Baltic Narrow Gauge Railways, Autumn 2006

Baltic Narrow Gauge, September 8th - 20th, 2006

In the three Baltic states there are still a multitude of narrow gauge railways in service. A lot of them are the remains of former larger networks. Most are peat railways. Trains run from the peat fields to the factory. A handful have been built since 2000, but most have seen better days. Some lines are in such a bad condition that the trains don't run faster than walking pace and the transport of people is now forbidden. In former times it was normal for the first and the last train to and from the peat fields to carry the peat workers.

Anyway our program contains some charter trains. All narrow gauge steam locomotives in working conditions will be used as well.


Day Itinerary
09.09., Sat After all the tour participants meet at the airport (FarRail Tours can book the flights for you) we take our charter bus to the ferry port. We travel by ferry to the Naissaar Island where a fortress system for the defence of Tallinn exists. The Soviet Army used a 750-mm-narrow gauge railway here. It's been preserved by a railway enthusiast club; Locos: TU6A-1755, 1904, 1930.
With our charter bus (we will use it all the tour) we'll go to a hotel in Tallinn.
10.09. After breakfast we'll have a look at the KC4-100 steamer monument on the site of the Technological College of Tallinn.
On the way to the south we will have a short stop at the closed peat railway Turba - Nurme/Lehetu. In 2005 all the TU6-Diesels were still present.
After an endless drive through large forests we will arrive in Lavassaare by noon. We'll visit the narrow gauge museum "Eesti Muuseum Raudtee" with a big collection of narrow gauge locomotives, coaches and freight cars from the whole Baltic region. The museum railway line is nearly 2 kilometres long. We will ride on a TU4 headed charter train and on a MD54-4-"Railroad-Pick up".
Hotel: Pärnu
11.09. The weekend is over and the largest Baltic peat works spring back to life:
- Lavassaare/Tootsi - peat railway 750 mm, electrified in the Tootsi railway yard , whole network 59 km, peat fields Suursoo (Tootsi) and Lavassaare sooslik - AS Tootsi Turvas; Locos: four self-built electric locos based on K-10 and K-14 mining locos and other; TU6A (10 items); different TU8, TU7, TU7A; ESU2A-247, 421, 744, 856
After the visit of the Lavassaare branch with loco depot and peat loading ramp we will ride on a peat railway diesel to Tootsi. Photostops at all places of interest are obligatory. Very important is the big concrete viaduct over a highway half way. In the Tootsi yard archaic electric shunters are at work. For unloading peat a technology is used which was widespread in former Soviet times : the tippers are turned in a steel roller and the peat is emptied on a conveyor belt which takes it to the briquette works.
In the early afternoon we visit a small and inconspicuous peat company:
- Nurme - peat railway 600 mm (opened in 1998), 7 km, peat field Lavassaare sooslik - Fa. "Greenwald"; Tfz: 3 "Schoema"-Diesel locos
Finally we arrive at the second largest peat works of Estonia, the "Sangla"-concern:
- Puhja/Koopsi - peat railway 750 mm, 8 km, peat fields Sangla soo and Rannu soo - peat works "Sangla"; locos: TU6A-0019, 1789, 3549 = rebuilt, based on a "Scania"-truck + 1 item ; TU8-0184; MD54-4 (2 examples); ESU2A-284, 867
IIn the evening we cross the Estonian/Latvian border in the divided city Valga/Valka.
Hotel: "Brusis" Smiltene
12.09. The last public narrow gauge railway with regular traffic in the whole Baltic region exists in the north east of Latvia in the lovely Latgale province:
- Gulbene - Aluksne - public narrow gauge railway 750 mm, 33 km, S/A Gulbenes-Aluksnes banitis; locos: TU2M-244, TU2-273, TU7A-2994, 3018; TGK2-4230 (1520 mm)
Although the line runs mostly across swampy forests we can know some good photo locations. Highlight of the day is a KC4-headed steam charter train from Gulbene to Kalniene and back. The normal schedule gives us enough possibilities to take pictures of regular trains and the possibility to ride on one - to experience the real life in the Latvian countryside. A loco parade in front of the round house (with 750 mm- and 1520 mm-tracks and turn table) rounds the day off.
Hotel: "Brusis" Smiltene
13.09. Today we will get up very early, so we don't miss the morning workers passenger train from Seda into the moor!
- Seda - peat railway 750 mm, whole network more than 30 km, peat field Sedas tirelis - AO Seda; locos: TU4-227, 557, 597, 800, 1097, 1225; TU7-155, 1529, 1698; ESU2A-530, 989; "Draisine's" PMD2-640, 795
Our next destination - in the afternoon is Zilaiskalns:
- Zilaiskalns - peat railway 750 mm (the former public line Dauguli - Ozoli - Pujkules stacja is out of service and is expected to closed soon) actually only 5 km is still in use, Peat field Ozoliu purvs - OOO Zilakalna kudra; locos: TU6A-1546, 2895; ESU2A-118, 931
