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Chris White's Prokhorovsk Terminal   


     Prokhorovsk Terminal (PT) belongs to the type of railway modeling known as prototype freelancing.  This is a style where a real-life railroad and its operations are modeled as accurately as possible (or is desirable), but the locations depicted are generalized - i.e. "typical" of what is found on the real thing, and do not specifically correspond to any particular cities/towns/villages on the map.
     The operating prototype of PT is the October Railway of the Joint Stock Company (JSC) "Russian Railways" or OAO "Rossiyskiye Zhelezniye Dorogi".

[Note that in the summer of 2004, the Ministry of Ways of Communications of the Russian Federation (Ministerstvo Putey Soobcheniya, or MPS), which, under various similar names, has been in charge of railways since the times of Imperial Russia, was abolished, and replaced by a government-owned corporate entity.]

     Geographically, the October Railway covers almost all of northwestern Russia, with St. Petersburg forming a "hub" of sorts for the system.  From it, the lines extend in five main directions - Finland to the northwest, Murmansk to the north, Moscow to the southeast, extreme western Russia (Pskov, Novgorod, etc) and Belarus to the south, and Estonia to the west.
     Even though it's not geographically central, the 650-km (403-mile) St. Petersburg-Moscow line is by far the most important on the railway, and, as a result, the most technologically advanced, with maximum passenger train speeds currently standing at 200 km/h (125 mph).  A couple of daytime "high-speed" trains currently cover the distance in 4 hours and 30 minutes.
     You can view a detailed (albeit Russian-language only) map of the railway located on
RZD's official site by clicking on its shrunken version on the right.

     The layout is based around the station in the city of Prokhorovsk, however, you may notice that such a town does not exist in Russia (at least to my knowledge)!  This is where the "freelancing" part of prototype freelancing comes in.  Prokhorovsk is a generalized version of a typical small city/large town located in the European part of the former Soviet Union. 

     Even though Prokhorovsk does not exist in real-life, those of you who've been around in modeling circles might nevertheless find the name somehow familiar.  Don't worry, your memory is not playing any tricks on you - the town is named in honor of Igor Prokhorov, a Moscow-based modeler whose achievements, even back in the Soviet days, provided an inspiration for Chris' work.


     The layout itself can best labeled as a small, HO-scale, 2-rail DC, classic British-style, Continental (European) layout.  While the prototype is indeed located within continental Europe, everything else about Prokhorovsk Terminal follows classic British storage-to-terminal practices.

     At its basics, this is a switching layout, with no provisions for continuous operation.  All activity is concentrated around the Prokhorovsk station, with everything else basically dedicated to open staging, including layout's link to the outside world - the mainline to St. Petersburg.  As can be seen on the layout diagram on the right (found on Jeremy Yoder's Model Russian Railways Web site), it is built in the shape of a "U", with Prokhorovsk station and the main freight yard/open staging on opposite "legs" of the letter.

     The general time period for the layout is the forty-year span between 1960 and 2000.  Obviously, Soviet, and then Russian, equipment changed significantly over those forty years, and thus, Chris' goal is to have three distinct sets of equipment - one for realistic 1960 operations, one for realistic 1980 operations, and one that will allow realistic operations in the post-Soviet environment - i.e. the year 2000.

     Electrically, Prokhorovsk is pretty straight forward - early on, Chris decided that DCC command control would be a necessity, and the brand of choice was Digitrax.  No special wiring exists for turnout control as all turnouts are manually set via push-rods, and to help to diagnose problems, the layout is divided into electrically-isolated blocks. The signals, which can be visible on some photos, are, for now, purely cosmetic and do not function.

     As the prototype is electrified via catenary energized at 3000V DC, so an attempt was made to represent that electrification on the layout - and the result is rather impressive.  It is made more impressive by the fact that all poles and wires are scratch-built, as none of the commercially available products (i.e. those from Viessmann and Sommerfeldt) are correct for ex-Soviet railway electrifications.  The catenary is fully capable of being operated "live", however, to keep things simple, all electric current is fed via the two rails, and the raised pantographs serve a purely cosmetic purpose.

     The rolling stock fleet is perhaps the most interesting part of the layout.  Because Russian railway modeling is still not commercially developed, the only mass-produced models are those of the WLABm-class international sleeping cars, and these are produced by Sachsenmodelle of Germany.  The electric locomotives are scratchbuilt, and the rest are either modified commercial models (for example, the M62), or small-series production (TEP10, DR1A, and various freight cars).

A ChS2T running light on one of the station approach tracks.
Now easing an international express into the Prokhorovsk station....
The international express passing the Prokhorovsk Tower.
Two freights trains standing on the St. Petersburg mainline, and are waiting to get into the terminal area.
Another shot of the international express passing the Tower before taking a sharp right into the station itself.
A ChS1 on a station siding, with the platforms visible in the background.
A DR1A suburban DMU is awaiting departure.
Ukranian sleepers navigate the trackwork on approach to the Prokhorovsk. station.
A VL19 leads a freight train out of the yard.
Another shot of the VL19.
A TE109 in industrial livery awaits for a passenger express to clear before proceeding.
The sun is rising over the yard, and it's a start of a brand new workday!
The hazards of trainwatching....!!
Another shot of the ChS1 at a siding near the station.
A 2M62 eases a freight train out of the yard.
A newly-painted M62.
A ChS2T with an international express in tow eases past an old boxcar used for storage.
Just a few more meters left before quitting time....
There is always an inevitable railfan photographer at a journey's end....
Contrast the height difference between the Czech-built, Russian loading-gauge ChS2T, and the German-built, RIC loading-gauge sleepers that make up the train it's towing!
A look across the platforms at a TEP10 after its arrival with another international express. Prokhorovsk seems to be an "international" favorite....
Are we waiting for loved ones that are due on the newly-arrived train, or are we just watching some trains???
The station tracks are starting to fill up....
Rush hour at Prokhorovsk.
A baggage car awaits loading......uh,is everybody out to lunch?? Meanwhile, that police patrol better be keeping an eye out on those suitcases as well....
A DR1A awaits passengers.
A 2M62 slowly backs up towards its train.
Fresh from the manufacturer, one section of a 2TE10U sits near the station before final delivery to a depot, where it will be lettered appropriately.
A closer look at the new diesel....
A "Mashka" (M62) is getting serviced at the locomotive depot before another assignment
A little later, the Mashka is departing for her next freight assignment....
An M62 and a ChS2T line up at the buffer stops.
A TEP10 leaving the freight yard. Um, what was it doing there anyway??
A close-up of the classic passenger diesel.
A manifest freight train arrives on the main line, while a block refrigerator consist departs.
Recently, Prokhorovsk splurged for a new hi-tech security camera system. They're a gift from heaven for one lucky railfan on the "inside"....
A DR1A approaching Prokhorovsk.
A regular railfan would get this view of the classic ChS1 passenger electric....
......while the "inside" railfan gets this view...
A train right to the left of the camera's view is loading passengers, while the two locomotives in the middle prepare to head (race?) to the locomotive depot.


     Chris White has been modelling Russian and Soviet railways since 1993.  After taking an early retirement from the United States Social Security Administration, and doing some consulting work for the European Union, he founded Red Star Railways, a manufacturer and distributor of HO scale (for now) Russian-themed railway models.   After an initial emphasis on just distributing, with a focus on products by Feniks and Modela, he now produces his own models under Zavod1 and Proletarian Series brands.

     Chris currently resides in Dover, Delaware (United States).

(c) 2005 by Yevgeny Kushnir.