Our P36 Locomotive

Golden Eagle Luxury Trains operate the only privately owned steam locomotive in Russia. It is a P36 class 4-8-4 express passenger locomotive built at Kolomna works in 1954 and is the most modern and famous Soviet steam design. 251 locomotives were built before steam locomotive building ceased in 1956. Most were allocated to haul the USSR's most prestigious trains such as the Red Arrow between Moscow and Saint Petersburg and trains from Moscow to the Western border.

Our locomotive, number 32, was first allocated to the main Saint Petersburg - Moscow - Ryzan route, in 1963 moving to Pechora on the infamous gulag line to Vorkuta, north of the arctic circle and finally working trains over the central portions of the Trans-Siberian from 1966 to 1973 when at only 19 years old, it was put into the reserve at Magocha depot. In 1982 P36.0032 was transferred to be used as a stationary boiler at the Kadala lumber plant on the outskirts of Chita, where it was discovered derelict by Tim Littler and Marina Linke in 1996, during our inaugural Trans-Siberian tour.

The locomotive was purchased from Kadala in 1997 along with spare parts from P36.0103 which was also at the plant but unusable.

Having secured the locomotive, we had to move it 7,000km (4,350 miles) to Saint Petersburg for restoration, but before that could happen two (opposing) groups of Russian enthusiasts arrived and managed to drag the locomotive over 7,000kms to the Ukraine (the whole story would take a book). How you move 175 tonnes of scrap metal by rail without permission and smuggle it into the Ukraine without anyone noticing is a mystery - but at the time Russia was the 'wild east' and anything was possible. We assumed we had lost it but in 1999 the Ukrainian tax police confiscated the locomotive as property without owner and put the locomotive up for sale. We bought it. Again.

The locomotive eventually arrived in Saint Petersburg in early 2000 and, once we had made sure that our ownership was properly registered with the appropriate Russian authorities, restoration started in early 2001. At Saint Petersburg Sortirovochnyy depot fourteen fitters and engineers worked 7 days a week for 3 months to bring '32 back to running order. On 17th April 2001 the fire was lit again and four hours later the senior engineer blew the chime whistle, pushed the regulator and P36.0032 moved under its own steam for the first time in 26 years.

On 28th April a three day trip around Lake Ladoga was run for the benefit of the restoration crew and was thrown open to anyone else who cared to turn up. The locomotive ran faultlessly throughout the 577 mile trip, a great tribute to the engineers who had laboured long and hard though the winter.

On 15th June the locomotive hauled its first revenue train when it took the Eastbound "Trans-Siberian Express" out of Saint Petersburg for the first 100kms on its journey to Vladivostok. Until the end of 2009, the locomotive has hauled "Trans-Siberian Express" departures out of Saint Petersburg or Moscow and was involved in the then annual steam tour which has taken it to Astrakhan on the Caspian, Rostov-on-Don in the Caucasus, Tallinn in Estonia, Petropavlovsk in Kazakhstan, Novosibirsk in Siberia, Archangel on the White Sea and Murmansk, north of the Arctic Circle - over 15,000 miles.

In March 2004 Phil Girdlestone, the South African based steam locomotive engineer, designed and fitted a new Lempor exhaust system. The 1 tonne assembly was air freighted from Durban to Saint Petersburg and has resulted in a noticeable increase in power.

On 26th April 2007 the locomotive stood at the head of the company's new $25 million 'Golden Eagle' as it was launched by HRH Prince Michael of Kent and Vladimir Yakunin, President of Russian Railways. After the ceremony at Moscow's Belorusski Station, P36.0032 hauled 200 television, press and VIP guests to the Sherbinka Railway Institute south of Moscow, where the Golden Eagle sleeping cars were built at the Zircon factory. After a tour of the facility Prince Michael drove the P36, hauling the Golden Eagle, twice around the facility's 3km test track. A few months later the Prince during a speech at the Dorchester Hotel in London said that in his life he had been fortunate to take the controls of a Soviet supersonic fighter jet and a Formula 1 racing car but neither had given him the feeling of sheer power that he got driving the P36.

On the following day P36.0032 was again at the head of the Golden Eagle as the train departed for a three day tour from Kazanski Station to Kazan and Yekaterinburg with Prince and Princess Michael and 100 invited guests.

P36.0032 Technical Details
  • Class:P36
  • Wheel arrangement: 4-8-4
  • Built: Kolomna 1954, works number 10197
  • Maximum design speed: 125 kph (77.7 mph)
  • Boiler Pressure: 213 lbs per sq in (15 bar)
  • Cylinders (2): 22 5/8" x 31 1/2"
  • Power: 3,125 hp (before addition of Lempor exhaust system)
  • Weight in working order: 264 tonnes
  • Axle weight: 18 tonnes
  • Height: 17' 6"
  • Width: 10' 6"
  • Length: 98' 2"
  • Roller Bearings: throughout
  • Driving Wheels: 6' 0 3/4"
  • Grate area: 72.6 square feet
  • Fuel: 24 tonnes coal, mechanical stoker
  • Water: 10,000 gallons