( 01.05.1992 - 03.01.1994 )
[as of 2017 ]
A webpage on the unique rural trolleybus line that operated in the village of Solonceni, Moldova.
First historic record:
Population: ~3 000 (1992); 1 155 (2004); 1 658 (2014)
Operator: The Solonchenski Sovkhoz
01.05.1992 - 03.01.1994
Overhead length: 2,44 km. (one-way line)
Number of routes: 1
Number of passenger vehicles: 1
Village Trolleybus Concept
The Solonceni village is located in the northeast of Moldova, 12 km. north of the town of Rezina, the regional center. The village is located on the right (western) bank of the Dniester River, while the opposite bank belongs to the breakaway Transnistrian Republic. Toward the end of existence of the Soviet Union in the 1980/90s the village boasted 3000 people, and the local state-run collective agricultural enterprise ('Sovkhoz') was a notably prosperous undertaking. The Soloncenskiy Sovkhoz included a livestock and milk complex, a grain depot, a land cultivation facility, and a machinery and tractor depot. All of these were located to the north of the village, on a higher ground, some distance away from the residential area, which required workers to be shuttled by buses.
Between the years 1988-1993 the executive director of the Sovkhoz was Nikolay Andreevich Zayac, an excellent manager, who reshaped the Soloncenskiy Sovkhoz into an exemplary undertaking. While some innovative agricultural production techniques were deployed, Mr. Zayac was also credited for an unusual sense of responsibility, which was a rare quality under the USSR's state-run planned economy. Consequently the Sovkhoz procured as much as 2,5 times more milk, 2-to-3 times more meat, and 3-to-4 times more grain than was called for by the state-imposed quota. The prosperity of the village and the well-being of the workers rose accordingly. The workers at the farm earned up to 500-600 rubles a month, while the average salary in the USSR in 1988 was at 233 rubles. The Sovkhoz also ran a sizeable annual budget surplus.
According to a practice established under the USSR, the surplus capital was to be turned over to the state, unless these were active funds designated to development of the Sovkhoz or village improvements. In order to keep the surplus money in the village, there was a surge of various construction projects in Solonceni - at the Sovkhoz plants, as well as on various civil and cultural infrastructure in the village. Solonceni was transformed into a flourishing village with standards of living comparable to those in the cities. Nevertheless, the surplus money still remained. Consequently, a number of rather unusual projects were considered by Mr. Zayac. For instance, an aerial ropeway over the Dniester River was envisioned. A trolleybus project was one of such unconventional proposals.
The idea to build a trolleybus line in the village belonged to the Sovkhoz's director Mr. Zayac personally, however, this decision was not purely environmentally-minded or pro-trolleybus. The official reasoning was that the trolleybus is cheaper to operate - it would cost 15 rubles a day to run the trolleybus, while it did cost 93-94 rubles to run a bus. This argument, however, was a camouflage, especially since the unofficial rational for the project was the excess funds' write-off. According to a 2011 interview with Mr. Zayac, the deal breaker in favor of the trolleybus was the fact that diesel buses were constantly recalled by the higher authorities for various regional communal and social functions, such as blitz potato harvests or political mass rallies - a practice far too common in the USSR. This disrupted local workers' delivery to the Sovkhoz plants. It would be, however, impossible to recall the trolleybus, as it is physically "tied" to an overhead.
An official request for the trolleybus line construction was filed on 28.02.1989. The design specifications for the line were developed by the "Kishinyovproekt" state design institute in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. The Sovkhoz built a new paved road through the village and to the milk complex specifically for the trolleybus project. The construction of the trolleybus line took place in 1991-1992. A single (one-way) 2,44 km.-long line was built. The loops were not enclosed and had no frogs, which required a change of trolley poles at the end of each trip. Unusual double traction poles were installed within the loops due to higher stress loads. A single module power substation was built approximately in the middle of the line. The lines for substation control were also installed, with switches provided at each of the loops for substation operation. The project design also included additional roadwork to build the loop turnarounds, as well as construction of paved passenger loading & unloading areas and stop shelters at the loops. Additional street lighting was provided in areas along the trolleybus route where it was previously absent, and affected electric, radio and telephone lines were redesigned. Reinforced steel-concrete traction poles and an overhead were supplied by manufacturers from the city of Bendery. The overhead was installed by the specially hired maintenance crew from the Chișinău trolleybus undertaking. A special experimental electrical equipment supplied from Kiev was installed at the substation. Overall 400 000 rubles was spent on the trolleybus line construction and work associated with the project.
Two best drivers from the Sovkhoz were selected and sent to Chișinău to complete a 6-months trolleybus driver-training course. Following the training the drivers spent 2 months operating regular service trolleybuses in Chișinău. A single 1987-built trolleybus number 2049 of the ZiU-682V type was leased from the Chișinău's Trolleybus Depot 2 for 50 000 rubles annually. Prior to the lease the trolleybus was mothballed at the depot and thus had notably low mileage.
