History of Russian rail lines
In the nineteenth century the lack of modern means of communication and the poor condition of dirt roads held back Russia's economic development and hindered ties between the provinces. At the same time, there was a large flow of goods from the Volga region to the centre of Russia. Since the bulk of goods consisted of food, fast deliveries were important.
In the middle of the century government circles addressed the issue of connecting Moscow with the provinces along the Volga, and in 1856, the Moscow-Saratov Railway Company was set up to achieve that goal. The founders of the company committed themselves to building a line between Moscow and Saratov via Kolomna, Ryazan and Morshansk in 6 years.
One of the organisers of the construction work was P.G. von Derviz, the son of the director of the Gatchina Orphans' Institute. Von Derviz was one of the first people to become a concessionaire for the construction of railways and quickly became rich, gaining fame as a rail baron.
During the first few years, the Company raised money for the upcoming construction, but in 1861 it became clear that the founders could not fulfill their obligations and the Company changed its charter in 1863 due to financial difficulties. According to the new charter, the line would now only extend to Ryazan.
Railway construction in Russia took place in two major phases, the first during the 1860-70s and the second at the beginning of the 1890s. These periods were characterised by construction development based on concessions, when private companies were granted a large loan.
It was at this time that railways were built which linked central Russia with the Volga provinces. Laid during the first stage were the lines between Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod (1862), Moscow-Ryazan (1864), Moscow-Yaroslavl (1870) and Tambov-Saratov (1871). These lines were further extended in the second stage and provided access to the lower reaches of the Volga and the Urals.
The question of constructing a railway from Saratov to Tambov was raised in 1866 at the first meeting of the Saratov local government, the zemstvo.
In 1867 the Tambov and Kirsanovsky county zemstvos sent the government a petition requesting permission to build a line. With imperial permission, the Minister of Communications, P.P. Melnikov, presented the matter to the Committee of Communications, which approved the direction of a railway from Tambov to Saratov via Kirsanov and Atkarsk.
On the basis of this decision, in February 1867 the zemstvos carried out surveys, and the Ryazan-Kozlovsky Railway Company was established. Construction began a year later. The concession for the construction of the Tambov-Kozlov was awarded to P.G. von Derviz, the former director of the Moscow-Ryazan line.
The contractor on this turnkey contract was the Arman and Zadler Partnership. The first part of the Tambov - Umet section was opened to traffic on 22 August 1870, the second stretch to Atkarsk on 27 January 1871 and the third to Saratov on 17 July 1871.
In 1891 the Kozlov-Saratov and Tambov-Kozlovsky lines were merged into the Kozlov-Saratov railway line, which then became state property.
In 1891 the Ryazan-Kozlovsky Railway Company presented a plan to expand its enterprise by constructing new lines from Rasskazovo to Kamyshin, from Pokrovskaya Sloboda (Settlement) to Uralsk and from Bogoyavlensk station to the village of Sosnovka, as well as by merging these lines with the Ryazan-Kozlovsky and Kozlov-Saratov lines.
The plan was approved by the government, and the Ryazan-Kozlovsky Railway Company was renamed the Ryazan-Ural Railway Company.
From 1892 to 1897, the following lines entered service: Lebedyan - Yelets (75 versts), Tambov - Kamyshin (444 versts), Pokrovsk - Uralsk (396 versts), Yershov - Nikolayevsk (88 versts), Urbakh - Alexandrov Gai (173 versts ), Atkarsk - Volsk (235 versts), Bogoyavlensk - Sosnovka (79 versts), Krasavka - Balanda (75 versts) and Saratov - Neftyanaya (12 versts). One verst is 1.067 kilometers or 0.6629 miles.
In the 1880s and 1890s several projects were put forward for the construction of a railway line to Astrakhan. Although surveys had been carried out, none of the projects were supported by the government. Disputes about the actual direction lasted about 10 years and were resolved only at the beginning of the twentieth century, when on 10 June 1902, an imperial order was given to construct a broad-gauge line from Astrakhan to Krasny Kut station and "regauge the narrow-gauge track to broad-gauge track from this point to Pokrovsky Settlement (Sloboda)."
In 1903 the Ryazan-Ural Railway Company started constructing the line. The engineers and builders faced great difficulties. The line crossed the three main branches of the river Volga, the Akhtuba, Buzan and Boldy, two minor rivers, Krivoy Buz and the Rycha, as well as 11 small watercourses. 14 bridges were built built at the delta, the largest being across the rivers Akhtuba, Buzan and Boldy. On 9 July 1907, the section between Krasny Kut - Buzanov-Pier was opened to trains, followed by the stretch between Buzanov - Astrahan1 on 15 December 1909.
To ensure the transport of goods in the Trans-Volga region, the first railway ferry in Russia across the Volga was built near Uvek station. The link between the right and left banks was achieved using two ferries and an icebreaker.
The first icebreaker and ferry were produced by the British company Armstrong in the 1890s. When the Volga froze and became covered in ice, the icebreaker "paved the way" for the ferry. Soon, the ferry Saratov Crossing was no longer able to cope with the increased flow of goods. In 1908, the Ryazan-Ural Railway Company therefore ordered a second, more powerful ferry from the Sormovo factory. The new ferry was called "Second Crossing." During one year, the two ferries transported 130,000 wagons across the Volga in both directions. In winter 1914, a railway track was laid on the ice to increase capacity, with the train drawn by horses.
The stations on the river banks were equipped with special inclined platforms, so that the cargo could be raised from or lowered to the barges.
Since oil was transported from Baka via Saratov, oil storage tanks and interim warehouses were built at the stations on the Volga. Also built were floating and shore-based oil pumps that poured oil from barges into the tanks and vice versa. Oil storage tanks with floating oil pumps were located at Uvek, Pokrovsk, Kamyshin and Buzan stations on the banks of the Volga.
In 1914 - 1918 the Ryazan-Ural line saw new branch lines built: Saratov - Kamenolomnaya, Penza - Kharkov, Tambov - Morshansk, Balashov - Yershov and Nikolayevsk -Samara. In September 1918, the line was nationalised and transferred to the People's Commissariat of Communications. During 1930 - 1935, a bridge was built across the Volga near Saratov.
The railway acquired strategic importance during the Great Patriotic War. In autumn 1941, the State Defense Committee ordered the construction of lines between Akhtuba - Paromnaya and Astrakhan - Kizlyar with the simultaneous construction of crossings over the Volga at Astrakhan and Stalingrad. Just a year later, troop trains began departing from Paromnaya. In 1942, the Ilovlya - Petrov Val - Saratov line entered service. In 1943, another three lines were built between Gurmak - Sarepta, Yelshanka - Sadovaya and Sadovaya - Prichalnaya. The line was built in record time and named Stalingrad.
In 1953 Volga Railways was formed by combining Ryazan-Ural and Stalingrad railways. Volga Railways is located in the south-east of the European part of Russia. The line connects the industrial centres of the Volga region and is thus an important transport link between the central regions of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia and Siberia.