ANTON  KROTOV «Practice of Free Travels or Free Travels in Practice (In English) » Автор русского текста: Антон Кротов, 1995-2007
Перевод на английский: Роман Никулин (Новосибирск), Владислав Крыштановский (Москва) и др., 2007-08.
от 11.11.2008 г. Знаков 93.000.











Railroads and trains appeared in the Russian Empire (and the rest of the world) much earlier than automobile roads and automobiles. Free railroad travelers started to explore Russia in the first half of XIX century, and the peak of the railroad transportations happened in the end of XX century. Now most of the big cities in Russia and CIS are connected with railroads and the total length of these railroads is about 140.000 км.

Before, in previous editions of PFT, various methods of traveling in long-distance and local trains. Among these methods, some implied deceiving and some were difficult to perform.

Now, in the beginning of XXI century, these methods are not actual anymore. Now we do not live in "hungry years", and in the most of cases it is simpler to buy a tickets for a railroad trip. Moreover, "fighting with terror" often makes it difficult to travel in passing locomotives; ticket inspections become more and more frequent in local trains; new automobile roads, parallel to the railroads, are constructed recently - in most of the cases, especially if you have no money, it is simpler to hitchhike.

Although, sometimes some people still need to travel forcedly by the railroad with no tickets. It happens, especially at summer, that there are no tickets left and you need to go somewhere urgently; in other cases, e.g. at winter, you have no clothes warm enough to hitchhike and (due to something) no money, and so on. For such cases, this chapter is written.

First, you'll need to memorize that you may use not only direct passenger train for the trip ! You'll need to "travel dak" in your direction, changing trains - long-distance and local ones. Combined freight-and-passenger (Грузопассажирские), mail-and-luggage, service (хозяйственные и рабочие), freight and other trains will be also useful for your movement, and sometimes the locomotive driver will let you in a locomotive cab. Of course, all these methods are slower than a direct train without stopovers.

We'll start the review of railroad traveling methods with a description of traveling in a locomotive.

Have you happened to travel in locomotives of freight trains ? To do this, it is not necessary to enter a college of railroad transport and study for a locomotive driver. Hitchhiking of type II - traveling in locomotive cabs - is still used, by both travelers and local people, in distant regions, where almost neither automobile roads nor local trains exist. On the Baikal-Amur Railway, I have seen how 6-7 passengers entered (with locomotive driver's agreement) the rear cab of a locomotive, and the locomotive drivers said that it is not a limit.

A widespread opinion is that nobody would let you enter a locomotive, cause it is denied. If you will try to enter a locomotive in a place like Kursky train station in Moscow, you will even strengthen in this opinion. You'll be recognized as a Chechen terrorist or some other infringer and, most probably, won't be allowed to enter the cab. All big cities with over a million of population, and electrified railroads connecting these, now are almost unsuitable for rail-hitching.

It is clear that nobody is standing on the rails, trying to stop a moving freight train (although in some conditions it, probably, may stop). The idea of the method is to wait for a suitable locomotive on a freight station and to negotiate with the locomotive driver during a stopover. You cannot start from any station, but from a large one, that is (in railroad terms) a station of train recoupling (or the one where the locomotive crews are changed).

So, you're on a freight station, where freight trains in your direction are being formed. Attention! The location of the freight station is often differs from the location of the passenger station. You can ask the location of the freight station from the railroad personnel.

If at the moment there are no formed trains in desired direction on the station, find an assistant station-master on duty (or a rail traffic dispatcher). Anybody of the railroad personnel will explain you how to find him. Дежурный по станции usually sits at a large control panel in a room with «Посторонним вход воспрещён!» ("Authorised personnel only!") sign. Knock at the door and enter there.

- Hello ! Could you tell when does the nearest train to Lopcha depart ?

