actually a through station. It is situated about 4 o’clock on the map on a line that goes from the north to the south of Moscow on the east side of the centre. Kursky is one of the busiest in Moscow but most of the traffic is suburban. The station is also the most modern of the main terminals.
In 2015 my Russian colleague took me to the second half of the “Museum of the Moscow Railway” at Rizhsky Station. There we found an open air collection of about 60 vehicles including 10 Steam Locomotives. The ER200 which used to ply at 125 mph between Leningrad and Moscow was also on display.
Not surprisingly, given it was Russia, there was an interesting display of snow ploughs too.