Trip to Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland - September 2019

General Notes

The main part of this trip was the PTG "Clear Moldova" tour. All trains are service trains unless otherwise stated. All trains running within Moldova and Ukraine are broad gauge (1520 mm), and all within Romania and Poland are standard gauge (1435 mm), unless otherwise stated.

Romania, Moldova and Ukraine are two hours ahead of UK time, Poland is one hour ahead.

Operating Company Abbreviations:

  • EMR - East Midlands Railway
  • CFR - Căile Ferate Române (Romanian State Railways)
  • CFM - Caile Ferată Moldova (Moldovan State Railways)
  • UZ - Ukrainski Zaliznytsi (Ukrainian Railways)
  • PKP - Polskie Koleje Panstwowe (Polish State Railways)
  • NR - Northern Railway
Place Arrive Depart Train Traction details & notes

Thursday 12th September 2019

Timperley   06:42 - Manchester Metrolink tram 30XX
Manchester Piccadilly 07:07 07:42 - EMR DMU 158810 + 158 852
Nottingham 09:28 10:12 - EMR DMU 222015
Luton Airport Parkway 11:38 11:47 - bus
Luton Airport (LUT) 11:51 14:40   Wizz Air W6-3004 A321-200
Bucureşti Airport (OTP) 19:40 20:40 '780' bus
Bucureşti Gara de Nord 21:15      
Overnight Hotel Ibis Bucureşti Gare de Nord (5 minutes walk from Gara de Nord station).
The only flights from the Manchester area into Romania all involved departures or arrivals at silly times of the night, but this routing via Luton worked very well. Plenty of slack in the schedules meant, of course, that everything ran spot-on time so I had extra time at Luton Airport.

Friday 13th September 2019

Gara de Nord 1   08:23 'M1' EMU
Izvor 08:28 08:31 'M3' EMU
Preciziei 08:54 09:00 'M3' EMU
Anghel Saligny 09:32 09:37 'M3' EMU
Dristor 1 09:45      
Dristor 2   09:50 'M1' EMU
Gara de Nord 1 10:04      
Bucureşti Gara de Nord photo   11:55 IR1663 CFR EL 41 0905 + 3C
via Ploieşti Triaj (long-term engineering works) - Maraşeşti avoiding line
Tecuci (rev) 16:01 16:09   * CFR DL 64 1359
via Vaslui photo
Iaşi 18:54      
Gara photo   19:02 '7' Iaşi tram 435
Piaţa Unirii photo 19:06      
Overnight at Hotel Unirea, Iaşi.
Did some of the Bucureşti Metro routes in the morning before heading off to join the PTG tour in Iaşi. Train IR1663 runs via a moderately interesting route, and like all trains via Ploieşti Sud at the moment was diverted through the yard due to bridge reconstruction works. At Zorleni the route to Fălciu was noted to be closed. Tram from the station to the hotel to avoid walking up a hill.

Saturday 14th September 2019

Hotel Unirea, Iaşi   09:45   PTG bus
Socola (broad gauge platform) photo 10:00 10:45 1054 CFM DMU D1M-001 (PTG special train) photo
via Ungheni Prut Hm (11:15 / 11:55, Romania/Moldova border checks)
Ungheni (broad gauge main line platform) photo 12:02      
Ungheni Depot visit
Ungheni (broad gauge platform)   14:30   CFM DL ChME3-5470 photo + 2C (PTG tour train)
Bălţi-Slobozia photo 18:08 18:20   Bălţi trolleybus 2001 (PTG special) photo
via Trolleybus depot visit (18:40 - 19:00)
Hotel Vispas 19:20      
Overnight at Hotel Vispas, Bălţi (2 nights).
First day proper of the PTG tour. Socola is just east of Iaşi on the standard gauge route to Ungheni (with both Romanian DMU and long distance gauge-changing services to Ungheni), but there is also a broad gauge route and platform. There is a CFM broad gauge DMU working on Fridays, Saturday and Sundays between Chişinău and Socola, which we "borrowed" for our special working to Ungheni. After a visit to the depot and gauge changing area at Ungheni, we boarded what would be our carriages for most of the next week - one CFM day/sleeper car and one CFM Restaurant car. We had most of our lunches, and some of the evening meals where hotel arrival was very late, in the Restaurant car. These were all in the price, and included water and wine - but not beer! Just ten minutes after we had departed Ungheni, at a wayside halt named Zagarancea, we hit a car broadside on as it passed over the level crossing, and pushed it for about 400 metres along the track. I won't go into any more details but the emergency services attended and we were on our way again after about an hour's delay. Apparently such incidents are commonplace in Moldova. Arriving at Bălţi-Slobozia we had a chartered trolleybus for a visit to the trolleybus depot, then continued on to the hotel. Today's route was all passenger line, though we "missed" the passenger curve out of Ungheni towards Chişinău.

