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The Company
History of Russian rail lines

History of Russian rail lines

Northern Railways runs through the North and North-East of Russia, the territory of the Polar Urals and the northern part of the Ob River basin. Northern Railways is managed from Yaroslavl.

The direction of the first Northern Railway Line followed the same route as the oldest horse-drawn line from Moscow to Arkhangelsk, which linked Russia's north with its central provinces during the time of Ivan the Terrible. With time, it became increasingly necessary to build a more reliable route, a need solved by the railways.

At the beginning of 1859 a society for the construction of a railway line from Moscow to Sergiev Posad was established. The driving force behind the society was Fyodor Chizhov, a friend of Alexander Herzen and Nikolai Gogol and a professor at Moscow University. He was a man of many talents - not only a prominent scientist in the field of physics and mechanics, but also a writer and a historian of literature and art.

Chizhov brought in Moscow merchants, including the Shipovy brothers and Ivan Mamontov, to finance the construction of what became the first "Russian" private railway built without foreign capital.

In June 1858 each of the five founders contributed 3,000 silver roubles to the charter capital, making available total capital of 15,000 silver roubles for the construction of the line. Chizhov became the Chairman of the Company Board.

On 31 March 1858 the project for the future railway line was presented at the Main Directorate of Communications and Public Buildings, which on 8 May 1858 duly issued a permit for the concession to construct a railway line from Moscow to Sergiev Posad.

On 29 May 1859 His Imperial Majesty approved the company charter for the Moscow-Yaroslavl railway, which stated that "For the construction of a link between Moscow and Yaroslavl by steam locomotive traction railway via Sergius Posad a company called the Moscow-Yaroslavl Railway Society is hereby established."

The Society had to obtain additional permission from the government in order to extend the line from Sergiev Posad to Yaroslavl. The Charter also stated that capital was to be created by issuing shares.

In 1859 construction began on the 65.7-verst Trinity-Sergius railway line (1 verst = 1.067 kilometres and 0.6629 miles). Construction was completed in 1862 and trains duly began running on the line.

In 1867 the Society's Board requested the government to extend the line to Yaroslavl. It was proposed that the track would be built on the established horse-drawn path to Pereslavl. In 1868, permission to build the line was granted, but the Charter submitted by the Management Board had been changed. The length of the track had also changed: now, it was to run to Aleksandrov, not to Pereslavl, as proposed previously. The length of the section between Trinity-Sergius Posad to Yaroslavl was determined as 196 versts, and the entire length of the line from Moscow to Yaroslavl was 262 versts.

The line was built by 1 January 1870 and opened to traffic on 18 February. This was a very rapid pace of construction for those days - it took just two years to build 200 versts of track. The route crossed the Seraya, Nerl, Sara, Ysty and other rivers, with metal bridges built across almost all of them. At major towns, such as Alexandrov, Rostov and Yaroslavl, stations made of stone were erected.

The connection between Moscow and the major regional city of Yaroslavl acquired the status of a main line.

In order to make a profit, the line had to increase the flow of goods. To attract the merchants and industrialists of the Volga region, the line's owners reduced the tariffs, which led to Volga traders preferring to ship their goods by the Moscow-Yaroslavl route rather than between Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod. That applied in particular to all grain cargoes from the Volga region.

After the death of Ivan Mamontov in 1869, his son Savva Mamontov became increasingly involved in public affairs and soon became the line's director.

Savva Mamontov was an enlightened and talented man who tried to attract well-known engineers and scientists to serve on the railway line. Thus, Professor I. Fyodorovich, the head of the department "Building Art" at the Imperial Moscow Engineering College (now the Moscow State University of Railway Engineering), was appointed the Deputy Head of the line, while V. N. Obraztsov, a lecturer at the "Railways Department" at the same institution and a future academician, became Engineer at the line's Technical Department.

The Joint Stock Company continued to apply for the further extension of the Moscow-Yaroslavl line from Yaroslavl to the north of the country.

On 24 June 1870 the Joint Stock Company received permission to build a narrow-gauge line from Uroch station on the left bank of the Volga in Yaroslavl to Vologda, a distance of 196 versts. The line connected the country's main waterway - the Volga - with the river Vologda, which is part of the Northern Dvina basin, and also linked the town of Vologda with the regions of Central Russia. The line replaced the old trade route leading to the port of Arkhangelsk. The line was divided into two segments: the first, from Vologda to Danilova, was commissioned on 8 January 1872, while the section from Danilova to Vologda entered service on 20 June 1872.

In 1870 the Moskovsko-Vindava-Rybinsky Railway Company built a section of new track from Rybinsk station to Bologoe station. It was now possible to transport grain to St. Petersburg which had arrived in Rybinsk from the lower reaches of the Volga.

In 1872 the so-called Karabanovskoe branch line was built from Alexandrov station on the Moscow-Yaroslavl line to Karabanovo village, where the famous Zubov & Baranov paper and dyeing factory was located. The branch line was 10 versts long.

During 1874-1875 the issue of constructing a railway line from Rybinsk to Yaroslavl arose, so the Society's Board asked the government for permission to build the link. At the same time, the Society sent a petition to the government for permission to build a railway line to Kostroma.

Although the need for this line was recognised by the Ministry of Communications, construction was postponed for 20 years and did not finally begin until 1866. The line was completed only in 1887 and built from Chizhov's savings.

The 1890s were characterised by the rise of railway construction in Russia. In 1893, the Yermolino - Sereda line came into operation. At the same time, the Moscow-Yaroslavl Railway Society constructed a number of branch lines, including: Belkovsky - from Alexandrov station to Kirzhach station, a distance of about 30 versts, and Yuriev-Polskaya - from Belkovo station to Yuriev-Polskaya station (83 versts).

