Baloži peat bog museum to open inside a Latvian train

Take note – story published 4 years and 11 months ago

In 2013, in an effort to save a narrow-gauge railway running through a peat bog in Baloži from being scrapped, an association was created. This association later established a very special museum located in a train moving through the bog. The museum is run freely by volunteers.

Their motive for establishing a museum was to preserve the heritage of the peat bog railway. All profits from go to funds for repairing tracks, locomotives, and wagons.

“This is a narrow-gauge locomotive built using parts salvaged from trucks. It has an engine from a MAZ car as well as its gearbox, so we are switching gears like one does in a car. We are driving and pulling five wagons,” explained Dāvis Bušs, the head of the “Train Friends' Club” association, in an interview with LTV June 6.

In the course of an excursion, visitors discover for themselves the processes of peat extraction and recycling as well as how both peat and peat workers were transported. The enthusiasts have managed to rebuild from scratch the wagon which was used for carrying passengers.

“Usually, already pre-owned wagons were used on peat railroads. The wagon is too shaky for workers. In the 40's and 50's workers were transported on a platform without chairs or anything else,” explained Bušs.

Sun or rain, the workers had to ride the platform. There were, however, several bogs were workers were being transported in wagons, with seats and a roof above their heads.

The former terminus of the Baloži peat field railroad is now the location of apartment houses in Ziepniekkalns. One of the most important objects in the museum happens to be the wagon, which is perhaps the only of its kind in the world to remain in its original state.

“Yes, this is our proudest possession. This is a canteen wagon, in its original state, manufactured for peat railways, with an outside kitchen for preparing meals for those working in the bog,” said Bušs.

Overall, the Baloži railway spanned 28 kilometers. It was not a single line but many branching through the bog. It took some workers to travel for half an hour by train to their work station. Therefore, to minimize time spent going about on the train, food was cooked on the spot.

The museum is still under construction, and it is currently possible to take a ride only along a one kilometer and 100 meter long railway line. Volunteers are planning to restore the line up to two and a half kilometers in length. The museum only works on the last Saturday of each month in the summer season.

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