Ghost station and watcher cats: what's hidden in metro at nighttime

February 26

Take a 1930s-style retro train ride and wander along unusually deserted metro, see a ghost station and places where the trains stay overnight. Moscow residents have such an opportunity again — in February the tours of the metro, including night ones, were resumed. This is a Metrotour project jointly arranged by the Moscow Metro and the Museum of Moscow.

“Our passengers were longing for informative night metro excursions with experienced guides to return. And we are glad that we can tell them about history of the most beautiful metro again, show it from an unusual perspective and immerse guests in the atmosphere of the past. Such excursions have always been in great demand. And the pearl of the night tour is a trip on a retro train made of type A carriages built in the 1930s. The time gap between them and the most modern Moscow-2020 trains is almost a century, but the old metro carriages are charming and cozy in their own way,” says Pavel Kovalev, Moscow Metro Deputy Head for Human Resources.

The excursions s are conducted in compliance with sanitary requirements and the group does not exceed 45 people in three metro carriages. According to Pavel Kovalev, this is half of the number of guests used to participate in tours in 2019 and early 2020.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

Custodian cats and a building with tower

The starting point of the night excursion is Izmailovskaya station. The participants are divided into three groups of 10 people each. This is a COVID-19 requirement . First we are heading towards the Izmailovo depot, one of the oldest in the capital.

In the winter darkness, it is difficult to see the main decoration of the building — a small clock tower. This is another reminder of the era — the depot was opened in 1950 to be the third one in Moscow. Today the depot serves the longest metro line — Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya. It is more than 45 km long.

“The Izmailovo depot is notable for being the only one where almost all types of metro carriages that existed throughout the history of the Moscow metro were serviced, except for the most recent ones — carriages of 760/761 Oka, Moscow and Moscow-2020 series,” says Egor K., Chief Expert of the Metrotour excursion office of the Moscow Metro vocational guidance center.

We are entering a spacious hangar — the shed, as the employees call it. Here, there is a small exposition of rare trains that are out of service. Cats — local residents are watching guests from behind the carriages. This is an interesting feature of the capital depots: big cat families live here. Back in the 1950s, pets were brought to protect the premises against rodents. And the animals living today in Izmailovo are direct descendants of those cats.

The main rolling stock is serviced in the next hangar — mostly Rusich-type carriages running along the blue line. The depot is designed for 22 full trains with 5 two-section carriages each (at maximum load). Here, the trains are inspected, serviced, and, if necessary, repaired. At a small washing unit the trains “take a shower”: the carriages slowly pass through a special box with fixed brushes.

By the way, not all trains arrive at the depot overnight. Most of them "sleep" right at stations or in reverse dead ends.

Ghost station

The main secret of the Izmailovo depot is the ghost station. The first station, Pervomayskaya, was in operation for seven years (1954-1961) and served as the terminal point of Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line. Then it was mothballed and became part of the depot.

“The station was originally planned for temporary (5-6 years) use. It turned out to be seven years. But anyway, the architects did their best: they could not afford to disgrace themselves and build something ugly. At the time, the Khrushchev’s decision to eliminate excessiveness in architecture and construction was yet to come. Everything was built according to “Stalin’s patterns” — pompous and expensive,” continues Egor K.

Today the historic station that saw its last train 60 years ago looks very different. An assembly hall was made in the former lobby with coffered ceilings and white marble columns. Various events for employees are held here. The cashbox area under the arch is replaced by a small stage with a piano. Guests are greeted by employees in historic uniforms — this is how it looked in the 1930s. And the uniform was divided into male and female types in the same years.

Now, the dismantled platform in the shed of the Pervomayskaya station houses a wheelset turning workshop. On the walls of the station the Soviet stucco moldings can be seen, on sunny days traces of the old Pervomayskaya name are visible.

In this workshop there is a unique experimental carriage of 81-740 Skif type under number 0001. Its later modified model was called "Rusich". The pilot head carriage was adapted for a classroom where future drivers pass their exams.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

Back to the Past

After visiting the depot, the most exciting part of the night tour begins — a real journey into the past on the legendary train of Type A carriages. Such trains ran in the capital metro in the 1930s. Several years ago three carriages were restored, now they can carry passengers.

There are 10 people and a tour guide in each rare carriage. The interior of the carriages was restored close to the original one. Instead of the usual seats, there are dark brown leather sofas. The dark green walls are decorated with imitation of the flexible paper-base laminate. In the 1930s, this material was used for the inner lining of carriages, but later was replaced due to fire hazards.

A whistle sounds, dome lamps with subdued yellow light are lit, the train slowly leaves the depot on a snowy Moscow night

The color of the yellow-green train differs from the famous Sokolniki retro train. According to Maria Nikitina, the leading methodologist of the Museum of Moscow, it was originally assumed that the type A trains would be cream-beige, but later this color was declined and they were made brighter, yellow-green.

The seats on the train are somewhat different from those in the 1934 type A train. Those sofas were stuffed with horsehair, and these more modern ones have a foam base.

Speaking about the features of the legendary train, the coat of arms of Moscow in the 1930s on the carriage body is also worth noting. In addition to the well-known symbols of the hammer and sickle, as well as the red star, it contains Monument to the Soviet Constitution in the center. It was located on Tverskaya Square until 1941, today a monument to Yuri Dolgoruky is erected on this place.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

Along the night tracks

The night route starts at the Partizanskaya station of Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line and ends at the Kievskaya station of Filyovskaya line. The participants can follow the blue line because the train runs through a special area that was closed for passenger trains since the 1950s.

Some of the stations along this route were built and opened during the war. Thus, in 1944, Baumanskaya, Electrozavodskaya, Stalinskaya (renamed into Semenovskaya), Stalin Izmaylovsky Park of Culture (today — Partizanskaya) and Electrozavodskaya stations were commissioned.

“These stations have their own features. Their design names and architectural solutions were often implemented with great changes,” Maria Nikitina notes.

The first stop is Partizanskaya station, opened during the war. It had to bear a different name — Stalin Stadium — and look totally different. The station, according to the general plan of 1935, was conceived as part of a complex city system. However, the war interfered with ambitious plans, but Partizanskaya station, as in the original project, remained a three-track one.

We pass Semenovskaya station and get off at Electrozavodskaya station, another war-time station. The deserted night metro is indeed surprising: one can stop and see in detail the stunning architecture of the subway, notice many interesting things that one usually does not pay attention to. For example, an amazing ceiling with hemispheres and lamps hidden in them.

Moving on, we admire the empty Ploschad Revolyutsii station and ... find ourselves at Aleksandrovsky Sad station of the Filevskaya line. This maneuver is possible thanks to the service-connecting branch. It is used to transfer trains from one line to another. Behind the Ploshchad Revolyutsii station, the tracks diverge into two tunnels — to Aleksandrovsky Sad station and to Arbatskaya station.

Passenger trains do not run on it, but an exception is made for the retro train. In fact, until the 1950s, this special area was used for trains running from the Revolution Square station to Kievskaya station. It was the station located on the Filevskaya line that was opened first, back in 1937, and the other two Kievskaya stations saw their first passengers in the 1950s. At the same time, a separate track was built for trains to run along the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line, and the special area was used only for the service purposes.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

The next short stop after Aleksandrovsky Sad station is at the Smolensky metro bridge across the Moskva River. It is difficult to discern the city in a night snowstorm. but good weather offers a beautiful view of Moscow.

The retro train stops at Kievskaya station, sets down passengers and leaves for the tunnel. Photos and a Troika card original design remain as a keepsake. The next trip will take place in March, such tours are conducted once a month according to the schedule.


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