• Michael Laxer

Children's Railway of Stalingrad, 1949




In early May 1948 -- only just over 5 years after the end of the devastating battle for the city and 3 years after the end of the Second World War -- a children's railway was opened in Stalingrad.


Children's railways were an idea developed in the USSR that were connected with the Pioneer youth programs. The first one opened in Moscow's Gorky Park in 1932. They were a way for children interested in trains and transportation to gain experience and to have fun.


(You can learn more about the pioneers at our post: Artek: The vast Soviet internationalist complex of children's camps (theleftchapter.com))


The locomotives and train cars were smaller in size and they ran on narrow gauge tracks. Teenagers would assume many, or in some cases all, of the roles involved in operating them from ticket collection to conducting to being a locomotive engineer.


The railways spread across the USSR and into many Eastern European countries during the Communist era.


Some are still in operation today though many sadly fell into disuse, were abandoned or went into private hands after the counter-revolutions of 1989-1991.


Here is a look at the Stalingrad railway -- the opening of which was an inspiration to many Soviet citizens given the horrors of the recent past -- published in a Soviet English language news bulletin in May 1949. It is accompanied by photos from the article and a couple other photos added from other sources. The railway was built by Soviet railroad workers as a present to the children of Stalingrad.


That children's line in what is now called Volgograd was privatized in the 1990s and ceased operation until it was revived in 2012.


ALL ABOARD! Chief Conductor Anatole Reznikov, a schoolboy, signals for departure.


Tiny Railroad in Stalingrad:


A smart railroad station stands on the banks of the Volga in Stalingrad. In the stationmaster's office sits Victor Kleshchev, a fifth -grade pupil of the city's 52nd Secondary School. He is on duty at the station , and his office is equipped with a telegraph, telephone, and other instruments. Beyond the windows are the switchman's booth and the semaphores, protecting the approach to the station.


A train stands at the platform with blue cars and a locomotive with the inscription "Malaya Stalingradskaya” ( Small Stalingrad ). The locomotive, coaches, and station buildings are all of miniature size . Anatole Reznikov, chief conductor, sounds the whistle for departure. The young passengers wave out of the windows, and then Yuri Nesterov, locomotive engineer who recently celebrated his fourteenth birthday, moves the throttle, and the tiny train moves

ahead.


CLEAR TRACK AHEAD. Young Yuri Nesterov, locomotive engineer on the children's railroad in Stalingrad, sits in the engine cab. He is a fifth-grade pupil in Stalingrad's Secondary School No. 15


The Small Stalingrad Railway was built in 1948 by Stalingrad railwaymen as a present to the children of the heroic city. There are many other such railways for children in other cities of the USSR.


It is planned to extend the line of this miniature railroad to pass the children's park which is being laid out in the valley of the River Tsaritsa, a small tributary of the Volga. A station club

will be built for the young railway workers, a depot, a bridge across the river, and a tunnel - just like on a huge, 1,000 mile line.


Children interested in railroading become acquainted with all phases of the profession on the miniature line. They choose the particular task that most appeals to them, and three daily "shifts” service the Small Stalingrad Railway -- but without interfering with school work. Each shift has stationmasters, engineers, dispatchers, switchmen, and conductors. They are taught by the best specialists and teachers but never devote more than six hours weekly to this extra-curricular activity.


With the summer holidays in full swing, more than 600 Stalingrad children are taking part in the various activities in connection with the miniature railroad. And they enjoy every minute of it.


TRAINS PASSING AT STATION . A passenger locomotive on the children's railroad in Stalingrad passes a string of cars on a siding. These tiny railroads are extremely popular with children.


GOOD-BYE ! Zoya Svyatysheva and Elia Ryazantseva, young passengers, wave to friends.


The Children's Railroad in the 1970s


CHILDREN'S RAILROAD. Youngsters work these model lines as an after- school hobby. Here 6th grader Nina Rudik is station-master (Photo from 1948)


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