The collection which now forms the basis of the Russian Railway Museum was begun in 1978, and in 2001 the museum opened in part of Varshavskiy Vokzal, the former Warsaw railway terminal which is now a now retailing and entertainment centre. The station, in the Renaissance style, was built in 1858-59 to a design by Piotr Salmanovich (1833-98). The museum was closed in 2017 and re-displayed in the nearby Baltyskaya station.
The museum is concerned with many aspects of the history of railways in Russia and the USSR, including the Revolution, the Civil War, the Second World War, industrialisation and the impact of electrification. It concentrates on railways in St Petersburg and the north-west, but some sections cover the whole of Russia. Displays also deal with current and future developments on Russian railways.
More than 200 locomotives and other vehicles are displayed. The oldest steam locomotive worked around Grozny until the late 1980s, while the last steam passenger locomotive to be built in the USSR, the semi-streamlined 4-8-4 P36-9251 of the Pobeda (Victory) class, built in 1956, is also in the collection. The museum has an example of one of the most celebrated Soviet locomotive types, the FD class 2-10-2 named after Felix Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926), one of the leaders of the October Revolution who subsequently took charge both of the railways and the secret police. More than 3,200 examples of the class were built between 1932 and 1942, most of them at the October Revolution factory at Voroshilovgrad. All carried a red star on the front of the smokebox. The FDs worked in 23 of the 43 republics in the USSR. The first were withdrawn from service in the mid-1950s, as more and more trunk lines were electrified, and at the end of the decade about a thousand were sent to China. The museum also has Ge-001, the first diesel locomotive to be built in Russia, constructed on the orders of Lenin in 1924, and several electric locomotives built for hauling freight over long distances as electrifications schemes were completed in the 1950s. There are also locomotives and multiple units that worked in USSR but were built in the United States, Finland, France, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany, and examples of the 20,000 freight cars supplied from Canada and the United States in 1915-19. A military section includes rail-mounted artillery and a Scapel (SS-24) rail mounted missile system.