MPS-lines in Kazakhstan (part 1)


This Virgin Land development railway was built in 1957-1958. The centre of the line is the station called Post 120-km. This station is also referred to as Atbasar-II (Atbasar-I being the main railway station). The narrow gauge (freight) station is situated just outside the town of Atbasar, some 3 km from the main railway station. The depot is nearby. It is situated around a track-triangle and has a four-track engine shed, small (wagon) workshops and a water tower.

An view of the depot at Atbasar-II in July 1991. No less than 15 TU2s can be determined, spread all over the enourmous premisses of the depot.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

An overview of the back part of the depot, taklen some 300 metres further than the photo above. The track on the right is the main line. Both TU2s in the foreground are standing on one side of the track-triangle, the TU7s in the background on the other side of the triangle. On the right hand side some more TU2s in front of what is presumably a wagon workshop.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

Two lines started at Atbasar-II. The southern branch was 118 km long and ran to Krasnokamenskoje. The northern line ran via Barakkul to Tachtabrod and was 120 km long. It has a 17-km long branch line running starting at Barakkul (km 56) and running northeast to Shantobe.

It is said that another short line connected the narrow gauge narrow gauge station of Atbasar-II to the broad gauge railway station of Atbasar-I. Though this line was probably broad gauge, because broad gauge tracks are seen around the depot of Atbasar-II.

The Atbasar narrow gauge railway was not only used for the transportation of cereals and other freight. There was also a passenger service (timetable 560; later timetables 413/414). In 1982 only one daily passenger train pair ran between Atbasar-II and Krasnokamenskoje. It took six hours for the 118-km long journey. The line to Tachtabrod was also used for passenger traffic. There was one passenger train, which left Tachtabrod at 2:15 at night and returned at 19:50. Maybe this train also serviced the Shantobe branch. It appears no passenger trains have run between Atbasar-2 (Post 120 Km) and the Atbasar-1 main railway station.

A large TU2-fleet has been allocated to the Atbasar depot since the opening of the network. According to newspaper articles from the mid-1950s, Atbasar MPD was the first depot to use class TU2s. The staff of Atbasar MPD passed on their experience with the new diesels to other depots.

The following 26 TU2s seem to have been allocated to Atbasar MPD on a structural basis: TU2-024, 033, 037, 041, 042, 043, 045, 047 (ex-Orenburg region), 102, 103, 105, 109, 117, 121, 157, 175, 194, 195, 196, 197, 199, 202, 203, 205, 206 and 209.

In addition to these engines there are indications that the following 17 TU2s have been in Atbasar temporarily: TU2-019, 021 - 023, 027, 029 - 036, 038 - 040, 044. It is said these were first assigned to the Karaganda railway region, originally responsible for the Atbasar narrow gauge system. Therefore it is speculated they were in Atbasar. (Soon afterwards the Kazakskaja railway region was formed, incorporationg the Karaganda region). But the 17 locomotives mentioned above have all turned up on other railways after 1958 already. Maybe they have never even been supplied to the Karaganda railway region?

In 1979 three class TU2s with numbers TU2-146, 151 and 238 (and probably TU2-264) were obtained from the Baltic States. Also TU2-107 came to Atbasar from the Astana pioneer railway.

But in the same period Atbasar MPD handed over some of her TU2s to pioneer railways. TU2-037 went to Karaganda (1972), TU2-041 to Kokchetav (1978), TU2-043 to Kustanaj (1988), TU2-047 to Bulaevo (1977), TU2-175 to Astana (1983), TU2-206 to Nikhichevan (1978) and TU2-209 to Alma-Ata (1991).

Between 1987 and 1991 Atbasar's TU2-105 temporarily ran on the Arkali pioneer railway. TU2-195 went to Gajvoron sometime before 1985.

In the 1980s 6 additional class TU2 were allocated to Atbasar MPD. In 1983 TU2-138 arrived from Panevežys, in 1986 TU2-211 from Alapaevsk, in 1988 TU2-115 from the pioneer railway at Kurort Borovoje, around 1988 TU2-058 from Shilda and finally in 1990 TU2-055 and 157 from Bulaevo.

It is unclear if all 'new' TU2s actually worked here. Also at least TU7s had been taken into service in the 1980s, so the need for additional motove power might not have been so great. After the arrival of additional locomotives, some class TU2s were dumped: TU2-107 in 1985, TU2-042 in 1986, TU2-117 in 1987 and TU2-199 in 1990. TU2-202 and TU2-264 were scrapped roughly in the same period.

In 1991 Atbasar MPD had 33 TU2s in stock. Only 25 of these worked in Atbasar; the remaining 8 on different Kazakh pioneer railways. Apart from the TU2 mentioned below, also at least 4 withdrawn class TU7s were spotted in Atbasar-II in 1991.