Sunday 15th September 2019

Hotel Vispas   ??:??   PTG bus
Bălţi-Slobozia ??:?? 08:30   CFM DL ChM3-5468 + 2C (PTG tour train)
Rîbniţa (reverse) photo photo 12:30 13:30   * loco run-round
Şoldaneşti 14:30 14:50   Photo stop
Bălţi-Slobozia 17:15 ??:??   Depot visit then PTG bus
Hotel Vispas ??:??      
Overnight at Hotel Vispas, Bălţi.
Today was a fairly simple return run across the northern route to Rîbniţa, which being across the Nistru river is in the breakway republic of Transnistria. Though passenger services only run from Bălţi as far as Rogojeni nowadays, the station at Rîbniţa was well kept and had a station buffet. Local currency here is Transnistrian Roubles, which none of us had any of of course, so we had to pay for the odd beer in Moldovan Lei. Some people got some change in Transnistrian Roubles, including plastic coins. We had been hoping to visit the steelworks here, but this proved impossible. Also somewhat annoyingly, there is through freight traffic into Ukraine via the border crossing at Timkove. We had a different ChME3 today while some welding repairs were made to collision-damaged ChME3-5470, though these hadn't started when we visited Bălţi depot late in the afternoon.

Monday 16th September 2019

Hotel Vispas   ??:??   PTG bus
Bălţi-Slobozia ??:?? 07:30   ChME3-5740 + 2C (PTG tour train) photo
Rediul-Mare photo photo photo photo 09:20 09:50   * loco run-round
Brătuşăni photo 10:50 11:20   * loco run-round then push back ~0.5 km
Ocniţa 12:53 13:13   * CFM DL 3TE10M-1103B photo
via Vălcineţ - Moldova border checks
Moghiliov-Podolski 14:51 ??:??   Ukraine border checks then PTG bus direct to Hotel
Hotel Bukovyna ??:??      
Overnight at Hotel Bukovyna, Chernivtsi.
The two main aims of today were the freight-only branch to Brătuşăni (the other nearby freight branch, to Glodeni, was out of use) and the border crossing into Ukraine at Moghiliov-Podolski. This route is covered by two overnight trains each way. At Brătuşăni, after the loco had run round, the train was propelled as far as the national railway infrastructure limit, though there are extensive sidings here and plenty of traffic. To fit in with the next day's train plans we then had to travel by bus for four hours over mostly poor quality roads to reach our hotel in the Ukrainian town of Chernivtsi.

Tuesday 17th September 2019

Hotel Bukovyna   ??:??   PTG bus
Chernivtsi photo photo   08:30 968 UZ DL M62-1260 + 2C photo
Sokyryany 14:04 ??:??   PTG bus - Ukraine/Moldova border checks at Sokyryany/Ocniţa road crossing
Ocniţa ??:?? 15:45   CFM DL ChME3-5740 + 2C (PTG tour train) dep 57 late
via Bălţi-Slobozia and Ungheni avoiding lines
Chişinău 22:30 ??:??   PTG bus
Hotel Best Western Flowers ??:??      
Overnight at Hotel Best Western Flowers, Chişinău (2 nights).
Today's first train was a Ukrainian service train, reported as often running as a mixed train but on this date only containing passenger carriages. The train passes through two sections of Moldovan territory so we had four sets of border checks - at Mamalyha/Criva and at Medveja/Larha. We had hoped to get permission to continue over the final border from Sokyryany to Ocniţa but this proved impossible; this section lost it passenger services in 2014. The checks on the bus at the nearby road border crossing took well over an hour. Finally today there was the long run, much of it in the dark, to the Moldovan capital Chişinău. Using the two passenger curves at Bălţi-Slobozia and Ungheni (again, used by overnight trains only) ensured that by now we had covered all the available passenger track in the north of the country - except for the one curve at Ungheni which we covered next day.