The freight traffic in the required direction may be of different intensity - from one to tens trains per day. Meanwhile, you can find a restaurant for the railroad personnel (exists on every big station) - there you can eat cheap and tasty. Such restaurants are usually open 24 hours. There are no restaurants on the small stations, but the assistant station-master on duty should have a small electric stove. Ask for a permission to boil some tea; tell what an eager travelers you are, try to make friends with the railroad personnel - it may help when boarding the locomotive. Simultaneously, keep your eye on the trains being formed.

On a station, especially on a big one, you may be discovered by a guard. He may try to prevent your movement and banish you from the station. But don't run away from him, not to make him think you're a terrorist or a railroad thief. Have with yourself a passport and, desirably, - some certificate saying that you're not just traveling for fun.

If you wearing an overall, have a backpack and, in general, look different from the local homeless - it is good for you. But you may have no overall, certificates etc. : the main thing is your calm, confident behavior.

When you see a locomotive already coupled to your train, or a single locomotive (moving as a reserve one) waiting for the traffic lights signal - run to it quickly. In the locomotive, the locomotive driver is on the right hand side, and the locomotive driver mate is on the left hand side. You should talk to the locomotive driver.

- Hello ! Could you lift us to Urusha ? We're travelers, going to here and there for this and that... - describe your nature.

If the locomotive driver said "No, we're not allowed to lift!", try to persuade him anyway. Remember, that the hitchhiking of type II really exists ! The probability of a lift depends on a place; more civilized station means more seldom lift, and opposite. The passenger train locomotives lift more seldom than the freight train ones.

When you have the agreement, enter quickly the door that leads to the rear section of the locomotive (if you weren't explicitly invited to the front one).

In the rear cab there are two (sometimes three) seats, often a guard, and sometimes - another passengers.

While in the rear cab, behave quietly, touch no levers. You can sleep on the floor, putting a camping mattress there. Few times an hour locomotive driver mate enters the rear cab, clicks the switches and looks at the indicators. make friends with him. You may be invited to the front cab - go there, make friends with the locomotive driver as well. When moving from the rear cab to the front one, be careful ! You shouldn't move to the front cab without need - it is dangerous, you may accidentally touch some 27000V device or touch a rotating fan in the semi-darkness.

The freight trains may go as far as few thousands kilometers, bu the locomotive crew changes every 4-5 hours (250-350 km) - on every big station. You need to negotiate with the every new crew separately, if the previous locomotive driver wouldn't ask for you the next one.


If the train goes right direction, but the locomotive driver refuses to let you in to the locomotive, ask the permission to get in some empty carriage. When traveling in winter, avoid moving in cold, blown through carriages, not to die from cold ! Even in the summer it happens to be cold in the open carriages (it makes sense to have some polyethylene film and wrap inside it).


...After reaching the destination, where the locomotive or its crew changes, repeat the procedure of asking to get into the locomotive. If the next crew refuses you, get into a freight carriage once again or, better, look for an assistant station-master on duty and find out when there will be the next train in your direction.

When moving in the locomotives,it is possible to move for 500-600 km per day.When also using the carriages, you can go even faster. But the actual result depends on your experience, persistence, behAvior, and also on the degree of Czecheno-phobia in given region. On some stations the railroad personnel, scared via mass-media, recognizes any people wishing to travel in a locomotive, as terrorists. Although, usual hitchhiking is almost always faster; traveling in a locomotive is a method for the distant regions.

In the earlier editions of this book, following recipes were recommended for traveling in normal passenger trains : buying a ticket to the nearest station only, traveling on the roof of a carriage, secret penetration to the luggage box (рундук), bed linen box, coal box and another ones.

Hopefully, the methods of hitchhiking have advanced far forward, and now, in the beginnings of XXI century, you don't need to use such a perversions.

AFT member, having no ticket and deceiving nobody, travels on a sleeping place in a carriage. In the same time not so smart person, also having no ticket, travels on the roof of the same carriage and suffers from cold, hunger and electric wire.

The best places to board a passenger train are big stations, where the train stops for at least 15 minutes. You must understand clearly, which station you want to go.