The trolleybus line construction took place during the Transnistrian separatist war. The Transnistrian military contingent was positioned on a higher ground along the opposite banks of the Dniester River. Tensions especially intensified in March of 1992. The unusual construction work aroused suspicions on the Transnistrian side, as military commanders found building the trolleybus line in the village implausible. The Sovkhoz director Mr. Zayac was forced to personally cross the Dniester River for negotiations with the military to calm things down.
Trolleybus operation was opened with fanfare on May 1st, 1992, the official state 'May-day' holiday. Three clergymen were present to bless the new trolleybus line.
A single trolleybus operated between the southern edge of the village and the milk complex to the north of the village, beyond the Solonceni administrative boundaries. This fact technically made the trolleybus line an interurban (intervillage) system. There were 5 officially recognized trips in each direction of travel. The timetable was based on shift schedules at various Sovkhoz plants and on the local school schedule, and looked as follows:
Departures from the Solonceni village:
05:00 - Milkmaids
07:30 - Tractor operators & school children
09:00 - Field workers
13:30 - After-lunch run
19:00 - Night personnel and watchmen
Departures from the Milk Complex:
08:30 - Night personnel
12:00 - Before-lunch run
14:00 - School children
17:30 - Tractor operators & field workers
22:00 - Milkmaids
Various sources often cite 6 to 8 daily trips, however, these reflect round trips including deadhead runs in the direction of travel opposite to a "peak" passenger flow (two return trips to the village out of eight were not necessary as the trolleybus could simply dwell at the outer Milk Complex loop). The approximate full schedule can be viewed here.
The original plan called for 4 mid-route stops: project map. However, in reality there were no designated stops, except for those at the terminals. The midroute stops were made on passengers' demands. The ride was free, paid for by the Sovkhoz. The trolleybus was very popular, carrying up to 1000 daily riders. A tape player was purchased and installed on the trolleybus, and the music was played during the ride. The trolleybus was washed by the drivers at the terminals. At night the trolleybus was either parked along the route near the house of an individual responsible for its safekeeping, or was towed by a tractor into the yard of the machinery and tractor depot, located near the line but lacking the overhead.
The single trolleybus was serviced at the trolleybus undertaking in Chișinău, where it was towed to by a powerful K-700 tractor. The trip took 6 hours in each direction. During the 20 months of operation the trolleybus was taken in for servicing 4 times. The maintenance conducted on the trolleybus was preventive, consequently the vehicle never malfunctioned during the entire period of operation. In 1993 the trolleybus was fully repainted.
Plans for Future Development
In the early 1990s there were regional plans to extend the trolleybus line from the village of Solonceni to the town of Rezina, the regional capital with the population around 15 200 at the time, located 12 km. to the south. According to the plans by the Sovkhoz director Mr. Zayac the trolleybus line would follow the road along the right bank of the Dniester River through the villages of Boşerniţa and Ciorna, through the town of Rezina via its main thoroughfare (nowadays Strada 27August 1989), and then would continue via the Highway R13 to the villages of Țareuca and Ţahnăuţti, where it would terminate at the opening at the intersection near the traffic police outpost. The total length of the line would be 18,8 km. According to another plan announced by the local regional newspaper, the line would terminate within the town of Rezina, at the Autotransport Depot, and the total length of the line would be 15 km. It was planned that 4 trolleybuses would operate the line. In anticipation of these plans the Soloncenskiy Sovkhoz built the new paved road between Solonceni and Rezina. If the described interurban trolleybus line would be built, it would have boasted a few notable trolleybus attractions along the route. Trolleybuses would pass under an industrial aerial ropeway of the Rîbnița Metal Steel Works that stretched out over the Dniester River, as well as under a span of a railroad bridge over the Dniester River on the Rîbnița - Bălți line. Trolleybuses would also climb via a switchback road from the Dniester River bank to the town of Rezina, located on a higher ground.
The abovementioned plans, however, were not realized as the Soviet Union collapsed. Upon a refusal to openly loot the state properties of the Sovkhoz, the director Mr. Zayac was sacked in September / October of 1993. The trolleybus operation was closed on January 3rd, 1994 by the new director of the Sovkhoz, citing high electricity costs at the time. As of July 9th, 1994 the overhead remained intact, while the trolleybus 2049 was mothballed at the tractor depot's yard (source: Sergey Tarkhov). The entire trolleybus inventory was later looted, together with all other Sovkhoz holdings. The overhead was sold to Chișinău. Trolleybus 2049 was returned to Chișinău, where it continued to operate until at least 2006. At the beginning of 2010 this vehicle was no longer on Chișinău's roster. As of May 6th, 2011 the only reminders of the former village trolleybus line were traction poles along the route, the remains of the power substation, and uncharacteristically good village roads.
© 2002 - 2017
Nikolay Zayac, Sergey Tarkhov, Pavel Zyuzin
Author: Yury Maller - Usage of material found herein for public display is possible with authors' permission only.
Last updated: 12-Nov-2017
Special thanks: Nikolay Zayac, Sergey Tarkhov, Pavel Zyuzin