We’ve been covering expensive vehicles for as long as we’ve been around — from Jeff Bezos’ $700 million superyacht to top-of-the-line private jets — but rarely do we find ourselves compelled to cover a locomotive… Until this Monday, when a dark green train with yellow trim was spotted at the border where Russia, China, and North Korea meet, as reported by the ABC.
Its distinctive colouring identified it as a one-of-a-kind vehicle that runs with one passenger in mind: the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. His penchant for armoured trains is part of a long family legacy. He rarely leaves North Korea, but when he does, he prefers the security and nostalgia of his high-tech locomotive fortress.
WATCH: How do you think this compares to Jeff Bezos’ new yacht?
The Locomotive Fortress
So, what do we know about Kim’s train? First and foremost, it’s gargantuan. Previously, it’s bene comprised of over 90 carriages, meaning it absolutely dwarves any yacht or plane you can shake a stick at. These days, it’s believed to consist of a more modest 21 carriages.
However, this beast doesn’t travel alone. According to NPR, reports suggest that two other trains travel with Kim’s main train: one to check the tracks ahead and another to carry his security entourage.
Inside this slow-moving bulletproof fortress, high-tech communication equipment and flat-screen TVs are installed to facilitate the leader’s orders and briefings. The train also features bedrooms and conference rooms used for official state business.
Although few images of its interior have been released, a video from 2018 showed Kim meeting with top Chinese officials in a spacious train car furnished with pink couches.
A life-size mock-up of two carriages is on permanent display at a mausoleum on the outskirts of Pyongyang, honouring Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, the previous leaders of North Korea.
While visitors can’t enter the replicas, they can peek inside through the windows. According to Young Pioneer Tours — a company specializing in North Korean tours, these carriages are decked out as offices and contain desks, comfortable furniture, and even a MacBook in Kim Jong Il’s carriage…
Keeping It In The Family
Weighed down by bulletproof siding, Kim’s train moves at a glacial pace compared to modern vehicles, travelling at an estimated speed of 28 miles per hour on North Korean tracks. However, its speed can increase when operating on China’s more advanced rail network.
The Kim family’s tradition of travelling by train started with Kim Il Sung —the founder of North Korea — who received a train carriage as a gift from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Kim Jong Il, known for his fear of flying, continued this tradition. In fact, he was so committed to the locomotive that he passed away on his train… according to North Korean state media.
Kim Jong Un, the current leader, has continued the family tradition. In 2019, he embarked on a two-and-a-half-day journey, travelling around 4,500 kilometres through China in his armoured train to reach Vietnam for a face-to-face meeting with then-President Donald Trump.
You may not approve of his politics, but you can’t deny he knows how to travel. Jeff Bezos, take notes.