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History of Russian rail lines

History of Russian rail lines

North Caucasus Railways stretches from the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea in the west to east of the Caspian, from the East Don ridge in the north to the south of the Caucasus mountain range.

On 1 March 1860, Mikhael Khomutov, Ataman of the Don Cossacks, sent a report to Russia's Minister of War in which he appealed for the construction of a railway from the Grushevsky mines to the pier at the Melehovskoy Cossack village.

The construction of the railway on Don Cossack territories was aimed at promoting the region's commercial and industrial development. In the second half of the nineteenth century, rich coal deposits had been discovered on territory contiguous to the Don, near the Grushevka River. The large industrial enterprises that were the main consumers of this coal needed to have their raw materials delivered quickly and reliably.

In May 1860 Tsar Alexander II gave his permission for the construction to go ahead, and after seven months, on 18 December, he approved a "Decree on the Committee for the Construction of the Grushevskaya-Don Railway Line and Pier on the River Don."

On 2 April 1861 a ceremony was held two versts from Novocherkassk, along the Tangash valley, which was dedicated to the start of construction work on the Grushevskaya-Don Railway Line. (1 verst equals 1.067 kilometres or 0.6629 miles.)

"As expected, this ceremony attracted a large audience. After a litany and parade, the deputy ataman representing the Don Cossacks placed a clump of earth into a wheelbarrow and pushed it for some distance, followed by the chief of staff, who was a committee member of the railway, and, finally, a railway builder with other engineers. The ceremony was rounded off by lunch for the workers and guests" (Don Army News, 4 April 1861) In 1861, the final decision about the railway's route was taken: the line was to run from the Grushevsky mines, but not to the Melehovskoy Cossack village as originally planned, but to the Cossack village of Aksay. The work was led by the railway engineer Lieutenant Colonel Valerian A. Panayev, who knew many famous Russian writers and in particular was a friend of N.A. Nekrasov.

About 3,000 workers drawn from the peasants in Kharkov and Kursk governorates laboured on the construction. The sleepers and timber were purchased in Russia, while metal bridge structures, steam engines, hydraulic cranes, turntables, mechanical equipment for repair shops, railway engines and wagons were bought in Belgium and transported by steamship from Antwerp to Taganrog Reid.

On 29 December 1863 the railway line was put into operation. It ran for 66 versts (70 km) from Grushevka (Shakhti) via Maksimovka (Kamenolomni) and Novocherkassk to the village of Aksayky, with a branch line to the coal deposits and pier.

On 7 January 1869 Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich, the governor of the Caucasus, presented a note to the Emperor on the need to connect the Caucasus railway network with the rest of the empire by building a line from Rostov-on-Don to Vladikavkaz with a branch line to the Black Sea. The Committee of Ministers supported the Grand Duke's request and on 2 January 1870 came an imperial command to "incorporate a line from Rostov to Vladikavkaz into the network of major railways and to begin its construction no later than 1872".

The contractor S.S. Polyakov was mandated to carry out a survey of the future line's route. The Committee of Railways considered the survey's results and determined the line's general direction. Four routes were proposed, and on 7 March 1872, the Tsar approved the one which passed through the Romanovsky Post (Kropotkin), Nevinnomysskaya, 20 versts to the south of Pyatigorsk, and along the valleys of the Kuban, Kuma and Terek rivers.

The selected route was laid across the hilly plain of the steppe, rising markedly towards the south, crossed the Yekaterinoslavsky and Stavropol governorates and Don, Kuban and Terek oblasts.

The concession for the construction of the line was awarded to the collegiate assessor Baron Rudolf V. Steinheil, who was then at the Tsarskoye Selo Railway, but was little known even to railway entrepreneurs.

Under the terms of the concession, the founder assumed the obligation to establish the Rostov-Vladikavkaz Joint Stock Railway Company within three months and build and begin operating the Rostov-Vladikavkaz railway line within three years.

An earthen dam 8 versts long and a stone flood-plain bridge with a length of 250 Russian fathoms (533.4 m) were built Between Rostov and Bataisk. In all, more than a dozen large and medium-sized bridges were constructed, along with over 200 small bridges and culverts.

The railway line between Rostov - Vladikavkaz has a length of 652 versts (695 km) and was built within three years as scheduled, including all the necessary engineering structures and public works. The line was officially opened to trains on 2 July 1875. Vladimir Verkhovskii became the first manager of the Rostov-Vladikavkaz Railway Line, although he was replaced by I. D. Inozemtsev in December 1879.

In July 1883 the Board of the Rostov-Vladikavkaz Railway Society sent a request to the Committee of Ministers to grant it a concession for the construction of a line from Tikhoretskaya to Novorossiysk. Permission was granted on 9 November 1883. On 25 December 1884, the line was renamed Vladikavkaz.

Construction began in April 1885. The construction of the entire line, which covered the 258 versts from Tikhoretskaya to Novorossiysk, was scheduled to take three and a half years. The railway engineer Mikhail Kerbedz supervised the work on the Novorossiysk branch line.

The rails were made at the Putilov factory in St. Petersburg and the ironworks in Yuzovka (Donetsk). The rails were dispatched by steamboats from St. Petersburg to Rostov and Novorossiysk and then carried by train to their place of installation. Oak sleepers were prepared in the nearby forests.

