Latvia

To date Latvia is one of the last three countries where TU2s are still in regular service: In Gulbene TU2-244 and TU2-273 are hauling the daily passenger trains. There used to be 22 TU2s running in Latvia, of which 20 on MPS-lines (state railways). All 750-mm state railways in Latvia have used TU2s, except the Sita - Rezekne line in the eastern part of the country. Most of Latvia's TU2s previously ran in Estonia.

Valmiera

Valmiera is a little town in the north of the country, near the Estonian border. In 1889 it was connected to the railway network by the Riga - Pskov broad gauge main line.

In 1912 the Valmiera supply railway company opened two 750-mm gauge lines, starting at the Valmiera railway station. One line ran to the east and ended in Smiltene (32 km). The other line ran to the port of Ainaži, 83 km northwest of Valmiera. The depot of the Wolmar supply railway was situated in Valmiera.


Valmiera MPD in 1973, with amongst others TU2-238 and TU2-146 waiting in front of the shed.
Photo: A. Roosma.

In 1927 a branch line was build from Pale to Staicele (16 km). Another 12-km long branch line ran from Puikule (also referred to as Urga) to Aloja. But it was converted to broad gauge and integrated into the new Riga - Rujiena main line in 1937 already.

During WW2, German troops constructed a 1 km long line from Ainaži across the border to the station of Ikla. This was the terminus of the 750-mm gauge Estonian narrow gauge line Riiselja - Ikla (opened 1923-1928). The short Ainaži - Ikla line was very important because it connected the Valmiera supply railway to the Estonian narrow gauge network. After the Second World War the MPS took over the Valmiera supply railway and the adjacent narrow gauge lines in Estonia.

Valmiera MPD received its first TU2s in early 1958. The new engines TU2-146 and TU2-149 were assigned to Valmiera MPD. Also, from the additional TU2s produced in 1959, TU2-248 was supplied to Valmiera MPD. The full-scale dieselisation took place in 1961/1962, when TU2-182 came to Valmiera from Gulbene and TU2-151 and TU2-152 arrived from the closed Liepaja system. It should be noted that at first the TU2s from Valmiera MPD only ran in Latvia. The line from Ainaži into Estonia was operated with Estonian locos and personnel (probably from Pärnu MPD).

In 1960 there was only one daily train pair on the Valmiera - Ainaži line. Two additional trains ran from Šmiltene to Stajcele and Valmiera respectively. Only two train compositions and two locos (plus reserve) were needed for these services.

In 1969 the eastern line from Valmiera to Smiltene closed. Noticeably this section had the most intensive passenger service, but still it was the first one to be closed.


The 1960 timetable still shows the Valmiera - Smiltene line.

In 1972 Valmiera MPD also started to work trains on the remaining parts of the Estonian network near the Latvian border.

Sketch of the Valmiera system in 1973, including the Estonian lines worked from Valmiera MPD.
(Click on the map to enlarge).

For the Estonian lines 5 Estonian diesel engines (TU2-019, 094, 238, 239 and 251) were allocated to Valmiera MPD. However TU2-019 probably never worked here and was transferred to the Baku pioneer railway rather soon. So since 1972 Valmiera MPD has had a total of 10 diesels at her disposal: TU2-094, 146, 149, 151, 152, 182, 238, 239, 248 and 251.

From these 10 TU2s, allways three TU2s were based in Moisaküla in Estonia. They hauled the trains from Moisaküla to Ruijena and Viljandi. Every Wednesday one of the TU2s working around Moisaküla was exchanged by a 'fresh' engine from Valmiera MPD. The Valmiera - Ainaži- Moisaküla line was worked from Valmiera MPD. Though all TU2s working here were allocated to Valmiera MPD in Latvia, Estonian crews continued to work on the lines on Estonian territory. The crews always changed in Ainaži.


