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The Company
History of Russian rail lines

History of Russian rail lines

By the middle of the nineteenth century, it had became clear that Russia's economic development was being held back by its inadequate transport routes. On 26 January 1857 a decree was therefore issued which established the Main Company of Russian Railways with the aim of constructing and operating the first network of Russian railways with a total length of 4,000 versts. The verst was a Russian unit of distance equal to 1.067 kilometres or 0.6629 miles.

An excerpt from the decree states: "This network will run from St. Petersburg to Warsaw and the Prussian border, from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod, from Moscow via Kursk to the lower reaches of the Dnieper to Theodosia and from Kursk or Orla via Dinaburg to Libau, and thus form a continuous connection through 26 governorates by railway line and link up three capitals, Russia's main navigable rivers, the focus of our surplus grain and two ports on the Black and Baltic Seas, which are usable almost all the year round. The network will thus ensure the domestic transportation of food."

In the early 1860s about 50 unsurfaced and main roads radiated out from Moscow, but most of these became impassable in the rain. At that time, the Moskva river was becoming very shallow and required locks for navigation. In addition, waterways operated only during the warmer months. Moscow's geographical position and its economic relations with Russia's other regions meant that the first railway lines converged on the city.

Railway construction in Russia can be divided into two bursts of activity during the nineteenth century. The first was at the end of the 1860s and early 1870s, the second was towards the mid-1890s, when the country's main lines were built: Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow-Ryazan, Moscow-Kursk, Moscow-Yaroslavl and Moscow-Brest. These lines were subsequently incorporated into Moscow Railways.

Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod Railway

The first plans for the construction of the Nizhny Novgorod railway were drawn up during the 1830s. In 1836, the idea for the line was supported by one of the most progressive leaders at that time, M. S. Volkov, who outlined the benefits of railways in Russia in an article.

On 10 May 1847 an imperial decree approved the construction of a line from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod. But it took more than 10 years before construction began. In the first half of May 1858, work began on the Moscow-Vladimir line, while construction of the Vladimir - Nizhny Novgorod section started in spring 1859.

The designers and builders of the Nizhny Novgorod line faced a number of difficulties. The bridge built over the river Klyazma at Kovrov had not even been commissioned before the alluvial embankment was swept away by floods in two places in spring 1862. Two temporary bridges had to be build urgently, but were then dismantled after the embankments had been replaced. On 17 April 1867, when the water level rose by nearly 3 Russian fathoms, or about 6.40 metres, the Nizhny Novgorod abutment pier of the bridge collapsed. The Galitsky bridge over the Klyazma suffered from similar damage. In short, it turned out that foundations established on alluvial soils could not withstand the pressure during floods.

After the track came into operation, it was found that the bridges were not its only weak point. During the construction of artificial structures and the design of the subgrade foundation, the foreign engineers did not take Russia's climatic extremes into consideration. The rails and metal parts of bridges, as well as all the rolling stock for the Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod railway line, were ordered abroad. Only in 1877, on the initiative of I.F. Rerberg, the line's managing director, was Russia's first factory for the production of impregnated sleepers opened near Nizhny Novgorod. Several years later, the Central Mechanical Workshop in Kovrov began to produce its own carriages and wagons. The CMW also set up repair shops.

The commissioning of the Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod railway line was a great event in the country's economic life and was the first rail link connecting Russia's European part with its eastern regions. Regular train services on the section from Moscow to Vladimir began on 14 June 1861.

The second section from Vladimir - Nizhny Novgorod was completed on 1 August 1862. The volume of freight traffic increased every year, and 776 different types of goods and raw materials were transported in 1880 alone.

The main cargoes were wood, iron, brick, leather, linen, cereals, canvas, wheat, flour, fish, cotton and oil. Due to the growth in traffic between 1876 and 1892, a second track was laid.

In 1894 the Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod line, along with other railways belonging to the Main Company of Russian Railways, was acquired and became state-owned.

At present the Moscow Main Line includes only a small section of the old Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod line from Moscow to Cherusti and Petyshki stations.

More information about the history of the Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod line can be found in the section on the History of the Gorky Railway.

