Kicking the Iron Tyres

Kicking the Iron Tyres
Tayshetsky District, Russian Federation

Tayshetsky District, Russian Federation

I’ve been noticing now for some time when the train pulls into a station a small team of men walk up the length of the train with high visibility vests armed with small long-handled hammers. With a man on each side of the train and a team walking from each end, aiming to meet half-way, the men walk past each of the massive sets of train wheel units tapping in ordered sequence the wheel bearing case hubs, the enormous suspension spring coils and lastly the outer part of the wheel itself. I assume they are listening for abnormalities, their ears attuned to the sounds of good or bad working order. The wheel bearing casing gives a dull hollow ‘thud’, the suspension coil a high polyphonic ‘ting’ and the wheel a higher monophonic ‘bring’. As they progress down the line you can hear the three-toned sequence in various patterns of interval as the men walk their line and pace. Sometimes they pause and hit the components repeatedly, something having caught their ear. Satisfied that all is actually ok they continue on. Sometimes it happens that they all align and a beautiful percussive melody – Thud-Ting-Briiiing – drifts down the platform, invariably full of yawning and stretching passengers and a motley collection of hawkers selling everything from dried Siberian lake fish to indecently large and furry fox fur hats. Right now my train has stopped at a station and the melodic dinging of the acoustic wheel testing is drifting through the my window. It sounds good. And it sounds reassuring. It tells us that Russia’s trusted РЖД is looking after us.

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