The Narrow-Gauge in Polissia: the Amber Way

An unusual track which is 750 mm wide (a standard railroad track is 1520 mm wide) starts from the station town Antonivka (Polissia) and extends to 106 km to the station Zarichne. It is the longest narrow-gauge railway in Europe. On its way — the pristine beauty of pine forests, blue lakes and little-known attractions for tourists.

The narrow-gauge Antonivka-Zarichne (the local residents call it “puff puff” (poizdok), “narrow” (vuzka), “dolly” (kukushka) has been working for more than 115 years. At first this railway was used for the transportation of wood, and later — for peat.

During the World War the narrow-gauge railway became an important strategic military object: there were severe battles for it, because it was almost the only fast-moving vehicle for transportation of soldiers and equipment through the impassable marshy terrain.

During the World War II the railway was destroyed. Decades away, in 1970s-1980s, the narrow-gauge has gained its modern look. The steam locomotives were replaced by diesel units, the old passenger cars were renovated. As a result a new depot was built and a road linking the two districts of Polissia — Volodymyrets and Zarichne — was laid.

Because of the economic crisis in 1990s the freight traffic was stopped. Almost all diesel locomotives were cut into scrap. The question about the closure of the railway arose. However, taking into account the fact that the Polissia railway was the most important mean of communication with the district centers, it continued to function and still transports passengers up to now daily.

The passenger train, consisting of a diesel locomotive TU-2 and several cars, crosses the unique in Ukraine and the longest in Europe wooden railway bridge across the Styr river.

Antonivka was initially founded as a station. It has never been just a simple village. At first small houses, which were put in commission in 1903, had been built near the station. So, before the creation of the railway, the infrastructure was shaped there.

The Melnyks: the dynasty of the railwaymen

Liudmyla Melnyk and Oleksandr Melnyk are public activists and the members of the Association for the Preservation of the Ukrainian Railway History. The Melnyks maintain the narrow-gauge Antonivka-Zarichne, because they strive to preserve its history and to assure its functioning nowadays. As many years ago, this narrow-gauge railway is a strategically important object, because some of the settlements along the railroad line still have only this transport connection.

The estate of the family is located near the depot and old narrow railways, which were created in 1895. It is not surprising, because the Melnyks’ family history is tighly connected with the narrow-gauge railway.


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