Valmiera's ex-Estonian TU2-251 with a freight train in Moisaküla in 1973.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


A unique photo of a triple-headed freight train in Oisu, on the Moisaküla - Viljandi line in Estonia in April 1973. The first two locos are TU2-238 and TU2-146.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


TU2-146 and TU2-251 hauling a freight train with timber wagons in Kaarli in 1973.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


TU2-094 shunting at Moisaküla station in 1975.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

The importance of Valmiera as an 'international' depot was only temporarily. In Moscow it had already been decided that all narrow gauge lines had to be closed or regauged. The first section of the Estonian network, worked from Valmiera MPD, which was subject to closure, was the Moisakula - Viljandi line (44 km). On 3 June 1973 TU2-151 hauled the last "Mulgi Express" from Moisakula to Viljandi. On that last day of passenger traffic also TU2-238 ran on the Moisakula -Viljandi line.

Later that year TU2-151 was used for lifting the tracks at Viljandi station. In July 1973, after the closure, TU2-094 was involved in a collision with road traffic in Abja, half way Moisakula and Viljandi. It was probably on its way with a track lifting train.

Moisakula - Ruijena (25 km) and Moisakula - Riiselja - Ainaži (76 km) have remained in service for two more years. Since 1973 only 2 instead of 3 TU2s have been based in Moisaküla. But the Ruijena line closed on 15 May 1975. Finally on 30 September 1975 the curtain fell for Moisakula - Ainaži. The last train was hauled by TU2-182.


On a cold snowy day in 1974 TU2-182 was shunting at Valmiera.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


TU2-248 and other TU2s had to spend the night outside the shed.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


Two freight trains in Ainaži in 1975. On the left TU2-248 in the typical Latvian livery for that period (with an orange front).
Photo: A. Roosma.

After the Estonian lines worked from Valmiera MPD had closed, fewer locomotives were needed than before. Between 1972-1974 two TU2s were reallocated: TU2-239 to Gajvoron in the Ukraine and TU2-251 to the Wolgograd pioneer railway in Russia.

The lines in Latvia (Valmiera - Ainaži and Pale - Staicele) seem to have remained in service after 1975. Fur this purpose Valmiera MPD kept probably up to eight TU2s with numbers TU2-094, 146, 149, 151, 152, 182, 238 and 248 (confirmed only TU2-094, 238 and 248). Though in 1976 TU2-149 went to the Lutsk pioneer railway in the Ukraine.

The MPS also closed this last line from Valmiera to Ainaži (and Pale - Staicele) in 1979.

After the closure the line was dismantled, except for the central section between Zilaiskalns (km 13) and Puikule (km 40). The MPS handed over this section to a peat mining enterprise in 1979. It connected the existing peat railways based at Ozoli and Dauguli to each other and to the broad gauge railway station of Puikule. At least by the turn of the millenium this former MPS-line was still in use. The peat railway used its own motive power (class TU6A and ESU2A locomotives) and like most peat railways only operated in August-September. By April 2005 the line and rolling stock was still present but did not work (maybe in August again?).

The TU2s have not run on the peat railway. Therefore all remaining TU2s were transferred to other railways in the Soviet Union. In 1980 TU2-094 was reallocated to Panevežys in Lithuania, TU2-146, 151 and 238 went to Atbasar in 1979, TU2-152 to the Rostov pioneer railway (1973/1974), TU2-182 to the Nakhichevan pioneer railway (1978) and TU2-248 to Beregovo (April 1978).

Gulbene

The Gulbene line as we know it today is the last remainder of the Livonian Supply Railway Company. During Russian times, in 1903, this company opened the 202-km long 750-mm gauge line Stukmani - Gulbene - Aluksne - Ape - Moniste - Valka. In Stukmani the narrow gauge railway feedered the Riga - Daugavpils main line and in Valka the Riga - Pskov main line. Also, in Valka there was a connection to the narrow gauge line to Pärnü, operated by the First Russian Supply Railway Company. The depot of the Livonian Supply Railway was situated half way the line, in Gulbene (also referred to as Vecgulbene).

In 1916 Gulbene was connected to the broad gauge network by the (Riga -) Ierki - Gulbene - Sita line. At the same time the narrow gauge line from Gulbene south to Stukmani was converted to broad gauge. But the rest of the Livonian Supply Railway, from Gulbene north to Valka, remained narrow gauge.

After the First World War Estonia and Latvia became independent countries. The Livonian Supply Railway crossed the new Latvian-Estonian border twice. Gulbene - Ape remained in Latvia. But the 34 km long section between Moniste and Koiküla was on Estonian territory.