In 1894 a 32-verst line was laid from Mytishchi station to Schyolkovo station on the Moscow-Yaroslavl stretch. In November 1896 the Ivanovo - Teykovo railway line began operations, followed by the Nerekhta - Sereda line two years later.

Foreign trade via the port of Arkhangelsk had acquired great significance, so in May 1894 the representatives of the Management Board of the Moscow-Yaroslavl Railway Society appealed to the Ministry of Finance with a request to grant a concession for the construction and operation of a railway line from Vologda to Arkhangelsk. It was proposed that the future route would run from Vologda to the Northern Dvina and a crossing to Arkhangelsk be built on the river. The Society soon received the concession and was renamed the Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk Railway Society.

Construction began in 1894. The country through which the line was to run consisted of impassable swamps and tundra: the Moshinsk swamp alone stretched for 23 versts. In order to pass through the swamp, it was necessary to build flooring made of wooden beams, but this sank into the swamp several times before it became possible to lay the rails. There were several occasions when whole trainloads of ballast also disappeared into the swamp!

To strengthen the platform, the builders make oblong wooden structures, covered them with stones and lowered them into the swamp, but even that did not always help.

At the grand opening of the line on 17 November 1897, after a government train had passed along one part of the track, that very same section, the platform, together with the rails and sleepers, disappeared into the swamp. After this incident, the line was closed for three months while the builders strengthened the construction and drove in piles.

The line entered service as soon as the individual sections were ready. The first part to be commissioned ran from Vologda station to Kubino station, a distance of 83 versts, the second covered the 40 versts from Arkhangelsk to Tundra station. Both sections were used for transporting timber.

Regular traffic only began in 1898. The city of Arkhangelsk could be reached by steamer boat from the station at Arkhangelsk-Jetty. During the spring flood of the Northern Dvina, trains stopped 6-8 versts short of the station at Arkhangelsk-Jetty and stopped at Isakogorka station.

At the end of the construction work, the Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk Railway consisted of three main sections: Moscow - Yaroslavl (262 versts), Yaroslavl - Vologda (191 versts) and Vologda - Arkhangelsk (595 versts).

In 1895 the Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk Railway Society bought the Shuysko-Ivanovskaya and the Yermolino-Seredskaya lines, which until the purchase had belonged to the Shuysko-Ivanovskaya Railway Society.

The late 1890s saw the construction of new lines between Yuriev-Polsky - Teykovo (1899) and Moscow - Savelovo (1902).

As the construction of the line proceeded, workshops were built in Vologda, Yaroslavl, Rybinsk and other cities for the repair of rolling stock.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the line controlled two crossings, at Yaroslavl and Arkhangelsk, and seven urban stations, at Arkhangelsk, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Kineshma, Kimry, Moscow and Yaroslavl.

In 1899 a narrow-gauge line was built from Moscow to Kotlas, which meant that the Northern Dvina was now served by two railway lines. This played an important role in the economic development of Arkhangelsk province.

On 1 April 1900 the Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk Railway was taken over by the Treasury Department. Between 1902 and 1905 a line between Petersburg - Vologda - Vyatka was built at public expense. This line was later divided into two separate sections, between St Petersburg - Vologda and between Vologda - Vyatka with a branch line between Bui - Danilov.

In January 1906 the Obukhovo - Vologda and Zvanka - Gostinopole lines, which were previously owned by Nikolayev Railways, were connected to the Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk line.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Vologda became a railway junction and Arkhangelsk was connected to Moscow and St. Petersburg via Vologda. From 1 January 1907 all the lines on the Moscow-Yaroslavl-Arkhangelsk Railway became known as Northern Railways.

In February 1913 the bridge across the Volga in Yaroslavl was opened.

In 1936 Northern Railways was divided into Northern Railways (Vologda town) and Yaroslavl Railways (Yaroslavl city). In 1939, construction began on a railway line from Konosha to Vorkuta, which was commissioned in December 1941.

In the 1950s the structure of Northern Railways underwent various changes. In 1953, Yaroslavl Railways became part of Northern Railways, followed by Pechora Railways in 1959. In 1956, the 127-kilometre Kostroma-Galich line was built. In 1958, construction began on Europe's largest combined rail and road bridge across the Northern Dvina in Arkhangelsk, which came into operation in December 1964.

The second half of the twentieth century was characterised by the relative stability of the boundaries and the structure of Northern Railways. All its departments became subject to a clear specialisation.

Peak traffic volumes occurred in the 1980s, but the railway northerners coped well. This once again proved that the development strategy chosen for Northern Railways was correct, and that highly-trained people were working on one of the country's leading railway lines.

In 1990 the "Programme to strengthen Northern Railways and the Transition to Working in Market Conditions" was accepted. A large section of the Programme was directed at improving the living conditions of railway workers, labour veterans and training. At the time, the line's housing stock consisted of more than 3 million square metres. During 1986 - 1992, the living conditions of more than 9,500 railway families improved.

Then in January 1992 Northern Railways became a member of Association of the Ministry of Railways on the Transport, and even earlier, in 1989, it became a co-founder of the railway bank.

On 16 September 1993 Northern Railways marked its 125th anniversary and now boasts more than 6,000 kilometres of track.

The future of Northern Railways is linked with the development of the natural resources in the Komi Republic and the northern part of Tyumen region. The new line on the Yamal Peninsula has created a transport base for the delivery of goods to the region. The fuel reserves at the Timan-Pechora Energy Complex are estimated at 200 billion tons and determine the region's development prospects, and hence the involvement of transport in this important matter for the country.

In the following years, the boundaries and structure of Northern Railways remained unchanged.


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