In the evening we visit the 1520 mm-LDZ-Diesel depot with the locomotive monument - German World-War-I-Brigadelok Ml-657, ex HFB 2305
Hotel: Jelgava
14.09. To reach the peat fields from Olaine (half way between Jelgva and Riga) we have to get up early again:
- Olaine - peat railway 750 mm, big network, peat field Cenas tirelis; Tfz: TU6A approx. 6 examples; MD54-4-177, 3446; ESU2A-92, 278, 513, 764
Our journey takes us to the Western province Kurland. Two further active peat railways are our destinations - with different gauges and loco park:
- Vane- peat railway 600 mm (opened in 2000), 3 km, OOO Panbalt; locos: 3 Diesels from Pedershaab Maskinfabrik A/S (ex 700 mm)
- Lielsalas - peat railway 750 mm, 15 km, peat field Salaspurs; locos: TU6A-3443; ESU2A-559, 964=rebuilt - based on an old "Scania"-truck; Schoema 4962 und 4963 (from 1988/89)
Finally we visit the Agriculture Museum of Talsi, which is well worth seeing. Attraction for railway fans here is the "Brigadelok" Ml-631.
Hotel: Ventspils
15.09. In the morning we will again travel to two different peat railways:
- Ploce - peat railway 600 mm, ca. 7 km, Ploces kudras tecirknis/OOO Panbalt; locos: DT74 (2 items without numbers) made by "Lattorfmash" Riga
- Aizpute - peat railway 750 mm, 7 + 3 km, OOO Panbalt; locos: MD54-4 (2 items); ESU2A-395
Remembering the glory of the former Kurland 600 mm-network we will ride on the steam train of the Museum Railway Ventspils, part of the famous Museum of local history and agriculture in Ventspils Jurmalas park. (locos: 2 no. of Brigadeloks- one in service, one diesel loco). We take a ride on the train and enjoy the two-kilometre-roundtrip and of course enjoy photographing and filming it too.
In the late afternoon we take some time off - a possibility to buy some souvenirs or to go on a boat tour around the harbour. Anyone who would like to get an impression of the broad gauge main line diesels and shunters are welcome to visit the Diesel depot of the private company AS Baltijas Ekspresis, which also houses some LDZ-locos.
Hotel: Ventspils
16.09. Today we explore some rather unknown peat railways in the north west of Lithuania. First we cross the border to Lithuania over Pludoni/Skuodas und must negociate some adventurous, sometimes unpaved roads.
- Tvaskuciai - peat railway 750 mm, 3 km, peat field Raudonosios durpynas - ZAO Renavo durpynas; locos: TU6A (1 item); MD54-4 (2 item)
- Tryskiai (Pabalve) - peat railway 750 mm, 7 km, peat field Pabalves durpynas - AO Tyras; locos: ESU2A-960 "2733"; MD54-4-"1484"
- Lebeliai - peat railway 750 mm, peat field Lebeliu durpynas - AO Tyras; locos: ?
Hotel: Siauliai
17.09. On Sunday all the peat railways are closed. That's why we begin the day quietly in the railway staition of Siauliai with the railway museum. Special interest is the 750 mm-steam loco PT4-153 set up as a monument in front of this building.
After that we'll have a look at the LG broad gauge diesel depot next to the largest Baltic railway station - Radviliskis. Here we can see some M62-, 2M62-, 2M62-M- and 2M62U-main line diesels and ChME3- and TEM2- shunters.
But now back to the narrow gauge! In the afternoon we'll go to the only public narrow gauge line in Lithuania - Panevezys - Anyksciai - Rubikiai. The line closed to regular traffic some years ago so we'll charter a special train for the best section - Anyksciai - Rubikiai. It's famous for the big steel viaduct and the pass line with a heavy gradient.
- First we'll visit the Panevezys loco depot with a lot of TU2-diesels and other preserved railway vehicles. Then we go by bus to Anyksciai and board our TU2-headed charter train.
Hotel: Rokiskis
18.09. Three rarely visited peat railways are located in the north east of Lithuania:
- Onuskis - peat railway 750 mm, peat field Degesynes durpynas - peat works "Tyde"; locos: ESU2A-497 + 1 items
- Sepeta - peat railway 750 mm, 2 km ?, peat field Sepetos durpynas - AO Durpeta; locos: TU8 (3 items); ESU2A (2 items)
- Klociunai (Nerodiskiai) - peat railway 750 mm, 8 km, peat field Baluosos durpynas - ZAO Balosa; locos: ESU2A-959; MD54-4
Hotel: Vilnius
19.09. In the Kaunas area there are three commonly administrated peat railways still working:
- Igliauka (Paezere) - peat railway 750 mm, 3 + 3 km, Torffeld Palios durpynas - branch of Ezerelio durpynas; Tfz: TU6A-0136, 3709; ESU2A-130
- Susiai - Torfbahn 750 mm, Torffeld Susios durpynas - branch of Ezerelio durpynas; Tfz: MD54-4; ESU2A
- Ezerelis - peat railway 750 mm, peat field Ezerelio durpynas; locos: TU6A-5xx, "2268", 2501; SEP2
Hotel: Vilnius
20.09., Wed Depending on the departure times of flights or trains we have some free time to explore the time-honoured city of the Lithuanian capital. All participants get a transfer to the airport or the train station.
Flight will be booked according to your preferences