The first stretch from Tikhoretskaya to Yekaterinodar was opened to trains in July 1887. The second, more difficult section from Yekaterinodar to Novorossiysk required the construction of two mountain tunnels: the shorter tunnel had a length of 180 Russian fathoms (1 Russian fathom is 2.13 metres), while the longer one was 650.9 Russian fathoms long.

The Novorossiysk branch route was constructed as a single-track line, although the tunnels were designed immediately for double tracks, although initially only one was laid. The tunnels were punched through the rock by explosions, with engineers working from both ends at the same time.

It was originally planned to build a barrel vault from brick in the tunnel, so two factories to produce the bricks were built. Subsequently, however, a deposit of stone slab was discovered nearby, so the plan to use brickwork was dropped in favour of the local stone, which in any event was stronger and more durable than brickwork.

The opening ceremony of the newly built railway line was held in Novorossiysk on 25 June 1888 and attended by a large number of citizens, as well as K.N. Posyet, Minister of Railways, Alexander M. Dondukov-Korsakov, Commander of the Caucasus Military District, G.A. Leonov, Deputy Ataman of the Kuban Cossack troops, and R.V. Shteyngel, Chairman of the Vladikavkaz Railway Society.

On 24 May 1891 the Vladikavkaz Railway Society received permission to build the Petrovskaya line - from Beslan station, which is close to Vladikavkaz, via Grozny to Petrovska (Makhachkala). This line with a length of 250 versts entered service on 1 January 1894.

At the same time as the Petrovskaya line was under construction, the Mineralnye Vody branch line with a length of 60 versts was also being built. It connected the resorts of Kislovodsk, Yessentuki and Pyatigorsk with the Vladikavkaz main line.

When in 1894 the railway line reached Kislovodsk, the Caucasus resorts began a period of intensive development.

In 1895 a beautiful Kursaal, a room for concerts, meetings and the like and replete with a spacious restaurant and theater, was built near Kislovodsk station. The Kursal staged opera and drama performances with famous actors such Chalyapin, Sobinov, Varlamov, Davydov, Didur, Plevitskaya, Preobrazhensky and many others, as well as concerts. The number of visitors increased. In 1912, a second track was laid along the Mineralny Vody branch line.

In the early 1890s, Stavropol City Council repeatedly approached the government with a proposal to build a railway line from Kavkazsky station to Stavropol.

Permission was finally given on 9 May 1893, with construction to be carried out by the Railway Society. The work was supervised by M. Kerbedz, who successfully solved the difficult problem of constructing a short length of track with high embankments, deep hollows and innumerable bridges, culverts and drainage pipes, while also ensuring train safety once the line came into operation in 1897.

The Russo-Japanese War, which began in 1904, and the 1905 Russian Revolution, led to a long pause in the construction of new lines.

Between 1901 and 1913, a 28-verst branch line was built from Bataysk to Azov which was commissioned in 1911.

The section between Rostov - Vladikavkaz was built in 1875, but suffered from low through capacity. Due to the increasing volume of traffic, especially after the launch of the Novorossiysk line and the provision of access to the Volga and the Caspian Sea, the line was in need of a root and branch reconstruction. The wooden structures were replaced by stone, while hub and major freight stations were rebuilt and additional tracks laid.

The bridge over the Don, which was built in 1875, could not cope with the growing freight volumes, so a new three-span bridge with a double track and vertically rising arched girder was built between 1912-1917. It was designed by Professor S. Belzetsky, together with the well-known bridge builder and scientist Professor N. Belelyubsky and Professor G. Perederiy. It was the first bridge in Russia with a vertical raising system, which was designed by the American engineer Gunther. All metal structures were manufactured in Russia at the Maltsevsky factory.

With more and more territories becoming integrated into the railway network, towns and cities began a period of rapid growth, including Rostov-on-Don, Taganrog, Novorossiysk, Vladikavkaz, Yekaterinodar and Armavir.

In 1908 a joint stock company was established by the engineer Pertsev, which then received permission to build the Armavir-Tuapse line and in 1912 the Armavir - Stavropol - Petrovsky line with branch lines to Divnoe and Blagodatnoe. The section between Armavir - Tuapse was completed and commissioned in 1913, while trains began running on the Georgiyevsk - Saint Krest line in 1914.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Vladikavkaz Railways boasted 18 workshops, the largest of which were the depot and workshops in Rostov and Bataysk, Tikhoretsky, Novorossiysk, Kavkazky, Groznensky and Mineralvodcheskie.

In 1904 the Vladikavkaz Railway Society had over 28,000 employees, extracted and processed oil and owned all the infrastructure of the port of Novorossiysk.

During the Russian Civil War, Vladikavkaz Railways was destroyed. The process of recovery and reconstruction took almost 10 years. From 1929 onwards, the North Caucasus saw the construction of new sections, including between Tuapse - Sochi, Sochi - Adler and Maikop - Khadzhokh.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the railway again saw active construction, in particular new lines between Zvereva - Krasnodonskaya (1971), Anapa - Yurovsky (1977) Blagodarnoe - Budyonovsk (1987) and Peschanokopskaya - Krasnaya Gvardia (1989).

The successor to the Grushevskaya-Donskoi line, and later the Vladikavkaz - North Caucasus Railway, now connects the region with the centre of Russia, the Urals, Siberia, Russia's Far East, the countries of the CIS and the three Baltic republics. North-Caucasus Railways are managed from Rostov-on-Don.

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