Why are soviet-era Russian trains so comfortable?

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 …

IMG_2065 (2)a

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


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


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


As for the overnight from Minsk to Riga, well …


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:


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?



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


2 thoughts on “Why are soviet-era Russian trains so comfortable?

  1. did the trans-siberian journey from Moscow to Nakodkha in 1970. Magnificent. Waking up to see a man urging his troika sled across a frozen lake (late nov.). Excellent borscht and caviar too.

    1. Those trains are still just as wonderful. We did the Trans-Siberian in 2010. I’m planning a trip in the other direction, starting from Valdivostok. But there heaps of other great trains across Eastern Eastern and Russian Asia.

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