History of Russian rail lines
South Eastern Railways passes through regions in the southern and southeastern part of European Russia: Belgorod, Voronezh, Lipetsk, Tambov, Kursk, Ryazan, Volgograd, Penza, Saratov, Tula and Rostov. The line connects the southern regions of Russia with the centre, the Volga and the Urals.
The structure of the South-Eastern railway line includes lines which were mostly built in the second half of the nineteenth century. The development of railway transport in Russia can be divided into two major periods: from the end of the 1860s to the early 1870s and the second half of the 1890s.
During the first period, the following lines were commissioned: the Yelets - Gryazi line in 1868 and the Kozlov - Voronezh line, which was extended in 1871 to Rostov-on-Don, Gryazi - Borisoglebsk in 1870 and Borisoglebk - Tsaritsyn during 1870 - 1871.
In 1865 a concession was approved and the joint-stock Ryazan-Kozlovsk Railway Company established. The line used private capital on the initiative of the Voronezh and Tambov zemstva, the local self-governments. The Ryazan - Kozlov section was commissioned on 4 September 1866 and in the same year extended from Kozlov to Voronezh. The first train arrived at Voronezh station in 1868.
It soon became necessary to extend the line south to the coal deposits of the Donetsk. The construction work began in the summer of 1869 and was undertaken by the Voronezh zemstvo.
The single-track section from the Razdelny (Otrozhki) to Lisok, a distance of 86 versts, was ready by 27 December 1870 and open for regular services on 1 January 1871. A verst is equal to 1.067 kilometres or 0.6629 miles.
On 28 November 1871 trains began to run from Voronezh to Rostov. The line was managed from Novocherkassk. As reported by the guide issued by South Eastern Railways, as of 1 December 1872, 19 passenger carriages, 653 covered freight wagons and three baggage cars were in operation on this section. The steam locomotives of that time were low powered and designed for just 10 - 15 carriages. Workshops were built to maintain the rolling stock, followed by locomotive and wagon depots.
The Kozlov - Rostov Line is a continuation of the Moscow - Ryazan line and opened a route to Russia's breadbasket, the Tambov and Voronezh governorates. On the other hand, thanks to the construction of this line, the opportunity arose to export grain from the ports on the Sea of Azov. The Yelets - Gryazi line was built as an extension of the Riga-Orlovsky line. It linked the Lower Volga with Russia's central governorates, as well as with the Baltic ports, which played a major role in the development of grain exports from the country's richest areas. In 1868, one of the first technical schools in Russia was opened at Yelets station.
On 13 June 1893 the joint stock companies of the Kozlov-Voronezh-Rostov, Orel-Gryazinsky and Gryazi-Tsaritsyn lines were merged. The South Eastern Railway Company was established, which brought together all of the lines. The Company soon started work on the construction of a railway line from the city of Kharkov to Povorino and Balashov station via Liski, Bobrov, Novokhopersk, a total distance of 660 versts. The construction cost amounted to some 25.8 million roubles. It was also planned to lay a branch line from Kupyansk to Lisichanskiy (117 versts) and from Talovaya to the village of Buturlinovka and Karlach (90 versts).
Work began on 1 August 1893 and on 17 December 1895, the Kharkov - Balashov line was commissioned. The Talovaya - Kalach line was commissioned on 12 May 1896. The work was not mechanised, so the line was built virtually by hand by dint of tens of thousands of labourers digging away.
In 1895 the east-west Kharkov - Balashov - Penza line was built, which, along with others laid in the same period, contributed to the further development of the coal and metal industries in the Donbass.
In 1917 South-Eastern Railways included the following lines: Kozlov - Rostov with the branch lines Grafskaya - Anna and Grafskaya - Ramon; Oryol - Gryazi - Tsaritsyn; Kharkov - Balashov with a branch line Talovaya - Kalach; Likhaya - Tsaritsyn; and Yelets - Valuiki.
The total operational length of South-Eastern Railways was 3,252 versts, or 3,470 kilometres, but it suffered from major destruction during the First World War and the Russian Civil War which followed immediately after. Up to 70% of the locomotives were destroyed, 78 major bridges blown up and 67 depots and workshops destroyed. Hundreds of kilometres of railway lines were also wrecked.
In 1918 South-Eastern Railways was nationalised. The work to rehabilitate and reconstruct the line in the second half of the 1920s enabled it to achieve once again the pre-war level of freight shipments. In the 1930s, the line became one of the most important in the country.
During the Second World War, the line served the Central, Southern, and then the Bryansk, Voronezh, South-Western, Don and Stalingrad Fronts. The line was particularly busy during the preparation and conduct of the battles at Stalingrad and Kursk.
Nowadays, South Eastern Railways provides transportation for mining enterprises at the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly, such as the Novolipetsk Metallurgical and Oskol Electro- Metallurgical combines and plants in the chemical and processing industries.
The line is managed from the town of Voronezh. South Eastern Railways borders the territory of a number of other railway lines: Moscow (Ryazhsk, Pavelets, Yelets, Yefremov, Volovo, Kastornaya-Kursk, Kursk and Gotnya stations), Volga (Du-Plyatka, Blagodatka and Abadurovo stations), Kuibyshev (Krivozerovka station) and North Caucasus (Chertkovo station).
South Eastern Railways includes the divisions Michurinskoe, Yeletskoye, Rtishchevsky (from 1985), Liskinsky, Belgorod (from 1991) and Voronezh (as a branch of South Eastern Railways since 2000).