T3 Russian Railroad Introduction

Russian Railroad Introduction


First bricks in the foundation of Russia’s railway were laid in 1834, when Demidovs’ metallurgic works in Nizhny Tagil designed and built Russia’s first steam-engine and a 3.5-km railway. They were created by Cherepanovs, father and son, who were serfs, mechanics and inventors at the same time. After working at Moscow and Saint-Petersburg factories and a few European enterprises, they had a lot of experience. Using it, they built about 20 steam machines for production and transportation purposes. But creation of a steam-engine undoubtedly was to become their greatest triumph. It’s worth mentioning that first cast-iron tracks appeared in Russia as far back as in the 18th century. But they were used only in mineral resource and metallurgical industries.

Top state officials quite often expressed their doubts about economic cost-effectiveness of building railways in the country. But advantages of transport of this kind, as well as considerable profits it was yielding in Europe’s developed countries (e.g., in England), made an impression on the Russian Emperor. On April 15, 1836, Nikolai I issued a decree about building a railway from Petersburg to Tsarskoye Selo. 18 months later, on October 30, 1837, the siren by the steam-engine hailed the launch of Russia’s first public railway. A little later the line was extended to Pavlovsk. Its terminus was turned into a “voksal” – one of the country’s most famous pleasure houses. Wealthy people from Saint-Petersburg made special arrangements to come there. It was only much later that it turned into a railway station in its proper sense – station-wide premises for passengers. Thus began the history of Russia’s railways.

Far East Railway

The Far East Railway, prior to 1936 was known as Ussuriysk Railway, it was the final stage in the construction of the Great Siberian Way. The first rail was laid on 19 May 1891 on the stretch between Vladivostok and Iman (later - Dalnerechensk station). More than five and a half years later in November 1897 a regular train connection was established between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, the capital of the Ussuriysk Territory. The railway was laid along the right bank of the Ussuri River and crossed numerous tributaries, dense forests and high mountains. As this Territory was sparsely populated, the lack of a labor force became a major issue. Farmers refused to leave the lands they had worked so hard to cultivate, whereas transporting workers from the country’s central regions could lead to massive extra costs. Vast amounts of money were required to build railways with rolling-stock and infrastructure. Considerable funds were also required to build many iron bridges. So it was decided to use the labor of prisoners brought from Sakhalin, soldiers of Ussuriysk Railway Battalion, as well as hired hands from China, Korea and Japan. At first, the railway was intended for trains a day. But later, because of the looming war with Japan its capacity was considerably extended and the technology upgraded. The years prior to the Second World War witnessed the expansion of the mainline at a phenomenal rate: six new lines were set in operation during 1941 alone, (which in Russia was the first year of the war). The railway stretch between the Khani Lake and Soviet Haven is part of the renowned Baikal-Amur Line. The staggering number and complexity of structures make this stretch unique. For example, there are 2,563 bridges of different sizes (a railway crossing over the Amur river near Komsomolsk-on-Amur is the best known), 11 tunnels with an overall length of 34,5 km (including Russia’s longest – the North-Muysk Tunnel, 15,343 m.). At present the operational length of Far East Railway is 4,415 km. It runs through the Khabarovsk and the Primorsk Territories and is a major trade connection with other countries in this region. 

Gorky Railway

In 1847 a decision was made to build a line between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. It would become known as the Gorky Railway (the name of Nizhny Novgorod in the Soviet time was Gorky). The advantages of building a link between the capital and “Russia’s pocket” were obvious. But the project didn’t commence until 10 years later, in 1858. Construction work involved two stretches: Moscow – Vladimir and Vladimir – N. Novgorod. Construction of the second section began a year later. In August 1862 marked the launch of the Moscow – N. Novgorod service. But the celebrations were overshadowed by a tragedy – the train crashed near the town of Kovrov. 1867 saw another catastrophe – the bridge over the Kalama River, which had been built by foreign engineers, collapsed when the swollen river burst its banks. The builders had not allowed for the climatic peculiarities of this region. 

After the Moscow – N. Novgorod railway was put into service, freight turnover began to pick up quickly – by 1875 it was 4,813 tons. The range of goods transported included iron, timber, bricks, leather, sailcloth, oil and many other items.