Moscow-Ryazan Railway

The proposal to build a railway from Moscow to Kolomna was put forward as early as 1841 by F. A. Gerstner, who built the Tsarskoye Selo railway. In 1860, the Moscow governorate had 1,636 factories, the largest of which included Gouzhon, Gopper, the Bromley brothers and the textile manufactories of Tsindel and Prokhorov.

Raw materials for the majority of these enterprises were sourced from the Russian provinces. But because of the costs, deliveries by road were unprofitable. Moreover, delivery times were too slow, with goods from Kolomna, for example, taking 5-6 days.

In 1856 the Moscow-Saratov Railway Company was founded by prominent courtiers, including Adjutant General N. N. Annenkov, Adjutant General S. A. Yurievich and the Privy Councillors M. N. Zhemchuzhnikov and K. I. Arsenyev. Foreign bankers also joined later as founders. The Company was supported by Alexander II and obtained a concession for 80 years. In 1863, it became known as the Moscow-Ryazan Railway Company.

Carl Frederick von Meck, a former railway engineer, won the contract to lay the line and construct the artificial structures. After leaving government service, von Meck devoted himself entirely to commercial activities and went into private business to build railways. He began his new career with the construction of the Moscow-Kolomna line, where he displayed his organisational talents, knowledge and energy. The construction of the 117-verst line began on 11 June 1860 and proceeded at an rapid pace. The rails and fastenings were delivered by sea to Kronstadt and from there transported by mule pack trains to the builders. About 4,000 hired workers were employed on the line's construction.

By 1 June 1861 the Moscow - Kolomna line was completed and presented for inspection to a State Commission headed by Major-General N. I. Lipin. During the inspection, it turned out that the line's condition meant it could not be opened to trains. The Commission therefore ordered that those "parts of the line should be brought up to that standard which they should have according to the plan."

Only by 20 July 1862 was all the work completed and the line officially opened for regular services, which consisted of two combined passenger and freight trains along the stretch of 80 versts. The concession was awarded to the Moscow-Ryazan Railway Company, which was headed by P.G. von Derviz, a former official of the Committee of Railways. Carl Frederick von Meck became the Company's sub-contractor.

Particular difficulties arose with the bridge over the river Oka. By summer 1864, the approaches to the river had been completed. Initially, a temporary bridge was built, and the 27 August 1864 saw the beginning of services from Kolomna to Ryazan. On 20 February 1865, the permanent bridge was completed. It was Russia's first combined bridge for railway and cartage. The military engineer A. E. Struve built both the temporary and permanent bridges. To manufacture the spans, Struve also set up workshops which were converted into a machine-building plant in 1872. Before using the line, management had made a bet on freight transportation. In 1862, just two passenger trains ran every day: from Moscow at 12 am and from Kolomna at 11:11 am. But in 1865, P. G. von Derviz wrote: "The lines which were not really built for passengers, such as Ryazan, actually earn nearly as much from passenger traffic as from goods trains."

Traffic volumes on the Moscow-Ryazan railway constantly increased. Rolling stock consisted of 31 steam engines, 73 passenger carriages and 778 freight wagons. The locomotives were heated with wood and peat. About 420,000 passengers were transported every year. The Moscow - Kolomna - Ryazan line became one of the most profitable Russian routes.

Since traffic was increasing every year, a second track was built in 1870. In the same year, the Company also built the Yegorievskaya and Zaraiskaya branch lines.

Over the next twenty years, however, the network did not expand and most attention was focused on improving and enhancing its profitability. In 1879 the carriages were divided into classes and coloured coded to show their class. First class carriages were blue, second class were painted yellow and third class green, while the postal car was brown. An interesting fact is that with the first trains were the first "free riders" who travelled without buying tickets. In Russian, they became known as "hares" for reasons which still remain mysterious.

Commuter traffic finally took shape in the 1890s, when large garden communities started developing, such as Kuskovo, Kraskovo and Malakhovka, but at that time, passenger trains required 5-6 hours to cover a distance of just 106 versts. New stations were built all along the line. By 1898 passengers could already use stations at Sortirovochnaya, Perov, Sheremetevo (now Plyushchevo), Veshnyaki, Kosino, Podosinki (now Ykhtomskaya), Lyubertsy, Tomilino, Malakhovka, Ydelnaya, Bykovo, Ilinskaya and Ramenskoye. Before World War I, powerful mainline locomotives, as well as heavy-duty freight wagons capable of transporting greater loads, were operating on the line, as well as the first refrigerated wagons for transporting Siberian oil and lubricants.

