[as of 02.2007]
The city is situated in the Sverdlovskiy Region of Russia, 2105 km east of Moscow, and 452 km north of Ekaterinburg, the Sverdlovskiy region's capital. The closest railroad station is Lesnaya Volchanka. The original settlement Lesnaya Volchanka was established in 1901. The city of Volchansk was recognized in 1956.
This village-like sleepy town had seen its better days during the times of socialist planned industrial development. The town was mainly erected in the 1950s as an accessory to the gigantic open cut coal mining facility. It boasted 36000 inhabitants during the heyday of the coalmining industry. There were 14800 residents 1989, out which only 10300 remained by 2007.
The township of Volchansk actually consists of two distinct settlements, located 6 km apart, the southern village of Volchanka, and the northern village of Lesnaya Volchanka. It is hard to say which one is the main settlement, as most town's amenities are equally spread between the two.
The unique layout of the town assumes a need for a reliable transportation node between two parts of the city. During the 1950s the tram seemed to be an obvious answer.
HISTORY OF NETWORK'S DEVELOPMENT
Tramway was built by the coal trust 'Volchanskugol'.
31.12.1951 - From the northern settlement of Lesnaya Volchanka to Poselok Kirpichnogo Zavoda, via Shkolnaya Ul, Bazarnaya Ul., and through the forest, single track, one passing point at Lesozavod, about 5,5 km total length.
10.1952 - From Poselok Kirpichnogo Zavoda to the southern settlement of Volchanka, through the forest, via planned 8 Marta Ul., via Karpinskogo Ul., Sovetskaya Ul., and a loop around the Depot, single track, with two passing points at Poselok Kirpichnogo Zavoda and Uralskogo Komsomola Ul., about 3,3 km.
06.1953 - From Volchanka Terminal to Parkovaya Ul. in the town of Karpinsk, via the Volchansk - Karpinsk intercity road, and Stakhanovtsev Ul. in Karpinsk, single track, one passing point at Lipovaya Gora, about 16 km.
12.1959 - From Volchansk - Karpinsk road to Razrez 5, via the Razrez 5 access road, single track, 3 km.
22.04.1965 - The interurban line to Karpinsk closes between the Razrez 5 access road and Parkovaya Ul. in Karpinsk.
10.1994 - The Razrez 5 line closes between the Volchanka Terminal and Razrez 5.
Mid-1990s - The Lesozavod passing point closes.
Early 2006 - The Poselok Kirpichnogo Zavoda passing point closes.
31.12.1951 - Coal trust 'Volchanskugol', the central electric-mechanical shop.
1954 - Coal trust 'Volchanskugol', the freight loading-transportation division.
Mid-1960s - Coal trust 'Vakhrushevugol'.
10.1994 - Karpinsk Municipality, the housing and communal services division.
1996 - Volchansk Municipality.
The tranquility of sleepy streets is interrupted ones an hour with the sound of the tram that seems to be oddly out of place here - an urban fixture in truly peripheral setting.
The entire network consists of one adorable single track line connecting the southern and the northern settlements via the virgin taiga forest. This makes the system a true railfan germ.
This is the smallest town in possession of trams in the former USSR. According to a popular local legend, Volchansk is noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest town with trams. Sadly, this was not confirmed, but it makes a nice fable.
In the southern settlement of Volchanka trams run down the center of main avenues, among grandly built Stalin-era buildings. In Lesnaya Volchanka, however, trams are expelled to the outskirts, the line abruptly ends at the edge of the urban part of the settlement. Getting to most neighborhoods of Lesnaya Volchanka by tram involves some walking.
Trams are popular and face only limited competition, mostly from buses serving the intercity route Volchansk - Karpinsk, that starts from Lesnaya Volchanka and follows most of the tram line through Volchanka. Buses operate on the hourly headway, similarly to trams, but the scheduling is not competitive, bur rather complementary: bus trips are timed between tram trips, thus there is either a bus or a tram scheduled every half hour. There is only negligent other bus or midi-bus traffic between two parts of the city, as trams and intercity buses scoop up most of the market.
One numberless route is operated between the southern Volchanka and the northern Lesnaya Volchanka Terminals.
Two additional services operated prior to 22.04.1965, to Razrez 4 south of Volchanka, and via the interurban route to the neighboring town of Karpinsk.
Trams operate between 6:00 and 24:00. There are two trams in service from 6:00 to 13:00, the headway is 30 min. Only one tram remains after 13:00, the headway is 1 hour.
There is only one tram in service at any given time, the headway is 1 hour.
The only tram in service leaves the Volchanka Terminal hourly from 7:05 to 23:05.
The same tram leaves the Lesnaya Volchanka Terminal hourly from 7:35 to 23:35.
Buses operate until 22:00, while trams continue until midnight. The last two tram runs after 22:00 are considered the most popular.
Running time in the northbound direction is 28-29 minutes. Running time in the southbound direction is 23-24 min. The discrepancy is due to slight but continuous uphill sloping northbound. This allows for layovers at the southern Volchanka Terminal only.
All stops are made on by-request bases only. Out of twelve stops along the line, only seven attract enough riders to be considered full time stops. Three stops in the forest are practically unused. Most runs between the southern and the northern settlements are made in unintentional express mode. Discretionary stops in non-designated areas on individual demand are common.
The service is reliable and predictable. The line, however, does get snowed out for short periods in winter months. The enterprise prides itself for not ever having to miss service for more than a week in a row.