In 1961 the Gorky and Kazan railways were integrated into the main line within its present-day sphere of operations. Besides the Moscow – N. Novgorod line, this railway includes other old stretches – including Moscow – Kazan and Vyatka – Dvina lines built in the second half of the 19th century and 1906 saw the opening of Vologda – Kotelnich – Vyatka line. It directly linked central and north-western regions of the country and the industrialized Urals.

Now the line (overall length – 5,692 km) crosses mainly the territory of the Nizhny Novgorod, Vladimir, Kirov, Ryazan, Perm, Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg) Regions and six republics – Tataria, Bashkiria, Mordovia, Chuvashia, Udmurtia and Mariy El. In 2001 the freight turnover of Gorky Railway exceeded the combined railway turnover of England, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium. It transfers about 200 million passengers and 300 million tons of goods every year. It is among the busiest mainlines in the country. There are a few first-rate tourist centers located along the train routes which are of particular interest. They include ancient Russian cities such as Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod and Vyatka.

Kaliningrad Railway

Kaliningrad Railway runs through the territory of the Russian enclave – Kaliningrad Region.

During the Potsdam Conference of 1945, States that won the Second World War resolved to annex this region (the city of Koenigsberg and neighboring areas of Eastern Prussia) to the Soviet Union.

After the USSR incorporated new republics in 1940, the country’s railway network gained three other roads – Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian. Economic ties between the Baltic States and the Kaliningrad Region were noticeably strengthened. And as a result, the united Baltic mainline was created in 1953 (later known as the Baltic Railway). Then In 1992 Kaliningrad Railway was separated from it along with Kaliningrad and Cherniakhovsk as its major traffic centers.

In 1990 Kaliningrad Region became Russia’s only enclave. 1993 hailed the opening of a branch between Kaliningrad and Berlin. It became one of Russia’s main routes into to Western Europe.

Krasnoyarsk Railway

The Krasnoyarsk Railway runs across The Southern Krasnoyarsk Territory and is the main thoroughfare connecting Western Siberia and Kuzbass with the Far East.

In early 20th century Transsib consisted of eight railways including the Middle-Siberian Way, the Krasnoyarsk Railway mainline, and the Mariinsk – Taishet, was built as one of its components.

In 1893 construction of a route from the Ob River to Irkutsk was approved. Three years later plans were introduced to build the Ob – Krasnoyarsk stretch (760 km) and, soon, the Krasnoyarsk – Irkutsk line. Completion was due in autumn 1900. But soon railway construction ran up against grave difficulties. Permafrost, bitter cold, lack of reliable data about numerous rivers – all this substantially slowed down the pace of building. The Middle-Siberian way crossed sparsely populated areas. As a result, there was a constant lack of labor force. Qualified workmen (carpenters, masons, joiners, blacksmiths, and surface-men) came from central Russia. Building materials also had to be brought from far away because this region’s industry was extremely under-developed.

In December 1895 preliminary operation of the stretch between Ob station and Krasnoyarsk began. The 28th of March 1899 marked the launch of a railway bridge over the Yenisei River; this would become one of the largest bridges in Asia. Its construction was supervised by E.K.Knorre. The year 1900 brought the “Tsar’s” Bridge the Grand Prix of the first International Technical Exhibition in Paris.

In 1897 Ob – Krasnoyarsk line was put into service and in1899 the Krasnoyarsk – Irkutsk line took its turn. Some of the bridges had not been completed on schedule, so during the first years of railway operation many rivers had to be crossed by ferry and in the winter months rails were laid across the ice.

Finally in December 1899 the Western-Siberian and Middle-Siberian routes were combined into the Siberian Railway.

It was soon evident that the railway’s capacity didn’t meet the rising needs of either passenger or goods transfer. In an attempt to bring the route capacity up to the required level a special commission chaired by engineer K.A.Mikhalovsky was set up. As a result of this commission, In 1904 construction of a second route began. It involved changing rails and building stone bridges in place of light wooden ones.