Don't expect to go to another end of the country from the first try. Think about moving for around 300 kilometers, to reach, at least, the next big station, where trains make a long stopover. There you'll be able to change the train, if your friendship with the conductors of the first one will not advance or if your train continues in another direction.


There is a trainmaster in every train. Without his permission, the conductors hardly let you in. Ask, in which carriage the trainmaster is (usually somewhere close to the middle) and run to it :

- Hello ! Who is the trainmaster ?

- I am. What do you need ?

- Please, let us go by this train at least to Tynda. We're travelers, going home to Moscow from Magadan, and have no tickets (or money) due to...


It is important : first ask, then argument. It is an essential rule, no matter what you ask. "Please, lift us, we're travelers, going from there to there." "Could you host us for a night, cause of this and that". If you were refused after your first words, the person you're asking has an opportunity to change his opinion after listening the rest of your phrase, e.g. : "Generally, we don't lift, but if you're travelers - get in." Or : "Generally I don't host people now, but if you have no other place to go - come here.".

In contrary, if you first delaying, holding things up, telling who you are and where you're from, and then suddenly ask something, and you're refused - you have nothing to say, and you have to leave.

You may offer to do some cleaning in the carriage or do some other service tasks, which are not always done by the conductors themselves.

While in the carriage, make friendship with the conductors, the police escorting the train and other officials. If they decided to make you get out - e.g. believing that the inspectors will come soon - leave confidently and don't try to stay for longer, than you're allowed to, hiding in the carriage.

If the chief conductor hasn't let you it, go and ask the locomotive driver.

Remember ! You have to look different from local people and all kinds of homeless people, who are doing the same thing that you do - trying to get to some place for free. You have to cause curiosity and interest of the train personnel, make them want to chat with you - and then, in many cases, you will reach the success.

For the railroads travels, as well as for all other kinds of travels, a Road Certificate is very useful.

Before starting the trip, print (or ask your friends to print), using a computer or even a typewriter, a paper saying that this person is going that route, and asking to help him in his movements etc. Attach to this paper your photograph, put some seal - of your employer, university, school, marie... - on it, and the Road Certificate is ready. Here's an example.


Novgorod Club of Hitchhikers.

172600, Novgorod, Mira str., 9, phone/fax (8732)156934


The presenter of this letter, Ababakov Artur Afanasievich, is a participant of an international expedition "Via Russian forests and train stations", organized by the Novgorod Club of Hitchhikers (NCH).


The route is : Veliky Novgorod - Chudovo - Malaya Vishera - Tikhvin - Lodeynoe Pole - Olonets - Chimkent - Moscow. The purpose of the expedition is the exploration of the history and investigation of the current state of the train stations, fields, rivers and roads of the Russian North-East.


NCH asks the transport personnel, police and local officials to make assistance to the participant of the expedition.

Signature, stamp, date.


A well-done Road Certificate will help you not only when traveling in a locomotive or a train, but also when entering a border zone (and border zones cover huge part of the area of Russia), a national park or some other place with the restricted access. Also it can help in case of being bothered by the police or other officials.


...In the 'civilized' regions the lift is worse than in distant ones, but general increase of the railroad traffic will even increase your speed. While on the Baikal-Amur Railway, in average, 2-3 trains pass per day, on the Trans-Siberian Railway the interval between the trains is one hour or even shorter. Thus, you will move faster.

Some local trains in Siberia has a "carriage for homeless" - a platform or a heated freight carriage, used by the local people, fishermen, drunkards and tourists without payment. But it can be only used in summertime - it is too cold there at winter !


I'll mention that it is quite exhausting to travel via railway in the Central Russia - you need to move all the time from one train to another. Of course, if you have money and there are tickets in the ticket office, it is simpler to buy a ticket and don't bother. And, if you don't want travel in 'civilized' way, but want to move fast pleasantly, it is simpler to use normal hitchhiking with the automobiles.

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