In western Estonia an extensive narrow gauge network existed. This system had one of the largest TU2-fleets in the Soviet Union. However, the TU2s running on the network in western Estonia worked from different depots along the network. The main depot was situated in Tallinn-Vaïke. All locos working on the network are listed as being allocated at Tallinn, even if in praxis they worked from other depots for a shorter or longer period of time. The only narrow gauge line, which was not connected to this network, was the Sonda - Mustvee line in eastern Estonia.

Railway map of Estonia taken from the 1935/1936 timetable (369kB).


The Estonian narrow gauge network based at Tallinn was built by the First Russian Supply Railway Company. This company referred to its lines in Estonia as the lines of the Pärnu/Tallinn division. Basically the original network consisted of two lines:

In total these lines had a respectable length of 331 km.

Tallinn-Vaïke was the terminus of the narrow gauge line traversing Estonia in northerly direction. Later the line was extended towards the city centre. The photo of TU2-094 was taken in 1969. On the left hand side the station building, which is still present.
Photo: I. Adamson.

After the First World War the Estonian State Railways (EVR) took over the narrow gauge lines. In the following years it opened five new narrow gauge lines, increasing the length of the network up to 660 km.

The narrow gauge railways were very important for the development of this part of the country. Especially on the relations between the towns of Tallinn, Pärnu and Türi, the narrow gauge railways acted as a main line. Long trains with sleeping and buffet cars ran here. For the express trains the EVR used powerful steam engines. For local trains smaller tender or tank engines were used.

In the late 1950s TU2s replaced all steam engines. The first TU2 of Tallinn-Vaïke MPD was TU2-075; it arrived on 10 March 1957. Until 1959 a total of 43 TU2s have been allocated to the Tallinn system. Most have been supplied to Tallinn directly from the factory. But 8 older locos from the 1956-production series were obtained second hand, mainly from the Virgin Lands railways.

Origin of the original Estonian TU2-fleet
number year obtained from
TU2-003 1958 testing programm / Panevezys?
TU2-005 1958 Virgin Lands
TU2-007 1959 Virgin Lands ?
TU2-009 1959 Virgin Lands / Shilda ?
TU2-010 1958 Virgin Lands
TU2-011 1958 Virgin Lands
TU2-013 1958 Virgin Lands
TU2-019 1959 Virgin Lands ?
TU2-064 1957 factory ?
TU2-075 1957 factory
TU2-076 1957 factory
TU2-090 ? ?
1957 factory
1957 factory
TU2-217 1958 factory
TU2-238 1959 factory
TU2-239 1959 factory
TU2-243 1959 factory
TU2-244 1959 factory
TU2-245 1959 factory
TU2-251 1959 factory
TU2-262 1957 factory
TU2-273 1959 factory

Why so many locos? In 1960, normally there were only one or two daily train pairs on each line. Only between Tallinn and the nearby little towns of Rapla and Lelle a more intensive commuter traffic existed. The most important long-distance service was Tallinn - Pärnu (2 direct trains and one additional train via Moisakula). Despite the low-frequented passenger services, daily at least 13 operational locomotives were needed. This was due to the fact that the network was very extended and heaviliy branched. Normally in the Soviet Union roughly the same number of locos would be required as reserve; amounting to 26 TU2's. This figure does not include locos for freight services. So a fleet of around 40 TU2s was not overdone. Noticeably an ever changing fleet of approximately 3 of Tallinn's TU2s worked on the Sonda - Mustvee line.

The TU2's were allocated to the depots of Tallinn-Vaïke, Pärnu and Turi. Because most trains ran to or from Tallinn, most locos were allocated to Tallinn-Vaïke MPD. This depot had a large circular roundhouse around a turntable.

TU2-098 on the turntable in front of the Tallinn-Vaïke roundhouse.

TU2-141 under the sand-filling installation of Tallinn-Vaïke MPD in 1971.
Photo: I. Adamson.

The following years some minor changes occured to the TU2-fleet: In 1960 TU2-099 was handed over to the Vologograd pioneer railway. In 1964 TU2-019 has been exchanged for TU2-133 from Panevezys MPD in Lithuania. TU2-093 went to the Riga pioneer railway in 1966 in exchange for TU2-077. TU2-064 went to Panevezys in 1964.

Soon the class TU2 had replaced the steam locomotives, both for the passenger as for most freight services. The passenger trains were normally composed of a luggage van (normally reconstructed refrigerator wagons were used) and a number of Pafawag coaches. On the main lines seperate passenger and freight trains were running. On the branch lines mixed trains could be observed.

Heavy freight trains were sometimes double-headed. Here TU2-TU2-098 and another unidentified TU2 is seen near Türi in 1969.
Photo: I. Adamson.

In 1971 TU2-011 headed a long oil train from Tamsalu to Türi.
Photo: I. Adamson.

Another freigh train with tank wagons in Türi station, this time headed by TU2-262.
Photo: I. Adamson.

In the early 1960s it was decided to convert the busiest 750-mm gauge lines to broad gauge and close the rest. The first victim was the Liiva - Vääna line, which lost its passenger service in 1962 already. However freight traffic to a grain silo in Hiiu continued until the rest of the narow gauge network aroudn Tallinn closed in 1971.

But the main closure programme began in 1968. In that year the branch line from Rapla to Virtsu closed. The next year the Vilvure - Vääna-Vandra branch line closed. Also, starting from Tallinn, a broad gauge line was built to Lelle. But the narrow gauge line Tallinn - Lelle has remained open, even after the broad gauge line to Lelle had been taken into service in 1969. This was probably done to prevent passengers travelling from Tallinn to Pärnu and Türi having to change trains in Lelle.