Wednesday 18th September 2019

Chişinău photo photo   09:03 6825 CFM DMU D1M-001 photo
Ungheni (suburban platform) photo 11:56      
Ungheni (broad gauge main line platform)   15:47 341Ф CFM DL 3TE10M-1246A + 8C photo photo
Chişinău 18:28      
Overnight at Hotel Best Western Flowers, Chişinău.
Today was intended as a "free day" for a depot visit at Chişinău and a visit to a vineyard. Some of use decided that covering the missing track at Ungheni was more important.... and we also did the track in daylight that we had done in the dark the previous day. The options were limited as train services are not great: some opted for a long distance train, my group caught a DMU stopping service which terminated, as we knew it would, in the "suburban" platform at Ungheni. Lunch was taken in Ungheni before getting the late afternoon train back to Chişinău which was a through working from Moskva.

Thursday 19th September 2019

    ??:??   PTG bus
Chişinău ??:?? 06:02   CFM DL ChME3-2945 + 2C (PTG tour train)
via Socoleni - Bender-2 (07:08) - Căuşeni - Căinari (08:32) - Zloţi - Basarabeasca (10:21 / 10:34) - Etulia (Moldova/Ukraine border checks 14:05 / 14:35) - Reni (Ukraine border checks 15:52 / 16:32) - Giurgiuleşti (Moldova border checks 16:46/17:19 photo photo photo)
Cahul 19:10 ??:??   PTG bus
Hotel Azalia ??:??      
Overnight at Hotel Azalia, Cahul.
The next two days covered the railways in the southern half of Moldova. Firstly the "main line" towards Bender was taken (briefly passing through Transnistria again), veering off passenger track there to continue on to Zloţi from where there are two daily passenger train pairs to Basarabeasca - this section crosses into and out of Ukraine but no border checks were made. The disused duplicate route between Basarabeasca and Abaclia was viewed before heading south from the latter. Passing briefly through Ukraine again at Bolgrad, Etulia was reached. From here to Reni there are two daily passenger train pairs, operated by Ukrainian Railways as the majority of this section is in Ukraine. Crossing back into Moldova after leaving Reni, and running close to the River Danube, Giurgiuleşti was reached: pausing here for border checks allowed the complex track layout to be checked: there are tracks of both standard and broad gauge crossing the border river bridge to Galaţi in Romania. The day was completed by the run northwards to Cahul along a route only opened in 2008 to give Moldova its own independent route to the River Danube.

Friday 20th September 2019

Hotel Azalia   ??:??   PTG bus
Cahul ??:?? 08:00   CFM DL ChME3-2945 + 2C (PTG tour train) photo
via Prut-1 (10:32) - Abaclia (12:48 / 12:55 photo photo photo photo)
Basarabeasca photo photo 13:12 13:40   * CFM DL ChME3-2441 + 2C + ChME3-2945 (drag back into Basarabeasca depot) photo
Basarabeasca depot photo photo 13:45 14:40   * CFM DL ChME3-2945 + 2C + ChME3-2441 shunt out of depot
Basarabeasca 14:55 15:00   * CFM DL ChME3-2945 + 2C
via Căinari (16:36) - Bălţaţi (17:21) - Park Revaca (17:44) - Revaca (18:04)
Chişinău photo 18:23 ??:??   PTG bus
Hotel Best Western Flowers ??:??      
Overnight at Hotel Best Western Flowers, Chişinău.
Now heading north from Cahul, the line onwards to Basarabeasca lost its passenger service in 2013. At the junction west of Prut, the dual guage tracks to Fălciu in Romania were seen to be cut, this last saw passenger services in 2010. Rejoining our outward route at Abaclia we paused for a pathing stop to cross what turned out to be a very heavy grain train with three locos leading and two on the rear. Dropping down the hill into Basarabeasca we were hauled into the depot for a visit. Passing through Ukraine again on the way to Zloţi, we turned left at Căinari onto a line that was only opened in 2005, again as part of the scheme to give Moldova its own independent route to the River Danube. In fact this line as far as Revaca was only opened in 1931, then badly damaged in 1944 and not re-opened at that time; the re-opening was partly on a new alignment. The last run into Chişinău was over the track at the north side of the sidings at Chişinău-3.