In Moscow, a refrigerated warehouse equipped by the German company Borsig was built. After the events of 1905, an apartment building at Moscow-Sortirovochnaya Station and a settlement for the line's employees at Prozorovskaya station were built. During the First World War, railway stations were equipped with additional warehouses and storehouses to supply the army with grain. Technical schools and a telegraph school were opened in order to train staff.

At present, Moscow Railways includes the Moscow-Morsovo section with a branch line to Kasimovo and the Moscow-Ryazhsk II segment with a branch line to Voslebovo.

Moscow-Yaroslavl Railway

The future leading theoretician of Russia's industrial and commercial development Fedor Chizhov was also one of the first to propose the construction of a steel main line from the capital to Yaroslavl. This idea was supported by Moscow's merchants, who were looking for profitable investments. The Moscow - Yaroslavl line thus became the first private line to be built without foreign capital. Ivan Mamontov, the father of the famous patron Savva Mamontov, became F. V, Chizhov's active assistant.

In 1859, the Shipov brothers, businessmen from Moscow, the engineer Major General A. I. Delvig and the merchant I. F. Mamontov established a company to construct a railway line from Moscow to Yaroslavl, with F. V. Chizhov becoming the company chairman. On behalf of the founders, statisticians estimated that "every year more than 150,000 people passed along the Yaroslavl road in different carriages, from coaches and stagecoaches to carts, and 4 million pounds of luggage were transported. And that does not include some 500,000 pilgrims to the Trinity-Sergius Monastery."

In May 1860, construction work began on the line from Sergiev Posad, with more than 6,000 workers involved. A connecting line with the Nizhny Novgorod railway was built. A flyover was erected at the intersection with the Yaroslavl line. Initially, the line boasted 7 stations: two terminal stations, two class III stations at Pushkino and Khotkovo and three class IV stations, at Mytishchi, Talitsy and Sofrino.

On Sunday 22 July 1862, engineers and builders made the first test run. The train consisted of a locomotive and a platform on which was placed a large tent. At the head of the group was Colonel M. Bogomolets, a railway engineer and one of the company's founding directors.

Moscow newspapers reported on 17 August 1862: "The management of the Moscow-Yaroslavl Railway gives notice that from 18 August, daily services from Moscow to Sergiev Posad will begin, initially twice a day."

For the opening of the line, three-axle passenger carriages were purchased in Germany from the companies Pflug and Lauenstein. The carriages had no vestibules, and the passengers exited the train from the gangway doors and onto an open platform with handrails. The German carriages only had a single wall, so the interiors were already cold by the autumn. Later, more comfortable carriages manufactured by the Kovrov workshops became available. Freight train services from Moscow to Sergiev Posad began on 3 October 1862 and transported firewood for the capital, charcoal for samovars and steam irons, peat, bricks and stone.

In 1865 despite some financial difficulties, the company declared its wish to proceed with surveys of a new section of the route from Sergiev Posad to Yaroslavl. The engineer G. Grek participated actively in the work. In February 1866, he presented a longitudinal profile of the line and plans for the bridges to the Shareholders' Meeting.

According to Grek's plan, there were to be 6 metal bridges with stone pillars. It was envisaged that line would pass through Alexandrov and Rostov, but bypass Pereslavl. Construction of the line began on 2 July 1868 and took less than two years. Locomotive depots were built in Yaroslavl, Rostov and Alexandrov. The Company purchased 8 BP series locomotives made by Borsig.

The Moscow-Yaroslavl line connected the capital with the river Volga, which greatly contributed to the development of industry in the cities of the Volga region. Traffic volumes increased steadily and over time a network of access lines was developed.

After the death of the elder Mamontov, F. V. Chizhov recommended that Savva Ivanovich Mamontov take on the responsible position of the Company's Managing Director in charge of the Moscow-Yaroslavl Railway Company. Chizhov had already been Savva Mamontov's patron and mentor for many years.

