Circum Baikal Railway

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Circum Baikal Railway

Several months ago we contacted Leonid and told him about Ian's love of trains. It was suggested we go on the Circum Baikal Railway for a special trip around the lower reaches of Lake Baikal. We were very interested so Leonid very kindly bought the tickets on our behalf.


We set off to ride on the Circum Baikal railway

The next morning we got up nice and early as Leonid wanted us to be ready for him to take us to the station to catch this special train. He's very helpful and kind and he stayed with us until we actually boarded the train. The style of train isn't what we expected. Ian was quite sure we were going to be in luck and have a steam engine pulling the train but that sadly, never happened. We got a diesel engine and three, quite modern carriages. The carriages were packed with holiday makers, about 150 of us in total. Everyone had brought a certain amount food along to nibble on and we were able to buy food at many of the tourist stops along the way. There were often Babushkas selling home-made food which we always make use of.

Circum Baikal train Circum Baikal train
Front of the Circum Baikal engine Front of the Circum Baikal engine










The seats were not particularly wide and there was no air conditioning to cool the carriages but none-the-less we had a wonderful day. The scenery around the lake was spectacular to say the least. The train wound its way alongside steep mountains covered in fir trees and other varieties of trees. Prior to riding the Circum Baikal Railway we didn't know why such a fuss was made about it, or indeed about Lake Baikal but once the trip started we could see why it is so highly regarded. Just everything is 100% beautiful and stunning.



One of the girls entertaining us with "music" One of the girls entertaining us with "music"
The inside of the carriage (Ian's head is just visible) The inside of the carriage (Ian's head is just visible)










Kindness of Russian people

The three girls sitting opposite to us were very friendly. The journey had hardly started when they produced their edibles and started eating and drinking. They were very quick to share some mandarines with us which was very kind. the mandarines came from Argentina of all places. On one of the train's many stops they came back with several dog spikes and they gave one to us. Dog spikes are the pins that hold down the rails to the sleepers. The ones they had scavenged looked like they might have been from the original railway so they may have been very old. They certainly looked ancient.

Ian testing the water Ian testing the water
Incredible scenery from the train window Incredible scenery from the train window








The sun was lovely and warm but the wind was still cold.

Lake Baikal is simply stunning Lake Baikal is simply stunning
One of the old bridges with residual ice beneath it One of the old bridges with residual ice beneath it










Tunnels on the Circum Baikal route

Ian was in his element on this journey. He was interested in all the man made features such as bridges and old train tunnels and we both took heaps of photos of everything.

Water channel Water channel
Train dwarfed by the scenery behind Train dwarfed by the scenery behind


It was quite cool outdoors and we often had our jumpers on. We were allowed to walk through one of the disused tunnels which was almost totally in darkness.

It was so cold in there you could see your breath and Ian even saw an icicle that had formed from a leak in the wall.




It was wonderful to get off to stretch our legs every so often. We stopped at one village for lunch. You can see the Babushka's table with white cloth right up next to the train in the left hand photo (below). They come well prepared with plastic bags to put the food in for each customer. We could walk down and away from the train towards some buildings and there they sold other food and drinks. We ate from Babushka's all the time on our train journeys and never once did we get sick.

The train stopped and we all had lunch The train stopped and we all had lunch
Babushka's seling hot home-made food Babushka's selling hot home-made food










It was such a tiny village with no visible roads yet we did see a car. We wondered how on earth it ever got there. The photo on the left (below) shows the entrance into a cold storage area. Well, that's we thought it was.....

Whilst most of us ate our lunch and wandered around we found a few of the passengers had headed down to the shores of the lake which were only a few metres from the track. They walked and sat on the pebbly shore and two were even daft enough to go for a dip in the lake. It must have been so cold.

Village - see the entrance to a cold storage cave? Village - see the entrance to a cold storage cave?
Old engine stands by the village station Old engine stands by the village station










Boat trip across the Angara River

The train eventually arrived at Port Baikal where we all transferred to a waiting boat for the trip across the Angara River. It took about half an hour to cross it and then we immediately boarded the waiting buses to take us back to Irkutsk.

The bus trip back into the city took about an hour and a quarter. We hopped off at the Hotel Angara as we needed to get more money from the ATM and we needed more bottled water and food stuff.

Back at the hostel some girls told us it had been 30 degrees in Irkutsk that day. Who would have thought it seeing as we were so cold at Lake Baikal. We have been told that Lake Baikal creates its own climate. We were totally tired as it had been a long day so a quick noodle meal, showers and bed for us.



Next page - Things to see in Irkutsk


Our trip in the order it happened:

Travel Planning Necessities
World time zones, world weather, currency converter, language translator services.

Search over 25,000 hostels.

Trip Advisor Forum - Russia
The place to find information about Russia when you can't find it elsewhere.

Way To Russia
Another very good forum

Getting A Russian Visa
The process is explained

Trains between Moscow & Saint Petersburg
Explanation of the types of trains on that route.

Firmenny Trains
An explanation of what they are.

Moscow's Railway Stations
A map of their locations and proximities.

Learn How To Speak Russian
Free lessons.

Map of St. Petersburg
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Map of Moscow
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Moscow Times Newspaper
English version.

The Russia Club
A forum for all those interested in anything "Russian".

Russian Rail Timetable
It takes a bit of mastering but Ian managed it (eventually).

The Art Of Travel
Very interesting travel information for all locations.

Smart Traveller
Australian Government's site dealing with current travel advice.

Travel Independent
A site written by travellers for travellers. Lots of information.

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