I like travelling by train very much and have taken trains many times in Russia from Moscow to Novosibirsk. I have even taken the train from Paris to Moscow, although that is not possible at the moment because of the virus. In this and the following blogs I will describe some of my adventures by train and the difference between trains in the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada and Russia.
In the UK we don’t refer to “wagons” and the word “locomotive” is rather old fashioned, although both terms are used in the United States, I believe. A “wagon” is usually called a “carriage” and a “locomotive” an “engine”. If we refer to “wagons” we mean places to take goods and products: for example a “goods wagon”. The word “carriage” was adopted because on the first trains people sat in individual carriages on wheels just like the ones used with horses.
Train journeys in the UK are usually short and there are just two sleeper service — from Exeter in Devon to Scotland, and from London to Aberdeen. So most trains are rather like Russian commuter trains, but with 1st Class and 2nd Class seats.
There are two standard gauges in the UK: the Stevenson gauge of 4 feet eight-and-a-half inches, used in Great Britain; and the Irish gauge, which is used in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is 5 feet three inches. In the 19th Century there were as many Irish gauges as there were railway companies. When they merged it could not be agreed what gauge to adopt, so the government added up all the different gauges and divided by the number and arrived at five feet three inches! Russian gauge is 5 feet. This was mandated by the Tsar to prevent invasion by rail.
The trains in the UK are controlled by a guard or, more recently on some routes, by the driver alone. There is no provodnik in charge of the carriages.
The top speed of trains can vary: there are a few very fast trains, but none as fast as the French TGV. Most trains’ top speed is around 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres).
British trains used to have fine dining cars on longer routes where you could sit and enjoy a full meal, rather like on Russian trains. But these have been discontinued for reasons no-one knows! Finally, UK trains are known for being late, slow and rather dirty. Now, if a train is more than 30 minutes late, you may claim compensation and get a full refund if it is over an hour delayed. Russian trains are always on time!
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