History of Russian rail lines
In September 1853 an expedition led by G.I. Nevelsky founded the Ilinskii Post in South Sakhalin, which was later renamed the Korsakov Post after the Russian hydrographer V.A. Rimsky-Korsakov. At the same time, it was announced that Sakhalin had acceded to Russia. However, Sakhalin had been the subject of struggles between Russia and Japan for several decades. According to the Russian-Japanese Treaty signed in St. Petersburg on 25 April (7 May) 1875, Sakhalin now belonged to Russia.
At the end of the nineteenth century, several unsurfaced and ballast roads existed on the island, which in the main connected military posts with large settlements. In the south of Sakhalin, a ballast road stretching over 80 versts was built from the Korsakov post to Naybuchi village (now - Starodubskot). A verst equals 1.067 kilometres or 0.6629 miles.
The island's main settlements started developing along this railway line in the 1880s, including the modern centre of Sakhalin Oblast, the town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, which in those days was called Vladimirovka. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway proceeded apace in the Urals, Siberia and Russia's Far East, transforming the country's Pacific borders and boosting the region's settlement and development.
Sakhalin's coal was transported to Vladivostok for the needs of the Ussuri railway and the Chinese Eastern Railway Steamship Line.
The appearance of the first railways in Sakhalin is also closely linked with the establishment of production lines at coal deposits. In particular, one of these narrow-gauge railway lines was built in the late nineteenth century and led from the Alexander mine to the pier.
On 23 August 1905 the Russian and Japanese delegations signed a peace treaty in Portsmouth in the USA, according to which the southern part of Sakhalin to the 50th parallel was ceded to Japan.
Japan began railway construction in South Sakhalin immediately after the Russian-Japanese War and built what was a large and fairly modern railway network for the period in less than 40 years. This network boasted a total length of over 700 km
In summer 1906 construction work began on the first narrow-gauge railway in southern Sakhalin. The first branch line was built from Otomari (Korsakov) to Toekhara (Vladimirovka), a distance of 42 km.
On 1 November 1906 the Toekhara - Kaizuka (Solovyovka) line entered service. The Russian Vice-Consul V.V. Trautshold reported to St. Petersburg: "The first railway line on Sakhalin is for military purposes. Although the government has received many proposals from private companies and individuals to build a railway line that were obviously considered to be profitable, it was decided that the railway line would be state-owned. As a military facility, the railway line will primarily serve the garrison and transport military and government freight. Two trains a day will run for passengers. It was proposed that 8 stations should be built, in particular at Korsakovsk, Solovyovka, Mitsulevka, Khomutovka and Vladimirovka."
In 1907 the restructuring and improvement of the line began, which was converted from a military to a government railway line. In 1909, the line was extended by 2.8 km to the south from Otomari to the village of Poroantomara (which is now the city limit of Korsakov in the southern part of the port), where construction began on the port's quays.
In addition, on the stretch from Otomari to Sannosav, the track was moved away from the hills and close to the shoreline, thus avoiding the steep slopes. The total length of the Otomari - Toehara line was 46 km. During 1910 - 1915, work was carried out to convert the railway line to the usual Japanese gauge of 1,067 mm, which made for the use of more powerful engines and a significant increase in its capacity.
Sergei, the bishop of the Russian Orthodox Mission in Tokyo, told an interesting story about the narrow gauge railway: "We literally clambered into the small carriage and headed north. The carriage couldn't hold any more than 12 people without luggage, but with luggage - for which the only room was the floor! - eight passengers had difficulty getting seated! The small engines were steam, and the platforms built first and foremost for transporting timber. Tickets are on sale in the carriages, except for the terminal points of the line, where they are sold at the stations." The rails were laid with a steep gradient, making it harder for the trains to move on some sections.
In June 1911 construction of the 53.5-km Toekhara - Sakaehama railway line (Starodubskaya) began, but was already completed at the end of the year. This line was then connected to the already existing one between Toekhara - Otomari, which created a through route between Otomari - Sakaehama which ran for 99.6 km. In 1913-1914 a branch line was built between Kanuma (Novoaleksandrovsk) - Kawakami (Sinegorsk) which transported coal to Toekharu and Otomari.
By the early 1920s the main areas where colonists were to settle in the southern part of Sakhalin had been determined and the most important industrial centres identified. In 1918, the construction of a south-north railway line along the coast of the Strait of Tatary began. Due to torrential rains, the sub-foundation in some areas was washed away several times. The railway line ran on the lower terrace along the mountains, thus avoiding the steep slopes. On 11 October 1920, the Khonto - Maoka line was opened, and a year later, in November 1921, the Maoka - Noda stretch was opened for trains.
In 1921 a stretch of railway line from Noda station to Tomarioru was commissioned, followed by a stretch to Kussyunay (Ilinsk) station in 1937 near the Poyasok isthmus at the narrowest part of the island.
This enabled cargo and passenger trains to travel all along the island's south-west coast, a distance of 170 km from Khonto to Kussyunaya.
However, with the outbreak of the Second World War, the finished sections of track on the stretch between Kussyunaya and Esutoru were dismantled and converted to the broad gauge track used in the east, which meant they could now be laid on the stretch leading to the Soviet Union's state border.
As a result, however, the western line could not be completed by 1945. The northern section from the Poyasok isthmus to the port of Esutoru also remained unfinished until the end of the war.
