CHILDREN in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv once again have the chance to operate their own railway, with the completion of a three-year project to restore the country's last remaining Pioneer railway.

On September 22 Transport Minister Petar Mutafchiev and city Mayor Ivan Chomakov formally reopened the 600 mm gauge line, which was built in 1979 but had been out of use needing substantial repairs since 1998. Children sell tickets and operate points and signals on the 1 km route, which takes passengers on a 20 min ride around 'Youngsters' Hill', passing over a bridge and flyover and through a 50 m tunnel.

The restoration was completed on the initiative of the Railway Transport Friends Association, funded by a 350 000 leva grant from Plovdiv city council.

Children's railways were constructed in cities across the communist bloc, to provide members of Young Pioneer organisations with the opportunity to learn about rail operations. The first opened in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1935, and surviving examples can be found in cities such as Budapest, Minsk and Berlin.

  • CAPTION: Local railway workshops provided assistance with rebuilding the Plovdiv line and refurbishing the battery loco and three coaches, decorated with fairytale characters
  • CAPTION: The newest Children's Railway is a 4·2 km long 750 mm gauge line in the Russian city of Kazan, opened on August 30