Pioneer railways in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan had 14 pioneer railways and eleven of them used TU2s. A total of 20 different class TU2 ran on Kazakhstan's pioneer railways. At least 16 of them previously ran on the Virgin Lands railways, one on the Kuturbaluk industrial line and two were transferred from other railways outside Kazakhstan. Only one seems to have been supplied directly to Alma-Ata.

Alma-Ata pioneer railway

A 1.3-km long circular pioneer railway opened in this town in 1952. This was still the pre-TU2-era, so the line was steam operated. In 1958 the old rolling stock was replaced by Pafawag coaches and one or two TU2’s. TU2-209 is confirmed to have run on the line since 1958. It is from the 1958 production series and seems to be supplied directly to the pioneer railway. But also TU2-112 is reported to have worked here. This loco has originally been supplied to the Tselinograd railway region.

In 1972 Tula MPD in Russia handed over TU2-124 to Alma-Ata. It probably replaced TU2-209, which has turned up on the Atbasar MPS system. Later, in 1980, TU2-112 was handed over to the Chimkent pioneer railway.

Only TU2-124 continued to work in Alma-Ata until 1986. Then it was phlinted in front of the office of the pioneer railway. It has stood there until it was scrapped in 1991.

The line closed in 1997. The last years a class TU7A diesel locomotive has hauled the trains.

Arkaluk pioneer railway

Almost nothing is known about this pioneer railway. Opened approximately 1986 and closed in 1993, it has worked only a few years. The only locomotive was TU2-105. It was obtained from Atbasar MPD and returned there after the line was closed.

Astana pioneer railway

Astana is also known as Akmola or Tselinograd (translated as Virgin Land Town). In 1946 a 600-mm gauge pioneer railway opened in this own.

In 1958, after the construction of the 750-mm gauge Virgin lands Railways, the pioneer railway was also reconstructed to this standardised narrow gauge. At the same time TU2’s started to work. These were TU2-108 and probably also TU2-107. Both were supplied to the MPS Tselinograd railway region, which was also responsible for this pioneer railway. Noticeably, TU2’s are known to have run with the inscription Small Akmola Railway in the 1950s.

Also TU2-091 (ex-MPS Južno-Ural region) is reported to have ben working on the Astana pioneer railway in the 1980s (but probably since the late 1950s already).

In 1983 TU2-175 was obtained from Atbasar MPD. It has been working in Astana until its closure in 2002. The other TU2’s have been taken out of service earlier. From these locos, TU2-108 has turned up at the Gajvoron repair workshop in 1996. The faith of the other locos is unknown.

TU2-175 seen on the Astana pioneer railway on 26 July 1991.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

Atbasar pioneer railway

The Atbasar pioneer railway must not be confused with the MPS-system based at Atbasar. There was no connection between the MPS railway and the pioneer railway. Locos were exchanged between both railways on lorries via the road. The pioneer railway opened in November 1979 and has been closed and dismantled sometime between 1991 and 1996.

Three TU2’s have worked on this line, but only two could be identified. TU2-024 has probably worked on the pioneer railway since it was opened. It was obtained from the Atbasar Virgin Lands railway. In 1991 it was spotted on the pioneer railway. After the closure of the pioneer railway the TU2 was transported to the Ukraine. It was found dumped at the Gajvoron main repair workshop in 1996. The other loco, TU2-156, was obtained from the Bulaevo system, which closed around 1990. It has worked on the pioneer railway until it was closed. Afterwards it was reallocated to the Atbasar MPS-system.

The atmosphere of the Atbasar pioneer railway reminds of that of an ordinary MPS supply railway. On 27 July 1991 TU2-024 hauled a train of three Pafawag coaches.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

Chimkent pioneer railway

The layout of the Chimkent pioneer railway is really extraordinary. The 6-km long line runs through mountainous terrain and features an artificial tunnel, two large bridges and impressive stations buildings, all with a creative design. The railway connects the northern part of the city to the recreational area near the zoo.

The first trial runs took place in February 1980 and in May of the same year the official opening took place. Since the opening TU2-112 (ex-Alma Alta pioneer railway) and TU2-269 (ex-Achpolimetal Metallurgical Combine in Kentau) have worked on the line.

By 2003 only TU2-112 was still operational. TU2-269 served as a supplier of spare parts. But even in this way it is not possible to keep TU2-112 operational throughout the season (May-September). Often the pioneer railway does not work due to a malfunction of the locomotive.

