History of Russian rail lines
South Ural Railways passes through the territory of seven subjects of the Russian Federation, as well as parts of Kazakhstan. This route connects the Far East and Siberia with Russia's central regions. South Ural Railways is managed from Chelyabinsk.
At the end of the nineteenth century Chelyabinsk was connected to Ufa and Samara only by a horse-drawn path, along which mail, freight, and passengers were carried across the Urals and political exiles escorted to Siberia. There was also a river route to Ufa and Beloi.
In May 1870 surveys began on the stretch between Samara and Orenburg and the results submitted to the government. In 1871, imperial permission was duly given to construct the line from Samara to Orenburg.
On 22 February 1874 construction of the Orenburg railway line started from the right bank of the Volga River near Batraki station to Orenburg via Samara, along with a bridge across the Volga and branch line to the pier in Samara. The construction work proceeded simultaneously on multiple sections, which were then commissioned for temporary operation as soon they were ready. Peasants were brought in from Simbirsk, Samara and Orenburg provinces to work on the line's construction.
The Batraki - Orenburg line of 507.3 versts was opened to trains on 1 January 1877. One verst is equal to 1.067 kilometers 0.6629 miles.
Discussion about the need to build a railway line from the Volga to the Southern Urals began in the late 1870s. Major industrialists and merchants in the Urals had become interested in Siberia's untapped wealth and the new markets for raw materials opening up in the east. But for a long time, there was little other interest in the many projects for main line railways. On this subject, the governor of Tobolsk said that: "The Tobolsk Governorate and the neighbouring governorates suffer rather than benefit from the railways, which will make the maintenance of order in the region impossible and make it harder to monitor political exiles and make their escape easier."
A special commission under the Ministry of Communications considered the various plans for a railway line from Moscow to the Urals and Siberia for 20 years. In 1884, it was finally decided to build the Trans-Siberian Railway, part of which later became South Ural Railways.
In 1885 construction of the South Ural railway line began at government expense under the supervision of the railway engineer K. Y. Mikhailkovsky and his assistants, P. S. Zhukov and P. S. Mukhlinsky.
The engineering works turned out to be difficult and the builders had to resort to explosives to remove the rocky soil. Everything was done by hand, using picks and shovels. To remove rocks from the track and move soil when building embankments, resort was made to stretchers - where possible - horse-pulled carts.
The region has many steep fast-flowing rivers and mountain streams passing through rugged terrain, so stone retaining walls were built to protect the railway tracks. In some cases, it was necessary to divert streams in the Urals and build new channels, for example the Sim, Ai, Yuryuzan and Bolshoi Berdyaush rivers. When building the channel of the Berdyaush river, builders drove more than 20 metres deep into the rock along a distance of over 300 metres.
Along the Ufa - Zlatoyst line alone, about three hundred different artificial structures were built, including bridges, pipes, guttering, dam fortifications and retaining walls. Large iron bridges and rivers designed by Professor A. Belelyubsky, the famous Russian engineer, were built across the Sim and Yuryuzan rivers. These bridges become exemplars of the time's high engineering standards. The superstructure of each of the bridges rests on an artificial pier at one end and on rock at the other.
At the initiative of K.Y. Mikhailovsky, workshops were created in Chelyabinsk to supply parts for the construction of the bridges, the residential accommodation and office buildings etc.
The main line was constructed in record time and was opened to trains from Samara to Ufa on 8 September 1888, followed by the stretch to Zlatoyst exactly two years later on 8 September 1890, with the first train arriving in Chelyabinsk on 25 October. The route was called the Samara-Zlatoyst line and crossed the Urals into Western Siberia, thus connecting the latter with Moscow and St. Petersburg by rail.
After inspecting the railway line, a government commission from the Ministry of Communications noted that many technical difficulties have been resolved with talent and professionalism. In contrast to the main lines of the Trans-Siberian, which were built according to less rigorous technical specifications, the Ufa - Chelyabinsk section was built beyond reproach technically, with no concessions made to the difficult mountainous terrain and rapid pace of construction. On 22 October 1892, the Zlatoyst - Chelyabinsk stretch of 150 versts was opened to trains.
On 1 January 1893 the Orenburg line was joined to the Samara-Zlatoust line, which then became known as the Samara-Zlatoust line with an Orenburg branch line. This extended the line's length to 1,410 kilometres, with Batraki station forming its western boundary and Chelyabinsk and Orenburg its eastern limits.
In June 1893 construction began on the Trans-Siberian Railway's main portion, from Chelyabinsk to the east. The raw materials needed for the construction and operation of the future line lent impetus to the development of the metallurgical and fuel industries in the Southern Urals.
Factories in Ust-Katav, Zlatoyst, Simsk, Yuryuzansky and Katavride-Ivanovo produced rails and the necessary brackets, as well as the iron constructions for bridges. As a result, industry in the South Urals was working wholly to supply the needs for railway construction. In order to ensure the metal and rails, the Yekaterinburg-Chelyabinsk line was built in 1896, thus connecting the Trans-Siberian with the metal plants of the Northern Urals.
In 1896 a special transmigratory point was built in Chelyabinsk through which nearly a million landless peasants from Russia's central provinces passed in the next 10 years.
In 1913 a private railway was built between Poletaeva - Troitsk - Kustanai in order to deliver grain and agricultural products from Troitsky and Kustanai counties.
By the end of 1916 the West-Ural railway from Druzhinino station to Berdyaush station came into operation, a distance of 253 km. It was built by a group of industrialists with Russian and French finance and linked plants located on the western slope of the Ural Mountains with the rich mines and Kizelovsky coal basin in the northern Urals.
The South-Ural railway line was formed in 1934 by splitting off Perm Railways and merging a number of lines passing through the territory of the Southern Urals.
Significant development of the railway got underway in the 1930s, when the Chelyabinsk - Sinarskaya (Kamensk-Ural) and Kartaly - Akmola lines were built.
During the Great Patriotic War, a large number of industrial enterprises were relocated to Siberia and the Urals. The number of shipments greatly exceeded the volumes of the pre-war years.
With the commissioning of the Sakmarskaya - Muraptalovo and Krasnogvardeets - Novoperelyubskaya lines in 1981, the boundaries of South Ural Railways were finally completed.