On 1 January 1915 the Siberian Railway was split into Omsk, Tomsk, Trans-Baikal, Amur and Ussuriysk railways. At that time main stretches of the contemporary Krasnoyarsk Railway were part of Tomsk Railway. In 1979 the Krasnoyarsk Railway finally became an independent transport unit governed by the Krasnoyarsk authorities.

Kuibyshev Railway

The Kuibyshev Railway is among the country’s largest steel mainlines. It links European Russia with the economically vital regions of the Urals and Middle Asia. It runs across three republics (Tataria, Bashkiria and Mordovia) and seven Regions (Ryazan, Penza, Tambov, Chelyabinsk, Ulyanovsk and Samara). At present its length is 7,385 km. Service began in 1874 on the Kuibyshev Railway when the line between Morshansk and Syzran was opened. The issue of constructing a 464-km stretch was brought up by the Tambov businesspeople and landlords with S.Bashmakov at the head. This line operated 42 steam engines and used 52 passenger and 520 freight cars. These factors lead us to believe that operation of the railway was very thorough and efficient at that time. 

In late 1877 the railway was expanded to the Volga River and in 1880 a bridge joined the banks of the river. It was designed by an eminent scientist and engineer N.A.Belelyubsky. This bridge became Europe’s largest as well as one of the most technically most advanced river crossings. 

In 1885 construction works began on the Samara – Ufa line. They were supervised by K.Ya.Mikhailovsky, one of Transsib’s leading designers. The railway was built in unbelievably severe conditions. Its main part lies in desert-like, sparsely populated areas with rocky dense soil. No wonder, lack of manpower and irregular shipments of building materials had a dramatic effect on railway construction. Despite these difficulties, September 1890 marked the opening of the 320-km Ufa – Zlatoust stretch. Since this time the line has been referred to as the Samara – Zlatoust Railway. The route ran across the Ural Mountains and on further into Western Siberia to eventually connect them with Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. The economic significance of this railway became obvious immediately it began operations. 

In the 1950s the railway was named after Kuibyshev, a public official who led the fight for Soviet authority in Samara (Kuibyshev was also the name of Samara in soviet times). 

Major milestones of the Kuibyshev Railway are towns which are inseparable from its history - Samara, Ufa and Syzran, an ancient fortress. Toliatti, the center of Russian car industry, has also found its home here.

Moscow Railway

In the 19th century railway construction fell into two periods when construction was most active – the 1860-70s and the 1890s. During those periods major lines were built which would become part of the Moscow Railway. 

The Tsar’s approval to build lines from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod was granted as early as 1847. But on the first stretch works started 10 years later and on the second stretch (Moscow - Nizhny Novgorod) – in spring 1859. There were a few reasons for such a long delay. One of them was that all equipment and rolling-stock was ordered through foreign contractors. A through service on the line began on August 1, 1861. This event had an important effect on the country’s economic life; the Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod line was the first to connect Russia’s European part with its eastern regions. 

The capital received vast amounts of goods from Moscow provinces, but the animal-driven transportation was too costly and took up a lot of time. For example, 5-6 days were required for goods from Kolomna (about 80 km. from Moscow) to reach the capital. The need to set up a railway connection was apparent. Works began on June 1860. Over 4,000 workers were hired to lay the line. Most of the difficulties for the builders of the line were caused by the bridge over the Oka River. Its construction was supervised by A.E.Struve, a famous Russian military engineer. This bridge was the first to be used for both animal-driven and railway transport. Transferring about 420,000 passengers a year, the Moscow – Kolomna – Ryazan line became one of Russia’s most profitable railways. 

The Moscow – Yaroslavl Railway was the first route to be built without foreign investments. I.F.Mamontov (father of Savva Mamontov, a famous Russian donor) made a great contribution toward its construction. 

In May 1860 the first steps to build the Moscow – Sergiev Posad line were taken. About 6,000 workers were engaged in its construction. August of the same year saw the launch of this stretch of line. Cars for transporting passengers were bought from German companies “Pflug” and “Lauenstein”. Later, however, it turned out that they were not adjusted to Russian climate and were replaced with cars made in Russia. In spite of some financial difficulties in 1868 they started to lay the line from Sergiev Posad to Yaroslavl. It was completed in 1870. The Moscow – Yaroslavl route linked the capital with the Volga region, and this considerably boosted industry in that area. 