In 1872 the Yaroslavl - Vologda narrow-gauge line was built, followed by the Alexandrov - Karabanovo branch line in 1877 and the Yaroslavl - Kostroma line in 1887.

On 6 November 1894 temporary services began on the Mytishchi - Shchyolkovo line, with regular services starting in 1895. At present, the Moscow Railways includes a section from Moscow to Alexandrov.

Moscow-Kursk Railway

In 1852 the Chernigov, Poltava and Kharkiv governors-general sent Prince Kochubey's proposal on the construction of a southern line from Kharkov to Feodosia to the Chief Superintendent of Communications and Public Buildings.

Tsar Nicholai I responded soon with a resolution: "This will be a wonderful thing. Launch without delay."

The project was approved by the Committee of Ministers and on 2 December 1852 came the imperial permission for the line's construction.

In 1854 an expedition was organised which included seven survey teams headed by renowned engineers such as P.P. Melnikov, D.I. Zhuravsky, V.S. Semichev, V.A. Panaev and others.

In 1857 the Main Company of Russian Railways was established, which received a concession for the construction of the line from Moscow to Feodosia but lost it again in November 1861 due to its financial insolvency.

In 1863 P.P. Melnikov was appointed Chief Superintendent of Communications and Public Buildings. He defended the proposal to build a line at public expense, arguing that this would cost the government much less.

On 8 July 1865 Alexander II published an imperial command on the construction of the Moscow-Kursk line using public funds. The military engineer Colonel V. S. Semichev supervised the construction and A. I. Falevich was appointed his assistant.

The line was divided into 5 sections: Moscow - Serpukhov, Serpukhov - Tula, Tula - Skuratovo, Skuratovo - Oryol and Oryol - Kursk. Building the Moscow - Kursk route marked the beginning of the career of engineers such as V. M. Verkhovsky, V. F. Golubev and V. A. Titov, who became well-known subsequently.

The earthworks, the construction of the artificial structures and the track work were carried out by contractors which included P. I. Gubonin, T. L. Sadowski and A. E. Struve. The latter was involved in the construction of a large metal bridge across the Oka River near Serpukhov. Shortly before that, A. E. Struve had built a factory in Kolomna which made all the bridge's metal parts.

One of the contractors, P. I. Gubonina, later became known as the "railway king". Coming from a peasant family, he inherited a small stone workshop and progressed from craftsman to a large contractor for masonry work in Moscow, and then to a concessionaire for railway construction.

The line came into service gradually. The Mysovaya - Serpukhov line was opened for passenger services in 1866. In 1867, freight train services began on the Serpukhov - Tula stretch and in 1868, trains could run from Tula to Kursk. On 17 September 1868, the Moscow - Kursk line was ready and able to carry passenger and freight trains. In 1869 - 1870, a second track was laid from Moscow to Sergiev. In 1887, a second track was laid from Sergiev to Skuratov.

Hopes that the cost of building the line would pay off quickly did not materialise, however. The Ministry of Finance therefore insisted on the sale of the Moscow-Kursk line to a private company, and numerous proposals were submitted by Russian and foreign businessmen.

Moscow-Brest Railway

Preference was given to a group of business people from Moscow which included F.V. Chizhov, T.S. Morozov, M.A. Gorbov and others. In 1871, the charter of the Moscow-Kursk Railway Company was approved. But the line did not remain in private hand for very long, and in 1893 it was bought by the state. A year later, the line was combined with the Nizhny Novgorod and Murom railways. From 1 January 1894, it was called the Moscow-Kursk, Nizhny Novgorod and Murom Railway and had a total length of 11,294 versts.

The Tverskaya-Yamskaya Sloboda (Settlement), was built on the western outskirts of Moscow at the end of the sixteenth century. The Tver route, a lively trade road, passed through the Tverskaya-Yamskaya Sloboda. After Peter the Great founded Russia's northern capital, the Tver route was called St. Petersburg, but the name of the outpost did not changed. In the 1860s, it became necessary to build a railway line to Smolensk, which began from Tverskaya Zastava.