After the Second World War both Estonia and Latvia were incorporated into the Soviet Union. The narrow gauge line Valga - Gulbene was operated by two different MPS-regions. Remarkably this lead to the closure of the central "border-crossing" part of the line between Moniste (Estonia) and Ape (Latvia).


So after the Second World War the locomotives from Gulbene MPD only worked on the 60-km long section Gulbene - Aluksne - Ape. Heavy 0-8-0, 2-8-0 and 0-10-0 engines of classes GR, Pp, Rp and Sp were used.

In 1958 Gulbene - Ape was dieselised. Gulbene MPD received TU2-145 and TU2-148 in early 1958. Soon afterwards TU2-182 and TU2-242 also came to Gulbene. TU2-182 was reallocated to Valmiera (Latvia) in 1961 already. Soon after the arrival of the TU2s the last steam engines were taken out of service. But some steam engines were kept as reserve until the mid 1960s. Together with the new diesels, also new Pafawag passenger coaches arrived at Gulbene.

Also in 1958 the line across the border from Ape to Moniste was reopened (not shown in the national MPS-timetable; maybe only for local passenger traffic?). During to opening ceremony TU2-145 from Gulbene MPD met with steam engine GR-089 from Valga MPD.

In 1963 the separate Estonian and Latvian MPS-regions were incorporated into the new Baltic railway region of the MPS. Now the whole Gulbene - Valga line was under the same management again. Following this reorganisation it was decided to work the whole line from Gulbene MPD and to close Valka MPD. Two of Valka's class GR steam engines were reallocated to Liepaja in approximatley 1965. Two additional diesels (TU2-154 and 252) weres obtained from the Liepaja system in western Latvia in 1964.

On 2 June 1970 Valga - Ape closed, followed by Ape - Aluksne on 1 January 1973. But the 33-km long section Gulbene - Aluksne remained open. It is said this section has only survived because the narrow gauge line transported coal for Russian troops stationed near Aluksne. But the trains also carried timber from the Aluksne sawmill as well as a considerable number passengers. The freight and passenegr traffic could not be carried out by lorries and busses because of the poor road system.


TU2-145 with a mixed train in Aluksne in August 1981. The timber wagons at the back of the train come from the Aluksne sawmill.
Photo: M. Helme.


Three wonderfull pictures of TU2-148 in a winter landscape in January 1982. Here it is seen hauling a passenger train from Gulbene to Aluksne. The train consists of 2 Pafawag coaches and a luggage van (being a reconstructed refrigerator wagon).
Photo: P. Klaus.


On its way back to Gulbene TU2-148 also takes three freight wagons with him. The train is seen at Aluksne station. Note the orange front of the loco.
Photo: P. Klaus.


The same mixed train seen just south of Aluksne.
Photo: P. Klaus.


TU2-242 at the crossing with the broad gauge line on 9 September 1984. Gulbene station is visible in the back ground.
Photo: M. Helme.

Due to the line closures less rolling stock was needed. In 1970 both ex-Liepaja's engines (TU2-154 and TU2-252) were reallocated to Panevežys (Lithuania). Gulbene MPD kept three diesel engines at her disposal. They had numbers TU2-145, TU2-148 and TU2-242. Later, after 1974, Panevezys' TU2-252 may have come to Gulbene (though this could not be confirmed). If it really was here, it has been transferred to the Evpatoria pioneer railway in the Ukraine in 1988 already.

In 1985 the Gulbene - Aluksne railway was scheduled to be converted to broad gauge. But this project was not carried out. Instead on 12 March 1987 at least the passenger service but possibly the whole line was closed. Allegedly the reason for closure was the poor condition of the passenger coaches. (In early 1987 the passenger trains were composed of two Pafawag coaches). But the population protested and after new PV51 coaches had been purchased the line reopened the same year. In 1988 also two new diesel engines were allocated to Gulbene MPD. They had numbers TU7A-2994 and TU7A-3018 and replaced the old TU2s.

In 1990, after the arrival of the TU7A's, TU2-148 and TU2-242 were scrapped. TU2-145 was first kept as reserve. It has been spotted working on the line in 1994. It was in metallic blue livery then. But in July 1997 it was found dumped at the depot, stripped from all useful spare parts. Then it had a green livery with red striping on the front of the cabins. In October 1998 it was still standing there. But probably soon afterwards it was scrapped. Nowadays only one cab of this loco is mounted on the Gulbene roundhouse as a monument (in a very light blue livery).