Construction of the Moscow – Smolensk line started in spring 1869. First only the railway station was erected (now known as Belorusskaya). Days grew warmer to allow station tracks to be laid, and foundations of the steam-engine depot and car workshops to be built. Construction of all buildings on the line was supervised by vice-counselor Nemchinov, the owner of brick factories. Rolling-stock was ordered from Western Europe. The railway was opened for service on September 19, 1870. the Smolensk – Brest line was laid in 1870-1871. This line has been known as the Moscow – Brest Railway ever since. 

At first railways connecting the capital with the regions had the status of independent units. But by early 20th century Moscow was turned into a major traffic center. The need to connect all existing railways with a circular main line was obvious. This line was completed in 1908 and called the Moscow Circular Railway.

Oktyabrskaya Railway

The second largest and most economically vital project (after Tsarskoye Selo Railway) was to build a Moscow – Saint-Petersburg main line. A double-track 650-km railway was to join Russia’s two largest cities as the crow flies. It was built by the Northern Department with P.P.Melnikov at its head (St. Petersburg – Bologoye stretch) by the Southern Department with N.O.Kraft at its head (Bologoye – Moscow stretch). Melnikov insisted that gauge of railway should be 1524 mm. This was to become Russia’s national standard for all railways. Encountering natural obstacles, builders had to erect a total of 190 bridges and work out quite a few innovative technical solutions. 8 years of construction works (1843-1851) produced a railway that in many respects excelled lines operating in Germany and the USA. 34 stations were built along the route and many deserve special attention. They all have the same style and even the same color scheme. Railway stations in both capitals (Moskovsky in St. Petersburg and Leningradsky in Moscow) were designed by K.A.Ton and represent the magnificence of classical architecture. 

November 1, 1895 marked the opening of Europe’s longest railway. The worlds press covered it in great detail the departure of the 11.15 train from Petersburg to Moscow (tickets had been sold out 4 months before). Its trip took 21 hours 45 minutes and the following morning it pulled in safe and sound at its destination.

After Nikolai II died in 1855, the St. Petersburg – Moscow Railway was named Nikolayevskaya, and in 1923 – Oktyabrskaya. This line has worked without a hitch for over 150 years. 

At present Oktyabrskaya Railway incorporates lines which are over 10,000 km long and run across North-Western Russia. 

Volga Region Railway

In the 19th century Russia badly needed to set up a regular transport network between its regions. The lack of an integrated railway network and the inadequate condition of the earth roads made the country economically backward. The Volga regions produced vast amounts of goods (foodstuffs as a major group). So, delivery time was especially important. During various natural disasters the delivery of foodstuffs to Moscow and St. Petersburg was delayed. This drove the population to the brink of famine. 

In the 19th century there were two stages of railway construction. In 1860-70s we built lines between Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod (1862), Moscow – Ryazan (1864), Moscow – Yaroslavl (1870) and Tambov – Saratov (1871). In 1890s these lines were extended to the Urals and the Volga’s delta.

Goods were carried across the Volga by Russia’s first ferry service. In the 1890s the English company “Armstrong” built the first ferry-boat and the first ice-breaker. When the Volga froze and crossing became impossible, the ice-breaker cleared the way for the ferry-boat. But very soon the ferry could not cope with the rising freight turnover. So, another boat was commissioned and in 1908 the two ferries transferred over 130,000 passenger and freight cars in both directions every year. In winter of 1914 rails were laid on ice and cars were drawn by horses. This helped increase the railway’s carrying capacity. Stations on the banks were adapted to facilitate transfer of oil brought from the Baku oilfields through to Saratov.

In 1953 the line was given its present-day name. The Volga Region Railway (4,097 km) it runs mainly through the Saratov, Volgograd and Astrakhan Regions. It is an important transport link connecting Russia’s regions with Ukraine, Middle Asia and with Siberia. 