In 1867 the Smolensk district council received the "imperial command" to conduct a survey of the route between Smolensk and Moscow in order "to connect the cities by rail." In Smolensk, surveys were carried out by private individuals. On 15 December 1868, the concession for the construction of the Moscow-Smolensk line was approved by Alexander II. The founders of the company were A. Shepeler and banking house of the Sulzbach brothers in Frankfurt.

The initial plan for the line's construction was presented by the Moscow Zemstvo and Smolensk governorate, but still required consideration of the line's future profile and calculations of the amount of excavation and the definition of manpower requirements etc. Moscow station was "allocated to urban land" one verst and 300 Russian fathoms from the Tverskaya Zastava, on the left side of the St. Petersburg road and opposite Petrovsky Park."

In 1869 the City Council raised the issue of the moving the station closer to the city. A commission that had been set up decided to build the station at Tverskaya Zastava and connect it with the Nikolayev line. Mr. Friedland, who led the construction, determined the route for the main line, which had to proceed from the Tverskaya Zastava to the intersection with the Zvenigorod line.

On Khodynka Field, running along the current Begovaya Street, beginning in the 1730s, horse races were held on the adjacent race course, which according to the plan was to be replaced by the Smolensk railway line. The Moscow City Duma presented the report to Prince V.A. Dolgorukov, the Governor-General, with a request to make a quick decision on the construction of the line in accordance with the plan.

At the same time, in his capacity as President of the Imperial Moscow Racing Club, V.A. Dolgorukov received an urgent request for assistance from Adjutant General R.E. Greenwald, the head of State Horse Breeding, "in order that the route of the aforesaid line deviate from the racecourses as much as possible."

In his reply to Greenwald, Dolgorukov said: "According to the information I have gathered, the direction of the railway line from Moscow to Smolensk and its length have been determined by an Imperial Concession approved on 15 December 1868. However, a deviation of the railway line from the race course and extending the line would require the Company to assume new costs for the aforesaid line and even render it impossible to build a station on the proposed site. A request to require the Company to change the line therefore has no legal basis. "

In the spring of 1869 all the organisational issues were resolved and construction began. Initially, the station was built at Tverskaya Zastava, and with the onset of warmer weather, workers began to lay the station tracks and build the foundations of the locomotive depot and carriage workshops. According to the Moscow archives, the Privy Councillor and owner of brick factories Nemchinov, was responsible for putting up all the buildings at the Moscow station.

The line was built at the same time from Smolensk and from Moscow. Rolling stock was ordered in Western Europe. On 9 August 1870, the first working trains went from Smolensk to Gzhatsk. On the Moscow section, the line was ready to Borodino station. A Commission was expected to arrive on 25 August to accept the line.

The line's grand opening consequently took place on 19 September 1870, and the first train from Smolensk arrived in Moscow. On 20 September 1870, regular passenger and freight services began between Moscow and Smolensk.

In 1870 - 1871 the Smolensk - Brest line was built, a total distance of 627 versts. It was then called the Moscow-Brest line. From 1877 to 1892, a second track was laid along the whole line. In 1896, the Moscow-Brest line was bought by the Treasury.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the railway linked Moscow with the south-western regions of Russia and the Moscow-Bryansk and the Pavelets-Moscow lines were built. At the same time, the Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk Railway Company commissioned the Moscow-Savyolovsky line.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, a direct route from Moscow to the port Vindava on the Baltic coast was built. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Moscow thus became a major railway hub.

The need also arose for a single circle line to connect all the lines already built, which was constructed in 1908 and named the Moscow District Railway.

Many lines were destroyed during the Civil War and Revolution, and only in the mid-1920s were the tracks rebuilt. In subsequent years, railway branch lines were completed and reconstructed. Originally, the railways connecting Moscow and regions existed as independent divsions. Moscow Railways was formed in 1959 through the merger of the Moscow-Ryazan, Moscow-Kursk-Donbass, Moscow-Kiev and Northern lines. In the 1960s, the Moscow Circular Railway line and the Bryansk-Vyazma line also became part of Moscow Railways, followed by all of the Kalinin railway line except the Velikoluksky and Rzhevsky divisions in 1961.


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