History of Russian rail lines
2001 saw the 150th anniversary of the first Russian high-speed mainline railway between St. Petersburg - Moscow, which today we call October Railways. In the 1830s and 1840s, the question of linking St. Petersburg with Russia's central regions by rail demanded immediate resolution. The capital's population relied on outside food deliveries, but the shallow water of the Volga often led to a standstill in freight transport, thus threatening Petersburg with hungry times. In addition, the lack of convenient means of communication was becoming an increasingly serious obstacle to industrial development. However, the construction of the railway line between St. Petersburg and Moscow sparked considerable controversy. Many company owners feared that Russia would be flooded with foreign goods after the railways began operating.
These disputes ceased on 1 February 1842 when Tsar Nicholai I signed a decree on the construction of the first Russian mainline railway between St. Petersburg - Moscow. It was decided to lay the line at the shortest distance between the two capitals, a distance of 604 versts (644 km). Subsequently, the construction of the Verebinsky bypass in 1877 increased the line's length to 609 versts. Construction work began in summer 1843.
Construction was entrusted to two directorates, the Northern, headed by P.P, Melnikov, and the Southern under N.O. Kraft.
It was the distinguished engineer Melnikov who developed the criteria for selecting the project's main elements, such as the number of main tracks, the maximum permissible gradients on different routes and the scale of the railway construction depending on the expected amount of traffic. He organised the first trials to establish the rated traction force on the couplers to determine the weight of the train. Melnikov also established the principles for locating and classifying stations and created original types of intermediate stations.
He was also the first person in Russia to draw up technical specifications for the design and construction of the subgrade formation, stations, artificial structures and the track superstructure, thus enabling optimal gradients, curve radii and other characteristics to be chosen for the construction. The subgrade formation was built for two tracks from the outset, and flat-bottomed iron rails were laid for the first time.
At the insistence of Melnikov, the track gauge was set at 5 feet or 1524 millimeters, and this width became the standard for all railways in Russia. The builders had to overcome water obstacles by building 8 large and 182 medium and small bridges.
Many prominent scientists and engineers worked on the design and construction of the railway.
We should not forget about the nameless people who built the railway - the serfs. It is safe to say that the success of this "hitherto unprecedented construction" was achieved precisely because of their work. They excavated up to 10 million cubic fathoms (97 million square metres) or about 160,000 square metres per verst of the line. This figure was enormous, and not just for that time.
The St. Petersburg-Moscow railway officially opened for regular services on 1 November 1851. At 11:15 am, a passenger train departed from St. Petersburg and arrived in Moscow at 9 o'clock in the morning on the next day, having taken 21 hours and 45 minutes to make the journey.
Initially, two passenger and four freight trains plied between St. Petersburg and Moscow every 24 hours. The line was double-track, and trains travelled on the left-hand side. The passenger train consisted of 7 carriages and 15 freight wagons. Average train speeds were then 29.6 kph. In 1854, a train timetable was introduced. On 8 September 1855, the line was named the "Nicholai Railway" in honour of Tsar Nicholai I. It was renamed "October" on 27 February 1923.
Train speeds gradually increased, reducing travel time. In 1913 a train of nine passenger cars hauled by a series "C" locomotive accelerating up to 100 kph on some stretches covered the distance from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 7 hours 59 minutes.
During the Russian Civil War the railways were in a catastrophic position. Many kilometres of track had deteriorated and one third of the locomotives were out of action. Transport workers faced a difficult task in rectifying the damage and getting transport going again.
To solve these problems it was necessary to establish the discipline and management of the railways. The first government decrees relating to the railways were based on the principles of maximum centralisation, strict one-man responsibility and iron discipline. Soon, in addition to disciplinary measures, incentives were introduced to improve worker motivation.
Scientists at the Petrograd Institute of Communications made a great contribution to the completion of the railway lines and the reconstruction of destroyed bridges and other structures. The work of scientists and experts in repairing and building bridges was coordinated by Professor N.A. Belolyubsky, who was the Chairman of the Section of the Scientific Committee of the People's Commissariat of Communications.
In 1920 a bridge testing station to study the static and dynamic impacts of loads on bridges was set up by the People's Commissariat of Communications under Professor N.M. Belyayev. The station was also used for tests when building railways in other countries.
Thanks to the professionalism and responsibility of workers in the industry, the Nicholas Railway was one of the first lines to complete its recovery and rehabilitation after the Civil War. From the beginning of 1923 it became fully capable of providing freight and passenger transportation.
After the railways had been restored, work began on their reconstruction, which had undergone considerable development during the years of industrialisation. In June 1931 the Red Arrow express train between Moscow and Leningrad began regular services.