Northern Railway

In 1859 F.V.Chizhov, a Moscow University professor, organized a Society concerned with building a railway between Moscow and Sergiev Posad. There were no foreign investments. Funds (15,000 rubles in silver) were contributed by Russian donors only. We must give credit for this to I.F. Mamontov, a well-known Russian businessman, the founder of a merchant dynasty. In 1862 the 70-km Troitsk-Sergiev Railway was put into use. In 1868-1870 this branch was extended to Yaroslavl. It’s worth mentioning that it was being built at a very high pace for those times - over 200 km of tracks were laid within two years. 

In 1870-1872 Aleksandrov-Vologda stretch was built through Danilov and Yaroslavl, and 25 years later a narrow-gauge branch joined Vologda and Arkhangelsk port, which played a major commercial role at that time. The direction of Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk Railway followed an ancient route which had joined Moscow and Yaroslavl as far back as in the time of Ivan the Terrible and remained intact until the 19th century. Nevertheless, it was on this stretch that builders came up against the greatest difficulties while laying the rails. The tracks were being laid in impassable forests and tundra, in harshest conditions. Several times entire sections of the laid railway sank in bog. On November 17, 1897 this happened for the last time - during the inauguration of the railway a large stretch of the embankment with rails and sleepers sank in bog. After this accident the railway was closed for several months so that soil could be further stabilized.

After construction works were over, the railway consisted of three main stretches - Moscow-Yaroslavl, Yaroslavl-Vologda, Vologda-Arkhangelsk. All lines that were part of it became known as Northern Railways. In 1936 Northern Railways were divided into Northern and Yaroslavl Railways. In 1959 they were integrated with Pechora line. As a result, Northern Railway took on its present-day boundaries. 

A 6,050-km main line runs mainly through Russia’s Northern and North-Eastern European part. It borders on Moscow, Gorky and Oktyabrskaya Railways, which are the oldest within Russia’s territory. It is home to ancient Russian cities that attract hundreds of tourists every year.

Sverdlovsk Railway

The Cherepanovs, father and son who were Demidov’s serfs, created Russia’s first steam-engine. This brought about the development of the country’s railway network. Things started in Ural because the rapidly developing economy of the region required a regular transport communication both within Ural and elsewhere. 

First projects for Ural Railway were put forward in the second half of the 19th century. In 1868 a Russian businessman I.Lyubimov came up the Railway Committee with a proposal to build Perm-Ekaterinburg line. After all necessary topographic studies were made in 1869-1872, construction works on the main line took off.

There were many obstacles in the guise of a great number of rivers, streamlets and ravines. Pipes were thrown and wooden bridges were put up across them. More sizeable difficulties came up later – forests to be felled, embankments and slope protection to be built, hollows in rock to be tackled. All these factors considerably slowed down the laying of the route. After the main track was completed another branch was laid to join it with Luniev coal mines. One of Europe’s first tunnels was built here (only 130 m. long). In September 1879 Ural-Gornozavodsk Railway was opened for train operation. It was Russia’s first main line to be laid in mountainous areas. 

The number of enterprises this railway catered for was rising. As a result, the route steadily improved, too. In 1885 Ekaterinburg-Tyumen line was linked to Gornozavodsk Railway. The entire main line became known as Ural Railway. In 1896 Ekaterinburg-Chelyabinsk line connected it with the Trans-Siberian Main Line.

The main line has been known as Sverdlovsk Railway (by the old name of present-day Ekaterinburg) since 1943. Now one of TransSib’s largest lines, it caters for dozens of enterprises in the industries of mineral resources, wood-working and metallurgy. Russia’s largest industrial cities (such as Ekaterinburg) are located here along with oil extraction and refining centers (Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Novy Urengoy).

South-Eastern Railway

The South-Eastern Railway includes lines built mainly in the second half of the 19th century. By that time Russia was growing into an empire. This led to an active accumulation of private capital which was to become a major source of funds for railway construction. Its first swallow was Ryazan-Kozlovsk line opened in 1866. Two years later it was extended to Voronezh, three more years took it as far as Rostov. Now there was access to Voronezh and Tambov Regions reasonably called “Russia’s Granaries”. Besides, it allowed to export agricultural products through ports on the Azov Sea. In late 19th century the total of about ten new stretches was opened. In 1893 they were integrated into a Joint-Stock Company of South-Eastern Railways.