TU2s officially allocated to Atbasar MPD in 1991.
number remarks
TU2-024 worked on Atbasar pioneer railway
TU2-037 dumped
TU2-041 worked on Kokchetav pioneer railway
TU2-043 worked on Kostanaj pioneer railway
TU2-047 worked on Kurgan pioneer railway
TU2-055 -
TU2-058 -
TU2-088 dumped
TU2-102 -
TU2-103 in use
TU2-105 in use
TU2-109 -
TU2-111 worked on Karaganda pioneer railway
TU2-115 -
TU2-121 -
TU2-138 -
TU2-146 -
TU2-151 -
TU2-156 -
TU2-157 -
TU2-159 worked on Kurgan pioneer railway
TU2-175 worked on Astana pioneer railway
TU2-194 dumped
TU2-196 -
TU2-197 -
TU2-199 dumped and stripped
TU2-202 -
TU2-203 -
TU2-204 worked on Kurort Borovoe pioneer railway
TU2-205 -
TU2-209 -
TU2-211 -
TU2-238 -

A long line of withdrawn TU2s and TU7s, amongst which TU2-194, seen in July 1991.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

An unidentified blue TU2 between the depot and the station of Atbasar-II, which is visible in the background. On the right hand side TU2-105, coming from the engine shed.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

This photo was taken at the exact same location as the photo above, thought in the opposite direction. On the left the wrack of TU2-199. On the right two lines with withdrawn TU2s and TU7s, headed by TU2-037 (left) and TU2-088 (right). On the far right hand side some broad gauge freight wagons.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

Around 1995 six class TU2 with running numbers TU2-024, 103, 121, 151, 203, 205 and 238 were dumped. These engines were transferred to the Gajvoron workshop in the Ukraine, where they were observed in June 1996. There is no trace of these engines since, so it assumed they have been scrapped. Around the same time TU2-156 was obtained from the closed Atbasar pioneer railway. It might have been scrapped as well.

By 2004 only the northern line between Atbasar (Post 120-km) and Barakkul as well as the branch line Barakkul - Shantobe were open. These line were operated by the private company 'Kazsapton'. All other sections had been closed and dismantled in the previous years; the line to Krasnoznamenskaja as recent as 2003.

The remaining Atbasar - Barakkul - Shantobe line is used for freight traffic only. There are 2 train pairs a day. The railway is operated by the mining company called Kazsabton.

The freight traffic consistst of tank wagons as well as wagon with uranium ore. This is transported from the Shantobe mines to Atbasar (and from there via the broad gauge to Stepnogorsk). The uranium ore is overloaded in a station 1 km west of Atbasar. The strategic importance of the uranium transport is probably the reason why the Atbasar - Shantobe line is the last operational Virgin Lands narrow gauge railway.

In 2002 there were four operational TU2s, amongst which TU2-055, 157 and 209. In Shantobe station also a TU7 is said to be used for shunting.

In June 2004 TU2-121, 115, 157, 209, 238 + one unidentified TU2 (055?) were observed at the depot, apparently all in working order. Dumped were TU2-091, 205 and 20?

More information and very interesting pictures can be found on Serguei Bolachenko's excellent website!

A picture of TU2-115 at the freight terminal of Atbasar on 1 June 2004.
Photo: Serguei Bolachenko.

Atbasar MPD on 1 June 2004 with TU2s seen inside the shed.
Photo: Serguei Bolachenko.

On 1 June 2004 a line of 3 dumped class TU2's was found next to the depot. The first loco is TU2-205.
Photo: Serguei Bolachenko.


Two narrow gauge lines started in Kokchetav. The western line was built in 1953/1954 already. It was intended to run all the way to Kustanaj. But in the end the narrow gauge line from Kokchetav ended after approximately 90 km in the new broad gauge station of Volodarskoje. In the early 1970s the Kokchetav - Volodarskoje narrow gauge line was regauged to broad gauge and integrated in the broad gauge line to Kustanaj.

The other line from Kokchetav dates from 1958. It was intended to run to Irtišskoje, 389 km northeast of Kokchetav. But railway troops only built the 215-km long section until Kzyl-Tu. And even this section has not been narrow gauge for a long time. It is suggsted that in 1964 the line was reaguged to broad gauge and extended to Irtishskoje as originally planned. But the 1960 timetable already shows this line as broad gauge. Maybe the Kokchetav - Kzyl-Tu was not narrow gauge at all?

To date almost nothing is known about the motive power used on the 90 or 300-km long narrow gauge system of Kokchetav. Since all other Virgin Land Development Railways used TU2’s, it is likely that these locos also ran in Kokchetav. The Kokchetav system was the only narrow gauge system in the Tselinograd (Astana) railway region. The following TU2s have been supplied to the Tselinograd railway region in 1956-1957: TU2-102, 104, 106, 110, 112, 114, 118, 119, 120 and 121. It is assumed these 10 locos (2 batches of 5 locos) all worked on the Kokchetav system. But this could not be confirmed.

Also TU2-210 is reported to have been supplied to the Tselinograd railway region (i.e. to Kokchetav MPD), although according to other sources it has been suplied to the Beloretzk system in the Ural Mountains.

Around 1960 many of the TU2s mentioned above turned up on other lines. This is logical given the fact that the Kokchetav system was regauged soon after it had been opened already, so less narrow gauge motiove power was needed than originally planned. The locos have turned up on the following systems:

number reallocated to
TU2-110 Margutsek (Russia)
TU2-119 Margutsek (Russia)
TU2-104 Ufa pioneer railway (Russia)
TU2-210 Nižnij Tagil
TU2-114 Tashkent pioneer railway (Uzbekistan) (or Alapaevsk?)
TU2-112 Alma-Ata pioneer railway

TU2-102, 106, 118, 120 and 121 might have remained in Kokchetav on a more structural basis. Following the closure of Kokchetav - Volodarskoje TU2-106 found new employment on the Pavlodar pioneer railway. TU2-102 and TU2-121 went to Atbasar probably aroudn the same time. The faith of both other locos is unclear.

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