Traffic Lights and Trains in Novosibirsk

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We took an overnight train directly from Tomsk to Novosibirsk, arriving once again at an ungodly time of morning. However, we weren’t planning to stay in Novosibirsk – just spending most of the day there before taking a rather long overnight train to Ekaterinburg. This was breaking up the journey.

We left our backpacks at the station for the day and headed out to find breakfast. Unfortunately we had to wait until 8.00am for anywhere to open! We walked all around trying to find a cafe that was open [from about 6.30am!] with no luck.

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Eventually we sat in a park and waited until 8.00am before rushing into the nearest cafe just about as soon as they opened their doors.

While there were a couple of things in Novosibirsk I was interested in seeing, the main one for me was pretty simple. I wanted to see the monument commemorating the first traffic light in the city. And so our after breakfast we went for another walk to find this monument. It wasn’t too hard to find, and I rather liked it. It’s of an overweight traffic cop looking rather puzzled at this newfangled invention taking his job.

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It doesn’t take long to look at a statue, and so we walked back through the city, back to the train station to head to the place John wanted to visit.

The train museum. To be correct, the Novosibirsk Railway Museum. Opened in 2000, it inhabits an old railway station and is reasonably accessible – if you can find the right marshrutka. It was recommended in Lonely Planet’s Trans-Siberian guide, and they’d listed the relevant marshrutkas that went past there. Unfortunately, despite waiting for almost an hour at the marshrutka stand in front of the train station, none of these numbers ever came past. We’re not sure if they actually existed. We tried asking at the suburban train station, as the museum is next to an in-use station, but no one had heard of the station name. Eventually a marshrutka driver told John his bus was going there and we hopped in. I promptly fell asleep for the 30 minute ride there.

It’s not cheap – foreigners of course get ripped off something fierce on the entry ticket at 250 rubles plus another 100 rubles to take photos. If you’re Russian you’ll pay the normal fee. I tried asking for the ticket in Russian and thought I did pretty well, however the ticket seller still picked us as foreign tourists and charged us accordingly. To put the price in perspective, it cost 400 rubles to visit the Hermitage.

The museum is an open-air collection of old Russian railway wagons and locomotives. Mostly wagons, to John’s disappointment, and mostly unable to be entered except on a guided Russian language tour [600 rubles]. This was a little disappointing, although at least we could visit some of them.

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One was an old prison wagon. John thought it would be hilarious to put me in one of the cells.

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We weren’t able to enter a hospital wagon or a chapel wagon, but we were able to enter some old wagons from the 1920s which had simple wooden seats and wood-heaters to keep you warm. I can only imagine how cold it must have been in those wagons in the middle of winter! Thankfully these days you don’t have to light a fire on the train to stay warm [and I doubt it would be appreciated if you did], even though it does seem kind of romantic in a way.

Some of the locomotives lacked ‘Do Not Climb’ signs, which we took as a sign we could climb into those ones. We were able to pretend to drive the train and play with all the buttons and knobs and levers. Looking at John below, I’m rather glad he wasn’t driving any real trains.

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There were no signs saying ‘Do Not Touch’ or ‘Do Not Climb Under Trains’, so we had a bit of fun mucking around, pretending we were being run over or trying to hold back the oncoming train. We got some strange looks, but the one guy we saw with a whistle didn’t blow it so we figured we were OK.

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The wagons and locomotives ranged in ages, but it seemed that there was very little development or innovation in design for at least forty years, as from the outside the wagons from the 20s and 30s looked the same as wagons from the 60s. Big, chunky, with many many coats of paint.

We’d thought to take the train back, until we saw the timetable and realised we’d have to wait for almost two hours and would miss our train to Ekaterinburg, so we headed back to the bus stop and flagged down a marshrutka. We were just looking for anything that said ‘Новосибирск’ or ‘Воксал’ – Novosibirsk or voksal, meaning the train station. Eventually we found one, but it then kicked everyone off and decided it wasn’t going all the way, so we had to change to a tram. We didn’t have enough time to go anywhere far from the station to eat before the long train trip, so it was a KFC dinner across the road before grabbing our backpacks and getting back onto yet another train.

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And of course, the station at Novosibirsk was really cute.

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