By early 20th century technical equipment of the railway remained inadequate. Low carrying capacity, low capacity of rolling-stock, frequent breakdowns and accidents caused severe difficulties during a thorough operation of the railway. After the Civil war, the South-Eastern Main Line was practically wiped out - 70% of all steam-engines were destroyed, 78 large bridges blown up, thousands of kilometers of tracks out of working condition. Total damage was estimated at 170 mln. rubles. Nevertheless, soon after recovery work started the railway reached the pre-war level of cargo transportation. Before World War II it was among Russia’s highest-capacity lines. In times of war, traffic on the route was especially heavy. The railway catered for 7 front-lines. 

At present SER (3,650 km) runs through Russia’s Southern and South-Eastern parts connecting these regions with the center, the Volga Region and Ural. It provides services mainly for enterprises of coal, metallurgic and chemical industries, developed agricultural regions. The line’s major railway junctions are represented by its historical milestones, Russia’s oldest cities - Voronezh, Tambov, Rostov, Saratov.

South-Ural Railway

Talks about building a railway from the Volga to South Ural started as early as in 1870s. Merchants and largest manufacturers were interested in Siberia’s unclaimed-for riches and new markets located in the east. In 1874-1877 a line was built to join the Volga’s right bank with Orenburg. This route became the basis for South-Ural Railway. The main line could not develop further because numerous railway construction projects had to be studied by a special commission within the Ministry of Communications. In 1884 it was decided to build the Great Siberian Way. In 1885 construction works began on South-Ural Main Line, which later was to become part of TransSib. Works were supervised by K.Ya. Mikhailovsky, a talented Russian engineer.

Construction of South-Ural Railway was among the most difficult projects of the 19th century. Most tasks had to be completed by hand - in mountainous areas horse-driven carts could be used only occasionally. On Ufa-Zlatoust line, the total of about 300 artificial structures was built including bridges, dams, stone protection walls. Several Ural rivers had to be channeled off to new beds. Banks of the Yuruzan and Sim rivers were joined by iron bridge crossings designed by professor A. Belelyubsky. In both cases one of their ends rests on an artificial abutment, the other – on a rock. Construction of these bridges is an indicator of Russian builders’ thorough professionalism and mastership. After surveying the railway upon its completion, the governmental commission within the Ministry of Communications also acknowledged this. Although works were complex and the completion schedule very tight, Ufa-Chelyabinsk stretch was made without a single technical fault. The route became known as Samara-Zlatoust line.

In 1893 the line integrated a branch to Orenburg increasing the overall length of the main line to 1,504 km. 

Present-day boundaries of SUR date back to 1981. This railway runs across the territory of Kazakhstan, Bashkiria, Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Orenburg Regions as well as parts of Russia’s Kuibyshev and Sverdlovsk Regions. 

Sakhalin Railway

Runs through the territory of Sakhalin Island. Set up on April 15, 1992. Railway Department is in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The railway’s operational length (1992) – 1,072 km. The line connects the north of the island with ports of Korsakov and Kholmsk, which communicate with the mainland by railway ferry all the year round. Sakhalin Railway does the bulk of cargo transportation within the island.

East-Siberian Railway

In 1884 Ekaterinburg-Tyumen stretch of Ural railway was completed. Now this created the need to link Siberia’s economically backward regions with Ural, the industrial center of the Russian Empire. The starting point for building East-Siberian Main Line was Krasnoyarsk, at which the Great Siberian Way arrived in 1895. 

The railway was built at an increased pace because it would play a significant role in the looming war with Japan. The area the line was crossing was poorly developed. So, its construction was coupled with high risks. It is history that while testing a wooden bridge over the Irkut river, V.Popov, an engineer supervising the works, stepped inside the cabin of the test engine with a revolver in his hand. After tests were over he said he would have shot himself if the bridge had collapsed. Fortunately, all went well, and the bridge over the Irkut was there for another 10 years. The first train arrived in Irkutsk in August 1898. In December the city welcomed the first train from a new Baikal station – 10 flat wagons with Chinese tea. 

