I have made some new friends this morning. From compartments 6 & 7 tall figures emerge with mugs in their hands to worship at the urn of boiling water. As the morning develops I start chatting to the tallest, Ivanovitch. It turns out that the whole group are engine drivers from Siberia. I meet Igor, Alexi, Constantine, Andrew, Ivan. No-one speaks any English. I watch countless images of their blue engine on Constantine’s phone, friendship between UK & Russia is proclaimed, vodka is offered but refused, temporarily (it is only 1030 after all), although I do take a glass of beer and smiles all around and back smacking till in hurt. Later in the morning Ivanovitch appears at the door with a gift for me – a Russian flag from the front of his locomotive. Yes, the actual one from the photograph. A few minutes later Ivan appears with 2 fridge magnet images of Russian locomotives. So touching.
Our relationship blossoms. We talk about steam locomotives in very effective sign language. We stop for half an hour and I go exploring and I find, guess what, yes, an old steam locomotive. This really fired them up. We clambour all over it going ‘choo Choo’. They take my photo, I take their photo. On the way back to the train, they force another driver to allow me up into the cabin of a huge loco where I can take pictures of the controls to add to my collection. So exciting.
They promise me a surprise at the next stop where they present me with a mug of wild strawberries. At the one after that it’s a huge chocolate ice🍦-cream, with a soggy wafer, I have to tell you. I feel like a pampered pet. They just refuse to say no. So frIendly.