Elektrichka ( _ru. электри́чка, _uk. електри́чка, "elektrychka") is an informal word for elektropoyezd ( _ru. электропо́езд), a Soviet or post-Soviet regional (mostly suburban) electrical multiple unit passenger train. Elektrichkas are widespread in Russia, Ukraine and some other countries of the former Soviet Union.

The first "elektrichka" ride occurred on July 6 1926 along the line BakuSabunchi. [ [http://www.zdp.ru/pub/8/2180_1.shtml 78 Years Ago the First Elektrichka Came Along] by Yelena Leontieva. "Zdp.ru". 6 July 2005. Retrived 25 August 2007]

Technical aspects

Elektrichka is a multiple unit train consisting of self-electrically-propelled permanently-attached cars (usually 6 to 12), with a driver's cab at both ends. The crew of elektrichka consists of a driver and an assistant driver.

Historically, the trains were produced at Riga Wagon Plant, Latvia (known under the ER, "elektropoezd rizhskiy" (Cyrillic: "ЭР", "электропоезд рижский") models designation). The company had been holding the whole market since 1950s. The most popular elektrichkas are ER-2 ( _ru. ЭР-2) and ER-9 ( _ru. ЭР-9), using DC and AC traction, respectively, and their variants and successors.

ER-2 and ER-9 trains always contain an even number of cars; out of each adjacent pair, one is equipped with motors, and the other carries pneumatic equipment. Cars with cabs carry pneumatic equipment. Motor cars are easily recognizable because of pantographs on their roofs. Not every car is equipped with toilets; in some trains there are as few as only two per train, near drivers' cabs. Each car has four automatic doors, with two on each side. When the train stops doors on the platform side open simultaneously. Doors may be equipped with stairs to allow for low station platforms. The doors are narrower than in metro trains.

With dissolution of the Soviet Union, some successor countries started production of the new models of elektrichka, but with only a limited success. Due to permanent underfunding in 1990s railways still continue to use existing trains, preferring to renovate them rather than replace. Consequently, most elektrichkas currently in use look very similar, differing only in livery (Soviet-time standard was dark-green with red stripes on the fronts and a yellow stripe alongside the train). Some newer models have wider doors. In Moscow area, "Sputnik" trains were introduced for express urban lines, having the technical background of an ER-2 but intended for other social niches.

Elektrichka is a low-comfort train with simple benches, each seating three, rowed adjoining the windows.

Spans between stations are usually relatively long, therefore elektrichkas also stop at numerous specially-built stops, known as "platforms" ( _ru. платфо́рма). Sometimes these stops consist of nothing more than a simple platform, sometimes shorter than the length of the entire train, and are located within unincorporated areas. Some platforms don't have a permanent personnel or even lighting. In some areas, elektrichkas stop at seasonal stops which have no structures at all (in forest areas these are colloquially known as "mushroom stops" because they are extensively used by mushroom gatherers).

Elektrichkas are maintained in special depots ( _ru. моторваго́нное депо, motorvagonnoye depo, _ua. моторваго́нне депо́, motorvahonne depo), where the trains are repaired and the train operators employed. However, neither elektrichkas nor their operators return to depots every day, instead being assigned to the end stations of the routes.

Socio-economic aspects

Elektrichka is an enormously important means of transport in post-Soviet countries.

First of all, elektrichkas provide the cheapest and easily accessible connection between the cities and the countryside of ex-Soviet nations. The railway network in these countries is well-developed, while bus services to towns and villages can be rare or unreliable. In addition, private car and truck ownership in rural areas is rare, while elektrichka is much more reliable and safe. This makes elektrichka a crucial life element for the "dachniks" and peasants trading their harvest on the city markets. Some areas also have their roads in poor conditions so railroads may have noticeable advantage in speed and comfort.

Elektrichka is a key method of suburban and commuter transport for megacities of the region, such as Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kiev. However, traffic congestion in these areas leads to frequent delays or even cancellations of elektrichkas. In working days, several hours in afternoon are reserved for track repairing works with no traffic on railroads. For these reasons solvent passengers in these areas often prefer buses or marshrutkas to elektrichkas. Also, reseved hours are usually 1:00am to 5:30am (may vary depending on area and schedule) and these hours may also be used for track maintenance or to allow high-speed trans to pass railroads without being constrained by relatively slow elektrichkas (which have moderate speed and stop frequently on numerous stations every 1-2 km or so).

