Wagons Lits stock in Eastern Europe 1935, but where exactly?

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Czesziafan

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I recently purchased the attached photo from an internet auction site. It is very interesting and the description said it showed CIWL stock at a station in Eastern Europe, apparently taken in 1935. What I would really like to know is the location, or even in which country this scene is. The station architecture looks Russian to me, but WL had no services in the USSR (as it then was) so somewhere in the former Tsarist empire outside Russia might be the location, suggesting perhaps one of the Baltic States or Poland. Perhaps the porters' rather distinctive caps and uniforms could identify the railway administration involved. I have tried to enlarge the coach destination plate but the image is too grainy to show this with any clarity.

Any information would be very welcome.
 

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The exile

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While the owner of the case in the foreground might not be "local", if they are, it suggests we can rule out Russia, Bulgaria or Cyrillic bits of Yugoslavia - as well as Greece. Has the station name been "censored" off the photograph, do you think? (seems to be a strange blank bit on the side of the building where it might have been) - alternatively it might be somewhere that underwent a name change after 1918 (plenty of those!)
 
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Czesziafan

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While the owner of the case in the foreground might not be "local", if they are, it suggests we can rule out Russia, Bulgaria or Cyrillic bits of Yugoslavia - as well as Greece. Has the station name been "censored" off the photograph, do you think? (seems to be a strange blank bit on the side of the building where it might have been)
I hadn't noticed that. Some countries were very sensitive about photography on what they regarded as military sites, which included railways, so it is quite possible the name was redacted.
 

StephenHunter

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That could be an issue in the communist bloc; a few steam hunters ended up having a chat with the police. Less so in East Germany and Poland, where enthusiasts were a known quantity, although one West German student on a visit to East Berlin in 1971 after being informed the Trapos were watching him, decided it was time to leave.
 

Calthrop

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That could be an issue in the communist bloc; a few steam hunters ended up having a chat with the police. Less so in East Germany and Poland, where enthusiasts were a known quantity, although one West German student on a visit to East Berlin in 1971 after being informed the Trapos were watching him, decided it was time to leave.

Going by experiences of mine, and various other "Poland-bashers", in the 1980s: there may have been numerous enthusiasts going to Poland -- but unfortunately the Polish authorities were, pretty well right up to the end of Communism, extremely vigilant and hostile vis-a-vis, anyway, railway photography. There were problems -- above all, if you were a photographer -- anywhere in Communist Europe; but some countries were more, or less, "tough" about it than others -- "which were which", sometimes incongruous and unexpected. The most anti-railfan country of the lot, was non-Soviet-bloc Yugoslavia -- which was perhaps understandable -- for more than one reason, it was altogether a very nervous place.
 

Ken H

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A trawl through timetableworld (dot) com may reveal where wagon lits operated and give a clue

Edit. Dont just look at the international timetables. The 'national' timetables may also help. The german DR 1942 one covers a huge area of occupied europe incl Poland , Czechoslovakia, Austria and parts of France. And national timetables show the bit of international services in their territory.

(Why isnt Czechoslovakia in my phones spellchecker?)
 
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The exile

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That could be an issue in the communist bloc; a few steam hunters ended up having a chat with the police. Less so in East Germany and Poland, where enthusiasts were a known quantity, although one West German student on a visit to East Berlin in 1971 after being informed the Trapos were watching him, decided it was time to leave.
Communist bloc was pretty small ( in Europe) in 1935
 

MotCO

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All the male passengers in the foreground seem to be wearing the same clothes - belted jacket with darker trousers - and there seems to be a kit bag. Were these soldiers returning home, in which case, does anyone recognise the uniform?
 

The exile

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A trawl through timetableworld (dot) com may reveal where wagon lits operated and give a clue
Main candidates would be Berlin to the Baltic States, various places to various places in Romania plus the orient express

All the male passengers in the foreground seem to be wearing the same clothes - belted jacket with darker trousers - and there seems to be a kit bag. Were these soldiers returning home, in which case, does anyone recognise the uniform?
The luggage doesn’t look very military. A station well-provided with porters, perhaps? The other uniform ( next to the train) may well be WL
 

Gag Halfrunt

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Communist bloc was pretty small ( in Europe) in 1935

I think that you've misunderstood the point of @StephenHunter 's post. He was giving examples from his own experience, and didn't mean to say that communist governments were the only ones to regard railways as sensitive locations.


A trawl through timetableworld (dot) com may reveal where wagon lits operated and give a clue

From Wikipedia
:

With the start of World War I CIWL's coaches were confiscated for military use. In Germany and Austro-Hungary Mitropa was founded to take over the property and services of CIWL. In 1919, the communists in Russia expropriated CIWL's local rolling stock and hotels.[4] After the conclusion of World War I CIWL demanded to have its central European service routes restored. It regained these for Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia; however, in Germany the Reichsbahn and Mitropa sabotaged this process. On April 23, 1925, CIWL and Mitropa agreed to separate spheres of influence. CIWL received transit routes through Germany and routes between Germany and Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Czechoslovakia. Mitropa took over the routes between Germany and the Netherlands and Scandinavia, as well as trains within Germany, and to Gdańsk. Trains between Germany and Austria were served by both companies.