Line descriptions:

The landscape in the Baltic region is mostly flat with some gentle hills, consisting of lakes, rivers, meadows, swamps, forests and wide agricultural areas. That's the reason most narrow gauge lines don't have gradients. However, we find a lot of smaller, some larger bridges and long embankments through swampy sections. Sometimes we can see wooden houses along the line. It's possible to take pictures in real idyllic countryside. Please have a look at the report of our tour to the narrow gauge railways in Lithuania in 2005!

A special example of countryside architecture can be found in Latvia. This country suffered extreme destruction in World War I. After the independence (1919) new peat works were built. Some of these, for example Zilaiskalns and Seda, built housing estates for their employees – two-storied dwellings always including a town hall and cultural centre.

Latvia's last remaining public narrow gauge railway Gulbene – Aluksne runs according to the following timetable (will change a little bit in May 2006; trains 694/693 run 3 hours earlier on a Sunday):

Train-No. 692 691 694 693 696 695
Gulbene 6.00 9.15 13.25 16.45 18.00 21.15
Aluksne 7.30 7.50 14.55 15.20 19.30 19.50

Small Print

Usually Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are mentioned in one breath as the »Baltic states« and this suggests that these three states are very similar. But that's not the case! Western and southern Estonia is like a Scandinavian country, Finns and Estonians can understand each other because their languages are very similar. Latvia, however, is bilingual. The Latvian language is similar to the Lithuanian, but most of the people speak Russian. And if you come to Lithuania you'll feel more like you are in Central Europe. Lithuania and Estonia are united by the fact that the people don't like remembering the Soviet times. There English and German are popular foreign languages.

In all the three Baltic states the infrastructure has nearly reached Western European standards. The mobile phone network has nationwide cover. Local currency can be acquired uncomplicatedly from cash dispensers in every larger city. All major credit cards and EC-cards are accepted.

Traditional in the Baltic region a lot of secondary country roads are unpaved.

To offer you a reasonable price we don't use hotels in the upper price range, but especially in Latvia you will surprised by the sometimes very good standards of our hotels.

With the selection of the narrow gauge lines we will visit on our journey, we try to present you with a great variety. Both the public railways are a »must«, also the narrow gauge museum in Lavassaare and the Brigadeloco steam train in Ventpils. But the explorers of more unknown narrow gauge networks will be looked after too. In Lithuania we selected lines which we didn't visit during the FarRail Tour in 2005.

The unstable peat production in some peat fields created the problem, that we can't always guarantee trains will be running. If possible we will arrange rides on regular trains or charter a special. The experience of former tours shows us that a lot of things can only be arranged with local staff after arriving at the scene of action. Most of the lines are struggling for their existence and some may disappear – if necessary we will adapt the program.

Especially for the peat railways you need good and strong shoes and waterproof clothing. We go on our tour at the end of the summer, a few weeks before the wet season begins. But rainy days are also possible in this period.

The tour has been arranged by Udrius Armalis from Kaunas and will be guided by Albrecht Fabian. From former tours they have a good knowledge of the Baltic railways.

All peat railways only work early shifts. That's why we will usually begin the day early in the morning and have no opportunity for a warm lunch. We'll take packed lunch and in the evening the hotel will provide us with the tasty cuisine of our guest countries.

If you want to travel by land there is the following possibility:

Train to Berlin according to the 2005 timetable (will change in May!)

Vilnius kel. dep. 12.00 D 193
Sestokai Sestokai   14.48/15.18 91002
Warszawa Centr.   20.39/23.22 D 344 »Kasztan« (reservation necessary)
Berlin-Lichtenberg (21.09., Thu) arr. 07.44  

Booking deadline 01.08.2006


Depending of the point of departure the price for travel to and from Tallinn/Vilnius can vary drastically. That is why we only present a "Land only" price. We can book flight to Tallinn and from Vilnius to suit your needs. Please note the enormous price differences between the big names and the budget airlines. Let us know if you want to fly with an established former state airline or with a newcomer.

Baltic Narrow Gauge Autumn 11 - 15 participants 1.930 Euro
09. - 20.9.2006 6 - 10 participants 2.085 Euro
  Single room supplement 265 Euro

Minimum number of participants 6
Maximum number of participants 15

Price includes:

Not included:


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