The East Siberian Railway was built as one of the sections of the Trans Siberian Main Line. At present, the line passes through Irkutsk, Chita and Amur oblasts and Buryatia and Yakutia, as well as Khabarovsk Krai (Territory). It also borders on Krasnoyarsk and Trans-Baikal Railways.
In 1857, N.N. Myravyov-Amursky, the governor-general of Eastern Siberia, raised the question of constructing a railway on the edges of Siberian Russia.
Myravyov-Amursky instructed the engineer D. Romanov to carry out surveys and draft a plan for the construction. From the 1850s to the 1870s, Russian experts developed a number of plans for the line's construction, but none found any support in the government. Only in the mid-1880s, did it begin to address the question of building the railway due to the alarming rise of Japanese military power.
Another prerequisite for this decision was the completion of the section from Yekaterinburg to Tyumen on the Ural railway in 1884. This raised the need to connect the industrial Urals with the sparsely populated vastness of Siberia, which was virtually unresearched and unexplored.
In 1887, three expeditions were sent to study the future route under the leadership of the outstanding engineers N. N. Mezheninov, O. P. Vyazemsky and A.I. Ursati. A few years later, in May 1893, a committee on the construction of the Siberian railway was set up.
Construction began in 1891 and was carried out at the same time from Vladivostok and Chelyabinsk. Three years later, the Committee made the decision to suspend construction between Irkutsk and Baikal, while building work on the new Irkutsk - Krasnoyarsk line began at a rapid clip.
The builders faced the difficult task of laying the track in a short time, so the work proceeded in an atmosphere of responsibility and risk. A wooden bridge was built across the river Irkut. Construction was led by the engineer V. Popov. A test locomotive crossed the bridge in 1898. According to eyewitnesses, Popov got into the locomotive with a revolver in his hand. When he was asked why he took the gun, Popov replied: "If the bridge could not stand the weight, I would have shot myself." Luckily for Popov, the wooden bridge passed the test and stood for 10 years.
As early as 1897, the Siberian railway line reached Irkutsk and stations, depots and stations were built in the town and governorate.
August 16 (28), 1898 was a real celebration in Irkutsk: the townspeople met the first train as it arrived. The locomotive was decorated with flowers and flags, and the governor himself came to the station.
Irkutsk station was built on the left bank of the Angara River in 1896 and was renovated in 1907 due to increased traffic. A freight station, depots and a small station were built in 1896 near the Monastery of the Ascension (Voznesensky). At the end of the century, Innokentievskaya station was built, and later two settlements arose, Innokentievsky and New Innokentievsky.
Meanwhile, a railway line was built along the stretch from Irkutsk to Baikal. And although the track was ready in 1898, a further two years had to be spent on its development. Baikal station was built at the source of the Angara River, and Mysovay station on the southern shore of the lake, which was the terminus of the Mysovaya - Sretensk line.
To connect these still separate branches, two powerful icebreakers-cum-ferries were ordered from Britain and put into service between Port Baikal to Mysovaya station. The first ice-breaker was called Baikal and was delivered in parts to the village Listvennichnoe on Lake Baikal, where workshops and an extensive dock had already been built. The icebreaker was then assembled under the direction of the engineer V. A. Vablotsky and launched. But the ferry could not operate in the winter, so a sled line was laid immediately on the frozen lake and horse-drawn carriages began carrying cargo, mail and passengers.
When the line reached Lake Baikal, the railway line's designers faced the question of how to overcome the lake's rocky shore. After survey work, it was decided to lay the line along the southern shore, which was more difficult for the builders, but which lacked the steep inclines and descents. Thus began the history of the Circum-Baikal Railway, which was truly a monument to Russian builders and scientists.
The construction of the Circum-Baikal took six years, from 1899 to 1905, although surveys had been carried out much earlier. In summer 1903, the Mysovaya - Tankhoi line began operations which proved to be easiest route in terms of the terrain.
The next section of the railway line, which went to Slyudyanka station, ran along broad coastal terraces, and only the mountain spurs at Sludyanka itself caused problems for the builders.
In spring 1902, work began on the most difficult segment of the route, from Slyudyanka to Baikal station. This part of the railway line is unique in technical terms since it includes 39 tunnels with a total length of 7 km and 16 galleries, including some made of reinforced concrete on columns. Every kilometre of the track required on average a wagonload of explosives to blast through the rock.
The rugged country did not want to be conquered, however, and threatened to fight back with landslides and rockfalls. The line therefore had to be protected by fences to protect against boulders and sea waves. Well-known geologists and engineers worked on the construction of the railway line, including I. V. Mushketov, B. U. Savrimovich, L. B. Krasin, A. V. Liverovsky and others. During the Russian-Japanese war, work sometimes went on right around the clock since the railway line was needed to transport troops and equipment. In 1905, military trains began running on the line.
