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History of Russian rail lines

History of Russian rail lines

Far Eastern Railways was built as part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, but its initial designation of Ussuri came from the Ussuri River.

Celebrations to mark the laying of the Ussuri line's first tracks were held in Vladivostok on 19 May 1891, but not all had been plain sailing, and numerous disputes preceded the final construction plans. In particular, in 1875 the local authorities suggested the construction of a railway from Vladivostok to lake Khanko.

In 1886 the governors-general of the Amur region and Eastern Siberia proposed that a number of sections be built on the Siberian line from Tomsk to Sretensk and a section from Vladivostok to the Busse post at the settlement of Bussovka. At a ministerial meeting in June 1887 it was decided to begin survey work for the South Ussuri section of the line in the near future, and later that year, an expedition headed by the engineer A.I. Ursati was duly sent to explore the stretch between Busse Station on the Ussuri River to Vladivostok.

The work was done under difficult climatic conditions. Surveyors, engineers and geologists took part in the expedition who did the photography, wrote up descriptions of the terrain and collected data on the climate, local fuel resources and building materials, as well as on the opportunities for agriculture. Within two years, the surveys of the line were finished, and all the materials handed over to the Ministry of Communications.

In 1890 A.N. Korf, the Governor-General of Amur, sent a petition to St. Petersburg requesting the speediest construction of a line from Vladivostok to the Amur. In February 1891, Tsar Alexander III approved the decision to build the South Ussuri line from Vladivostok - Nikolskoe (Ussuriisk) - Spassky (in the town of Spassk-Dalny) - Grafskaya Station (city Dalnerechinsk).

In 1891 a service was held in Vladivostok when the Ussuri section of the Trans-Siberian railway track was laid. The ceremony ended with an artillery salute of all the ships at harbour and the fortress's guns.

On 19 May 1891 the future Tsar, Nicholas II, personally laid the foundation stone of Vladivostok station while in the city en route from Japan to St. Petersburg.

The construction of the line in the first period was headed by A. I. Ursati, but he was unable to work together with the local administration. In 1892 he was therefore relieved of his managerial duties, and O. P. Vyazemsky, an experienced specialist, was appointed chief construction engineer. Vyazemsky was an experienced professional who had worked on survey and railway construction in many parts of Russia for more than 30 years.

Work on other, separate sections of the route was carried out by graduates from the St. Petersburg Institute of Railway Engineers, such as Drozdov, Prokhasko, Kiparisov, Kruglikov, Dormidontov, Sviyagin, Eberhardt, Bocharov, Rosengardt and others.

The Ussuri line was to run northwards along the Amur Bay from Vladivostok to the to the Suifun river basin, and from there to Nikolsky station, from which it was planned to build a line to the Chinese border. It was then to proceed across the watersheds of the Suifun and Lefk rivers, and on to the Ussuri River past Lake Khanko and ends in Khabarovsk after crossing the river. Throughout its length, the railway crossed the remote forests of the taiga and swampy floodplains.

The permanent way on most of the route - from Vladivostok to Dukhovskaya station - was laid from south to north, and only on a small section from Khabarovsk did work proceed from the north.

This arrangement was due to the lack of a port to unload freight and the shallow water of the Amur at that time. The construction materials needed to lay the track on the Khabarovsk - Dukhovskaya stretch were brought in by sea and transshipped along the Ussuri river to Khabarovsk. Numerous unsurfaced roads were built, which were then used for the region's transport needs.

The most acute and intractable problem during the construction was finding sufficient labour. At the end of the nineteenth century, Ussuri Territory did not have a developed system of unsurfaced roads, so the builders faced great difficulties right from the start. Peasant settlers and the local Cossacks who inhabited the surrounding land could not be persuaded to work on the construction. Bringing in labour from European Russia, however, was also fraught with numerous difficulties and involved considerable expense. The bulk of the workers were therefore exiled convicts and soldiers. The total number of exiles in the Amur region by 1895 amounted to over 11,000 people. Stationary camps were established which consisted of barracks for the convicts and premises for the guards, as well as kitchens, baths and observation towers.

The soldiers were transported by boat from Odessa. Barracks, as well as officers' accommodation, dining rooms, kitchens, baths, ice houses and stables were built for the lower ranks at Nikolskaya (Ussuriisk), Iman (Dalnerechensk), Vyazemskaya, Khabarovsk and other stations.

