1

In Kaluga, south of Moscow, the strike began when trains headed from Moscow to Kiev failed to appear.

Does it mean that trains departed Moscow station but they did not arrive in Kiev station?

And is the snipped before trains?

2

You've only given us a single sentence – which could be from a fiction or fantasy work, or it could be from a historical narrative – so, without more information, it's hard to say for sure.

By itself, the sentence could mean what you've speculated, or it might also mean the trains stopped running altogether, or it might mean the trains were still arriving in Kiev, but they were being rerouted around Kaluga. All we can tell from the information given is that trains had been running at one time, and, about the time they weren't being seen anymore, a strike began. Furthermore, causality can't be ascertained from the context. In other words, we don't know if the sudden loss of trains caused the strike, or the timing was just coincidental.

As for the article before trains, that's one of those cases where there would be no harm in putting it in, but there's no problem with omitting it, either. The sentence would read just fine either way, although including the article would imply that the trains had been discussed earlier in the narrative.

  • this sentence is all the information the writer gives about the situation. I could not anything nmore informative. btw, now the context is linked. – user288 Sep 12 '13 at 9:16
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    There is more info in the previous paragraph. It's a historical account of a widespread strike in Russia in 1905. (I knew that when I typed my answer, but I wanted to emphasize how sentences like this can't be fully interpreted by themselves.) – J.R. Sep 12 '13 at 9:28
1

No, it means they were expected but didn't appear. Anything else is conjecture by the reader or unclear implication by the writer. Whether they never departed, were kidnapped by UFO or redirected to a different station is not stated - or even that they were promised to be introduced to the schedule but the management didn't deliver and such trains were never scheduled (created) despite earlier promises.

Since we know really little about these trains (especially if they were potential trains) each of them would be a train from Moscow to Kiev, and so, the plural would be without any article, no a, no the.

  • so it seems omitting the has an effect in meaning. – user288 Sep 12 '13 at 9:20
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    @MinimusHeximus: It's a significant possibility but there are quite a few circumstances which could determine the choice between 'the' and 'a', depending both on wider context of the sentence and the factual situation (say, some (many but not all) of these trains failed to appear) so it's not entirely definite here. – SF. Sep 12 '13 at 11:35

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