Initially, the entire line was single-track and three pairs of trains used to ran every day. But as early as the Russian-Japanese war, the number of trains grew considerably. The construction of a second track began in 1907 and was completed in 1916.
That marked the beginning of a new era in the life of Siberians: the difficult country gradually began to change as the wilds of Siberia were transformed into an industrial and strategically important part of Russia.
In the 1920s-30s, there was a need for the construction of new lines. Geological surveys continued, and industry developed rapidly as factories were built and the towns started expanding. Lines were laid to large mineral deposits and woodlands, as well as to the banks of the Siberian rivers. Educated young people from all over the Soviet Union arrived in the region, such as geologists, builders, engineers. Lines were built and added to the East Siberian line in order to connect different parts of the country with Siberia. New railway lines also established connections abroad, such as the Ulan-Ude - Naushki line, which linked the Soviet Union with Mongolia.
In 1934, the East Siberian Railway became an independent administrative unit with its own borders (Mariinsk Station - Mysovaya Station). After two years, Krasnoyarsk Railways was spun off from the East Siberian Railway.
During the Second World War, East Siberian Railways become a strategically important route: rolling stock was made and military equipment repaired here. Volunteer units were formed - twenty railway staff were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
After 1945, shipment volumes were restored to the pre-war levels rather quickly. Geological exploration and development were conducted in Siberia, which meant that the railway line continued to expand.
In 1956, during the construction of the Irkutsk Hydroelectric Power Station on the Angara River, a valley was flooded, as a result of which, the Irkutsk-Baikal railway line - part of the famous Circum-Baikal Line - disappeared under water. It was replaced by a new electrified railway along the mountains from Irkutsk to Slyudyanka. After that, the Circum-Baikal became a dead-end and life virtually ended along the route. People started leaving, and the railway line gradually fell into disrepair.
The East-Siberian railway was improved. The work took into account the latest scientific and technological achievements. The Abakan - Taishet line, for example, which was commissioned in 1965, was an example of a top quality main line, with remote dispatching control, electric centralisation of switching points and modern communications. Its construction provided Siberia with links to Kazakhstan and Central Asia. In 1958, the Taishet - Lena line was built, linking Siberia and Yakutia.
July 19, 1974 the government issued a decree "On the Construction of the Baikal-Amur Railway." The line was to run from Ust-Kut (Lena station) to Komsomolsk-on-Amur via Nizhneangarsk (Lower Angarsk), Charu, Tynda and Urgal. It was also planned to build lines between Taishet - Lena and Bam - Tynda - Berkakit.
The Baikal-Amur Main Line had to overcome difficult engineering and geological conditions: scree, rock falls, avalanches, salt flows and other adverse natural phenomena greatly complicated the work of the builders.
Construction of the railway line began in 1974. Many construction companies were transferred from other regions. In 1977, the Bamovskaya - Tynda line was commissioned. In 1978, the Lena - Tynda section was opened to trains from Lena station to Nizhneangarsk and from Tynda to Elgakan station. In 1979, construction on the stretch from Urgal to Komsomolsk-on-Amur was completed.
In 1981, the Baikal-Amur Railway was organised and became managed from Tynda.
In 1984, the "golden link" was laid which united the track all the way from Taishet to Vanino. Regular train services on the BAM started in 1988, but the ongoing construction of several tunnels meant that trains had to take diversions using temporary lines. It was only in 1990 that the main construction work was finished. Traffic volumes then increased significantly.
In 1997, the railway line was restructured, and the part of it that runs through the territory of Irkutsk and Chita oblasts, as well as through Buryatia and Yakutia, became part of East Siberian Railways.
East Siberian Railways has always applied the latest developments in science and technology. In the postwar years, the track became a testing ground for the Ministry of Communications. Electric trains using alternating current, parts of the contact elements of the communication contact system and signalling, centralisation and blocking, as well as other developments, underwent testing there. The result of these tests was to improve the railway network of the Ministry of Communications.
Today East-Siberian Railways is implementing more than 20 investment programmes, such as projects aimed at improving traffic safety, resource conservation, research and development work, computerisation and passenger and freight services.
Centralising traffic control has greatly improved the quality of the operational work. The track is maintained at a modern level - almost all stretches are equipped with automatic blocking and centralised dispatching. All switch assemblies are equipped with electric centralisation and the work to lay modern fibre-optic communication lines is nearing completionTop of Form
The operating length of the railway line is now about 4,000 kilometres, of which more than 3,000 kilometres have been electrified.
The once-abandoned Circum-Baikal Line is now experiencing a renaissance. The famous route used to attract tourists, and nowadays the lines are being restored and holiday camps and hostels built.
East-Siberian Railways is now managed from Irkutsk.