Back to Lotte for 5pm, packed bags, and checked out. Onto the metro again, this time in rush hour and heavily laden, but somewhat more informed as to the system. We disembarked at Komsomolskaya on the red line 1 and hiked across the square to the Hilton for rendezvous with Will & Sophie. This insalubrious part of Moscow is home to three mainline railway terminii and not one half-decent restaurant. It's an area that's reminiscent of King's Cross in the 90s, aching for investment, full of transients and roadworks, a bum hub. Pizza, salad and a pint of Efes sated the Moscow munchies, with that done, round the corner to Yaroslavsky station, the departure point for the trans-Siberian railway.
The trans-Mongolian express departs at 21.35. The platform no. appears on the indicator board 40mins before that. You could determine its imminent arrival on platform 3 from the board, or just deduce it from the scores of backpacked Europeans and shopping-trollied Russians accumulating around the 0 km marker behind the buffers at the end of that open air platform.
The train pulls in very slowly, giving us plenty of time to find carriage no.9 on this Chinese train. We're travelling first class, which means cabins of two beds, as opposed to cabins of two pairs of bunks in second, and dormitories of 38 in third class. Each carriage has a guard, and the Chinese guard checks each pair of tickets and escorts each couple to their cabins successively. We're led to cabin 2 as per our tickets, but Will and Sophie contrary to theirs, are shown a few minutes later to cabin 6. It would appear that cabin 1 these days is reserved by the guards for their own personal use, being next to the the much smaller official guard's cabin. If you're sold tickets for cabin 1 (at least in 1st class) it would seem you're very unlikely to be billeted in it. Instead, it will be used by the carriage guard to recline in, whilst watching Asian horror films on a tablet, and eating rather tasty looking meats barbecued on the coal-fired carriage boiler. And who are we to argue.