MPS-lines in Kazakhstan (part 2: Južno-Ural)

On this page the MPS Virgin Lands lines in the Južno-Ural railway region are described. This railway region was responsible for the narrow gauge lines of Kustanaj, Utjak, Kovilnaja and Bulaevo.

The Južno-Ural railway region received many TU2s from the 1956 and 1957 production series. But is not known exactly which of the TU2s assigned to this region have run on which railway. This uncertainty applies to 19 TU2s with running numbers 004-006, 010-013, 015, 018, 020, 021, 025, 026 and 049 (from 1956) as well as TU2-087, 088 and 090-092 (build in 1957).

It should be noted TU2-004, 005, 010, 011, 013, 015, 018, 020, 025, 026, 090 and 092 have turned up on other railways since 1958 already. Mostly they went to Margutsek MPD (Zabaikal system) and Tallinn (Estonia). TU2-004 has turned up in Tumskaja (Russia). It could be speculated that the other locos (TU2-006, 012, 021, 049, 087, 088 and 090) have remained on one of the 4 narrow gauge MPS-lines in the Južno-Ural railway region. TU2-088 later turned up in Atbasar.


The backbone of the projected narrow gauge network in Northern-Kazakhstan was to be the 841 km long Kustanaj - Kokchetav - Irtišskoje line. Apparently the construction of this line started from Kustanaj in the west and Kokcetav in the middle. The first sections were opened in 1953 already. Already during the construction of the line it was decided to build the central section between Novo-Uritskoje and Volodarskoje not as a narrow gauge line but as a broad gauge line instead. By this decision the narrow gauge line Kustanaj - Kokchetav - Irtišskoje was split into the two separate narrow gauges systems, based at Kustanaj and Kokcetav (described in the next chapter).

In the west, the narrow gauge line from Kustanaj ended in the broad gauge station of Novo-Uritskoje. The Kustanaj – Novo-Uritskoje line was 143 km long and first fell under the Južno-Ural railway region (since ±1960 Kazakhskaja region). The line might have been freight-only or only considered to be of local importance, since it was not mentioned in the national MPS-timetable.

The depot was situated in Kustanaj. In the first years the line must have been steam operated. The first diesel to arrive in Kustanay was the prototype TU1-001. It was here only 1956-1957 and was subsequently transferred to the Kiev pioneer railway. In 1956 also TU2-003 arrived in Kustanay. It was here probably only for trial runs and in 1957 it was transferred to Tallinn.

On a structural basis, Kustanaj MPD had at least four class TU2 diesel locomotives at her disposal: TU2-051, 052, 053 and 089. It is believed that more of the TU2s assigned to the Južno-Ural railway region have active on this system.

Interestingly already in April/May 1959 four of Kustanyay's diesel engines with numbers TU2-051, 052, 053 and 089 have been transferred to Panenzys in Lithuania.

Sometime between 1971 and 1975 the Kustanaj - Novo-Uritskoje narrow gauge line was closed in order to be converted to broad gauge. Afterwards class TU2 were transferred to Panevežys Lithuania. When they arrived there they were in terrible condition. Maybe they had been neglected after it was decided to close the narrow gauge system of Kustanaj?

Other TU2s were transferred to pioneer railways. TU2-091 was handed over to the Astana pioneer railway and TU2- 087 went to Lvov in the Ukraine (around 1970).

The Kustanaj - Novo-Uritskoje line is not shown in the national MPS-timetable before 1980. Probably the broad gauge line was opened to passenger traffic in that year. Nowadays the former narrow gauge line is still in service as a part of the completely broad gauge Kustanaj - Kokcetav main line.


This line is surrounded by a cloud of mistery. Utjak is a small station on the broad gauge line Kurgan - Omsk. It is said that this was the starting point of a narrow gauge line running south to the Virgin Lands. In Novoselovka (old Kazakh name: Peski-Celinnie) it intersected the projected Kustanaj - Kokchetav narrow gauge line. From there it was planned to run further south towards Tachtabrod and Atbasar. Eventually the projected narrow gauge connection from Novoselovka / Peski-Celinnie to Tachtabrod was never realised. Thus two seperate narrow gauge systems existed; one based at Atbasar (described on the next page) and one based at Utjak (described here).

The narrow gauge line from Utjak to Peski-Celinnie was 264 km long. It fell under the Južno-Ural railway region. According to unconfirmed reports, this line originally had a gauge of 750mm. But according to the 1960 MPS-timetable, it was broad gauge. So if the line really has been narrow gauge as speculated, it must have been regauged in the late 1950s already (!?).

