The Atbasar system is the last survyving Virgin Lands railway. An extremely large TU2-fleet has been allocated here. Also some TU7s worked in Kazakhstan. One of the TU2s working in Atbasar was TU2-105, seen here on 27 July 1991.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

Most public narrow gauge lines in Kazakhstan owe their existence to Khrushchev's Virgin Lands Project, aimed at the cultivation of the so-called Virgin Lands (Tselina). The program was concentrated in the northern provinces of Kazakhstan. According to the programme Northern Kazakhstan had to become the main corn-growing region of the Soviet Union. Great swatches of the Kazakh steppe were ploughed up to make way for grain production and waves of workers from the western USSR were brought to the region.

The transportation of cereals from the state farms to the grain silos had to be carried out by narrow gauge railway. Thus since 1954 the MPS has constructed many 750-mmm gauge lines to connect the new wheat and rye fields to the centrally located graneries throughout the region. Most of them were intended to be connected to each other, resulting in an extended narrow gauge network with a total length of approximately 1700 km. But some parts of the network were immediately built in broad gauge and other parts were not built at all. In the end six individual isolated narrow gauge systems remained, based at Atbasar, Kokcetav, Kustanaj, Kovilnaja, Utjak and Bulaevo. Together they were 1154 km long.

Since the class TU2 diesel locomotives were produced at the same time that the Virgin land development railways were opened, this class has been the standard motive power since the opening of these lines. A total of 48 identified class TU2s is confirmed to have been working on these lines. But the total number of TU2s originally allocated to MPS-lines in Kazakhstan was probably twice as much (probably 84).

Three additional class TU2 ran on an industrial railway and on pioneer railways, amounting to a total of 51 confirmed and identified class TU2s in Kazakhstan. Noticeably also many class TU2 ran on Kazakhstan's pioneer railways but these were almost all second hand engines which previously ran on the public railways mentioned above.

MPS-lines (part 1: Atbasar and Kokchetav)
MPS-lines (part 2: Juzno-Ural region)
Industrial railways
Pioneer railways

Please note that information on the Kazakh narrow gauge lines is very sparse. The information on the MPS-lines is largely based on only one single source: Dmitry Zinoviev's site on the narrow gauge railways in the USSR. This also applies to pages on the Kazakh pioneer railways, which are almost exclusively based on the information on Dmitry Sutyagin's site on the pioneer railways in the USSR.