Ride the Library Train

Commuters on the ring line of the Moscow metro have recently been confronted with a very different train coming down the tracks. Called the "Reading Moscow" train, it is part of a campaign to encourage more Muscovites to read. A survey last year from the Federal Press and Mass Media Agency showed that Russians, who were once known for their vociferous reading habits, are putting down books and turning on the television in ever-greater numbers. Sixty-three percent of Russians admitted to reading at least one book in 2006, compared with 79 percent in 1991. The library train, which is a joint project of the Moscow metro and a children's literature publishing house is also hoping to help combat an even more grim statistic -- today only 7 percent of Russian parents read to their children on a regular basis, whereas more than 80 percent did so in the 1970s.

The train features pictures of books on the outside, while inside the cabin quotations from famous writers are written alongside excerpts from well-known books and poems, each accompanied by an illustration. The quotes in the cars are arranged thematically. The first car features classic Russian fairy tales, folk literature and epic poems. The second car offers quotes from the titans of Russian literature, including Pushkin, Tolstoy and Lermontov. The third car is devoted to works featuring animals. The fourth car focuses on stories for babies and preschoolers, while the fifth car emphasizes works that appeal to teenagers. The last car of the train is given over to works by popular foreign writers, such as Mark Twain and Jules Verne.

The Reading Moscow train, which was inaugurated at Vorobyovy Gory metro station on May 31 and began operating on June 3, is the latest in a series of special metro trains, which include the retro Red Arrow train on the red Sokolnicheskaya line and the flower-covered Aquarel train on the dark blue Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line.