Irkutsk-Baikal branch had to be linked to another stretch operating in Trans-Baikal Region. A ferry crossing of Lake Baikal was established in 1900. For this purpose two large ice-breaker ferry-boats were ordered from England. The larger of the two could transfer 25-27 loaded cars at one time. Circular Baikal Railway to Lake Baikal was being built between 1899-1905. During its construction builders came up against great difficulties as the main part of the way lay on Baikal’s rocky southern bank. “Baikal Circular” became a real technical wonder. 39 tunnels (overall length – 7 km) were built along with many other technical structures. On average one kilometer of the line required one car of explosives. The railway was built under the supervision of B.U. Savrimovich, I.V. Mushketov, A.V. Liverovskoy and L.B. Krasin, Russia’s eminent engineers. Though “Baikal Circular” stretch was not complete, its operation began in 1904 to transport troops and equipment for the war with Japan. The railway was inaugurated in 1905. In 1956, when Irkutsk hydroelectric power station was being built Irkutsk-Baikal stretch of the main line went under water. The branch became a dead end, and its operation was stopped. Now we are witnessing a rebirth of Baikal Circular route.

“Baikal Circular” became the final stage of building East-Siberian Main Line. ESR gained in significance when the second track was finished in 1917. In 1936 Krasnoyarsk Railway was separated from ESR.

In its operation East-Siberian Railway has always used various technical innovations. In 1970s it became a testing area for the Ministry of Communications. At present the length of ESR is 3,820 km. It runs across the area of Irkutsk Region and Buryatia. This line is a reliable connecting link that underpins East Siberia’s entire economy.

West-Siberian Railway

Built in 1892-1896, West-Siberian Railway is a stretch within the Trans-Siberian Main Line. The line construction was supervised by N.G. Garin-Mikhailovsky, one of Russia’s most gifted engineers. After many explorations between Ural and Lake Baikal, in May 1892 the Cabinet of Ministers finally decided to build a railway linking Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Omsk and Kainsk. Bridges had to be cast over the Ob and Irtysh rivers (later bridge crossings were built over the Ishim and Tobol rivers). In July 1892, there were celebrations after construction works began on the main stretch of West-Siberian Railway. In 1893 construction works started on the bridge over the Ob. It was designed by professor N.A. Belelyubsky. Construction involved over 300 workers. The coating of bridge pillars was done by Italian craftsmen.

In April 1897, after successful tests, the bridge was put into use. It enabled regular operation of the entire line (earlier, during warm seasons, a ferry crossing of the Ob had to be arranged). Chelyabinsk-Omsk route lay across the country’s most developed black-earth regions. Only in the east it ran through boggy Barabinsk steppes. Their cultivation started only after he railway was built. 

The appearance of the railway boosted the development of wood-working and mineral resource industries of South Ural because they required regular shipments of building materials. The further the builders reached the more difficulties they faced because they had to cover the distance of 50-60 km. That’s why stone-bed bridge crossings were built only over major rivers such as the Irtysh, the Ob, the Tobol and the Ishim. Other bridges were made of wood. 

It was during the construction of the railway that its carrying capacity proved too low and, as a result, inadequate for industrial purposes. In 1904 works to increase the line’s capacity started. They involved building of a second track, replacement of rails, as well as replacement of wooden bridges with stone ones. By 1920 the railway’s carrying capacity had grown from 3.5 to 20 couples of trains a day. By that time separate stretches of the line (1,064 km long altogether) were integrated into a single Siberian Main Line regulated by Tomsk authorities. It crossed Orenburg and Tobolsk Provinces, Akmolinsk Region, Tomsk and Irkutsk Provinces. 

In 1915 the line was divided into Omsk and Tomsk railways only to be reunited in 1961. As a result, West-Siberian Railway came into existence. At present, it links the Far East with all regions of the country and is TransSib’s largest thoroughfare. 

Trans-Baikal Railway

Regular railway connection was necessary to link vast remote areas of West Siberia and the Far East with the country’s central part. Siberia had been using animal-driven transport for a long time, whereas the Amur’s waterway could not meet the area’s rising needs. Roads were in bad condition and became impassable in the rainy season. As a result, shipping goods from Moscow to Vladivistok took up to 11 months.

