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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ding, Ding, Down Went Moscow's Trolleys

Moscow's winter is eating away at more than your nerves. The sandy, salty sludge that passes for a de-icing substance on the streets has eaten through the city's electric cobweb of trolleybus cables, and this week's freezing rain brought the whole network down.


Of Moscow's 80 trolley lines, slightly more than 10 were working Thursday, leaving passengers waiting for replacement buses and stranding drivers behind the wheel.


"I've been here for 34 hours," said driver Anatoly, who spent the night sleeping in the cramped driver's compartment of his trolley. "And no one has come by to give me anything to eat or drink."


Until a group of his stranded colleagues came by Thursday afternoon and set up an impromptu indoor picnic, that is. And there, on the embankment of the Moscow River, across the street from the Kremlin walls, a group of drivers huddled over a sausage and a loaf of bread, trying to keep themselves warm.


"We've got to stay here with the trolleybus to make sure no one steals anything," said Dima, 33, a trolleybus driver for more than 10 years. "So we sit here and freeze."


Which begs the question of exactly what there is to steal from the inside of a Moscow trolleybus.


"The seats," said Anatoly. "These thieves could make a kitchen seating arrangement that would make the importers jealous."


In similar fashion, but without the benefit of sausage or bread, pensioner Valentina Alekseyevna, who would not give her last name, stood and froze, waiting for one of 400 replacement buses to take her along Leningradsky Prospekt.


Mosgortrans, the city's transportation agency, rolled out every bus it had in reserve to substitute for the unplugged trolleybuses, but even that army of buses kept people waiting for up to 30 minutes or more for a ride.


"We've been waiting and waiting," she said. "At one point, I just decided to walk, but the wind nearly blew away my umbrella, so I decided to wait again. I'm freezing to death."


According to a spokesman at Moscow City Hall, the overhead lattice of electric cables took a double hit Wednesday and Thursday. Evaporating chemicals from the de-icing substances thrown on the street eats through the cable's insu Moscow's trolleybus network has come to such a screeching halt -- and they blamed it on the new chemicals. Up until about two years ago, city workers threw only sand and salt on the streets to keep them from freezing over.


"They started to experiment, and look what happened," said Valentina, a driver since 1984. Neither Valentina nor her colleagues, none of whom would give their last names, were certain if they would be paid for their downtime.


Cherkassky said that with every hour Thursday, more and more lines were coming back into service.


"Most of the routes should be working tomorrow," he said.


Vadim, another driver, also thought he would be behind the wheel again by Friday. Until then, he was making the best of things.


"We have the kind of job where we don't get to see each other very often," he said. "This is kind of a holiday for us."