In the 1990s the green TU2-145 and another blue TU2 (148 or 242?) were found dumped at the Gulbene depot.

After the revolution of 1991 the Latvian State Railways LDŽ took over the management of the line. In October 1992 the LDŽ ended the remaining freight traffic. Only three passenger train pairs a day have run on the line since. These were of course hauled by one of the TU7A's and composed of three PV51 passenger coaches.

But the era of the class TU2 had not ended yet. In 1997 the pioneer railway of Riga closed and most of its rolling stock was reallocated to Gulbene. In this way Gulbene MPD also received two TU2s again. In July 1997 the dark green TU2M-244 and the dark blue TU2-273 were already observed in the depot. They were not used regularly. TU2M-244's exhaustion pipes were removed because they did not fit into the line's profile nor in Gulbene's engine shed.

In 2000 and 2001 both 'new' TU2s were overhauled and painted in the colours of the Latvian flag: red-white-red. Remarkably, after the overhaul the old TU2s have been in regular service again, hauling the scheduled passenger trains to Aluksne.


TU2-244M in its new livery, but without its long exhaustion pipes, in front of the narrow gauge shed of Gulbene MPD in August 2001.


TU2-244M with the passenger train for Aluksne, which consists of only one PV51 coach. August 2002.


TU2-273 ready to depart with a passenger train to Gulbene at Aluksne station in August 2001.


TU2-244 with the morning passenger train from Aluksne to Gulbene, shortly before stopping at Birze. August 2001.


TU2-244 has stopped at Kalniene station on 16 August 2002. Not the KMZ plate above the buffer, which originates from a class TU4.

Since 1 January 2002 a regional, partly state-owned company called 'Gulbenes-Aluksnes Banitis' has operated the line. The rolling stock is still owned by the state railways LDŽ. The line remained open for scheduled passenger traffic. In 2002 there were three train pairs a day. These were however not very well frequented and were composed of only one PV51 passenger coach. But in any case the line will be preserved, because in 1998 the tracks, buildings and all rolling stock (including the TU2s) have been declared a technical monument of national importance.


On 6 September 2003 the 100th anniversery of the Gulbene system was celebrated. For this occasion both TU2s came in action. They are seen here at the depot. Note the different liveries: TU2-273 has a more light gray roof and a brighter red livery than TU2M-244.
Photo: Timo Klaus.


In 2008 TU2-273 received a new green livery. The engine is seen at Kalniene station on 17 september 2009. Note the second track which has been built here recently.
Photo: Paul Engelbert.

Liepaja

In 1916 the Germans built a 600-mm gauge military railway from Liepaja to Rucava. The first 13 km of the line ran parallel to the broad gauge line from Liepaja to Šauliai (Lithuania). In the station of Dubeni the narrow gauge line turned south towards the villages behind Lake Liepaja and the coast of the Baltic Sea. The line was 53,2 km long.

In 1918 the Latvian State Railways took over the line and operated it using German rolling stock (Feldbahn locomotives). In 1932 the old provisorial military railway was converted to 750-mm gauge, making it possible to use heavier rolling stock than before. But the line was hardly used. There were only two train pairs a day.

Another narrow gauge line starting at Liepaja was the Liepaja - Aizpute railway. This metre-gauge line was 48,8 kilometres long and opened in 1899. In 1939/1940 the gauge was converted to the "standard narrow gauge" of the Latvian State Railways (750mm). This made it possible to integrate the Liepaja - Aizpute line into the existing narrow gauge network around Liepaja.

Sketch of the Liepaja system after WW2.
(Click on the map to enlarge).

After the second world war the Liepaja - Rucava and the Liepaja - Aizpute lines were worked with locomotives from Liepaja MPD. Already in 1957 the lines were dieselised. In that year a batch of three engines with numbers TU2-151, TU2-152 and TU2-154 was supplied to Liepaja straight from the factory. TU2-252 from the 1959-production completed the TU2-fleet of Liepaja MPD.