In the interbellum period CIWL flourished again. The company's blue and gold livery was introduced. In 1925 Wagon-Lits opened its first Travel Palace in Paris. Services extended to the Middle Eastern cities of Aleppo, Baghdad, Cairo, and Tehran. Metal coaches, replacing older wooden ones constructed of teak, became available in 1926. In 1931 the fleet reached its maximum of 2268 vehicles. This period can be considered the zenith of luxury rail travel. CIWL's carriages were decorated by such renowned artists as Réné Prou, René Lalique and Morrison. CIWL also commissioned renowned artists such as Adolphe Mouron Cassandre to design posters advertising its services.
 

30907

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This is a Getty Image which is described as Trans-Siberian railway, luggage on a platform at a Russian station - undated - Photographer: Walter Bosshard - Published by: 'Berliner Morgenpost' 17.11.1935 https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detai...der-lassen-news-photo/548804657?adppopup=true
This site
http://irps-wl.org.uk/wagon-lits/named-expresses
claims that WL operated Moscow-Tomsk on the Transsiberian from 1898 - I rather doubt it survived the Revolution though, and the cars are definitely European not Russian loading gauge.
 

deltic

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Walter Bosshard seems to have been active in China around 1935 and there was a Trans Manchurian Wagon Lits service from Harbin to Vladivostock at this time
 

The exile

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I'm intrigued by the gantry thing. Can't see any signals on it (and I think you can see signal posts through it), but I'm not sure I'd trust it as a footbridge.
 

etr221

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This is a Getty Image which is described as Trans-Siberian railway, luggage on a platform at a Russian station - undated - Photographer: Walter Bosshard - Published by: 'Berliner Morgenpost' 17.11.1935 https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detai...der-lassen-news-photo/548804657?adppopup=true
I note this is the same image as that posted by the OP. I was thinking that the staff on the platform (porters?) have Russian style uniforms.

Based on what I can see, and the Getty comments, my thought is that this is at the Poland (? - or other)/USSR border station, with passengers and their luggage, having arrived by WL from points west, being unloaded for border formalities and change to Soviet train to continue east, to Moscow (?) and beyond.

The 'gantry thing' is I think for lighting - to enable people to see what they were doing - and have an eye kept on them.

Timetable World unfortunately doesn't have an appropriate edition (1930s) of Cook's Continental Timetable...
 

Gag Halfrunt

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How did they deal with the gauge change?

The Wikipedia entry for the China Eastern Railway, which was built by the Russian Empire to Russian broad gauge, says:

During the Russo-Japanese War, Russia lost both the Liaodong Peninsula and much of the South Manchurian branch to Japan. The rail line from Changchun to Lüshun — transferred to Japanese control — became the South Manchuria Railway [and was converted to standard gauge].

During the 1917–1924 (Russian Civil War) the Russian part of the CER came under the administration of the White Army.

After 1924, the USSR and China administered the Northern CER jointly, while Japan maintained control of the southern spur line.

The Sino-Soviet conflict of 1929 was fought over the administration of the Northern CER.

After the establishment of Manchukuo [the Japanese puppet state in Manchuria] it was known as the North Manchuria Railway until 23 March 1935, when the USSR sold its rights to the railway to the Manchukuo government;[3] it was then merged into the Manchukuo National Railway and converted to standard gauge in four hours on 31 August.[4]

Changchun was the break-of-gauge until 1935, so a train to Vladivostok from Changchun or Harbin would have run entirely on broad gauge.

 
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30907

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Walter Bosshard seems to have been active in China around 1935 and there was a Trans Manchurian Wagon Lits service from Harbin to Vladivostock at this time
In which case, the Trans Siberian may well be accurate - maybe WL simply used their standard cars (regauged obviously) rather than take advantage of the loading gauge?
 

The exile

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In which case, the Trans Siberian may well be accurate - maybe WL simply used their standard cars (regauged obviously) rather than take advantage of the loading gauge?
Just found this https://www.railwaywondersoftheworld.com/trans-siberian-express.html - which appears to be a reprint of an article originally published in 1935. It contains a picture of the "South Manchurian Express" - with what appears to be much older rolling stock. Obviously, there may have been a mix, or the photo may not have been absolutely contemporary.
On the other hand, Walter Bosshard was based in Beijing from 1933 - 1939....
 
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Gag Halfrunt

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The "South Manchurian Express" photo shows a South Manchurian Railway Pashii class locomotive, so it doesn't tell us what might have run on the broad gauge portion before it was regauged in 1935.
 

Czesziafan

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That could be an issue in the communist bloc; a few steam hunters ended up having a chat with the police. Less so in East Germany and Poland, where enthusiasts were a known quantity, although one West German student on a visit to East Berlin in 1971 after being informed the Trapos were watching him, decided it was time to leave.
I remember travel writer Christopher Portaway got into a lot of trouble with the KGB when he visited Russia in the early seventies, ending up being deported. Closer to home in the mid seventies there was one inspector at Birmingham New St who seemed to hate spotters and I remember one occasion when he told me in no uncertain terms to get my train home or he would get the BTP to kick me off the station. His rationale was "if you're not a passenger you're trespassing on the railway and that's an offence".
 

