We needed some beers and a bottle of wine but we didn’t pass any shops so as it was still early Mike S and I walked around the city ring road in search of a mini market. The route we chose took us towards the railway station and this wasn’t any real surprise because is a railway man by profession and enthusiasm and after about a kilometre or so we were outside the ticket office and an impressive Soviet Steam Engine, the L2317, a 2-10-0 locomotive built in 1953 in Russia at a factory in the Moscow railway suburb city of Kolomna.
The Russian L-series locomotives were one of the more advanced steam locomotives built in the former Soviet Union. They used stocker to feed coal and had a relatively low axle load of eighteen tonnes to be compatible with the clapped-out railroads of post war Eastern Europe. It was a mighty black iron beast with red wheels of almost ninety tonnes that really deserved a name rather than just a number, which during its working life pulled mostly freight trains between Russia and Estonia and after it was decommissioned was rather ignominiously used as a static boiler to heat nearby houses. It has been externally restored now and sits tall and proud outside the railway station, which was where we went next.
We were now in the working part of the city and a long way from the Christmas market and the students dressed in medieval costumes and the overpriced restaurants. The station felt tired and past its best and next to it was a tram station that conjured up images of the old days of the Soviet Empire and what was surprising was that the passengers on board looked grey and tired and firmly locked permanently into a 1960s Tallinn time warp. The trams whirred and screeched and sounded bells to warn of their approach as they drew up and pulled off, setting down and picking up and clattering away again between the rows of old wooden houses and out towards the proletarian flats of the city suburbs.