But dieselisation could not save the narrow gauge system. Already in the 1950s the last 28 km of the southern line was closed. Barta (km 28) became the terminus of the line. In 1960 there was only one daily mixed train pair on the remaining section from Liepaja to Barta. But in 1964 this line also closed.

The other line, running eastwards to Aizpute, lost its passenger service in 1961 already. Freight trains have continued to run on this line for some years; at least until 1964. Anyway freight traffic had ended by 1969.


The 1960 timetable of the Ainazi - Liepaja and Liepaja - Barta line.

Following the closure of the passenger service to Aizpute, TU2-151 and TU2-152 were not needed anymore. Both were reallocated to Valmiera. Liepaja MPD kept only two diesels at her disposal (TU2-154 and TU2-252). In 1964, after the closure of the line to Barta, TU2-154 and Tu2-252 were both handed over to Gulbene MPD. Only 2 class GR steam locos remained in Liepaja to work the remaining freight services for the last few years.

Alsunga

The Alsunga system was the last remainder of the extensive 750-mm gauge network around Liepaja. On 15 August 1932 the 67-km long Liepaja - Alsunga line was opened. In Liepaja a connection to other 750-mm gauge lines running to Aizpute and Rucava was established. In 1936 the line was extended from Alsunga to the town of Kuldiga (20 km).

During the Second World War German troops built a standard gauge line from Liepaja via Alsunga to Ventspils. For this purpose the 750-mm gauge line between Liepaja and Alsunga-Južno (Alsunga-South) was converted to standard gauge, and after the war the Russians converted it to broad gauge.

The gauge of the last 24-km of the line, between Alsunga-Južno and Kuldiga, was not converted. It remained open as a narrow gauge feeder for the broad gauge Liepaja - Ventspils line. Daily there were two mixed train pairs on the narrow gauge, whilst only one daily mixed pair ran on the broad gauge line.

The Alsunga - Kuldiga narrow gauge line after WW2.

Contrary to other lines in Latvia, Alsunga - Kuldiga kept using steam engines quite long. In the 1960s at least heavy 2-8-0 steam engine Rp-764 ran on the line. By 1966 four class GR steam engines were allocated to Alsunga MPD (GR-089, 321, 322 and 325). Only in 1972 the first two diesels came to Alsunga. These were TU2-101 and TU2-136, both from Estonia (Tallinn). In 1973 also Estonian TU2-075 was reallocated to Alsunga MPD. With these three engines - one running and two for reserve - the line could finally be fully dieselised. However the 4 GR's were still in stock on 1-1-1975.

But three years after the arrival of the TU2s the Alsunga system was closed. The last train ran in 1974. On 20 December 1976 TU2-136 has been reallocated to the Zaporože pioneer railway in the Ukraine. Later TU2-075 and TU2-101 went to Köthla-Järve in Estonia in order to be used on the projected pioneer railway. However that project never materialised. So in 1988 TU2-101 was transferred to the Lavassaare railway museum, where it can still be admired. TU2-075 has been cut in Köthla-Järve in August 1988.


Alsunga's TU2-101 was transferred to Köthla-Järve MPD in Estonia, where it is seen here. It has the light blue livery of the main repair workshop.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


Also Alsunga's TU2-075 went to Köthla-Järve MPD. It is seen here in the typical Latvian livery with orange front sides.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

Riga pioneer railway

Latvia's capitol Riga was the only town with a pioneer railway. The 2-km long line was situated in the Mežaparks in the north of the town. It has been in use from June 1956 until Autumn 1996. In May 1997 it was decided not to reopen the line in the new summer season.

In May 1957 the brand-new diesel locomotive TU2-077 was supplied by the Kaluga factory. In 1966 TU2-it was transferred to Estonia in exchange for TU2-093. Two years later, this loco was on its turn exchanged for TU3-035 from Panevežys MPD.

TU3-035 did not run long in Riga because in 1972/1973 TU2s took over again. These were TU2-244 and TU2-273, both from Estonia. In Riga, TU2-244 received enourmous exhaustion pipes on the roof of the engine room. Subsequently it was renumbered TU2M-244. Both TU2's worked here until the closure of the line. Afterwards they were transferred away to Gulbene MPD.


In 1980 TU2-244M worked on the Riga pioneer railway. Note the large pipes on the roof of the engine room.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


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