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Steam Locomotives in Siberia
STEAM LOCOMOTIVES IN SIBERIA
In 1956 the USSR stopped producing steam engines and official policy was to
phase them out by 1970. As with most official plans in the country, this one
overran a little and a second official end of steam was announced for 1987,
when the number of locos stood at over 6000. Some of these were sold as scrap
to Germany and Korea but many were stored as a ‘strategic reserve’ in remote
sidings and used very occasionally for shunting work; there are some to be seen
along the Trans-Siberian line (see the Route Guide for locations). In 2000,
however, it was decided not to retain steam engines within these strategic mili-
tary reserves so numbers are now falling fast. Each of the country’s 32 railway
administrations is allowed to keep just 10 steam engines so now there are prob-
ably no more than 320 working steam locos in the whole of Russia. In northern
China there are numerous steam engines still at work.
In 1836 Russia’s first locomotive, a Hackworth 2-2-2, was delivered to St
Petersburg to pull the Tsar’s private carriages over the 23km (14 miles) of six-
foot gauge track to his palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The Russians have always been
(and still are) conservative by nature when it comes to buying or building
engines. Usually large numbers of a few standard locomotives have been
ordered so there’s not much of a range to be seen today. They seem to be uni-
formly large, standing up to 5m (17ft) high, and larger than British locos, partly
because the Russian gauge is almost 9cm (31⁄2 inches) wider than that used in
They are numbered separately by classes, not in a single series and not by
railway regions. If variations of the class have been built, they are given an
additional letter after the main class letter. Thus, for example, the first type of
0-10-0 freight locomotive was Class E and those of this class built in Germany
were Class Eg. Classes you may see in Siberia include the following (Roman
alphabet class letters given in brackets; * = very rare):
● Class О (O) The first freight trains on the Trans-Siberian route were pulled
by these long-boilered 0-8-0 locos (55 tons) which date back to 1889. The ‘O’ in
the class name stands for Osnovnoi Tip meaning ‘basic type’. Production ceased
in 1923 but as late as 1958 there were 1500 of these locomotives still at work.
● Class С (S)* 2-6-2 (75 tons) A highly successful passenger engine. ‘S’ stands
for Sormovo, where these locos were built from 1911. Class Су (Su) (‘u’ for
usileny, meaning ‘strengthened’) was developed from the former class and in
production from 1926 to 1951.
● Class Е (Ye) 2-10-0 1500 Ye 2-10-0s were imported from the USA in 1914. S
● Class Эу/Эм/Эр (Eu/Em/Er)* (subclasses of the old type (E) 0-10-0, 80
tons, built in Russia from 1926 to 1952. The old type E was also produced in
Germany and Sweden, as Esh and Eg subclasses.
● Class Еа (YeA)* 2-10-0 (90 tons) Over 2000 were built in the USA between
1944 and 1947 and shipped across the Pacific.
● Class Л (L) 2-10-0 (103 tons) About 4130 were built between 1945 and 1956.
● Class П36 (P36) 4-8-4 (133 tons) 251 were built between 1950 and 1956 – the
last express passenger type built for Soviet Railways. ‘Skyliner’-style, fitted with
large smoke-deflectors, and painted green with a cream stripe. Preserved examples
at Sharya, Tayga, Sibirtsevo, Skovorodino, Belogorsk, Mogzon and Chernyshevsk.
Classes О, С/Су, Е (O, S/Su, Ye) have all disappeared from the steam dumps
but you will see the occasional one on a plinth.
For more information refer to the comprehensive Soviet Locomotive Types
– The Union Legacy by AJ Heywood and IDC Button (1995, Frank Stenvalls/
Luddenden Press). There’s also a good deal of information about Russian trains
on the internet; a good place to start is www.transsib.ru/Eng/ – the Trans-Siberian
Railway Web Encyclopedia.
- Contents list
- Planning your route
- Breaking your journey
- What to take
- Background Reading
- Sample Route Guide
- Steam Locomotives in Siberia
- Other Regional Railways
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