Being just a stretch of the Great Siberian Way, Trans-Baikal Railway was built in 1895-1905. Explorations of the route were started in 1892 and were supervised by Vyazemsky and Ursati, Russia’s famous engineers. Construction took off very quickly, and in 1900 Irkutsk-Baikal line was officially put into operation. In 1897 the flood damaged 360 km of the railway altogether, took down 15 bridges and destroyed many engineering structures. This disaster led to staggering material damage related to shifting the tracks 100 m up, to rocky slopes. 

In 1908 the Council of Ministers decided to build the Amur stretch of the Trans-Siberian Main Line. It was wholly in line with merchants and manufacturers of West Siberia. 

Earthwork was hampered by mountainous areas, a great number of bogs and impassable Taiga forests. The railway was split into three stretches - western, middle, and eastern. The western stretch between Kuenga and Uryum was being built in 1907-1913. About 54,000 people were involved. A temporary road for soil delivery had to be built in the boggiest middle part of the stretch. Very often entire sections of the laid railway sank into the marsh. In 1914 the middle stretch was ready for train operation.

In 1912 construction of the eastern stretch from Malinovka to Khabarovsk was headed by a talented engineer A.V. Liverovsky. For the first time in railway construction, earthwork was mechanized. 10 excavators were used along with concrete mixers and stone-breaking machines. Saw-mills were built to speed up delivery of sleepers and beams necessary for construction.

In 1914 a through operation of the Amur line was opened. To transfer cars across the Amur, ferry-boats were used in summer, and horses – in winter. Construction of the bridge over the Amur began in 1913. In 1916 it was consecrated and opened for a regular train operation. It became known as Alekseyevsky in honor of the heir to the throne. This bridge crossing represented a solid structure of metal and concrete almost 2,600 m long and 64 m high. Soon it was called the “Amur’s wonder”. 

In 1959 Trans-Baikal and Amur lines were combined into Trans-Baikal Railway.

North-Caucasus Railway

The history of railways in Northern Caucasus dates back to 1860, when Mikhail Khomutov, ataman of Don’s Army, addressed the military minister with a report. It was about the need to link coal mines discovered in the area of the Grushevka river with a quay near the Cossack village of Malekhovskaya. Thick coal-beds were found, and construction of a railway was to speed up the region’s economic development. The Emperor granted his permission to build it. In 1863 the railway was set into operation. Soon they built Aksai-Rostov line (1875), in 1872-1875 – a route, linking Rostov and Vladikavkaz (to be called Vladikavkaz line in 1923). After Vladikavkaz line reached Kislovodsk, the development of the resort area took off. Near Kislovodsk railway station, a magnificent concert hall was built together with a summer theater and a restaurant. Many stars of Russian theater and opera went on stage here. Their names include Shalyapin, Parosov, Plyevitskaya.

In early 20th century, in spite of great damage caused by the war between Russia and Japan, the railway went to include 10 new lines. By 1917, its total length was over 5,000 km (now – 6,504 km). During the Civil war the main line was severely damaged, some of its stretches destroyed. But by 1925 it had restored the pre-war transit levels. Construction of new branches started in 1929. At present, the railway that joins Northern Caucasus and the country’s European part is among Russia’s technically most advanced main lines.

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  1. When did the history of Russian Railroad begin?
  2. How long was the first Russian railroad?
  3. What do you know about Cherepanows?
  4. What purpose did Nikolai I serve for the history of railroad?
  5. When and where was the first Russian public railroad opened?
  6. What railroad was known as Ussuriysk Railway? Why?
  7. Why was the Far East railway so important?
  8. What did the Second World War make for the Far East railway?
  9. What do you know about the line between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod?
  10. What territory does the Gorky railway cross today?
  11. Why was necessary to build the Kaliningrad Railway?
  12. What railroad does connect Western Siberia with Far East?
  13. Why was the building of the Kuibyshev railway difficult?
  14. Speak about the Moscow railway history.
  15. What was the first double-track railway in Russia?
  16. Why does Russia need to set up a regularly transport network between regions?
  17. Who gave money for the Northern railway building?
  18. What is the Sverdlovsk railway famous for?
  19. What is “Baikal Circular”?
  20. What railway in Russia is technically advanced main line?