Hell Train From Riga

Kris and I climbed into the old Soviet built 3rd class rail carriage at Riga rail station. We were bound for St Petersburg, Russia at 18:00 Thursday 1st October, 2009.

We settled into our 3rd class cabin (see pictures).Carriage It was all new to me as I had not traveled by train since my time in the Royal Australian Navy. However, Kris is an old hand at rail travel especially in this type of carriage having crossed Siberia in one. The cabins are actually incredibly well designed and comfortably sleep 4 people. The bottom seats, which by the addition of a mattress become a bed, lift up to reveal a storage locker for the cabins inhabitants.

There is a communal table for playing cards, mixing vodka and filling out border crossing paperwork.

Each carriage or wagon as they are known in this part of the world sleeps 56 people. At each end is a toilet and sink. One end has the staff accommodation and a hot water system which passengers can make tea or soup from whenever they feel the need. The opposite end can be used by smokers.

Kris gave me a quick tour and then we settled down to complete the border crossing paperwork. I was too excited so he did it for both of us (see picture)

Kris doing the paperwork

I was noticing that the cabin next to us had some girls in it which is always of interest to me. I needed to think of a plan to get them to invite us into their space.

So to help me with that I figured it was time for some vodka. I poured a couple of stiff ones into our juice bottles. Meanwhile Kris and I discussed all sorts of world problem solving situations . We got up to go to the smokers lounge which caught the girls eye so I said “please make sure you look after our stuff” one of them replied “We will if you give us a chocolate” Now quite by a rare chance I had bought a snickers at the station so I dived into my bag of goodies and dragged it out. I handed it over to her and loved the shocked look on her face. Kris and I then walked off to the smokers lounge.

The smokers lounge is not a nice place. It’s really a small compartment at the end of the wagon, it’s cold and stinks of smoke so I left.

Rather than waste the chocolate I walked back to the girls compartment and was invited to join them. Note to self: Carry chocolate at all times. They were both Russian girls and both spoke English one much better than the other. So it turned out to be a great opportunity for Kris to practice his Russian and to get some pointers.

russian girl with chocolate

After a couple of hours chatting we were out of Vodka so Kris went up to the restaurant wagon and bought some beers. I wasn’t really in the mood for beer so I wandered up and bought some more vodka. That was probably a mistake but not a much as going up again later and getting even more.

Lights out saw us kicked out of the girls compartment, damn waste of a good chocolate!

We were too wound up and vodka fueled to go to bed like a sensible person so we headed to the restaurant wagon in order not to disturb anyone with our bullshit.

So this is where things go crazy.

We’re sitting in the restaurant wagon minding our business crapping onto each other when out of nowhere one of the biggest scariest guys I’ve ever seen grabs Kris from behind and starts laying into him. This guy is huge, totally bald and ranting in Russian. Now this is a scary situation, here is a giant brute trying his darnedest to kill your kid. So I’m thinking, “Damn I have to do something or he’s gonna kill Kris” Now I’m not that big, 173 cm so what am I gonna do?

So I race over and jump on his back with all my weight behind my leap. My arms are around his neck doing my best to strangle and break his neck which happens to be about as thick as a reasonable size tree. This incredibly smart and brave action appears to have absolutely no effect on this man bear. So that only leaves me with one option. I’m have teeth and I’m not afraid to use them. I sunk them into this bastards bald head and bit as hard as I could.

The bear lets out a deep throated scream of agony, let’s go of Kris, ( whom I’m sure is rather relieved) and shakes me off as easily as a dog shaking water off it’s coat. He then races out of the wagon much to our relief.

We start hugging and rejoicing at having beaten the giant and survived relatively unscathed except for a couple of cuts and bruises.

So we begin to relax and figure we will call it a night when suddenly we see the giant and another guy wielding steel crowbars heading our way rapidly. Action stations!

We both dive at the door as they begin opening it. We both press up against it with all our might knowing full well that if these thugs get in they are going to kill us both.

They are screaming at us and we’re screaming back at them just as loudly. For some unknown reason I keep telling them that Kris is my son and to leave us alone. Kris is now pretty much holding the door by himself and I’m pleading with the giant to leave us alone and blow me down, they turned and walked away.

We still have no idea what provoked the attack or maybe even more importantly what got them to eventually leave us alone.

This was much more adventure than I wanted and totally wore me out . The adrenaline rush mixed with alcohol was just too much so we both made our way back to our cabin and crashed out until we arrived in St Petersburg (safely) I’m pretty sure this is not a typical event on a train so do not blame me if your next train ride is nowhere near as exciting as ours

Shauna says October 10, 2009

Is this the weird story? Ok, I think you have a great potential travel business here – that’s exactly the kind of adventure you can dine out on for months after – and it so beats your friends telling you all about their boat/bicycle/cart ride around Vietnam admiring the scenery. Imagine how many people would like exactly that kind of exciting, unpredictable, dangerous and inexplicable thrill while taking a Don Reid Discovery Tour.
keep me updated, I plan to travel next year.

Iona says October 10, 2009

Now I understand the text I got about fighting to get out of the bar!!! Glad to hear that you both are ok and funny enough teeth always come in handy!!!

Don Reid says October 10, 2009

Thanks Shauna, totally miss your sense of humor!

Don Reid says October 10, 2009

I think we could say we were saved by the skin of my teeth 🙂

marva says October 11, 2009

I didn’t realize the crowbar wielding guys were after you by your text, omg what an experience. Maybe you should have kept the chocolate for the bald guy , No I won’t be traveling on that train thank you very much!!!!But I was happy to read your action packed adventure and that you are both safe and have a great story to tell.

Adam says October 18, 2009

Just be thankful these fellas were not bouncers at the bar looking for a $100 tab

Tushar says January 28, 2010

Wow, never thought Train journeys could be so exciting and scary 😀 , i am sure the Bald guy will never mess with anyone :p (if he wants his skin intact :P)

Brenda says July 2, 2010

WOW !!!!!!
I would have been totally afraid, from such a unprovoked attack,

penny says January 6, 2011

Wow that would of been scary, now I know why I don’t like train trips. It was quick thinking to dive on him and sink your teeth in. luckly they weren’t false teeth the bald guy may of ran away with them. At least you can laugh about it now.

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