Work to lay the South Ussuri line from Vladivostok to Myravyov-Amur (Lazo) station began in April 1891 and was completed in 1894. Three years later, the line's northern section from Myravyov-Amur station to Khabarovsk was commissioned. The section from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk, a distance of 772 km, was opened to temporary traffic on 26 October 1897 and to permanent services on 13 November 1897.

The track was originally designed for 7 pairs of trains every day, so urgent action was needed very soon so that it could meet the demand for increased freight and capacity. Construction therefore began on a second track and new branch lines, while the locomotive and carriage fleets were increased and repair facilities expanded.

In the first years of Soviet rule, the line was nationalised. In 1929, the Nadezhdinskaya - Tavrichanka line was built to serve the agricultural regions along Lake Khanko. In 1931, the Sibirtsevo - Tury Rog line was commissioned.

In 1936 Ussuri Railways was divided into Amur Railways (in the town of Svobodny) and Far Eastern Railways (Khabarovsk).

In 1939 Primorskaya Railways (town of Voroshilov-Ussuri) was spun off from Far Eastern Railways.

In the prewar years, new railway branch lines were built as industry developed in the region, including the following lines: Volochaevka - Komsomolsk-on-Amur (1940), Sibirtsevo - Varfolomeyevka (1940), Birobidzhan - Leninsk (1941), Partizansk - Nakhodka (1941), Smolyaninovo - Dynai (1941 ), Partizansk - Sergievka (1941), Baranovsky - Gvozdevo with branch lines Gvozdevo - Kraskino and Gvozdevo - Posyet (1941).

In 1947 the Komsomolsk-on-Amur - Sovetskaya Gavan line came into operation, which cut by 1,000 km the sea route for freight transport to Sakhalin, Magadan and Kamchatka.

In 1953 the Primorskaya line became part of Far Eastern Railways. In 1950 - 1959, the Taishet - Lena (Ust - Kut) railway was built. These two lines represented the beginning of the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM).

By the early 1960 more than 1,150 kilometres of BAM's total length of 4,000 km of track had been commissioned. The section between Izveskovaya - Urgal came into operation, and was the second north-south connection linking BAM with the Trans-Siberian. In 1963, South Sakhalin Railways became part of Far Eastern Railways.

1974 can be considered the year of BAM's renaissance, as the active construction of main lines began in several directions. In 1974, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the USSR Council of Ministers adopted a decree "On the Construction of the Baikal-Amur Railway," according to which construction was to be completed within 10 years.

In 1979 the Urgal - Komsomolsk-on-Amur segment was built and in 1984, the eastern section of the BAM from Tynda came into operation. In the same year, the "golden link" was laid, which united the track all the way from Taishet to Vanino.

Regular services on the BAM began in 1988, but still the construction of several tunnels was ongoing. Trains were diverted along temporary lines which were incapable of bearing normal loads.

In 1981 Baikal-Amur Railways was established with management in Tynda. The route passes through such a complicated terrain that almost one third of its length consists of bridges, tunnels, viaducts, avalanche defence walls and other engineering structures. In total, 113 large, 38 medium and 2,412 small bridges were built, as well as more than 2,500 small bridges and culverts. There are 11 tunnels with a total length of 34.5 km on the route, including the North Muya tunnel, which at 15,343 metres is the longest in Russia.

In 1997 Baikal-Amur Railways was reorganised and it became part of the East Siberian and Far Eastern Railways.

In 1975 a unique railway bridge near Komsomolsk-on-Amur was opened for trains, and direct rail traffic began on the Volochaevka - Sovetskaya Gavan section. In 1992, the Sakhalin branch of the line was transformed into an independent railway (town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk).

Far Eastern Railways now runs through 6 subjects of the Russian Federation - Primorsky and Khabarovsk Territories, the Amur, Sakhalin and Jewish Autonomous Oblasts and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). It also has common borders with Trans-Baikal Railways and East Siberian Railways.

In addition, Far Eastern Railways serves Magadan Oblast, Kamchatka Territory and the Chukotka Autonomous District - which covers more than 40% of Russia's territory.


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