Czesziafan

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I remember travel writer Christopher Portaway got into a lot of trouble with the KGB when he visited Russia in the early seventies, ending up being deported. Closer to home in the mid seventies there was one inspector at Birmingham New St who seemed to hate spotters and I remember one occasion when he told me in no uncertain terms to get my train home or he would get the BTP to kick me off the station. His rationale was "if you're not a passenger you're trespassing on the railway and that's an offence".
Think I'll put that last bit on a separate thread.
 

Cheshire Scot

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Going by experiences of mine, and various other "Poland-bashers", in the 1980s: there may have been numerous enthusiasts going to Poland -- but unfortunately the Polish authorities were, pretty well right up to the end of Communism, extremely vigilant and hostile vis-a-vis, anyway, railway photography. There were problems -- above all, if you were a photographer -- anywhere in Communist Europe; but some countries were more, or less, "tough" about it than others -- "which were which", sometimes incongruous and unexpected. The most anti-railfan country of the lot, was non-Soviet-bloc Yugoslavia -- which was perhaps understandable -- for more than one reason, it was altogether a very nervous place.
I visited Warsaw in 1986 and found the railway museum. Despite it being a museum I was asked / told to stop taking photographs of the exhibits although by that stage I already had taken about a dozen! I did however manage a couple of discreet shots of main line trains on an embankment from a city street.

In the mid 70's I photographed a Yugoslav steam loco from within the compartment as my train was departing a station and used the same method in Hungary in '84 (not steam) where I also photographed trains through my open Hotel bedroom window in Budapest.

Some western countries were also a bit sensitive to railway photography, including as far as I recall both Italy and France - on the same trip to Yugoslavia i travelled armed with a letter issued by SNCF authorising me to take photos on stations, whilst in 2002 I received stern words from an official for photographing a FEVE train near Santander.
 
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30907

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Czesziafan

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I note this is the same image as that posted by the OP. I was thinking that the staff on the platform (porters?) have Russian style uniforms.

Based on what I can see, and the Getty comments, my thought is that this is at the Poland (? - or other)/USSR border station, with passengers and their luggage, having arrived by WL from points west, being unloaded for border formalities and change to Soviet train to continue east, to Moscow (?) and beyond.

The 'gantry thing' is I think for lighting - to enable people to see what they were doing - and have an eye kept on them.

Timetable World unfortunately doesn't have an appropriate edition (1930s) of Cook's Continental Timetable...
According to George Behrend in "Grand European Expresses" the WL of the pre-war Nord Express ran onto USSR metals at the Soviet border station of Niegoroloye, where passengers transferred to the Russian gauge Soviet sleepers for the journey on to Moscow, with the empty WL stock returning to the Polish border station of Stoplce, where passengers changed in the opposite direction, so the system was similar to that at Hendaye / Irun on the Franco-Spanish frontier. There were special temporary immigration rules for rail personnel crossing the border to work these services.

Further east. Behrend confirms that the WL operated standard gauge stock over the CER, but nothing in the USSR, all its operations there having been seized by the communists. Behrend states that old WL teak bodied stock was used on the CER. It was apparently possible to book through from London and other points in Western Europe to Peking (as Beijing was then known) or Shanghai via the Nord Express, Moscow and the Trans Siberian / CER, and WL even owned a hotel in Peking. the Soviets allowing transit passengers to travel across its territory. The route was popular with Westerners going to the Far East as it was only about 10 days compared with a 3 - 4 week voyage by ship.

I have also managed to find this shot of Russian railway uniforms from the early Soviet period. They look very similar to those in my original post.

On the basis of the information everyone has contributed it looks as if the photo I posted originally shows the Nord Express at the change of gauge station at Niegoroloye as the porters' uniforms are definitely not PKP and do look like the Russian ones in the attached photo. The WL stock is steel built in the Blue and gold livery and is definitely post-1922, which was the first year when WL built all steel stock in place of teak.
 

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On the basis of the information everyone has contributed it looks as if the photo I posted originally shows the Nord Express at the change of gauge station at Niegoroloye
I think it's the Polish frontier station at Stołpce. Most of the pictures at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Stolbtsy_railway_station show a smaller building, but in this one you can just see both buildings. With the help of Google Translate, I conclude that the larger building was a customs and post office, as opposed to the station itself.

Wikipedia also has some old pictures of Niegoroloye: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Historical_images_of_Nieharełaje.

I'm not sure why luggage would have been carried from the CIWL train towards the customs building at Stołpce, given that eastbound travellers changed at Niegoroloye, but I'm sure it must be that building, unless there was one somewhere else that looked identical from that angle.

I've found a blog post (in Polish, but Google Translate does a reasonable job) about that border crossing; there are larger versions of some of the same pictures here. Interestingly, given the discussion of Manchuria above, it appears that there were through carriages from the Polish-Soviet border to the Soviet-Manchurian border (I wonder if they went further into Manchuria before 1935).
 
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