Kaliningrad 2004 - Day 4
May 2, 2004
On Sunday May 2, we went to Sovetsk on the North-Eastern border. We took the northern route, used by one pair of passenger trains a day. The border station of Sovetsk (formerly Tilsit) is too big for current level of traffic. Passenger transport in both directions (Kaliningrad and Chernyakhovsk) is very small and only freight trains operate to Lithuania. After a short break, during which we walk to the railroad bridge, we continue to Neman (Ragnit). Only freight trains run here. The condition of the track is not good. Curious locals look at us from nearby gardens. Neman is presently a final stop. It was said that several years ago, it had been possible to go another 13 km further to Malomozhayskoye (Altenkirch), but not any longer. We come back to Sovetsk and look for the historical Queen Luisa Bridge. It is too far to walk. Several taxi cabs wait in front of the station and our Russian guides negotiates transport to those interested. At the same time, a local "historical" bus to Neman is ready to leave. Driver tells us that he also goes to the bridge. Two Czechs and one Pole get on and we hope that we manage it on time. We are slightly worried because the bus makes many detours around the city. As we learned later, the road next to the bridge was closed. In the end, other passengers tell us to leave in the middle of a residential area and give us a direction towards the bridge. We have to trust them. In a few moments, we reached the bridge. Our view was slightly obstructed by trucks and customs buildings, but the bridge was marvellous anyway. But we are pushed by time, we catch a taxi and hurry back to the station. Later on, we learned that the guide arranged others the taxi for 200 RUR (8 USD) round trip, while we paid 50 RUR (2 USD) one-way. On the other hand, they got there without hassle.
From Neman, we continue South to Chernyakhovsk (Insterburg) on the main line Kaliningrad - Kibartai LG. We are invited for an excursion to a depo. They show us workshops and the way railcars are maintained. I did not enjoy it as much as mechanical engineers would, but on the first glance, they are professionally equipped and use modern tools.
After that, we get on a train and come back along the main line to Kaliningrad.
Railroad curiosities (historical map):
The route, which we traveled that day, could have been the most interesting from railroad history perspective. Many local lines used to branch from it in the past. Looking from the train, however, we could not see almost anything. Narrow gauge railroads, formerly branching from Konstaninovka (Konradswalde), Polessk (Labiau), Zalesye (Liebenfelde), Bolshakovo (Kreuzingen) or Shcheglovka (Brittanien) are gone. The biggest remains were visible right before Chernyakhovsk when coming from Sovetsk, where two narrow-gauge railroads used to run to the North. Columns of a railroad bridge over the Pregolya river and parts of a trackbed are still in place.
© Jan Pešula, 2004