At 12:15 on 22 June 1941 the Soviet Government announced on the radio that Nazi Germany had invaded the USSR.
As early as July 1941 fascist aviation began massive strikes against the main railway lines and their stations and hubs, as well as the bridges over the River Volkhov and others in order to paralyse train movement. Special recovery, repair and bridges trains were formed to restore the rail facilities after the bombing raids.
Railwaymen together with the military commandants' offices organised urgent transports to the front and evacuated people and equipment from the numerous enterprises in the city, the Leningrad region and the Baltic states. Many wagons were allocated to ship out the contents of libraries and museums, including the Hermitage.
The Siege of Leningrad dramatically changed the nature of the work on the railways. Existing lines were used mainly for cargo transports to the front and for delivering food to Leningrad. In September 1941, only 35 pairs of passenger trains were operating within the Leningrad hub, and in January 1942, passenger traffic almost ceased.
From the beginning of the siege, the only way to communicate with the rest of the country was across Lake Ladoga. The water route was subjected to constant bombing, but in autumn 1941, deliveries of food and other supplies to the besieged Leningrad began on barges.
From September 1941 repair and construction trains began reconstructing the Irinovskaya line, a spur track which was only lightly used before the war and which was the only link remaining which connected Lake Ladoga and the city.
When the city's water supply failed in the middle of winter 1942, and the steam locomotives transporting cargo from Lake Ladoga were left without water, railway staff, along with the city's firemen, ran hoses from a hole in the ice on the Neva River to the depot's lines. Fuel reserves soon ran out, so railway workers began to prepare timber on the stretch near the Kamenka platform in Vsevolozhsk district.
The Road of Life worked at full capacity, and as early as March, up to 200 wagons loaded with food and other goods arrived in the city every day.
To cope with the increased traffic, it was necessary to increase the through capacity of the block between the stations and develop further inter-station points.
New lines had to be created. To provide concrete for the construction, railway troops were forced to dismantle the tracks of passenger stations and marshalling yards. Colossal destruction had been wrought on October Railways by the war. In fact, the whole line ran either along or near the front.
Stations, locomotive and wagon depots and other railway enterprises had undergone fierce bombing. From March to June 1943, the bridges across the Neva were damaged 18 times, but railway staff and military engineers were on duty on the bridges and quickly repaired the damage.
On 27 January 1944, Hitler's troops were pushed back from Leningrad. On 23 February 1944, the first freight train to depart from the city after the blockade was lifted left Leningrad for Moscow on the rebuilt main line. On 20 March, the Red Arrow train left for the capital.
In the West, fierce fighting continued, but on the lines of October Railways, restoration work was already underway. By the end of the war, almost the entire line was ready to transport cargo and passengers. By October 1950, the railway had restored 3,500 kilometres of main tracks, more than 300 stations and 1,126 buildings, 240 bridges and over 6,300 km of lines.
The technical re-equipping of the October Railway and its transition to new types of traction were implemented in just a few years. In 1956, the new TE7 passenger locomotives began operations and repairs, followed by the TEP60 in 1960, which completely replaced the P36 locomotives which had been transferred to other depots. In the same year, the railway completed the construction of all the major items of equipment so that locomotives could use liquid fuel. As a result, by the beginning of the 1960s, all major steam locomotive depots had switched to diesel fuel to accelerate the introduction of diesel traction.
The replacement of steam locomotive traction by diesel and electricity was the main change during the 1950s and 1960s. And it was no coincidence that back in the 1950s, it was October Railways which became a recognised leader in an area of such importance for the whole country as the introduction of high-speed trains. On 29 May 1957, the Ministry of Communications published a Decree "On Preparing the Moscow - Leningrad Route for High Speed Passenger Trains."
Electrification of the October Railways main line between Leningrad and Moscow was completed in December 1962. In 1963, maximum speeds were increased to 160 kph, and in 1965, the Aurora, the first daytime express, entered service. With a route speed of 130 kph (maximum - 160 kph), the Aurora cut the travel time for the 650 kilometres between the two cities to no more than 5 hours. In 1966, the railway was awarded the Order of Lenin.
At the end of the 1970s efficient loading technology was introduced jointly with industrial enterprises at a number of railway freight stations, which resulted in wagon standing time during cargo operations falling by 1.4 hours.
At the Leningrad-Sortirovochnaya station, which had been built in 1879, a system for breaking up train formations was installed using an electronic automatic speed regulation system developed by experts at the Institute of Hydro-Transport Signal & Communications and railway staff. The introduction of this technology increased the processing ability of sorting humps at the station by 30%.
In September 1995 the College of the Ministry of Communications of the Russian Federation decided to carry out a comprehensive reconstruction of the line.