The governments and railway companies of the respective countries pay much attention to elektrichka service. Although ticket prices are being raised, operational costs are still generously subsidized. Even with this subsidy, many passengers bribe controllersFact|date=March 2007 to avoid paying full fares. It is also sometimes fake controllers may be seen to pick money from passengers. In addition, large luggage and pets are often carried unpaidFact|date=March 2007.Bums, hoboes, vagabonds and other marginal people often use the elektrichkas for long-distance travel, because they are easy to pass without tickets and connect all major and minor stations. For example, it is possible to get from Moscow to St.Petersburg for free by five elektrichkas, with stops at Tver, Bologoe, Okulovka and Malaya Vishera. This method of travel is called "yezda na sobakah" ( _ru. езда на собаках), literally - "pack dog riding". It is often used by football fans. Fact|date=June 2007. Some poorly maintained elektrichka stations in suburbans may lack ticket offices at all. Elektrichkas are stopping at such stations anyway. So, you can not depart from such station legally and either have to walk several kilometers to another station with working ticket office to buy ticket or you have to travel without ticket with some risk to get fined by controllers. In such scenario however controllers are reasonably fair and only charge price of ticket from source to destination since this is actually railroad company fault they lack offices at certain stations.

On the other hand, elektrichkas can be uncomfortable, dirty and have a high rate of on-board crime. As of 2008 there is also new elektrichkas which are usually quite comfortable and some are even operated by private companies so they could also be quite safe, clean and well-looking. Such elektrichkas are usually high-speed, have quite few stops during travel, tickets are quite expensive and therefore such elektrichkas are usually serve as true intercity trains while cheaper ones often interconnect city and suburbans only.

The "relsovyi avtobus" (literally, railbus; _ru. ре́льсовый авто́бус), or "dizelnyi poezd" (literally, diesel train; _ru. ди́зельный по́езд; colloquially "dizel", _ru. ди́зель, or "motovoz", _ru. мотово́з) is a type of Soviet/post-Soviet commuter train similar to elektrichka. Technically, it is a diesel railcar, or multiple unit train of 2 to 4 cars, or a single passenger car hauled by a small diesel locomotive. Such trains are less widespread, however, due to the fact that the majority of track on Soviet railroads has been electrified.Fact|date=April 2007

In the most remote regions of Russia with no electrified railroads, the elektrichkas and dizels are replaced by short trains of 1 to 2 passenger cars and 1 to 2 cargo platforms, hauled by diesel locomotives, called _ru. бичевоз (bichevoz, literally - hobo train)Fact|date=June 2007. The cargo cars are often used by local hobos for free transportation. Also abandoned rail tracks are sometimes unofficially used by local population to travel noticeable distances. They use "pionerka" ( _ru. пионе́рка) devices (this word also means woman person who is "pioneer" on Russian). "Pionerka" devices are sort of self-made railroad draisine which is powered by motorcycle engine and allows to travel noticeable distance almost for free (except price of fuel of course).

Regional details


The production of elektrichka trains for Russian Railways was deployed in Demikhovo, Moscow Oblast.


Ukraine, possessing a dense network of electrified railways, is supporting and developing its elektrichka system. As of September 2007, there is no region of the country not covered by elektrichka communication. A typical elektrichka route is around 100 km in length and has stops every 5-10 km, which adds up to about 3.5 hours in total each way. It is possible to travel across the country by changing elektrichka trains two to three times. Tickets are cheap, though travel is uncomfortable. Most trains collect money on absence of ticket and accept as little as 10 kopikas (US$0.02).Fact|date=April 2008 It is possible to travel for free when on the stop one exits the cart where fares are being collected and goes to one where fares have already been collected.

At the same time, many Ukrainian elektrichkas are gradually turning to inter-city services. There are new direct lines such as the Kiev-Rivne route, which is around 300 km long. Such rail services resemble a hybrid between elektrichka and a traditional train of sleeping cars. Such new trains have a dramatically increased level of comfort, with fewer stops.

