L-3858 brings regular service local train #6697 into the outskirts of the small town of Ostashkov on a rare, sunny, January afternoon.
To stimulate tourism in this economically depressed part of the country, in fall of 2018 Russian Railways made the decision to operate the regular local passenger train (6697/6698) from Bologoye to Ostashkov with steam power on Saturdays. While the idea behind it is to increase tourism, make no mistake - this a regular passenger train whose primary job is to serve as a local form of transportation. The vast majority of passengers aren't tourists, but little old babushkas just trying to get from village to village with their jars of mushrooms and pickled tomatoes. This is as authentic of an experience as you can get with a steam-hauled passenger train in the 21st century. The train takes three hours to traverse its 70-mile route and travels at speeds of 30-40 mph, making 13 stops in various villages along the way. Unfortunately for railfans, chasing it is extremely difficult, as it weaves through a severely underdeveloped part of the countryside. The muddy dirt roads between villages make for a somewhat frustrating experience in that regard. However; it all adds to the authenticity of the beauty that is provincial Russia.