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The history of railways, XIX century

The history of railways, XIX century

30 August 1880 - Syzran (Alexander's) railway bridge across the Volga opens

Russia embarked on a programme of rapid railway construction in the second half of the nineteenth century. The government decided to build a railway line to the Volga region - the country's most important agricultural area. In October 1874, the Morshano - Syzranskaya railway line began operations and the first train arrived at its final destination, Batraki Station, on 12 October. Orenburg Railway, which begins at Batraki station and runs through the city of Samara, began operations in January 1877. At the same time, a section was built between Syzran - Batraki.

The opening of Orenburg Railway was a great event in Russia's history, for it provided a convenient route to transport Russian goods to Asian markets and ship raw materials from Asia.

There was no bridge across the Volga. In summer, passengers and cargo went by boat, while in winter carriages of the Orenburg Railway Company travelled on rails mounted on sleepers along the thickened ice or went by sleigh. A bridge across the Volga was therefore badly needed, and the site chosen for its construction was 10 kilometres east of Batraki.

Syzransky bridge  across the Volga in 1880The bridge was designed by N. A. Belelyubsky, the outstanding Russian engineer and academic in the field of structural mechanics and bridge construction and a professor at the St. Petersburg Institute of Railways. His grandiose plans were implemented by the talented bridge builder and engineer Vladimir Berezin and assembled by the young engineer Konstantin Mikhailovsky.

The construction of the bridge began in 1876 and was personally overseen by Emperor Alexander II due to its strategic importance. The metal spans were ordered in Belgium, supports were made of local Zhigulevsky limestone and the icebreakers on the piers were covered with granite from Vyborg. Near the bridge, a new station on the Orenburg Railway was built, "Right Bank of the Volga River." Several thousand peasants from Simbirsk, Samara and Orenburg governorates were brought in to work on the bridge construction, which took four years. The bridge was 1.5 km long and included 13 spans of 111 metres each. Total construction costs amounted to 7 million gold roubles.

The bridge was opened officially to trains on 30 August 1880, which was timed to coincide with the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Tsar Alexander II's accession. In honour of the emperor, the Syzransky bridge was called the Alexander.

For a long time, the Alexander Bridge was the only link connecting Russia's central regions with the Volga, Urals and Siberia. Syzransky bridge was not only the longest in Europe, but also the most advanced in terms of its execution and engineering calculations.

Syzransky bridge nowadaysSince its construction, the bridge has been reconstructed and restored several times, but only the spans have been replaced, especially after the retreating Whites blew up second and third spans in 1918. As a major strategic asset, Alexander's Bridge was defended during the Great Patriotic War by several anti-aircraft batteries and an entire squadron of fighter-interceptors. But the basic engineering solutions found by the masters of the XIX century are still preserved.  

In 1949, it was decided to build a two-track construction on the bridge to ensure the uninterrupted movement of trains in both directions and increase the amount of goods transported. The second track on the bridge was completed in 1957.

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