By the early 1920s the question had arisen about the need to connect the eastern and western railway lines. Since only two ports - Khonto and Maoka - do not freeze in winter, the Japanese parliament passed a decision to build a railway line between Toekhary and Maoka. The terrain was hilly, with steep inclines interspersed with sharp turns. 15 tunnels with a total length of 5,087 metres and 35 bridges with a total length of 1,047 m were built.
Only in September 1928 was the line from Toekhary to the port of Maoka opened to trains. Settlements began to spring up along the railway line at Futomato (Chaplanovo), Osaka (Pyatirechye), Shimizu (Chistovodnoe), Nakano (Ozhidaevo) and others. The town of Maoka, which after the war was renamed Kholmsk, became Sakhalin's main sea and rail hub. A ferry crossing was built after South Sakhalin became part of the Soviet Union.
Several private railway lines belonging to different companies, firms and joint-stock companies were built in the 1920-30s, along with the state railways. As a rule, these private railway lines did not carry passenger trains since they were intended for freight transport, especially the delivery of coal, timber, equipment and other industrial goods.
In 1927, the private stock company Oodzi Fuji built a 170.5-km section of railway between the towns of Ochiai Station (Dolinsk) and Shiritori (Makarov), while in 1936 a stretch from Shiritori to the town of Sikuka (Poronaisk) was commissioned. Large pulp and paper mills operate in these towns.
In 1941, the governorate bought a section of 245.5 km from Ochiai Station to Sikuka. In November the same year, the stretch was extended from the town of Sikuka station 21.7 km to the north to Furido (Olen). The total length of the eastern line was 352 km. Some of the private railway lines, especially the narrow gauge lines, were dismantled after the war for various reasons, such as the railway line between Otomari and Tonnae. Others lines are still in use after undergoing some modernisation.
As a result of World War II, South Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands became Soviet territory in 1945, but the forty-year period of Japanese colonisation was an important step in the development of rail transport on Sakhalin.
By 1945, there were 700.4 kilometres of main line belonging to state railways in the southern part of the island. The railway line had 127 stations, 6 main stations and 9 turn-around depots. Almost all the buildings of the depots and stations were made of wood. Only 101 stations actually had station buildings. The majority of stations had no more than 3-4 lines with a maximum useful length of up to 800 m.
In the late 1940s, the need arose for a uniform system of transport links between the southern and northern parts of the island.
In 1948, Moscow experts at Soyuztransproekt presented a feasibility study on how to reconstruct the railway lines in South Sakhalin.
At the same time, at the end of 1948, the Far Eastern branch of Soyuztransproekt put forward various options for the reconstruction of South Sakhalin railways. After a comparison of these options, it was decided to build the following new railway lines: the Trans-Sakhalin Pobedino - Derbinskoj - Nogliki - Okha Main Line (484 km), the Ilinsk - Uglegorsk - Lesogorsk west line (194 km) and the two connecting lines Ilinsk - Arsentevka (27 km) and Derbinskoj - Alexandrovsk - Agnew (94 km).
In 1948, work began on laying the Okha - Katangli stretch. The construction work was done by prisoners, but since there were not enough on Sakhalin itself, groups of between 60 and 700 prisoners were drafted in in stages from camps in Irkutsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Chita, Tyumen and Kemerovo Regions and Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk and Primorye territories.
The construction work failed to finish on time, although the number of workers was increased steadily. Some parts of the narrow gauge railway commissioned since 1949 were used intensively for freight transportation. At the end of 1953, the length of the main line stretched for 248 km and the individual branch and feeder lines amounted to 56 km.
Unfortunately, commissioning the Okha - Katangli railway line did not solve the main problem of connecting the oil-producing regions of the northern and north-western coast with the warm-water ports in the south of the island.
On 5 May 1950, the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued a decree to carry out surveys and the design and construction of the Komsomolsk-on-Amur - Pobedino railway line in 1950 - 1955 with a tunnel under the Tatar Strait. Four survey expeditions were immediately dispatched from Leningrad, Moscow, Kharkov and Vladivostok to Sakhalin.
Laying the track was done by Gulag prisoners between 1951 and 1953. The line ran from the mainland to Cape Lazarev and from Sakhalin to Pogibi. However, construction on the Pobedino - Pogibi branch line was first suspended, and then stopped fully as suddenly as it had begun.
In 1973, a ferry link was opened between Vanino - Kholmsk, which reduced the time for freight deliveries from the island by a factor of three.
Sakhalin Railways was established in accordance with a decision of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation on 15 April 1992. its main line runs from Nogliki station to the ports of Korsakov and Kholmsk and Shakhta-Sakhalin station in the south of the island. The ferry connects the railway line with Vanino station on Far Eastern Railways.
In 1993, a project was approved for the construction of a narrow-gauge line (1067 mm) from Ilinsk-Sakhalinsk station to Uglegorsk, where the large Solntsevsky lignite strip mine is located. In 1995 - 1997, circuitous sections were laid on the section between Shakhta - Kholmsk - Ilinsk instead of numerous tunnels.
Since 1994, a summer ferry has been operating between Kholmsk - Otaru and Korsakov - Wakkanai on the island of Hokkaido in Japan.
Sakhalin Railways is now a part of Far Eastern Railways.