Incredible Vintage Photographs Offer a Rare Glimpse Inside the Romanovs’ Imperial Train

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The Domestic Imperial Train of Nicholas II (there was also an Imperial train exclusively for international travel) was built between 1894-96 in the main Car Workshops of the Nikolaevsky Railway Company. The train was adapted and expanded throughout his reign as the family grew and needs increased.

By 1902, the train consisted of ten carriages: a sleeping-car for the Emperor and Empress, a saloon car, a kitchen, a dining car, carriages intended for the grand dukes and other family, the children’s car, cars for the Emperor’s retinue, as well as cars for railway servicemen, servants, luggage and workshops. The final and eleventh car, a fully dedicated chapel, was consecrated in 1899.

“On the train. Got up at 9 o’cl. in the morning. Had tea in the dining room. Had breakfast alone with Mama and Aleksei. Had breakfast, dinner and tea all together… After tea sat at Mama’s for a little while, then at Isa’s and Nastenka’s, and worked. After dinner Papa received the nobility at the station while we watched from the train window…” – From the diary of Tatiana Romanov

In fact, trains intended as palaces on wheels. They, along with the luxury and amenities for travelers provided a smooth ride and a proper level of security. Meanwhile, to determine the number of people accompanying the Emperor in his trips abroad, security compiled a list of passengers. As a result, the composition of the royal train included 11-12 cars, weighing about 400 tons.

As for Nicholas II, until 1905 he used trains, built on the orders of his father – Alexander III. But as Nicholas II often traveled around the country, then gradually each rail formed his royal train. By 1903, the park of the imperial train had five compositions.

  • First, for Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna with cars on four-carts. The composition included 10 cars.
  • Second, “His Imperial Majesty” for long-distance travel in Russia, commissioned in 1897, at the four-carts.
  • Third, the Imperial train “for foreign track”, which appeared in 1894, consisted of 11 cars on the four-carts.
  • Fourth, the “Imperial shuttle train” with the three-axle wagons to travel in the vicinity of St. Petersburg, which included 13 cars.
  • Fifth, the Imperial train of Kursk railway for “foreign and local nobility” of the 16 three-axle wagons.

Most often Nicholas II used the Imperial train during the First World War. The Imperial train was small. The bedroom and the office of the Emperor were side by side, on the one hand – the suite, on the other – the car-dining room. Then came the kitchen with pantry, the car with the military camp office and the last car, which housed railroad engineer and head of the road on which the train followed.

Coming to the front headquarters, the Emperor stayed in his train. When in the summer of 1915, Nicholas II was assumed the duties of the Supreme Commander, and most of the time he began to spend in Mogilev, then there he was often visited by the Empress and daughters.

“It was so cozy to sleep on the train for 2 nights, and especially this one, right here at the station, and not at home I was able to fall asleep before the stop. From Chudov to Novgorod, where we are changing the route to a new one. And the train is moving very quietly the whole time.” – From the diary of Olga Romanov

In fact, in the years 1915-1917 the imperial train was one of the permanent residence of the last Russian emperor. The train and the car was part of area in which the March 2, 1917 Nicholas II signed his abdication.

The fate of all the royal luxury cars was sad. Most of them were lost in the fire of the Civil War. The surviving cars were destroyed in 1941, and today in Russia there is no any of the original imperial train.

Interior view of one of the carriages.

The walls and furnishings were upholstered, mainly in English cretonne with plant ornaments.

Part of the dining room on the train.

Ladies suite.

Ladies suite.

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