Museum “Russian Railways” in St.-Petersburg: history and modernity

In our country the first railroad for General use – Tsarskoye Selo was opened for permanent use in Saint-Petersburg, October 30, 1837. And only after one hundred and eighty years, October 30, 2017, in the Northern capital, finally opened its doors to residents and visitors of the city new modern Museum of Railways of Russia, once again confirming the common thought that “Russian long harness, but then quickly go”. Indeed, today we have before us – a Grand historical-technical structure having a minimum number of analogues in the world, which wants to speak in enthusiastic tones.

Barely having time to appear, the Museum “Russian Railways” quickly gained credibility. Evidence for that was a huge queue at the entrance in the last months of 2017 and tens of thousands of visitors. Such a severe and unexpected for some “test of strength” new Museum survived brilliantly and is rightly included in the list of the most important cultural sites of the city on the Neva, but also the whole country.

According to Vladimir Odintsov, head of the Museum of the Russian Railways:

“The total exhibition area of more than 56 thousand square meters, and the number of exhibits is almost 4 thousand. Since the opening of the railway Museum of Russia was attended by over 200 thousand (!) people. Staff conducted more than 1000 thematic tours. Not paid attention to pupils of orphanages and boarding schools, students, and, most importantly, disabled people and individuals with disabilities…”

The backbone of the exhibition, of course, the so-called “natural samples” – real historical locomotives and cars. At the moment, through Museum displays 118 units. Some of them are approaching a century. A very varied and experimental rolling stock, for one reason or another did not appear in mass production, however, allow us now not only clearly trace the development of Russian engineering thought, but even a hand to touch the part.

Along with the technical component, almost every exhibit is already own, “personal” history. For example, the pride of the domestic steam locomotive – pre-revolutionary passenger locomotive of the “C” series. In the mid-1970s it was discovered by enthusiasts on the rusting tracks of the Moscow boiler room, where he was in very poor condition. No arguments about uniqueness, since this was the only surviving locomotive of the entire series, could not touch the hearts of the leaders of the IPU. And fans of history of technics went to the trick. The fact is that when you move the Bolshevik government from Petrograd to Moscow on 10-11 March 1918, a special train on one of the sites was led by a locomotive of the same series, with the number “245”. True the number “68” on the rusty rarity slipped, and on top of a fresh coat of paint brought the proud number “245”. Now to the preservation of the exhibit as the “Leninist legacy”, considered it a duty to connect the already high party leadership. In 1997, after many vicissitudes, the restored steam locomotive was delivered to the Museum of the October railway at the station of Shushary. And in 2001 returned to the “native” designation “p. 68”.

And here is a two-axle passenger car. The other day we celebrated a sad date – five years ago died Director Alexei Balabanov. It was in this car, in 1995, the master shot several scenes for his short film “a Trophy”.

Another unconditional “the movie star” – manual beam trolley. Repeatedly flashed the footage of blockbusters such as “the State Counsellor” by Nikita Mikhalkov and “the Edge” by Alexei Uchitel. It is also the only surviving unit in the country.

It is impossible to pass and by the combat railway missile complex “Molodets”. This brutal exhibit is striking in its power and size. A team of three cars, which posted a launcher of Intercontinental strategic missiles, command posts and the technological life support system of staff, was on duty the Armed Forces of the USSR and Russia in the period from 1987 to 1994. By 2007, according to the agreement with the US on disarmament, all of the twelve then existing “nuclear trains” was dismantled and destroyed, with two exceptions, transferred to the museums. Frankly speaking, today we look at one of them with some caution.

In mid-March this year the exposure of personally inspected Director of the London Museum of technology Yang Blatchford. The appearance in St. Petersburg, so the authorities again clearly witnessed the high estimation of the new Museum of “Russian Railways” and its status in the international historical-cultural community.

British guest discussed with his Russian counterpart the issues of participation of JSC “RZD” in a joint exhibition, which is already in September, due to open in London. The exhibition will be devoted to the development of science and technology, including rail, in Russia in the epoch of Emperor Nicholas II. In particular, she will tell the British about the TRANS-Siberian railway and the work of rail transport during the First world war.

As noted by the Deputy Director of the Museum “Russian Railways” Pavel Dunaev, commenting on the results of the meeting:

“The Museum of the Russian Railways opened recently, and we are now just starting to communicate with foreign colleagues. I think the cooperation will develop. The desire to interact is, there are a lot…”

One of the brightest holidays, which the Museum of “Russian Railways” invites Petersburgers and guests of the city, was initiated by the participation in the popular campaign “Night of museums-2018”. Visitors enjoyed live music, outdoor movie screenings. Many amazing discoveries that can be made only in the railway Museum, made possible thanks to a specially designed game and fun trails for younger visitors.

The event proved so popular that it was decided to repeat it in a similar format to the guests and participants of International economic forum opened in St. Petersburg. And here, from the evening of may 24, 2018, in the halls of the Museum again music began, the orchestra was the popular “Night snipers” and “BI-2”. Everywhere one could hear the multilingual speech of guests and rigorous rhythmic storytelling of the guides. In the round hall on the big screens throughout the night, accompanied by the theory of broken Windows, was shown a panorama of the Great Siberian way. This unique artwork is painted by Pavel Yakovlevich Pyasetsky, which after restoration in 2004-2007 is stored in the collections of the Hermitage and rarely available to visitors. The fact that the total length of this “watercolor painting” is 942 meters! In 1900 at the world exhibition in Paris, the panorama was first shown to the public. To reflect the scope and power of the Great TRANS-Siberian rail journey in the French capital was built a special pavilion with three cars. Visitors to the exhibition, going in cars, inadvertently acted as a “passengers”: they took place and looked at the panorama through the Windows. Special installation imitated the “shaking” of cars. The panorama consisted of several layers: objects and plans, which were moving behind the Windows with different speed, creating the illusion of travel. Today to bring the feelings of our contemporaries from watching epic panoramas to the perception of their grandparents and great-grandmothers allow digital technology.

It is great to see young people. So, the band of historical reenactors “Vauxhall Nord” – boys and girls carefully selected and tailor-made forms of railway workers of the post-war time, diligently and competently answered all questions of visitors. One of these guys, Alexander Syromyatnikov, adjusting the badge on his cap, in a brief conversation with me said proudly;

“We also did the Museum!”

In his words – truth, because only by joint efforts of professionals and volunteers in the modern world possible the development and preservation of technical history. And looking firsthand at the correct approach, in the new progress of the Museum “Russian Railways” in the near future there is no doubt.

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