TU2-112 on the Chimkent pioneer railway, presumably in 2006.
Photo: Ildar Basyrov.

Karaganda pioneer railway

The city of Karaganda was given the privelige of a pioneer railway in the period when the narrow Virgin Lands development railways were built. The pioneer railway was situated in a park with large open areas, which more or less looks like uncultivated parts of the Virgin Lands. The first 2-km long section was build in 1956 and the line opened on 1 May 1957. In the 1980s the line was extened to a length of 5 km.

Soon after the opening (at least before 1961) the railway obtained TU2-115. It has worked here for an unknown period and has later turned up on the MPS-line Kovilnaja – Lomonosovka.

In 1978 another diesel came to Karaganda. This was TU2-037 (ex-MPS Atbasar). This loco has worked here until 1988, when it was send to a main report workshop (presumably Gajvoron?) for major overhaul. It never returned to Karaganda and has later turned up in its old home-depot of Atbasar. In exchange TU2-111 (ex-Kustanaj pioneer railway) came to the Karaganda pioneer railway. This loco has been used since.

A nice view of TU2-111 on the Karaganda pioneer railway on 25 July 1991.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

In 2001 the Kazakh State Railways has stopped financing the pioneer railway. Because the city of Karaganda does not have the funds to take over the personell, the railway had to be closed. It has worked until the end of the 2001-season. Afterwards the line and rolling stock has been preserved, but it is unclear if the railway will ever work again.

Kokchetav pioneer railway

This pioneer railway existed only twelve seasons, from 1984 until 1995. When opened, TU2-204 (ex-MPS Kovilnaja-Lomonosovka) worked on the line. In 1986 it was handed over to the Kurort-Borovoe pioneer railway. In its place TU2-041 came to Kokchetav. This loco previously worked on the MPS-system of Atbasar and remained in Kokchetav until after the line closed. It was probably scrapped in 2000 (in that year the line was dismantled).

Kustanaj pioneer railway

This pioneer railway should not be confused with the MPS-line Kustanaj – Novo-Uritskoje. The pioneer railway is situated in Kustanaj, on the Kirov Island in the River Tobol. It has a length of 3 km and opened on 7 October 1978. (The MPS-line was already converted to broad gauge by then).

The original rolling stock consisted of TU2-111 and some Pafawag coaches. At least the locomotive was obtained from the MPS Kovilnaja – Lomonosovka line.

Approximately in 1988 TU2-111 was handed over to the Karaganda pioneer railway. Its place was taken over by TU2-043 (ex-MPS Atbasar).

The pioneer railway closed after a flood washed away and destructed a large part of the line. It has never been reconstructed. So it worked for the last time in late Summer 1999. Afterwards the rolling stock, amongst which TU2-043, has been left standing in the open air. It was found there is a desolate state in 2001.

Kurort-Borovoe pioneer railway

In 1979 the MPS opened a pionier railway in this health-resort (which judging by its name could also be a located in Germany!). Nowadays it is known as Shchuchinsk.

The first loco working here was TU2-115 from the Kovilnaja system in the northwest of the country. In 1986 TU2-204 (ex-Kokchetav pioneer railway) was added to Kurort-Borovoe’s motive power fleet. But it probably replaced the original TU2-115, whcih was handed over to Atbasar MPD in 1988.

TU2-204 has remained in service until the closure of the line in 1998/1999.

Pavlodar pioneer railway

This line is situated in the industrial area in the eastern outskirts of the city. Since the opening in 1979, TU2-106 has turned its rounds on the railway. It had been supplied to the MPS Tsilinograd (Astana) railway region in 1958 and probably worked on the Kokchetav system until the mid-1970s.

In 1997 the – meanwhile Kazakh – state railways took off its hands from the pioneer railway and turned it over to the city the local government. But the city of Pavlodar did not have funds to operate the line, so it was closed immediately.

It appears this (or a second?) pioneer railway has (re)opened im 2000. It is called the Kamzin childrens railway. TU2-106 can be found there, though apparently not in working order. In 2004 the railway worked in Summer on Saturdays and Sundays from 15:00 till 20:00.

Semipalatinsk pioneer railway

A 1-2 km long circlular pioneer railway existed in Semipalltinsk (Kazakh name: Semej). The line probably opened in 1981, because in that year Panevezys MPD handed over TU2-140 to the Semipalatinsk pioneer railway. In 1989 this loco was found dumped at the broad-gauge locomotive depot of Semipalatinsk, indicating the pioneer railway had been closed by then already.

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