Torzhok - Ostashkov: the last route to tsarist Russia

The Torzhok - Ostashkov branch line was built almost as the same time as the Nikolayevskaya, the first and the main railway line in Russia.

Torzhok-OstashkovIn the early 1910s, Julia M. Kuvshinova, the well-known regional entrepreneur from Tver and the owner of a pulp and paper mill in the village of Kamennoi in Tysyatsky Parish, thought of the idea to construct a railway line since she wanted to connect the two largest county centres of Torzhok and Ostashkov.

But permission for the line's construction could only be obtained on the condition that the length of the proposed route would be at least 100 kilometres, although the distance between the two towns was much less. So in order to obtain the legal right to build the railway, Kuvshinova designed a route which follows curved lines rather than a straight line, thus reaching the required 100 km. The work was done in about 10 years. The new authorities remained loyal to the plans of the businesswoman, and in the early 1920s, the silence of the ancient Valdai forests was broken by the sound of the first steam locomotive. At the same time, the passenger stations and buildings were erected, first in the village of Rantsevo in 1912, followed by Kammenoe in 1916.

In 1938, the village of Kammenoe near the station was accorded the status of a town, which was renamed Kuvshinovo in gratitude. One of the most beautiful stations on the branch line was also given the same name in honour of their famous countrywoman.

Today, Torzhok - Ostashkov is a unique route - railway staff call it a "railway reserve" and an "open-air museum." Almost all the railway paraphernalia of the last century is preserved here and still in action. The Torzhok - Ostashkov branch line still weaves the zigzags originally designed by Julia Kuvshinova. The same station building stands which was built 90 years ago. Also still preserved and in good working order are the coloured signal lights and the token instruments used in signalling, hand-operated switches with vanes and the wooden barriers at level crossings. The duty station masters transmit and receive from the assistant drivers the tokens which give the train the right to move onto the station-to-station blocks.

There are no roads in many of the settlements scattered between Torzhok and Ostashkovo, so only the railway lines help the people living in these remote villages near the stations to keep in touch with the outside world.

Afrikanda Station

October Railways can boast numerous remarkable stations. Afrikanda station lies 230 kilometres along the main line to the south from Murmansk station. According to one version, the construction workers building the Murmansk line came up with the station's name when coping with temperatures as low as -50 C.

Vykhodnaya Station

Vykhodnaya station is 18 km from Murmansk. Vykhodnaya means Day Off or Weekend. The name came from the siding Vykhodnoi because before the war it was one of the favorite rest and recreation spots near Murmansk.

Shapki Station

Passengers flying past Tosno on the St. Petersburg - Moscow express train often do not even notice the tracks to their left. Occasionally, electric suburban commuter trains run on them to carry people to their dachas in the holiday village of Shapki. The station was named after the many numerous domed hills resembling hats - shapki - which rise to up to 90 metres above sea level. The Shapkino and Kirsinsky kames consist of these sandy hills.

In 1926, the first major reconstruction of the Leningrad railway junction began. The work required a huge amount of sand, which, very conveniently, was found on the Shapkino kame. A branch railway line was laid to the kame, and the terminal station was called Shapki after one of the three estates which as early as 1747 the Empress Elizabeth had bestowed on her confessor, the archpriest F. Y. Dubyansky. The Holy Father then created a landscaped park on his estate, with valleys, inclinations, winding paths and ponds.

Checkpoint Maria

At the largest sorting station in the European part of Russia, St. Petersburg-Sortirochnaya-Moscow, there is a checkpoint called Maria. According to legend, one day a girl named Maria was carrying lunch to her father, who worked on the railways, and suddenly saw a man on the tracks in oily overalls. A wagon rolled down the hump towards the man, so Maria took off her new shoes and slipped them under the wheels. The wagon stopped, and the man was saved. His friends at the depot clubbed together to buy Mary new shoes. And the hitherto nameless checkpoint was named after the fearless girl, a daughter of a St. Petersburg railwayman.

Parogolovo Station

If you leave St. Petersburg and head to Vyborg, the electric commuter train will stop for a minute at Pargolovo station, 15 kilometres from the Finland Station. And there, before the passengers, is a commuter station, a miracle of railway architecture. It was built in 1906 by the architect Bruno Granholm and was one of Russia's first buildings to be made of sand-lime brick, whose light tones highlight the details of the dark red clinker bricks. The station resembles a medieval castle, with its miniature towers, roofs covered in scale tiles, narrow windows resembling arrow-loops and indented gable in the centre.

Torzhok-OstashkovThere are several theories about the origin of the station's name, or rather that of the village through which the railway line to Finland was laid in 1869.

According to the most prosaic version, Pargolovo is the distorted pronunciation of Parkolo, which means "Manor Park" in Finnish. However, those who travelled in the environs of the station often recalled the dark, deep ravines and wandered among the impenetrable bushes. Perhaps the first inhabitants of these places - the Finns - used to fall into some pit or other, muttering "Perkele", which means "devil" in Finnish. Hence the name of the station.

There is a third version. Returning from Vyborg after conquering it from the Swedes and approaching his new capital in the Neva delta, Peter the Great took off his hat - and steam rose from his head. "Par" means steam in Russian, and "golova" head - hence the name Pargolovo -"Steamy Head."

Dvorets Station

Between the Valdai and Staraya Russia in the Novgorod region are a small village and station which bear the same name Dvorets - Palace. Nowadays, some 150-200 people live here. Dvorets is famous for the fact that in the eighteenth century, Empress Catherine II travelled from St. Petersburg to Moscow along the sled road which passes through the village.

Today, five villages in the district are close to the village's railway station - the only transport link with the outside world. Every shift sees 14 -16 pairs of trains run past the station, but they do not stop at Dvorets. Every summer, however, crowds of tourists arrive at these amazing places on the Bologoe - Dno commuter trains.