Kaliningrad Oblast is the northern half of the former East Prussia or Ostpreussen. Until 1945 it had two main lines toward Berlin, and a network of regional lines, centred on its capital Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). Königsberg also had the beginnings of a suburban network, in the surrounding region of Samland. The East Prussian rail network was completely disrupted by the Second World War, and the new borders which followed. The east-west line from Kaliningrad to Vilnius and Minsk was developed in the Soviet period, but it is now cut twice by the EU external border.
Kaliningrad Oblast: map by Andrein, CC 3.0 License…
High-speed lines (HSL) through Kaliningrad Oblast were proposed here earlier. They would dramatically improve European and inter-regional connections:
- the HSL Berlin – Kaliningrad – Riga, which passes through Sovetsk
- the inter-regional line Kaliningrad – Ełk – Białystok
- an east-west HSL Kaliningrad – Kaunas – Vilnius
- a fast line (Ausbaustrecke) Poznań – Sovetsk, with interchange with the Kaunas HSL at Chernyakhovsk
- a HSL Kaunas – Šakiai – Sovetsk
Almost all towns in the Oblast are administrative centres, capital of a Rayon (district). Generally, the Soviet administration after 1946 retained the German Kreis boundaries, and the Kreisstadt became the rayon centre. Some were downgraded. Pravdinsk (formerly Friedland) replaced Zheleznodorozhny (formerly Gerdauen), Mamonovo (Heiligenbeil) was absorbed in the Bagrationovsk rayon, and Krasnoznamensk effectively replaced Dobrovolsk (Pilkallen). Neman (Ragnit) became a separate rayon centre: it is on the proposed Kaunas – Sovetsk line. Fast interregional services on the proposed new lines would also serve the rayon centres Bagrationovsk, Chernyakhovsk, and Sovetsk. The existing east-west line, which would be upgraded, serves Gvardeysk, Gusev and Nesterov.
Status of rail lines in Kaliningrad Oblast, 2002. Red = abandoned, green = not in use. CC-BY License, map by Volkov Vitaly…
Of the 18 administrative centres outside Kaliningrad, 6 are in Samland, relatively close to Kaliningrad, and 8 are on main lines. Ozyorsk, Pravdinsk, and Slavsk were on rural lines in East Prussia, and Krasnoznamensk (Lasdehnen), capital of the smallest rayon, was once terminus of a narrow-gauge rail line.
As a compliment to the construction of through high-speed routes, these rail routes need development:
- the local network in Samland, described separately
- the local line via Polessk
- former local line Pravdinsk – Zheleznodorozhny, and on into Masuria
- former local line Chernyakhovsk – Ozyorsk – Gołdap – Ełk.
The Königsberg – Tilsit secondary line was a 124-km rural line with a limited slow service, and 28 intermediate stations. The line now serves three rayon centres: Guryevsk (Neuhausen, population 11 000) on the outskirts of Kaliningrad, Polessk (Labiau, population 8000) and Slavsk (Heinrichswalde, population 5000). Both Polessk and Slavsk rayons have about 21 000 inhabitants, Guryevsk rayon 50 000. However, the line parallels the proposed HSL Kaliningrad – Sovetsk, and could never compete with it for through journeys. The 47-km section to Polessk could be integrated into a Kaliningrad urban-regional network (S-Bahn). Probably, only transit freight traffic would justify the remaining section via Slavsk. It could be shortened by 6 km, by re-routing it on the south side of Slavsk.
The rural line to Gerdauen (Zheleznodorozhny) diverged from the main line to Kaunas, at Löwenhagen, 20 km south-east of Kaliningrad. From there it ran south to Domnau, then 11 km east to Friedland, and then 26 km south-east to Gerdauen. The line is abandoned, and would need full reconstruction anyway, so a new shorter route could start closer to Kaliningrad. A 14-km cut-off from Lugovoye would shorten the route to Domnovo (Domnau), to about 39 km.
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Pravdinsk (Friedland, population 4500) and Zheleznodorozhny (Gerdauen, population 2800) are the only other settlements which merit a station. (The rayon population density is only 17 persons/km). Zheleznodorozhny could be served by fast inter-regional trains on the Poznań – Sovetsk line.
Local traffic would probably not justify this section alone, but the alignment be restored over another 70 km, as far Węgorzewo (formerly Angerburg, population 12 000) and Giżycko (formerly Lötzen, population 30 000). This would take the line into the Masurian lake district, a tourist destination, and connect it with the Polish network.
The line would then have an inter-regional function. Giżycko is on the proposed fast inter-regional line Kaliningrad – Ełk – Białystok. Until 1944, the route carried through trains Königsberg – Gerdauen – Angerburg. With the new cut-off at Lugovoye, the total route Kaliningrad – Giżycko would be about 150 km. On a fully reconstructed line, a journey time of 2 hours is certainly feasible.
Restoration of longer inter-regional routes would also justify re-opening of the regional line Chernyakhovsk – Ozyorsk – Gołdap – Ełk. Only the 27-km section from Olecko to Ełk is still in use (Polish line 41). The line was 119 km long, and operated as a single line, table 137e, with the fastest train taking 3 hours. A new double-track and electrified regional line on the old alignment, would include a new 5-km exit line eastwards, avoiding Chernyakhovsk airbase: that would shorten the route by about 2 km.
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The line would serve Ozyorsk (formerly Darkehmen, Angerapp, population 5000). The rayon has only 14 000 inhabitants, and no large villages, so that would be the only station on this line inside Kaliningrad Oblast. In Poland, Gołdap (population 13 000, county 27 000) and Olecko (formerly Treuburg, population 22 000, county 46 000) are larger, and the rural areas more densely populated.
At Ełk (formerly Lyck, population 60 000), the line would connect with the HSL Warsaw – Kaunas – Riga and with the inter-regional line Kaliningrad – Ełk – Białystok. On a more-or-less new line, with most village stations closed, a journey time of 90 minutes is feasible.
Finally, regional services on an upgraded line to Elblag would serve Mamonovo, population 8000. As Heiligenbeil it was a Kreisstadt in East Prussia, but with open borders it would be overshadowed by Braniewo in Poland, 13 km further south (population 17 000).