It is not only uncertain if the line was really originally narrow gauge. Also, we have no record as to whether TU2s were used in the line. The railway opened as one of the first Virgin Lands Development Railways, probably in 1954 already. At that time, the TU2 was not yet in production. So the original motive power fleet must have been of steam engines. (A large fleet of brand new class Kp-4's is known to have been allocated to the Virgin Lands Railways). It is doubtfull if these steam engines have even been replaced by TU2s, because already in the late 1950s the line was converted to broad gauge. If so, a number of the Južno-Ural railway region’s unlocalised TU2s and/or TU2’s which have turned up on other lines after 1958 might have been used here (see the list on the top of this page).


In the early 1950s a branch line was projected from Novo-Uritskoje, on the Kustanaj - Kokchetav narrow gauge line, to the station of Kovilnaja. This station is situated on the broad gauge main line Astana - Magnitogorsk, about 200 km west of Atbasar.

The first section was opened in 1957. Apparently, once the line had reached the station of Lomonosovka (on the west bank of the River Ishim) the plans changed. The section Lomonosovskaja - Novo-Uritskoje, across the River Ishim, was never realised. The Kovilnaja - Lomonosovka line was 94 km long.

The Kovilnaja system has probably used class TU2 diesel locomotives since the opening of the line in 1957. At least three TU2s with numbers 111, 115 and 204 are known to have run here. TU2-115 worked on the Karaganda pioneer railway before it came to Kovilnaja.

When opened, the line fell under the Južno-Ural railway region. It is possible that some of Južno-Ural's unlocalised TU2s mentioned on the top of this page have worked in Kovilnaja. However, it is speculated that there was only one daily trainpair, requiring only one operational TU2 plus two reserve. So a total of 3 TU2’s might have been sufficient.

The TU2s working on the Kovilnja system are reported to have been allocated to the depot of Kušmurun. This is a town 113 km west of Kovilnaja with only a broad gauge railway. Probably the TU2s were officially allocated to Kušmurun MPD, but worked out of the engine shed at Kovilnaja? (This was not uncommon in the Soviet Union: For instance the TU2s shedded at Beregovo are officially allocated to Csop MPD, 40 km west of Beregovo).

In 1978/1979 two TU2s were reallocated to pioneer railways: TU2-111 went to Kustanaj and TU2-115 to Kurort Borovoe. However it is suggested that the line has remained open until 1983. This is underlined by the fact, that Kovilnaja's TU2-204 has turned up on the Kokchetav pioneer railway only in 1984.


Another Virgin Land Railway using class TU2s was the Bulaevo line in the far north of Kazakhstan, near the Russian border. The line opened 1957 and feeders the (original) Transsiberian Railway. The line starts at the station of Bulaevo-1, situated between Kurgan and Omsk (2709 km from Moscow). From here the narrow gauge line ran to the southeast, further into Kazakhstan. Via the stations of Bulaevo-2, Pisarevka, Vozvyshenka and Zhdanovo the line reached the terminus of Molodogvardejskaja.

Timetables from different years show different lengths for this line, varying between 94 and 99 km. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s there was one daily mixed train pair to Molodogvardejskaja. It left Bulaevo in the morning and returned in the late afternoon.

The 1960 timetable.

TU2-055 and TU2-057 probably have been working here since the opening of the line. In 1958 a batch of 5 class TU2s with rumbers 156 - 160 has been supplied to Bulaevo as well. Possibly, TU2-047 was obtained from Atbasar MPD in 1977.

In 1988/1989 the line was closed. This was probably decided upon the fact that a good road runs parallel to the narrow gauge line all the way from Bulaevo to Molodogvardejskaja. Thus traffic could easily be diverted to this road, using modern busses and lorries instead of the old-fashioned narrow gauge trains.

It seems that after the closure Atbasar MPD has taken over all TU2s. At least on paper. In praxis most TU2s found new employment on different pioneer railways:

number year reallocated to
TU2-047 1989 Kurgan pioneer railway (Russia)
TU2-055 1990 Atbasar (MPS)
TU2-057 1989 Alma-Ata pioneer railway
TU2-156 1990 Atbasar pioneer railway
TU2-157 1990 Atbasar (MPS)
TU2-158 1989 Alma-Ata depot (monument?)
TU2-159 1989 Kurgan pioneer railway (Russia)
TU2-160 1990 Cheljabinsk pioneer railway (Russia)

TOP     Menu Kazakhstan     HOME      NEXT