The large part of the narrow gauge network remained open until 1971. In that year Tallinn - Lelle, Lelle - Pärnu and Lelle - Türi closed. This was the end of Tallinn-Vaïke MPD as a depot for TU2s.

The short narrow gauge line Pärnu - Riiselja closed in January 1971. This was also the end of Pärnu as a depot for narrow gauge diesel locos.

Türi has been the last TU2-depot since. But as the Türi - Viljandi line closed on 5 March 1972, Türi MPD was cut off from the remaining narrow gauge lines in Southern-Estonia. Türi MPD only remained responsible for the TU2s running on the isolated Türi - Tamsalu line in Central-Estonia. But not for long; in March 1972 this line was converted to broad gauge. In the last days TU2-075 and TU2-095 worked on this line.

TU2-095 was one of the last active TU2s from Türi MPD. It is seen here in 1972.
Photo: I. Adamson.

Following the massive line closures, many TU2s were transferred away to other countries. In 1969-1971 twelve TU2s were handed over to Panevezys MPD in Lithuania. Also Vapnjarka MPD in the Ukraine received 9 Estonian TU2s. Five TU2s went to Valmiera MPD, from where the remaining Estonian narrow gauge line have been worked since 1972 (see the chapter on the Valmiera system in Latvia). The rest of the TU2-fleet was transferred to different MPS and pioneer railways:

new depot numbers
Panevezys TU2-003, 013, 064, 076, 090, 138, 139, 140, 142, 217, 243, 245
Vapnjarka TU2-007, 009, 011, 095, 100, 133, 135, 137, 262
Valmiera TU2-019, 094, 238, 239, 251
Beregovo TU2-097, 098
Alsunga TU2-075, 136, 101
Riga (pioneer) TU2-244, 273
Ekatarinaburg (pioneer) TU2-141
Dnepropetrovsk (pioneer) TU2-134
Vääna-Jöesuu (pioneer camp) TU2-005 (cut in 1998)
Taga-Baikal railway region (Margutsek?) TU2-096
Zaporozhe (pioneer) TU2-077, 144
Tjumen (pioneer) TU2-143

TU2-238 was reallocated to Valmiera MPD in Latvia, but continued to work on the lines in Southern-Estonia. It is seen here at Oisu station (south of Viljandi) in 1973.
Photo: Mehis Helme.


The Sonda - Mustvee line in the north-east of Estonia is the only narrow gauge line without a connection to the extensive narrow gauge network based at Tallinn. Its history dates back to the First World War, when a 19-km long narrow gauge line was build from the Sonda broad gauge railway station to the village of Jõepere. Apparently it has been used for civil purposes after the war.

In 1922 it was decided to upgrade this line and extend it further south to Mustvee. This is a small town on the western shore of Lake Peipsi. The new Sonda - Mustvee line was 63 km long and had a gauge of 750 mm. It opened on 1 August 1926. Short freight-only lines branched of at the stations of Avinurme (1 km), Lippoja (4 km) and Adomae (3 km). The latter two led to timber loading points. The depot was situated in Sonda, on the Tallinn - St.Petersburg main line.

After the Second Word War new class Kv4 have replaced the older types of steam engines. And in the late 1950s also new Pafawag class 3Aw passenger coaches came to Sonda. But contrary to the Tallinn network, Sonda - Mustvee remained steam operated.

Only in the mid-1960s TU2's appeared in Sonda. The TU2s officially remained allocated to Tallinn-Vaïke MPD. From time to time one of the TU2s was exchanged for another one from Tallinn-Vaïke MPD. The exchanging of the TU2s took place via the broad gauge Sonda - Tallinn line, with the TU2 loaded on a broad gauge wagon. Over the years a total of 9 TU2s worked on the Sonda - Mustvee line: TU2-003, 007, 010, 011, 077, 141, 143, 243 and 244. From these locos TU2-007 and TU2-077 have remained in Sonda for a longer period of time. For the daily mixed train pair only one TU2 plus some reserves were needed, so a fleet of 3-4 TU2s would have been sufficient.

In the 1960s the mixed train pair was normally composed of two passenger coaches, a luggage van and half a dozen freight wagons. These were mainly closed freight wagons. In addition to the daily mixed train, separate timber trains have been running.

A view of Sonda MPF in the 1960s, with an unidentified TU2 and a steam loco.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

TU2-007 shunting at Sonda MPD in the 1960s.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

TU2-011 with a timber train near Sirtsi in the 1960s.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

The terminus of the Sonda line: Mustvee station. TU2-003 has just arrived with a mixed train. On the left wagons loaded with timber.
Photo: Mehis Helme.

After it had been decided that the Estonian narrow gauge lines had to be closed or converted to broad gauge, the isolated Sonda system was soon subject to closure. In 1968 the southern part of the line, between Avinurme and Mustvee, closed in favour of road transport. On 1 May 1972 the curtain also fell for the remaining 47-km long Sonda - Avinurme line. The last scheduled mixed train was hauled by TU2-143. Following the line closures the last TU2s working in Sonda have been transferred back to the Tallinn network, or what was left of it.

Järvakindi glassworks

The brand-new TU2-264 from the 1959 production series was supplied to this industrial railway. The line was approximately 15 km long and connected the Järvakandi glassworks to the Eidapere railway station (on the Lelle - Pärnu line). Soon after Lelle - Pärnu was converted to broad gauge, the narrow gauge industrial branch line has been closed. In 1974 the TU2 was transfered to the MPS-network of Atbasar in Northern-Kazakhstan.

TU2-264 shunting at Eidapere station.
Photo: Mehis Helme.