Saturday 21st September 2019

Hotel Best Western Flowers   ??:??   PTG bus
Chişinău ??:?? 07:09   CFM DMU D1M-002
via Bender-2 (08:09) - Tiraspol (08:27) - Kuchurhan (Ukraine border checks 08:57 / 09:27) - Rozdina-1 (09:45)
Odesa-Golovna 10:45 ??:??   PTG bus
Black Sea Otrada Hotel (end of road) ??:??      
Odesa-Golovna   12:15 6306 UZ EMU ER9E-633 photo
via direct curve bypassing Odesa-Zastava-1
Bilgorod-Dnistrovs'kyj photo 14:46 16:54 6347 UZ EMU ER9T-732
via Odesa-Zastava-1
Odesa-Golovna 19:20      
Overnight at Hotel Black Sea Otrada, Odesa.
Last day of the PTG tour, consisting purely of a run on the international service from Chişinău to Odesa via Bender and Tiraspol (in Transnistria), Ukrainian border formalities at Kuchurhan, and along the main line into Odesa from Rozdina-1. In the afternoon a group of ten of us had a ride on the suburban service to Bilgorod-Dnistrovs'kyj and back: some of the trains on this route run via the station at Zastava-1, some run via a shorther route avoiding that station; we ensured that we covered both routes. The route itself was quite interesting, including running alongside Black Sea beaches and a part-lifting bridge over the mouth of the River Dnister.

Sunday 22nd September 2019

Odesa-Golovna   12:29 248 UZ EL VL40U-1414-2 + 9C photo
Vinnytsia photo 19:21      
Overnight at Hotel Ideal, Vinnytsia.
Heading home now but wanting to cover the route in daylight rather than just dashing home by air or on overnight trains. The route was mainly selected by the location of a town with hotels at roughly the halfway point, this was fulfilled by the regional capital Vinnytsia.

Monday 23rd September 2019

Vinnytsia photo photo photo   09:11 715 UZ EMU HRCS2-004
via western avoiding line at Zhmerynka - Ukraine/Romania border checks at Mostys'ka/Medyka
Przemysl-Główny (broad gauge platforms) 14:58     arr 18 late
Przemysl-Główny (standard gauge platforms)   15:54 TLK31100 PKP EL EP09-009 + 8C dep 15 late
due to ongoing engineering works, ran via Nowa Huta goods lines
Kraków-Główny 19:17      
Overnight at Hotel Ibis Budget Stare Miasto, Kraków.
Continuing the homeward run by the relatively new EMU service between Kyiv and Przemysl in Poland. This included some 160 km/h running, I've never travelled so fast in Ukraine! The one hour connection to Kraków worked OK, the train being diverted via the Nowa Huta goods lines at this time due to engineering works.

Tuesday 24th September 2019

Kraków-Główny   13:34 KML33336 PKP EMU EN77-002 photo
Kraków-Lotnisko 13:52      
Kraków Airport (KRK)   16:50 EZY1872 Easyjet
Manchester Airport (MAN) 18:35 18:59 - NR EMU 323228
Manchester Piccadilly 19:25 19:35 - Manchester Metrolink tram 30XX
Timperley 20:05      
Spent some time at Kraków main station taking photographs before getting the train to the airport, to the new terminus this time instead of the roadside halt I used some years ago.

Passport Stamps received during the trip:

Moldova entry at Ungheni on 14/09/2019 - exit at Vălcineţ on 16/09/2019
Ukraine entry at Moghiliov-Podolski on 16/09/2019 - exit at Mamalyha on 17/09/2019
Moldova entry at Criva on 17/09/2019 - exit at Medveja (Larga stamp) on 17/09/2019
Ukraine entry at Larha (Kel'mentsi stamp) on 17/09/2019 - exit at Sokyryany on 17/09/2019
Moldova entry at Ocniţa on 17/09/2019 - exit at Etulia on 19/09/2019
Ukraine entry at Frikatsey on 19/09/2019 - exit at Reni on 19/09/2019
Moldova entry at Giurgiuleşti on 19/09/2019 - no exit stamp due to exiting via Transnistria (21/09/2019)
Ukraine entry at Kuchurhan on 21/09/2019 - exit at Mostys'ka on 23/09/2019


An excellent trip which basically fulfilled all my expectations. Billed as "Clear Moldova" it was always clear to me that that was probably impossible; the primary aim for me was to cover all the routes with passenger services, which we did - some of these are extremely difficult to do as individual visitors. We covered all the non-passenger lines except five sections (Rîbniţa to Timkove; Sokyryany to Ocniţa; the Ocniţa avoiding line; Bender south curve; and Giurgiuleşti to Galaţi), and all of these involve border crossings of some sort. At some point in the future I would like to travel over the standard gauge route into Ungheni from Iaşi in Romania, either on the local DMU service or on one of the through services to/from Bucureşti which uses the gauge changer at Ungheni.