Ukrainian railways is looking forward to produce its own models of elektrichka (possessing all technical capabilities for it), but such efforts are limited by the unprofitability of the service. The only success for now is a deep modernization of the Riga trains conducted by local companies. However, the recently-opened elektrichka line in Debaltseve area is reported to be served by Ukrainian-made trains.Fact|date=April 2008

New electrichkas feature premium services like bar-cart and children's cart, but they are hard to find and only operate on major routes. The largest elektrichka depot of Ukraine, serving Kiev and surrounding oblasts, is situated in Fastiv.


The main electric railway in Latvia is centered in the capital city of Riga. The first electrified trains connected Riga with the Dubulti station in the seaside resort of Jurmala in 1957. By 1970, the electrification extended westward towards Tukums. Used largely by commuters, the railway also has branches extending to Jelgava, Saulkrasti, Sigulda, and Aizkraukle. Parts of Latvia that are outside the Riga region are served by diesel trains. Upon restoring independence, the Latvian government removed the Soviet seals that appeared on many of the older green trains. The second largest train station in Riga, named after Soviet partisan Otomars Oškalns after the WWII, was renamed Zemitāni, as it was in the 1920-ies to 1940-ies.

Because plans for a subway for Riga fell through in the 1980s, the railway remains the fastest way to travel around the city and its vicinity. Currently Riga Wagon Plant is reconstructing these trains and are planning to make brand new trains which would replace Elektrichka trains until 2012.


"Električka" (elektrichka) is the slovakian term for "tram".

The name is also used for the light electric railway Tatranská elektrická železnica (TEŽ, Tatra Electric Railway) in the Tatra Mountains, from the towns of Poprad and Starý Smokovec.

Cultural significance

Being a social symbol in Soviet Union and Russia, elektrichka is the subject of some pieces of art and literature. "Poslednyaya elektrichka" ("The Last Electrichka", _ru. После́дняя электри́чка), a song with music by David Tukhmanov and lyrics by M. Nozhkin), used to be very popular in the Soviet Union. Performed by Leonid Utesov.

cquote|As usual you and me have been standing till late night.
As usual, it was not enough.
As usual, your mother called you home, and I went to the railway station.
The last elektrichka ran away from me again, and once again,
walking along the railtracks, I am making my way home.

The rock band Kino used the gloomy image of a morning elektrichka to depict the atmosphere of fear and apathy in the societyFact|date=March 2007. The song bearing the same title was released on their first album, 45.

cquote|In the tambour, it's chilly but at the same time warm
In the tambour, the air is full of cigarette smoke, but at the same time it's fresh
Why do I keep silent, why don't I shout? I am silent.
The elektrichka takes me to where I don't want to go.

Important scenes of some popular Soviet movies take place onboard elektrichka. For example, the female protagonist of the famous Moscow Does not Believe in Tears movie meets her love interest in an elektrichka on her way returning home to Moscow from a dacha.

Venedikt Erofeev's novel "Moskva-Petushki" is based around a travel using elektrichka.

Riddle about elektrichka: "long, green, smells like sausage". This reflects the fact that during late 1980-s when long queues at food stores were very common in Russia (so-called "deficit"), it was common to carry large amounts of some difficult-to-find products from regional centers like Moscow (where it was easier to find these) to one's home location, usually by elektrichkas.

See also

*Russian Railways
*Transport in Russia
*Transportation in Ukraine
*Rail transport:
**Rail terminology
**Technical details about the electric railways:
***Electric locomotive
***Overhead lines
**Regional rail
*101st kilometre
*List of suburban and commuter rail systems


External links

*en icon [http://www.bellybuttonwindow.com/1998/russia/ever_take_an_elektri.html "Ever Take an Elektrichka?"] (a travel report)
*en icon [http://www.ldz.lv/en/sastavs.htm Types of trains operated by Latvian Railways] (including pictures and short info on the two ER models of elektrichka)
*ru icon [http://www.railphoto.ru/coppermine/thumbnails.php?album=1 Massive photogallery of elektrichkas in post-Soviet countries] (sorted by model; all models, angles and liveries available with descriptions; also pictures of "dizelpoyezds")
*ru icon [http://www.alltrains.ru/ An amateur guide for elektrichka travellers&fans in the post-Soviet countries] (including schedules for all national railways, travel tips, history section etc.)

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