The Chinese may have the most efficient and comprehensive rail network in the world, the Scandinavians may have the most expensive trains, but those soviet-era Russian trains leave everyone well behind when it comes to comfort. They comprise one of the less noticed legacies of the USSR. I’ve travelled a few by now: Moscow to Beijing, Sofia to Kiev to Simferopol, St Petersburg to Helsinki, St Petersburg to Moscow, Moscow to Minsk, Minsk to Riga …

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For instance, even second class on the Red Arrow, from St. Petersburg to Moscow beats any first class train in Western Europe:

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The regular day train from Moscow to Minsk is one of those extremely solid and reliable affairs:

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They provide a whole berth, with pillows and blankets, should you feel like an afternoon snooze:

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As for the overnight from Minsk to Riga, well …

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Apart from the plush comfort of the sleeper compartment, they also boast those magnificent stainless steel toilets that simply open onto the track. No toilet is more pleasurable:

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Replace these trains? Not for a long time yet, since they are continually repainted and refurbished. After all, if you’ve built something solid and to last, why replace it?

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Try sitting on the hard, uncomfortable seats of a train in Western Europe after travelling on these and you’ll see what I mean.

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