1950s: KTM+KTP-1; MTV-82
1960s: KTM+KTP-1; MTV-82
1970s: KTM+KTP-1; MTV-82; KTM-5
1980s: KTM-5; KTM-5M3
1995: KTM-5M3 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9
2001: KTM-5M3 5, 7, 8, 9; KTM-8M 'Rossel' (numberless)
2002: KTM-5M3 5, 7, 8, 53 (ex-Nizhniy Tagil, UVZ); KTM-8M 'Rossel' (numberless)
2003: KTM-5M3 5, 7, 60 (ex-Nizhniy Tagil, UVZ); KTM-8M 'Rossel' (numberless)
2004: KTM-5M3 7, 8 (locally assembled), 60 (ex-Nizhniy Tagil, UVZ); KTM-8M 1 'Rossel'
2005: KTM-5M3 7, 8 (locally assembled), 60 (ex-Nizhniy Tagil, UVZ); KTM-8M 1 'Rossel'; Spektr 71-402 (numberless)
2006: KTM-5M3 7, 8 (locally assembled); KTM-8M 1 'Rossel'; Spektr 71-402 (numberless)
02.2007: KTM-5M3 7, 8 (locally assembled); KTM-8M 1 'Rossel'; Spektr 71-402 (numberless)
01.2008: KTM-5M3 7, 8 (locally assembled); KTM-8M 1 'Rossel'; KTM-19 3; Spektr 71-402 10
The short-lived car 53 was given to Volchansk second hand in a very used up condition by the Nizhniy Tagil UVZ tram enterprise (the UVZ factory runs the subsidiary facility in Volchansk).
Car 60 was given to Volchansk second hand by the Nizhniy Tagil UVZ tram enterprise around 2003. It burned down at the depot in 2006.
The original car 8 burned down at the depot around 2003. The new car 8 was locally assembled in 2004 out of car 5, the burned down old car 8, and the ex-Nizhniy Tagil car 53. It is also thought to have adsorbed some remains of car 9, and the burned down ex-Nizhniy Tagil car 60.
The semi-permanently parked KTM-8M car was presented to the city for tramway's 50th anniversary in 2001, and was nicknamed 'Rossel' after the region's governor. Even though it was delivered new, it suffered a fatal rupture of horizontal base beam in the bogie in 2004. Sometime in 2004 a number 1 was applied above the windshield, in the route display area. According to a long-standing tradition maintained in small towns in the northern Urals (Krasnoturyinsk, Karpinsk and Volchansk) that were blessed with tram networks simple enough not to require route numbering, the route display on cars is usually used for fleet numbers. The name 'Rossel', however, proved to be stickier than the fleet number.
After a downfall of the 1990s, by 2007 all cars were found meticulously maintained, with all windows and seats in place.
The entire network is single track only. There were three passing points, at Lesozavod, Poselok Kirpichnogo Zavoda and Uralskogo Komsomola Ul., but all of these closed since no passing points are required anymore as only one tram is operated at any given time.
The length of the line is 8,8 km.
About 1,3 km of the line through the southern settlement of Volchanka is built as a mixed right-of-way, down the middle of Sovetskaya Ul. and Karpinskogo Ul. Tramway tracks, however, are never used by motor vehicles partly due to uneven pavement between rails, but mostly due to virtual absence of any such vehicles. The remaining trackage is on a reserved right-of-way, out of which there is 2,5 km of trackage laid through the virgin taiga forest, and the rest is on a side-of-the-road right-of-way. In Lesnaya Volchanka about 0,3 km of trackage is adjacent to railroad tracks, and another 0,3 km is built through ragged terrain adjacent to the city park. Also in Lesnaya Volchanka, there are two tram railroad crossings, one with unused railroad branch, and one with very rarely used branch.
As the line cuts through the untouched forest, it follows three curves that seem to be rather irrational. The tracks were laid according to the initial 1949 tramway development plan, which anticipated the expansion of the southern settlement that never took place. Thus, the tracks are following the streets that were never built.
Despite many popular complaints that tracks are in awful condition, considering Russian standards, they appear to be rather in average to below average condition, mostly allowing for speeds between 30 and 40 km/h. The seasickness is not an unknown feeling, however, while aboard the speeding tram. Derailments were a problem through the 1990s and early 2000s, but recently were limited to about one occurrence annually.
Ever since the only snowplough went handicapped, a regular tractor is used for snow removal via the entire line, despite concerns over damage done to tracks.
The Volchansk - Karpinsk Interurban Line was 16 km long. The entire line was single track with one passing point at Lipovaya Gora. The line followed the Volchansk - Karpinsk interurban road. The line was disassembled in 1965 as the enormous dragline coalmining excavator was moved from the Karpinsk open-mining pit to the Volchansk open pit via the motor road. The tramline was never reassembled as by the 1960s buses were readily available to take over the Karpinsk - Volchansk intercity route.
The Volchansk tramway is often referred to as dying. Upon recent 2006 service cuts, however, it seems that certain supply and demand equilibrium was reached, especially considering the slowing economy of the city and diminishing populace. Trams are clearly a subject of local pride - a unique feature, the main attraction in the town of this size. The service is popular, and any service disruptions generate sturdy complaints from the citizenry. A lesson is also learned from cumbersome experiences of the neighboring town of Karpinsk, which abandoned its trams in 1994. This prompts local authorities to continue dutifully allocate scarcely available resources to keep trams alive. Moreover, upon new KTM-8M, Spektr 71-402 and KTM-19 trams being delivered, practically the entire fleet was renewed. The number of cars on the property is actually 4-5 times more than the number of cars needed for service. And finally, the cheapness and simplicity of operation contribute to service sustainability, and makeshift maintenance techniques seem to have evolved into a reliable norm. Overall, all of the above factors combined, a prevailing feeling is that trams are here to stay.